Sunday, 6 May 2012
Island Escape 3rd April 2012, Part 7 (the final one)
Monday 9th April 2012
That was another rough night, although I slept well again and blessed whoever allocated me to my little midships/aft cabin on deck 5. Barcelona harbour was a very welcome sight to many people, despite the overcast and cool weather. We berthed beside the World Travel Centre in the port, so it was only a short walk to La Rambla and the harbour tour boats.
As we left the quay we could see a big machine alongside our ship, with the operator beginning to hose down the windows. At last, we thought, but why couldn’t this job have been done in Cadiz or Palma so that we, as ISLAND ESCAPE’s first passengers of the season, could have seen out of the windows during the cruise?
We also noticed that the white stern and side sponsons were very badly marked again, presumably by tugs, quays and weather during the last day or two – it looks like another quick paint job is needed.
On the harbour tour we could see several cruise ships beside the Passenger Terminal, and also a motor yacht called ECLIPSE, of 13,000 gross tons and a crew of seventy, which was one of five owned by the wealthy Roman Abramovich. It was currently under wraps and having work done on it, with two helicopter-pads, and one mini-submarine, and a German missile detector system. It is available for charter!
Also, before our very eyes (!), we could see INSIGNIA becoming COLUMBUS 2 as we watched and sailed past. Scaffolding was around her funnel and the painters were working on her hull.
Near her on the same quay, on a commercial berth, was the ISABEL DEL MAR of Iscomar. That was a surprising sight, as she has been at the back of beyond in Barcelona port for a long time, and we wonder why she has now moved here.
Back on the quayside beside ISLAND ESCAPE we could peer into Deck 3’s innards and see what would have been the car deck; at the top of the gangway on Deck 3 beside the boarding card security machine we could look into a crew alleyway and see the bare metal flooring with the ‘elephant feet’ devices used to secure cars to the car deck when the ship was originally a ferry.
On board after lunch we were entertained by the finale of the Boat-Building competition in the Pool, and admired the cruise staff doing the judging in the cold water, whilst passengers sunned themselves on steamer chairs.
Departure from Barcelona’s harbour, viewed from the promenade deck, was slow and weird, as we let go the ropes and then had to wait for a ferry to arrive and berth nearby.
Suddenly a tug appeared at great speed to help us to go astern, turn awkwardly and finally go ahead. It all looked unplanned and done at unnatural angles to the obvious course, but maybe there was some good reason that wasn’t obvious to those of us watching. Ah well, au revoir Barcelona port.
The Farewell Show in the Theatre early that evening was entertaining, although everyone agreed the ventilation system in there must have been set for the Tropics – it’s so cold we’ve all learned to wear more clothing and not sit near the salt-laden windows with their billowing voile curtains and air vents.
The highlight of the evening was to be dinner in the Oasis Restaurant, at the much-advertised £14.99 per person. There was a good choice on the menu and the food was well cooked and served. There was full waiter service at the tables, the Restaurant seemed to be perhaps one-third full, and it was a very pleasant experience.
Ships seen: Fortuny, Eclipse, MSC Poesia, Seabourn Odyssey, Insignia becoming Columbus 2 as we watched, Zurbaran, Cruise Roma, Tenacia, Visemar One, Florencia, Crystal Symphony, Ippotis and Iscomar’s Isabel del Mar at a commercial berth, just along from the cruise ships, and we wondered what the future holds for her.
Tuesday 10th April 2012
Today we arrived back in Palma in darkness at 6 a.m. with the usual difficulties in docking this ship.
After sunrise it was possible to see that SAGA SAPPHIRE was berthed at an adjacent quay on her first cruise for Saga, with a very strange new logo on her funnel. We later discovered that she had engine problems and was due to return to the ship yard for repairs rather than further cruises.
After breakfast we disembarked, collected luggage in the Terminal building and went to the airport for a flight back to the UK. Flying over the south coast it was interesting to see various ferries heading from France towards Portsmouth or Southampton, and others near the Isle of Wight.
That evening several of us attended the World Premiere Concert of The Titanic Requiem composed by Robin Gibb and his son RJ, in Central Hall, Westminster, London. It was a wonderful but emotional evening, because of the absence of Robin due to his serious illness, but the music was memorable. The first half of the Concert was nautical music including the Navy Hymn (For those in Peril on the Sea, which we always sing at Mission to Seafarer events) and Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations; the second half was the Titanic Requiem itself.
Ships seen: Saga Sapphire (ex Bleu de France), Sorolla, Abel Matutes, Visemar One, Tenacia, Daniya (Balearia) ex Stena Navigator
Ships seen from the aircraft: Bretagne going north from France
Wednesday 11th April 2012
Next morning on my journey home, I thought about the cruise on ISLAND ESCAPE. I had enjoyed being on the ship, as I expected, and as my travelling companion said: she is like a Harvester (a long-established UK casual restaurant chain) with cabins. It was interesting to see the old ferry staircases heading down behind the Crew door beside the lifts near Reception. The windows were so salt-laden and dirty during our cruise, and we wondered why they had not been cleaned during the time in Palma before the first cruise of the season. There was the occasional smell of diesel on board, though we knew bunkering had taken place only in Barcelona. I found the ship quite cold, especially in my cabin, and I was surprised there was no extra bedding available in the wardrobes. I enjoyed the layout and artwork of the ship, and thought that the staff members everywhere were delightful – friendly and helpful and obviously happy to be working on ISLAND ESCAPE. She is a good advertisement for casual cruising and I would recommend trying this ship whilst she is still with ISLAND CRUISES.