You have to get to the ship. That’s a good place to start on our first cruise ever………at the beginning. Deciding on Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer, the only 6-star ship in the world and classified as the most luxurious, was easy……it had everything we wanted and it’s all inclusive, meaning everything is paid for up front, so when you get on board there is nothing else you have to pull your wallet out for, except goodies you purchase from the jewelry shops, clothing shops, or spa services at the famous Canyon Ranch Spa.
We have been anticipating this vacation for over a year and it didn’t disappoint! Everything was perfect from beginning to end with not one hiccup!
Our departure port was Southampton in the UK, the busiest cruise terminal and second largest container port in the UK. We got to London in seven hours from the US on a direct flight, sitting in first class, all included in the cruise fees. The driver in the private car met us at Heathrow and whisked us to Southampton in plenty of time to drop off our luggage at the hotel so we could spend the rest of the day exploring this famous working man’s city.
I had a list of what I wanted to see……….but first we walked past the Southampton Solent University, through the East Park to the Cultural Quarter of the city and to our first stop, the SeaCity Museum. The threat of rain and grey skies added to the feeling I had about going into this museum. We had made up our minds we would tour the Southampton Titanic Story section of the museum, hoping it wouldn’t put a damper on our feelings about the trip…….. I was so glad we went in the end.
Southampton’s story was focused on the ships’s workers and their families in the aftermath of the tragedy. Their story was so personal and a real eyeopener into the lives of sailors, cooks, boiler men, maids and nursemaids and other general crew on that voyage and the families they left behind. The devastation to the city was immense when the Titanic sunk in the morning of April 15, 1912, four days after leaving Southampton.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the museum and I didn’t want to, it felt like a memorial. As we entered there was an entire long and tall wall of photos with the names of men and women, with their job description, who were working on the Titanic when it sank. Four in five of the crew on board the vessel were Sotonians, (from Southampton) working from the Thornycroft shipbuilding yard, which was a major employer in Southampton from 1904 until 2004. Most of workers resided in Southampton at the time, because people came there for work on the docks or on the ships. There was a little passport book that each worker carried when they signed up, most of them were day-laborers, taken on as the men and women needed work. The workers did not get paid until the voyage was over and only if their work and conduct were satisfactory. They were docked for days that were deemed insufficient. Videos of family members, mostly children at the time who had survived, revealed how the sinking of the Titanic and losing their family members affected them forever. Many story-tellers were well into their late years when their stories were documented. Workmen, who lived, because they had manned the lifeboats, had a rough time living with the fact that they had survived when sixteen hundred of the passengers and fellow workmates didn’t. Many stories were told. It was so sad and moving…..
In the next room the real tragedy to the city was revealed. The floor depicted a map of the city of Southampton in 1912 with all the neighborhoods and houses. Each house that had lost a family member was painted a special color on the floor. Oh my gosh, practically the entire city of Southhampton was painted. In many of the working family neighborhoods every house was painted out! This was a time when there was no aid or welfare to help these families, that had just lost their only wage provider!
Another room was set up as a court room and we were seated as jurors. The real-life investigation of the Titanic tragedy was played on a large screen. It was amazing to learn that young men with good eyesight was the only requirement needed to serve as a lookout for icebergs. They were not equipped with binoculars, as it was not deemed necessary. There were many things revealed as unsafe after the fact, but the ship was so new, and so advanced for it’s time, it was just inconceivable to the owners and investors of the White Star Line, that it could sink.
Another room focused on all the changes in safety at sea, determined after the sinking of the Titanic, and the requirements that have continued to develop with new technology over the years. The SeaCity Museum is a beautiful tribute to the workers of Southampton and a museum well worth seeing. From the museum we walked down Above Bar Street, past the huge West Quay Shopping Center and on into Old Town. There is an official walking tour that is called the Titanic Walk and features memorials dedicated to those who perished that day. These are some of the photos taken along our walk of the city.
And through to very small side streets with very interesting buildings and lamp posts…………
to the Juniper Berry Pub………
And past the Titanic Pub………
Into a residential neighborhood……………..
To our next destination, the Tudor House and Garden………..
One of Southampton’s most important buildings with over 800 years of history, on one site. It was interesting to see how the house changed over the years with it’s many owners……John Dawtrey built it in 1492 on the site of an earlier medieval spot and the home has also belonged to the Tudor lawyer, Lord Lister, artist George Rogers, and my favorite, the Victorian bonnet-maker, Eliza Simmonds. Recently repaired and refurbished, it has been a museum with many facets since 1912. There are a variety of displays to see! So let’s go in!
The Knot Garden has been here since Tudor times! In the background is the remains of a stone-built merchant’s house, built in the 1200’s and later made part of the medieval town walls.
Walking down steep, steep steps we got to see what a World War II Air-Raid Shelter was like……… musty, small and dark!
My favorite rooms, as always, were the kitchens…………..first the Tudor Kitchen……..
And then moving on to the Victorian Kitchen…….
There were many displays, but we needed to move on, since we had been up all night and now most of the day! So again taking up our walk back to the hotel……….. crossing the square of St Micheal’s Church and then……
a good nights sleep before our big day…….boarding the Explorer! Here is our first look of her! And the sun was shining and it was warm!!!
But, one of the first things you do after boarding is the Muster Drill, to see where you go in case of an emergency. You are assigned a group number and a lifeboat…… must bring your life jacket and learn how to put it on……..and it is mandatory that every passenger on board attends. They check your room just in case you don’t think it is necessary! If you don’t attend you are put off the ship! Believe me, I paid attention!
And later, when I ordered my first dessert I was thinking……………I hoped this would be the only iceberg I saw on the cruise!
Tomorrow, pictures of this fantastic ship as we sail to our first stop, St Malo, France! See you there!