UK, Wanderlust

Cruise day countdown – The Grand Harbour Hotel, Southampton

Picture the scene: you’ve been invited down to Southampton to check out the family-friendly facilities on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and booked in to a hotel the night before with dinner arranged in the restaurant.

Bliss! A chance to get dressed up, have some lovely food and kickstart a fun weekend in style in the seafront Grand Harbour Hotel. Then you remember the baby. Not that you’d exactly forgotten the baby, you just hadn’t thought about the practicalities. Like what happens when you want to have dinner and the baby needs to be asleep upstairs.

Optimistic thought 1. The baby monitor might stretch? Range is pretty good these days right? Ah. Except you’re booked into a room four floors up and there’s not space to switch. Plan B. Eat dinner in the room (*really* quietly in the dark). Maybe not. Plan C. Get a quiet table in the restaurant where she can sleep (unlikely to be quiet for long with an overtired baby in unfamiliar surroundings).

Plan D. Don’t have dinner. Yeah, right. Thank God that these days, there’s an app for everything. Two, in fact. The first, iSitter, needed two Apple devices – eg an iPod and iPhone – and with wifi, you could connect them up to act as a monitor but with much more range. If you happen to have two iPhones, you can use 3G or throw Bluetooth into the mix instead. Testing it at home, it worked beautifully. Trying it in the hotel, the two devices inexplicably refused to connect despite the free wifi.

Fortunately, we had a back-up (Plan E? F?) – another app called Baby Monitor. This one needed an iPhone and after 15 seconds of noise triggered an alert which would play a recorded message to the baby and call another phone – not necessary an iPhone so finally something my BlackBerry worked with! And it was perfect.

The roads to Southampton had been clear, the travel cot was ready and waiting, Minnie was surprisingly cheerful at her enforced awakening as we checked in, then obediently went back to sleep again. And my favourite swishy maxidress fitted for the first time since I was pregnant.

And it was worth the faffing with apps. After gorgeous wine in the restaurant, designed to evoke the feeling of being at sea, I continued the maritime theme with potted shrimp before a king prawn & saffron risotto, finishing up with an eclair ring big enough to act as a lifebelt. Nearly.

Part of the De Vere group of hotels, it’s more formal elegance than modern chic but the beds are comfy, the service is friendly and efficient, the breakfast buffet is huge and it’s probably the closest you can stay to a cruise ship without actually being on board.

Which is exactly what we did the next morning. But that’s a story for another day…



Disclosure: My stay was hosted by Royal Caribbean and the Grand Harbour Hotel

Image courtesy of the Grand Harbour Hotel