Thursday 19th July 2018
I was up and about at 6 a.m. this morning, still at sea on PRINCE. My first call was to the bar for a cappuccino and croissant, and all was well with my world.
We went to Reception and had a pleasant chat with the Chief Steward about the ship. He says the bell is from PRINCE but we are not so sure it is, as different letters seem to be engraved on what we photographed this morning in daylight. We told him about our trip two years ago on the previous PRINCE, when we met the Captain. He said that the captain had retired (which we knew) but that he had brought PRINCE down from Denmark. I said we had met him and he had told us about that and invited us onto the Bridge. The Chief Steward said if and when we came on the ship again we could visit the Bridge. We thanked him very much.
I asked how they had managed to move the lorry that was stuck on the ramp last night and his first reply with a smile was the one word 'Magic'. He then said they had other means, which worked. It was a shame about such a long delay on the first trip of the new ship.
We all shook hands and thanked the Chief Steward and said our goodbyes to him.
The hot sun was blazing down out on deck as we started to head into the narrow channel that would take us into the Greek port of Igoumenitsa. I can still recall one of my first visits there many years ago: that was when we arrived at the unearthly hour of 3.30 a.m. because we needed to connect with another ship sailing from the port early that morning. I put my turquoise-coloured pashmina down on a concrete bench in the terminal, put my head on it and stretched out my body and was instructed to 'go back to sleep for a few more hours'. I did that very easily, as I fell asleep wondering just what on earth I was doing with these new ferry friends...
Today however we sailed into Igoumenitsa about 7.30 a.m. and disembarked, and walked to sit in the shade of the terminal building facing the harbour. We wanted to wait and see the next arrivals and if we had entered the terminal we could only exit on the far side and not get back onto the quaysides. As usual it was very hot, but the swifts were flying gracefully and tweeting gently over our heads.
Whilst we waited for the BARI to arrive, we watched vehicles disembarking from PRINCE; most of them struggled and we realised that, like last night, the ship's stern ramp is far too short.
Ships seen: Prince, Bari, Kerkyra Express, Cruise Europa, Superfast XI
To be continued...
18th July 2018, p.m.
At the beach near Brindisi
We had booked a local taxi for late afternoon to take us, reluctantly, to the new ferry terminal here at Brindisi. This evening we are to embark on the ship PRINCE; not the one we have sailed on last year, but the ship we knew originally as CESME back in 2007. She was built in 1974, and her gross tonnage is shown as 13,336.
She was in port, in her new colours for the Arkoumanis family, the European Seaways owners. She looked freshly painted and gleamed in the sunlight as we checked in. She was previously used as an accommodation ship (WIND AMBITION) and her use on this new service on 12th July from Greece had been delayed due to faulty fuel. As my friends said, with new fuel on board this much-travelled veteran did depart Igoumenitsa the previous evening, and our booked crossing actually became her first departure from Italy. We were happy to be the first passengers on board.
They also said she would be instantly recognisable to anyone who knew her as either Norway Line (or Color Line)'s VENUS or DFDS's KING OF SCANDINAVIA. We will be sailing overnight from here in Brindisi over to Igoumenitsa, the coastal port in north-western Greece. It is also across the water from the island of Corfu, with frequent ferries sailing between the two.
It was good to look around this little ship and admire the way the money has been spent to make the newly decorated insides of the ship look good, but there were many reminders of her previous name and use.
All was well until we realised that sailing time had come and gone and the reason was a lorry that was stuck on the stern ramp, half in and half out of the ship. She has the original narrow stern door and we thought that the ramp was in fact too short for the angle needed to get vehicles on to the car deck. It took over an hour to get the lorry on board - goodness knows how!
Once we realised we were not going to sail for some time, we headed for a bar and hoped for something alcoholic; that proved to be a problem as the Barman apologised but said that drink supplies had been ordered but had not been put on board. Ah well, it will have to be fruit juice or cola again. Instead we headed for the self-serve restaurant and discovered there was pasta to eat, which didn't immediately look appealing.
We eventually sailed at 9.30 p.m. from Brindisi, heading for Igoumenitsa, here on PRINCE.
Ships seen in Bari: Rigel II, GNV Azzurra
Ships seen in Brindisi: Prince, Eurocargo Catania
To be continued...
Wednesday 18th July 2018
Last night we were indeed lulled to sleep on the RIGEL II but after that the ship made heavy weather of the sea and waves and I woke early feeling glad that the night was over. The bed was comfortable, the linen was lovely and the bathroom facilities fine, but I was glad to be up and able to go and see the Panorama Bar in daylight and get a coffee and croissant to start the day.
We are approaching Bari in Italy, and after arrival in hot sunshine again we disembarked and could photograph the ship. Then it was time to queue for Passport Control and leave the port security area.
Once outside the fencing we could see that RIGEL II's sister ship GNV AZZURRA was entering the port, as she is on a similar route and timing. We walked round to the terminal where she was heading and could take photographs of her arrival.
As she turned and backed up it was interesting to compare the similar funnels but different hulls. GNV AZZURRA's forward loading bow doors were visible.
We bought cold drinks in the nearby little quayside cafe and enjoyed sitting outside in the shade to drink them; nearby was what I know as a 'stop me and buy one' ice-cream seller and I think he was inside the cool cafe buying something for himself. It was certainly very hot again today under this cloudless Italian sky.
It was time to continue with today's schedule and get the free port bus to Bari Station and buy train tickets back to Brindisi. We are sailing from there this evening, but have the day at leisure first.
In Brindisi we took the bus from the train station to the airport,
and then took a taxi to a nearby beach we had discovered. It was the Lido Granchio Rosso, Brindisi Beach, which had cabins and amenities for families and others, with a very casual atmosphere. It is open daytime only, with an excellent cook in the back of the cafe, and a very satisfying menu and well-stocked ice-cream fridge. We were there for a good part of the day, enjoying the heat, sight and sound of the sea, and good food; I sat in the shade on my steamer chair, occasionally reading or resting my eyes, quite involuntarily as I recall.
To be continued...