Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Sunday 4th June 2017
We arrived in the port city of Hamburg in pouring rain, which was forecast for the day but was still disappointing. There was time for an enjoyable breakfast in the Garden Cafe but most of us were upset by the news of the knife attack in London, although it had been speedily dealt with by our admirable Police Service.
We were able to disembark mid-morning at this Altona cruise terminal and wait in the dry there until the river ferry we wanted arrived at the nearby platform. We wanted to head down river first, before heading up river again to view the new Elbphilarmonie building, apparently planned to resemble a crystal palace on a mountain (in fact a red-brick warehouse). It is a concert hall in the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg, set above an hotel, apartments and car park. Its other attraction is the Plaza, a viewing platform 37 metres above ground level, above the red brick part of the building, giving views for miles around Hamburg. Work started on the building in 2007 and it has finally opened in January 2017 after years of delays and huge cost increases, and become hugely popular with audiences.
We bought a day ticket for ferries and trains, at the machine beside the ferry stop, and were soon on our first ferry of the day.
We sailed down river and disembarked on the other side; we waited a short while before taking the next ferry up river and seeing different views.
As usual there was a man walking a dog on one of the beaches alongside the riverside, and we were glad to see that the rain had almost stopped and the sky was clearing.
Our next ferry took us to the Elbphilarmonie stop in HafenCity and we headed for the Hotel Westin restaurant inside the top of the red brick part of the building. The restaurant was on the Plaza floor, with huge glass windows which looked out on to the viewing gallery and the city beyond. In theory that should have been fine, but there were so many people walking around on the viewing gallery that we were unable to see very much at all. The restaurant menu was limited but well presented, and by the time the food arrived we had seen more citizens than views. The dining tables were at the same floor height as the Plaza gallery flooring so when we were seated the view was even more restricted - what a shame and a disappointment. We asked to be able to go to the viewing Plaza but that was not allowed, so we left the hotel and went back down in the lift into the sunshine out on the riverside.
Another ferry collected us and took us to the Landungsbruecken, known as Hamburg's water railway station, and to a shop nearby I like visiting. There I was able to spend a happy time buying five small toy model ships to add to my collection. I believe we should all make sure the next generations know about ships and the sea, and so after this visit I could go home and know that two small boys will enjoy playing with the new toys and being shown their routes on the map on the floor. We don't play with my beautifully-made Union-Castle Line ship models, I hasten to add, but the boys can see them on display.
It was soon time to walk to a nearby train station and travel to the airport, ready for flights home. I had time to have coffee and enjoy looking at my new toy ships, before flying home; that flight was enlivened by sitting next to a travel agent who had also been on NORWEGIAN JADE with a big party of agents, and I felt it worth mentioning that I had paid for my fare, even though it was a really low one - laughter all round.
Ships seen: Aida Sol, Fantasia, Norwegian Jade, the red-hulled Elbe 3 museum ship, Cap San Diego, Mississippi Queen, Atlantic Sail still in dry dock, Mare Frisium, and ferries Harmonie, Reeerbahn, Elbemeile, Kirchdorf, Altenwerder
I had really enjoyed my two nights on NORWEGIAN JADE from Southampton, with the pleasure of a sea day before arrival in Hamburg. The ship is comfortable, well designed with good passenger flow routes, and the staff are professional, helpful and pleasant.
Wednesday, 12 July 2017
Saturday 3rd June 2017
The day started with a leisurely breakfast up in the Deck 12 Garden Cafe, as we sailed along in the increasing sunshine. Visibility was about 3 miles, but the speed was shown as 17/18 knots, with 3-4 feet wave height. At coffee time we went to the Deck 7 Java Cafe in the mid-ships atrium, before heading out on deck to consider sitting in the sunshine.
That proved too much of a breezy challenge but the social Spinnaker Bar was the ideal place to be for many of us.
I could have participated in so many things today on board, including games and sports, jewellery sales, body sculpt boot camp, introduction to acupuncture, trivia quiz, art sales, bridge play, wrinkle remedies, origami paper boxes to be made, increase your metabolism, and a cooking demonstration of bouillabaisse. This was all in the morning; the afternoon's choices offered digital photo seminar, genealogy social group, extreme bean bag toss, charades, binocular seminar, trivia quiz on beers of the world, satellite Texas hold'em tournament, champagne art auction preview, chocolate & wine pairing, look 10 years younger group, improve your posture, goofy golf, veterans social, classic car enthusiasts social, family balloon twisting and many many other things.
Late lunch was good at the Irish O'Sheehan's pub, with slightly misty views out to sea during the meal. The Daily Programme told us about a Quiz to be held after the quiet time so we headed back to the oh-so-comfortable Spinnaker Lounge for the views out to the almost completely calm sea. We read that the wave height was now only 1 foot, just the way the North Sea should be in an ideal situation, to my mind. We joined people sitting nearby for the quiz and soon realised that the questions were mainly aimed at an American audience. I think someone forgot that on this trip the passengers were mostly British, having embarked in Southampton. We did our best and enjoyed it, although we didn't win.
After that I decided to go and see the Bridge Viewing Area, which is always available so passengers can watch through huge glass panels what is being done on the Bridge by the Deck officers on watch. There were some duplicate radar screens in this Area, which were interesting too. I enjoyed seeing the original flag of the PRIDE OF HAWAII, displayed safely in a glass case, with another display explaining what I was looking at.
I headed for the End of the World stern cafe, which is beyond the Garden Cafe, for a cup of tea, and realised I was walking along the famous 'fishes forward' carpet motif, although I was the red fish heading the wrong way!
Pre-dinner drinks in another of the atrium bars later then led on to dinner in the Grand Pacific Restaurant again. I enjoyed the food and the choice of dishes, and remember choosing Volcano pudding (chocolate soufflé with ice cream and strawberry sauce).
The evening 'Showdown' entertainment was loud and good and the music and dancing in the Spinnaker Bar this evening was to disco music of the 50s and 60s - good fun.
By this time we had arrived near the North Sea entrance to the River Elbe and the Pilot, but had to wait in the darkness. Nearby were the lights of many vessels which I couldn't recognise, but I was reliably informed what they were, so they are my Ships Seen list for today!
Ships seen: Agath, Mol Emissary, Barents, BBC Spring, Genko Pyrenees, Komet 3, Marielist, Iduna, Hermes Leader, Maersk Nijmetun, Pegasus, IBS Shipra, Barbara, Martin Island, Baltimore Highway, Star Hyperion, Barmbeck, Morningcello, BF Esperanzo, Hilge, Hanni, Jolyn, and the Grimaldi RORO Grande Dakar which I did see
To be concluded...
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
NORWEGIAN JADE 2nd June 2017
Goodness, here I am again off to sea for two nights. I took a train along the South Coast of England to Southampton Central station and then shared a taxi to the latest Ocean Terminal building. I remember using the 1950-built old Ocean Terminal, when I was at sea with Union-Castle Line, with its wonderful Art Deco styling and the Boat Trains from London arriving alongside. Passengers sailing to the United States would use the terminal to embark on their liners to the USA. I know that I arrived at the same quayside on the CAPETOWN CASTLE, when she was unexpectedly pressed into service again in 1966 for voyages to Cape Town in South Africa (see "Union-Castle Line Purserette"). The terminal was closed in 1980, due to travellers using jet aircraft to get quickly to the States and cruise ships starting to become so much bigger. After that moment of nostalgia, I met my travelling companion and we checked in for our weekend re-positioning voyage from here in Southampton to Hamburg in Germany. We were soon on board and I headed for my inside port side forward cabin 8519, on deck 8.
This Norwegian Cruise Line ship is fresh out of dry dock and this is a great opportunity to sail on her and sample her Freestyle Cruising. She was built in 2006 by Meyer Werft in Pappenburg as the PRIDE OF HAWAII for NCL's America division, and is 93,558 gross tons. Needs changed and she became JADE, then NORWEGIAN JADE with appropriately-coloured hull art. The ship can carry 2,402 guests in double occupancy, with a crew of 1037. There are 16 dining options and 15 bars and lounges plus many other facilities to be enjoyed on board, so I'm looking forward to more fun time at sea.
We decided to go for lunch in the Grand Pacific main dining room and were delighted to be placed at a window table. The artwork and furnishings really appealed to me and I'm told they are reminiscent of the Matson Line's luxury liners MARIPOSA, MONTEREY, and LURLINE built between 1930 and 1932. I enjoy knowing that during the early 1970s Union-Castle Travel in the UK held the General Sales Agency with Pacific Far East Line Inc., United States Line and Matson Lines. Just to add to life's coincidences, at present I'm reading about the last cruise on board Matson's MARIPOSA ("Nothing can go Wrong" by John D. MacDonald & Captain John H. Kilpack) in 1977 and it is fascinating to be able to imagine events happening in locations similar to this Grand Pacific Main Dining Room here on NORWEGIAN JADE. Many events mentioned in the book will probably not feature on our two-night trip to Hamburg!
We later found a glass builder's plate on display showing her PRIDE OF HAWAII details from 2006.
We could see several other cruise ships at the other Southampton passenger terminals including NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS, SILVER WHISPER, SILVER EXPLORER, AURORA, and MARINA, and also the newly-painted Hythe Ferry HYTHE SCENE, previously GREAT EXPECTATIONS, with her blue hull, plus tugs, ferries and fast craft to the Isle of Wight, and the venerable tug CALSHOT berthed nearby. Those of us who have taken the little ferry to Hythe, just across the water, will have happy memories of disembarking from her and then taking the ancient train which still runs safely along the pier into the village. The afternoon spent in the spacious Spinnaker Bar was a very enjoyable time.
We attended the mandatory Lifeboat Drill held in the theatre, then went for afternoon tea in the Great Outdoors Bar, enjoying the sunshine and watching ship movements out on the water.
Late afternoon meant it was time to change for dinner and the evening's entertainment; we went for the first half of the Show because we wanted to be on deck for the 8 o'clock departure from Southampton. A glass of something deliciously sparkling appeared as if by magic in front of me, and then it was time to head to the Grand Pacific Dining Room for dinner. The surroundings really were lovely, but there were so many venues all over the ship to choose for dinner. This evening we were placed at the small window table again and as well as a delicious meal, I do remember that I enjoyed Cherries Jubilee for dessert.
Then it was time to head back to the Spinnaker Bar and enjoy the music and dancing as we sailed out into the English Channel. This evening the clocks will go forward, and then tomorrow we have a sea day, before we arrive in Hamburg on Sunday morning. There are lots more lovely things to see and do here on NORWEGIAN JADE.
Ships seen: Norwegian Jade, Navigator of the Seas, Silver Whisper, Silver Explorer, Aurora, Ocean Scene, Hythe Scene (the Hythe ferry), Marina, Red Jet 4, tugs ZP Boxer and Smit Tiger, Red Jet 3, Red Jet 5, Red Osprey, Red Falcon, Red Eagle Calshot, Orion Highway, Wightlink ferries St. Clare and Wight Sun or Sky
To be continued...
Tuesday, 4 July 2017
Friday, 30 June 2017
Monday 15th May 2017
Another blue sky morning and breakfast on deck, as we sailed the remaining distance into the new-to-me Greek port of Nafplio.
It looked picturesque, with wide promenades fronting a town beneath a castle on the mountainside behind the town. We had to disembark from CELESTYAL NEFELI and take final pictures of this delightful little ship as we walked towards the bus station.
Swallows were flying around the buildings, as they had in the other ports, and we could see small groups of people on vertical-seeming paths up routes to the castle entrance. We did wonder if they might be excursion folk from our ship!
We bought numbered seat tickets for the 10 a.m. bus from Nafplio to Athens, and were soon in air-conditioned comfort. The long journey was over local winding roads between mountainsides until we eventually joined a dual-carriageway new road leading west to Patras. I had read that a new section of this route had recently been opened, so that speeded up our journey as we drove over the Corinth Canal (I had my eyes open and saw the Canal below us) and headed for Athens. We discovered that the bus stopped at a new Metro station so got off there and were soon buying tickets for the short journey, with one change, down to the port of Piraeus.
Soon we were walking through the heat and sunshine into the busy port, where we could see lots of ferries and a couple of cruise ships. It was such a shame to know that even if we had wanted to take a ferry somewhere, we would then be unable to go anywhere else, so it was a wise decision to go home to the UK, however reluctantly. Our compensation today was to take a local ferry to Salamina, knowing that we could catch another ferry back again to the Great Harbour of Piraeus after lunch, before heading to the airport this evening.
That's what we did, enjoying the wonderful sea air and views of ships arriving or departing all around us.
We saw many vessels that day, including the lovely little LOUIS AURA, looking perfectly ready to sail. It was good to discover on our return to the UK (thank you JB in Singapore) that she has been chartered by ETSTUR cruise line, and should be sailing again later this summer.
Ships seen: Celestyal Nefeli, 2 Way Ferries Acha, Adamantios Korais, Nissos Mykonos, Speedrunner III, Nissos Samos, Elyros, Kriti II, Festos Palace, Prevelis, Costa Neo-Classica, Ariadne, Superfast XII, Phivos, Terrajet, Theofilos, Ierepetra, Medstar, European Highway, Dionisios Solomos, Rasa Sayang (ex-Bergensfjord), Caribbean Galaxy, Aqua Jewel, European Express, Kalli P, Louis Aura, Nissos Rodos, Laton, Superferry, Vitsentzos Kornaros, Ionian Sky, Corse, Ionis, Salamis Express III, Spongebob Squarepants, and the two little ferries we took to and from Salamina island
It had been a really enjoyable few days in Greece at sea on a delightful small ship, with many happy (even euphoric...) memories to take home.