May 10, 2022.
Yesterday we took the passenger ferry from Tilbury to Gravesend to spend a couple of hours wandering around in the sunshine and enjoying a hearty delicious pub lunch and English draught beer on a patio overlooking the Thames. When we got back to the ship, I realized that my neck and shoulders were red. Imagine! Not a spot of tan or burn in 108°F/42°C in Egypt, but I get sunburned in England!
What’s in Gravesend, you ask?
Gravesend has the world’s oldest remaining cast iron pier, built in 1834.
Gravesend is where Pocahontas is buried, but apparently not under her statue. An absolutely charming local lady told us that Princess Pocahontas (a title given to her by the English) was likely actually under the new 3-story carpark, built on what was once part of the churchyard. Folks in Gravesend are not very happy about it, but the North Americans who arrive to celebrate Pocahontas each year simply do so at her memorial.
The Three Daws Pub, where we ate and drank, is over 500 years old, and may be the oldest pub in Kent.
Beyond it’s “tourist” sites, the town itself is just plain charming, and we enjoyed walking around its residential areas and parks before taking the ferry back to Tilbury.
Today’s sea day was the only portion of our trip about which I was initially hesitant, although way back when we booked this trip we had no idea we’d be making an Atlantic crossing. The North Sea is notoriously rough, and I am notoriously prone to seasickness, but after 120 days on board, this should be a breeze, right?
Soave sia il vento
Tranquilla sia l’onda
Ed ogni elemento
Ai vostri desir.
Gentle be the breeze,
calm be the waves,
and every element
to your desires.
Cosi fan tutte
No one sang Mozart’s aria today, but the sea remained calm at least until noon when the sun broke through morning’s grey skies and the wind kicked up a bit, creating 7-10 foot waves. We’d had so many days in a row of smooth sailing that Captain Lars actually reminded us to hang onto the handrails around the ship,
With only 148 passengers still on board (and a staff:passenger ratio of about 3:1), the 930-passenger capacity Star feels eerily empty. General Manager Wendy and Cruise Director Kate had the wonderful idea to make these final days special for the little world cruise “family” still on board, so we had a lovely cocktail reception at our sail-away last night (everyone fit into the Explorer’s Lounge), breakfast this morning was in Manfredi’s so it wouldn’t seem so lonely, and dinner tonight was served family style in the restaurant with all the senior officers sharing our tables. It really did make our last day special.
Even more special was our last lunch with friends Karin & Al. We’re feeling very thankful for the technology that will make it easy for us to stay in touch until we can meet in person again – wherever in the world that may be.
Of course, final laundry and packing needed to be done, and one last PCR saliva test. Suitcases go outside our doors by 10:00 p.m. tonight to be retrieved in the terminal in Bergen for transfer to our hotel. “Check out” time from our cabin tomorrow morning is 7:00 a.m.
The weather prediction for Bergen is cool and rainy, but after 4-1/2 months of cruising the world and only 3 days of rain (in the Magellan Strait, and in Istanbul), it’s hard to complain. Plus, maybe our luck will hold and we’ll arrive to sunshine tomorrow!
We ended our day with just one other couple in the Explorer’s Lounge, having what amounted to almost a private concert by the Star’s outstanding guitar entertainer John Perez Esquillo. We make no secret of the fact that we regularly fall in love with musicians, but John truly is a special person – not only musically talented, but with an incredibly big heart. Spending our last evening with him was both a pleasure and an honour. His final song, a sincere rendition of Thank You for Loving Me had both of us in tears.
I expect our departure tomorrow will be very emotional as well. This truly has been a wonderful adventure.