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PHIL

"PRIDE OF BILBAO" - to Bilbao

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11th/23rd April.

 

Our run down from the north-east saw us arrive at Portsmouth CFP shortly after 1800 hours and well in time for the scheduled 2045 departure of "PRIDE OF BILBAO" to her namesake port. The first time we'd taken the car by this vessel, check-in was swift and with our sea-going chariot already alongside and discharging, I made the excuse of going to the P&O travel centre to change sterling for mickey-mouse euros. I passed the building and went to the far end of the vehicle entry shed and stood on tip-toe peering through to the quay beyond. Where was she?? After some 10 minutes her white bow appeared, then bridge frontage and soon my beloved "VAL DE LOIRE" was dead ahead of me as she completed berthing from St. Malo. I knew she wouldn't let me down!! Satisfied she knew I'd missed her since Rouen at New Year, I returned to a frantic carload as marshalls directed other traffic around my car and onto the quay apron and with only a further 10 minute wait we were soon driving over the bow-ramp and through the length of the ship to park by the sterndoor bulkheads. Up to deck 6 and cabin 6820 to deposit our luggage ( an earlier request for our favourite cabin 6900 had apologetically been refused by P&O) and we soon had Stella's in front of us in Silverstones. The 2nd was on it's way down as Captain Mayerhoff made his welcome onboard announcement, stating his vessel was ready for sea and was only waiting for "PRIDE OF PORTSMOUTH" to come alongside before we commenced our departure. Weather was a predicted 3 to 4 decreasing to give a 'comfortable' crossing. Moans from yours truly but smiles from the rest of them, my idea of a 'comfortable' crossing being at least a force 6/7 and hopefully increasing gale 8! Nevertheless, engines kicked into life and we made our way down the Solent and we then went to the IFC for the customary piri-piri as our vessel passed the Nab to run south of the IOW. Coming out of the shower later into a darkened cabin, through the port and to starboard, "VAL DE LOIRE" was about a mile off on reduced speed and waiting for us to pass before she would turn and cross our stern returning to St. Malo - all lit-up she looked magnificent. Thus followed a full day of complete relaxation courtesy of Silverstones/Pub Felix and the IFC as we headed through the Bay. Evening entertainment was provided free-of-charge by about 20 or 30 passengers sat under a t.v. with jaws agape watching the 'soaps' churn out their daily garbage for the brain-dead. IT'S NOT REAL, YOU SADDO'S !!

 

On schedule, we were swinging off our berth at Santurtzi just before 0800 the following morning and vehicles were disembarking within 10 minutes of coming alongside. On an earlier mini - we'd walked the road overlooking the terminal with a view to getting an idea of the road layout from the port just for this trip, though we needn't have bothered, the exit being easily signposted and as all previous runs through Spain to the Costa Del Sol had been via Santander, instead of heading south and west for Burgos, we purposely used the old N-634 coast road alongside the motorway which took us through Castro Urdiales, Laredo and Solares before meeting up with our well-travelled N-623 running south from Santander. A taste of 'real' Spain, then it was full-ahead through Madrid and at 1830 we were dropping down through the Andalucian mountain range and our first view of a glistening Mediterranean Sea.

 

A quick run one day along the coast and over to Gibraltar for diesel (46p a litre) though we had no luck in seeing ferry traffic Algeciras/Tangier, though for some reason the majority of vessels anchored off Gib were gas tankers.

 

8 days later and an overnight run back up through Spain, "PRIDE OF BILBAO" had already arrived as we again joined other vehicles for the return crossing. Back into cabin 6820, drop luggage, make this time for the terrace bar aft on deck and in glorious weather we swung out of Santurtzi with again Captain Mayerhoff's forecast of a glass-smooth crossing all the way home. One of these days!! Off Ushant around 0600 the following morning, then the Channel Islands at noon which we were unable to see owing to a little mist, "PRIDE OF BILBAO" on schedule ran off the IOW, swinging up the Solent as "PRIDE OF PORTSMOUTH" passed us outbound in the channel, our vessel slid into a deserted CFP at 1715 on the dot - another now distant memory.

 

Final Comments : Still unable to determine whether BF or P&O have the edge in Spanish crossings. Our quote for this trip was about GBP 100 cheaper than BF, though I was prepared for this to be eroded by onboard expenditure on the longer crossing. In reality I got a shock and ended up paying a lot more than the initial saving of GBP 100. Without doubt BF is the class-act and at least they vary their menus, the IFC menu hasn't changed at all in our 3 crossings - kids get sick of pie and chips or fish and chips and for us, after the chicken in asparagus there's a limit as to how much piri-piri one can eat. The request for cleaners to have access to your cabin seems to commence 3 hours from port, not good if you want a little nap before your long drive home. In the end, you pays your money and makes your choice - but at least at the moment we have the BF/P&O option available !!

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Re: "PRIDE OF BILBAO" - to Bilbao

 

I really like reading your reports, Phil. You sound like my kind of ferry traveller...

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