Day 1 – Wednesday 14 March

We left home about an hour after I had said that I wanted to leave home. That meant that we were bang on time. Denis managed to be ready on the dot of my prescribed departure time but I mucked about having breakfast, changing the bed and tidying the place up – Fi would be minding it for us for ten days and I didn’t want her thinking that we are a pair of slobs. She must never learn the truth.

We stopped briefly in Gundagai to change drivers. I hadn’t slept well and didn’t feel up to taking us as far as Albury, where we planned to have lunch. It was a brilliant clear day, very good for driving, and the roads were mostly clear of idiots. Always a plus. I dozed a little through the mostly brown and uninteresting countryside we passed.

On our way back from Melbourne last February we had stopped for lunch at a little bakery in Wodonga. Denis decided that we had to find it for lunch again. Against all odds, we pulled up at a quarter to one right outside it. Good food was had by all, and we knew that the time we had taken so far was going to allow plenty of time for getting lost in Melbourne. Which, ironically, we did. I had dozed off again after Wodonga and missed Denis turning off the main drag that would have taken us directly to the pier and going on to the Tullamarine Freeway. All was not lost (although we were) and by sheer luck more than good management we pulled up at the pier at 5pm.

The boat was already there and people were already queueing up their cars to load on to it. We took a stroll along the St Kilda waterfront before joining them, which proved a wise move as it was a beautiful evening.

It took over an hour to get from the start of the vehicle queue to actually loading the car into the parking deck, but it was an extremely interesting experience. The ship has five parking levels, all accessible via moving ramps that apparently see-saw up and down to allow cars to load and then unload without turning around. Ingenious.

The interior of the ship is like a well-appointed but downsized hotel. Everything you would expect in a hotel is there, it’s just a lot smaller. The cabin we were given was absolutely tiny, but not as tiny as the ensuite bathroom complete with what would have to be the world’s smallest shower stall.

Shipboard entertainment was available in the form of bars, bistros, a swish restaurant (booked out when we asked, unfortunately), a gambling lounge and a kiddies play area. There was also a large outdoor area at the rear of the ship, from where we eventually watched Melbourne disappear slowly into the distance. It took a couple of hours to get from the St Kilda dock to pass through the Port Phillip heads – not that we stayed up to watch it or anything. After driving all day we wanted sleep.

It was not to be had in large quantities, however, and the purser’s 6am call to prepare for disembarkation came far too early.

Day 1 photos
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