Once on board we wandered around the maze of narrow corridors on deck ten searching among five hundred and forty-six identical looking cabins until we finally found our inner berth shoebox and after we had negotiated sleeping arrangements in a fair and democratic way I bagged the bottom bunk and let Jonathan practice using the flimsy aluminium ladder to get on top.
One of the rules of the crossing is that passengers cannot take alcohol on board the boat – not because P&O have anything against alcohol it is just that they would rather prefer it if you buy it on board at one of their bars rather than from a supermarket in Hull so without any smuggled on beer or wine there wasn’t a great deal to hang around for in the cabin so we made our way to the Sky lounge and the Sunset bar at the very top of the ship to see the sunset that was dipping down over the River Humber to the west.
Actually, the Humber isn’t really a river at all because for its entire length after it originates at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Trent of less than sixty kilometres it is technically an estuary but this didn’t matter to us as we watched a flaming red sun make its grand exit for the day as it slipped slowly below the skyline somewhere over the English Midlands and we hoped that the red sky would mean that we would have a good day tomorrow in the Netherlands.
There was now two hours or so before departure so we sat and caught up on news and gossip and planned our itinerary for the day in Holland while we waited for the captain to announce that we were leaving and the sixty-thousand tonne, two hundred and fifteen metre long ship finally moved effortlessly away from the quayside at the beginning of its two hundred nautical mile overnight journey across the North Sea to the Rotterdam Europort to the south-east.
First it had to leave the Humber estuary and it glided past the port of Immingham to the south which is so big it handles the largest quantity of goods by weight in the UK and by day is an untidy, grimy place dominated by ugly petro-chemical works and soulless grey industrial buildings but by night is transformed into a Manhattan like skyline of tall buildings and bright lights and occasional dancing plumes of flames burning off excess gases which actually makes it all look rather attractive.
The ferry has a passenger capacity of one thousand, three hundred and sixty but tonight there were barely three hundred people on board (which explained the bargain fare) so it felt spacious and relaxing as we enjoyed our drinks, visited the duty-free shops and had an excellent all you can eat buffet (and for someone who doesn’t really like all you can eat buffets, I really do mean excellent) during which we collected bread, cheese and ham for a do-it-yourself breakfast the next morning and then finished the evening in the Sunset Show Lounge where a live band was knocking out disco classics and the stag and hen parties were getting more and more boisterous and noisy.
I don’t know what time it closed however because some time around midnight we called an end to the proceedings and retired to our room. Once Jonathan had negotiated the climbing arrangements to the top bunk I made myself comfortable in a bed that was surprisingly cosy and it didn’t take many minutes until the low rhythmic heartbeat of the engine somewhere deep in the belly of the ship nudged me into a sound sleep.