On our way
We leave Manchester under cold grey skies. The kind of weather that makes you wish you lived in sunnier climes. Traffic to the airport is heavy and slow. Cars filled with drivers whose faces convey a weary resignation. Bumper to bumper we weave our way along roads wet slicked and black. I sit silently waiting for Peters famously short patience to give out and some expletives to burst forth like a torrent.
The traffic starts moving before his irritation threshold is breached and we arrive at the airport in reasonable time. Check in is quick and our fast pass means we skip the lines for security although Peters cabin bag is diverted (again) which turns out to be because of his watch strap?
After a quick visit to duty-free, we head up to the Aspire Lounge and enjoy some alcoholic beverages and pre-flight snacks. Aspire is one of the nicest lounges we have visited. Staff are friendly and attentive and the lounge itself is quiet and relaxing. They don’t announce flights so we make sure we keep a close eye on the departure board.
Around 7.30pm we head to the gate and wait to be boarded. The Airbus A380 is such a large aircraft with 2 classes, business and economy, spread over 2 decks, that everyone is split into zones.
We are in economy on the upper deck. The seat configuration here is 2-4-2. And we have been given seats 26E & F which are in the centre. We would have preferred the two nearest the windows and so we ask if there are any we can move to. There was. In fact, we got a whole 6-row cabin to ourselves. Well, 5 other people joined us afterwards but it was still pretty cool.
We leave on time and are soon being pushed back into our seats as this giant of the skies hurtles down runway 23R and lifts off into the sodden skies over Manchester.
For economy the legroom is excellent and with no one behind us we can comfortably recline out seats without affecting anyone. Dinner is quickly served by friendly cabin staff. The beef option is gone by the time they reach us and so we have chicken curry, it’s excellent. We are staggered by the amount of choice on the in-flight entertainment system. I settle for Dr Strange having missed its theatrical release and Peter opts for Loving.
Flight time is just short of 7 hours and after passing over the Black Sea and down over Iran (skirting Syria and Iraq) we cross the Arabian Gulf and land at Dubai’s main airport. For a moment I am convinced we have landed at a Star Trek space station not least because the airport is so modern and gleaming but seems to be full of people from all corners of the planet. A real traveller crossroads.
Immigration and baggage claim is swift and we are soon aboard our shuttle towards Port Rashid where our ship MSC Fantasia is docked.
En route we see the sad sight of the QE2 moored neglectfully amongst tankers and other less illustrious shipping. Not a fitting resting place for a former queen of the ocean.