HORIZON with the Ocean Liner Society
27th May 2012
I’ve been a member of the London-based Ocean Liner Society for many years, and enjoy the monthly lectures in the little Farringdon hothouse that currently serves as the meeting place. An added bonus is the quarterly magazine ‘Sea Lines’. A few years ago the Committee decided that it would be a good idea to try and arrange a group cruise, on a date and at a cost that would suit members, so I was very pleased to book and join the 2012 cruise on board HORIZON of Croisieres de France.
I first saw the ship on 10th May 2003, berthed at one of New York’s finger piers. I had been out walking with the maritime author and friend Mr Theodore (Ted) Scull, and a mutual friend from New Zealand, and we had all climbed the 243 steps up from the Weehawken ferry terminal; we stood at one end of the Palisades over on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, admiring the ships at the ‘finger’ piers in the Port of New York. We could see QUEEN ELIZABETH 2, HORIZON, ZENITH, NORWEGIAN SEA and ADONIA, and so I took a photograph. I carried a print of it with me for this second sighting of HORIZON, and decided my diary notes just had to be called “Broadening my Horizons….”
in New York, May 2003
Saturday 26th May 2012
I flew from the UK to Marseille in the south of France, and the welcoming warmth was so lovely, after the endless rain at home, despite the constant noise of road works and impatient drivers. I met some of my travelling companions for dinner in the Old Port, and we were all looking forward to joining the ship tomorrow.
HORIZON was built in 1990 for Celebrity Cruises, as was ZENITH in 1992, for the New York to Bermuda run. Celebrity was formed in April 1988 by Chandris Line, but in turn was bought by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. in 1997, and HORIZON at 46,811 tons was soon the smallest ship in their growing fleet. In 2005 HORIZON became ISLAND STAR in Island Cruises which was a joint venture with TUI, but when Royal Caribbean pulled out of Island Cruises, she rejoined ZENITH at Pullmantur Cruises in Spain and was renamed PACIFIC DREAM. Royal Caribbean then decided to place her with Pullmantur Cruises in France (Croisieres de France) this Spring (2012) and she is now back under her original name, with the ‘all inclusive’ cruises that Pullmantur offer.
Ships seen: several local ferries for Chateau D’If and other nearby islands
Ships not seen, but known to be in port: Norwegian Epic, MSC Fantasia, Hamburg, MSC Divina, Costa Serena
Sunday 27th May 2012
Another blue sky warm day, so breakfast was followed by a brisk walk to look inside two local churches, and then a taxi ride to the Cruise Port for embarkation on Croisieres de France’s HORIZON. Nearby was MSC’s newest ship DIVINA, which had been named by the Italian film star Sophia Loren. We were soon on board and I located my cabin 9051; it was said to have a restricted view because of lifeboats but luckily I was between two of them and could enjoy the view.
We had lifeboat drill, then sailed out of the port and started to enjoy our all-inclusive drinks package.
Our group was allocated 4 tables for dinner in the Restaurant Le Splendide, so we enjoyed our first meal on board and then Disco Night.
Ships seen: Napoleon Bonaparte, Paglia Orba, MSC Divina, Piana, Calliste, Scandola, Jean Nicoli, Atlantic Star (yes, still there), M.N. Eclipse, Ark Forwarder (registered in London), Gaschem Werra, Janina, Hansa Catalina, FS Camille
Monday 28th May 2012
I woke soon after 5 a.m. and pulled my heavy curtains and then the voile ones aside slightly to peep out of the window at the early morning sky and sea. Within moments the glass was covered in a gentle shower of water drops, from a Deck Hand on the deck below mine who was washing everything down with a hosepipe. I had to laugh, and waved at him, and he was surprised but waved back quickly as he continued with his work. I went back to sleep, probably with a smile on my face.
At a more civilised hour I met friends for breakfast, and we enjoyed the thought of another hot day – what a treat – and a 9 a.m. arrival in the bay of Santa Margherita, Italy. Excursion passengers took the first tenders ashore, and then it was our turn.
We enjoyed walking and sightseeing around the town, which is where Guglielmo Marconi came in 1931 on his laboratory boat to start working on micro-waves.
Over the next few years he frequently anchored his boat off Santa Margherita, to continue his experiments with radio and telegraphic signals. Land beacons were built in the hills above, and finally in November 1936 he was able to have a telephone conversation between his ship Elettra, the city of New York and two planes flying over New York itself. Santa Margherita is proud of Mr Marconi and his connection with their town, and there is a wall plaque and road named after him, so we were pleased to see those, and other buildings of interest, before returning to the ship and enjoying the facilities on board.
The evening’s dress code and entertainment was Tropical Night so I wore part of my Diamond Jubilee celebration outfit, including some rather unusual shoes.
I also enjoyed talking with another OLS friend who mentioned that his great-grandfather was a Castle Line captain. The Captain’s young daughter often went with him so had tales to tell in later life to her grandson. I don’t often meet someone with pre-1900 Union-Castle Line connections (when Union Line and Castle Line amalgamated) so that was an interesting chat.
Ships seen: Azamara Quest (Azamara Club Cruises), Club Med 2 with her five masts, Mein Schiff 2 at a distance, Grimaldi Euro Cargo.
To be continued....