Goodbye Marco Polo

The year 2020 had been a very tough one for the cruise industry. Since the shutdown was completed in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have lost ships and cruise lines. Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) went bust in July.

To date the ships which have gone to new owners are: Oceana, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Maasdam, Veendam, Columbus, Magellan, Vasco Da Gama, Costa NeoRomantica, Berlin, Pacific Aria, Sea Princess, Sun Princess, Black Watch, Boudicca and Albatros.

Those sold to breakers are: Sovereign Monarch, Horizon, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Imagination, Marella Dream, Marella Celebration, Karnika, Pacific Dawn/Satoshi, Astor, Ocean Dream and Marco Polo.

Marco Polo is the one which has had the worst effect on me. Only three ships previously have upset me when they went to the beach – Canberra, Discovery and Saga Ruby. This has affected me worse, possibly because as she sailed to her doom, it was exactly a year since we were still on her with three nights left of the Christmas cruise.

The last of my four cruises was Christmas and New Year, returning to Bristol Avonmouth on the 6th January looking forward to returning on the 8th May. We had also booked her to Norway for my dad’s 80th birthday in 2021. He refused to consider any other ship. She was his favourite from his first of three cruises in December 2018.

When CMV went bust, it was thought she had reached the end due to her age, which was 55 by then. All five ships were auctioned (contrary to idiotic rags, Astoria has never been owned by CMV, merely chartered and 2020 was to be her final year with them). Vasco Da Gama went to Mystic Cruises, Magellan and Columbus to SeaJets, Astor to the Turkish breakers and Marco to High Seas Limited.

Things appeared to be looking up, especially with an advert offering her for charters. And so on the 19th November she slipped her moorings for Dubai, reportedly to become a temporary accommodation vessel, following a brief detour to Falmouth.

Then everything came crashing down when it was reported in a French blog on the 30th December she was going to Alang. This was confirmed the following day, with her listed as ending her career on the 12th January. By this time, not only had she reportedly had things removed before leaving Avonmouth (including the statue of Rudolf Nureyev by the pool), but her classification had been changed to “General Cargo” from passenger ship.

She left Dubai on the 3rd January, arriving in the holding area six days later, finally moving to anchorage ahead of plot 88 on the 13th. She beached in the middle of the night on the the 14th January 2021, marking the end to an illustrious career, having outlived her four sisters.

I don’t want to think of her being cut up on that beach in far away lands and hope I never see photos, although it is inevitable I will at some point. Instead I prefer to remember her as she was. Everyone who knows anything about ships knows her history, so I won’t get into that here. This is a memorial blog to remember her at her beautiful best from the 12 years I was fortunate enough to have her in my life. It is very long due to the number of photos showing her inside and out.

Despite her 55 year sailing career, I first saw her from Boudicca anchored off Guernsey in 2008. She was sailing for the original Transocean then and left at 2pm.

Guernsey 14th June 2008

Guernsey 14th June 2008

Guernsey 14th June 2008

Guernsey 14th June 2008

Guernsey 14th June 2008

The next time was on my doorstep in October 2009 along with two other classics, also sadly no longer with us. Saga Rose would be setting off on her penultimate cruise while Black Prince was on her farewell. Marco Polo was still under the Transocean flag, despite the company going bankrupt.

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

2nd October 2009

April 2011 was an unexpected sighting. I was sailing towards Amsterdam on Vision of the Seas when Marco was spotted in the Amsterdam Marine Terminal, then sailing under Cruise and Maritime Voyages.

30th April 2011

30th April 2011

Another unexpected sighting in July 2013 as we sailed from Ålesund to Bergen on Queen Mary 2. Mein Schiff (later Mein Schiff 1 and Marella Explorer) and Thomson Spirit passed us. Meanwhile, coming the other way, was pretty little Marco!

17th July 2013

17th July 2013

17th July 2013

17th July 2013

17th July 2013

17th July 2013

In 2016, she made an unexpected return to Southampton, diverted due to weather instead of going to Avonmouth.

5th January 2016

5th January 2016

5th January 2016

Finally, in June 2018, I got to set foot on her! It was just a three night repositioning cruise from Cardiff to Harwich, calling at Honfleur. She was magnificent! Her sheer and camber, annoying to some, was a joy to a ship nut like me. But first, I watched her arrive.

1st June 2018

1st June 2018

1st June 2018

1st June 2018

And then a love affair began and the beginning of 24 glorious nights over four cruises! You could see her original Aleksandr Pushkin name on the stern. I was in cabin 643, which overlooked the boat deck. She had keys and also an actual flush for the toilet instead of a vacuum.

Cardiff 1st June 2018

Cardiff 1st June 2018

Aleksandr Pushkin showing under the paint. 1st June 2018

Cabin 643 (outside single) 1st June 2018


Cardiff 1st June 2018

I saw the cabins of my friends David and Stephen after lunch. Muster was the most thorough I’d gone through since Voyages of Discovery. You had to wear your lifejackets at the muster station then were taken to your lifeboat. Then it was time for sailaway.

Cabin 605

Cabin 605

Cabin 605

Cabin 719

Marco’s Bistro




Before bed, I decided to explore her public rooms and outer decks since it was quiet. Since the demise of her sisters, she was rather a unique ship with many quirks.








Scott’s Bar

Scott’s Bar


Library

Columbus Lounge

Nansen Lounge

Nansen Lounge

Nansen Lounge

Original Aleksandr Pushkin bell in the Nansen Lounge





Captain’s Club

Marco Polo Lounge

Waldorf Restaurant

Waldorf Restaurant

It was a sea day the following day and glorious sunshine.

View from my cabin 2nd June 2018

2nd June 2018

2nd June 2018

2nd June 2018

2nd June 2018

2nd June 2018

2nd June 2018

2nd June 2018

The next day was Honfleur with still glorious weather.

Honfleur 3rd June 2018

Honfleur 3rd June 2018

Honfleur 3rd June 2018

Honfleur 3rd June 2018

Honfleur 3rd June 2018

Honfleur 3rd June 2018

Honfleur 3rd June 2018

En route to Harwich 3rd June 2018

Then it was time to return for the short pre-Xmas cruise from Bristol Avonmouth to Dublin with my dad. He had cataracts in both eyes at the time and couldn’t fault any of the crew. They helped him enormously. Marco became his absolute favourite ship, despite by that time only sailing on Braemar, Astoria and Black Watch that year. We also had Easter booked, which was Cobh (Ringsaskiddy) and the Isles of Scilly from Bristol to Cardiff. Due to weather on the latter, they swapped the ports around. By now, my dad had one cataract done and needed eye drops. Again, he had nothing but praise for all the crew. The following are a selection from both cruises.

16th December 2018

Cabin 543 (Superior twin inner) 16th December 2018

16th December 2018

16th December 2018

16th December 2018

16th December 2018

18th December 2018

18th December 2018

18th December 2018

Sailing from Dublin 18th December 2018

18th December 2018

Irish Coastguard exercise 18th December 2018

En route back to Avonmouth 18th December 2018

19th April 2019

Cabin 705 (Premium twin inner) 19th April 2019

19th April 2019

19th April 2019

19th April 2019

Isles of Scilly arrival 20th April 2019

Isles of Scilly 20th April 2019

Isles of Scilly 20th April 2019

Isles of Scilly 20th April 2019

Isles of Scilly 20th April 2019

Isles of Scilly 20th April 2019

Isles of Scilly 20th April 2019

Scillonian III going around Marco Polo 20th April 2019

En route to Ringaskiddy 20th April 2019

Midnight buffet 20th April 2019

Midnight buffet 20th April 2019

Cobh (for Ringaskiddy) arrival 21st April 2019

Saga Sapphire alonngside in Cobh en route to Ringaskiddy 21st April 2019

Dawn at Ringaskiddy 21st April 2019

Ringaskiddy departure 21st April 2019

En route to Cardiff 21st April 2019

Dropping the Cork pilot 21st April 2019

Approaching Cardiff 22nd April 2019

Arriving in Cardiff 22nd April 2019

Docked in Cardiff 22nd April 2019

We went to Portsmouth to see her sail a few months later.

Sailing from Portsmouth 8th June 2019

Sailing from Portsmouth 8th June 2019

Sailing from Portsmouth 8th June 2019

Sailing from Portsmouth 8th June 2019

What turned out to be the fourth and final cruise for me (third for my dad) was Christmas. It had been a replacement for my birthday cruise on QM2 I had to cancel, and included Madeira on New Year’s Eve. That was somewhere I wanted to return to after welcoming in 2008 on Aurora but never got round to it. By this time my dad had added Oriana and Queen Elizabeth to his list of cruise ships but still nothing came close to Marco Polo for him. It was the first cruise without Mitch Rutter as the Cruise Director, as he was on Astoria. Josh was a very good replacement though. We left Bristol on the 22nd December, returning on the 6th January. It was our first cruise with her new livery, which she had received during dry dock in November/December. The first two sea days were very rough. She corkscrewed like a bitch! By Christmas Day it had calmed. The following photos are a few highlights.

22nd December 2019

Cabin 625 (Superior twin with obstructed view) 22nd December 2019

Cabin 625 (Superior twin with obstructed view) 22nd December 2019

22nd December 2019

Bristol sailaway 22nd December 2019

Bristol sailaway 22nd December 2019

Bristol sailaway 22nd December 2019

Beware painted windows! 22nd December 2019

22nd December 2019

23rd December 2019

23rd December 2019

24th December 2019

25th December 2019

25th December 2019

25th December 2019

25th December 2019

Gibraltar 26th December 2019

Gibraltar 26th December 2019

Mother dolphin with calf in Gibraltar 26th December 2019

With Columbus in Gibraltar 26th December 2019

Sailing from Gibraltar 26th December 2019

Sailing from Gibraltar 26th December 2019

Sailing from Gibraltar 26th December 2019

En route to Lanzarote 27th December 2019

Sunset en route to Lanzarote 27th December 2019

Lanzarote arrival with Oceana, Mein Schff 4 and AIDAcara docked 28th December 2019

Lanzarote arrival 28th December 2019

Lanzarote 28th December 2019

Lanzarote 28th December 2019

Lanzarote sunset 28th December 2019

Tenerife arrival with Zenith docked 29th December 2019

Tenerife arrival 29th December 2019

Docked in Tenerife with Zenith behind 29th December 2019

Docked in Tenerife 29th December 2019

Tenerife departure 29th December 2019

Tenerife departure 29th December 2019

Gran Canaria arrival with AIDAcara and Columbus 30th December 2019

Gran Canaria 30th December 2019

Columbus, AIDAcara and Marco Polo in Gran Canaria 30th December 2019

Gran Canaria 30th December 2019

Gran Canaria 30th December 2019

En route to Madeira 30th December 2019

En route to Madeira 30th December 2019

The highlight of every Christmas cruise is the fireworks in Madeira to welcome in the new year. This was my dad’s first time in the Canaries and to Funchal so he was particularly looking forward to it. Unfortunately, due to sea conditions, any hope of tendering was abandoned at lunchtime for us and Columbus behind. By the time midnight arrived there was Columbus, Zenith, Saga Sapphire, Ocean Majesty, AIDAcara, Marella Explorer, Queen Victoria, Aurora, Mein Schiff 3, AIDAstella and Amera plus little Marco. My good friend, Mário Camacho has kindly allowed me to use some of his photos.

Madeira arrival 31st December 2019

Madeira with Mein Schiff 3, Zenith, Saga Sapphire and Columbus 31st December 2019

© Mário Camacho Madeira 31st December 2019

© Mário Camacho Madeira 31st December 2019

© Mário Camacho of Marco Polo, Columbus, Zenith and Saga Sapphire in Madeira 31st December 2019

© Mário Camacho of Saga Sapphire Zenith, Columbus and Marco Polo in Madeira 31st December 2019

© Mário Camacho Madeira 31st December 2019

© Mário Camacho of Columbus and Marco Polo in Madeira 31st December 2019

© Mário Camacho Madeira 31st December 2019

Madeira 31st December 2019

Madeira 31st December 2019

Rudolf Nureyev getting into the New Year spirit in Madeira 31st December 2019

Madeira 31st December 2019

Sunset in Madeira 31st December 2019

Madeira 31st December 2019

© Mário Camacho Madeira 31st December 2019

Maderia 1st January 2020

Sailing away from Madeira 1st January 2020

Sailing from Madeira 1st January 2020

As we sailed north, slowly returning to Bristol, the weather changed to colder and wetter.

En route to Lisbon 1st January 2020

En route to Lisbon 1st January 2020

En route to Lisbon 1st January 2020

En route to Lisbon 1st January 2020

En route to Lisbon 1st January 2020

En route to Lisbon 1st January 2020

Columbus ahead, also en route to Lisbon 1st January 2020

Lisbon 2nd January 2020

Lisbon 2nd January 2020

Columbus in Lisbon from Marco Polo 2nd January 2020

Columbus and Marco Polo in Lisbon 2nd January 2020

Marco Polo alongside in Lisbon 2nd January 2020

Marco Polo alongside in Lisbon 2nd January 2020

Lisbon 2nd January 2020

Columbus sailing from Lisbon 2nd January 2020

Black Watch early in Lisbon for a medevac 2nd January 2020

Sailing from Lisbon 2nd January 2020

Sailing from Lisbon 2nd January 2020

En route to Cobh 3rd January 2020

En route to Cobh 3rd January 2020

Saga Sapphire en route to Southampton 3rd January 2020

Saga Sapphire en route to Southampton 3rd January 2020

Saga Sapphire en route to Southampton 3rd January 2020

Saga Sapphire en route to Southampton 3rd January 2020

En route to Cobh 4th January 2020

En route to Cobh 4th January 2020

En route to Cobh 4th January 2020

Cobh 5th January 2020

Sailing from Cobh 5th January 2020

Sailing from Cobh 5th January 2020

Sailing from Cobh 5th January 2020

Sailing from Cobh 5th January 2020

En route to Bristol Avonmouth 5th January 2020

En route to Bristol Avonmouth 5th January 2020

Back in Bristol Avonmouth 6th January 2020

Waiting to disembark in Bristol Avonmouth 6th January 2020

Goodbye old girl 6th January 2020

If you’ve reached this far there is just one more photo with the words by Aleksandr Puskin himself which sums up how we lovers of this beautiful ship feel about her loss. It was as if he knew the future….

Posted in AIDA Kreuzfahrten, Canary Islands, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cruises, Cunard, Fred Olsen Cruises, General, Lisbon, Marella Cruises, Northern Europe, P&O Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Pullmantur, Royal Caribbean, Saga Cruises, Ship Stalking, TUI Cruises | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prize Winning Paintings celebrating the Sea

The Royal Society of Marine Artists and Mall Galleries are pleased to announce the prizewinners at this year’s RSMA Annual Exhibition, celebrating all aspects of the sea with themed works in a broad range of styles and media.

Without a Private View due to social distancing restrictions, many of the Winning Artists have instead provided videos, audio, images and statements.


The £2,000 Baltic Exchange Award 
John Walsom ARSMA ROI Mylor Yacht Harbour, Low Tide


John Walsom ARSMA ROI speaks about the process of creating the winning work, Mylor Yacht Harbour, Low Tide


The Artist Magazine Award
Gareth Brown RSMA Sea Flora V


Winsor & Newton Oil Prize
Richard Dack RSMA RWA Hebridean Recollections

Oil & Assemblage





RSMA New Generation Award
Awarded by the Society, the successful artist will receive £250. Open to all artists aged 35 or under at the time of submission.
Gregory Smith
HMS Illustrious; HMS Majestic; RMS Queen Mary’s First Approach To Southampton, 1936; RMSP Asturias


The Charles Pears Award
Srirangam Mohankumar Reflections, Pin Mill


The Classic Boat Award
The winner will take home a handsome, hand-crafted sculpture by Astins Sailing Sculptures, given for the most atmospheric depiction of a classic boat.

Kevin Clarkson A Breeze on the Blackwater
“Altering course on a blustery spring afternoon on the River Blackwater in Essex UK.”


The Kenneth Denton Award
For a work on the theme ‘The Sea in all its Moods’. Made possible by the generosity of long-standing member Kenneth Denton. Value £500.
James Bartholomew RSMA Sun on the Solent


Murray’s Commercial Fishing Award: 1st Prize
For a work in any medium depicting commercial fishing
Jenny Morgan RSMA Hauling the Trawl – Sidewinder Trawlers


Murray’s Commercial Fishing Award: 2nd Prize
For a work in any medium depicting commercial fishing
Alistair Butt RSMA Banding the Lobsters


RSMA Award for the Best Small Painting
John Lines RSMA Waiting


Topbond Marine Award
For works depicting marine engineering or construction activities in harbours, estuaries or marine waters within the UK. 
John Maule-ffinch The Old Cranes at Bristol Docks

Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition 2020
30 September to 10 October
Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1
 

This year’s annual exhibition by the Royal Society of Marine Artists features pieces by elected members and non-members, celebrating all aspects of the sea with themed works in a broad range of styles and media.

The common theme is the sea and tidal waters although, within that remit, work is wide and varied. Subjects range from deep water shipping to coastal scenes, competitive sailing to quiet harbours, marine wildlife to still-life.

Some specialise in carefully researched historical paintings; others paint en plein air, thereby embracing the significant challenge and thrill of capturing the visceral essence of the scene at a given moment in time; yet others work in their studio from copious notes and sketches made on location.

The Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) is widely recognised as the focal point for much of Britain’s finest contemporary marine art and many of the country’s leading marine artists are elected members of the Society.

Copyright © 2020 Mall Galleries, All rights reserved.

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Union Calls For UK Government to Guarantee Maritime Resilience

Press release

9 September 2020

Maritime professionals’ Union, Nautilus International, is calling on the UK government to ensure long term industry resilience in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic and looming Brexit.

Mark Dickinson, General Secretary at Nautilus, appeared before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee this morning (9 September), to discuss the impact of coronavirus on the maritime sector as the Union urges the government to commit to ensuring a strong and prosperous British maritime sector post-Brexit.

In a briefing document, Nautilus has urged the Department for Transport (DfT) to review the objectives in its Maritime 2050 strategy to ensure that the UK maritime industry is robust, secure for the future and better able to deal with a global crisis of the type we are now facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘The UK’s Maritime Resilience in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic’outlines what the government must do to boost British seafarer employment, help the industry thrive and improve maritime safety, identifying three ‘key asks’ of the government:

Review the employment status of seafarers, including the practice of ‘offshore employment’ contracts that has left many seafarers unable to access financial support during the crisis
Review state aid provided to the industry and what that delivers to the nation in support of its strategic and maritime security needs and ambitions as a maritime nation
Review its policy of supporting the Red Ensign Group and develop a coherent flag registration policy which is consistent with its obligations under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and which supports its stated aim of growing the UK Ship Registry.
Nautilus is also encouraging government ministers to ensure the needs of seafarers and the growth of the UK shipping industry are at the forefront of discussions as the UK heads towards the December 2020 transition deadline in its departure from the EU.

Nautilus International general secretary, Mark Dickinson, said: “The UK’s maritime interests have continued to suffer decline despite attempts to develop a strategic and long-term vision for the sector through the Maritime Growth Study and the Maritime 2050 initiative.

“With the industry and those working within still severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and many questions still to be answered about the UK’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit, we need a genuine commitment from the government that it is going to tackle these pressing issues, protect the industry and enable it to thrive in the coming years.”

The Union’s briefing document has been sent to MPs and attendees of today’s Transport Select Committee.

To find out more about Nautilus International, go to: https://www.nautilusint.org.

ENDS

For more information, contact Ben Rowe or Olivia Prole at Definition on 0845 4567251 ben.rowe@definitionagency.com / olivia.prole@definitionagency.com

Notes to Editors

Nautilus International is the trade union and professional organisation for maritime professionals at sea and ashore. We represent 20,000 maritime professionals including ship masters (captains), officers, officer trainees (cadets) and shipping industry personnel, such as ship pilots, inland navigation workers, vessel traffic services operators (similar to air traffic control), harbourmasters, seafarers in the oil and gas industry, and shore-based staff.

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Farewell Nellie

It was a sad day for the Jubilee Sailing Trust and its supporters as their flagship, Lord Nelson, was decommissioned on the 11th October 2019. The weather that day summed up the mood, although it wasn’t as bad as the forecast had said with spells of light rain instead of constant downpours and 50mph winds all day.

She and Tenacious had completed the Battle of the Barques in the Solent instead of going further afield due to weather (Which the Nellie won) and just after 9am, they raised their anchors and headed home, Nellie leading the way. Her paying off pennant was unfurled as she was near Ocean Terminal.









The decommissioning ceremony was being held in Ocean Terminal between 2pm-6pm with both ships alongside and the Nellie open to view. Due to weather, it was held inside. There was a good turnout to say goodbye, supporters and those who sailed on either or both ships. I spoke to some people, disabled and able-bodied who loved the ships and enjoyed the opportunity they gave them.

Before the service began was the Battle of the Barques presentation. Duncan Souster, CEO, followed as he opened the ceremony, talking about the history of the JST, how they came to own the Nellie, right up to the present day difficulties due to various conditions which led to the decision to decommission their much-loved flagship. Some speeches couldn’t be heard very well, which was a shame.







Click to enlarge










The plaque reads: Original Oak from Nelson’s Flagship HMS Victory

The queue to visit the Nellie had receded after the buffet lunch so I took the opportunity to have a look around before heading home. It was easy to see why she is so beloved by those who sailed on her.













































The Nellie is scheduled to leave her berth in Southampton and head to Bristol to be laid up by M Shed, where she will undertake maintenance until she is sold.

One thing I took away from yesterday was how they weren’t just passengers and crew yesterday, like when a cruise ship leaves the fleet. It was a family saying goodbye to a much loved member. That connection everyone involved has with the charity and vessels is unique and long may it continue.

More information about the Jubilee Sailing Trust or how to donate can be found on their website. https://jst.org.uk/

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Cunard World Club

Cunard is one of the last cruise lines to still decide loyalty tier based on number of cruises. When P&O took over management from the end of 2007 and changed many things, I was surprised this unfair system remained. Likewise when HAL Group subsequently became managers in July 2017.

Currently the tiers stand as this:

Silver – One cruise completed
Gold – Two voyages or 20 nights
Platinum – Seven voyages or 70 nights
Diamond – Fifteen voyages or 150 nights.

Many other lines changed theirs due to people booking mostly short cruises to rise up the tiers yet Cunard, with it’s numerous ones, has now far too many Diamonds.

There were rumours in 2012 of a revamp, going to points per night and introducing a Sapphire tier. Nothing happened.

Is it fair a Diamond, having accumulated 30 nights by only doing 2 night Hamburg cruises for example, receive the same benefits as someone with over 200 or 2000 nights?

I am currently Diamond with 93 nights. I don’t mind going back down to Platinum as long as there is a fairer system in its place, which is far too long overdue.

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Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition

Entry price £8. For free admittance for two, tell them you read about the exhibition on this blog at the gallery desk.


Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition celebrates the Sea and includes paintings depicting Cruise Ships and their destinations

Generations of artists have sought inspiration from the sea and that tradition continues today. The annual exhibition will feature some 400 works, by RSMA members and a new generation of artists who have discovered the fascination of the sea. These works, in a wide range of styles, sizes and media, capture the many moods of the sea and the coast and offer something to delight everyone.



Douglas Gray RSMA’s QE2 New York, shows the Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liner arriving in New York. Designed for the transatlantic service from her home port of Southampton to New York, the QE2 was operated by Cunard as both a transatlantic liner and a cruise ship from 1969 to 2008. 

The Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) is widely recognised as the focal point for much of Britain’s finest contemporary marine art and many of the country’s leading marine artists are elected members of the Society.

The common theme is the sea and tidal waters although, within that remit, members work is wide and varied. Subjects range from deep water shipping to coastal scenes, competitive sailing to quiet harbours, marine wildlife to still-life. Some members specialise in carefully researched historical paintings; others paint en plein air, attempting to capture the essence of the scene at a particular moment in time; yet others work in their studio from copious notes and sketches made on location.

All works are for sale.

Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition
10 to 19 October, 10am to 5pm 
Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1

http://www.mallgalleries.org.uk

Images: Douglas Gray RSMA QE2 New York
Paul Banning RSMA The Road to Point Radix Trinidad; Douglas Gray RSMA Autumn Light, London; Fred Beckett RSMA Porto Rafael, Sardinia

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Saga Sapphire & Spirit of Discovery in Dover

The 4th July 2019 had the former Saga flagship meeting the new one in their only time in either of their homeports before Sapphire leaves the fleet in May 2020.

Since I had seen Sapphire and Ruby on the same date in 2013 and the final joint departure of Sapphire and Pearl eleven months earlier, I headed to Dover to see this occasion.

Discovery had sailed on her showcase at lunchtime a day late on the 3rd and returned for 9pm after sailing past Saga HQ and tootled about. Sapphire arrived at 1am on the 4th and sailed almost three hours late.

Discovery is being named by The Duchess of Cornwall on the 5th but, unlike other ceremonies worldwide, there will be no fireworks and she’s already had what is usually the press jolly.

Instead she will sail on another showcase on the 8th followed by the fireworks at 9.45pm as she sets out on her maiden voyage on the 10th.











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New Visitor Centre Plans at Greenock

Plans have been approved for an iconic building on the banks of the Clyde at Greenock to welcome cruise ship passengers.

The plans, approved today (03.04.19) by Inverclyde planning board, are for a new visitor centre, restaurant and gallery at Greenock Ocean Terminal.

The overall project, led by Inverclyde Council, is part of the Glasgow City Region City Deal and aims to provide a new berthing facility and visitor centre to boost cruise ship passengers welcomed to Scotland through the Greenock facility operated by Peel Ports.

Now a key milestone, planning permission, has been granted.

In addition to the state of the art visitor centre welcoming cruise ship passengers from across the world, the plans also include a purpose built gallery celebrating the work of Inverclyde resident and artist George Wyllie (1921-2012) and a new restaurant with panoramic views across the Clyde.

As part of the outline business case published by Inverclyde Council, it is estimated that over 150,000 passengers could pass through Greenock Ocean Terminal delivering £26m in annual visitor and crew spend to the Scottish economy.

Inverclyde Council Leader Councillor Stephen McCabe said: “Planning application approval is an important milestone in the delivery of this project as part of the Glasgow City Region City Deal. The aim of the project is to boost the capacity at Greenock Ocean Terminal for cruise ships.  The addition of a restaurant and Wyllie Gallery will help to provide a year round attraction for visitors to Greenock and Inverclyde at this iconic building on the banks of Clyde.

“As a key City Deal project, the new visitor centre at Greenock Ocean Terminal aims to make a significant contribution to economic growth and international tourism across the wider city region area.”

Councillor David Wilson, Inverclyde planning board convener, welcomed the approval of the planning application. He said: “This is a welcome application and one the board where wholehearted in their approval. Inverclyde has a great deal to offer the visitor whether coming to Scotland by cruise ship from all over the world or visiting from other parts of the United Kingdom.  The new visitor centre, gallery and restaurant will enhance the offer to domestic and overseas visitors. The economic value of the cruise ship sector to Scotland is a key part of this project and its value to the country, particularly with the potential to substantially grow in future years, should not be underestimated.”

The proposal for a new Wyllie Gallery showcasing the life and work of the artist will also stage important exhibitions and events celebrating contemporary artists from across Scotland and further afield.

When the planning application was submitted, artist George Wyllie’s elder daughter, Louise Wyllie, said: “Inverclyde Council’s vision in realising this complex project is to be applauded.

“It has always been an ambition of The George Wyllie Foundation to celebrate and mark my father’s life and work in Inverclyde; an area which he loved and which was the lifeblood of all his art works.

“This exciting development at Ocean Terminal in Greenock marks a sea-change in the Foundation’s on-going voyage to mark his legacy as a ground-breaking artist and to make more people aware of his life’s work.

“Although making and creating art – be it music, plays or sculpture – was always a big part of his life, my father worked as a Customs and Excise officer for many years in this very spot. I know he would be thrilled that an world-class art space, designed by award-winning architect, Richard Murphy, was going to be part of a bigger picture which aims to inject new life into this area of Greenock.

Louise, who is also a trustee of the George Wyllie Foundation, added: “Giving access to arts for all was always part of my father’s approach to creativity and we can’t wait to get started on a host of exciting arts-for-all projects.”

The Greenock Ocean Terminal project to create a visitor centre and berthing facility is expected to cost £14.7m as part of the £1bn Glasgow City Region City Deal which is funded equally by the Scottish and UK governments.

The proposal for a new visitor centre landmark building for Greenock is being developed by Richard Murphy Architects, one of Scotland’s most celebrated architect firms. The company has won an unprecedented 22 RIBA Awards.

The visitor centre is scheduled for completion in 2020.

This link will take you to a digital fly through of the proposed new visitor centre.

The Glasgow City Region City Deal is an agreement between the UK Government, the Scottish Government and eight local authorities across Glasgow and the Clyde Valley. It will fund major infrastructure projects, create thousands of new jobs and assist thousands of unemployed people back to work, as well as improving public transport and connectivity, driving business innovation and growth and generating billions of pounds of private sector investment. The eight Scottish local authorities in the Glasgow City Region City Deal are: East Dunbartonshire Council; East Renfrewshire Council;  Glasgow City Council; Inverclyde Council; North Lanarkshire Council; Renfrewshire Council; South Lanarkshire Council and West Dunbartonshire Council.

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Carnival Comes to Southampton!

Finally, after having Carnival UK & pkc based in the city, the port of Southampton finally gets to see another Carnival ship after Fascination in 1994!

When they have sailed from the UK in the past, Dover has been their base. They return there briefly in June 2020 with Carnival Legend.

But three months later, on the 9th September, their newest ship, Mardi Gras, visits the home of Carnival UK!

A sister to Iona for P&O, she will no doubt berth in Ocean Terminal, which is currently undergoing phase 1 of a million pound upgrade to welcome Iona in May 2020, paid for in part by Carnival.

After a 9 night inaugural cruise from Denmark, she sets sail from Southampton on a 14 night trip across to New York.

I look forward to seeing the whale tail over the port!

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Inaugural

Mardi Gras Crossing

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ABP Southampton & Carnival Revamp Ocean Terminal

ABP have announced Ocean Terminal will be expanded to accommodate larger ships, including P&O’s new Iona, which enters service in May 2020. All ships scheduled to use that berth after Queen Mary 2 on the 4th November 2018 have been moved to another.

PORT OF SOUTHAMPTON MAKES MULTI-MILLION POUND INVESTMENT INTO THE FUTURE OF CRUISE

A £12 million package of investment to support further growth in the cruise sector is due to begin in October at the Port of Southampton.

The Ocean Terminal is being upgraded to accommodate the growing demand from cruise lines for ever larger ships to call at Southampton. This work, which will take just over a year to complete, will further strengthen the port’s position as Northern Europe’s leading cruise port.

This project, being carried out in partnership with Southampton-based Carnival UK, will enable P&O Cruises’ newest flagship to home port in Southampton from Spring 2020. Iona will be the next generation of P&O Cruises ships, and is the first British cruise ship to be powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas), paving the way for the future of cruising. Iona is currently being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg and will be launched in May 2020.

ABP Southampton director Alastair Welch, said: “We continually invest in the port to adapt and develop to meet our customers’ growing needs, and we are committed to ensuring that this growth happens in the most environmentally sustainable way. We are very supportive of cruise lines embracing LNG power for their vessels.”

Carnival UK VP port & shore operations, Steven Young said: “Bigger ships introduce greater operational complexity and we are pleased to be working alongside ABP and our port community on this series of improvements to the terminal ahead of welcoming Iona in 2020.”

Iona is the first of two new vessels of this class for P&O Cruises, with the next ship on order to be delivered in 2022. The additional work to accommodate these new vessels, each of them with a capacity of 5,200 guests, will increase the passenger capacity at the terminal by 50%.

Along with infrastructure improvements to the quayside and within the terminal itself, the existing 2,000 roof-mounted solar panel facility will be expanded, further improving the port’s environmental credentials.

The Port of Southampton currently welcomes over 2 million passengers each year on more than 500 cruise calls. Each visit to the port generates around £2 million for the local economy. 

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Porto Sold For Scrap – Updated

Sad news breaking about this beautiful classic liner, whose luck ran out when Classic International Cruises went bust in 2012.

A baby at just 5,888gt, she began life in 1965 as Istra. Several owners and names followed until she was well known in modern times as Arion for CIC from 1999. In 2012 she, along with Princess Danae and Athena, were arrested.

Hope beckoned when Portuscale Cruises not only bought those three, but also rescued Funchal with the intention of either running them or chartering (Princess Daphne was sold for scrap). Arion was renamed Porto and had her dry dock, awaiting a charter. She waited and waited and waited, lasting 3 years longer than Lisboa (ex-Princess Danae) but sadly no offers came.

In June 2013, I was in Lisbon on the maiden voyage of the new Royal Princess and met up with Luis Miguel Correia, who took me to see her, as well as Lisboa and Funchal.

With Lisboa (ex-Princess Danae) 19th June 2013


19th June 2013


19th June 2013


19th June 2013


19th June 2013

The last time I saw her was when I was over for the three Cunard Queens and she looked just as glorious laid up alongside Lisboa.

6th May 2014

Rumours had been rife Portuscale ran into money troubles quite early on. Only Azores (ex-Athena, currently Astoria) was getting work. Even Funchal had no offers.

Porto was sold to Turkish breakers on the 13th September and is expected to be towed to Aliaga around the 15th October 2018. Another classic gone. 😥

28th October 2013

Update 21st October 2018: Porto departed from Lisbon on her final journey.

Update 5th November 2018: Porto beached in Aliaga.

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Port of Dover To Name Spirit of Discovery

Saga Logo

Saga has today announced that the official naming ceremony of Saga Cruises’ first new-build ship Spirit of Discovery will be held at the Port of Dover on July 5, 2019 – the first ship to be named at Dover following the completion of stages 1& 2 of the £250m redevelopment of Dover Western Docks.

“As the place that Saga’s first cruise ship set sail from more than 20 years ago, Dover was ‘the natural choice”, revealed chief operating officer Nigel Blanks, in London, on 18th September at an exclusive event with Jools Holland – the face of The Club by Jools’ on board Spirit of Discovery, the only small ship currently being built for a British Market.

“With Saga’s Group headquarters based in Kent, we felt it only right that we name our first brand new, purpose-built cruise ship in Kent and what better way to do that than with the iconic White Cliffs of Dover as a backdrop. Spirit of Discovery will be the first cruise ship to be named in the port for more than a decade and the first following the regeneration of the Western Docks. We are already planning a few surprises, and will no doubt add a few more before next year, so save the date, as we christen the first of our new-build fleet” Blanks added.

Spirit of Discovery’s maiden voyage will sail from Dover on July 10, 2019. The 999-guest luxury boutique ship will circumnavigate the British Isles.

“We are really excited about her first cruise as it’s a great way to show-off our first new boutique cruise-ship to the British market as we call in to iconic ports such as Newcastle, Edinburgh, Belfast and Liverpool,” said Blanks.

The inaugural cruise has already sold out and most other 2019 itineraries are well ahead of expectations with the 109 single cabins proving extremely popular. Spirit of Discovery’s destinations throughout summer 2019 include Spain, Scandinavia and the Baltic, as well as a four-night mini-cruise to Holland, Germany and Belgium.

In addition, Saga recently announced the company’s strategic decision to move to all-inclusive cruising as standard from 2020. Nigel Blanks said “the decision to go all-inclusive in 2020 had been made to distance ourselves further from the competition and mass cruise market”. He said: “I firmly believe this will not only sit very well alongside our ‘Boutique Cruising’ proposition but will reaffirm our position as Britain’s niche luxury cruise operator’.

Port of Dover Head of Cruise, Sonia Limbrick said: “It is a great honour, and we are thrilled that Dover Cruise has been chosen as the venue for the momentous naming ceremony of Saga’s new ship ‘Spirit of Discovery’.

“Having first sailed from Dover back in 1997 with the Saga Rose, their magnificent cruise ships have been a welcome feature of the historic Western Docks for over 20 years. With our exciting £250m redevelopment well underway, ‘Dover Western Docks Revival’ will offer a uniquely enhanced experience to the ship when she calls in 2019 and we are greatly looking forward to greeting her in Dover.”

Customers who would like to Sail on Spirit of Discovery during her inaugural season, or register their interest in Spirit of Adventure, can contact Saga on 0800 505030 or saga.co.uk/cruise

ABOUT SPIRIT OF DISCOVERY

Saga’s first purpose-built cruise ship Spirit of Discovery is the first of two new passenger ships being constructed at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenberg, Germany for Saga Cruises.

Spirit of Discovery will replace Saga Pearl II in July 2019 while the second ship, Spirit of Adventure, is planned to enter service in August 2020. Both ships will host 999 guests and 530 crew members.

The ships will be 58,250 gross ton vessels measuring 774.3ft in length and a maximum beam of 102.4ft.

‘The club by Jools’ is Saga’s first ever endorsed on-board steakhouse and bar. Saga customers will get to experience their own ‘evening with Jools’ during live performances from Jools Holland during our Channel Island Hop, Gourmet Spain and Natural Scandinavia cruises on-board Spirit of Discovery.

Money back guarantee
Saga is so confident that first-time guests will love life on board its award-winning cruise ships that it is offering early flights home and a refund of the cruise fare to anyone who does not enjoy the sailing.

The Saga Cruises Price PromiseWith Saga Cruises it pays to book early. Should we ever cut our prices or bring in a new special offer later on, we’ll work out the difference and pass the value of the saving back to the customer.

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70th Cruise!!!

I can’t believe I’ve done so many, though have slowed down a lot since my 50th on Norwegian Breakaway in 2013. That’s due to work and ongoing health issues over the past couple of years so getting my priorities right since I pay for them myself. No bloggers freebies for me!

It’s hard to believe, when I started with a short trip on the QE2 in 2006, I would ever do so many. My dad certainly thought I’d grow out of it within a couple of years. Yet here he is sharing this milestone with me on what is his second cruise.

And what ship do I celebrate on? The appropriately aged 70 year old Astoria! 😍 It’s only an overnight, booked so my dad could try her while she’s around since, at that time, there were no 2019 cruises. It wasn’t originally the 70th but others kept being added before it so worked out that way.

Some people are sniffy about short cruises, saying it’s not “real cruising”. Tell that to the cruise lines who sell them and add them to your loyalty club points.

For many it’s all they can afford or have time to do due to commitments, while others just enjoy the break away. Three nights on Black Watch after a horrendously stressful year when my mum was dying and I needed surgery, was just what I needed. So don’t knock it, snobby people! A cruise is a cruise whether one night or a thousand.

But back to my milestone as I aim for my 100th. I’m glad it’s on the beautiful Astoria. I have often been asked which is my favourite ship but I like so many I’ve sailed on. It took 34 to finally find it. I cannot explain why she beats the rest but I certainly hope Cruise and Maritime Voyages continue to charter her until she cannot go on any longer.



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Travelling With A Stoma

Having a stoma, whether planned or not, can be a terrifying and daunting experience. You have to rethink your entire life, including diet, and can feel embarrassed by the bag.

Bums are one of the great taboos which we need to talk more about. People end up with a colostomy or ileostomy for a variety of reasons (cancer, ulcerative colitis, perforation to name three), which can be temporary or permanent and are nothing to be ashamed of.

“What would you know about it?” I hear you say. I know a hell of a lot, having had both colostomy and ileostomy since my bowel was perforated during a ‘routine’ 90 minute hysterectomy in August 2016 which took 4 hours due to a 29 year history (22 years diagnosed) of endometriosis.

And that’s why I’m writing this. I hope to be able to help based on my own experiences, since it took me a year before I would talk about my stoma publicly, while only very close friends and a couple of people at work knew.

Originally, at the beginning of September 2016, I ended up with a colostomy because my sigmoid colon had become infected and ruptured at home six days after my hysterectomy. This was my worst nightmare.

My paternal grandfather had bowel cancer and died aged 50 in 1969. My mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010 aged 64. He had bags. Hers didn’t spread and she died of strokes. Knowing I could get it at some point too, a bag terrified me. But here I was facing a fait accompli.

The bag, I was told, would be on for 6 months then reversed. It was something to look forward to!

If you’re squeamish or gag at certain smalls like me, this was an awful thing to deal with. Your diet goes out the window as certain things can cause blockages or the runs. After a while, you learn what you can and can’t have.

My stoma nurse, Nicola Patel, was absolutely amazing. She’s the one who decided whether I could cope sufficiently to go home and remained my nurse throughout. But when I saw her, it was only the second time I’d changed my bag myself in 13 days.

The first had been a baptism of fire that morning when the old one was falling off! There had been no nurse available over the weekend to help me as the ward had been incredibly busy. Nicky was happy and I went home.

My first bags were by Coloplast, which you changed when full. I didn’t have the confidence to empty any at that point. Also back then, the stoma team used Charter for prescription orders if you wanted free extras like disposible bags and hygienic wipes (not to be used on the stoma). If you preferred, you could get everything but those from your chemist.


Most items were provided by the stoma team while later, Charter sent a convenient travel pouch.



Anyone who has had a stoma knows you need to alter your diet to control output and the main fear is the bag coming off.

Pancaking is the worst thing. That happened to me a few times while out, including at my GP surgery, and is extemely embarrassing. Imagine that on your holiday, either waking up or while out. Absolute nightmare! I took to putting a towel on the bed but you still need to pack far more than you would normally in case of accidents.

The best thing I ever got was Brava Elastic Tape, which are extenders you place around the bag seal. If you also develop a parastomal hernia like me, these are priceless and help keep everything in place. There is still a risk of pancaking but less chance of the bag coming off at the top, especially in bed.

If flying, however, I’d have to pre-book an aisle seat close to the toilet in case of a quick dash. When flying to Barcelona on a Cunard charter flight, they put me in seat 1F after I had explained my problem, which I was very grateful for. Though, due to the constant delay with the reversal and repairing my parastomal hernia, I needed a seatbelt extension for the first time.

There is also the question of security at airports. In these heightened times of body scanners, do you tell them in case they think you’re trying to smuggle something under your clothes? Mistakes have been known to happen. I once had an envelope thought to be a Kindle so was pulled to one side. I tended to let them know. At Hamburg airport, I was taken to the side, asked where the bag was and patted down.

It was very different getting the temporary ileostomy after colostomy reversal in December 2017. You can have many more problems with foods than with a colostomy as it doesn’t digest as much so taking Dioralyte to replace lost minerals is a must. You really have no choice but to have bags you empty. Mine supplied by the hospital this time around were by Dansac and bloody awful. Despite a vent, it still filled with air.

The bags fill faster generally too, depending on what you eat. I had awful problems with tomatoes. Within an hour the bag was full of liquid. Imagine being sat on the bus and feeling it fill, wondering if it’s food, liquid or air, terrified it will come off. That happened to me in January as I was on the way to Queen Victoria for a cruise and had to change my clothes in Red Funnel because the air pushed it off around the top.

My problems didn’t end there. My case didn’t turn up and I desperately needed to change the bag a second time, as well as change my clothes. It turned out my luggage had been taken to cabin 2004 instead of 2014 so a quick change before muster was required. Thank goodness Cunard ships have launderettes!

The ileostomy bag also gave me awful skin problems I hadn’t had with colostomy ones. It was red raw and bleeding. Nicky suggested a convex to try and heal the skin with seals. Again it was the awful Dansac bags with rubbish vents.

I first tried it when I went to my friend’s for the weekend in Banbury and reluctantly came to appreciate these. The belt kept it securely on, making travel and more physical activity less of a worry. The Brava Elastic Tapes give you that extra bit of security. However, that trapped air is very frustrating. You’d have to keep having to open the bag to release it otherwise it would push the end open, which was a nightmare when I asleep.

Coloplast also have them, and I was given some to try as an alternative. They also can be used with seals and a belt.

Due to some security with the Dansac bags, plus the fact you actually needed to change it less often regardless of advice, I decided to stick with them. The longest I wore one was two weeks and only changed it when it was lifting off. My skin was so much healthier that way.

I had my ileostomy reversal in July 2018, ending 22 months of bags and everything that goes with it. You need to rethink your diet yet again, but I was never told what to expect or had a goodbye from my stoma team. I’ve been very lucky and, after constipation for the first 8 days, everything settled down really quickly, which my GP didn’t believe. I just have to be careful (so far) of decaffeinated coffee.

Don’t be ashamed of having a bag. It cannot be helped. Do what suits you best, ignore any ignorant people because they may end up with one themselves in the future and enjoy your holiday!

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Farewell Oriana

As everyone will know by now, Carnival Corporation, parent company of the P&O Cruises brand, have decided to sell their former flagship. To date, the name of the buyer nor what her purpose will be, haven’t been revealed just “Chinese cruising”, which could mean a casino ship for all we know, but I hope it’s not! Her predecessor had a static role there before a storm caused too much damage to repair and she was broken up. There will be no special farewell cruise for her successor, just the previously scheduled Norway & North Cape from 22nd July-9th August 2019, with everything to the end of March 2020 cancelled.

Oriana entered service on the 9th April 1995, based on the ships of the past, notably Canberra, and is the penultimate pre-Carnival P&O ship designed with British passengers in mind, with Aurora following five years later. She is the current holder of the Golden Cockerel as fastest ship, an honour she took from Canberra during a handover ceremony in Cannes during Canberra’s farewell cruise in 1997. With Carnival ordering eight 180,000gt ships for their AIDA, Costa, Carnival and P&O brands, her days were numbered, as are Aurora’s.

But I’m not going to voice my opinion on a business decision or reproduce the press release. Instead, I will focus on the ship itself and the happy memories I have of her, as a ship nut and passenger, with a photo blog featuring some of my favourite pictures taken over the years. So close the tab if you get bored easily as this is long to show her off in all her glory over the past 21 years I’ve been photographing and filming her.

When she arrived to a plethora of complaints of being “too big”, I was in the middle of no interest in ships due to more important things. It was Canberra’s imminent retirement which reignited my interest so the first time I saw her was 16th August 1997 when they both sailed from Southampton.

It wasn’t until 2005, I got my arse in gear and became more serious about ships since so many had gone I’d missed. One highlight was always when Oriana and Aurora were in together, which wasn’t often. There was no guarantee one would pass the other.

Aurora passing Oriana 10th May 2006

A bonus in 2006 as Oriana’s refit was an extra two days, meaning she met her sister again that year.

Aurora past Oriana 18th December 2006

Despite them being together in the interim, they hadn’t passed each other again until 2010.

Oriana sailing past Aurora 22nd July 2010

On the 17th December 2014, Aurora returned from refit sporting the new Union Jack bow and blue funnel. She was the first in service to get this, as Britannia had hers added in the shipyard. The following day, she met her sister, which really showed a contrast.

Oriana in old livery and Aurora in new livery 18th December 2014

Oriana in old livery and Aurora in new livery 18th December 2014

Oriana in old livery and Aurora in new livery 18th December 2014

The final time they will be together in their home port was the 21st March 2018. They had been scheduled to meet twice during 2019 – 16th August and 9th December but I doubt they’ll pay a week of port fees so the last P&O ships can say goodbye to each other.

Oriana and Aurora 21st March 2018

Oriana and Aurora 21st March 2018

Oriana and Aurora 21st March 2018

She was always magnificent from the water, the best way to photograph ships and I had my first in early 2008 as I returned on Aurora after the New Year cruise. We were early into Southampton due to weather, Oriana was late due to the same thing delaying her return that morning so we passed each other off Ryde as she sailed out.

From Aurora 7th January 2008

From Aurora 7th January 2008

One of the best was when I sailed on Artemis. We shared Mayflower Terminal, us checking in one side, Oriana’s passengers the other but we boarded via the dock as we were in berth 105. Being smaller, it made for great photos as we sailed first to turn then she slipped out resulting in us following.

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

There was also the Hythe ferry, Hotspur IV. Unlike Great Expectations, she had a bow you could go on.

From Hotspur IV 23rd May 2009

From Hotspur IV 23rd May 2009

From Hotspur IV 23rd May 2009

She was ahead of us as Arcadia sailed into Southampton. Docking in QEII Terminal gave great photo opportunities as we headed to Ocean Terminal.

From Arcadia 2nd June 2010

From Arcadia 2nd June 2010

From Arcadia 2nd June 2010

Lit up at sea showed her in all her glory in the English Channel outbound from Southampton, especially with the buff funnel.

From QM2 15th December 2012

She was gorgeous in my favourite European port of Lisbon, especially as the sun went down, sailing out to the Atlantic.

From Vision of the Seas in Lisbon 28th October 2012

From Vision of the Seas in Lisbon 28th October 2012

Up close and personal in La Coruna as she docked next to us.

From Voyager in La Coruna 2nd May 2014

From Voyager in La Coruna 2nd May 2014

La Coruna 2nd May 2014

We were heading to Portsmouth the following day, Oriana to Southampton, but she was visible in the Bay of Biscay.

From Voyager in the Bay of Biscay 3rd May 2014

Three times during one cruise was excellent, I have to say. Barcelona, Gibraltar and home in Southampton at the end.

Barcelona 4th November 2017

From Queen Victoria in Barcelona 4th November 2017

QV_Oriana_02

From Queen Victoria in Gibraltar 9th November 2017

QV_Oriana_16

From Queen Victoria in Gibraltar 9th November 2017

QV_Oriana_21

From Queen Victoria in Gibraltar 9th November 2017

From Queen Victoria in Southampton 13th November 2017

From Queen Victoria in Southampton 13th November 2017

Oriana wasn’t my first cruise (6th). She wasn’t even my first P&O. That honour went to Aurora but just over six weeks after a short on Aurora to try her, it was her elder sister’s turn. Just two nights to Zeebrugge, but absolutely loved it.













I always intended to do a longer cruise but never got around to it. Instead, I only managed to do the Grand Event on her, but it was an unforgettable experience.

Grand Event Cruise 3rd July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Amsterdam 4th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Amsterdam 4th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Amsterdam 4th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Amsterdam 4th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Zeebrugge 6th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Zeebrugge 6th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 6th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 6th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

If you have reached here, I applaud you. I’d like to end with the above mentioned Grand Event, when all seven of P&O’s current fleet made history in Southampton to celebrate the 175th anniversary. I had arrived on Ventura, did a harbour tour then boarded Oriana. You really had to be there to know how fantastic it was, despite the awful weather. Oriana had become an adults only ship by then and, even though it was just four nights to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge, it wasn’t your usual booze cruise. Most booked to be part of this unique event. The following photos are mine onboard Ventura, Ocean Scene and Oriana with the rest by my dad on Jurassic Scene as we all sailed.

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Oriana will be greatly missed and we can only hope her future role in China is a success.

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Passport Interviews

Getting a passport for the first time can be exciting. It opens the door to explore the world.

But what if you receive a letter asking you to attend an interview?

That’s exactly what happened to my dad. It wasn’t his first passport either, but his original one expired in 1985 so there was probably no record. Plus 33 years is a long time to wait for another!

We had a feeling this would happen. The birth certificate copy he had was issued in 1947 for the Family Allowances Act (1945) caretaker Conservative government brought in. As he was 5 years old, he has no idea what happened to his original one. The 1947 one was tatty, held together with Sellotape and practically illegible so a new copy was ordered.

Check and send at the Post Office is my usual method of applying, so we did the same for him with the birth certificate copy. It may cost a little more, but any mistakes on the form are dealt with quickly so it’s worth it.

The appointment was made. Thankfully, there are numerous local passport offices around the country so you no longer need to go to a major city like London. Ours is at Cosham, near Portsmouth, in a huge building at Lakeside North Harbour industrial estate. There are no buses except for employees early morning and from mid-afternoon. Taxis are available at Cosham station. Sally was the name of our driver and she gave me her mobile to call when we’d finished.

If you are delayed, you could be buggered. Our train was stuck at Fratton due to a broken down one ahead. I called the number on the letter since there wasn’t one to the local office. The gentleman on the other end kept repeating like a mantra, “You have ten minutes leeway. I cannot pass on your message but as it’s being recorded, they will know you called.” Fat lot of use that is! But we made it.

So you arrive at the vast building, sign in and go to the correct office. But how can you prove you are who you say you are?

Fact is, you can’t. They won’t accept any documents in case they’re forged. You just get taken to a room to chat for about half an hour.

My paternal grandparents both died when he was 8 years old so he dreaded being asked questions about them. Thankfully, they never really came up, he said, and he received a text a couple of days later saying his passport would be delivered within 48 hours.

Life’s never dull!

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Cunard Dress Code Changing? (Updated)

There has been no official announcement but cruises booked from mid-June 2018 no longer state Formal or Informal on the Voyage Personaliser.

As with Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line, Formal becomes Gala Evening while Informal is Smart Attire.

No surprise since Holland America Group has overseen Carnival UK (Cunard and P&O) since July 2017.

Transatlantic crossings on Queen Mary 2 will currently still have three Gala Evenings.

Holland America Line’s dress code is stated from their website as:

Most evenings smart casual attire is appropriate. Shorts, pool/beachwear, distressed jeans and men’s tank tops are best left to the daytime and are not permitted in fine dining restaurants.

Gala Nights evoke the grand traditions of cruising as guests dress to impress for special events on board, including our five-course gourmet dinner in the Dining Room. For gentlemen, collared shirts and slacks are required in all fine dining restaurants.

They also say jacket and tie is not required on Gala Nights, so Cunard’s version (when announced) will be interesting.

Changes have been afoot a while. Short breaks have been Informal only since before HAL Group came along.

Dress code is one of the hottest topics, moreso as cruising itself changes to try and attract new passengers.

Are Cunard “dumbing down” or should they move with the times? Have your say below.

Update – 28th March 2018

Cunard have said it is only a change of wording. I messaged for more information but at the time of writing, have not received a reply.

However, the Voyage Personaliser had a dress code update, including expanding areas where you were restricted to if you prefer to remain casual (many thanks to Mark Katzenberger from my Facebook group, Cunard Past, Present and Future for the following).

During the day, feel free to relax and dress as you please in all areas of the ship.

From 6pm on ‘Informal’ nights, we ask that you wear smart attire in most of our bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. On our much-anticipated Gala evenings, dress attire is Formal. We invite you to dress to impress and celebrate with us. There are two or three of these Gala evenings for every seven days of your voyage.

Informal/Smart Attire: Gentlemen, every night we request you wear smart trousers with a shirt and jacket; tie is optional. Ladies, blouses and skirts or stylish trousers and dresses are welcome.

Formal/Gala Evenings: It’s Showtime. Dinner jacket, tuxedo, or dark suit for the men with a regular tie or bow tie. Evening or cocktail dress, smart trouser suit, or formal separates for the ladies please.

Of course, if you prefer to spend your evenings in more relaxed attire, feel free to dress casually as you visit any of the following venues: Kings Court or Lido Buffet, Golden Lion, Casino, Carinthia Lounge, Winter Garden/Winter Lounge and G32 or Yacht Club. Non-ripped jeans are appropriate, but please refrain from wearing shorts, sports attire, swim wear or sleeveless t-shirts outside of the gym, spa and deck spaces.

Update – 29th March 2018

Cunard have got back to me. This is what they say:

We have completed extensive global research with over 13,000 guests who told us that they love the glamour of a Cunard voyage; the chance to dress up is something that is becoming increasingly rare yet increasingly desirable.

We are not making any changes to the dress code, just simply updating the language that we use to describe the evening attire on board.

Informal/smart attire will be shirt and jacket for gentlemen, tie optional. Blouses, skirts or stylish trousers for ladies, with dresses optional. For formal/gala nights, it’s showtime! Dinner jacket, tuxedo, or dark suit for the men with a regular tie or bow tie. Evening or cocktail dress, smart trouser suit, or formal separates for the ladies.

Posted in Carnival Cruise Lines, Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Shipboard Announcements

We’ve all been there. They say announcements won’t be in your cabin due to privacy and if you want to hear them, turn on whatever. Fair enough for things like bingo but what of the important ones?

The one thing I’ll never understand is why missing passenger calls before sailaway or when people are asked to go to reception due to some issue are ONLY in public areas.

Mr Smith from cabin 5315 could be asleep or in the shower and not realise they believe he’s not onboard. Money is wasted hanging around past the departure time due to them not checking properly everyone is accounted for.

Privacy is one thing but passenger call announcements SHOULD be everywhere regardless.

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Astoria Cruise – Rouen to Tilbury

We had a full day in Rainy Rouen as we’d be sailing at 1.15am for Honfleur the following morning. I had arranged to meet my good friend Marie Mariani after 12pm so had a wander. I had been twice before (the second time to meet up with Marie) but I love the place.




Then we had lunch at La Petite Bouffe, which is popular with students at lunchtime then turns into a restaurant at night. Both our delicious meals came to just €12.50.


I returned to the ship in time for afternoon tea while Marie went back to the cathedral.


The show after dinner was Around the World, which was brilliant. I’d love to know where the dancers get their energy from. We later sailed in the pouring rain.



I had a lazy day in Honfleur since the following day would be a long one getting home. We had received a letter explaining any unused money from the lost Amsterdam day would be refunded but still people weren’t happy and removed gratuities. Lunch in the dining room was interesting as our view, due to tide, was the dock wall. It rained most of the day but was sunny when we left 45 minutes late, the same time Peter Knego’s lecture started. We waited for a small cargo ship to pass then two tankers which were miles away. If that had been Southampton, we’d have gone between them. AIDAperla was docked in Le Havre.




Peter Knego lecture





AIDAperla


Mike, me and Peter Knego by the original Stockholm bell which went down with the Andrea Doria after their collision in 1956.


It was the Baked Alaska parade with sparklers during dinner. Then comedian Gerry Graham was on again. I went to bed after that.

Gerry Graham as Max Wall

Morning and we were late. We had a medivac during the night and pulled into Calais. Someone had been taken ill during dinner resulting in the doctor being called, so we naturally wondered if it was them. Our 8am arrival was now 10.30am but we still had to be out of the cabin by 7.30am. I spoke to Julie and had permission to stay longer due to the stoma. Carol sat at my table for breakfast then we went to the lounge after I collected my stuff.





Then it all became farcical. Several people on the transfer coach to Victoria had connections but certainly weren’t a priority despite paying for it. Self-disembarkation went first, many of whom had cars or lived locally. Then Gold Columbus Club members. Coach was third and we finally left the terminal at 11.25am. It was a different company to our arrival. The driver had only been told that morning he was doing it and had been waiting since 10.15am. I was on the noon coach to Southampton, Carol the 12.30pm to Chippenham. Another lady was going to Edinburgh. Going by last year when the return journey had taken less time, Carol and I rebooked our respective coaches for one hour later. Things were going really well until the Embankment which is 10 minutes away in good traffic. There was an organised protest in Parliament Square which no one told the driver about so he could avoid the area. We finally arrived 2 hours after setting off so missed more connections.

Now we had been given a letter for National Express by Mark, the Guest Service Host, after we had said about losing money. It wasn’t exactly common knowledge surprisingly. Despite handing it over at Victoria, I was charged £5 to change my ticket while Carol had to buy a new one.

All in all, despite things beyond their control and extra expenses, I had a bloody great cruise on my favourite ship and cannot wait to go back.

Posted in AIDA Kreuzfahrten, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cruises | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Astoria Cruise – Antwerp to Rouen

Sailaway was at 4pm and we had a band playing us off. We were waiting for one passenger but no idea if he was on the ship or didn’t make it.

It was formal night and the Captain’s reception. He talked about the ship and his history with her since 2006. The show was great followed by a cabaret where you could get up and dance.


Partial sea day as we headed to Rouen on the Sunday. Very windy. Comedian Gerry Graham was sat on deck with Mitch the cruise director.


Gerry Graham


We were due to pick up the pilot at 2pm but it was later. Then we commenced our transit along the Seine where we docked around 9pm.







The show was Gerry Graham, who was really funny. As we were allowed off, it as an ideal opportunity to photograph the ship lit up.

Gerry Graham



With Peter Knego and Mike

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Astoria Cruise – Tilbury to Antwerp

It was time for my spring cruise on this fabulous ship. In 2017, they had a short cruise to Amsterdam and Antwerp. This year was double, but again, it was the first after a winter lay-up. Cruise and Maritime Voyages share chartering this beauty with Rivages du Monde, who have her usually from May and during summer. Before resuming service, she was being prettied up in dry dock, leaving it on the 2nd March and Lisbon on the 5th.

2nd March 2018


5th March 2018

Two days before departure, CMV called late morning to say Astoria would now arrive Friday the 9th due to weather delaying her Lisbon departure. Amsterdam was cancelled and would be refunded. They were also giving £50 onboard credit and any you don’t use, she said, they were looking at refunding. Any out of pocket expenses should be emailed to them. In my case there was a hotel it was too late for free cancellation, more expensive one booked and outbound coach ticket. They later sent out a text.

It buggered up a lot of plans but at least they let people know in time to hopefully alter them.

My new hotel was a stone’s throw from Victoria Coach Station. Having been a regular National Express coach user since 1987, I knew the area pretty well and where to find food. After settling in, I went for a little wander.




Meanwhile, Astoria was still slowly making her way to Tilbury. Svitzer Madeleine on her stern as she approached, who was once a familiar sight in Southampton.




Tilbury is quite difficult to get to without a car or living in Gravesend, but CMV have a coach transfer to and from Victoria Coach Station. I was impressed with it last time so booked it again. As with 2017, it was at 11am. Originally, I had a coach booked from Southampton at the crack of yawn (hence booking a hotel since the buses wouldn’t get me into town on time) and would change in London. This at least gave me a bit of a lie-in.

As with last year, it went smoothly. The CMV rep arrived around 10am, highlighted our names and handed out the health questionnaire and revised itinerary. Boarding was from Gate 2 as Gate 1 was closed for work. I saw Carol, who I’d met on the transfer last year and met Rob Guest from Facebook.


We arrived just before 1pm. Due to my parastomal hernia returning and Ileostomy, they allowed me to do priority check-in with Carol. The queue was absolutely horrendous. We were on at 1.15pm. Lunch! It was much better organised than last year but maybe due to so many in the terminal.




Muster was scheduled for 2.30pm but was 15 minutes late. Broadcast broke off three times and we didn’t go to the lifeboats, probably due to rain. Sailaway was slightly delayed due to traffic.

I went to reception about the onboard credit and discovered they day missed was non-refundable like the £50. That’s not good when you’re not a big spender like me and a lot of money to lose. The receptionist told me there had been a lot of complaints and they had emailed the finance department.

Dinner was good. Peter Knego managed to get us all a table together so I went from table 66 to 6. Our waiter was excellent and replaced my supposedly bell pepper free Thai salad with one that had none. Then we saw the show which the cruise director took part in too. Then it was time for bed after a long day.

Morning in Antwerp. I decided not to go into the city since it would be a long day in Rouen and I ached after the travelling. So I chilled, had lunch with Carol then wandered.



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What Next For The Astor Sisters?

News today that CMV Travel & Leisure Group has purchased Pacific Eden from Carnival Corporation to summer for Transocean Kreuzfahrten in Germany and winter in Australia. This is currently done by Astor so you have to wonder what future she has.

Entering service in 1987 and designed as a slightly larger version to her predecessor, she had a few owners but has been Astor the longest and with Transocean since 2001.

Astor in Zeebrugge 2008

Astor in Southampton 2012

She isn’t the only Astor to face an uncertain future. The original from 1981, now Saga Pearl II, is ending her career with Saga in April 2019 after 9 years. At one time, she was a fleetmate to her sister under the Transocean banner as Astoria (not to be confused with the CMV ship of the same name) until 2009.

Astoria in Southampton 2008

Saga Pearl II in Southampton 2015

So, what is to become of these sisters? While CMV have their classics, they have also expanded in recent years by acquiring larger tonnage such as Magellan and Columbus. Far too many old girls have become memories and history or end their days as casino ships in the Far East. Will these or will someone reunite them to sail together again? I hope we find out soon.

Posted in Cruise & Maritime Voyages, General, Saga Cruises, Transocean Kreuzfahrten | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Switching Cruise Line Loyalty

One subject I often see these days on various cruising discussion groups is dissatisfaction with a favoured cruise line constantly cutting back onboard and making loyalty a waste of time as they reduce perks.

When I began cruising in 2006, staying with the same line never occurred to me. I enjoy experiencing different things. In my first 12 months I sailed Cunard, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, P&O UK and NCL. I had so many booked before setting foot on a ship so it was a good job I liked to cruise! I have now sailed on 10 cruise lines and found they all have their plus and minus points.

While trying something new isn’t a modern phenomenon, it has become more prevalent over the past few years as people tire of what they loved becoming unrecognisable as they make changes to attract a younger demographic and more first timers.

MSC has introduced Status Match to lure passengers across at the expense of perks to their loyal Voyagers Club Black Card members who have paid the money all these years. The problem is, far too many won’t be going back due to the line being more international.

One bugbear of mine on main lines is taking away public areas and replacing them with cabins and pay restaurants while leaving less space for the increased passenger numbers. Royal Caribbean is probably the worst for that and if I only sailed with them, it would most likely make me look elsewhere.

With so much information at our fingertips these days, it’s very easy to be put off changing due to bad reviews or someone’s awful experience.

My advice would be to ignore it all and go with an open mind. Cruising, like everything in life, is subjective. One person’s best cruise ever is another’s cruise from hell.

I learned this lesson when I sailed on the 2 night inaugural of Norwegian Gem. I had read so many bad things about NCL I dreaded it. But I needn’t have worried. It was a fantastic cruise. I enjoyed the ship, the crew, Freestyle dining and have sailed Jade, Epic, Breakaway and Getaway since.

No cruise is perfect and I’m always surprised when some claim theirs was then attack those who had been on the same one, writing in detail the negatives they had encountered, which are agreed with.

So should you see if the grass as greener away from your comfort zone? I’d say so. You won’t know unless to take the leap into the unknown.

Bon voyage – whichever line you choose!

Posted in General | Tagged | 2 Comments

Happy 70th Astoria!

This little beauty entered service as Stockholm for Swedish America Line on the 21st February 1948, setting sail from Gothenburg to New York. She came to international attention in July 1956 when she and the Andrea Doria collided off Nantucket, resulting in the latter sinking and bow of Stockholm being ripped off. She made it back to New York. It is one maritime disaster which can cause division over who was to blame but the crew on the bridge both made mistakes.

She was eventually sold to the East German government in 1960 and became Völkerfreundschaft, which she remained as until 1985, then reduced to Volker. She was laid up in Southampton, as seen here in photos by John Kennedy, before beoming accommodation in Norway for asylum seekers as Fridtjof Nansen.

© John Kennedy


© John Kennedy


© John Kennedy

Big changes were afoot in 1989 when she was sold once again and completely rebuilt from the hull upwards to her current profile in Genoa, home of the Andrea Doria. She was given a few names during this period – Italia I, Italia Prima and Valtur Prima (which is still visible on her bow). She was seen back in Southampton as Italian Prima, captured again by John Kennedy.

© John Kennedy 6th May 1997

After another lay-up in Cuba 2001, she became Caribe for Festival Cruises, continuing to sail in Cuba.

Classic International Cruises acquired her in 2005, renaming her Athena. This was the name I first saw her under anchored off Madeira in 2007 then Tenerife in 2008.

Athena in Madeira 31st December 2007


Athena in Tenerife 2nd January 2008


Athena in Tenerife 2nd January 2008


Athena in Tenerife 2nd January 2008


Athena in Tenerife 2nd January 2008


Athena came to Southampton yet again in 2009 during a brief charter with German operator, Phoenix Reisen.

9th September 2009


9th September 2009

CIC went bust in 2012 and their five ships were up for grabs after being arrested. Portuscale Cruises in Portugal bought four, including Athena. She had been arrested in Marseille and that was where she underwent dry docking, emerging officially as Azores on the 10th March 2014. She was chartered by the German firm Ambiente Kreuzfahrten but there were delays due to a safety certificate, having been scheduled to begin the cruise season from Bremerhaven on the 16th March. Ambiente Kreuzfahrten already had their fingers burnt by CIC’s bankruptcy, losing Princess Daphne for the 2013 season. They gave up the cruise business on the 5th September 2014.

All was not lost. While her Portuscale fleet mates were struggling to get charters and Lisboa (ex-Princess Danae) went to the breakers, another cruise line came in.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages lost Discovery in October 2014 when she was withdrawn by her owners All Leisure Group and sold to breakers, so were looking for another ship.

She entered service for them in January 2015 and was successful. The following year, she was renamed Astoria and they shared her with the French company, Rivages du Monde, who chartered her between May and November. She called into Southampton that year.



In June that year, CMV announced her final season for them would be between the 9th March and 27th April 2017. Eight months later, they changed their minds, adding another spring season in 2018 between 8th March and 5th May, when she will once again head to Rivages du Monde for summer. It was because of their original plans I finally got to travel on her and experience all her quirks.













Stockholm bell which had been at the bottom of the ocean.




A further announcement came in April 2017 about an autumn season commencing from Poole on the 31st August 2018 before moving to Portsmouth from the 16th September until 31st October. Another spring season commences from Poole on the 7th March 2019.

We are very lucky to still have these old girls with us. I wish major cruise lines would realise not everyone wants mega monsters with thousands of passengers and umpteen gimmicks. A lot of people just want a smaller ship to relax. Astoria has had a lucky life since the Andrea Doria incident. She has become a firm favourite. I just adore her and cannot wait to go back in March.

Happy birthday Astoria. Here’s to many more years at sea.

Posted in Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cruises, General, Portuscale Cruises, Ship Stalking, Southampton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Happening to Cruising?

The latest news about 23 people on Carnival Legend fighting and threatening passengers is very worrying. Security trying to control evidence is even more worrying. The guilty parties were offloaded during a diversion to Eden before getting back on course for Melbourne where everyone will disembark.

This is just the latest incident in a long line. On the 11th February, 6 people were removed from the P&O Australia ship, Pacific Explorer, after a brawl where a woman glassed someone. There is also video of two men fighting on a Carnival ship out of the US.

Since I started cruising in 2006, there have been fights resulting in passengers kicked off or arrested, murder, rape and an increase in people ‘falling off’, which anyone who has cruised knows is impossible unless you’re climbing or sitting on the rail or thrown overboard. None thankfully on my cruises but the way things are going, it’s only a matter of time.

What is happening to this safe, fun environments we all love? Is it the cuts to boost profit, resulting in less crew to look after everyone’s safety? Is it the heavily discounted fares to fill the ships since the mass market lines have too many and keep building even bigger ones? Is it the unlimited alcohol packages? Is it just people becoming selfish with it being their ‘right’ to behave how they like and crew or security afraid to step in for fear of being accused of assault and sued?

Enough is enough cruise lines! There is so much bad press over the above plus norovirus, at least a quarter of Carnival ships failing CDC inspections (including the newer ones) with things like food hidden in crew areas. Then there are the mechanical breakdowns within a year of having a refit, poor maintenance, fires. It’s enough to put you off cruising for life! It certainly may the newer cruisers they wish to attract while seasoned cruisers may just decide a land holiday is safer.

As someone who has done 66 cruises on 34 ships and 10 cruise lines, most of which have been solo, even I’m beginning to become wary as violence and ‘accidents’ happen more often. I’m used to fending off creeps who think every single woman is gagging for it – and they’re sober! Would the crew be there for me if I was in danger or just leave me to it? Something has got to give.

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Happy 10th Birthday Queen Victoria!

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to think of a ship birthday as being from the day they entered service, not when they were named. Cunard used to do that, hence QE2 being 21 in 1990 and doing a celebratory round Britain cruise then 35 in 2004 when Queen Mary 2 became flagship. It was only when they planned to sell her they had her 40 in 2007 rather than wait until 2009. That since caused confusion, especially with a 39 foot paying off pennant (well 6 of them) in 2008 and items sold onboard with 1967-2008.

But I digress. The QE2’s replacement has a long history. Queen Victoria was ordered using the same hull and layout as the Holland America Line ships Noordam and her Vista sisters and should have entered service in 2005. She was advertised in the 2004-2005 brochure with advance interest being registered for when they released itineraries.


After the brochure was published, it was announced the mostly built Queen Victoria was being transferred to P&O and became Arcadia, retaining the Cunard funnel and mast. They would be going back to the drawing board to design something more fitting for Cunard. The Vista design was still used as a basic platform but stretched, increasing tonnage from 82,000gt to 90,000gt. Internally several areas were completely changed such as Grand Lobby, inclusion of the Queens Room and Royal Arcade stairs.



She arrived into Southampton on a dry but bitterly cold morning on the 7th December 2007 and named by the Duchess of Cornwall on the 10th.



Hythe and Southampton had a Victoria themed night between 5pm-7pm on the 11th as preparations were underway for the maiden voyage.




Generally, Queen Victoria has remained unchanged during the years. She was the second to add dedicated single cabins in 2015, following Queen Elizabeth. There are only 9 of them tucked away behind the casino. 2012 is an inside while 2002 and 2004 are a different size.



In May 2017 she got the stern cabin addition, which had been rumoured after Arcadia got hers in 2010.

Sailing to refit in Palermo 5th May 2017


Sailing to refit in Palermo 5th May 2017


Returning from refit 3rd June 2017


Returning from refit 3rd June 2017


A few things were changed including Chart Room becoming Britannia Club, Cafe Carinthia becoming the new Chart Room and Cunardia shrinking. The nightclub Hemispheres was renamed The Yacht Club.

Chart Room December 2007-May 2017

Chart Room December 2007-May 2017


Chart Room December 2007-May 2017


Britannia Club June 2017 onwards


Britannia Club June 2017 onwards


Britannia Club June 2017 onwards


Cafe Carinthia December 2007-May 2017


Cafe Carinthia December 2007-May 2017


Cafe Carinthia December 2007-May 2017


The Chart Room June 2017 onwards


The Chart Room June 2017 onwards


The Chart Room June 2017 onwards


Cunardia December 2007-May 2017


Cunardia December 2007-May 2017


Cunardia June 2017 onwards


Cunardia June 2017 onwards


Cunardia June 2017 onwards


Considering her Vista roots, she is a superb as a 21st century Cunarder, giving you the wow factor as soon as you step aboard. Anyone who has been on the HALs or Arcadia can see why they went back to the drawing board for Cunard Line and a marvellous job they made of it too.

Happy birthday Queen Victoria. Here’s to many more!

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Cunard Cabin Confinement

With 64 cruises under my belt, I’ve usually been pretty lucky when it comes to requiring medical help onboard, even during a huge norovirus outbreak.

That all changed during my 65th and most recent cruise on Queen Victoria from Barcelona to Southampton.

I have what is supposed to be a temporary stoma after almost dying last year when my bowel was perforated and later ruptured after what should have been routine surgery. Since this I developed a humungous, crippling, parastomal hernia. Both of these, I was told in November 2016 by my surgeon, would be sorted at the beginning of April. Then he told me in June after lodging a complaint, it would be August.

My cruise was booked in January after All Leisure Group went bust and my 2 week Voyager cruise that same date cancelled, and paid off in July based on those words. Despite two pre-assessments and complaints, no date for surgery had ever been given. I decided to go and de-stress after the constant worry and pain of the past year.

Ironic then it was the hernia which led me to being confined after I began to get ill during our first sea day between Palma de Mallorca and Malaga. I felt better in Malaga but was bad again the following day in Gibraltar.

By the time we neared Lisbon 3 days later, I had to call someone, who misdiagnosed seasickness or a bug. A visit to the doctor after my confinement was lifted confirmed my diagnosis of possibly the beginnings of a strangulated hernia and also led to another bill. Thankfully AXA repaid all quickly bar the £25 excess.

You are given all sorts of paperwork for plague, even when you don’t have it and also a light menu to order from. It really is unappetising when you’ve been unwell and very dry. Specialist cleaners sanitise your room. Thankfully in my case it was only bathroom until I’d been freed then the entire cabin reeked, including bed covers.

It was an interesting experience, particularly as a solo traveller with no one to get anything for you. How many know you are not supposed to be charged if you order room service drinks when the medical team have confined you? I didn’t until one of the nurses told me. I had to constantly fight over that when they arrived, told I wouldn’t be charged after they checked but saw it included on my final bill so got it removed eventually with a little help from the letter for the insurance. Make sure you get one.

I have to say though, I was very impressed at how seriously Cunard take any sort of vomiting onboard one of their ships. There is too much finger pointing when there are outbreaks of norovirus but often, as many of you will all have seen, a lot don’t bother with hygiene then blame the cruise line when they fall ill. It was a relief not to have it, but know they need to be cautious. 

Thankfully, in my case, I did get as better as I was able to so enjoyed the last two full days of the cruise.

My only complaint is lack of communication. You are given the same room service number you dial by pressing the dedicated button on the phone and they have no idea you have been confined.

In my view, there should be a separate room service number for medical confinement, say to the Purser’s Office. A note on your account could be added with the date of confinement and release. The Purser could then submit your order and make it clear to them drinks are free.

So if you are travelling alone and the doctor has said you are not allowed to leave your cabin, don’t forget to double check with them about room service drinks charges.

I wish you healthy, unconfined travels!

Posted in Cruises, Cunard, General | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Saga Goes Retro

When Saga started ocean cruising in 1996, the ships had dark hulls with yellow funnels. After purchase of Bleu de France in 2011, they decided to go with a light blue funnel, the new logo spread across both sides, despite renderings for Saga Sapphire having the original.

© Saga Cruises



When their newbuild Spirit of Discovery was announced in September 2015, the yellow was back!

Saga Sapphire had been with us in Barcelona and followed when we got back to Southampton on the 13th November. She sailed to Bremerhaven for her annual refit that afternoon.

Barcelona 4th November 2017


Barcelona 4th November 2017


Southampton 13th November 2017


Southampton 13th November 2017


Sailing to Bremerhaven for refit 13th November 2017

She returned on the 2nd December, proudly sporting her new livery plus name plate and new font with her name on the bow and stern as Saga begins their latest branding change. Her original noon arrival had been changed numerous times from 12pm to 9am to 10.30pm to 8.30pm and finally 9pm, but she docked for 10pm so you couldn’t see her in all her glory, but at least her funnel shone brightly, taking you back in time.

She is due to return to service on the 3rd and will meet Saga Pearl II in Southampton on the 8th, the final time these two will be together in the port as SP2 will be finishing her career from January 2018 to April 2019 in Dover and Portsmouth.

I have been a huge fan of this ship since first seeing her as Europa in 1987 and have followed her closely since being handed over to Saga. She’s one of a handful who make me excited each time I see her or know she’ll be nearby. I’ll freeze and get soaked for her as much as I did for her predecessors. It’s always been a dream to sail on her but as I’m not quite 50, rich or media, know there’s zero chance. Thanks to Saga though, I have visited her twice and she was more fabulous than I’d imagined. I understood how the late journalist Steve Read felt when he behaved like an excited kid showing me around Saga Ruby the month before he died in 2011. Some ships get under your skin. But then, like him, I’m just someone who loves ships, cruising and experiencing what the product has to offer, though resigned to the fact she’ll have to be another that got away like Canberra, Norway, Saga Rose and Saga Ruby.

I expect she’ll be sold when the new Spirit of Adventure enters service in 2020 and that will be a very sad day. Saga Sapphire will be 39 then and with the market for older ships rapidly dwindling, my chances of sailing on her are even less. C’est la vie! Until that inevitable day comes, thousands of lucky people can continue to enjoy their cruises and the love Saga lavish on her.

Posted in Saga Cruises, Ship Stalking, Southampton | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Princess Cruises Axes P&O Recognition

For many years, if you sailed with Princess or P&O, your cruises contributed to their loyalty schemes. While P&O give 10 points per night, you also received 5 points per night if you sailed Princess, Swan Hellenic or Ocean Village. When P&O changed the Portunus Club to Peninsular Club in 2012, all Princess bookings from that date no longer counted but you still had recognition the other way around with one credit. Until now. An email has been sent notifying Captain’s Circle members of the changes, effective this month, but all past trips will still be included.

Important Information: Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle Loyalty Scheme

Dear Guest,

Thank you for being a loyal member of the Princess Cruises Captain’s Circle Club. Previously, Princess Cruises has recognised your sailings history from its sister brand, P&O Cruises. This meant guests were awarded with increased membership benefits, based on sailings from both P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises.

As our brands continue to grow and evolve, so must our loyalty programmes. With this in mind Princess Cruises is ending the P&O Cruises’ sailings recognition effective from Tuesday 12 December 2017.

Details regarding the update can be found below:
1. P&O Cruises bookings that are booked by (inclusive of) Tuesday 12 December 2017 will still count towards Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle Membership.
2. P&O Cruises bookings that are booked on or after Wednesday 13 December 2017 will not count towards Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle Membership.
3. Guests who have previously sailed with Princess Cruises will still have their completed P&O Cruises sailings count towards Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle Membership and will not drop in loyalty tier due to the change on Tuesday 12 December 2017. For example, if you have sailed before onboard Princess Cruises as an ‘Elite’ Member, you will sail again onboard Princess Cruises as an ‘Elite’ Member.
Please visit https://book.princess.com/captaincircle/membershipBenefits.page to familiarise yourself with the details on member benefits.
4. If a guest has P&O Cruises sailings history but zero Princess Cruises sailings history, they will show as a new Princess Cruises guest against any bookings confirmed after Tuesday 12 December 2017.

Yours faithfully,
Princess Cruises

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Farewell Eclipse

Today, the Celebrity Eclipse sailed from Southampton for the last time after 7.5 years and eight wonderful seasons.

The second of the Solstice class to set propeller in Southampton Water, she made her debut on a hazy April day in 2010 and was off again at 8pm to pick up passengers in Bilbao stranded due to the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud grounded planes across Europe.

Celebrity Eclipse arrives 20th April 2010

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She left on time as always, giving six blasts on her whistle then headed off to Boston.


In 2018 she cruises from Dublin, Amsterdam and Barcelona during April to November. Celebrity Silhouette replaces her in Southampton.

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