A Travellerspoint blog

16th,17th,18,

16th, 17th & 18th Feb.

We were now in the Bay of Biscay well and truly, with some quite big swells 6 to 8 metres, and as with all seas there is always the odd bigger wave which came along, and that coupled with the wind, which at times was gusting to force 10, made for some big movements in the ship, all these factors meant you had to walk with care as you went about the ship. When the sea and weather conditions are like this the open decks are closed off for safety reasons, it might seem like common sense really, but I`m sure there would be people who would still go out there.

With all this going on around us life goes on on-board ship, people are doing all sorts of things, and activities, and plenty of entertainment in the different lounges, the Costa coffee were doing a roaring trade. Although traveling with friends we all do different things during the day but we still manage to meet for coffee and a chat sometime during the day, and we always meet for a drink before dinner.

The day after the “ Bay “ things have not improved weather wise at all, still very difficult to walk around, and you have to be careful when you have a shower. People are starting to think were they going to have this weather all the way to the Caribbean. One of the on-board lectures was given by the 1st officer, and it was all about how the Bridge worked and all its equipment , and what their job is all about etc, all very interesting. But on the end of his lecture he was able to tell us and show us by means of a weather map, the reasons for our delay in Southampton and the thinking behind it, but more importantly what was facing us with the weather, for the next few days, and the forecast was very pleasing to see apart from the remainder of that day (17th). From that evening onwards the weather would start to improve, and more importantly the coming days were to keep getting better.

The 18th we could actually stand still when we wanted to. The sea had calmed down, skies were cloudy, and the temperature also beginning to rise to 14c . The cloud did not break much, but we were able to get out onto the decks. Late afternoon we passed to the south of one the Azores.

The 19th we`ve had sunshine all day, the first time people have had a chance to sit out, again the temperature not all that great 17c but it`s heading in the right direction. We have not seen any wild life, but a “Geest Banana boat” passed us, I think our Captain said she was also heading for the Caribbean. With regards to time zones, we`ve had to alter our clocks backwards twice and are now 2 hours behind GMT.

Well folks that’s all our news for now.

Posted by pzack 09:56 Comments (1)

First Few Days

First Few Days

Our story starts on the 13th of Feb., and after experiencing some very bad weather at home in Cornwall for the previous few weeks, our drive to Southampton on the 13th was still a bit of a nervous affair, as the forecast for that mornings weather was the possibility of some snow or ice across the moors of Bodmin and Dartmoor. That coupled with the flood warnings which were associated with our route to Southampton, the major worry was the A36 down through the Wylye valley and through Salisbury, which proved to be accurate especially through Salisbury.

On arrival at the terminal building we were greeted with the news that because of another deep low coming in from the Atlantic our departure was going to be delayed until Saturday, this delay situation was a bit of a first as previously whatever the weather forecast P&O would still sail. But that delay had a knock on effect which meant us missing our first port of call which was Madeira, and a great disappointment to the start of our holiday. On the plus side our spirits were lifted when we met our friends John and Marilyn, and Mike and Sue, who we were to travel with. We have already done two world cruises with them in 2011 and 2013, so it was great reunion.

So on the next day P&O had laid on a shuttle bus service into Southampton centre for anyone who wanted to go and look around. As it happened the weather was horrible with the wind blowing and the rain pouring down. Only two of our group made the effort of going in, and that was Mike and myself, it was for a particular purchase, which I will not go into, as the reason would be a bit complicated to explain, but it was a successful trip!!

During Friday our Captain made an announcement to say that things looked favourable for us to make our departure on Saturday, and the timing of that would depend on the wind dropping out in the English Channel and beyond into the Bay of Biscay. But also the wind conditions for the berth which we were tied up against, as the port authority and the pilots had set for a ships safe departure.

An announcement was made by the Captain on Saturday morning that things looked good, and a time of 2.30pm was set for us to sail providing the wind speed was OK, so all shore leave was cancelled. The mood of us passengers was lifted, with the thought of getting to the Caribbean and all that lovely sunshine. Not that life had been at all bad while sitting here in Southampton, here we were being waited on hand foot and finger, with great company, food and great entertainment what more could we want.

2.30pm arrived and with everything in place, Tugs alongside, we finally set sail for Barbados at 2.50pm. So with the weather giving us a heavy rain shower as it`s last parting shot, we were off down the Solent. As we came out into the English Channel sea conditions were not as bad as they had been throughout the evening. But our first night at sea was a bit on the lumpy side as the ship moved quite a lot. When we woke next morning we were still aware of the ships movement, and before you see anything you think it`s still very rough, but when you pull back the curtains things were not so bad after all, there was some swell but not that bad. By now we were starting our transit of the Bay of Biscay. Each morning usually around 9 o`clock, the officer of the watch gives us a run down of the ships position and the days weather, and we were told to expect a deterioration in the weather later that afternoon (Sunday), which we had, but it was still quite good for the Bay.

So folks that’s about all for now, so I hope you follow us along our journey.

Posted by pzack 09:21 Comments (1)

Gibraltar

GIBRALTAR Date: 18th August 2013

Weather: Dry and sunny, some cloud, 26c

Position: Latitude 36 deg. 9 min. N Longitude 5 deg. 22 min. W

I think this blog will be a short one, as overnight we decided that we would not go ashore in Gibraltar, as we had only a half day stop at this port, and would have to be back aboard by 12.30 pm.

But while we were having a late breakfast up on the top deck, we could see some activity with police and military craft all milling about in the waters just off Gibraltar`s airport runway. With the recent rumpus of the escalation with Spanish border controls, the Spanish fishermen had decided to join in, and protest about some restrictions on where they were allowed to fish. There were about 30 to 40 small fishing boats and about 20 police , military and Spanish civil authority boats, so as you can imagine it made for quite a display. The Spanish civil boats were working along- side their British counter parts in trying to keep the peace. Coupled to this protest you could see Spanish people on a breakwater ( which was in Spain ) with their national flags on one side, and on the Gibraltar side the Gibraltarians making their feelings known. It looked like at a pre-determined time a red flare was displayed by the fishermen and they all dispersed, but it made quite a spectacle while it was going on. One side- effect of this protest was the Dolphin watch excursion from the ship was cancelled, because they would have had to go through the protest area.

It was something which we did not think about, but the people that did go ashore had said on their return that being a Sunday most of the shops were closed.

So as a consequence the photo opportunities were very few. As you can see from some of the ones that I have posted, the Rock had its usual cloud hovering over its peak, with the surrounding area in sun shine.

So folks we have two more days at sea, before the end of what has been a glorious cruise. Keep watching there could be an up-date, but no promises.

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Posted by pzack 07:41 Comments (0)

Cartagena

CARTAGENA Date: 17th August 2013

Weather: Clear sunny skies all day, Light breeze, very hot 32c

Position: Latitude 37 deg. 35 min N Longitude 0 deg. 59 min. W

Cartagena, with a population of 200,000 is a major port and naval base on the Costa Calida ( Warm Coast) of the Mediterranean Sea in south eastern Spain. It has a magnificent harbour and a very long history. Mountains surround the city and this part of the province and autonomous community of Murcia is one of the driest parts of Spain. Alicante is 68 miles to the north and Almeria is 150 miles to the southwest. I mentioned history just now, all the major ancient Mediterranean civilizations have made their claim here at some time or other.

We berthed at 8.30 that morning with weather set to be fine for the rest of the day. Our berth was very close to the actual city, our quayside was part of a large commercial port with many parts to the harbour, and also a base for the Spanish navy. Just inside our quay was a large marina with a central walkway connecting our quay to a fine palm lined promenade.

This was the first time we had visited this port, so we were doing our own thing again, seeing what the city had to offer. Immediately we stepped on the quay, the heat was apparent, when we reached the promenade it was a little better as a light breeze came along. We had learnt from our port guide and from our granddaughter that there was a Roman amphitheatre within the city, so that was one of our main objectives for the day. At the harbour end of their main street (the Calle Mayor) is a most impressive building which is their town hall, we don`t know if we had seen anything finer!. Outside the town hall, and for the majority of its main street, these areas are pedestrianized, and the walking surface is of what looks like marble, making the appearance very nice, and great for walking on. More or less right opposite the town hall was the entrance to the Roman theatre museum, so all very handy. These ruins of the amphitheatre were not discovered until 1990, when some work was being done to the Castle on Conception Hill, this 14th century castle is another big part of the city’s history. The Roman ruins and its museum have been certainly well planned, they both fit well together, well worth a visit.

After leaving the Roman site, we were out onto their main high street, with plenty of choice on the retail front. As with the places we`ve visited lately their buildings seemed to be quite high, at least 4 stories, but all the ones which were facing onto the street, whether it was a new build or not, were done in the traditional style, mostly their windows had small wrought iron balconies. On one of the older buildings we saw some very ornate wood carved lintels.

Having walked, still in the their main street, but with less people about and shops getting fewer, we decided to about turn and find a refreshment stop, this we did, under the shade of an umbrella, and with the slightest hint of a breeze. All refuelled we moved on heading towards the promenade again, briefly pausing for the occasional photo stop, I think this is where it was at its hottest (32c). We passed the side wall of their Cathedral, and up a few steps was an open door into what we thought was the main building, in fact it was just a single room, but in that room was a very ornate alter completely covered in gold. There were no pews or seats it seemed a funny arrangement, but still beautiful.

Now down back outside their town hall with all the pavement cafés doing very well, with occasional street musicians, it was a nice atmosphere. For our first time, I would say Cartagena was well worth another visit, it was very clean, and the people seemed welcoming.

We made our way out of the harbour in the late afternoon, with a lot of local people rod fishing on all suitable quaysides and rocks, waving us goodbye. Now to our last port of call Gibraltar.

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Posted by pzack 07:41 Comments (0)

Corfu & Messina

CORFU Date: 14th August 2013

Weather: Early heat haze, clearing slightly by lunch time. 35c, very Humid

Position: Latitude 39 deg. 38.0 min. N Longitude 19 deg. 54.1 min. E

Our first venture out onto the deck soon made us aware of how humid the weather was, the previous few days everything had been clear, although hot, but there was a haze which kept the humidity high here. We were berthed at their harbour about a mile from Corfu Town itself, you could see from our position across the water the Greek mainland and further up was the coastline of Albania. As with most Greek ports the ferry traffic is very busy. About an hour after we`d berthed another cruise ship came in, it was the Regent company`s Seven Seas Mariner, smaller than us, but this was the third port that we`d seen her, the others were Venice, Dubrovnik and now here.

For us again we went ashore independently by taking the shuttle bus, which dropped us off on the edge of Corfu town. The Venetian influence from their early history is very apparent with tall houses and narrow streets, the streets which took you up into the town were very busy, with all types of retail goods for sale, from the tacky to the designer goods. In amongst the designer gear there were genuine fur coats, of all colours and designs, we asked the question to one of the shop owners that sell these coats,” why in such a hot climate do you have them for sale?” and the answer was, the Russian people who visit Corfu on cruises love them. They must like them a lot, as they are very expensive!! Another thing which stands out is the amount of jewellers there are, again they must be making a living to all be here.

While we were in and out of the narrow streets, there seemed a real buzz about the place, with the shop keepers all sitting outside their shops, and chatting to each other across the street, until someone comes along and looks at their shop, then they are up and after you, but it`s still all in good fun. One of the narrow streets has a fine looking church with an impressive tower. We then came out of the streets and onto the “ Spianada” which is their name for the Esplanade, on one side of it is a place called the “ Liston” which is a copy of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, with its covered arcade and arches. In front of this esplanade was a big square, which includes the cricket pitch, a legacy left from the British, ( games are still played most Sundays in summer). Between the Liston and the edge of the cricket pitch were a long string of pavement cafés all covered with large umbrellas, one of these cafés was our next stop, some Iced Tea the order of the day for both of us, after cooling down we prolonged our stay with an Ice-cream sundae, very nice too.

With the high temperatures and the high humidity there was little pleasure in being out in the sun too long, so we made our way back through the town to our shuttle pick up point, we were not alone, as within a minute or so the coach was full and was heading back to the terminal building. And it was not long before we were on board in the sanctuary of our cool ship. I suppose we mustn`t be too critical of the weather, as up to the present time this whole cruise has been fabulous for the weather and sea conditions, we would say one our best.

We took a good position on the promenade deck and watched ourselves sail away from Corfu, with Corfu town being on the east coast of the island and we were heading west, we had a good view of the island as we sailed down its coast.

We steamed overnight and our intended course took us between the Toe of Italy and the island of Sicily through the Messina straights. We duly arrived in the straights at 8 o`clock in the morning, its quite an exciting quick dash through, with, if you’re lucky a view of Mount Etna the active volcano on Sicily, but no luck that morning. Another thing to look out for are the local fishing craft, they are about 30 odd feet long quite narrow and fast with a very tall mast, they use the tall mast as a lookout point, as this mast has a crow`s nest. The water in the straights runs quite fast, which suits a fish which I think is a Sword fish, and this is what the fishermen are after. So the man up the mast spots the fish and off they go chasing and catching it, they hope ( it`s a bit like the old whaling ships, “There she blows” ).

I`ve put a few photos of the Messina straights

Two days at sea before our next port of Cartagena in Spain

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Posted by pzack 06:26 Comments (0)

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