Mona Lisa Part 3
Thursday 27th August 2009
What a strange sensation for some of us: English people on a German ship, visiting Dover in England as our first port of call. We had sailed 337 nautical miles from Bremerhaven, arriving
on a damp August day at 7 a.m. , so after a speedy breakfast on Lido Deck three of us obtained our passports from Reception and left the ship as quickly as possible. We headed for the Ferry Terminals as the plan was take advantage of our day here and take a ferry to France and another one back again. As keen ferry folk it seemed an obvious thing to do…
We caught P&O’s PRIDE OF CANTERBURY from Dover to Calais, all the while watching the other ferry movements in the port whilst we waited to sail.
MSC LIRICA berthed ahead of MONA LISA at the Cruise Terminal quay, also under a grey sky, but it gave us a chance to photograph our cruise ship although from some distance away.
PRIDE OF CANTERBURY was built in 1991 as M/S EUROPEAN PATHWAY for P&O European Ferries for the Dover-Zeebrugge route, and in 2003 after re-fitting became
PRIDE OF CANTERBURY on the Dover-Calais route.
Her sister ships were EUROPEAN HIGHWAY, EUROPEAN SEAWAY and PRIDE OF BURGUNDY. The crossing was short and by the time we arrived in Calais the sky had cleared beautifully so walking around the town and harbour was a delight, as was lunch near the pier and the seaside.
There were ripples on the sand as well as on the sea, birds on the beach as well as in the air, and ships sailing to and fro as we watched.
On our return to the ferry terminal we were held up whilst the lock gates were opened to allow a huge deep sea jack-up rig through, with its tug at each end; we could see this would take some time so decided to get nearer the lock quayside. Although a few lock staff were around, they nodded and ignored us (so much for the legalities of where we and other members of the public were) and we could all enjoy the close-up sight of the rig. Back at the Terminal building we had to go through the inevitable Security (I don’t mind that when it keeps me safe), and it was only on getting into the little bus to the ship that we realised that my backpack was still on my back, and had been totally ignored or forgotten about all through the system. Dear oh dear, all these ISPS violations.
We sailed back on PRIDE OF CALAIS, built in 1987, and sister ship to PRIDE OF DOVER, and realised that today we had probably seen all the P&O cross-Channel ships and all the Seafrance cross-Channel ships, Dover to Calais, plus many others.
Back on board MONA LISA we were grateful to see that the ship’s Daily programme had been specially printed for us in English, which was a kind thought, so we could note sailing time at 10 p.m. whilst enjoying a sociable evening and dinner. Overnight we were to sail 148 nautical miles to Cowes, Isle of Wight.
Ships seen: MSC Lirica, Normandie Express, Pride of Dover, Pride of Calais, Pride of Kent, Pride of Canterbury, Pride of Burgundy, Seafrance Rodin, Seafrance Berlioz, Seafrance Moliere, Seafrance Nord pas de Calais, Maersk Delft, Maersk Dover, Maersk Dunkerque, European Endeavour, European Seaway, European Trader
Friday 28th August 2009
MONA LISA arrived off Cowes as planned at 9 a.m. but it was decided that the wind was far too strong for the tender boats to take us ashore, which was so disappointing. All sorts of arrangements had been made to meet friends on the Island, and indeed we saw the Red Funnel ferry (the yellow Ikea painted one) crossing over from Southampton with friends on board. We’d had breakfast and could only watch and wait for the wind to subside – the ship’s draught was too much for her to get closer for shelter.
We sailed back and forth in the seaway, until the news came that the call was to be abandoned – such a shame, but not surprising considering the conditions.
Although the sun was out, the sea was choppy
and the ship was listing with the force of the wind, which made for some fun pictures with a couple I met on an aft deck.
The pool was roped off,
the chefs prepared a Lido Deck buffet,
NORMANDIE EXPRESS went past making very heavy weather of the sea conditions, NORMANDIE went powering along,
BRETAGNE could be seen at a distance heading back for Portsmouth, laid-up car carriers could be seen off the Isle of Wight, a huge container ship went past and even that looked as if she was struggling against the wind, so lunch on deck was enjoyed despite everything.
Then came the news that we were to stop sailing up and down between the Isle of Wight and the English south coast, and would head for our next port of call at Le Havre in France, where we were due tomorrow. That was excellent news as it meant more time at sea in daylight and we would be in port late this evening. I then heard a helicopter on an overhead course, and discovered that this was the arrival of the Le Havre pilot, being lowered by rope to the H mark on the aft deck. Don’t think I’ve seen that happen before, but then this is to be a long pilotage and obviously the safest and quickest way to get him on board.
During the afternoon I had unexpected time to make my way around the ship enjoying the sights, and reminiscing in my mind about the Union-Castle Line Centenary Voyage on this vessel. VICTORIA the ship was specifically chosen for the Centenary Voyage because of her age and teak decks and similarity to many Union-Castle ships; the air of extreme comfort and care for passengers that was so obvious in 1999/2000 does not appear to have continued in quite the same way since that time. The colour palette for furnishings on board has obviously been changed to appeal to its current clientele, which is understandable, but the attitude and bearing of some of the staff suggests that the current owners/charterers are perhaps not asking for or, more probably, paying for higher standards. I think the age of the ship is now beginning to show, both inside and on deck, and maybe too much money would have to be spent to make it any different. Of course we also have to bear in mind that SOLAS regulations come into effect from 1st October 2010.
I remember so many social events held on the Lido Deck in so many different climates; I remember the funnel that we had arranged to have repainted in vermilion red with a black top, which looked so stylish and was photographed so many times;
I find the picture of Mona Lisa staring out at me from each side of MONA LISA’s funnel slightly unnerving; the Starlight Lounge is so calm and ideal for daytime sea viewing and that comparison hasn’t really changed, with the pale blue upholstery and woodwork, the charts and binoculars on the forward ledges, and the ship’s model in the glass vitrine beside the dance floor, but with the same carpet; the Library is still appealing with its lustrous wooden bookcases and panelling and air of comfort, and the memories of photos with lecturers Murray Walker and Stirling Moss linger in my mind;
in the small port side room ahead of that, we noticed that in here now a lower part of one of the window frames had partially disintegrated inside; I walked past the private carpeted stairway up to the Bridge and remembered the times I had raced up there for arrival and departure from every port; in the Coral Restaurant the surroundings were much the same with the glorious wood and lighting, but afternoon tea was not the same without remembering my first invitation to join lecturers Mr Frank and Mrs Doris Braynard one afternoon;
the Riviera Bar is still comfortable although the furnishings are very red, and I was interested to see a small P&O semi-circular ‘sunburst’ sign on one of the glass entrance doors.
Where there had been a glass vitrine containing a Union-Castle ship model, now there was nothing at all, and it looked so bare; the walls had insignificant pictures on them, rather than large pictures of Union-Castle ships of the past, which in fact had been hung all around the ship. The Princess cinema looked much the same, with the beautiful woodwork, but without the original pieces of artwork.
On Lido Deck it was good to sit outside in the shelter of the glazed area, and wear my Centenary Voyage sweatshirt all these years later; when it was seen by the Security people at the top of the gangway on another day, two of them exclaimed and said they had been on the ship then, so there was a lot of nostalgic talk at a convenient time.
I had my memory moments and came back to reality during the unexpected journey to Le Havre in daylight. This was the here and now and to be enjoyed, with a Pirates dinner, followed by a funny ventriloquist entertainer (Frank Rossi). We berthed at 11 p.m. in time to see NORMAN VOYAGER depart, and then go for a quick walk on the quayside.
Ships seen: Red Funnel/Ikea ferry, Normandie Express, Normandie,Bretagne, Norman Voyager
To be continued...