Well it’s that time again when it’s out with the old shippy year and in with the new. What a year it’s been, beginning in January with a trip to Southampton Docks to help the journalist, Steve Read document the 6 ships in the port, first time for over 50 years.
I did my own little video.
I know there have been more but they weren’t in and out on the same day, as they are now, which is probably what they meant. Saga Ruby was the one baby I wanted to visit but you have to be over 50 to visit Saga ships, despite the fact you can be a companion aged over 40 to the main passenger who’s over 50. It was one of the best days of my life and I’ll always be grateful to Steve for the opportunity of being camerawoman for a second time (first had been the meeting of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria a month earlier). Sadly, Steve died suddenly exactly a month later. He’s still missed greatly. So much has happened in the shipping world he’s not been a part of.
The website turned 5 years old so it had a bit of a revamp. Thanks to everyone still looking and reading this accompanying blog. I’ve also done several long cruises, which is a first. Usually long ones are once in a blue moon due to expense but the insurance money from my mum’s death in November 2010 paid for them. It was still 6 cruises, with Vision of the Seas returning to Southampton after 13 years to do a short repo to Copenhagen. I went with my friend Fay, whose first cruise it was, and she loved Ducky almost as much as I do!
There was a fabulous trip on Aurora in July, covering Ireland, Greenland (though we only got to Nuuk due to icebergs at Qaqortoq), Iceland and Norway, as well as some of the best bad weather I’ve experienced from start to finish, including 85 knot winds – yes baby! The only thing which spoiled the cruise was everything being aimed at under 10s and over 60s. What about things for the inbetweenies to do besides ruddy quizzes???? Younger people like longer cruises too, you know. Unfortunately it was the entertainment and activities which made my Aussie friend Juanita say “Never again!”
Short to try Grand Princess in September. It was my 30th cruise and 20th ship but a shame they removed the handle because it was one reason I’d booked! But I enjoyed it all the same and would do Princess again, although I think we’re losing Grand in 2013. 😦
Fabulouso cruise on the Norwegian Epic in October. She has the worst vibration I’ve ever come across and is photo unfriendly, unless you’re into point and shoot and not ships like me. But I really love the Studio concept and it was good to go back and try her again now she’s not broken. Can’t wait to try Breakaway! NCL get a lot of stick (mostly from people who’ve never sailed them, just have a preconception) but are a really wonderful cruise line with plenty to do, even for solos like me.
An 8 year old dream came true 2 weeks later when I went on Queen Mary 2 and it was my first Cunard cruise in 3 years. Now while I loved the ship and the cruise was great, I was extremely disappointed by the poor food and service. It says a lot when P&O (who run Cunard) do things so much better and charge less for the same cruise itins. If you have a dietary requirement like me, no chance to discuss anything because you’re just given the menu and a pen. That’s if you get it at all. There are some Cunard die-hards who stick their fingers in their ears going, “Lalalalalalalalala. Cunard are the greatest. Lalalalalala” but many said during my cruise, on the internet and on other ships that standards have dropped. They should try another line and compare. They may even enjoy it! They may not agree with opposing opinions but they should accept not everyone has the same and be adult about it. I would do Cunard again (and am booked for next year) but it’s no longer become a must-do like it used to be.
Final was 2 glorious weeks on Celebrity Constellation earlier this month. It was my second best cruise (QE2 Fjords 2008 cannot be beaten) and made me realise Celebrity is actually my favourite line, though I prefer the Millennium class ships. They have a better atmosphere the Solstice class and cosier decor. Their Grand Foyer is better too. I relaxed like never before and had a fantastic time and birthday aboard.
Newbuilds were announced or entered service while older ships went to other owners or to the breakers.
Southampton was doing very well. We had said goodbye to Artemis in April then said hello to her as Artania in July! I was on Aurora so my dad went down in the rain to document it.
MSC Orchestra made a maiden call.
So did Seabourn Sojourn the following day.
The former Celebrity Mercury made a return to Southampton for the first time since new in 1997 as Mein Schiff 2. It was the first call on her maiden voyage for TUI.
We welcomed Adonia to the P&O fleet, transferred from Princess (which had been transferred from Swan Hellenic after Carnival closed the brand).
The Holland America ship, Rotterdam, made her debut in July.
The sixth ship to bear the name Europa arrived for the first time since 1999 in July. My dad was getting wet again.
Unscheduled visitors in September due to bad weather closing Dover cruise port, first in the shape of AIDAblu and Costa Atlantica.
This was followed 6 days later by Costa Luminosa.
I got to do a couple of ship visits, as well as the 6 in January. May was MSC Opera.
And finally MSC Poesia in September.
We had some ship meetings in September. Silver Cloud met Silver Whisper for the first time in the UK on the 7th.
Then RCCL brands didn’t collide when Indy met Eclipse on the 28th September.
Meanwhile Cunard reflagged their ships in Hamilton, Bermuda, bringing them into line with P&O Princess (Azura had been reflagged from Southampton in February). Queen Elizabeth was first on the 24th October 2011 when they’d welded a plate over the top in Amsterdam, with a rather odd T being bigger than the rest of the letters.
Queen Victoria followed on the 27th in the Med while Queen Mary 2 was last during refit on the 1st December. Her final UK registry departure was the 24th to Hamburg. I was away when she returned so won’t see it until the 10th January.
And so onto 2012 and another busy year in Southampton. MSC Lirica calls in March and we also have the new Saga Sapphire doing her maiden voyage and a few others before returning from Dover in the autumn. Saga Pearl II leaves the fleet in May to resume her originally-intended role as Quest For Adventure. Sailing ship, Star Flyer, makes a couple of calls in May and September. Azamara Journey makes her debut in the port in May (returning in September) while Maasdam visits in August. Caribbean Princess replaces Crown Princess for the summer season. Meanwhile we have many returnees in the form of Astor, Silver Whisper, Rotterdam, Crystal Symphony, Seabourn Sojourn and Mein Schiff 2. September heralds the long-awaited return of Celebrity Constellation, more than 4 years after her last visit, and she is doing nearly 3 months of cruises before heading to Miami. Also coming back in November is Fred Olsen’s Braemar, now they’re no longer doing Caribbean fly cruises.
We lose Indy for the winter cruises in November when she repositions to Fort Lauderdale, but will return for summer 2013.
The major events during 2012 are the Cunard Royal Rendezvous (5th June & 13th July) and the really big Grand Event, when all 7 P&O ships will be in together. Exciting times at the UK’s number 1 cruise port!
For some reason, ABP Southampton are using the cruise schedule from Cruise Southampton, which not only has major gaps in their schedule (especially over the next couple of months), but lists at least 3 ships not coming here but going to Le Havre or Dover on those dates, as well as not including many which ARE calling here. It’s a shame ABP are being lazy and aren’t giving them the correct list. So if you want to see Southampton’s calls in 2012, going through to 2014, you can read my spreadsheet, which has all I know of and is regularly updated.
Have a wonderful ship year!