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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

COSTA NEO-ROMANTICA 17th December 2014


I regret that I am currently unable to upload photographs to this blog piece.

Part 2 (the final one)

Saturday 20th December 2014
Today we have a day at sea; the sky was clear blue, sunny, the temperature mid-morning at 13.6 C. The mid-morning quiz today was Currencies of the World, so we drank coffee in the Grand Bar and watched the video pictures of various bank notes as they appeared. We managed to come first in the quiz, and I found myself propelled forward to receive the team prize of a small zipped yellow Costa purse. I hadn’t actually been looking at the pictures all the time, so felt a little embarrassed. I handed the prize over to one of my friends, who had actually taken part, and she was happy and I felt better.

Brisk walking around the top deck in the cool sunshine was lovely and such a treat for a December day at sea. We could see the occasional vessel way in the distance, and one looked quite like a Grimaldi ship. I believe I caused some consternation in Reception when I asked one young member of staff if it was possible that he would be kind enough please to ring the Bridge to find out what the Grimaldi ferry was called. He was reluctant at first, and said that ferries didn’t have names. Oh dear, I wonder why he is at sea, I thought, as I showed him my photograph. He consulted with an older colleague who kindly rang the Bridge and we found out that it was the EUROCARGO GENOA. We had been parallel with her for some time so I thought it would be an easy matter to find out her name, and I was very grateful.

The rest of the day passed without getting involved in the Ping Pong tournament, another quiz, tango dance lesson, arts and craft Christmas decorations, bingo or the art of napkin folding, until a social gathering in the Grand Bar before another delicious dinner.

Tomorrow we are due in Marseilles at 8 a.m.

Ships seen: Eurocargo Genoa

Sunday 21st December 2014
I was up early this morning, ready to meet for 8 a.m. breakfast. At 7.25 a.m. I was just dressing after a shower when all the lights went out in my cabin, the air-conditioning stopped, and there was a weird silence. A tiny emergency LED light came on high up on the wall near the door, but it provided very little light. I rapidly finished dressing, removed my valuables from my cabin safe, and put on warm clothing. I wanted to get out of my cabin immediately and get up on deck. I know daily life sometimes holds big or small irritations, and I usually try to get things in proportion and ask myself “Is it life-threatening?”. This time I decided the answer might be “yes”. The television View from the Bridge showed it was before sunrise and barely daylight, and I knew I would feel safer up top.

Lifeboat drill training kicked in so I walked up 4 flights of stairs instead of taking the lift as I might have done, and tried to get out on an open deck. Several watertight doors had closed automatically I suppose, and so it was a struggle to find a way out. I see my first photograph was timed at just 12 minutes after I left my cabin! The seas had been very rough again overnight and there was a pronounced list still, but I managed to locate some of my friends who had made the same decision about getting up on open deck. I had been quite apprehensive, rather than frightened, about the complete lack of power in this Costa ship, but several images of other Costa ships came to mind of course.

I could see we were not moving, despite being fairly near to the port of Marseilles. We were in the bay, but surrounded by mountains, rocks and rough sea, with a pronounced list and probably out of control. Then we heard the anchor go down very noisily, so at least that meant that we wouldn’t go far, other than wherever the strong wind, list and seas took us. A puff of grey smoke came out of one of the yellow funnels. A new noise was heard, which must have been the auxiliary generator starting up. Then another new sound was heard which could have been funny in other circumstances: over a tannoy speaker very near us the beautiful tenor voice of Andre Bocelli belted out the one sentence from a song that many of us recognise – “Time to say goodbye”! We were not amused! It was immediately silenced and that was that.

The sun rose and we could see that we were still some way off the port of Marseille, surrounded by mountains, rocks and islands. We were all reluctant to go inside and get some breakfast, whilst we did not know what had happened. Finally, finally, nearly an hour after the complete loss of power there was an announcement to all on board. We were told it was issued on behalf of the ship’s Master and staff, and that due to a technical problem the ship had been delayed in entering the port but would soon be doing so. They apologised for the delay but said we were safe and in an anchorage. This message was repeated a couple of times, and 45 minutes later there was the sound of the anchor coming up and engine power and we could see a wake starting behind the ship from where we were standing out on the open deck in the cold.

We thought the delay in informing passengers about the ship’s complete loss of power was absolutely inexcusable. There is always a back-up system for broadcasts in case of emergency, and we felt that this had the potential to be such an emergency.

For those passengers down in their cabins in absolute darkness it must have been a very frightening experience (unless they were still asleep) but many people were preparing to go on excursions so must have been up and about the ship.

By the time we felt able to leave the open deck and search for food, the breakfast facilities had closed but we were directed to the Pizza restaurant for basic hot drinks in flasks and pastries.

I think we were all still in a state of shock because we know that loss of engine power can be the start of an emergency on board any ship, and we were still at sea. We knew the ship had been in dock recently and had work done, just before our cruise, and it was also possible to trace our own sea routes, captured from the internet, as we were taken into rough sea areas overnight and then obviously changed course. One friend was kind enough to give me evidence of this, and also of us swinging wildly on the anchor in Marseille bay, and I am grateful for this proof.

Once we sailed into Marseille harbour, we berthed adjacent to the COSTA DIADEMA and I decided I needed to get off the ship for a while. I went to Reception to buy a shuttle bus ticket and they were being hand-written by the staff there. My, they must still have other problems then.

The shuttle bus dropped passengers off some distance from the main attractions of the city, unlike on previous visits, so I walked back to the shops I wanted to visit. The air was fairly warm and pleasant and enjoyable after the early morning events, and I enjoyed seeing several ferries in the port on the return coach journey. One was the interesting CARTHAGE, the Tunisian ferry we took from here in Marseille to Tunis, coming back from Tunis to Genoa on HABIB. This was in the summer of 2010, and I called my diary notes “Ships, Saints and Swallows” covering the Tunis ships as well as many others (published August-November 2010).

Back on the COSTA NEO-ROMANTICA I had lunch and then met the others for tea, before preparing for this evening’s Captain’s Cocktail Party for Costa Club guests. The new passengers had embarked so they had to attend Life Boat Drill at the start of their Christmas cruise, and we were aware of more people being on board, but the atmosphere was lively and happy.

Several of us went to meet and be photographed with the Captain at his Party (more Prosecco) and then it was back to the Grand Bar to drink a toast to two particular families we know of who had each just exchanged contracts for the sale and purchase of property in the UK. We sailed from Marseille at 6 p.m. after watching COSTA DIADEMA sail out first in the darkness.

Dinner that evening was excellent as usual and we said goodbye to our waiters with many thanks. Tomorrow we arrive back in Savona in Italy and must disembark and return home, but this evening was enjoyed in the Grand Bar discussing the events of the day and our memories.

Ships seen: Corse, Mediterranee, Girolata, Pascal Paoli, Carthage (see Summer 2010), Costa Diadema, and other working ships in the port

Monday 22nd December 2014
Sunrise today is at 8 a.m. and we are due in Savona at 9 a.m., so I was up with the alarm and ready to meet my friends in the Restaurant for our last meal together on this little trip. I made time to photograph the view on the television screen of our itinerary on this trip, and could easily see the route of the ship after she left the shipyard and came to Savona for 17th December. I also collected my gift photograph of meeting Captain Gianfranco La Fauci. We had no luggage to collect in the Terminal Building so could head straight outside to the coach to take us to Nice Airport, leaving the Costa Savona Terminal at 9.45 a.m.

Ships seen: COSCO Tengfel car carrier in Savona, plus Sardinia Vera, Corsica Marina Secunda, Corsica Express Secunda, Corsica Express 3 all in lay-up near Savona and seen from the coach


It had been an unexpectedly eventful trip on the COSTA NEO-ROMANTICA and I had enjoyed most of it tremendously, on an ideal-sized ship and with good friends.

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