Friday, 17 February 2017
Friday 15th July 2016
I took a 5.45 a.m. flight from Gatwick airport to Athens, flying east after takeoff, and I could see some of the City of London's skyline including the Shard skyscraper as we headed out.
We flew south of the River Thames and River Medway and I remembered visiting Chatham Historical Dockyard only three weeks ago. I spent a fascinating day there, seeing and hearing so many different things. My father had been apprenticed as a fitter to a nearby local ship builder and I took with me on my visit his Indentures of Apprenticeship dated April 1924. These ended in 1929 and several months later he went to sea as a very junior Engineer with Blue Star Line. Father's father had been an engine fitter in the Chatham Dockyard and in turn his father had been a blacksmith in the Dockyard. I just love knowing that they lived in Trafalgar Street! Nelson's ship VICTORY was of course built in Chatham Dockyard and launched in May 1765, took part in various sea battles, and became Nelson's flagship in 1803 until his death on board at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. The ship can now be visited in Portsmouth, still afloat after all these years. Several members of staff at Chatham would love to have her back in the Dockyard where she was built...
Back to the real world of today, and we arrived in Athens at 11.15 local time into hot sunshine under a cloudless blue sky. What a wonderful contrast with home in the UK. An airport bus took me and one of my travelling companions into the port of Piraeus where we met our other travelling companion.
We bought water, food for lunch at a local bakery, and then walked round the inner harbour to look at the tragic sight of PANAGIA TINOU, better known more recently as AGIOS GEORGIOS and then originally as the famous HENGIST of Sealink days. She had been in winter layup in Piraeus's inner harbour but suddenly leaned over in May and now rests on the bottom, with a red boom around her. I have had many happy sailings on her from here but we all wondered if we might ever do so in the future.
Rather than dwell on that, we took the little ELENA boat out to Salamis island and enjoyed our picnic lunch on the way. It felt wonderful to be at sea again, passing so many big ferries and cruise ships in the Great Harbour as we headed out. We have many days of ferrying ahead of us and this was a wonderful start to the trip.
In lay-up we could see LOUIS AURA, looking unchanged, THEOFILOS, AQUA JEWEL, ALKYON, and of course RASA SAYANG (the sunken remains of the cruise ship BERGENSFJORD), and many other familiar names on the way to Salamis.
Panagia Tinou, ex Agios Georgios, ex Hengist
Back in the harbour we checked in for our first big ship of the trip: BLUE STAR PATMOS, which we are taking to Naxos via Paros. She was built in 2012 at 18,498 gross tons.
We left at 5.30 p.m., had a delicious fish dinner, enjoyed the warm sea airs, called briefly at Paros just before 10 p.m. and arrived at the island of Naxos at 10.50 p.m. We were met on the busy quayside by the man from our overnight Panorama Hotel, and we all walked up the steep hillside streets almost to the castle walls. It was hot and picturesque, and the air-conditioning, cool showers and comfy beds were very welcome.
Ships seen: Elena ferry to Salamis, Knossos Palace, Blue Horizon, Panagia Tinou, Prevelis, Vitsentzos Kornaros, Adamantes Korais, Flying Dolphins 18 and 29, Blue Star Patmos, Louis Aura, Theofilos at Perama, Corinthian small cruise ship, Agios Meklarios Aeginas, European Express, Pelagatis, Kriti I, Nearchos, Highspeed 4, Highspeed 6, Champion Jet 2, Spongebob Squarepants, Corse, Sunny (ex Trelleborg), Ionian Sky, Nissos Samos, Rasa Sayang (the remains of Bergensfjord), Kali P, Caribbean Galaxy (Atlantic Blue Seaways), Aqua Jewel, Alkyon, Flying Dolphin XVII and XVIII, Celebrity Reflection.
To be continued...
Sunday, 12 February 2017
Friday 30th September 2016
Today we expected to arrive in Toulon, in France, but it was not quite as we know it. Several miles away across the bay I could see yellow hulls of two Sardinia Ferries & Corsica Ferries but the area we berthed in was called La Seyne-sur-Mer. This is in the Var Department of south-east France, to the west of the city of Toulon. The weather was beautiful outside but it seemed there was no easy method of transport away from the ship at this remote berth, other than a very long walk to a local bus stop, to go into the far away city of Toulon. We could have taken a ship's excursion, but most of us decided to have a ship day and walk on deck rather than ashore, and it turned into an excellent choice.
One big grey-hulled ship was manoeuvring slowly nearby with help from a tug, and we noticed her name was ANWAREL SADAT.
At 11.30 a.m. our group were taken for an arranged visit to the Engine Room, which initially involved many security problems. I think at one point the females were separated from the males of the group, but that proved to be because we might all need to be 'patted down' for further security purposes. Then it appeared that we could not leave Reception because of some mis-communications, but eventually we were allowed to set off with escorts to go to the Engine Room. We were all amazed at the possibility of doing this, but of course it was not to be! We were to visit the Engine Room Control Room, which was still a fascinating experience. In fact the Master of SOVEREIGN, Captain Ivo Botica, came to join the Chief Engineer, Risto Sisic, during our visit. We enjoyed seeing the Alsthom Builders Plates from 1987, and various camera shots of parts of the workings of the ship. One long table had a set of deck plans, with a separate one headed 'Viking Crown Lounge', which cheered several of our group.
Back in the public rooms we went for lunch, then ashore for some photographs in the limited space allowed on the quayside. There were local stalls on the quayside and many of us were pleased to buy hand-made soaps, lavender articles and pretty china.
After departure we went down for our final dinner on board SOVEREIGN, followed by star-gazing up on deck. The Milky Way was bright and easily visible as it had been on several evenings on board when viewed from a darkened upper deck.
Ships seen: Sovereign, Mega Andrea and Mega Express Five over in Toulon port, Anwarel Sadat, A631
Saturday 1st October 2016
Here we are at 9 a.m. arriving back in Barcelona port, and viewing all the other ships lined up along the quay. STENA NORDICA with her GNV colours could still be seen at a distance, and a Grimaldi vessel was leaving. We passed the other cruise ships, and noticed six new locomotives sitting tidily on the quayside.
Then it was time for final goodbyes and disembarking SOVEREIGN for me to head home to the United Kingdom. I had time to stroll up La Rambla and make for the station and airport. I flew home with Norwegian Air on one of their very new B737-800 aircraft, which was very comfortable.
Ships seen: Stena Nordica in GNV colours, Carnival Vista, Mein Schiff 5, Costa Favolosa, Sovereign.
Once again I had enjoyed my annual cruise with the Ocean Liner Society in very congenial company, on the good ship SOVEREIGN.
Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Thursday 29th September 2016
Today we have arrived in Livorno, Italy. I was on deck early to see various comings and goings in the port, in the half-light before sunrise. As MEGA EXPRESS FOUR arrived, I could see work going on in the distance beyond her; I could also see MOBY VINCENT, WORLD ODYSSEY, and AETHALIA. One of my friends and fellow travellers was leaving the ship today so we said goodbye and best wishes on deck taking photographs in the wonderful golden light.
Our decks on SOVEREIGN were being washed down and, as it was not yet time to meet friends for breakfast, I went into the Spinnaker Bar for an early coffee. I was amazed to find it completely empty of other passengers and could take some photographs.
After breakfast it was another sunny blue-sky day. Two of us took one of the shuttle buses into town with the plan to go to nearby Pisa by train.
In the end it was easier to get on one of the many regular tourist coach services, which stopped just a few yards from the shuttle bus stop.
Return Tickets were available inside the nearby tourist office, where I saw and photographed an interesting poster showing an aerial view of the port; we were soon on our way to Pisa in a comfortable air-conditioned modern coach. We had set times to depart and return, but that proved perfectly convenient.
The so-called Leaning Tower of Pisa was amazing to see, and I read that the building of it was begun in 1173 - unfortunately on uneven ground which produced an unintended tilt! It felt good to know that some years ago a British Engineer had been called in to stop any more tilting of the Tower. I have teenage memories of visiting the Tower and being able to take the stairs inside and climb up to the first and second floors, and then walk around outside to view the scenery. Today there were enormous queues to enter the Tower, Baptistry and Cathedral nearby and we were surrounded by probably thousands of other people in this part of the ancient town.
After taking the necessary photographs, it was decided that a local backstreet cafe amongst shrubs and parasols was just the place to get delicious coffee, so we left the crowds and enjoyed a quiet break.
Back in the coach park we could sit on our bus and then enjoy the drive through the tranquil countryside back to Livorno, always with the mountains in the background. Back in town we took one of the historical town walk routes and were amazed at the sights and smells in the Fish Market, the food market, the big public square and then along various canal tow paths, including past the old fort.
Back on the ship I could take photographs of port activity.
Once back on the ship life continued in its usual relaxed way, with tea and chats with other travelling companions, followed by another enjoyable evening.
Ships seen: Sovereign, Norwegian Epic, Moby Aki, Moby Vincent, Mega Express Four, World Odyssey, Aethalia, Cruise Smeralda
To be concluded...