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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Costa Deliziosa 18th December 2011 Part 2

Costa Deliziosa 18th December 2011 Part 2
Monday 19th December
Something woke me at 5.10 a.m., which may have been a nudge from a Marseilles tug or instinct, and when I turned the television on for the View from the Bridge, there was the dry dock just yards ahead. Years of training and maybe voices in my head told me to get up on deck with my camera, wearing lots of warm clothes. Went past a children’s outside play area and saw a little bird painted on something and decided I wasn’t the only ‘early bird’.

Another early bird

On deck

The top deck was empty but I soon started taking photos of us inching our way slowly into the dry dock, bow first, with more water on our port side than the starboard, presumably for the gangways to be fitted later in the day.

Into the dry dock

Costa funnel

Starboard side

Well, this is one of the most peculiar and interesting experiences of my life, standing on the top deck of a huge cruise ship, all alone, in freezing December weather, with a cold Mistral winter wind blowing, and the ship gradually moving into one of the CNM Marseilles Shipyard dry docks, on the far side of the bay from the ferries.

Not far now

Tug Marseille

Almost there

Some deck staff started putting out chairs and towels (yes, at 5.45 a.m.) on the aft deck so I decided to go back to my cabin for a hot shower and more sleep, both of which were wonderful.

Some time later I met my friends for breakfast and showed my photos, and could hardly believe what I’d done earlier that morning, but I was glad I did.

After a saunter around the ship, we could see that the dock gates had been closed and the water was gradually being emptied from around the ship; during the morning gangways were brought alongside and eventually hoisted into position on the starboard side, down to the quay. ISPS fencing was of course all around and that must have gladdened the hearts of so many people involved in the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, and nice to know that we are all so safe even if we are currently marooned!

Announcements were made that the dock would be empty after lunch, and passengers could all go ashore using the gangways after mid-day. Costa Cruises had kindly arranged frequent and free shuttle buses from the end of the dry dock quay into the city of Marseilles, so the outside world would then be available to us. The company are making every effort to make sure we all enjoy ourselves, even in these unusual circumstances, and have kept us fully informed, so it is much appreciated. During the morning we watched events from the comfort of the Chocolate Bar, looking at the chocolate models of ships, which were sitting on a ‘sea’ of black and white chocolate buttons. We three had hot chocolate drinks with meringues or other delicious things in them to celebrate. I kept saying ‘marooned, marooned’ to myself, because we were.

Chocolate drinks

Chocolate ships

We saw the arrival of UK-flagged STRAIT OF MESSINA ferry, and in the distance could see the PACIFIC still looking forlorn. We could also see the brand new La Meridionale ferry PIANA over in the ferry port, preparing for her maiden voyage on Wednesday from Marseille to Bastia. AL SABINI, the ex-Balearia fast ferry, was still against the quay some distance away.

Fast Challenger

Against the sun

We could also see lines of luggage on the quayside, and discovered this belonged to passengers who were leaving to fly home to Naples; I believe that later in the day passengers arrived with their luggage, who had been due to board in Naples. What a logistical nightmare this must have been for Costa Cruises.

We were also told that free excursions would be available to everyone during our time in dry dock, and only had to give our names to Reception to ensure we would be with fellow English-speakers on a particular coach excursion. We thought this was really exceptional care.

Not much water left

We took the shuttle into town after lunch, after walking along what I thought was the equivalent of a red carpet from the gangway to the end of the dry dock. To most people it looked like a very long piece of red plastic sheeting, weighted down against the Mistral wind by huge chunks of concrete placed every few feet, and with numerous cheerful Costa staff watching our every step along the way, but to me it could have been red carpet. I was determined to enjoy every moment of the whole experience, and this was all part of it.

In town we decided to take the local Dotto Train up to Our Lady/Notre Dame de La Garde Church on one of the high points overlooking the city and this gave us fascinating views over the city and the distant docks.

View across the bay

The copper-gilded-with-gold leaf Madonna and Child statue looked beautiful against the cloudless blue sky.

After that freezing trip and back down beside the harbour and fish market, we had to be revived with hot coffee and watch the world go past, before returning on the free shuttle bus and walking the red carpet to get back on board.

The ship in dry dock

By this time we could stop on the gangway and take pictures of what was literally a dry dock, and probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us.

A dry dock

A dry dock view

Being on an Italian ship meant that the delightful Prosecco was to hand for a drink before dinner, together with the Cola drink that in Italy seems to be marketed in tall and slim cans, perhaps because of the previous Prime Minister’s alleged preference for such designs, rather than the American shorter size. Hmmm, that reminds me that after dinner we went to enjoy the music and dancing in the ballroom, and one of the very popular tunes was called ‘Bunga, bunga’ with words suggesting dancers should be ‘sexy’ in their steps and movements. Ah well, makes a change from the playing of ‘Volare’, which most of us can and did sing along to most nights on board.

Coffee treats

The theatre show was of circus-type acts, which was enjoyable, and then it was time to look at the embroidered butterflies on my way home for the night.

Ships seen: Mediterrane, Tessali 2, El Djezair, Napoleon Bonaparte, Pascale Paoli, Girolata, Scandola, Corse, the newly-delivered Piana, Paglia Orbe, Atlantic Star, Strait of Messina, Il de Beaute, Al Sabini (which is due to depart in February), Fast Challenger (Demline-Egypt)

Tuesday 20th December
The Mistral wind has gone and taken the clear blue skies with it, and this morning is damp and very cold. We are going on an excursion though to spend ‘A Day in the Heart of Provence’, on a coach with an English-speaking guide and congenial fellow passengers.

Day in the heart of Provence

We left at 9.30 a.m. and headed out of Marseille across the plains of the Camargue and beside the salt pans, towards the historic city of Arles. We enjoyed being taken to see the ancient amphitheatre and the Cathedral, and strolling through some of the ancient streets. Vincent Van Gogh spent some time in the city after 1888 and we saw a statue to him in a park (with only one ear).

Plan of Arles

In Arles

We then had free time to have lunch at a local establishment and return to the coach in time to travel through the mountains and gorges to the small town of Saint-Remy-de-Provence. The shops there provided some unusual items to buy, and a tea-shop offered delicious nougat-flavoured ice-cream.

Christmas delights in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

This town was where the humanist Nostradamus was born in 1503 and grew up, and became known as a controversial astrologer, chemist and writer. This was another delightful small town to explore, despite the cold winter air, before boarding our coach to return to Marseille and the ship. En route we could see the industrial port of Marseille, and were told that today we had been through the wine-producing region of Cotes du Rhone, Cassis, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Back on board it was time to dress up and prepare for the Captain’s Gala Cocktail Party, to be held in the 3 deck-high Duse Theatre. We assembled in the theatre seats, the Captain came on stage with some of his senior staff, he introduced them quickly, we all raised our glasses with him, and that was it. Then it was time to join our French dining companions for Welcome Gala Dinner in the lovely Albatros Restaurant with all its glorious decoration, and with the silver and glassware sparkling even more this evening under the gentle light of candles on the tables.

Calling in my cabin I found a letter from Reception asking me to contact them, which I did. I had already notified them that I would like to leave the ship a day early, in Marseille, before she left the dry dock, so I could fly home from the local airport to London Gatwick, rather than to London Heathrow from Savona/Nice as previously arranged. They were happy with this, but the Captain had asked that anyone leaving the ship on Wednesday had to be off before 11.30 a.m. because that was when the gangways would be removed. That was perfectly convenient for me.

After dinner we and many other diners took the usual evening ‘walk’ through the various bars, slot machine areas, and walkways through to the Ballroom, where we found that very sparkly Christmas trees had been put up near one of the Bars. Of course these added even more light to the room.

Christmas has arrived on board

We had time to look at the artwork in the glass cases in another part of the room, which included various items of clothing made of very bright copper-coloured metal and one of these was shaped into a tiny bikini. These items all provoked various comments between the three of us, and rather a lot of giggling.

Where is Cinderella?

A teeny-weeny bikini on a plate...

Then it was time to head back to the Theatre for Gala Night Fiesta Fantasia, where the dancing looked very energetic but was performed to piped music rather than a band, with no back drop or scenery. Ah well, we heard the well-known ‘Volare’ so all was good with the world.

The next appointment was in the 4D Theatre, for a 15 minute showing of ‘Turtle Vision’. After being asked to put my little evening bag on the floor and not on my lap, and to sit back comfortably in the big black seat and wear the small cardboard spectacles I had been handed, I wondered what I was about to experience. Within moments I had been plunged underwater and been eyeball to eyeball with a small turtle, which was all a bit disconcerting, especially when I knew I was really on a ship in a dry dock in the south of France. Talk about suspending belief…

The turtle and his friend had various adventures, and we all went in and out of the oil-covered sea at great speed because the big black chair kept lurching and throwing me about, as if I was just behind the turtle. Apparently I should also have smelled something appropriate that was coming out of a tiny hole in the seat in front of me, but I must have been too busy clutching the arms of my seat for that. The turtle met his lady friend, and they had baby turtles and that was the end of my 4D experience. I think we all staggered a bit as we left the little theatre, as it had been so unexpected and another experience to add to this little trip.

We returned to the Ballroom to talk about the film and watch the dancers and enjoy the band and singers. This was to be our last evening together in dry dock on COSTA DELIZIOSA so there was lots to talk about before we three go our separate ways tomorrow.

Ships seen: Costa Concordia, at Marseilles Cruise Terminal

Wednesday 21st December 2011
Today I have to leave my dry docked ship before 11.30 a.m. when the gangways are taken up. What a weird feeling - after breakfast I almost felt I didn’t want to leave my little cocoon.

Lady in red

One of the Dining Room waiters at breakfast had said that the trip from Savona to Marseille had been done on only one engine, and the other had to be checked in the dry dock, prior to the World Cruise that was due to start in a few days time. We didn’t know if this was correct of course, but if that trip had been done on one engine, that said a lot for the ship’s stability and sea-keeping in very rough conditions.

One other friend was also leaving the ship here in Marseille, rather than sailing back to Savona in Italy, so goodbyes had to be said to the friend remaining on the ship. Our English-speaking hostess knew of our arrangements and subsequently made sure our sailing friend would have congenial company for the rest of his trip, so that was reassuring for all of us.

The original cruise was to be for 4 nights, to and from Savona, which was what we had booked most happily, but the chance to disembark a day early, in Marseille, made it so much more convenient for me to get home even though I would miss the departure from dry dock and subsequent sail back through more rough weather to Savona.

Goodbye to Costa Deliziosa atrium

So it was time to walk down and over the gangway to the quayside, and see all the space and truly dry dock below my feet for the last time. A shuttle bus took us into the city, to get the Metro to the main railway station. From there I could get the bus to Marseille airport, for my flight home to England. As the airport bus drove up and out of the city I could see a white-hulled ferry in the bay, which turned out to be PAGLIA ORBA, heading into the port. She was very late and behind schedule, probably due to the continuing bad weather in this part of the Mediterranean.

Ships seen: Girolata, Atlantic Star, Al Sabini (moved into dry dock), Lady K II (built 1961 in England as Princess Tanya, and still laid up in Marseille), Piana (in her berth all ready for her maiden voyage later today), Monte D’Oro, Elyssa of Cotunav (ex Maersk), Pascal Paoli, Napoleon Bonaparte, Tariq Ibn Ziyad, Paglia Orba

So this has been my tale of fun-filled Farcusian frolics, despite or maybe because of COSTA DELIZIOSA going into dry dock. What started out as a 4 night cruise in the Mediterranean became an unforgettable shipping experience, thanks to my friends, and Mr Joe Farcus and Costa Cruises.

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