We were expecting our journey to end after 118 days with a triumphal sailing into New York. Sadly, that’s not exactly what happened. What happened was that it ended after 111 days with a sad limp into Southampton.
During his daily navigational announcement on 22 April 2023, the captain mentioned that, because of a technical issue, we would be making for Southampton at speed. We were due to arrive at 06:00 on 23 April, but were now going to be in port by 22:00 on the evening of the 22nd. The plan was to diagnose and fix the issue, which could mean that the ship might leave a few hours late on the 23rd.
A World Cruise isn’t a single, nonstop trip. It’s actually a series of smaller cruises back to back, each one a separate leg of the journey. For 300 of us, the New York to Southampton (and on the way home, Southampton to New York) crossing were the first and last legs of the larger trip. At each leg, lots of passengers got off and would be replaced by new folks. That was the case with Southampton, which was the end of the World Cruise for most (approximately 700 out of 1000) of the World Cruisers.
This meant that while the engineering crew was busy trying to figure out what was wrong with the ship, the rest of the crew was busy getting almost all the passengers off the ship. The Pirate and I didn’t have a shore excursion, so we decided to stay in our cabin until the crowds at the gangways thinned out. This meant that we were sitting around playing video games when the captain came over the PA and announced that the repairs were going to take longer than anticipated, so the crossing from Southampton to New York was cancelled.
The cancellation instantly made the news.
That news, though, concentrated on the new passengers due to embark that day.
And a lot of people felt that Cunard had somehow done it on purpose just to be contrary.
But for those of us stranded in Southampton, the experience was very different. First of all, a lot of the 300 passengers already aboard were on shore excursions. Many of them didn’t know about the cancellation until they got back to the ship that afternoon. Second, almost every single person remaining on the ship went down to the purser’s desk, demanding to know what was going on.
We had all made our travel arrangements from New York on April 30, and most of us had contracted with Luggage Forward to pick up our bags from New York and send them on. In addition, many of the passengers had let Cunard make their flight arrangements, and would now have to wait until the dust settled so Cunard could make new arrangements for them. We were all told that we would not be expected to leave the ship before we could depart for home – the Queen Mary 2 would be our hotel for as long as we needed it.
My husband and I are great in an emergency — our ability to divide and conquer is unbeatable. The first thing I did was to call the travel insurance company. We had bought travel insurance because our mothers are elderly and four months is a long time. If anything happened to either of them, we needed to be able to get home without losing the money we paid for the trip. Good thing – all the added expense and trouble was covered by our insurance.
Next, the Pirate camped out in the lobby near the purser’s desk so that he could be around to hear any announcements or gossip, and so that he could access the ship’s wifi to book new flights home. Meanwhile, I was upstairs packing. I had thought we’d have a couple of days to pack four months’ worth of clothes, toiletries, souvenirs, and gifts. Instead, I had an afternoon. Just getting the suitcases (which were in a storage locker) took more than 3 hours because the room stewards were busy helping the disembarking passengers get off the ship.
The Pirate was a complete hero, not just getting us flights home the next day (the 24th), but getting nonstop flights to San Francisco, rather than the “San Jose by way of Dallas” flights we’d had before. This felt like even more of a triumph after talking to some of our friends who said that Cunard was making their arrangements, but they wouldn’t be leaving for 2 or 3 days. I’m a control freak, and I wouldn’t have been able to sit around for days while someone else made my travel arrangements.
Getting the luggage shipped was a little more challenging. Luggage Forward told him that they had a representative on the ship, but that turned out to be wrong. She couldn’t get to the ship because the train she was on had been stopped by a dead body on the tracks. Once again, the Pirate to the rescue! He just called Boston (where Luggage Forward is headquartered) and dealt with the head office. This meant that by the time the representative got to the ship, all we needed from her was to print out our luggage tags and give us the plastic envelopes to put them in and then attach to our luggage. The bonus was that, while we had only contracted for them to ship 4 cases back home, we could now make arrangements for 6.
Meanwhile, packing took about 6 hours. It wasn’t just about folding clothes and putting them into cases. We had bought a lot of stuff on our trip, and some of it was heavy. There was a whole lot of putting things in suitcases, picking the suitcases up to test their relative weight, re-distributing things, re-testing and on and on for six hours.
So, it’s bedtime on the 23rd and we’re packed and have a flight leaving from Heathrow the next afternoon – an afternoon flight, so we had plenty of time to get to the airport. We did let Cunard book us a taxi to the airport, which set them back at least ￡100. The one thing we couldn’t control was what would happen to our luggage. Luggage Forward wouldn’t even be picking it up until the 25th or 26th, so we had to leave it in our cabin and hope for the best.
We got a good night’s sleep, had breakfast and said good-bye to our friends, then set off for the airport. The flight was blessedly uneventful – I even managed to get some sleep, in addition to seeing Wakanda Forever, and Minions: The Rise of Gru.
After some drama getting home from the airport, we picked up the dogs from my mother’s place and came back. By the time we walked in the door, it was after 22:00 at night, and the Pirate was dead on his feet. I had enough reserves to go to the grocery store and buy food for breakfast so that in the morning, we could figure out next steps while we enjoy breakfast at home.
That was a week ago, and at least forty times a day since then, the Pirate and I have looked at each other and said “We’re so happy to be home.”