Well here we are on the last day of the old year and what a busy one it’s been. Sadly the maritime year began with tragedy on the 13th January, when Costa Concordia his a rock off Giglio, partially capsizing and resulting in 32 people losing their lives. The cruise industry was natually stunned and immediately hit by a spate of cancelled bookings. I won’t get into the ins and outs, rights and wrong, rumours. A courtroom is the place for that. But while safety standards were discussed, few things were standardised. For instance, some lines still don’t do a roll call while others say you don’t need to take your life jacket to muster. You would think that would be equally as important as having the drill before sailing. On Royal Caribbean, you cannot see the muster guide unless you are at the front. I had videos on Celebrity Equinox and Eclipse and while Equinox was in the theatre, Eclipse was in Murano and most couldn’t see the screen. First time cruisers will not know how to wear one. Why hasn’t this been tackled by the various maritime organisations? Or do they not cruise so have no idea? If they don’t want a repeat of this senseless accident, they need to get their fingers out.
Anyway, once the European summer cruising season began, there were some big events. AIDA had four ships in Hamburg to celebrate the launch of AIDAmar, the latest addition to their fleet. Cunard had two Royal Rendezvous in Southampton. The first, on the 5th June, was to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Mary 2 arrived first followed by Victoria and Elizabeth. I was on a Blue Funnel boat with my friend, Rob Ellerington Parr.
Sailaway was a rather wet affair and my dad’s are the following photos from a Blue Funnel boat as I was on Mary with Rob Ellerington Parr (more of that later). The ships left in the same order they had arrived.
On the 13th July, they met in daylight and I was on a Blue Funnel with my dad and friend Fay. Andrew and Donna Cooke were also on it. Queen Elizabeth went first this time instead of lagging behind who was them followed by Victoria and finally Mary. Our skipper kept moving from side to side making it difficult getting photos of all three.
The BIG event of the Southampton maritime calendar was P&O’s Grand Event on the 3rd July, to celebrate their 175th anniversary, and the first time their entire fleet would be in together. Despite the weather being rotten, it spoiled nothing. The day began on Ventura as we were the second in. Aurora had arrived first while Azura, Oriana, Arcadia, Oceana and Adonia followed us.
The following photos are my dad’s before they returned to Ocean Village, as he was getting wet on Jurassic Scene while I was on Oriana (more of that later). THV Patricia led the way, complete with HRH The Princess Royal then HMS Dragon. Adonia was the first of the P&O’s to leave then one by one they followed – Ventura, Arcadia, Aurora, Oriana, Azura and Oceana, each having a short firework display from a barge as they passed.
2012 heralded my biggest cruising year to date with a whopping 13 – lucky for me! If only I could be paid for it as a solo traveller with dietary requirement. I’d be great at testing how the cruise lines cater for us. Keep dreaming, girl! I was originally going to start the year on MSC Opera in April. Her 19 night repositioning from Buenos Aires to Southampton was fantastic with so single supplement but alas, I had to cancel due to my back. So instead, my first was a late deal on Balmoral at the end of May. Only a short, but I’d wanted to sail on her for ages. The trip coincided with a mini-heatwave, lulling us into believing we’d actually get a summer again after 6 years. We had followed Celebrity Eclipse to Zeebrugge.
Next was the QM2 Jubilee cruise with Rob Ellerington Parr. It was his first and what a ship to start on!
I got to go on MSC Opera 6 days after returning from that as we headed on an 8 night cruise to Norway. The weather was scorching. I met Oskar Osmundsen Nielsen from Facebook while I had such great table companions and am still in touch with Shilpa.
At the end of June, was a return trip to Ventura. I didn’t like this ship when I first went in 2008 but had done her elder sibling, Grand Princess in 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed that. Well, while the cruise wasn’t bad, Ventura, to me, still is lacking something and doesn’t feel like a P&O ship. Perhaps it’s different if you’ve only stayed with one cruise line. Well this was the pre-Grand Event cruise, arriving back with the other 6 P&O ships on the 3rd July. THV Patricia was alongside, preparing for the big day!
After meeting my dad and friend Fay Jordan for the harbour tour, Fay and I went to board Oriana. It was her first P&O and a great start! It was also a girls cruise with Tracey, Ali, Jane and Sian.
A rest until the end of August when I headed to Harwich to board Discovery with Rob O’Brien from Facebook. While in Flam, my favourite Norwegian port, we had to make way for Artania, carrying another Facebook friend, Dirk Steffan. We meet at last – albeit for not long!
Two days after returning from that, I was off to Amsterdam to board my favourite Celebrity ship for the first time this year – Connie! First of all, I met up with the wonderful David Greenwood at the airport and on the ship, Ailsa Dixon from Facebook. It was only a 2 night repositioning to Southampton after a change of itinerary, but when I booked I’d thought it would be the only time I’d get on her.
A week later and another flight, this time to Copenhagen for another favourite who was repositioning to Southampton – Vision of the Seas!
The 13th October was 6 years since I began cruising (on the QE2) and I was once again returning to the QEII Terminal. Due to having 5 lovely ships in, Connie was in there as Eclipse was in City. It had been the first time I went from that terminal since leaving the QE2 for the last time on the 27th October 2008. What better way of celebrating my anniversary than on one of my favourite ships! We would also be calling at two of the ports we had during my final QE2 cruise (Bilbao and Le Verdon) but the weather wasn’t as hot as then.
6 days after getting home from Connie and it was off again, this time a return trip to Independence of the Seas. Like Ventura, I had last sailed on her in 2008 (maiden voyage) and it had taken a long time for the single fares to become affordable to me because I’m not going to pay stupid prices when you can get more for your money.
Another brief stop at home as it was back on QM2 mid-November with my friend Fay. Mary is now her favourite.
December was my last two – Azura followed immediately by Mary again. During my Mary cruise, it would be my birthday and I had the best for several years.
Some sad news in 2012 was the loss of my dear friend, Ben van Zeijl in June. I had known Ben since 2005 on a forum, first meeting in 2007 when I arrived in Rotterdam on Aurora. Ben was an expert on Holland America Line but his favourite non-HAL ships were Oriana, Aurora, Black Watch and Boudicca. I had last seen him on the 7th June when we were there on QM2. His partner Roger took me to the hospice. It was a very difficult and emotional day and I hated to leave him. He passed away on the 26th. Ben was only 17 days older than me and had the same cancer my mum (and her dad) had, which I’d got the all clear for so it was too close to home. In November, Ben’s birthday was the day after my mum’s anniversary so that was a bad couple of days. I visited Maasdam in August and he had told me I’d like her. I did but wished I could tell him about it or text pictures as I went. He is and will continue to be greatly missed.
And so the clock ticks down to 2013 and it won’t be quite as busy on the cruise front – with luck! I had only 7 trips booked for this year which ended up growing. So far there are 8 for 2013 but only one is less than a week. We have debuts by the brand new Norwegian Breakaway and Royal Princess as well as many calls from AIDAstella and AIDAblu plus some turnarounds from Marina and Nautica. Some new ships, some returnees after an absence and some familiar faces means Southampton is shaping up for its best year so far.
Let 2013 begin!!!!!!!!!!!!!