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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

COSTA ALLEGRA 27th November 2011 Part 2 (the final one)


Costa Allegra 27th November 2011
Part 2 (the final one)

Monday 28th November 2011
Today we arrived at 8 a.m. in Ajaccio, Corsica, having sailed 171 nautical miles overnight in a calm sea.

Costa Allegra



Jean Nicoli

We sail again at 1 p.m. so had time only to walk ashore and enjoy the sights of this town in the warm winter sunshine. We went to the train station and were lucky enough to see the new railway carriages which are now in use on the island, although the mosaic artwork on the station booking office floor was still in a rather sad state.

Ajaccio station mosaic

The new island train carriages

Layers of posters

Costa Allegra stern

Once on board again we could see snow on the top of the distant mountains, as we prepared to sail.

This evening all passengers have been invited by Captain Nicolo Alba to a Welcome Gala Cocktail in the Theatre, and this was followed by Gala Night Dinner. The liqueur drinks trolley came round the Restaurant and I was treated to something I had never seen before: a little dark chocolate ‘funnel’, just a few inches high, but filled with Amaretto – a fun-filled funnel! What a delicious end to a meal.

Ships seen: Jean Nicoli, in Ajaccio

Tuesday 29th November 2011
In the middle of the night I was woken by voices out in the corridor, one of which was speaking to the Bridge on a walkie-talkie. I put my bedside light on when their voices had moved away, and went towards the cabin door – only to realise I was paddling. My camera was to hand so I took a photograph, timed at 4.18 a.m., and peered out into the alleyway to see lots of the blue ship-towels on the carpet.

The leak in my cabin at 4.18 a.m.

There must have been a leak somewhere and water had started to come in to my cabin. It wasn’t coming in from my bathroom; I hadn’t been woken officially so presumed I was safe, dried my feet and went back to bed and sleep.

My alarm clock woke me because I wanted to see our arrival in Palma de Mallorca, although it was before sunrise.

Floodlit mega yacht 'A'

I have so many happy memories of visits to the island many years ago. It is the largest of the Balearic Islands and Mallorca is one of Spain’s provinces.

I reported my cabin water problem to Reception and then went on deck for breakfast and photographs.

I could see the Philippe Starck-designed mega yacht ‘A’, which looks a most unusual sight. I subsequently found out that she is owned by a Russian billionaire, and that the name ‘A’ is the first letter of both his and his wife’s first names. Apparently she was built by the same German company that constructed the battleship BISMARCK.

The four of us arranged to meet at the gangway so we could get to the Palma/Soller railway station, which was built in 1912.

The 1912-built train to Soller



The Palma-Soller train ticket

The vintage train carriages are a big tourist attraction and travel through valleys and long tunnels north to the small town of Soller. That journey takes an hour, and from there one can take the delightful electric tram down to the port.

Trams to the sea

These trams are equally vintage and we enjoyed seeing the English Electric driving mechanisms in one carriage.

The driving mechanisms

English Electric

The sight of the local boats on calm blue water sparkling in the winter sunshine was a pretty scene in this little bay as we arrived.



Tram at the port

Rapido del Puerto

Torrent de Pareis

We had lunch back in Soller because we had to watch the time for getting back to the ship for sailing at 5 p.m.,

Banco Soller

The Church

The Office!

but there were enough minutes to buy some local delicacies in a little shop before setting off again through the valleys heading south to Palma. I liked seeing the oranges and lemons growing in the gardens beside the track as we left Soller.

Back on board I was relieved to find out that I was to change cabins. My 7015 still had soggy and slightly smelly carpet and my Bedroom Steward told me that the pipework in my section was new last week; he then paused, and said ‘it needs some improvement’. He is absolutely correct!

Dockwise Yacht Transport's Super Servant 4 with 1 yacht on board

'A' in daylight

My kind friends helped me move all my possessions to my new cabin 5072, a 4 berth mid-ships cross-cabin, which seemed unprepared for an occupant. The bed was made but the bathroom supplies were inadequate – soon rectified by a visit to Reception, as there was no sign of a cabin steward. Not a life-threatening situation, but time-consuming because I was trying to prepare for dinner in the specialist Restaurant Amalfi this evening.

Amalfi Club Restaurant

We wanted to try the Restaurant and had booked a table, and certainly the room had been transformed from its daytime look. I chose fish as my main course, from a short menu, but when it arrived I would never have recognised it, as it was smothered in a sauce which covered any vegetables that might have been under it.

Disappointing dinner

The meal was a sad disappointment to all of us, and not worth the extra charge, but one can only try.

Ships seen: Sorolla, SuperServant 4 of Dockwise Yacht Transport (with one yacht on board), Costa Mediterranea, Al Mirqab, Fortuny, SF Alcuhemas, Abel Matutes, Costa Allegra, ‘A’, Harmony II, Visemar One, Rapido del Puerto, Torrent de Parais,

Wednesday 30th November 2011
Here we are in Barcelona after sailing the 138 nautical miles overnight, with a few hours to enjoy the warmth of this port and city before sailing at 1 p.m. I chose to visit the terminal building and walk along the quayside for a while, but it was more fun to be up on deck and watch the other ship movements. We could see COSTA CONCORDIA further along the quay.

Costa Concordia

Maineborg

The continuing line down the middle of the ship

The view from underneath

The same central columns, in the Flamenco Bar

Montalt

Safmarine Nokwanda and others

There seemed to be lots of activity going on, and we wondered if it was a sea-training day for various port authorities as there were rescue boats and tugs just outside the port, and many police and their vehicles on one of the harbour walls near the helicopter landing site. It was nice weather for it!

Isabel del Mar still resting

Lunch and sail away was enjoyed, and then steamer chairs with rugs on deck were the order of the day, momentarily disturbed only by a small aircraft doing a fly-past and wiggling its wings at the ship. This is what sea-days are all about: just watching the sea and world go past (if the eyes are open).

Dinner this evening was enjoyable, and so was time spent in the Murano Bar and then the Pizza Parlour Bar area. We are due back in Savona tomorrow so it was interesting to discuss our thoughts about this ship and the trip. We all loved the Grand Murano Bar and the Flamenco disco lounge and bar, and we had enjoyed our various ports of call. Many shipboard areas proved so popular with other passengers that we found the noise intolerable, but we usually located somewhere that suited us. We are all happy to be at sea however and feel very fortunate when we are.

Ships seen: Costa Concordia, Excellent, Methania, Safmarine Nokwanda, Georgia Highway, Isabel del Mar (the Iscomar ship at peace), Ramon Casas tug, Cemesa Seis, China Express, Montalt tug, Tomriz, Maineborg

Thursday 1st December 2011
We were up early for breakfast and arrival back in Savona, although it took a long time to disembark. I had arranged on board to take the Costa coach to Genoa airport, ready for my BA flight home to Gatwick.

On boarding the aircraft I was thinking of photo opportunities as we left Genoa, so asked one of the flight attendants in which direction we would be taking off – goodness me, I was ushered into the cockpit to ask the Captain for myself. Many minutes later I had the answer and had enjoyed a chat about flying generally and Heathrow landings in particular, although this time it would be to Gatwick. It’s such a shame that a few disturbed and intolerant people have spoilt air travel for pilots and passengers alike, in us not being allowed on the flight deck by invitation during some flights. I have some extraordinary memories of being on several passenger flights with British Airways heading for Heathrow and being invited to enjoy the views over the Berkshire countryside from the flight deck, just by showing interest and asking if a visit might be possible.

Ships seen: Costa Mediterranea, Costa Atlantica, Island Ranger

Ships seen from the BA flight leaving Genoa: Riviera, still in the shipyard

So here I am safely back in Gatwick Airport in pouring rain; I had enjoyed being with my friends on board COSTA ALLEGRA and was pleased with the opportunity to sail on her. I personally liked the use of glass, mirrors and the light through the ship especially in the Atrium and thought she was well named as The Crystal Ship.

Costa Allegra atrium (brochure picture)

COSTA ALLEGRA 27th November 2011 Part 1


COSTA ALLEGRA
Sunday 27th November 2011

Saturday 26th November 2011
How exciting, to be flying off to Genoa in Italy. It became even more exciting, if that is the word, as we approached the airport and the British Airways pilot made an announcement. It seems that the flight before ours had just landed and reported what felt like a small hole or indentation in the runway tarmac, so the whole airport had been closed whilst investigations were made.

I looked at the young lady sitting near me and we puzzled over the likely outcomes, ranging from a man with a pot of mix putting it in the hole and flattening it down, circling the airport for goodness knows how long or while fuel lasted, or going to another airport about an hour or two away. We flew around over the sea for about 20 minutes, during which the pilot told us it was still closed, and then suddenly he told us that it had re-opened. Hooray, the man with the pot of something useful must have done a good job and we were going to be the first aircraft in.

I was able to take some photographs as we landed, and had lovely views of the ferries in the port in the winter sunshine. Genoa is certainly fun for trying to do this, and it takes one’s mind off the strong wind gusting off the mountains and affecting the landing aircraft.

Flying in (1)

Flying in (2)

Flying in (3)

Flying in (4)

Also on the flight was one of my travelling companions so we made our way out of the terminal and onto the airport bus to the city. The temperature was an amazing 19º Centigrade. From the usual drop-off point outside the railway station we could walk the short distance to the hotel where several of us were staying. I’d stayed there before so was happy with its location, and we soon checked in and headed out to the harbour. It was too late for one of the few winter-time harbour tours so we enjoyed walking around and visiting the bookshop in the Maritime Museum.

I was waiting outside when an Italian policeman started talking to me, obviously wanting to practise his English. I then realised that now there were lots of police, police cars, motor bikes, outriders and other vehicles outside the Museum and the young man hurriedly told me that they were waiting for the Prime Minister (unelected…) and he had to go back to his duties. I did wonder where the Prime Minister was but we couldn’t see and couldn’t begin to guess. Well, that will remain one of life’s little mysteries.

XIN Pu Dong

A stroll around the Porto Antico gave us some views of the ferries opposite, and of a tall ship berthed near an ice-cream shop, so all could be seen and enjoyed as the light faded from the sky.

Visitors up the mast on Pogoria

Splendid and Excellent

Carthage of Tunisia ferries

La Suprema backing into her berth

Two other friends arrived so we all met up for dinner in a local restaurant and talked about ships. We are all to sail on COSTA ALLEGRA from Savona for four nights in the western Mediterranean, calling at Ajaccio, Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona.

Ships seen from the aircraft: Pacific, Moby Ale, Moby Fantasy, Corsica Marina Seconda, Janus, La Superba, Splendid and Excellent

Ships seen from the airport bus to the city: Riviera, still under construction

Ships not seen but known to be here (!): Seabourn Odyssey, Costa NeoRomantica

Ships seen in fact: La Suprema, Splendid, Excellent, Carthage, Janus, China Shipping Lines XIN Pu Dong, Pogoria (the tall-masted sailing vessel) which can be seen in my picture 'Flying In (3)'

Sunday 27th November 2011
The day started with breakfast and then a short cabin cavalcade, as we all had rooms in different parts of the hotel. Outside the heat had dropped to 13º but it was still comfortably warm; there was a rail strike today so we took a large taxi along the coast to Savona, the home port of Costa Cruises. The four of us soon checked in and went on board - my cabin 7015 is an inside twin for single use – and were able to take photographs around the ship.

Cabin 7015

COSTA ALLEGRA is known as The Crystal Ship, and once we were on board we could see why – there is much use of glass (including decorative Murano glass) and mirrored surfaces. She was built in 1969 as a container ship from Stockholm and named ANNIE JOHNSON. In 1986 she was sold on to Regency Cruise Lines (as REGENT MOON) but was sent to lay up in Piraeus/Perama until sold on in 1988 (renamed ALEXANDRA), and then again sold on to Costa Cruises in 1990 when she began conversion to a cruise ship in Genoa. In November 1992 she was named COSTA ALLEGRA and began sailing at 28,340 gross tons to carry 1,066 passengers, with a home port of Genoa, and a cruising speed of 20.5 knots. We also knew that in 2006 she was sailing out of Singapore and Hong Kong as a gambling ship, and as we roamed around the ship we could see much evidence of this.






We were due to sail at 5.00 p.m. with lifeboat drill at 5.15 p.m. so after a buffet lunch we started to look around at the nine public decks on the ship; cabins start on the lowest deck 2, continue up on decks 3, 4 and 5 where the Ristorante Montmartre is situated at the stern.

Decks 2,3 and 4

Decks 5 and 6

On deck 6 the public rooms lead from the stern Casino Club Flamenco,

Flamenco Lounge and Bar

forward through walkways to the midships beautiful Murano Grand Bar which we loved until the noisy two piece band started playing each evening. The Bar seemed ideal for conversation during the day and some of the evening, but that all had to stop when the music started.

Grand Murano Bar

Murano Bar glass

That was when we moved on to the Piazzetta Allegra circular raised bar/seating area.

Piazzetta Allegra

Near this area was a wall showing film of previous Costa ships, and Le Cioccolateria bar which we usually managed to walk past without buying anything.

La Cioccolateria

Forward again was the Sala da Ballo Folies Bergeres (the theatre), which we noticed had no fixed seating whatsoever. We think this is because when the ship was doing the gambling cruises from Singapore, the space needed to be converted easily for the gaming passengers, with no need for other entertainment facilities.

Theatre, with no fixed seating

At the back of the room

Decks 7 and 8

On deck 7 is the stern Ristorante Amalfi and Disco, leading forward to the outdoor pools. Forward again are the Mini-Suites and then the Grand Suite. Above that on deck 8 is the jogging/walking track and double-height spa treatment rooms forward. Deck 9 has the solarium and forward deck 10 has a small passenger area.

Decks 9 and 10

We could see COSTA VICTORIA and COSTA SERENA in port nearby, and out at another berth we were pleased to see the HARMONY PRINCESS, which was the ex-COSTA MARINA. One of our number had spent a happy time on her a year or two ago. She had her new name on one side of the hull but not yet on the other, but was already looking very smart.

Costa Victoria and Costa Serena

Harmony Princess (ex Costa Marina)

Grande Mediterraneo sailing

Looking out to sea we noticed a large and tall spreading plume of black smoke, and wondered what that could be. We had already seen a car carrier and a Grimaldi vessel leave port, so we hoped that all was well with them. We never did find out the cause of what must have been a huge fire.

This looked like a bad fire

The Lifeboat Drill was held in the theatre on deck 6 forward and in spite of announcements in four languages (English, Italian, French and German), everyone listened quietly to all the instructions. After this ended we went on deck to watch our departure from Savona in darkness.

Welcome on board

Dinner was at 6.45 p.m. in the Montmartre Restaurant;

Montmartre Restaurant

we chose this sitting on the basis that 9.00 p.m. second sitting was too late, and even if we sat down at 6.45 p.m. the first course would probably not be in front of us until 7.15 p.m. which was fine. The food was disappointing, both the quality and quantity, despite several courses on offer.

Coffee after dinner

We then went to the Entertainment show in the theatre, which provoked several different reactions from the four of us. In complete contrast we then had a wonderful time in the Flamenco Lounge on Deck 6, where the 3 piece band and singer made us dance and sing until gone midnight! I did go hungry to bed, but I’d enjoyed the evening’s entertainment enormously.

Ships seen: Costa Allegra, Costa Serena, Costa Victoria, Grande Mediterraneo of Grimaldi, Arthara, La Suprema, Harmony Princess (the ex-Costa Marina)

To be concluded...