Friday, 13 July 2018
Friday 22nd June 2018
Today we arrived in the picturesque ancient port of Honfleur in France. It is known for its artists such as Eugene Boudin and Claude Monet, plus the churches and port area. It is situated on the River Seine, and this also makes for a delightful cruise from the sea, inland perhaps to the city of Rouen (see blog).
After breakfast I walked into town by way of local footpaths from the port (outside the fenced area of course) and beside the river into town. I went over the lock and into the inner harbour, to enjoy the warm sunshine. One of the excursion coaches gave me a lift back to the ship, and then the ship prepared to sail at 12 noon.
The sail along the coast from Honfleur is lovely in daylight sunshine and everyone on board seemed to enjoy the views before and after lunch.
We sail overnight to our final port of Tilbury back in the UK, so I packed my suitcase quickly and then was free to join in some of the ship's activities.
An announcement then told us that the pool had been filled! I saw no-one rushing to get in the cold sea-water, but several people sat nearby and relaxed on the red or blue towels.
My friend and I were happy to listen to music in the Charleston Lounge, take part in the Quiz, and then enjoy tea and a ship's scone with jam and cream.
The water was beautifully calm and at one point on our port side I could see tall white cliffs, which I felt sure would be the Seven Sisters and South Downs near the famous Beachy Head Lighthouse. At that point I went to see the lovely ladies in Reception who kindly rang the Bridge on my behalf to see if my guess was right. The phone was handed to me and the Deck Officer I spoke to confirmed that it was the cliffs in the Beachy Head area that I could see and had photographed. I asked him how far away they were and he thought about 20 miles. The air was certainly clear and I was amazed to see them.
Later that day we had another enjoyable dinner in the Marco Polo Restaurant, then went back to the Charleston Lounge to enjoy the evening sunshine as we sailed along the French coast side of the Channel Separation system.
Back in the Charleston Lounge we were talking with a lady and her aged mother about the shipping area and she mentioned that her husband was sailing a yacht off the east coast of Scotland at present. My friend showed her the website of marinetraffic.com and we managed to locate her husband's vessel at its location at 9 a.m. this morning. It was suggested that she might contact him and tell him to turn on his vessel's AIS (Automatic Identification System). She sent him a text! My friend also showed her several photographs relating to her husband's boat and she laughed at one picture that showed her wearing red trousers.
During early evening after departing Honfleur, we saw 3 large cruise ships off the coast near Dover bound for Southampton. The first was Celebrity Silhouette. The second were near sister Sapphire Princess and then near sister Azura.
Ships seen: Aegean Odyssey, Kikki C, Mont St. Michel ferry in the distance, Celebrity Silhouette, Sapphire Princess, Azura, plus various tankers and fishing boats
Saturday 23rd June 2018
This morning we docked early in Tilbury, back in the UK. Many passengers were continuing on the next cruise, and the rest of us had been given a letter yesterday offering a 50% discount if we wanted to stay on board and continue the next cruise. I believe one or two people took up this offer, and one lady said she would be happy to go out and buy some more suitable clothing to take up the offer.
We had an early breakfast, then collected suitcases and disembarked from AEGEAN ODYSSEY. I had really enjoyed my cruise on this little ship, despite the occasional poor weather. The included excursions had been all I had hoped for, and more in the case of St. Michael's Mount, and the food and service on board was excellent. I would be very happy to sail on board AEGEAN ODYSSEY again.
Thursday, 12 July 2018
Thursday 21st June 2018
Very early this morning we sailed into the deep water entrance of the River Dart, to visit Dartmouth here in Devonshire (another of the Shire counties). We turned mid-river and were facing out to sea, which was almost out of sight because of the bend at the entrance. In olden times castles were built, one each side of the river entrance, to protect Dartmouth and Kingswear from enemy action, and they can still be seen.
Up on deck the sun was warm and the sky blue, which was all very welcome. Of course we could hear the incessant noise of our engines coming from the aft end of the funnel, which has been part of our life every time we have been ashore. It proved to be very noticeable today once we had gone ashore into the little towns of Dartmouth or Kingswear, set amongst the steep hills beside the River Dart.
My friend showed me a picture at the useful website of Micke Asklander, at http://www.faktaomfartyg.se where the 1973-built ship Narcis is listed. During part of her life as AEGEAN I in June 2009, what we know as AEGEAN ODYSSEY was being fitted out again in Keratsini; the website shows a lovely picture taken by Georges Koutsoukis of the ship having a new funnel fitted over the previous one, and this could account perhaps for the current noise.
http://www.faktaomfartyg.se (Micke Asklander)
I asked and was given permission by Micke Asklander to use this photo in my blog, and I am happy to acknowledge his help.
I was able to take some more on board photographs after breakfast and before leaving the ship.
This morning the excursion people left the ship by tender first and then we were able to do the same, on lifeboat number 7 acting as a tender.
They were all running to the Dartmouth side of the river and we were soon standing on a pontoon and walking to our first ferry of the day. We sailed on the KINGSWEAR PRINCESS across the River Dart to the Kingswear side. We could hear the whistle of a steam train as it left the Kingswear station pulling many carriages along the coast, and this sound mingled nicely with other sounds from craft on the river.
From the ferry we could finally get a photograph of AEGEAN ODYSSEY in sunshine, on the water.
Kingswear Station proved interesting with a good model of the paddle steamer WAVERLEY in a glass case, an Edward VII Royal Mail red post box still in a wall beside the platform, and a popular cafe.
We decided to try another ferry, which was heading towards us. This was unexpected to look at, as it was a tug attached to a pontoon, which crossed to and fro across the River Dart with vehicles, here at the lower ferry point. We went over on the TOM AVIS.
Because of the current the ferry cannot travel in a straight line, and has to take an angular course across the water. I think that's the only way to describe it, but it was very enjoyable for the few minutes we were on it. The other ferry doing the crossing was available so we went back again on that one - this time it was TOM CASEY, the tug and pontoon vessel.
By this time we were on the Kingswear side again, and needed to be back at the Dartmouth side ready for a treat at 12 noon. Fortunately the DARTMOUTH PRINCESS arrived at a nearby pontoon and we sailed on her back cross the River Dart to the Dartmouth side. We could hear our AEGEAN ODYSSEY noise all the time.
Our treat was a trip on the Paddle Steamer KINGSWEAR CASTLE, which lived in the river, tied up at yet another pontoon nearby. She came alongside and all the booked passengers boarded with great excitement. She was built in 1924 and is on the Register of National Historic ships; she is the only operational coal-fired river paddle steamer in the United Kingdom. We set off on this amazing little ship and headed towards the river entrance, and could see Kingswear Castle and Dartmouth Castle before we turned to head back and up river.
This was the most delightful and fascinating paddle-steaming along the calm water of this valley, with its steeply wooded sides and occasional houses, as we twisted and turned along the way. We could hear the paddles turning steadily and the Bar on board opened to provide whatever coffee, drinks and snacks were required. Many of us sat in the sunshine on deck and simply smiled at each other and enjoyed the surroundings. The ship is allowed to carry a maximum of 235 passengers but I don't think she was full today, which made for great comfort around the decks.
We had paddled for about 40 minutes when we reached another wide part of the river and KINGSWEAR CASTLE then showed us how easily and tidily she could turn, although she needed a big turning circle. It was all fascinating and lovely to see her circular wake after we started to paddle back to Dartmouth. I was told by another female passenger that the Ladies Toilet facilities were interesting, so of course I went to find out. Indeed they were, and I wasn't the only one to admire the sanitary ware on this little ship!
Back on the pontoon and then the quayside, it was pleasant to stroll along the riverside towards one of the few hotels further along. I liked the look of a sign outside a pub and decided to photograph that on the way back.
Instead of lunch today, we are going to have a Devon afternoon cream tea at the hotel, and that was very creatively presented. In Devon it is said that cream should be put on the scone first and then jam after that. The person I sat next to decided to do one scone-half the Cornish way and the other half the Devon way, but both tasted good. It is a matter of personal preference apparently.
There was another ferry in sight nearby and of course that had to be tried. It took vehicles and pedestrians across the river on what is known as the High Ferry. When we first looked at it, it could not unload on the Kingswear side because the steam train was coming through, and the road was shut.
The train passed and the road opened, and then the ferry could unload. It loaded more cars and then came across to our Dartmouth side to collect cars and pedestrians. We walked on board, paid the fares and looked around for the name of the ferry. It didn't seem to have one, but this is a cable ferry taking 5 minutes to cross and costing 70 pence per pedestrian each way.
The walk back to our ship tender was interesting, going through the town, and I know I would enjoy coming back here again.
We caught ship's tender number 8 back and were soon on deck again and ready for a cup of tea. We have been on 9 vessels today, including AEGEAN ODYSSEY.
AEGEAN ODYSSEY is due to leave Dartmouth at 5 p.m. and preparations were going on around us. We understand that there are about 250 passengers on board. Everyone is invited by Captain Panagiotis Giakoumatos and his Senior Officers to a Farewell Cocktail Party from 6.30 p.m. in the Ambassador Lounge, but there was time to stay on deck and watch 2 Sikorsky helicopters fly from the Naval College over the river and back again. We sailed away and left Dartmouth and Kingswear behind to enjoy the peace without us.
Ships seen: Sea Seeker, Kingwear Princess, Aegean Odyssey, tender number 7, Kingswear Castle, Tom Avis, Tom Casey, Dartmouth Princess, tender number 8, Dartmouth High Ferry, Prince Rock, Dart Explorer, Patricia out at sea passing Dartmouth, a Cobelfreighter, a Grimaldi car ferry
To be concluded...
Tuesday, 10 July 2018
Wednesday 20th June 2018
I would like to say the day dawned fine and bright, but unfortunately it didn't as we sailed into Falmouth, here in Cornwall. There was mist and drizzle and we could see very little except the Pilot Boat coming alongside. I went for breakfast and met the Pilots on the stairs as they were being escorted up to the Bridge and Captain. Cheerful 'good mornings' were exchanged. The UK Pilots are such dedicated people and I really admire them as they go about their work.
Many of us are booked on this morning's excursion to visit St. Michael's Mount and I was really looking forward to it. In fact, it is one of the reasons I booked this short cruise - years ago I remember driving around the bay and hoping that one day I would be able to visit the Castle. A few years ago on MINERVA I was with a group taking an excursion to Mont St. Michel and I loved that visit and I am so pleased and excited about today's visit to St. Michael's Mount.
As we prepared to leave the ship and get the coach, the mist lifted slightly and in the harbour we could see TIDESURGE A138. She is a Tide-Class Replenishment tanker for the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA); she was ordered in 2012 and was built in South Korea. She was named on 29th August 2017 and arrived at A&P Falmouth on 27th March 2018 for final fitting out. She will then go for sea trials.
I could also see a couple of tugs, one of which was named PERCUIL This is a local river and reminded me of friends I enjoyed visiting when they were still alive.
The coach took us west across part of Cornwall towards Mount's Bay and Marazion.
It was still damp and misty and when we walked to the beach and causeway we couldn't see much of the Mount and nothing at all of the causeway as the tide was in. This morning it was to be a little boat journey to get to the island, and we boarded SEA MIST to get to the island harbour.
At the top of the harbour steps we could stand for a moment on the brass plate that had been inserted to remind us that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had visited here on 8th September 1846 and this was her footprint. I think she must have had small feet, maybe an English size 2 and a half or 3. There will be time to take a photograph later.
The top half of the Mount was still barely visible but we decided to make the climb. The route was cobbled in places, was bare rock in many other places, wound to and fro amongst occasional grass patches, and climbed steadily and awkwardly upwards at a steep gradient. Many of us needed occasional breathing stops to admire the view, such as it was. Sometimes we could see the mainland, sometimes not.
We finally reached the top of the climb and could walk around and visit the house. The book about the Mount starts with a statement by James St. Aubyn, who is the fifth Lord St. Leven. He welcomes everyone to "one of the most extraordinary places on God's earth"; he also states that "through the ages, St. Michael's Mount has been a major spiritual centre, a military stronghold, a thriving port and a much-loved family home." We then followed our guide through many of the wonderful family rooms to see the furniture, furnishings, artwork and other treasures.
Our tour included a visit to the Church of St. Michael & All Angels, which was largely rebuilt in the late 14th Century, on the footprint of the church built in 1135. The Mount had been a destination for pilgrims for a very long time indeed. Now a family home, St. Michael's Mount is owned and run by The National Trust with the family having a 999 year lease.
We looked down from the ramparts to enjoy the views down to the gardens and to the edge of the sea far below us. It was all very crowded but I thoroughly enjoyed all I saw of this amazing home.
I decided it was time to take the hazardous path down again and set off to the harbour for another boat trip back to the mainland, this time sailing on LOUISA. The tide was dropping but it was still impossible to walk along the causeway.
I made my way towards our coach and was diverted by an offer of a coffee in a beachside cafe, plus the unexpected gift of a stick of rock with the word 'Prosecco' all the way through it. What a thoughtful gift for someone who really likes Prosecco.
Back in Falmouth we decided to go straight out again from the quayside and get a little local ferry across Carrick Roads over to St. Mawes. We had to walk along Falmouth High Street to do this; on the way we passed a bookshop and in the maritime section we could see one of the publications by esteemed author and friend Mr Anthony Cooke.
We caught the ferry DUCHESS OF CORNWALL across the water and then it was time to achieve another ambition: a Cornish cream tea in a local quayside establishment.
We sat in the sunshine and enjoyed tea, scones, jam and cream. The Cornish tradition is to put the jam on the scone halves first, with the cream on top. The Devon cream tea is done differently, as we plan to see tomorrow.
Another ferry arrived after tea to take us back to Falmouth, and on the way we could see Pendennis Castle. How nice to have yet another reminder of my life with Union-Castle Line.
We travelled back on the MAY QUEEN, and I noticed that in the Bridge window were some tiny toy figures, one of which was the wonderful Shaun the Sheep. (Shaun the Sheep is a British stop-motion animated television series of 7 minute films, created by Nick Parks and Aardman Animations, and it is hugely popular with many people world-wide, including me.)
Back on the ship, there was the now-usual routine of preparations for drinks and dinner. Tonight at 9.15 p.m. there is to be a concert by the Keysworth Quartet, entitled 'A Pastoral Potpourri'. This was a selection of popular classical music pieces that we all enjoyed, in the Ambassador Lounge after dinner.
Ships seen: Aegean Odyssey, Sea Mist, Louisa, LizRix, Tidesurge A138, tug Percuil, Helford River, Falmouth Lifeboat, LT119 Z, Tamar Belle, Duchess of Cornwall, May Queen
To be continued....