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den herraghty

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  1. Cabin Boy A quick update - I also post on the Ships of CalMac Forum and StewartM on there very kindly let me use these links which might give you a better idea of 'TEXELSTROOM':- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rKOm2QxQ8E&t= https://www.shippingtandy.com/features/texelstroom/ In the video - when the reporter is interviewing by the tree - that is roughly half way down the vessel so lookng into the background might give you an idea how big she is.(Hope you're fluent in Dutch!) Den
  2. Thank you very much guys - I really appreciate both of you taking time to comment (and those who liked). Ed - unforunately not. I've yet to drag myself into the smart phone age. I've taken your very welcome comment onboard and future reports will have some. Den
  3. Hi! As promised here is the follow up to my recent Ameland report:- I’m back in Leeuwarden ready to commence the second phase of this short break - the Texel ferry. At the start of planning for this section, I went for the lazy option and just looked on the Dutch Railways website (NS.nl) for the solution. The journey time to Den Helder would take about four and a half hours and require me to re-trace my steps all the way to Amsterdam Centraal for a connection. That’s not good – not good at all! Second choice then would be by bus - how long would that take? Not long is the answer! Arriva operate most of the local bus and trains in Noord Holland so I paid a visit to their site. With one change I could be in Den Helder in 1 hour 45 minutes…sounds good. I double checked on the 9292.nl website (the Dutch equivalent of Traveline) and it confirmed this. My only concern was the one minute advertised connection – miss this and I would have an hour to wait in a bus station in a town I have never heard off - hmmm! The one thing in my favour is that I’m not travelling in the UK and The Netherlands do integrated transport really rather well. It nearly all went wrong much earlier than that – here in Leeuwaarden in fact!. Whilst topping up my OV-Chipkaart I noticed that my first bus – the 350 to Alkmaar – would leave in 20 minutes and not the 25 I expected. I checked the printed timetable at the stop and it said 16.15 also – not 16.10. My anticipated coffee and bite to eat was in jeopardy – further threatened by the festival crowd pouring out of the station as I was trying to get in. I made it though and we left on time - let the adventure begin. This journey involves taking the Arriva 350 service to Alkmaar along a dijk to Den Oevers where I join a Connexxion 135 service to Den Helder. My uneasiness begins almost immediately as I cannot see ‘Den Oevers’ mentioned on the onboard electronic route display. The feeling grows as we turn of the main road and down some single tracks until we reach the bus station at the head of the dijk. Here we wait several minutes until four other buses arrive before setting off at some pace. It goes up another notch when, with five minutes to the connection, we get held up in a traffic jam at the end of the dijk…….. then the welcome voice announcing ‘Den Oevers busstation ‘ is heard – but would we still make it? The ‘bus station’ in question consists of an abandoned office/waiting room; five bus stops on a tear-drop shaped piece of concrete; an inbound service 350 and … nothing else. Happily a two tone green bus appears a few minutes later and speeds me to Den Helder. A lot of worrying for nothing! Safely arrived it’s time to find my hotel – the Lands’ End – located at the ferry port. It’s a good 20 minute walk although I deviate via the floating bridge, through the rejuvenated quayside area – now full of restaurants/coffee shops etc. – and part of the Royal Netherlands Navy Museum. Along the way there are the impressive sights of the superstructure of a Dutch frigate on shore and a Dutch submarine appearing out of the side of a building. I bet the Navigating Officer got into a lot of trouble for that! Carefully picking my way across the traffic lanes to the hotel I’m quickly checked in and find my room. As a single traveller I’m used to being allocated inferior rooms (overlooking air conditioning units/car parks etc) so I am extremely pleased to find I have a stunning view over the Texel Sound and, more importantly, can almost touch the TESO ferries as they sail! Saturday 18th August Following a very good nights sleep - and breakfast on a terrace looking out at a ferry seemingly steaming straight at you! - it’s a short walk past the double deck vehicle infrastructure to the terminal building and the automated passenger ticket machines. These pointedly refuse both my debit and credit card as payment – however there is a manned desk for groups and the friendly assistant there has no problem in relieving me of € 2.50 (return) for the 20 minute sailing. (My local ferry – Gosport Ferry now charge £ 3.60 return for a 4 minute sailing!) Texels Eigen Stoomboot Onderneming (thankfully shortened to TESO) was founded in 1907 by Dr. Adriaan Wagemaker the islands’ General Practitioner. The company has grown over the intervening years and now operate the ‘TEXELSTROOM’ (the current flagship) and ‘DOKTER WAGEMAKER (2)’ on this short twenty minute crossing. The company has a third vessel ‘SCHULPENGAT’ which is currently laid up at ’t Horntje on the southern tip of the island where the vessels dock. ‘DW’ does not display the (2) suffix. During peak periods the company operates every thirty minutes at :00 and :30 from both ports, reverting to an hourly :30 ex Den Helder and :00 from Texel when quieter – these being operated, normally, by ‘TEXELSTROOM’. Today I’m looking forward to my first trip on ‘DOKTER WAGEMAKER’ operating the 10.00 sailing. It’s Saturday in high summer so naturally the sailing is busy but the vessel has no trouble in swallowing the mass of cars, cyclists and (not so many) footies in it’s ten minute turn round. Once on board, and up a set of stairs, to the main passenger lounge I find myself more excited than I should be. I mean – it’s not my first ferry for goodness sake – but it is my first revolving door on a ferry. YES you did read ‘revolving door’ and ‘ferry’ in one sentence! Actually there are four of them in all leading into the large passenger area which has plenty of natural light, provided by both the large windows and the glass atrium amidships. It’s here that the catering facilities for the 1700 possible passengers are located (port side on this crossing) consisting of two self service counters separated by a small shop area. Available here are the usual items – postcards, Texel mementos, confectionery and models of ‘TEXELSTROOM’ but not this ship. My departure beer became a post departure one – we had already sailed while I was looking at the shop – and I had exploring to do. Heading forward there’s ample seating around tables on both sides, with additional seating in the middle as you head towards the large panoramic windows at the front. The bench style seating here is thoughtfully staggered so everyone gets a view. By the time I had done all of this we were already approaching Texel and the thought struck me that “if it has taken me this long on the smaller vessel, would I have time to do everything on her bigger running mate?” The recorded announcement informed foot passengers to disembark via the right hand side if they required bus transportation – so I headed over to the exit which is when this happened: Dogs are freely allowed (on a leash) in the passenger lounge and I had witnessed several sniffing the decks during the crossing. One dog duly did so and, seemingly overcome with excitement, decided to do a wee as the door was in mid revolve! Cue one embarrassed owner and several passengers stepping carefully. Safely alongside the automatic doors open and it’s off down the stairs to the bus stance. Here Texelhopper offers two types of service – the scheduled line 28 (normal size bus) and the pre-bookable mini bus service. Line 28 serves Den Burg (the islands capital) and De Koog which is a popular holiday spot on the North coast of the island. It takes about 10 minutes to reach Den Burg bus stand and a few minutes walk in to the centre. This is much larger than Nes with a better selection of shops (including national chains) and a full range of restaurants/cafes. One of the most interesting things was some of the buildings had their build date in wrought iron on the outside- some of them dated back to the early 1600’s. It is also very busy but I eventually find somewhere to eat, have a beer and people watch. This is when I realise that there is something different here – hardly any of the men wear beards! They’re everywhere in the UK – but here (and I continued my observations all the way to Schiphol) they are few and far between. I return to ’t Horntje in plenty of time for the arrival of the ‘TEXELSTROOM’ for her 15.00 sailing. It’s turned a little bit autumnal in the last hour or so and there’s a stiff breeze blowing. Despite this, and her size, she berths easily and I’m at the front of the queue for boarding as I reckon I’ll need every second on board to look round. I know she is big – but wow! If I peer hard enough I can just about see the windows at the other end. Okay just a little bit of exaggeration – but honestly just a little. The cafes are to starboard this time and are larger than on ‘DOKTER WAGEMAKER’. There’s no dedicated shop here but the customary items are displayed along the divider between the servery area and the main lounge. Yet again my beer is a post departure one as we’ve loaded and sailed in the length of time it’s taken me to get halfway along the ship. As before there is a light and airy feel on board – but I didn’t notice an atrium. Before long we’re approaching Den Helder and the free bus to the station and my onward train to Schiphol My only disappointment of the day was at Schiphol where I discovered that my eagerly anticipated flight on a PrivatAir aircraft would not happen as it had gone technical and been substituted by a BA one – meh! Summary All in all it’s been a good trip. Four new ferries, one new island, lots of postcards, good food and weather. With hindsight, whilst writing this report, I think I should have done a round trip on each of the vessels so that a better overview could have been given. It does give you an excuse, however, to go and try the ships for yourself. If you do stay at the Lands’ End make sure you take a camera as there are some fantastic photo opportunities to be had. Travel Information The easiest way to travel is using an OV-Chipkaart, which is a nationwide touch in/out card (think Oyster but on a larger scale) and available at any NS station for a cost of € 7.50. Most buses don’t accept cash – but will take debit/credit cards. On that subject I had some refusals with my Visa card in a couple of places so take a back up. I used the following sites for planning:- NS.nl; Arriva,nl; 9292.nl; wpd.nl; teso.nl They all have pages in English but I found the Arriva site didn’t function as it should. I hope you have enjoyed this bit of rambling on! As always – comments and questions are welcome Den
  4. Thanks guys - it means a lot! Tumnus - did you travel on the older twins or these two? Den
  5. Mods - if this is in the wrong place please move. I've just completed some trips on the ferries of Wadenborg (Waddensea) and TESO (Texel). Here's the first report:- My line manager has a somewhat ‘relaxed’ approach in producing our six weekly shift rota which is why, for the second time this year, I find my self making last minute plans. As I like to combine both of my passions (ferrying and flying) whenever I can it’s a bit more challenging this time as my week off is in the middle of August – height of the school holiday season. The flying part is to the forefront this time as I only need one return Club Class flight with British Airways to keep my silver status for another year and, as some of their Gatwick flights are being operated by leased in aircraft, this is where my search begins. A reasonably priced Amsterdam flight is chosen as the outbound on the thursday will be operated by Titan Airways with the return on saturday evening operated by PrivatAir – both on Boeing 737’s. Flying sorted – now for the ferrying. The island of Texel was the obvious choice (as it was the closest to Schiphol) but I needed something more challenging. The islands of the Wadden Sea in North Holland beckoned as I knew they were reasonably easy to get to – I had a trip to Terschelling last year – and some research revealed that Ameland was served by two vessels from Holwerd. Sorted! Thursday 16th August After a good night’s sleep in the Travelodge Central close to Gatwick, I had one of my quickest ever transits through check-in, security and in to the Lounge. (Luckily it wasn’t a week later when the departure screen system crashed causing chaos). My reward was a glass of ‘good’ champagne, rather than the normal offering of Castelnau, along with my breakfast. En route to the departure gate my heart sank a little as I couldn’t see a Titan Airways plane. I think they have one of the more interesting liveries around (see here) so it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot. Further investigation revealed an all white aircraft parked by the stand – yep its mine. It’s a relatively short flight today which makes the service a little hurried for the CSM who’s looking after the eight of us in Club. At Schiphol it’s a loooong walk from the ‘D’ gate arrival area to immigration – where the automatic gates are firmly tensa barriered off – and through to the railway station for my onward travel to Leeuwaarden and Holwerd. For a mid afternoon departure the train seems to be very busy – this was not the advice that the NS.nl website had displayed when I checked the times – and only got busier as we headed north. I found out on arrival that there was a ‘Cultural Festival’ taking place over the next few days which would also explain the high prices/lack of availability of hotels in the town. Arriva route 66 provides the connection to the Ameland ferry at Holwerd and is advertised s a ‘schnelldienst’ (fast service). The driver tonight certainly took this to heart and as a challenge! About half an hour later we arrived at the ferry terminal and this is where I discovered that I should have got off 4 km earlier when the vehicle had circled into a bus stop…….kindly the driver let me travel back once the ferry had arrived – which was running 30 mins late. A common occurrence judging by his obvious disgust! Holwerd Provinciaalweg is the stop for the town. It is eerily quiet as I try to find my hotel. I get the feeling that, if it was a village in Britain, curtains would be most certainly be twitching! I’m fortunate to arrive just before the kitchen closes (20.00) or it would have been a hungry night. Friday 17th August The small hotel I stayed in offered a simple breakfast and ‘let yourself out’ policy this morning. With half an hour to spare before the bus, I wandered around the very quiet town providing some excitement for a bored small child – who ran to get his dad to look at the stranger! I stopped at the church where I discovered a small Commonwealth War Graves plot containing five graves. One is clearly marked with the RAF insignia, the other four were unfamiliar. Not wishing to walk across other peoples resting places I duly paid my respects from the path. An internet search on my return revealed that the four were RNZAF crew (all aged 23) and, along with the RAF crewman, were from bombers shot down over the Wadden Zee. There is also a monument to a resistance fighter. A gentler bus ride takes me down to the ferry terminal. This is reasonably well appointed with a large shop (marketed as Wagenborg Plaza) and an adjacent panoramic restaurant. Tickets are only issued on the mainland and cost € 15 return. Access to the ship is by electronic gate – but – there’s no need to hurry as the vessel is late again. This gives me the opportunity to monitor her progress from Ameland. A twisting buoyed channel is evident and she can be seen slowly moving her way along it, the shallow water not assisting her progress. The vessel is due to depart at 09.30 but she doesn’t get alongside until then which is when the efficient disembarkation/embarkation comes into play. Footies have separate gangways onto the main passenger deck, situated below the car deck in true Wadden Sea style. Cyclists join along with the vehicles. There are a lot of us today – but nothing the ships’ 1200 capacity can’t handle and we sail 20 minutes late at 09.50. I’m on the ‘OERD’ for this sailing which, along with her near sister ‘SIER’, provide an hourly service in the high season. Operated by Rederij Wagenborg she is the younger of the two coming into service in 2003 – her sister predating her by eight years. Both replace ships of the same name, these being moved eastwards to the company’s Lauwersoog – Schiermonnikoog service. They are augmented by a schnelldienst (MS Fostaborg – 44 seats) and a bookable water taxi . Crossing times are advertised as 50/25/15 mins respectively with a supplement payable for the hi-speed craft. I forego my traditional departure beer on this occasion as both of the café counters have long queues and make my way up to the small side deck above the car deck. The loading is just being completed with freight vehicles occupying one of the middle lanes and some smart positioning by the deck crew allows a couple of extra cars on board. As we leave, ‘Fostaborg’ arrives and ‘SIER’ has made good progress on her journey to the mainland. I’ve moved up to the sun deck which gives a greater appreciation of how much the channel meanders and indeed the depth of water is quite shallow. As we twist our way along, ‘SIER’ passes slowly on our starboard side whilst ‘Fostaborg’ does a very close high speed pass to port. A photographer does a very good job of capturing both craft! Time to explore. As well as outdoor seating the Sun Deck has a functional lounge, directly under the bridge, offering a variety of vending machines. The ice cream one is doing good trade today. Descending three sets of stairs brings me to the main passenger accommodation which, although below the car deck, is still above the waterline. It looks quite modern and has natural light from large windows. To starboard, on this particular sailing, is the mirror image café counters. The large queues have now dissipated and only the after section is open for service. A good selection of drinks is supplemented with hot snacks and main dishes and - more importantly – beer! Okay – it’s only Heineken and not one of the island brews but it does the job. The steward who serves me is probably the tallest I’ve ever seen on a ship. Although the lounge is fairly busy there are still some seats free and, of course, there’s always the lower deck to try out. There are some stylish and quirky round tables (with toadstool style seating) adjacent to the counters with traditional style seating throughout the rest of the area. To one side are the clearly marked entry and exit points for both ports and the whole deck has an airy, open plan style as the toilets are located at either end of the lounge on the deck below. The lighting down there is an odd mixture of white and ultra violet fluorescent which gives it a calming/soothing – but slightly weird –ambience. The deckheads above the stairwells to this lounge feature a ‘starlit night’ effect and provide an additional opulent touch. A look at my watch tells me that we should be approaching the end of our journey however the view out of the windows show that we are still some way away. In all it takes us 1 hr 10 mins to complete the journey and ‘OERD’ berths in Nes at 11.00 – when she should have been halfway back to Holwerd. She discharges reasonably quickly and sets sail again at 11.20, a delay she won’t make up later in the day. Indeed ‘SIER’ is already on her approach as she sails. Nes is the main port on the island and it is an easy 15 min stroll to the town. As well as the ferry terminal (a very much simpler affair than Holwerd) there are three different companies offering sightseeing cruises, a marina with a large variety of vessels and a workboat pontoon. There are bus services– operated by full size electrically powered vehicles –to take you to other parts of the island. The walk takes you past the ubiquitous bike hire facility, the VVV (tourist office) and then into the town. Like most island capitals, it’s quite small and compact but with just the right amount of shops/restaurants to keep you entertained for a couple of hours. Which it did! I made my way back to the port to catch the 14.00 sailing of ‘SIER’ (the departure times change in the afternoon) via the VVV office so that I could pick up a couple of fridge magnets for colleagues at work (Honest!!!!). The assistant was intrigued by my Scottish accent and was pleased that someone had come that far to see her island. I admitted that I had only travelled from Hampshire – but she was still impressed. By the time I reached the ferry terminal, ‘OERD’ was just completing loading for her 13.00 sailing, still a hefty 40 odd minutes late. I have a seat in the ‘no frills’ terminal and await the arrival of my vessel. There’s not a great deal of footies for this sailing – but still a healthy load for the car deck. Familiar with the layout I head straight for the café and my departure beer. This safely in hand it’s off to the sun deck which is now living up to its name (it was a bit overcast on the outward). A short blast on the ships’ siren indicates that we are about to depart and gets a startled dog barking for Britain The Netherlands. We leave the island in brilliant sunshine soon beginning our elongated weave back to the mainland. As already mentioned, ‘SIER’ is the elder sister although she certainly doesn’t show it. The main lounge has a less opulent feel about it – but is still very smart. The lights above the stairwells are simpler – but still eye-catching. The biggest difference is in the lower lounge which has subtle lighting, partitions dividing the space up and a better ambience than that on ‘OERD’. Back up one deck and the light load lets me get a better impression of the main deck. It’s all about getting large number of people through catering (if desired) quickly, plenty of seating and quick ingress/egress at ports. We’re now approaching Holwerd and the end of this part of the report. ‘SIER’ has completed this trip in her allocated 50 minutes so I’m not sure why ‘OERD’ has difficulty in doing so. Once alongside it’s a quick disembarkation and on to the bus to Leeuwaarden. Arriva is possibly a bit over optimistic about the number of passengers travelling – it’s a bendy bus and there are three of us! Summary and Suggestions It’s been a good day. Two new ferries/ports, one new island and several new ferry postcards for my collection. The buses ran to time/waited for ferries. For a hastily arranged trip it’s gone pretty much to plan. If this has inspired you, I would recommend staying in Leeuwaarden where there is a greater choice of hotels and things to do of an evening. It’s also easy to get to the islands of Terschelling and Vlieland via Harlingen from here. As always comments.observations are more than welcome. Den
  6. Ferryman has beaten me to it! She is currently in port. You might like this link https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/qhm/portsmouth/shipping-movements Yours Aye Den
  7. I know this is just a little bit far away from home...but I thought it might be of interest,,,,,,, I’ve just returned from a short trip to Catania which included a side trip to Messina to hopefully ‘get’ some new ferries. My last visits to Catania were about ten years ago when I worked in Naples with NATO. These included a mix of flying, TrenItalia IC, TrenaNotta (Night trains) and the TTT Line service using a Visentinti between the two cities. I had hoped to use the Caronte&Touriste service from Salerno to Messina – but it never worked out. During these trips I managed to travel on ‘Scilla’, ‘Regina’ and ‘Villa’ in both train and foot passenger modes so I was hoping to get either ‘Logudora’ or ‘Messina’ on this occasion. Having had a pleasant couple of nights stay in an intriguing small hotel close to the centre, I arrived at Catania Centrale just after 11.00 allowing plenty of time to buy a through ticket to Villa S. Giovanni on the IC 724 (Siracuse – Roma Terminii) departing at 11.39. The ticket machines allow you to select a seat for the journey, although it advises that the seating plan might not match the actual configuration of the carriage!. The cost of a through ticket is more than double that of a ticket to Messina Centrale (€ 15.50 compared to € 7.25) however it doesn’t tell you that the RFI monocareno fare is extra. Departure is on time and there is only a slight delay on the journey along the stunning South Eastern Sicilian coastline. Once at Messina Cle. there’s a bit of a wait until the Palermo section arrives which becomes slightly uncomfortable as there’s no air conditioning. After lots of shouting, hand waving, forefinger and thumb circling (I do miss that!) we get shunted aboard what looks like a modern ferry. Yes! It’s MESSINA ( Her name is displayed considerably larger than on her fleet mates) Our carriage hits the buffer stops with a jolt – which prompts the Australian couple sitting behind me to enquire ‘do they know what they’re doing? (don’t forget the inflection at the end of doing…..) Once it’s safe to disembark I’m off to explore and it’s really quite pleasant. As we’re at the aft end of the vessel, there is quite a lot of open deck space, a small saloon, what would normally be an entrance hall – but actually leads to the MES, then a large saloon with a café/bar. All very clean, light, airy and pleasant – but none of the charm of the older vessels. Messina also has side loading ramps for vehicles and instructions for using the garage decks. Happily our handbrakes remained on and the alarms did not go off J On arrival at the mainland, it appears that ‘Villa’ has followed us across and is ready for traffic. Whether this is planned – or is a special departure for the heavily delayed (3h20) ICN from the North – I don’t know but it seemed strange that both should sail so close together. Now it’s time to savour the delights of the RFI Bluferries passenger service. Signs direct you to the ticket office and embarkation point. The ticket office is a portacabin situated behind the buffet. A mere € 2.50 allows you to forego the experience of escalators and passenger walkways (firmly closed off) and enjoy a circuitous, uncovered route to your vessel. This is where unsuspecting passengers (4 on my trip) are made aware that TrenItalia tickets are not valid and have to purchase additional ones. My vessel today is ‘Tindari Jet’ which I embark on the upper deck and through a stripped out saloon. Downstairs is not much better but, as its only a twenty minute crossing I shouldn’t expect too much. The vessel does look very down at heel though. The crossing consists of ten minutes of ‘high speed’ with the remainder pootling along due to, I imagine, harbour speed limits. My intention was to walk around the harbour to catch an attractive vessel I had seen from the deck of the ‘Messina’ however another portacabin ticket office belonging to Liberty Lines caught my attention. Offering a new port (Reggio Calabria), a new company and two new high speed craft how could I refuse….so € 6.50 later and I’m off to …well...somewhere new for 30 minutes! ‘Vittoria E’ took me on my second, rather soporific, trip to Italy today. A short walk uphill leads to a war memorial dedicated to the Italian Air Force during the battle of Reggio Calabria in 1943. Carefully stepping around the broken bottles and other detritus, the statue atop the monument shone brightly in the sun which has encouraged me to find out more about this. My return was on board ‘Gabriele M’ and a protracted arrival at her lay-by berth. Onwards to Fontanarossa Airport and my flight home was by a SAIS coach which was advertised as non stop. However we came off the Autostrade to pick up a passenger high above Tremestriere ferry which afforded a good view of ‘Fata Morgana’ now providing the RFI Bluferries service to the mainland. So – 1 day (afternoon really) – 1 new port – 4 new ferries - € 9.00 +IC train fare € 15.50 –not bad. I hope this helps anyone intending to try this trip. Fares for the TrenaNotte services are quite reasonable. You can do Catania to Napoli for € 50 in a shared couchette. Den
  8. Gareth Not cabin wise, I'm sure P+O still do lunch cruises from Dover to Calais. Return trip, Club Class one way, Three course meal all for about £ 30 Den
  9. To be honest my first impression when I entered cabin 5331 on PA was "wow - an actual single cabin" then I remembered this site and the fact that extra berths are in the deckhead rather than just folded up as in Bretagne. It really does make a difference. I don't know why there is a gap between the berth and the bulkhead in this particulr cabin - the pillow doesn't really fit it but I got a good sleep! Breintagne's outside cabins I seem to remember as being quite good - however the 'outside-inside' cabin in your post and mine facinates me. As an aside - the last time I was on PA I had a port side balcony cabin.... Den
  10. Sorry Gareth - i'm not sure. Ex Portsmouth I only had cursory glance at the menu and it seemed that the right hand side was titled 'Quatre des Saisons' or something like that. I wasn't paying too much attention as I was intending to eat on the return. (Plus the piano was spooking me out - I don't spook easily. Stupid - I know) Den
  11. CVA - Thanks for reading. I agree however my disappointment was offset a bit by being on PA. It's one of life's travel curveballs - didn't mange to dodge this one! Gareth - Only informed by my line manager (insert several ?????????) just before I finished my shift on Friday at 14.00 that I was off on monday as well (it was my normal w/e off). I've only done the trip on Bretagne before and always been to get coffee - but then again that's a bit later in the season. Thanks for your comments and feedback Den
  12. I had an unexpected long weekend last week (Feb 3/4/5) and decided to do something ‘constructive’ rather than sit in watching television. My last proper sea trip was back in the spring of 2017 to Cherbourg/Guernsey so it was obviously time to rectify that. Accordingly a short trip to St Malo was booked (via BFE of course!) on ‘Pont Aven’ – a ship I have not been on for quite some time. I’ve done this trip a few times before on ‘Bretagne’ and know that there is enough time to walk into the walled city, have a quick coffee, search for any new ship related postcards and get back in time for boarding so I wasn’t too concerned when I received texts and e-mails advising me that the gangway would be unavailable and that footies would disembark via the car deck obviously taking longer than normal. Late Sunday afternoon and I take the ‘long way’ round from my flat (near Gosport) to Portsmouth International Port using First Solent E1/X4 services arriving just before 18.00. I am checked in reasonably quickly although the staff seem to be having ‘one of those nights’. One has a long discussion with a group of four; her colleague has difficulty in persuading all members of another party to be at the desk whilst presenting their passports. The third agent warmly welcomes me, sorts out my boarding card, advises me again the ‘the gangway etc….’ and informs me that boarding will commence at 18.15. WOW! (My reservation did indicate this but I always understood this to be for cars – not footies. Nice little surprise.) Once on board it was a little disappointing to find out that both of the lifts in the main foyer were out of order – not that it really mattered as my cabin was only one deck down on 5 deck, an inside two berth rigged for one. After enjoying its welcoming warmth for a little while, I complete my ritual of checking escape/muster station routes before re-acquainting myself with PA. On 7 deck ‘Le Café Festival’ is closed and the temperature difference is quite remarkable compared to the adjacent ‘La Belle Angele’. Back aft, the piano plays away to itself, with only the restaurant staff for an audience. Up to 8 deck, where I buy my customary departure pint, then onwards to 9 deck to witness our slightly early departure at 20.00. The transit of the dockyard and out to OSB is accompanied by the protests of canine friends being left in an unfamiliar surroundings and, on return to my cabin, an ever changing litany of car alarms. Dinner was taken in ‘La Belle Angele’ and was good value at £ 10 for a main (ok-ish cod and fresh cooked chips) and dessert (large slice of chocolate and cream cake which had a surprise layer of pears!) accompanied by a bottle of red and overhearing a very interesting discussion by a group of NHS workers at the table beside me. I also learned (from the chef) that there were only 300 pax on board. Bed follows and it is a more than welcome feeling to be asleep at sea again. The best sleep I’ve had in a long time is interrupted by the wake up music doing its intended job. Dawn is still trying to make its presence felt as we dock on time. Announcements are made for car passengers on 3 deck to proceed there and ‘passagers pietons’ to assemble at reception on 6 deck. We are advised (again) that the gangway cannot be used due to tidal conditions and there will be a delay. At 8.45 we are informed that we can now disembark and proceed to 3 deck. At ‘C’ lift, several passengers are advised that they can use the stairs for this, however both ladies in front of me individually ask which deck they have to go to…….. The bus has an abortive attempt to reach the terminal building as some more footies arrive. Once there immigration is quite swift and I am checking in for the return journey just before 09.00. My suspicion that the only part of St Malo I will see today is the terminal building is confirmed by the (now familiar) information that ‘the gangway…..’ and boarding will commence at 09.30 – hence the title! Thirty minutes is obviously not enough time considering the lock is in demand (I had observed the movements of vessels during the wait on 6 deck). I wander outside into the car park to watch the sun make its presence felt on this cold morning. One coffee in the bar later and it’s the earlier process in reverse! My cabin this time is 6164 which is an outside cabin on the inside! Confused? – I was a little bit initially but quickly liked the idea. The cabin is situated port side forward with a window looking out onto the wrap-round walkway which is a feature of the ship. The window, in turn, marries a corresponding one on the ships side. Simples! I just have enough time to get my pint and onto the open deck to witness the ropes coming off and our departure. A beautiful morning quickly changes as a squall comes through and it’s back into the warmth of the bar. In daylight this area is transformed from the gloominess of last night with the full glory of this two deck high space displayed – even though it is a bit grey outside. Although the marshalling area seemed quite busy, there are less people on board now (250) than last night. A quick snooze and it’s time to think about lunch. I dally with treating myself to ‘Le Flora’ but the only option that appeals is the Burger…..which I feel is cheating a bit on fine dining. (A quick question for any ‘La Flora’ regulars out there – why does a buffet/main course selection cost more than buffet/main/buffet selection?). Needless to say I had a delicious salmon main/lemon meringue combination from the self service and a pleasant afternoon drinking wine/book reading/(very few) people watching. I noticed some signs adjacent to ‘le Grand Pavois’ bar advising that “Alcohol/Tobacco sales are not permitted within 20 mins after departure/before arrival into Plymouth” but there seems to be no restrictions at Portsmouth. Does anyone know why? A couple of lumps and bumps/short,fierce squalls during the crossing and all too soon we’re back in Portsmouth. Disembarkation and Border formalities are quickly done and then it’s off home. I’ve enjoyed this unexpected trip – even though I didn’t achieve my initial aim. Being on PA was a nice little treat. The daytime element of the journey certainly showed how light and airy she is. The crew were wonderful and the information flow regarding the gangway situation cannot be faulted. Cabin 6164 I would happily have again – even to Spain. Thanks BFE for the offer and, as always, comments are welcome Den
  13. As it is obviously too hard to go to the website and do it ................ http://www.shipsofcalmac.com/forum/register.php Den
  14. Hi, There are pictures and more information of this incident on the Ships Of CalMac forum website. http://www.shipsofcalmac.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12174&page=4 Relevant articles begin about half way down Den
  15. Day off today and getting up for 06.00 ish was infinitely harder than my usual 04.45 alarm Bus journey down to Gosport was a little fractious as regulars were keen to get the ferry before it stopped and additiional pax were delaying the service. Lots of people lining the shoreline plus an armed police presence (first time I've seen that in Gosport). Some pyrotechnics from the Southsea side then a burst of applause and cheering as she passed Falkland Gardens. A (very early) good day out!
  16. d2frs and Jim. Thanks for the comments. It's due to this site that I was aware of C Lib's track record and planned accordingly. Many Thanks BFE!!! Cabin-boy. By the time I walked to the railway station there was only one more scheduled train left (21.54 just under an hours wait). The information boards were stating that 'no real time information was available etc' and SWT were having a bad night due to problems at Micheldever. I could have carried on to the bus station but after the delay and long walk I just wanted to have a pint/lie down. They say 'Every cloud has a silver lining' and this turned out to be the taxi ride as, when we got to the hotel, it wasn't where I had worked it out to be (if you know what I mean). Thanks for reading/commenting Den
  17. Wortley, WOW! You're almost spot on!. I've just added all the transport/HOTAC costs up and it came to £ 204.25. The bus travel in/around Portsmouth was covered by my monthly pass; cross harbour travel was on the return half of a ticket. It would have been under that figure if I hadn't had to take a taxi from Poole station to my hotel (£ 15). I can provide a more detailed breakdown if you're bored! Yours Aye Den
  18. Thanks Paully..I thought it might have been too long a report - glad you enjoyed it Den
  19. I’ve been hankering for a while to try out the Condor Liberation and see for myself ‘what all the fuss was about’. The opportunity finally presented itself earlier this month and I duly booked a day trip to Guernsey departing Poole at 08.30 on Thursday 15th of June. As in all my travels I try to book the best class possible however the additional cost of Ocean Club both ways was a bit prohibitive – so I settled for Ocean Traveller outbound and Club on the return as this would give me a better overall perspective of the craft. Knowing that Condor Liberation has a questionable time keeping reputation I booked a hotel in Bournemouth ‘just to be on the safe side’ although my scheduled 18.40 arrival shouldn’t present a problem for me to get back to my flat in Gosport (turned out to be a good choice!). Time to turn my attention to getting there and this would require another overnight stay in the area. I was quite shocked by the prices being returned by both comparison sites and hotel’s own web sites – so it was time to think out of the box. I knew that Barfleur operated a couple of night sailing between Cherbourg and Poole and was doing so the evening before my trip. If she arrived on time at 07.00 it would give me enough time to get through the arrivals process before check-in and doing it all again in reverse! The 24 hour Brittany Ferries offer allowed me to travel from Portsmouth (on Normandie Express) and back (with a cabin on Barfleur) for just over £ 60 – a bargain – providing a much more interesting and enjoyable experience compared to a stuffy room on the South Cost. Wednesday morning dawned bright and fair with BBC’s weather lady Carole assuring me it would remain so for the next 72 hours. Travel to Portsmouth International Port was a mixture of First Hampshire services, aided by the Spirit of Gosport across the soggy bit, which also gave me my first experience of the new Hard Interchange building. The screens detailing departure information were also displaying the horrors of the tower block fire in London……L The terminal building was quiet when I arrived there, so I was immediately checked in for the 09.00 Normandie Express (NEX) departure. The café provided a decent pot of tea for me to enjoy out on the terrace while watching all the goings on. Apparently Wednesday is one of the busiest mornings in the port and this was certainly reflected by Normandie Express, Normandie and Commodore Clipper all present on my arrival, with Bretagne and Cap Finisterre arriving in due course. Foot passenger embarkation was duly called and a handful of us filed through security to the waiting bus. Once on board it was clear that this was a busy sailing (vehicle wise) with several classic and expensive cars heading to the Le Mans 24 hour race. A coach reversed on, followed by some larger motor homes, then boarding was complete allowing the two decks hands to complete the first part of their daily workout by vigorously securing the stern ramp. An on time departure was followed by a slow cruise past the RN Dockyard and onwards to France! As mentioned, the car deck seemed pretty full so I was expecting the passenger cabin to be also. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find that there were a lot of free seats to be found in the amidships and after cabins. Settling down in one of these, I waited for the queue at the café to dissipate before having breakfast. A new innovation on board the craft this year is a cooked breakfast, costing £ 4, consisting of continental style sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs and crushed potatoes. Despite the slightly green tinge to the potatoes they, and the rest of the meal, were quite tasty. This was fed back to the steward who had served me as he had asked for my honest opinion. The journey passed without incident and, upon arrival in Cherbourg, several of the crew were taking pictures of the expensive cargo they had carried across the Channel. A specific announcement was made for foot passengers to proceed to the car deck and coach passengers to remain in the cabin – which was largely ignored! Transit to, and through, the terminal was swift. Then it was off to enjoy the delights of Cherbourg on a very hot summer afternoon. My first port of call was my favourite bar ‘Le Skipper’ for a couple of pressions, book reading and people watching. Midway through my first drink there was a bit of a drama as an old lady didn’t see the step up into the bar and proceeded to fall into the chair opposite sending the table lamp, menu and my drink flying! Swift reactions saved most of my drink – and me from getting too wet – with the lady offering profuse apologies and bar staff swiftly on hand to mop up the spill. I was a bit shocked when I got the bill as it came to € 16 ….. what!!!! I returned to the terminal in the early evening so that I could enjoy a bite to eat before boarding Barfleur for the evening departure to Poole. Stena Horizon was alongside and seemed to have a healthy load for her crossing to Rosslare. There were only four of us footies so formalities were quick and we were soon on board. I left my backpack in my cabin (8300) while I repaired to the bar for my customary departure drink – enjoying it out on deck as we set sail on a balmy summers evening. The wake up music filtered into my dreams ending a fitful night’s sleep. Breakfast was okay – however I felt I was being rushed by the crew. My plate was removed immediately after I had taken my last bite, coffee cup likewise, and while it may have been ultra efficient service, it slightly came across that I was in their way. We arrived on time and I was soon through the arrivals terminal and into the check in area to begin the next part of the adventure. Condor announced foot passenger boarding at 07.30, so it was off through security and onto an ex London Transport bendy bus for the short drive to my latest new vessel – Condor Liberation. I had been allocated seat 223 which is in the mini Ocean Traveller cabin situated on the starboard side between Ocean Plus and Ocean Club. This seemed okay and I would return here later on. In the meantime it was an initial exploration of the vessel (not all that impressed) then onwards to the viewing area on the deck above. The Captain gave the usual departure announcement (weather conditions, travel time etc) and asked that passengers on the outside decks return to the main cabin for the safety video – which I duly did although several others remained on deck. The ‘rap’ style video has been replaced with a more contemporary one, and then it was back outside to witness a beautiful morning transit of Poole Bay. I had another wander around the vessel and still remained unimpressed. Compared to other fast craft I have travelled on (including Fred.Olsens’ trimaran in the Canary Islands) it seemed to be rather ‘confined’. Apart from the Ocean Plus area (which I only looked through the door at) I didn’t sense the feeling of openness normally associated with fast craft. The aforementioned mini cabin is a good idea as it was much quieter here than in the main cabin – maybe it was because there was only about 10 of us seated there – but I wouldn’t want to be in there if it was full. I took a seat at the rear of the craft whilst having a cup of tea so I could people watch – on this occasion not such a good idea! There was a large party of elderly Northern English people doing the same day trip as myself as part of their coach tour holiday. The first problem was that they couldn’t find their seat numbers (indicated by large magenta signs on the arm rests!)…..then they weren’t all seated together…..then it was too cold….I finally moved after one lady descended heavily onto the seat in front of me almost spilling my tea. I didn’t sample the catering on the outbound journey – but it looked to be of good quality and reasonably priced – unlike the £ 4.35 required for a pint of lager True to the Captains’ word we arrived in St Peter Port on time. Condor Liberation was joined today by Condor Rapide and Marin Marie of Manche Iles Express. Sark Belle arrived shortly afterwards, while Herm Trident V sat waiting some new passengers. Disembarkation was fairly swift allowing me to spend an enjoyable afternoon in Guernsey’s capital. Returning in good time for check in, I was met with a large queue and immediately thought the worst. Within a minute or so, there was an announcement for foot passengers to by-pass the queue and check in at the Condor desk (the group were being checked in at the Manche Iles desk and stretched back to the entrance). My boarding card indicated that I had been allocated seat 2019 in the Ocean Club lounge – the location of which I easily found thanks to the large seating plan displays available in the terminal. Boarding was the ‘long way round’ – i.e. along the jetty and down the link span rather than via the starboard side passenger access. Once on board the Captain delivered the bad news that the starboard engine has gone defective and the return journey would take four hours. The ‘Condor Curse’ had struck again! Once safely departed I made my way to the Ocean Club lounge where I was met by a friendly stewardess who went on to explain that my allocated seat (part of table of four) had been given to a party of three and I could sit in any free seat. Her seating plan indicated that the inboard half of the lounge was unoccupied so I chose the nearest one. Big Mistake!. The family in the other table seat had a particularly vocal child so I relocated to a seat further back – a fact noticed by the steward who commented that it was a bit noisy at the front. Menus were issued and drinks offered. I decided on a little power nap however and dozed fitfully for about an hour. Once awake the stewardess was quickly by my side asking if I was hungry. I was! The Ocean Club has its own menu and apparently it has just been revamped. One of the new dishes was ‘meatballs in a creamy pepper sauce accompanied by rice or chips’ which sounded interesting – so that was my order. This was quickly delivered (the Casquets Bistro is adjacent to the lounge) and was very good!. Portion size was perfect and I later discovered that this was the crew’s favourite meal J Successfully fed and watered, I wandered along to the Adore duty free shop with the intention of purchasing a postcard of the craft. Unfortunately there isn’t one! I did notice that the Traveller cabin was considerably busier than the outbound trip so I sought the sanctuary of the Club lounge and a welcome G+T. Our journey time was creeping up ten minutes at every update from the Captain and we eventually arrived in Poole just shy of 20.00 instead of the scheduled 18.40 – just as well I had the foresight to book a hotel. Once alongside disembarkation was painfully slow. It took about 25 mins to get off, then passengers – who obviously knew better than the bus driver and although told to wait – boarded the already full bus slightly delaying its departure L A long walk followed – due to the swing bridge being under maintenance I had to go via the Twin Sails bridge - to get to Poole station where I found out that South West Trains were disrupted and a taxi ride to my Bournemouth hotel was required. In summary it was an enjoyable two day trip. I’m not in to classic cars but seeing them on NEX was an unexpected treat. I haven’t spent a night at sea for a long time so that was a welcome return! The Condor trip was tainted by the delayed return and arrival experience – the Condor crew however are friendly, helpful and doing their best.
  20. Gareth Apprehensive of being flamed here again about flags/etiquette but I do have significant knowledge. The Pilot Execption flag (i.e flag is a horizontal white over red) is quite often confused with the national flag of Poland. Flag Hotel is vertical Red/White and does indeed mean you have a Pilot on board - or in Royal Naval terms operating helicopters - however someone who has better knowledge will no doubt come long and correct me!
  21. Pride of Portsmouth, Latest edition is out on the streets. I got my copy from the shop that doubles as the Post Office in Yarmouth, IOW a couple of weeks ago. That might be a bit too far to travel for you though If you're really stuck, I'll send you my copy when I've finished reading it. Den
  22. Muns, Footies aren't carried when the vessels sail to PIP. Additional catamaran sailings are provided during the night - often advertised as being operated by charter vessels. Den
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