Our trip to Germany was originally booked in 2019, for travel at Easter 2020. Then Covid-19 arrived. At that time, 2 years ago, I don’t think anyone realised how long the pandemic would last and the disruption it would cause. Like many other planned events for us and most people, the ferry booking from Hull to Rotterdam has been moved several times.
This year, as Covid regulations eased in the UK and in Europe, it finally looked as though our holiday was going to go ahead, and go ahead smoothly. We got the guidebooks out and started to plan our route down the Rhine to the Black Forest, noting places to visit. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, P&O ferries sacked 800 staff and replaced them with agency workers paid less than the minimum wage. What?! Never mind the disruption to our plans… yet again… what about all those people who relied on P&O for their livelihood?! Shocking and appalling.
Feeling as though our trip to Germany was doomed, I emailed the Camping and Caravanning Club to try and cancel our ferry booking. Disgusted by their treatment of their UK employees, and with concerns over the safety of travelling overnight on a ship manned by new and poorly paid staff, there was no way I was travelling with P&O. However, I was advised that, with only 2 weeks to go until we were due to travel, we would lose £300. We had no choice but to stick with them.
As the days passed, I noticed that, of the 2 ferries on the Hull to Rotterdam route, only 1 was operating, The Pride of Rotterdam. Then 2 P&O ferries on other routes failed safety checks and were detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Despite being concerning, this gave me some reassurance that any sailings with P&O should be safe. Hopefully, we wouldn’t sink while we slept on our ferry!
I decided to call P&O and see what was happening. I was advised that The Pride of Rotterdam was sailing on 9th April but that we were due to return on the 23rd April on The Pride of Hull, which was out of action. The lady I spoke to couldn’t advise me any further at that time and advised me to call back after the 4th when a meeting was taking place to see which ships could sail again. However, when I did this, I was told they still didn’t know if our return ferry would be sailing. After a chat to John, I made another phone call to try and change to the Pride of Rotterdam, a day earlier on 22nd April. Unfortunately, this one was full. The only good news was that I could now cancel the return sailing with a full refund, although I had to do it through the Camping and Caravanning Club because I’d booked it through them.
Annoyingly, it’s not possible to call the Camping and Caravanning Club so I sent them an email. They then phoned me and advised they’d email P&O and see what they could do. They’d either cancel one leg of the journey or both, then help us rebook on another route to Europe. On Wednesday, just a few days before we were due to leave, I hadn’t heard anything and was getting worried. I called P&O for an update and, this time, they agreed to cancel the return ferry and initiate a refund. I booked a return ferry from Dunkirk to Dover and, because I couldn’t call them, sent another email to the Camping and Caravanning Club to advise them what I’d done. Phew!
Unfortunately, the problems weren’t over. On Thursday, as a result of the earlier email from the Camping and Caravanning Club, P&O also cancelled our outward ferry and, when the Camping and Caravanning Club tried to rebook it for us, the place had gone! Both ladies I spoke to at the club were very helpful and apologetic, and they booked us onto the ferry from Harwich to Hook on Holland on Saturday morning, which had a few spaces left. We also ended up with a £350 refund, which is a bonus! I take some responsibility for the confusion. I perhaps should have left the Camping and Caravanning Club to sort it out, rather than calling P&O myself. However, being unable to contact the club by phone to see what was happening, watching alternative ferries fill up, and getting anxious about our plans, I couldn’t help myself!
The only issue now was that we needed to be ready to travel as soon as John finished work on Friday, rather than setting off at about noon on Saturday. After I texted to tell him what had happened, John rushed home from work on Thursday. We dashed around packing food, clothes and kit into the van, checking paperwork and making lists of things that need doing. Luckily, we’d made a start at the weekend. We have euros, the van is full of supplies, fuel and water, and I’m taking a day of leave that I’m owed today to get everything else ready.
I’ve watered the plants, emptied the bins and the fridge, and put the dishwasher on. I just need to mow the lawn, then shower and wash my hair and I’m ready. I’m taking my parents out for lunch too, which will be lovely. When John’s home, he’ll put the bikes on the back of the van and we’ll be off, after putting Tom Cat out.
Tom isn’t our cat… he lives across the road, but he’s adopted us. Despite us refusing to feed him, he turns up every morning at 7, crying outside and scratching at the door, and John puts him out at night. He loves sitting on John’s knee or sleeping in a patch of sun in our bedroom. We think this is because he gets peace and quiet here whereas, at his home, he has a younger ginger brother who is really energetic and playful and, perhaps, rather annoying when Tom’s trying to snooze! I’m pretty sure Tom’ll miss us while we’re away! I hope he’s still ’speaking’ to us when we return from our adventure!