So here we are then. After months and months of meticulous planning, coaxing and cajoling, there's five of us in Dublin. I wake up a few minutes prior to 6am, moderately refreshed and before anyone's alarm goes off. Ed gets up, we shake hands, it's years since we've seen each other. He asks what time I got in, since he was so fast asleep he didn't notice. Yeah, just gone midnight. "And you're going back home in London tonight? Wasn't really worth you coming, was it?".
Awful showers are had, I don my appropriate clothing – Guinness underwear and a Friday the 13th (film) themed t-shirt – bags are packed, a cup of green tea made via a pot of water on the stove because what kind of AirBnB doesn't provide a fucking kettle? I struggle with the awful android set-top-box and fail to get anything to appear on the TV. John is the last to emerge, we shake hands, it's years since we've seen each other. He asks what time I got in, since he was so fast asleep he didn't notice. Yeah, just gone midnight. "And you're going back home in London tonight? Wasn't really worth you coming, was it?".
Things are left moderately tidy and we bugger off to our waiting cab, a tight squeeze through murderous pre-7am Dublin traffic to the deceptively distant Stena Line terminal at Dublin Port. On the map it looks hardly any distance at all, yet it takes 25 minutes or so along lots of busy roads next to monstrous amounts of industry. This must be where all the oil, gas, and cargo for the whole of Ireland arrives, not to mention all the passenger ferries. Eventually we're at the foot passenger entrance and checking in, just the four of us since Andrei has yet to arrive from his hotel. We drop off one bag and go to the departure lounge bit, standing outside to admire the view.
It is bleak as fuck. It's grey and slightly cold and threatening rain. All we can see is cargo being loaded and a ton of vehicles waiting to get onboard our huge boat. Inside there is nowhere to sit because the lounge is full of American girls all wearing jumpers with DUBLIN written on the front. Caffeine is bought, Andrei arrives and we are quorate for this leg of the journey. Piers Morgan is on TV interviewing Steve Bannon about Donald Trump and I can't imagine a worse triple-cuntfest to start the day. Jesus.
As we reverse into the Liffey we can see the bit where our AirBnB was, just up the way. It really looks very close, way nearer than the cab ride made it out to be. It's just up by that bridge, ffhs.
I have promised to send Helen a series of photos of me doing the Bobby Roode GLORIOUS pose throughout the holiday. Ed doesn't even blink when I ask him to be my photographer.
Come on driver, put your damn foot down. Some of us are hungry!
Actually, all of us are hungry. I had it in my head that by waiting outside so long we'd done the smart thing and avoided the "we're onboard and want to eat immediately" crowd. I could not have been more wrong. The queues are enormous. We descend to 7 and join a queue as slow as the ship to buy full English breakfast buffet, impressed by the man in front of us who manages to carry 4 full plates on one tray in an Oktoberfest-waitress-esque feat of balance and strength.
Once we have food, and Andrei and I a Guinness – I can still see Ireland, so this counts as a Guinness in Ireland so far as I'm concerned – we seek somewhere to sit. It is a fruitless endeavour. The whole place is fucking rammed, and anything that looks like an empty table or booth is revealed on closer inspection to be sleeping quarters. It's a fucking zoo, and we end up eating standing up at the end of an aisle, trays on the top by the bins. God damn it. Tell you what though, it was a very nice breakfast and the pint weren't bad either.
Back out on deck we bump into John, who then disappears and inside we run into Mark. There's a border crossing about to happen and we want to toast it. The idea had been to buy some touristy version of the local moonshine, poitín, but no-one had managed to source any. There's a duty free shop onboard though and they sell booze; we're on the verge of getting a bottle of Jamesons or Bushmills when a much worse/better alternative leaps off the shelf and into my hands.
Back in the cabin to pack everything up, there are regular announcements that foot passengers must stay in their accommodation while all the cargo and wheeled passengers disembark first, in order for there to be space for buses. But then there's a knock, and the cleaners want to come in and make the bed. Fair enough, we're ready anyway, and with magnificent timing Lester picks his coat up upside down and spills a metric ton of peanuts all over the floor.
After hurriedly sweeping them all into the bin we somehow manage to split into two groups, everyone wandering down to deck 5 despite explicit instruction not to. Returning to a now empty 7, I have time to see what this "movie lounge" is all about; they were showing Jumanji and Paddington, including a showing of the former at 0300. Really? Yes.
Barely have we pulled out of Holyhead and one of the attendants turns up with 5 glasses of Pimm's and lemonade. Wait, what? Is this in honour of Wimbledon, somehow? Apparently so. Our tables – we're in first class – have been laid out with cups and menus and I'm like, hang on, since when did Virgin first class dish out free food and booze? Is this a thing now?
It totally is a thing. We are plied with cookies and fruit and tea and coffee and more Pimm's and strawberries and cream and a burrito and a deli box. This is fantastic! I settle down to blogging, disseminating my second hand knowledge of North Wales and the things we're about to see out of the window courtesy of a series of texts I received from Nige throughout the last hour. Also Silky has popped up, checking on our progress and telling us he'll be there as a welcoming party in Euston.