Haynes World - ships, ferries, a laugh on the ocean wave, and other interesting things...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Thomson Destiny 2nd December 2011

Friday 2nd December 2011

I was booked to travel for a Friday/Monday short cruise on THOMSON DESTINY, but had to set off for Gatwick Airport and a flight without a ticket. Thomson Cruises ticketing people had problems, and apparently hundreds of us had to have blind faith in our Confirmation of Payment and hope to board their flight to Tenerife to join the ship. It worked, I’m pleased to say!

Thomson Cruises have their own aircraft, with a hand luggage limit of just 5 lbs. so it was good to hand over small suitcases and know they would turn up on the quayside at Tenerife. As I got on the aircraft, I asked a flight attendant if we were flying south over the coast at Seaford, in Sussex, and she immediately led me into the flight deck to ask the Captain. I like that sort of welcome on board! He said we would be flying further east of that beacon and it was cloudy, so I might not see much, but I thought it kind of him to spare a few minutes to chat.

We arrived at Santa Cruz, Tenerife airport and were taken to a coach to travel along the coast to the port to join our ship.

Look at her waiting for us

Imagine our joy to see not just THOMSON DESTINY but other cruise ships and ferries in this eastern port;

Some others, viewed from the coach

we were also very pleased to feel the warm air temperature, and shed some winter woollies. We checked in at desks on the quayside and I was pleased to note that my ship card also told me my Lifeboat number. Despite having this card, I noted that each cabin still used a metal key to gain entry.

THOMSON DESTINY has a tonnage of 37,584, a cruising speed of 18 knots, and a maximum occupancy of 1,600 passengers. She was ordered by Royal Caribbean as their first new ship in ten years, as SONG OF AMERICA, and was delivered from Wartsila in Helsinki in 1982. Her cabin decks were stacked at the front of the ship, furthest from the engines, with public rooms further aft, which has remained an unusual layout to this day. Her Sky Lounge, which is now the Sky Bar, is distinctive. The ship originally did 7 day itineraries from Miami, and was almost the biggest Caribbean cruise ship in the world at the time, competing with TROPICALE. She was sold on to Airtours, becoming Sunbird in 1999, was then with My Travel, then sold on in 2004, becoming THOMSON DESTINY in May 2005.

I met my two other travelling companions for soft drinks in the Sky Bar, then went for buffet lunch, and out on deck for photos of our surroundings. We checked for timings of Lifeboat Drill, and it is to be tomorrow (Saturday) and no-one will be allowed off at the port until the Drill is complete. Needless to say we had all checked the back of our cabin doors to locate our Muster Stations.

Travelers tension (sic)

There are eleven public decks, with Decks B and A the lowest ones with cabins. Main Deck 4 has the full-width Seven Seas Restaurant at the stern half, with the rear tables set around what must be the base of the funnel; forward of this on the port side are the Shop and Internet Café, Library on the starboard side, and Gift Shops and Reception midships; cabins are forward of these.

Cabaret Deck 5 has the spacious and lovely Oklahoma Lounge at the stern, the Beauty Centre, Casino Royale, Clipper Bar and photo gallery midships, the Can Can Lounge forward of these, and then more cabins.

Upper Deck 6 is a small area with cabins forward. Promenade Deck 7 is the full wrap-around deck, which we all love, Blake’s Bar midships, and de-luxe cabins forward of that. Bridge Deck 8 has Saunas and Oceans Gym.

Sun Deck 9 at the stern has the access to the Sky Bar (Deck 12) Lido Bar and two Pools, with the Pool Grill at the forward end behind more cabins. Steps at the side of this Grill lead up to the Mast Bar on Compass Deck 10, with lots of open deck to walk around, above the pools.

The Sky Bar was on Deck 12 and well worth the climb or using the lift, with its fabulous view out over the ship. I suppose this style of bar is rather quirky to our eyes nowadays, but I do like the distinctive style on a ship like THOMSON DESTINY (built 1982), just as I did on SOVEREIGN (built 1987).

We spent the afternoon looking round and talking with other passengers, as well as watching other ship movements.

Two Costas and a Fred. Olsen

Bencomo Express

The Lido Cafe at night

I didn't...

Spacious stairways and landings

Detail on the front of some lifts

Dinner this evening is to be open seating between 18.30 and 22.30 so we could allow time to get to the Can Can Lounge for the evening’s show. The Pool Deck after that was the place to be, with more live music from the group on the little stage between the pools, and the chance to sit and enjoy the views. Sailaway was at 12.30 and celebrated with a sing-along or whatever one chose.

The Sailaway Party

Ships seen from the aircraft (this has to be a new category!): Volcan de Taburiente of Armas Line out at sea, and then approaching the airport

The Austral trimaran Benchijigua Express ready to go to La Gomera,

Ships seen on the coach to the ship: Volcan de Tauce built in Vigo, Niwaria (?)

Ships seen in port: Thomson Destiny, Thomson Dream, Boudicca, Costa Victoria, Costa Serena, MSC Fantasia, Volcan de Timafaya, Bencomo Express, Albaysan, the Acciona Trasmed freighter from Cadiz

Saturday 3rd December 2011
After sailing 74 nautical miles overnight we have arrived at Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, and this is rather nostalgic for me. When I was at sea with Union-Castle Line this would usually be the first port of call after leaving Southampton on the Mailship run to South Africa, and was on the itinerary for the Union-Castle Line Centenary Voyage in 1999/2000.

After breakfast Boat Drill was held on board and then we could leave the ship and head into the old town. It was alternately raining and then sunshine, but it was certainly warmer than December back at home. The mixture of old and new buildings was interesting to see, as was the tail end of a whale appearing to dive into a pond in a public garden.

Whale tail

Interesting drain cover

Thomson Destiny

Thor Supplier

Albayzin and Delta

Las Palmas

Lunch on board was followed by a rest, and then at 4 p.m. I joined a ship tour by a new member of staff. It was brief and I think I knew more about the ship than she did. I then had tea with an English lady who spent several winter months out in Tenerife, and was enjoying this short cruise as well. Our departure is not until 11 p.m. so I had time to take photographs;

Artwork on board

I was so pleased to find several of the jewel-coloured glass door handles that I have previously seen on Mediterranean ferries and which I think are beautiful.

Jewel-coloured glass door handles

I also loved the central piece of glass artwork in the area near Reception.

Wonderful original artwork

Can Can Lounge

Later I joined my friends for a drink up in the Sky Bar, and I see from my diary that I visited the Ladies toilets at one point and noted that I had never ‘spent a penny’ in a funnel before. Dinner was at 8.30 p.m. at a fixed seating table tonight, and very enjoyable, before we went to see the comedian at the Evening Show. I think the standard of food is excellent, and that seems to be everyone’s impression.

I think it doesn’t do to compare cruise ships, or ferries for that matter, in a negative way, as they are all built at different times and star-rated accordingly. We all know what we enjoy, and what basic levels of comfort and cleanliness we need for our holidays or trips, but we all choose a ship and itinerary for different reasons and I am always happy to be able to travel on one. Whether I want to travel on a particular ship or with a particular company again is another matter! On this Thomson Cruises ship all the staff on board have a professional approach but are also very friendly and this creates a good atmosphere.

The Thomson logo

Volcan del Teide

On deck

Ships seen: Christian Radich, Albaysin, Delta Reefer, Thor Supplier, Atlantic Explorer, Volcan del Teide (Armas)

Sunday 4th December 2011
We rolled into the sheltered bay of Santa Cruz de la Palma, Canary Islands, at 8.30 a.m. today having sailed 154 nautical miles overnight. We are about 2,000 miles from the UK and it’s pouring with rain. Ah well, most of us are happy to get off our little roller for a while and stretch our legs and take advantage of the local market set up at the end of the quayside.

Thomson Destiny stern

This is a small volcanic island, although with the largest volcanic crater in the world apparently, and the capital has several elegant 16th and 17th century houses which we could see during our walk around town. The cobbles glistened in the rain, and we could see why the flowers and plants were so prolific. One of the churches played a long peal of bells and this made a pleasant background sound during a coffee break. The island’s economy is based on agriculture (bananas etc.) and tourism, and I discovered that many international observatories and telescopes have been built near the top of the volcano.

Oklahoma Lounge bar and murals

Oklahoma Lounge

Passion Fruit Vine artwork dated 1994

We left the island at 3 p.m. and could then enjoy the ship’s facilities with tea etc. before preparing for the Captain’s Cocktail Party this evening at 7.30 p.m.; this was followed by a formal dinner in the Seven Seas Restaurant, and then a choice of entertainment. The Sky Bar beckoned as usual and we could only obey…

Ships seen: Boudicca, Volkan de Tauce, Beatriz B of Boluda Lines, Volkan de Taburiente

Monday 5th December 2011
I can hardly believe we have to disembark today, but here we are arriving in Funchal, Madeira, well before sunrise.

Early morning Funchal


Above the mast bar

Wartsila 1982

An Aida ship(Sol?), Lobo Marinho and Boudicca

Lobo Marinho

Again, we used to call here on the Mailships to fulfil the contract requiring one of our ships to call once a month; my first visit here was on the TRANSVAAL CASTLE and we anchored in the bay and I remember all the ‘bum’ boats coming alongside and the traders hoisting their wares on a rope up to the deck. Some of the traders were allowed on board with their goods, but very few of them. I still have the beautiful Madeira thread-work cotton tablecloth that I bought on that first trip and it still looks delightful.

After breakfast we had to disembark, say goodbye to one friend, before two of us took the coach to the airport. We were soon checked in and taken to the Thomson aircraft, and in a short time were waiting at the end of the runway, parallel to the coastline. As we turned to get into position for take-off I was interested to see that the end of the runway ended in a straight drop down. Hmm, bet that concentrates the minds of pilots coming into Funchal airport. As with any volcanic island, finding flat land to build on is very difficult and this seems to have been another feat of engineering, and made me think about the proposed airport at St. Helena in the South Atlantic.

Ships seen: Aida Sol (we think), Lobo Marinho, Boudicca

Back at Gatwick we were greeted by December English winter weather and normal life resumed after collecting baggage. I had enjoyed a weekend break many miles from home and travelled with congenial company on a ship that I found interesting – perhaps I shall say ‘She was my Destiny’.

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