After leaving Southampton on Sapphire Princess, we had 4 sea days on the North Atlantic. We were lucky that the weather most of the time was kind to us.
We did see porpoises and dolphins and lots of sea birds. We enjoyed lots of films on the ship’s A/V system when not out on deck. The shows and guest artists kept us entertained in the evening. This included our second time seeing ‘Born to be wild’ in the Theatre.
Our cruise to Canada and New England took us across the Atlantic to St John’s, Newfoundland; Sydney, Nova Scotia; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; two days in New York City; Newport, Rhode Island, Boston, Massachusetts; Rockland, Maine; St John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and back across the Atlantic to Southampton.
Day 1 Saturday 14th September: Southampton
The M3 to Southampton was very busy, probably due to the Southampton Boat Show and there being three cruise ships docked.
Dropping our bags at the Ocean terminal was easy and the short-term car park was a short drive away. This was a change as we were using a different company to look after our car.
Onboard Sapphire Princess
We were at the terminal at 12:20 and were quickly through registration and security in the terminal. Our printed US ESTAs were checked and apparently passengers not having printed ESTAs were being allowed to apply or to have the check done online. Sapphire’s security wanted my picture as we boarded and unusually I was asked to take my glasses off. Our cabin was ready and we dumped our carry on bags and headed up to the buffet for lunch. We shared a table and I learnt about certification of steam boilers on old steam trains especially for ones destined for France.
After lunch our suitcases were outside our room, so the next hour or so was spent on unpacking. Our cabin had a window rather than a balcony and felt smaller than the cabins on our earlier cruises. This was probably because the bed was under the window with only limited space around it.
We did have more than enough shelves and hanging space for our clothes. My usual complaint about lack of sockets was certainly true again, as we had one unit with two sockets only. These standard US sockets are too close together to accommodate to UK plug adaptors.
The forms for Canadian customs were in our room after lunch. These had to be filled in by noon the next day. We did have a helpful guide for most of the form except for the section on when leaving and how much you bought etc. It seems visitors needed to be good at forecasting what they are going to buy.
The safety drill for us was in the Grand Casino and we settled down next to the slot machines to listen to the drill. The Captain explained that there would be a short delay before Sapphire left as the ship’s stores were still being loaded.
We called in the library to see what books were available. Apart from the empty shelves and multiple copies of the same book we found that the selection was very poor.
The weather in Southampton was very kind and we were soon out on deck as Sapphire slowly left the terminal. On the left was the multi storey car park that is always full of Range Rovers and Jaguars waiting to be exported. We passed the Braemar which was docked at the QE2 terminal next to a car transporter ship.
We could hear the SS Shieldhall sounding her siren ahead of us. Sapphire had to have an escort of one of the harbour master’s cutters to help clear a path through the yachts and speedboats that littered the waters ahead.
Sapphire still had to keep sounding her signal horn as some of the boats seemed to be reluctant to move!
Shieldhall turned and came back towards us at the side of the deep channel. We were treated to more of her sirens as well as Sapphire answering.
The shops were now open in the Atrium and it was time to take advantage of the blanket 10% discount on purchases of $100 or more. This offer only runs for the first couple of days (or so passengers are told.) The Clinique section was lacking in some items just like our last cruise on Sapphire – probably not stocked any more.
Our first evening
At five we went to club fusion at the stern to try the free hors d’oeuvres available for Elite passengers. On other cruises this buffet was in the corner of a venue rather than in one of the largest on the ship. It seems that there are over 1,800 guests that qualify to come for hors d’oeuvres out of over 2,700 (or so.)
We were late for dinner and had a short wait to be on a shared table. The queue for couples only stretched almost out into the Atrium. We were joined on our table by another couple and a lady by herself. I had the spring rolls followed by a steak and kidney pie (plus extra vegetables), washed down by a bottle of Grolsch.
The ladies’ husband had been refused boarding at the registration desk as his passport only had 2.5 months to go. He said to them that the USA only worried about passports that expired during scheduled stays. Then a quick check on the Internet and indeed this appeared to have been correct. But Canada required a minimum of three months regardless of the length of stay. So he was still declined entry to the ship.
The staff handling his registration then realised that they had refused boarding to a couple with 5.5 months on their passports. They then began frantic phone calls to get them to return to the cruise terminal.
We went from the restaurant to the theatre to see the welcome show. After all the introductions we watched Rikki Jay’s frenetic comedy show. For us it was disappointing as 90% plus of his act was exactly the same that we’d seen before on Sapphire.
We had our first clock change of the cruise that evening.
From the Cruise Log
Southampton – Saturday 14th September 2019
Sapphire Princess spent the day lying quietly alongside the Ocean Terminal in Southampton. After completing routine turnaround operations, when all crew and guests were confirmed as being on board, the guest muster drill had been carried out and all pre-departure checks were complete, Sapphire Princess was ready to set sail.
After an hour delay to complete loading of stores, at 16:44, the ship was ready to set sail on her Trans-Atlantic voyage, so all mooring lines were let go and with the help of our thrusters, propulsion and steering, the ship gently thrusted to port off the berth and proceeded ahead.
After transiting the Solent waters, completing a sweeping turn around the Bramble bank and Calshot lighthouse, then proceeding east between the Palmerston forts south of Portsmouth harbour entrance and disembarking the local pilot at Nab Tower, east of the Isle of Wight at 18:43.
Sapphire Princess then made various course alterations to starboard to round the southern coast of the Isle of Wight and enter the westbound traffic lane in the English Channel overnight as she proceeded towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Noon Position: Alongside in Southampton
Wind: Light breeze, variable direction, Force 2
Sky: Sunny, light clouds (2/8 cloud cover)
Pressure: 1030 hPa
Air Temperature: 23°C / 73°F