Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Several months ago a few friends planned to sail on this little liner and I was happy to join them, for a second trip on the ship. The four night cruise was to sail out of Limassol in Cyprus, so it was a long flight of over four hours from the United Kingdom to reach our embarkation port.
Saturday 2nd August 2014
I caught an afternoon flight from the UK to Paphos in Cyprus, and immediately had to set my watch forward two hours to local time. By then it was dark and I was glad to be met by a pre-arranged local taxi driver to go straight to my hotel in Limassol. The air-conditioned taxi was a great relief after the tremendous heat outside. When I arrived at the hotel, it was very disappointing to discover that my friends’ rooms at the hotel had been over-booked and they had been moved to another establishment, some distance away. This was not the welcome and meeting that we were hoping to enjoy!
Sunday 3rd August 2014
Solitary breakfast was pleasant in the air-conditioned breakfast room beside a huge swimming pool. The shade cast by trees and shrubs outside was delightful, and all the smokers seemed to enjoy sitting at the tables there. I could see a Bar beside the pool and a tennis court beyond that. My friends were due to meet me here and I was soon re-packed and ready to head for the sea side with them.
We simply had to walk down the road to reach the glittering sunlit sea and wait for the sight of the LOUIS AURA as she sailed around the distant headland, heading for the port of Limassol. We found a comfortable café right on the water’s edge and happily spent some time there drinking coffee and later having a light lunch before we could head for the new cruise terminal. That was more like the cheerful start to this little trip we wanted!
Check in was easy and we were hardly aware that we were three of the 800 or so anticipated passengers coming on board in mid-afternoon. The first thing I noticed about the ship’s hull was the LOUIS CRUISES logo, along with a red and blue stripe next to it.
On board, my cabin this time is 5111 on Poseidon Deck, a twin berth inside for single use, and with a welcoming plate of fruit on the dressing table.
I first visited the ship as ORIENT QUEEN in Piraeus in July 2007 after she had been acquired by Abou Merhi Cruises and chartered to Louis Cruises, still as ORIENT QUEEN, and I can still recall my surprise at seeing her distinctive styling with the Venus Bar levels 1 and 2 up on Panoramic Deck.
I remember from my last trip on 14th September 2013 on LOUIS AURA that she had been built as STARWARD in 1968 in Bremerhaven for cruising for Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Line; in 1995 she was sold to Festival Cruises and became BOLERO. With the collapse of Festival in 2004 she was laid up before being bought by Abou Merhi Cruises in 2005 and renamed ORIENT QUEEN to sail to ports including Beirut, but that was abandoned and AMC chartered her to Louis Cruises; in fact she sailed again to Beirut under charter to rescue stranded Americans.
My diary back then in September 2013 noted that Louis Cruises had just renamed the ship as LOUIS AURA in keeping with Greek mythology and as their company had become the foremost Ambassador of Hellenic Cruising. I also noted that the ship had a charter to South America over the winter and imagined that this new name of LOUIS AURA would continue to promote the company’s image.
Since then the ship had been chartered by French company Rivages du Monde in Spring 2014, which ran several cruises for passengers from Marseilles, and visited many Baltic ports including Oslo, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg. A maritime journalist friend in Denmark was so delighted to see and visit the ship in Denmark that he wrote a piece about her, and used one of my photographs taken in Patmos, Greece, as an illustration to accompany the article.
Now she is back in Aegean waters and has been sailing out of Limassol from 22nd July on short cruises. Her tonnage is 15,781, with 364 passenger cabins with an 895 maximum passenger capacity, with eight passenger decks, so I was pleased to be on board her again.
Lifeboat drill was held and then we prepared to sail. We headed out of Limassol port aided by tug PRINIAS, passing AIDALUNA,
and then we saw an unexpected sight rushing towards us: it was a dark-hulled vessel now called DP GEZINA, but which we had last seen in Rotterdam in January (see NORWEGIAN GETAWAY January 2014). I remembered I had first seen and sailed on her in 2008 between Helsingor and Helsinborg in Denmark, when she was called SIMARA ACE.
Dinner was to be served in the Mermaid Restaurant between 7 and 9 p.m. so after a refreshing drink we were about to go to the Restaurant when an announcement was made. It seems that so many people had decided to go in for a meal at 7 p.m. that there was no more room and everyone else was requested to wait until 8.30 p.m. That was a bit of a surprise, as that meant waiting about an hour, but we did so and discovered that rather unappealing buffet food was all that was now available and laid out for us to collect. That was such a disappointment, as I had really enjoyed the food on my last trip on this ship, and had praised it to such an extent that my companions were really looking forward to their first meal.
We had all bought the drinks package so that rather came into use for the rest of the evening, and we were entertained by a band playing under the Venus Deck bar. It was very pleasant sitting in deck chairs under a dark sky, feeling comfortably warm as we sailed along.
Tomorrow we are due in Rhodes so we are all looking forward to that.
Ships seen: Aidaluna, Louis Aura, catamaran Sea Grace, tug Prinias, DP Gezina (ex Simara Ace)
To be continued....
Friday, 1 August 2014
Saturday 26th July 2014
I went to Eastbourne in East Sussex to attend the Lammas Fair, held on the Western Lawn behind the Promenade. It was a beautiful hot English summer's day, and one of the photographs I took was of the Eastbourne Pier.
Wednesday 30th July 2014
In mid-afternoon it was announced that a huge fire had engulfed the Arcade on the Pier, which was on the town end. Fortunately the wind was blowing from west to east, so the billowing black smoke went away from the town and the rest of the Pier. The firefighters and local lifeboats fought the fire but the whole of the Arcade was destroyed, leaving a blackened skeleton of metal supports, but the remaining two-thirds of the buildings on the Pier were saved. Everyone on the Pier was evacuated within five minutes and there was no loss of life.
Thursday 31st July 2014
I went to an afternoon matinee performance at one of the local theatres and decided to walk back to the bus stop along the Promenade. It was a heart-wrenching sight to see what remained of the Arcade on the Pier. I was in there only a few weeks ago, taking a visiting friend to see one of the iconic sights of the seaside town and walking the length of the Pier out to sea and back again. Today I had my camera with me and decided to take a few photographs.
Friday 1st August 2014
Today one of the local newspapers gave more details.
We all hope that the Pier will soon be rebuilt, and meanwhile I shall treasure my memory and photograph of the Pier as it was only a few days ago.
Monday, 28 April 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
It had seemed a short night when a public broadcast announced it was 6.30 a.m. and we would arrive in Hirtshals at 7.30 a.m., so there was time for coffee before going on deck to watch our arrival at this northern-most port of Denmark.
Soon I disembarked and joined a Fjord Line coach trip available for passengers – we had breakfast served on the coach and spent the day seeing some of the countryside and the small town of Flensburg before returning to the ship. It felt as if I was coming home, and I was very glad to be back on board BERGENSFJORD.
After dinner I met my friends again and we spent an entertaining evening in the Fjord Lounge watching the dancers during the Disco Medley and then enjoying the singers at Showtime at 11 p.m.
When that finished we went to the Bungalow to listen to and sing with the English pianist, who was rather astonished to find an English passenger on board. It had been a long day but an excellent evening back on board as we sailed north again towards Norway and our scheduled arrival at lunchtime back in Bergen.
Wednesday 26th March 2014
I enjoyed breakfast watching the sunshine on the Norwegian coastline as we sailed along.
I asked at Reception whether it might be possible please to visit the Bridge, and a little later I was invited to accompany a member of staff up there. The views of the surrounding fjords and snow-covered mountains from our ship were absolutely superb in the clear light and air and I felt so lucky to be welcomed by the Captain and one of his Officers on his Bridge, just for a few minutes.
Another highlight of the morning was taking more photographs of the huge picture which hangs over the forward staircase of BERGENSFORD. One of my friends had previously advised me to make sure I went to see it, and it was mentioned in the Fjord Line brochure I had from last year. There was a small sign beside it describing the artist Per Krohg and the painting, which was done in 1956 to hang on a particular ship of Norwegian America Line.
it is four metres by seven metres in size!
This was a rather exciting moment for me as my mind went back to last August 2013, when I was on a very small ferry sailing from the Great Harbour of Piraeus in Greece towards the island of Salamina. My travelling companions wanted to do a different short trip that morning so we were to meet again later that afternoon. During my 40 minute little trip I could see a half-submerged ship’s hull, which I had seen a few times in previous years but not so clearly, so I photographed it from several angles as we headed towards Salamina. The name was RASA SAYANG. I did some research and was later able to find out from Simplon Postcards more about the vessel, which in fact was “BERGENSFJORD - DE GRASSE - RASA SAYANG – GOLDEN MOON”.
“BERGENSFJORD was completed in 1956 by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne, Newcastle, for Norwegian America Line. She was 18,739grt and carried 878 passengers. BERGENSFJORD was acquired by the French Line (CGT) as the DE GRASSE (2) in haste in 1971 to replace the ANTILLES which had been lost in a fire in January that year. Bought in March 1971, she was delivered to CGT in November. She was not profitable on the Le Havre-Southampton-Caribbean service, and spent 1972 cruising. DE GRASSE (2) was sold in 1973, becoming the RASA SAYANG. In 1980 she was sold to Aphrodite Maritime Co, Greece. On 17th August 1980, a fire started in the engine room whilst she was under refurbishment at Perama, Greece. She was towed out of the docks and capsized and sank near the island of Kynosoura, some kilometres from Perama.”
That was the wreck I could see partly submerged in the water on 29th August 2013, and the picture in front of my eyes was the painting that was commissioned by Norwegian America Line in 1956 to sail on that very ship - BERGENSFJORD. I find it astonishing that life throws up such incredible coincidences, and something at which to marvel.
Life seemed just a little more calm as we arrived back in Bergen and I had to disembark from the BERGENSFJORD of 2014, which deliberately displayed the painting from the BERGENSFJORD of 1956, as a token of Fjord Line’s mark of respect to their Norwegian maritime heritage.
It had been such an enjoyable trip on this brand-new lifestyle cruise ferry, with new sights and new friends as well as good memories.
Sunday, 27 April 2014
Monday 24th March 2014
Hooray, sailing day at last, and there was blue sky and sunshine outside, just as the Bergen weather forecast had predicted. My hat had dried very nicely overnight on the hotel bathroom floor, which seemed to have underfloor heating or piping just where it was useful!
The Saturday afternoon snowstorm and Sunday afternoon rain were a thing of the past and, after breakfast and checking out of the hotel, I enjoyed my stroll along Bryggen until I reached the shop with the beautiful purple ‘hoodie’ jacket in the window.
Retail therapy achieved, I could continue my journey to the Fjord Line terminal to check in for the mini-cruise on BERGENSFJORD. I was to sail from Bergen to Hirtshals in Denmark, via Stavanger, and then return to Bergen, arriving back on Wednesday.
I soon checked in but had to wait for the ship to arrive at 1.00 p.m. before boarding at 2.00 p.m.
I had a 4 berth inside cabin, with one berth prepared as a bed and another as a settee, with the other two berths out of sight up in the deckhead.
I had time to look round the ship before going on deck for sailing.
We had to wait as the daily Hurtigruten ship came along – it was the little LOFOTEN, which was a lovely sight in the sunshine.
She was launched in Oslo in 1964 at 2,621 gross tonnage, so the 400 passengers are offered a voyage of real nostalgia. She was refurbished and refitted in 2003 with most of the original style and atmosphere being preserved. She seemed so small, looking down from the lofty heights of BERGENSFJORD’s Sun Deck, but she came alongside the Hurtigruten terminal bow first, without turning, so we were able to sail away from Bergen soon after.
Sailing through the fjords was a pleasure, all within sight of snow-covered mountains as we headed south. I had a late lunch in the Oasis Garden Café midships on deck 7 and then headed forward to the Fjord Lounge, and was so impressed with the views ahead and around. There was raised seating around the Bar (and beside the beach-view floor detail) and ample seating on a lower level around the small dance floor so everyone had a good view forward. I liked the two velvet-covered gold-framed chairs – which proved very popular and were rarely empty during my time on board.
To the starboard side aft of the Lounge was a small Cigar club, then aft again was Reception; beside that was a very small 24 to Go shop selling toiletries, sweets, coffee drinks etc.
Facing Reception was Bungalow Wine and Tapas bar which reminded me of the trivial thought that in the UK I live in a bungalow. At the aft end of this was a small grand piano, where the talented English pianist entertained us on several occasions during the voyage.
Just aft of this is a semi-circular area leading back to the Oasis Garden Café, and I particularly enjoyed seeing the celestial engravings/mapping on the marble-look flooring here.
Further aft again are seating areas with interesting furnishing details,
the children’s play room, the Greig Gourmet Restaurant, and with the Commander Buffet restaurant taking up the whole aft width of this Deck 7 area.
Below on Deck 6 was the Car deck with a capacity of 600, and the Tax free shop;
standard and luxe cabins are on Deck 8, and suites and standard cabins are on Deck 9. Deck 10 was the Sun Deck with Sky Deck Lounge, air-seating, conference area with bar, and the necessary Kennel. Above all this I could see the three LNG bright red painted gas vents, which have been made a feature of the ship.
Fjord Line’s President/CEO Ingvald Fardal said the Fjord Line owners, colleagues and partners shared a dream to build two large modern cruise ferries packed with environmentally friendly technology to serve the market for leisure, business travel and cargo between Denmark and Southwest Norway.
The vessel was designed by Falkum Hansen, to be built at their Norwegian Fosen yard, north of Bergen, with a bulbous bow, and a hull designed specifically for the North Sea wave conditions and height. The hulls were constructed in Poland and then towed to Fosen for outfitting and completion, so this dream seems to have been achieved spectacularly with the 2013-delivered STAVANGERFJORD and now this 2014-delivered BERGENSFJORD.
Last year I read in the Fjord Line house magazine that Falkum-Hansen and his team took their inspiration from maritime history and the Norwegian America Line’s golden era in the first half of the 1900s, where the old liners were very elegant but not always so large, and they wanted to follow that theme. These ships are 31,678 gross tons, with a maximum passenger capacity of 1500, and car capacity of 600.
So this was in my mind as we sailed towards Stavanger, arriving just after sunset. I sat in the Fjord Lounge forward with some new friends and enjoyed their company as we watched the activities in the harbour around us. An announcement was made by the Captain that all open decks were closed as LNG re-fuelling was now taking place but that was soon completed and we sailed at 10.40 p.m. That was another interesting day and I was soon lulled to sleep as we sailed south to Denmark overnight.
To be concluded….