COSTA CLASSICA 9th April 2013 Catania
Tuesday 9th April 2013
Today we have a morning at sea, before arriving at Catania in Sicily at 2 pm. We had breakfast out on deck watching the calm sea under a blue sky, and the day was gradually warming up. A single swallow flew around the stern for several minutes, and then wasn’t seen again, so I presume we are near land. Stromboli was passed on the port side, and I remembered being very close to it one evening in 2000 during the Union-Castle Line Centenary Voyage on board VICTORIA when Captain Sample decided we ought to see it more closely yet safely, and that is what he did, going on an acceptable route. The volcano then was frequently puffing out rock and ash and the flames were very evident. This time was slightly different but it is certainly a huge volcanic rock rising straight out of the sea.
We approached the Straits of Messina when my companion suggested I find a table out on the stern open deck of The Alfresco Cafe, which I did. A few minutes later he appeared with a champagne bucket, filled with ice and a large bottle of Prosecco! That was a lovely surprise, so we started that by popping the cork with a satisfying 'pop' and sharing it with some new friends. We watched a few ferries going across the Straits but it is not very busy.
I remembered that in summer of 2008 I travelled by train with some ferry friends, from Palermo to Messina, and the train went straight on to the train ferry ROSALIA, and we crossed the Straits to Villa San Giovanni. That was an amazing experience, especially when we disembarked from the train and climbed up to the deck of the ferry. As we docked that day I remember that another little ferry called SCILLA came into the nearby berth too fast and crashed into the wooden uprights. She went astern and had another attempt, and again had difficulty lining up. We saw her again later that day, with the same arrival accuracy (or lack of it) so we christened her SCILLA CRASH, and that’s how she has been known to us since.
Today we saw a lovely private yacht, and then A5340 with what looked like Knud E. Hansen funnels leaving from Civitavecchia port, going very slowly. It had a weird-looking box on top, which is probably full of secret goodies.
We heard a broadcast to say we are going to be an hour late in Catania.
We arrived by 3 pm, berthed stern in (good thinking), with other ships around.
I went ashore and walked around the city for an hour, enjoying the architecture and fountains, and watching the fishermen mending their nets.
Back on the ship I could see the volcano Mount Etna looming over the whole city, with clouds of something around the peak, and thin gases obviously escaping and visible. Snow was all around the top.
MEIN SCHIFF 1 backed out very near to the quayside indeed and started to turn, and the Pilot on board had to warn off 3 scullers who ignored him and rowed faster as ship's stern approached them. He blew the horn, which they continued to ignore.
I had tea on the aft deck, and then it was time to prepare for evening drinks and dinner, and departure at 8 p.m. in darkness. Dinner was followed by an acrobatic show in the theatre, enjoying the company of our table companions. The ship’s clocks advance 1 hour tonight, ready for a day at sea tomorrow, heading for Piraeus (yippee) and Gala night with Captain's Cocktail party. Well, Costa's version where we all sit in the theatre and watch him for barely 5 minutes on stage, then troop out for our dinner.
This is all very pleasant, with no particular timetable other than meals and/or port visits to plan.
Ships seen: A5340, private yacht name unseen, Caronte & Tourist ferry, various others in Messina Straits
Ships seen in Catania: Eurocargo Sicilia, Tangra, Mein Schiff 1, Trinacria
To be continued....