Sunday 14th April 2013
Another early start today, as we approached the George Cross island of Malta, the island situated between the North African coast and Sicily. I really want to visit the commemorative Bell and Memorial high on the cliffs of the Grand Harbour so that is one plan for today.
The Pilot arrived and we went in, turned and berthed alongside the Cruise Terminal quays. This area has turned into 'restaurant row' and I'm glad for the locals as it must bring in a lot of business, especially when cruise ships are in. KRISTINA KATERINA is also here, and looks like a ferry although she is a cruise ship of Kristina Cruises.
We set off after breakfast and walked first along the quay to the KRISTINA KATARINA. I walked up the gangway and again asked if it was possible to have a couple of postcards please, as we had heard of the ship and admired it. I came off the ship with two postcards in my hand.
Next we went to catch a Hop on Hop off red double-decker bus, on the blue route, stopping first at the Malta Aviation Museum.
There were very few of us there, but the big hangars were filled with all sorts of fascinating aircraft and remains. The first aeroplane I ever travelled on was a DC3, and there was the shell of one there, plus all sorts of other crashed bits that someone somewhere had saved. There was a 'Flying Flea' on display, showing a picture of it at Shoreham Airport in Sussex, England.
In one vast hangar the air was violently disturbed by someone sounding the extremely loud air-raid siren – it wasn’t me but I did see who did it….
We waited by the roadside and caught another bus, this time to the hilltop city of Mdina. Under a clear blue sky the hot sunlight made it look really appealing, especially from the open top bus, although the heavy traffic made progress difficult, especially with all the parked cars lining the last few miles of the route up to the city. We hopped off, and joined the crowds trying to enter the city through the main gate. All was hot, loud and fascinating.
Today is a special celebration day and everyone was out enjoying it. Flags were fluttering, or being tossed high in the air, banners were hanging around the ancient walls, local people were dressed in old-style re-enactment costumes, and it took some time to get around; we met a couple with a small boy having a wonderful time with his new bike without pedals and stabilisers, his Maltese parents happy to talk and explain what was happening, and finally we could reach the ramparts and enjoy the views over so much of the island as far as the distant sea.
We took another bus back to the city, and walked past one of the City gates being renovated, under the architect Renzo Piano.
For lunch we ignored McDonald’s and cafes offering horse meat, and found a little establishment offering local food and wine.
After this we could go and see the Operation Pedestal Memorial for the 1940-43 siege of Malta and I was so pleased and moved to see this beautiful Memorial, and of course it reminded me of the Union-Castle Line ship ROCHESTER CASTLE which was the lead Merchant Navy ship for the relief of the island. (see my blog piece Horizon Part 5, July 2012 for more details)
From the Memorial I watched KRISTINA KATERINA leave the Grand Harbour, and then it was time to return to the ship before our departure.
Once again we lined the rails to watch, and once again there was one couple who had not returned and the ship was slightly delayed in leaving.
Another evening on COSTA CLASSICA was enjoyed at sea, with Italian Prosecco and dinner with new friends.
Ships seen: Kristina Katerina, Sacro Cuor-1, something unknown in dry dock, Princess Ariel the cross harbour ferry, and various small vessels
Monday 15th April 2013
Another lovely day at sea, sailing back from Malta to Marseilles in France. I went to the early Pool exercise class and again enjoyed breakfast afterwards. Today’s choice of entertainment included Flip Flop throwing, quizzes, dance lessons, arts and crafts handicrafts, and super bingo, plus this evening’s Election of the Ideal Couple, in the aft Puccini Lounge. Gala Dinner was held at night, with the usual two sittings.
Tuesday 16th April 2013
Ships seen in Marseille: Napoleon Bonaparte, Princess Danae, Sadan Bayraktar
We are due back in Marseille at 8 a.m. after an interesting and enjoyable ten days on the COSTA CLASSICA. I like and admire the Costa product and itineraries, sailing with friends and in good company and this has again been an interesting trip.
Friday 12th April 2013
We arrived in bright hot sunlight in the vast bay that is Izmir, Turkey. We berthed alongside, saw local ferries all around, anchored container ships, a vessel in the far dry dock, and tugs in the nearby cut. The mountainsides are densely covered in tall flats and other buildings, all around, as far as the eye can see.
After disembarkation I went for a walk along the pavement near the sea side,
and then turned into the town area, which was interesting. At one point I heard shouting and saw flags being waved amongst a crowd of people, so made a sharp turn away from whatever might be happening there. A man was pulling a large chest freezer along the pedestrian roadway at the time, and he just carried on with his task, passing easily through the crowd as it parted to let him through.
My friend had been invited to visit a ship-breaker at Aliaga, further north up the coast, but I declined that invitation for myself. As a maritime journalist he found it fascinating; (he saw ANTIC ex ATLANTIC STAR, FAIRSKY etc., and VENUS ex PERLA, SOUTHWARD etc. as well as others) and we have all read about the ship breaking yards there and seen internet pictures of favourite ships. Indeed, COSTA ALLEGRA had recently been broken up there, and souvenir items were made from some of her metal. One of these small items was brought back to me, on the ship, as a gift from the ship breaker, as I had sailed on her with friends in November 2011. (See my blog pieces for Costa Allegra January 2012) Life certainly takes unexpected turns.
We sailed from Izmir mid-afternoon, this time with hundreds more passengers who had embarked here, in place of those who had disembarked.
Costa is unusual in that they offer several ports of embarkation on their cruises, but they back this up with coaches to and from local airports if required, at a reasonable extra cost to their passengers.
Ships seen: Poyraz the tug, Nl 125, MSC Sabrina cargo ship, container ship Green Fast, Orkun Kalkavan container ship of Turkon Line, ferry Venus 1, Yalova 1, Efendi Baba
Saturday 13th April 2013
This is a day at sea, so calm and lovely. I started the day by joining the Cruise Director Daniela beside the Central Pool on Deck 11, just below the Disco, to do a Healthy Walk which included stretching exercises for arms and legs. It was fun to do, and I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast afterwards.
Various things available to do on board today included seeing the ubiquitous Inch of Gold on sale, making costumes for the evening’s Carnival Party, a Talent Show, a Fashion Show, a Costa Cruises quiz, Salsa dance lessons and a Free Footprint Clinic. That clinic sounded intriguing so I went along to the Caracalla Spa up on Deck 11, and was taken into a small consulting room. I removed my sandals and then had to walk over sheets of paper on top of inked boxes below the paper. The imprint of each foot was shown on the paper, and I was able to keep these. The young consultant of course wanted to try and sell me some products but I was happy with the footprints, and my feet were still as clean as when I started.
To be continued....
Wednesday 10th April 2013
Clocks advanced 1 hour last night, so we are now on Greek time ready for our arrival in Piraeus tomorrow. I woke to a very calm sea, with the sun just coming up through distant mist. Breakfast was taken on the aft deck, in lovely air, and a single swallow flew around the stern for a couple of minutes, and then wasn't seen again. I presume we were near enough to land as we head north for it to venture out to the ship.
The day was casual, until it was time to put on the ‘posh frock’ ready for the Captain’s Gala night cocktail party, and Gala Dinner.
Thursday 11th April 2013
Today we arrive early in one of my favourite ports: Piraeus, the port for Athens in Greece. I was awake at 6 and through the porthole I could see a Blue Star Line ferry rather close and heading into the port,
so I dressed quickly and went on deck,
and for the next hour and a half enjoyed seeing all the comings and goings into the Great Harbour, as we sailed in and berthed. Breakfast was taken on the aft deck, enjoying the ships and the sunrise over the surrounding mountains suddenly flooding the harbour with light.
We could see the little cruise ship MINERVA further along the quay, so we set off in the warm sunshine, and our footsteps took us right beside MINERVA.
This was an opportunity not to be missed, so I walked up the gangway. At the top someone emerged from the dark interior and so I did my nice smiley English female thing, and explained that I was a passenger on the COSTA CLASSICA, and how pleased we were to see their lovely ship. The security man immediately said it was not possible to visit, so I explained that I quite understood, but would it please be possible to have a couple of picture postcards. He led me across to Reception so the English-speaking Purser immediately took two postcards from a nearby rack and gave them to me; I thanked him, we shook hands and all was well with my little world as I went back down the gangway.
Then we walked through the cruise terminal, heading for the original Epirotiki Shipping Line building. My travelling companion as a small boy used to write to them each year from Cape Town and from Canada asking for ship postcards and new brochures. These were always sent, and received with great happiness.
Today we ventured into Reception at the offices and met a welcoming man who suggested we wait a moment, because here was Mr Andreas Potamianos himself arriving for work. Stunned silence on our part, and big smiles, and then we were introduced and invited to take the lift with him up to the penthouse that is his office suite on the top floor. We did this very happily, and entered a fantastic set of rooms, with fabulous views over the Great Harbour. He asked if we would like coffee or tea, and this was soon brought. My companion explained that as a small boy in Cape Town and then in Canada he would write each year to the Epirotiki offices asking for the latest brochures. Mr Potamianos then immediately wanted to know ‘Did we send them?’ and was happy that the answer was ‘Yes, thank you’.
We chatted, took a few photos, admired his memorabilia and the ship photos all around his rooms, including him with many recognisably famous people. He gave my friend a big shipping book, and I was given a book about Greek islands with many pictures of Epirotiki ships in it. What an honour to meet the man. It seems he is busy with some non-shipping related business, although his company does handle bookings for Pullmantur. His cousin was the late Mr Potamianos who owned FUNCHAL, whom we met on the quayside in Lisbon in September 2010 after disembarking from her (see my blog piece entitled FUNCHAL). We finally said our goodbyes and thanks and left the unforgettable eyrie above the harbour.
We found the Louis Cruises Lines offices nearby and obtained some brochures there, and then walked to see Costas at the not-to-be-missed Telstar Newsagents – Booksellers, at 57 Akti Miaouli. This proved to be a long visit, with much discussion about the Tradewinds publication and my companion’s lengthy article in the latest issue. We bought books and postcards, and I showed him my article in his bookshop copy of Ferry & Cruise Ship Annual 2013 about the Norwegian Hurtigruten vessel NORDSTJERNEN, and he was going to take that home to read.
The walk back through the Harbour meant we could go and see AGIOS GEORGIOS on behalf of one particular ferry friend,
and the chance to look at COSTA MAGICA and the Pilot harbour further along the quay.
I had lunch on board, ready for sailing at 3 p.m. but I found that so ignominious: we went out stern first from the Great Harbour - I couldn't believe it. When we arrived this morning we could have gone in and turned in the wide turning circle, with the Pilot on board avoiding the other traffic, just as MSC FANTASIA did. Ah well, one of life's little mysteries.
What a wonderful day in Piraeus.
Ships seen: Blue Star Patmos, Neptune Thelisis, Gallia from Monrovia, Hellenic's Flying No. 18, GA Ferries Jet Ferry 1, ANEK's Lato, Blue Horizon, Theofilos from Nel Lines, MSC Fantasia, Hellas Liberty, Blue Star Naxos, Agios Georgios in all her glory, Blue Star Ithaki, Posidon Hellas, Konstantis, Costa Magica, and the ships far away in lay up that we saw entering Piraeus Great Harbour, and many little local craft coming and going from the nearby islands
To be continued....