NORWEGIAN ESCAPE 25th October 2015
Many months ago I was on the circulation list of a note suggesting an ESCAPE! Aha, I thought, here we go again - it must be Norwegian Cruise Line's new vessel NORWEGIAN ESCAPE. Indeed it was, and so I was pleased to book a cabin on board their newest ship, and make other travel arrangements. Having enjoyed sailing on NORWEGIAN GETAWAY in January 2014, I knew a little of what to expect so I was looking forward to another fun experience.
Friday 23rd October 2015
I happily set off for Hamburg early on a sunny Autumn morning in late October and under blue skies I landed at Hamburg airport and took the train towards the city. I had to make one change and the second train took me on an elevated track over waterways and local roads, until I got off at the St. Pauli station. I walked about 100 yards alongside a busy road and soon reached my hotel. Once checked in I was about to head for my room when I was greeted by a good friend who had arrived before me. His message earlier told me that there was to be a riverside party this evening, to watch the NORWEGIAN ESCAPE sail out of Hamburg on a trip for agents, with fireworks. Hooray, now the little trip is off to a excellent start.
We soon headed for the River Elbe and decided to go for lunch down-river at the cafe ship; we took the local ferry ELB MEILE, disembarked on the pontoon, only to find that the cafe was closed for the day. That was a shame, but she seems to be preparing for the weekend's activities. We took the ferry WASSERHOF back to the Landungsbrucken (the biggest landing stage in the port of Hamburg, with its two St. Pauli piers) and headed for the Blockbrau beer hostelry for some lunch. After that we could make the most of the time before the ship party at 6 p.m. by going to see the new vessel.
This time we sailed on KIRCHDORF, built by J J Sietas in 1962, on an interesting tour around Hamburg harbour.
Our time on board KIRCHDORF was enlivened by the catering on board, being able to look down at the engines through a glass section in the lounge deck, the sight of the still-unfinished Elbphilharmonie building in Hafencity, the little steamer SCHAARHORN, a tug going along near us tugging something that made a tremendous wash and wake, and a small container feeder ship called MV RAGNA which appeared to be running errands around the harbour, stopping at multiple berths. We noticed her and her turquoise-green hull calling at an Evergreen berth (for Taiwanese toys perhaps?), an MSC berth (for Italian olive oil and Parmesan?), a Danish ship berth (for Lego and bacon?). She was a busy little thing; I later found out she was built in 1998 at 3,999 gross tons.
In one of the cuts we were really close to the bulbous bow on a CMA CGM vessel, which made for an interesting picture.
Soon we were approaching the NORWEGIAN ESCAPE, and realised just how huge she is. At 163,000 gross tons she is the first ship in Norwegian's Breakaway-Plus Class but it was wonderful to see her from sea level. The hull art painting is by marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey and we thought it was truly amazing and beautiful. I feel so fortunate to know that I will be sailing on this new ship on Sunday.
Once back at the landing stage we could join the crowds preparing for the party and by going up to the viewing area. Norwegian Cruise Line were giving out umbrellas as gifts so I now have a lovely blue one with their logo and named ship on it. The sun set behind rather dark clouds, gentle music started, and finally we could see the NORWEGIAN ESCAPE moving away oh so slowly from her berth at Hamburg's newest cruise ship terminal on the other side of some of the dry docks. There is no public transport of any kind to get there, but presumably there will be at some stage in the future. This ship is so big that she is not able to use the other two cruise ship terminals nearer the city. By this time all other river traffic had been stopped and Police launches were making sure that nothing else moved.
The ship sailed out of the harbour cut where she had berthed, and her accompanying tugs gently pulled her stern round to starboard and then assisted her coming astern towards the waiting crowd on the River Elbe landing stage. She finally arrived mid-river and then held her position. The music played, the people on board waved from the top decks, we waved from ashore, and then the fireworks started from somewhere just on the other side of the river. They were big, high up in the sky, colourful and noisy and really fun to watch. It made for an exciting occasion and send-off for Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, which was built in Germany by Meyer-Werft, and was now in front of a mainly German crowd waving her off from the port of Hamburg.
The fireworks finally ended and the ship started to move, and we watched NORWEGIAN ESCAPE sail off into the darkness down river. She will be back on Sunday morning and then we will join her for a couple of nights sailing to Southampton, and then one more night out of Southampton and back again.
After the excitement died down, and clutching my new blue umbrella, we made our way for a welcome sit-down and meal at the Maredo Italian restaurant nearby. What a long and eventful day it had been, and so enjoyable.
To be continued...