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PHIL

"PONT-AVEN" - minicruise - (to BRISTOL !)

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ORIGINAL POST : NEIL DIAMOND - "LIVE" - with B/F

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by PHIL

Have so far seen his 2005 World Tour performances at Hull, Newcastle and Ipswich with Birmingham and Woburn Abbey to come, plus a final performance at Bristol on June 14th - a Tuesday evening 8pm start. "PONT-AVEN" sails Plymouth Sunday 12th and returns to Millbay on Tuesday morning and we have to pass Bristol to come home to the North-East. Now, are you thinking what I'm thinking.........!!!

 

PHIL

 

 

 

Which is admittedly a strange introduction to a Voyage Report but bear with me....

 

With the 'visa' well and truly hammered we arrived at Plymouth Ferryport complete with passports, ferry tickets and our precious concert tickets - the idea had worked. Contributing a further GBP 7.00 to parking fees courtesy of my plastic friend, "Don't moan" she says - "Think of what it would have cost at Portsmouth" - I don't moan! Our cunning ploy of checking in 50 minutes prior to sailing had worked a treat with the masses already onboard, thus check-in was a doddle. Walking across the quay apron she obviously didn't hear my mutterings about 'proper' Santander vessels normally berthing head-in at Millbay, or if she did chose not to go down that well-worn route. Due to our late booking. no 2 berth outside cabins were available so we plumped for an outside 4 berth. 6113 was allocated accordingly, deck 6 of course, starboard side for'd. Cabin service had been good with no shortages and fresh towels neatly in their rack in the w.c. - much better than plonking them on your bunk P&O fashion. One of these days I'm going to make an issue of being charged for an "outside" cabin "inside" this vessel's wrap-around walkway - anybody else irritated by this? As tradition requires, Le Grand Pavois beckoned with cool Kronenbourg for me and Strongbow for Her Ladyship, cider stocks were ample I was told. "They weren't last trip" I smiled. On schedule at 16:00 "PONT-AVEN" shuddered as bow-thrusters pushed the vessel from the quay wall, propellers bit water and we manoeuvered through the Sound, Commandant Saludo this trip. Very shortly the Eddystone was on our port beam as our flying machine thundered along at 27 knots, doing her best to keep her bulbous bow under water and not take to the skies. Ship traffic was quiet and weather forecast good, as is the norm when I'm bound across Biscay. Le Fastnet looked after us for the next couple of hours until showered and changed, La Belle Angele was needed. Our 2nd cunning plan, that of avoiding the crowds before the kid's school holidays was an abject failure as the restaurant was very full early evening, thus we adjourned again to Le Fastnet, though again we had to take drinks to the lounge area outside the bar. By 21:00 the restaurant had cleared somewhat and again tradition meant that as entrecote in pepper sauce was available, that would be our evening meal. Superb it was, back to the high B/F standard - our last crossing with "PONT-AVEN" in November had been disastrous as regards the entrecote and a B/F crossing without a decent entrecote just isn't on. By now our cabin was calling and after a quick look outside (this ship is an absolute nightmare as regards access to the open deck) settled down for the night.

 

At 09:00 the following morning, weather grey and overcast but quite warm and no land yet in sight we took breakfast, though as soon as we had finished the lighthouse at Cabo Mayor could be seen to starboard as we rounded the point for our Santander approach. As instructed, the sun broke through and a minute or two before 10:30 our Commandant had nursed 41000 gross tons alongside. Cunning ploy no: 3 was another failure, that of not hurrying to be pushed and jostled being first ashore. Taking our time we joined the end of the queue some 20 minutes after disembarking commenced, only to be halted on the telescopic gangway for about 20 minutes due to some hold-up in the terminal below. This was further compounded by the young girl at Immigration control being handed a soaking wet passport by the passenger immediately in front of us and who for some reason best known to himself had decided to shower with his passport for company. Is it just me that always gets the bonehead in front in a queue, never behind me ??

 

Santander we find is always ideal for a minicruise, preferable to Bilbao for the easier access to shops, cafes and bars, the proprietors of whom were swiftly doing good business with the arrivals from Plymouth. After a wander around and a couple of cold-ones and a plate of chips, we re-boarded our flagship and commenced manoeuvring shortly after 14:30 UK time. Our passage down the channel was interrupted by the p/a announcement that "AMSTERDAM" was entering the harbour. Visions of Holland America Line were quickly dispelled as Commandant Saludo had slowed his vessel almost to stop in the water, allowing his passengers to get a superb view of a Dutch East-Indiaman as she passed along our port side with sails furled. One of the tall-ships sites advises she was completed in 1990 for the Dutch SeaMuseum and is a replica of her 1749 built namesake which from memory foundered off Hastings and can still be seen at various tidal conditions. "PONT-AVEN" acknowled "AMSTERDAM" with 3 long blasts, reciprocated by 3 long toots from the tall-ship, then 1 blast and 1 toot in reply as both vessels recommenced their repective tracks. Maritime heritage at its best, though the bow-thrust symbol above the waterline for'd on "AMSTERDAM" brought you back to reality. It was warm enough for the sun-deck for the next 2 hours with Les Finisteres providing the refreshment, then cabin for shower and fresh clothes prior to our last night at sea. Le Grand Pavois, though not quite as full as the outbound trip, was still well patronised, though we gave this a miss as yet again the few smokers who chose to ignore the no-smoking signs contributed their death-wishes to the majority. In fairness, both leaving Plymouth and Santander, p/a announcements declared "PONT-AVEN" as a no-smoking vessel other than in designated areas, sections of the bars, atrium etc. though this was never followed up by ship's staff as far as we could see and any objections voiced were only those from fellow passengers. This we also noticed appeared to be the case on a "PRIDE OF BILBAO" minicruise recently - the sooner a ban on smoking inside this vessel and her like is imposed the better in my opinion and we all know it's coming. Le Fastnet provided refuge, both from smoke and bingo, and a relaxing couple of hours followed until it was time visit chef again and quality-control his entrecote, this time in a bernaise sauce. Qualty-control successfull! Lights out in cabin 6113 at 22:00 and dreams of Biscay crossings taking 24 hours were interrupted by the call to breakfast in time for our Plymouth arrival now scheduled for 09:40 and as our Master conned his charge astern into Millbay the final notes were scribbled for this Voyage Log. Another good one.

 

++++++

 

(And with apologies to our moderators for just a slight cross-threading of forums) - Thanks Mr. Diamond. Another super trip followed by yet another fantastic concert from this incomparable singer-songwriter genius. 30000 fans at Bristol City joined in with "Sweet Caroline" then cheered and applauded as one for an encore. They never got it - he sang the whole song again!! Thanks for my minicruise ND !

 

PHIL

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Re: "PONT-AVEN" - minicruise - (to BRISTOL !)

 

Great report, Phil - quite a double for you! I can't agree with you more when you say the sooner smoking is completely banned inside ships the better - the smoke-free atmosphere (due to Irish legislation) was the one and only good aspect of my trips on Irish Ferries' ship Isle of Inishmore last July.

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Re: "PONT-AVEN" - minicruise - (to BRISTOL !)

 

I just called BF to ask about any forthcoming changes to their smoking rules.

 

They confirm that they are quite happy for non-smoking Neil Diamond fans to take their beer and sandwiches out on deck if they so choose.

 

They concede however that, when France becomes a no-smoking country, then French registered ships will follow the rule. They further added that since red meat is a potential health hazard they are considering a ban on entrecote. :tounge-in

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Re: "PONT-AVEN" - minicruise - (to BRISTOL !)

 

Hope not it's MY meal with rice and veg! mmmmm

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