Sunday, April 8, 2012
I could end it right there, and that would pretty much sum up the whole day. But I’ll be merciful, and tell you a little about it.
The check-in terminal at the Southampton Pier was a scene not uncommon in Titanic’s time. A cavernous room filled with people in queues and bunches, all manner of dress, children running around, the odd dog or two, and baggage of all kinds.
But there was more: A strings quartet played early 20th century music in one corner. Another corner displayed a first class cabin as it appeared on Titanic, along with two dresses Kate Winslet wore in the film. Everywhere, hung banners with pictures of Titanic crew and passengers, along with their stories. Plaques honored the heroes. Actors roamed the crowd, stopping to chat as their characters, or pose for pictures. Many of the passengers were dressed in period costumes. These were all amazing for their detail and realism. Everywhere, there was excitement, as we began the process of meeting each other, and the question, “What is your Titanic connection?” peppered every conversation.
We met a woman whose great-grandfather and great-uncle helped build Titanic, and a man whose great-grandfather died because he left the lifeboat to retrieve his wife’s coat. We found Claire and Denis from Belfast, and just after we boarded the ship, Susie Millar hailed us with a happy greeting. We chatted with her for a minute, then went off to find our cabin and unpack. Then we were off to explore the ship, and see who we could meet.
There was a safety drill, and I figured if any group of passengers would take that seriously, it would be this group, on this trip. Even so, there were some people absent. I don’t know how it compared to other cruises, but I think we made an acceptable showing.
We were happy to get our choice of dinner seating – the first, at 6:15. We’ll never be part of the sophisticated crowd who like to eat late at night. Our dinner partners are Kate, who runs a jam/jelly business with her sister, her boyfriend, Brian, a music teacher. They are from Massachusetts. Also Dave (from Vermont) and Peter (didn’t catch where he’s from), who left their wives at home to indulge their Titanic interest. This summer, Peter is also going on a submersible dive to Titanic’s resting place. That takes some real passion, folks. Not all the interest in the world would get claustrophobic me into one of those submersibles to go miles underwater.
After dinner, we attended our first lecture, a talk about 3rd class passengers. Every story is touching. I’ll have a constant lump in my throat if this keeps up.
While in Southampton, I had the brilliant idea of obtaining a journal, in which I could collect signatures of all the people I meet. I should have had that brilliant idea a few days earlier, because we could not immediately find a book, and so ran out of time to look.
I’m not always quick on the draw.
But! The cruise hosts saved the day, for waiting in our cabin were two souvenir journals, embossed with the TMC logo. Someone smarter than me had the same brilliant idea a whole lot earlier. Go, Team.
Tomorrow, we’ll reach Cobh in the mid-afternoon. Rick and I will explore the town, then report back to the ship for our evening excursion to Cobh’s Titanic museum. I hope to keep meeting people, especially all my Facebook friends. We’re in cabin 5101, if you want to hunt us down.