I belong to a local History Society which covers a couple of local villages and the surrounding area. We meet monthly, with about 90 members on the books, although not everyone attends every meeting.
Earlier this year 2019 our Christmas Dinner was held in January, to avoid many other local December social occasions. About 40 of us went to a nearby country hotel on the outskirts of the villages and sat down one evening to enjoy a lovely meal served to us at circular tables. I knew several of my table companions only by sight but enjoyed the chance to get to talk to them. Conversation turned to cruising holidays, and then New Zealand, and the friend I was sitting next to started to tell the lady on my other side (I think in her mid-80s) that she had gone there many years ago to live and work. The lady on this other side had done the same but probably ten years before that. They discussed their memories of time there, although my friend had had to return home to the UK after a few months as her father had been taken seriously ill and her mother needed her.
I knew my friend (Ann) had flown out there in the 1960s but I asked the lady next to me (Maureen) whether she had flown or perhaps gone by ship. I said I was interested in ships, having been at sea as a Purserette with a major shipping line called Union-Castle Line back in the 1960s. Maureen said she had gone by ship, she thought Orient Line, in the 1950s and tried to remember what vessels. She sailed from the UK to Australia first of all, before sailing later on another ship to get to New Zealand. Having worked in both Australia and New Zealand during the years, she then sailed back to Australia and finally back to the UK. She couldn't remember the names of the ships but said she would have a look at home and let me know some time.
After an enjoyable evening we all said our good-nights and parted company.
Some weeks later I was at a History Society meeting and during the tea/coffee interval I managed to see Maureen and have a quick chat with her. She produced a little list of the ships she thought she had travelled on, back in the 1950s. She sailed from the UK to Sydney, Australia, possibly on ARCADIA, then later from Melbourne to Auckland in New Zealand on something else, possibly ORCADES. From Wellington she eventually sailed back to Sydney on ORANJE and finally back to the UK from Melbourne on FAIRSEA.
I thanked her for this information as it was interesting to hear about ships that I knew of but had never seen. Maureen then mentioned that I had told her I worked for Union-Castle Line at sea as a Purserette back in the 1960s. I said that was right. She then said that she had a friend she first met a long time ago, who also worked for Union-Castle as a Purserette, and that the friend's name was Daphne. I must have looked a bit surprised at this, and half-jokingly asked "Does she live in Dorset?". The answer was yes, which I found quite extraordinary, made me laugh, and quickly told Maureen why.
Back in the 1990s I had been involved in the Union-Castle Line Centenary Voyage planning with my late husband, who died in 1997, and several other people. In 1998 I had been to a Union-Castle Pursers Reunion, which are still held every 3 years, and met many others there that I knew. One lady offered me her uniform which she still had and was then kind enough to post to me, to my then home in another English county. I bought a dressmaker's body/dummy and the uniform had been on it since 1999, with my hat on top. The lady who gave it to me was called Daphne, and she lived in Lyme Regis in Dorset.
By the most extraordinary of life's coincidences this is the Daphne who is the friend of Maureen.
Maureen and I were both astounded at this coincidence and she said she would let Daphne know, as she had now moved from Lyme Regis to another nearby small town.
There must have been many many Purserettes employed by Union-Castle over the years and I find it amazing that I should make a new friend here - a lady with a friend called Daphne, whose uniform still lives on a dressmaker's model in the dining room of my home.
under a Union-Castle Centenary Voyage poster
Sunday 22nd July 2018
I do enjoy travelling on these overnight sleepers, or at least the ones I've been on here in a warm climate. I like the gentle background noise of the train on the tracks as we race through the night, the occasional change of tone as we go through a station, the gentle breezes coming through the open window, a comfortable mattress below and fresh linen around me, all of which usually ensure a dreamless, or exhausted, lovely sleep.
By early morning the sky was lightening and the guard came along the carriage to knock on the doors of those passengers leaving the train at Bari in 45 minutes time, and hand in 3 small breakfast trays. The two toilets with washing facilities at each end of the train sleeper coaches were sometimes the unpleasant part of sleeper travel, but lack of running tap water in them occasionally was often the least of these slight irritations. No matter, we arrived at Bari station about 6 a.m. and disembarked onto a quiet platform. I believe the train distance we travelled was 787 kms.
Local buses were outside the station and people were out and about, and we found a small local coffee shop to sit and plan the morning. We were all going home today but had time to enjoy some time here in Bari. The local port bus took us down to the quays and there was a surprise as we could see RIGEL III in the Italian sunshine. Photos taken across the water, we could get another bus back to the station and then head for the airport.
Ships seen: Rigel III, which I remember seeing many years ago as Regina della Pace
I flew back to the UK having enjoyed another amazing and interesting ferry trip, in July 2018.
Saturday 21st July 2018
On Asterion II
We were all up early this morning ready for our arrival on board ANEK'S ASTERION II, at what the company call Venice.
The port is actually in a place called Fusina, which is many many miles away from Venice. In fact some of the skyline sights of that wonderful little city could barely be seen in the far distance. We have been here to this industrial working area before and knew that transport other than cars would be difficult, but this time was far worse. We disembarked and headed with many other passengers for the far distant bus stop beyond some of the security fencing.
There were no shuttle buses, no taxis to be seen, and no buses either, despite the timetable showing their arrival and many of us waiting. In desperation we decided to walk to a small camp site, which was near a water taxi service into what we all know as Venice. That proved to be a mile or two away around quiet lanes but we did it - with no alternative. As we all strode quietly along I heard one of my friends saying "Never again, never again", and I'm certain he meant it.
(Just as a matter of interest, I will quote from a piece in the Autumn 2018 edition of the excellent publication 'Ferry & Cruise Review'.
"Your correspondents have previously lamented the disgraceful state of foot-passenger facilities and processing that now sadly prevails at Italian Adriatic Ports. With capacity expansion in recent years, either the ports themselves have been moved out-of-town, or check-in facilities relocated notable distances away from their original central quaysides. Passengers without vehicles are often forced to traipse back and forth, waiting in uncomfortable holding areas if departing, while, if arriving, often being marooned in out-of-town locations without any reliable public transport connections. Sadly, after a superlative crossing on ASTERION II, we were forced to endure Venice, which is now sadly the worst example possible, with the once majestic arrival past St. Mark's Square replaced with abandonment in an industrial zone, largely disconnected from the public transport network.")
An hour and a half after disembarking, we finally arrived in the little quayside area in Fusina; I noticed with interest the two signs on the fence, one pointing to a bar, the other pointing to the ferry.
There were so many people waiting at the water's edge that one ferry was loaded and sent on its way, before another one came along for us to board via the little pontoon. Hooray, at last we were really on our way to Venice as we know it, on board VE 8777.
Through the ferry window we could see some of the day's cruise ships in port; we were heading for Zattere.
There we changed to another vessel and disembarked at Tronchetto ready to board the METAMAUCO which took us to the Venice Lido. We have a few hours to enjoy in Venice before catching a mid-afternoon train from here to Milan, so we wanted to make the most of it.
The views all round us were fascinating and we noticed the huge crowds of people in St. Mark's Square and all along the waterside. Yet again, here I am in Venice and Following in Father's Footsteps, which is a phrase I am fond of using!
Once in the Lido area we disembarked from METAMAUCO and found a shady coffee and ice-cream cafe which occupied our minds happily for some time.
Another ferry arrived and we travelled back on SAN NICOLO to the main island, to get to the railway station, this time on the Megaride ACTV 40.
We left Venice by train at 3.20 p.m., on a long-distance one which was actually heading for Zurich although we would get off at Milan Centrale. This splendid train had a proper Restaurant Car as well as a Snack Bar, and we were very impressed. The train was full, very comfortable and we were glad of our reserved seats.
A few hours later we arrived in Milan and had time to go for dinner at a local restaurant before catching our overnight sleeper train.
Ships seen: VE 8777 our Fusina ferry to Venice, MSC Poesia, Costa Luminosa, Rhapsody of the Seas, MSC Sinfonia, Metamauco, San Nicolo, Adriatic Jet, ACTV 40
To be concluded...
Friday 20th July 2018
Part 12 - The afternoon and evening
After a light lunch and a rest, I finished reading my paperback book so took it to Reception. They were happy to have it for one of the crew; we all talked about the ship and its history and it was suggested that we come back and talk to the Chief Steward on duty later.
Later that afternoon we talked to the Chief Steward and then one of his colleagues. This colleague obtained some keys and we were all invited to go with him to see the locked-up Japanese Lounge and the Cinema.
I seem to remember that the Lounge was on Deck 9 and once some of the side curtains were opened we could look out at the sea. The lounge seemed vast and was in lovely condition considering it had been locked up for some time. There was a small stage, a beautiful wooden dance floor, lots of comfortable seating in various groups, tall mirrors and what had obviously been well-designed wallpaper. I imagine this room will be restored and put back into public use when there is time and money. What a treat that will be.
The Cinema was on Deck 7, behind the plain door above the semi-circular step we saw yesterday. We entered through another doorway on which was hung a deep-cushioned door, obviously to contain the noise from the cinema. The tiered seats were nicely raked, they looked comfortable, and photographs of various film-stars were on the walls. It looked almost ready for a new film show and audience - maybe one day...
We thanked the member of staff who had allowed us to see and photograph the locked Lounge and Cinema, and then went back to thank the Chief Steward.
That evening at dinner it was my turn to order and pay for the wine but the Chief Steward told the man on the till that we were not to pay for the bottle, as it was a gift from him. That was so kind and of course we went back to thank him once again.
The evening continued with me giving an illustrated talk, which was much easier than it might sound. My friends will not be able to come along to the October Ocean Liner Society meeting in London when I am to be the speaker, so I had all the pictures on a USB stick which we could put into a friend's lightweight computer to view, rather than through a projector. I had a paper copy of my notes and so as we sailed through the calm waters of the Adriatic Sea that evening I gave my upcoming 'Union-Castle Line Purserette' talk to a very small audience of two! They seemed fascinated, amazed and amused in all the right places; what a novel way to spend an evening at sea we thought.
Ships seen: Asterion II, Olympic Champion, Kerkyra Express, 2 cruise ships in Corfu but too far off to identify, Hellenic Spirit of ANEK with whom we exchanged whistles as we passed, Rigel I, Cruise Olympia of Minoan Line
To be continued...
Friday 20th July 2018
After a good night's sleep in the spacious cabin here on ASTERION II, I managed to wake in time to get on deck for our arrival at Igoumenitsa. It felt odd to think we had been here yesterday but had looked down from the mountainside to see the ship sail below us. We saw various other vessels under the glorious hot sun and then went for breakfast at the large self-service restaurant. The next few hours were spent mostly out on deck in the shade, enjoying the views and blue sea as we sailed along.
Ships seen: Kerkyra Express, 2 Way Ferries vessel, Hellenic Spirit
To be continued...