musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: cruise

Scanning the Slides

When I was still photographing ships in the pre-digital days I was shooting with slide film. There were many advantages to it at the time. The large images displayed on a screen were amazing to see and much better than the standard small prints that were the result of shooting with film. Pricewise it was slightly cheaper to shoot and process 36 slides than it was to develop and print 36 prints. And of course the prints were only as good as the operator of the printing machine. When the digital era arrived I really wanted to convert my slides into a digital format and the first results that I still have is a contact sheet that a friend of mine made on a professional film scanner at his work in 1999. Unfortunately the resulting images, while excellent copies were only 640×480 in size.

A few years later I bought a “Genius” flatbed scanner that could scan slides, and the results were mixed. Because many of the images had vast expanses of blue water in them I could not get a semi decent outcome because the scanner lamp had a slight blue tinge to it and rendered the images less than perfect. The scanner wasn’t faulty either because I even sat with a technician from the company and we were just not able to get a perfect result, or one as good as the contact sheet above. 

I never gave up though and at one point I bought a high end Epson scanner and it could scan slides and negatives but the interface tended to be somewhat iffy. The end result was much better and in some case I had a lot of success with the scanner, so much so that 90% of the ship and cruise images on my blogs were created with that scanner. I did not scan everything though, some images just came out badly and and others I skipped because there was too much to do. 

The scanner did produce some amazing results from negatives, and while I did not even tackle them as a project I really should have, although I never used an SLR for prints.

The images above are both scanned from the 1986 negatives. 

In 2010 I bought a dedicated slide/negative scanner that had just come onto the market and frankly it was a waste of time and money. Surely there were other ways to convert slides to digital? 

Since the advent of the digital camera (and high end cell phone camera too) there are other possible ways to scan slides and when I was in South Africa I did some experimenting. The end results were interesting although some images were a disaster due to focusing issues. My “rig” looked something like this:  

I have a small battery powered pocket slide viewer that I bought in the USA, and it formed the display part of my machine.

I also have a cut down enlarger head stand that enables me to get up close and personal with a document (or slide viewer) parallel to my camera.


And of course my digital camera forms the last part of it all and I initially set the camera on the “Macro” setting and set this up in a dark room with the only illumination coming from the viewer screen. The reality is that I was taking a very close up shot of a displayed slide. 

The output.

It was mixed. Some images came out so well, while others were lousy. The focusing being the biggest issue and that may have been a problem with camera shake or me misfocusing or in some cases the slide is slightly bowed.  I am still sorting the 1331 images that I photographed, so cannot comment on whether this was a success or not. The biggest problem I had was not being able to see the output on a monitor after I did it and now that I am back in the UK I cannot redo the images as the slides are in South Africa. I do however feel that the theory is sound, and I would have liked to have seen what a cell phone camera does under the same conditions, alas I did not have a way to mount one with me so could not try it out. 

I am not done yet and will reserve my verdict till after I have sorted and culled. But it is worth considering as an option if ever slides need digitising. 

To be continued.

DRW © 2019. Created 21/03/2019

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:57

And then I was in Southampton

Continuing with my retrospect of events that happened 5 years ago.

By the end of March 2013 I was ready to leave London, although disaster was about to overtake me on the day before I left. The first disaster was forgetting the pin number of my new bank card, and the second was discovering that my cellphone package was not working as it expired at the point where I needed it most. The other disaster was a phone call that I received from the place where I was going to stay in the city, which left me having to scramble around for another place in a hurry. I literally grabbed the first I could see and hoped that it was not a dive. I was going to travel by bus to Southampton and duly reported to Victoria Coach station to catch my bus. Gads, the place was a mess!

I will never understand why long distance bus stations are such awful places, and why the Victoria  Coach Station doesn’t connect to the railway station in a logical manner!

Two things happened on that bus trip that would come back further down the line. On our way out of London we passed a set of really magnificent buildings that I eventually found out were the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as the Natural History Museum. I took the image of the Natural History Museum with my phone and kicked myself for not checking out the museums in that area (I was too busy in cemeteries).  I would rectify the V&A and Science Museum in June 2016 but sadly the Natural History Museum was closed for renovations when I tried to see it in 2017.  

The second odd thing to happen was when we stopped in the city of Winchester to collect onward passengers.

Winchester seen through the coach window

I did not really connect the dots at that point as to where Southampton was in relation to London, Portsmouth and Hampshire as a county. That was still to come. As was my visit to Winchester where I went for a job interview a few months later.  Oddly enough I never saw that statue on my visit, which makes me wonder whether that was Winchester at all. However, some quick looking up reveals that the statue is of King Alfred the Great, and it stands close to the site of the city’s medieval East Gate.

The first thing that struck me when I hit Southampton were the ancient city walls that still exist in places in the city. 

I have never done a complete post about the city walls, because it is difficult to work out how they came together, a lot were destroyed in the bombing of the city and a lot were lost by the town planners who rebuilt it. Southampton was badly affected by the bombing and would never be the same city as it was prior to World War 2. 

I also met my new landlord “Bob” who is still one of the nicest guys I have ever met in the UK. If it wasn’t for him I would have really been in serious trouble as my finances started to dwindle when I could not find work. He was a pillar of strength and an understanding ear, he was also took me to places that I ordinarily would not get to see, and when I finally left Southampton I was very sad to say goodbye to him. Thank you Bob. I will never forget you.

The first impressions of my new “home” were not favourable, in fact I was tempted to run away when I first saw it. The entrance was in a parking lot and you were immediately faced with a steep flight of stairs that were always chilly.  A further flight took you to the room and the bathroom on that floor. Inside the place was not great, there was a window, bed, washing machine, toaster oven, fridge, table and a broken wardrobe. The view was of the rooftop of Debenhams and in the distance a park. Somebody had dumped a whole dustbin load of rubbish on the rooftop and I needed to get that cleaned before the seagulls had a party. First thing though was to get the bank card sorted out as I needed to pay rent. I had the money for the deposit but my months rent was still sitting in the bank. Bob was not impressed but understood the situation. The problem was that I had to wait for a new pin and only the bank could issue that via post! Fortunately I was able to withdraw money through the cashier and pay my rent.

Next on my agenda was the harbour! and Bob took me up to the harbour to see the Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately you could not get closer to her than the pic shows. She was the first cruise liner that I have seen since 2010 and  was berthed up at what is loosely known as “Mayflower” (aka 106). This image is the first ship photograph that I took in Southampton, and by the time I stopped taking pics in it there were 45 individual cruise ships in my collection.

After that he dropped me off at the pier and I was left to shiver in the cold and try to catch my breath as I stared agape at the cruise ship (P&O’s Ventura) berthed at the Ocean Terminal and the Red Funnel ferries sailing past as I watched. I would get to spend a lot of time at Town Quay photographing ships, and each was a special occasion. 

I hung around till the two ships sailed before trying to find my way home. To be honest I was not even too sure where home was! Technically I was living in town as opposed to any of the suburbs (St Mary’s being the closest to where I was). On my way home I passed an employment agency and made a mental note to go register with them as there was a job advertised that was just up my street. 

Many things would happen in the time I was in Southampton (7/03/2013-10/2013), I  cleaned up my room and found my way around (did I mention ships?), but jobwise I could not find anything. The agency turned out to only be interested in numbers and like so many other agencies did not do me the courtesy of a call back even after I registered with them.  I was able to snag a part time job as a baggage handler for the ships, but it was not consistent work and it really just tided me through till I found permanent work.

Unfortunately that job was way too heavy for me and I really battled with pain in my left arm as a result of it. However, from a ship buff’s point of view it was strangely interesting. I had sailed on ships as a passenger but here I was seeing things on the other side of the shell door.  I worked onboard some of the vessels as well, and Oriana was really the hardest to work on because it was always chaos. But, sometimes we had lunch and breakfast on board and that was great. 

From a cemetery point of view Southampton has three major cemeteries: The Old Cemetery, Hollybrook and finally Netley Military Cemetery They were all fascinating places to visit, and I spent many hours in the Old Cemetery hunting down war graves and the graves of people connected to the Titanic. Southampton has a number of Titanic memorials and other Titanic related places to hunt down, but the Titanic mania has meant that a lot of the other maritime history connected to the city has been neglected, and this was reflected in the Sea City Museum. Fortunately I am no longer obsessed with the ship.

Southampton is geographically close to Portsmouth and all of its history, and of course the Isle of Wight is just a ferry ride away. Hythe is situated across from the city and it is quite a popular shipwatching spot, assuming you manage to get back in time for the last ferry. 

Hythe Pier

The pier even has it’s own railway line, and close to the pier is a monument to Sir Christopher Cockrell (1910-1999), considered to be the father of the hovercraft. Unfortunately I never really explored Hythe properly so I am sure there is a lot that I missed. I did do a retrospective post on it though to add to my memories.

(1500×576). The Itchen Bridge

The harbour is fed from the River Test and Itchen, and there is a wonderful road bridge over the itchen with Southampton on one side and Woolston on the other. That bridge was a long steep climb though but I saw so much from it.  

Southampton links in 3 directions to almost anywhere and was quite a convenient base to search for jobs, but realistically I should have lived in Reading to get more out of jobhunting. Jobwise Southampton was a dead end, and while I did go for interviews none were successful except for the last interview that I had in Salisbury. The irony is that in all my time in Southampton I went for more interviews and made more applications than I did between 2011 and 2012 in South Africa. 

South Western House

St Mary’s Southampton

Terminus House

Central Hall

The Bargate

Civic Centre

Former Royal Pier building

Netley Castle from Southampton Water

Queen Mary 2  at Ocean Terminal

Former docks post office building

I found permanent employment in Salisbury in September 2013, but only moved at the end of November so lived in between the two cities for over two months. I was sad to leave Southampton though and will always consider it to be my equivalent of “the place where I was born” (for want of a better description)

(1500×247) Hamtun Street Mural. Depicting landmark buildings and events from Southampton’s history, from the Romans and Saxons to the modern docks and liners. Created in 1978 by artists Henry and Joyce Collins, and restored in 2011

Unfortunately Bob lost his wife in mid 2013 and I saw much less of him after that, but he was always a friendly face in his trademark blue shirt. The empty shopping centre next to the flats was demolished, the original plan was to build a Morrisons there. By the time I left the city the plans were seemingly intact but I heard that it all fell through and chances are they would have erected student accommodation or yuppie pads in it’s place. The sad fact is that Southampton is really like a giant parking lot with many of the historic buildings made into yuppie pads or care homes. In fact that is also true in many of the cities in the UK. 

(1500×284) Town Quay

There were lots of places to visit that were not connected to the Titanic, and some of these may be found listed in the links (the links work from the top downwards chronologically).  

DRW © 2013-2018. 

Updated: 15/03/2019 — 06:54

A last farewell

This post is one that I have dreaded for quite some time, and the time has finally come to make it. However, there is much more to it than a mere farewell, because it is really the culmination of many parts. It really starts way back in the in 1992 when I first saw the newly built RMS St Helena in Cape Town from the Canberra. Both of these vessels are legends, but at the moment we are more interested in the RMS. and this was the first photograph that I took of her. 

Because her prices were in £ she was very expensive to sail on, and a short cruise was not easy to get because she ploughed a long furrow between Cape Town, St Helena, Ascension Island and finally the UK. She was amongst the last passenger ships doing a dedicated line voyage and was also amongst the few ships left that flew the Royal Mail pennant. 

RMS at St Helena. Image courtesy of Sabrina Harper

By some weird piece of luck I heard about spaces being available on board her for the voyage to Tristan da Cunha  that was happening in  1993, and I took a chance and booked passage. It was not cheap by any means and I am thankful for my travel agent who helped me with my booking and the associated flights to and from Cape Town.

Naturally sailing day was a long drag away. I was stuck in a dead end job with a company I loathed, and was only too glad to get away from them for awhile. Around about the same time I picked up issues with my health and ended up having to lug a stash of pills on board with me. There was no way in hell I would be stopped by aches and pains. The report of my voyage exists on allatsea so I am not going to repeat it, suffice to say I enjoyed it thoroughly; Tristan was a fascinating destination, but the ship was so much better. She is really a hybrid passenger and cargo ship and of course does not have the glitz and glamour of the modern cruise ships, if anything she really came from a much nicer era of travel. Her crew were composed of a mixture of “Saints” and ex Union-Castle staff and of course that meant that I was experiencing just a tiny piece of the legacy of the glorious  Union-Castle mail ships. 

I was very fortunate to get that opportunity of a voyage and I kept an eye on her as much as was possible in the intervening years. At some point she stopped calling in the UK, and she was managed by Andrew Weir Shipping as opposed to Curnow Shipping. Work was started on an airport at St Helena and that was really the death knell of my favourite ship, although it was still a number of years away. 

A number of years have passed, the airport was ready to open and it was announced that the RMS would make one final voyage to the UK, arriving in June 2016. At first I thought “Who do I know that can get me pics?” And then I decided I would get them myself and set out for London  on the 7th of June to see the RMS for the last time.   I have told that story before and you can read about it on the blogpost.

The airport was not without its problems though and the RMS was granted a reprieve for another year and a half. 

A year and a half has passed, and sadly the RMS has sailed from Cape Town on her last voyage. The moment that all of her many fans dreaded has finally arrived. 

What of her future? she is came into service in 1990 so is already over 27 years old and is already in the zone where a replacement should have been on the table. She has always had engine issues, and recently had to return to drydock for repairs in Simonstown. The odds of her finding a reputable buyer is really very small, and the odds of her becoming a static hotel in St Helena is even smaller. Unless a buyer can be found she will make one last voyage to the beach, and that will be incredibly sad. However, rather she gets broken up than stuck in some backwater and left to rot.  I am a realist, and preserving ships in a very costly business, even one as small as her. 

I remember many years ago a print advert for Union-Castle that showed the inside of a jet aircraft and a view from the window. It more or less said: “From (date unknown) this is the view you will see when you go to England (or South Africa).” That is now also true of those who wish to visit St Helena Island. 

She will be sadly missed, there will never be another like her. 

The end of the era has come.

Glenn Kasner took photo’s of that last sailing and these images are copyright to him. I am using them with permission.

Sadly she had somewhat of a poor send off, but thanks to the tug for showing some respect.  And while Cape Town hardly budged from their torpor the same could not be said about her send off at St Helena. These images were kindly sent to me by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission.

**Update 2018**

10/02/2018. The RMS sailed from St Helena for the last time. The ship, which has supplied the island since coming into service so long ago was expected to reach Cape Town on the 15th of February (Since revised to 17 Feb) where they will disembark the last passengers who sailed on the ship. Thereafter she will go into lay up or alternatively head off to her next destination, whether it is the beaches of Alang or a new career. The Master was unable to reveal what the final destination of the vessel will be as he would only find out while en route for Cape Town. Once I know more I will post it here too. 

Farewell RMS, fair weather for your final journeys. Thank you for the experience of real sea travel the way it used to be.

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS has been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks. At this point there has been no announcement as to when she will sail from Cape Town for the last time. 

DRW © 2018. Created 25/01/2018. Cape Town sailing images are by Glen Kasner © 2018 and last 3 by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission, updated 15/02/2018, additional images added  18/04/2018

Updated: 18/04/2018 — 18:44

Preserved Ships: MV Balmoral

The Balmoral was not an excursion ship that I ever saw in Southampton, although that she was built for service between Southampton and Cowes in the Isle of White, as well as perform excursions around the South Coast. The MV Balmoral that this post is about is the vintage excursion ship owned by the MV Balmoral Fund Ltd and I first saw her in Bristol in January 2014. In fact I was not even aware that she was in Bristol at the time.

Unfortunately I was on my way to see the SS Great Britain, so did not take too many pics as I was on a tight schedule (which is dominated by the train timetable). I filed the information in the back of my mind with the intention of coming back one day.

Well this day was that “one day”; only it was now over 20 months later, and there was always the chance that the vessel would have shifted. I do know she had been active for awhile, and fortunately she was in the same spot as when I saw her last time. Unfortunately I was not as lucky with the light this time around, it was a grey and dreary day, although the harbour was really bustling as there was a heritage day event going on in the harbour.

There was a lot going on around the vessel, and there was a sign that indicated that you could go on board her. I weighed that up with what I wanted to see (a rare steam engine), and decided to come back to her once I had taken my pics. Time passed and by 13H45 I was alongside the Balmoral once again. I only had 15 minutes to spare before I left for the station, but with luck I could push it to 45 minutes if I caught a different train. The gangway guard laughed when he heard my predicament, he even knew what train I was after! (image below from 2018)

Then I was onboard the vessel, and it was time to look around.

On board she is really fitted out with lounges and seating areas, and while they are not ugly spaces I was not too enamoured with the colour schemes in some of the areas.



Naturally I headed for the bridge and wheelhouse, but hit a snag. There were at least 6 people in it, and one standing blocking the door, so I could not even get a look into it.

I headed down to the foredeck to look around, hoping that the wheelhouse would be vacated before train time came along, but it did not look as if anybody was going to budge.
The upper decks are not as nice as on Shieldhall, but they are full of the tiddley bits that make ships so interesting


I have no idea what had been going on on the aft decks, but it was obvious that I was not going to get any further than where I took the image from. I headed back inside again, to the forward facing lounge, and it was not a big space at all. In fact I think it could get very crowded in there.

The engine room was also open, but the doors were shut and a private group seemed to be visiting. I hung around a bit then went walkies again and returned, but nothing was budging in there, and the wheelhouse was still full of people so realistically there was not much else to see, unless I could get into some area where I was not allowed. It was time I took my leave. I was already running a few minutes late, so really had to leave now or hang around for how long waiting to get to the bridge or engine room.

The “Famous Bow Shot” above was taken in 2014 from the bridge that is almost in spitting distance of the ship, the bridge was undergoing refurbishment at the time and a temporary walk way enables people to cross the river. The image below is from 2018 and the vessel had been moved from the position by the bridge to further down the harbour

My images were dictated by the weather, but it does give me incentive to return to Bristol to rectify the situation, hopefully next time will not be 20 months away.  If I had the opportunity I would definitely go on her for a short jaunt, although I think it could be very crowded on a busy day.

Farewell Balmoral, I hope to see you again soon.

**UPDATE 21/07/2018**

I was in Bristol once again for the Harbour Festival and was hoping to get on board her. She was not in the space where I had last seen her last but berthed almost opposite the Great Britain. Unfortunately the woman who was at the gangplank was not ready to let me see the wheelhouse, and insisted that I have a guide with. The only problem being that the guide was standing at the opposite rail watching what was going on. She was not willing to call him and neither was I able to persuade her to let me go  on board and grab the guide and get it done with. The problem with waiting for more people to pitch was that I would still have the same problem of too many people in too small a space. I gave up and left and have now closed the book on the ship.  

© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 02/05/2016. Some images replaced 22/08/2018 and page updated.

Updated: 22/07/2018 — 16:40

Southampton Shipwatch 44: Britannia

On this slightly overcast morning I made my way to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of  P&O’s new ship Britannia. I was hoping that the weather would not turn nasty and that the sun would shine on her arrival. The ship was due at the dockhead at 12H30, and would sail down to the swinging grounds by Mayflower, turn, and then hold her position for a parachute drop, before sailing to the swinging ground at Ocean Terminal and then going in stern first for the first time in Southampton. This would be the 8th maiden arrival that I have witnessed from the city.
I arrived early, although fortunately I did plan for an early train as there was an incident at Clapham Junction that delayed trains from the east, most were running roughly 30 minutes late. It did mean I had some time to kill and I mooched around like a lost soul until I saw tugs heading from their berths towards Southampton Water. She was close! 
That first glimpse is an important one, because that is where you get to see a ship that may exist for 30 years, and who could become an old friend as you see her regularly. The first thing I spotted were the two big blue funnels
P&O have been doing a rebranding exercise, the traditional yellowish funnel being replaced with blue, and hull art being painted on the bows. On a new ship it does make sense, but on a ship like Oriana or Aurora it does not. Those two vessels were built for P&O, and I don’t think rebranding them was a good idea, they are both very British ships (inspite of their registry), and they should not have been touched. 
Then they turned on the window washers and from this point onwards the tugs went crazy with their water canon. So much so that a decent pic of the ship was almost impossible. Having seen other images taken at Mayflower and Hythe I should really have gone there instead of Town Quay.
I have to admit I do like her, she does bear a resemblance to Royal Princess but does not have that overly top heavy appearance of the Princess ship, and of course the twin funnels really make a difference. 
Town Quay was packed, and it was good to see so many people out there to welcome this new ship, although a part of me was unhappy that so many people were getting in each others way and ruining the shots! (We won’t even discuss the worm drowners).  As you can see the water jets were huge and the wind was blowing the spray onto us rubber neckers, so I did get a taste of the harbour water (and it was salty).
People now started to dash off to Mayflower to join the hordes that were already there. I chose to remain where I was (probably because I did not feel like going all that way), but I was really hoping to get better images when she returned having been swung.
As modern ships go she is not unattractive, she does look slightly bulky in the rear end, and of course that downward sloping stern and ducktail does nothing for me, but I can live with that. The branding on her bow is not too distracting either, in fact it does provide a nice break from all the white.
For those that are interested, Svitzer Sarah was the main culprit that was washing windows. 
They started to swing the ship and we finally got a chance to see all of her with not too much spray, and I think she probably looks at her best from that angle. She does have reasonably clean lines without all the top hamper and clutter that the two NCL ships (Getaway and Breakaway)  have. 
Once she had swung everything stopped while overhead a small aircraft dropped 3 parachutists. I must admit I did find that a bit of an odd thing to do, but then there was probably some publicity reasoning behind it.
The show over, the vessel slowly made her way towards us, although this time around we would all move away from the spray and keep our lenses dry! 
They then started to swing her once again so that she could go astern into the berth. Usually the ships manage to accomplish this without the use of attendant tugs, but it seems as if nobody was taking any chances today.
And then it was time for me to make tracks. I had a train to catch, and it was at least 25 minutes walk to the station. I turned my own bows to home and bid the newest addition to the worlds cruising fleet a fond farewell. I hoped to see her again one day, but till that day comes, may she have a long and successful career, unfortunately, she will become the new P&O flagship, taking the title from Oriana. 
On Sunday 10 March, The Queen will officially name the vessel, and she will commence her cruise programme shortly thereafter. 
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 06/03/2015. Images migrated 27/04/2015
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:43

A classic goes to the breakers

Today marked the end of the former Island Venture, or as she came to be known; Island Princess, and later Discovery. She was one of two sister ships built for flagship cruises, and her sister, Sea Venture became famous as the ship used in the TV series “The Love Boat”. The ships were not regular callers in South Africa, and I could be wrong but the call of Island Princess in March 1996 may have been the first for these ships under the Princess banner.

I was fortunate enough to visit her on this call, and I did a personal view of the visit in October 2012. They were handsome ships, with nice lines and a businesslike look about them. Unfortunately Sea Venture/Pacific Princess was not as fortunate as Island Venture/Island Princess was, the former not quite finding a niche to fill and being laid up for a few years in a deteriorating condition. She sadly went to the breakers in August 2013.  
Pacific Princess in happier times

Pacific Princess in happier times

As Discovery; Island Venture had a loyal following for many years, although the writing was really on the wall for her too. There were no last minute buyers for this old lady of the sea, she really slipped away from us and sailed on her last lonely voyage not too long ago. I always hoped she would call at Southampton but she never did, so I never got to see her again. 
Discovery in happier times. Image by Hugh Knapton

Discovery in happier times. Image by Hugh Knapton

Strangely enough the images I took in Durban of her sailing were not from the North Pier, but from the South, and while I did get unique images of her they were not the pics I wanted. 
Yet, there is one image that kind of says it all.
That last glimpse you get as a ship sails away, every departure means an arrival, and every arrival means a departure. Except when that departure is for the beaches at Alang. Farewell Island Princess, you will be missed.
DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 21/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:42

Southampton Shipwatch 43. Quantum of the Seas

RCL’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, had her maiden arrival in Southampton this past week. Unfortunately, as I am in my last days at work I was unable to get leave to see her, although she did arrive in the late afternoon, which would have made photography difficult anyway. The only window I really had to see her would be on the Sunday afternoon when she sailed for the United States.
The weather has not been kind to photographers lately and I was in two minds to go down to Southampton to see the ship. The timing was awkward because of trains, and a 17H00 sailing would have been do-able, but only just.
I arrived at the station at roughly 15H30, and caught the bus down to Town Quay. The walk was just not something I felt like tackling. Ever since my ankle started to play around I have been trying to cut down on the top speed charges that I tend to make when I am in a hurry. The ship was alongside at 101, and the weather was grey, although the rain seemed to be staying away. 
First impressions? that baby blue hull, heaps of unshiplike appurtenances,  the eye in the sky thingey, and lots of superstructure and a small hull. It is however hard to be definitive about her because I was not able to get a full side view of her or a front view.
At least she did not have an open plan stern like Oasis of the Seas has. Although what lurks behind that strange glass area is still a mystery as I have not looked at deck plans of her. Mayflower Park was packed and I moved across to Town Quay to do my photography from there. Quantum was occupying the berth usually used by RCL ships, which meant that Adventure of the Seas was sitting at QEII, she was due to sail at 16H30. 
The sun was busy setting by now, casting a nice orange glow on the surroundings. Its just a pity that it would not give us that extra hour we needed to see Quantum away. From Town Quay it was possible to see her a bit better, although the clutter from the derelict Royal Pier messes up the view.
I must admit I definitely prefer her to Oasis, she does not have that large superstructure overhang, and her lifeboats are stowed further inboard on her hull. The top decks look horribly cluttered though, but given all the goodies she has on board she still doesn’t look too awful. The eye in the sky thingey is actually called “The North Star Observation Tower”. I keep on thinking of the London Eye when I see it, and while it does seem a lot over the top it must really be an experience to see the view. The crane arm is 41M long, so it is a long way to fall.
Just after 16H30 Adventure sailed, and my gut instinct was saying that the ship would not sail on time. I had planned my visit that the latest I could leave Town Quay would be 17H35 to catch my train by 18H10. If I missed that train I would have an hours wait for the next. 
It was getting dark really quickly, and the ship was slowly coming alive with light, although not as much as I really wanted. My camera does not deal with the dark very well, and for that matter neither does the operator. 
I was lucky to catch the eye in the sky thingey raised. and it did look odd. Come to think of it, where was the foremast? Sailing time came and went, and I decided that I was really wasting time and would head off to the station, pausing at Mayflower to see what she was like close up in lights. 
She towered over the area, and stuck out like some garish disco over the darkness. The area was still packed, but you could see a lot of people were leaving because they did not know when she was going to sail. That’s the problem with waiting for a ship to go, it could take ages. She sailed 2 hours late the other night, and that was bad news if you are standing shivering waiting for the lines to drop..
It is interesting to compare the night and day shots of her stern.
Then I was out the door. The lines were still down and it did not look like she was going to sail soon. She was probably waiting for me to reach the station, that’s what usually happens.
One last shot through the fence and I was off. I could still catch the 17H54 train if I rang down full ahead. And, I made it in time too. I believe she finally sailed at 18H00. So what does she look like from the front? unfortunately I do not have images of her from that angle, however I did find these two on the Royal Caribbean Press Centre website.
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 02/11/2014. Images recreated 20/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:58

Southampton Shipwatch 42: Oasis of the Seas

This morning I headed off to Southampton on half days leave because due to arrive was one of the largest cruise ships in the world: Oasis of the Seas. The weather was overcast after a weeks rain, and as we approached the station I could see that there was mist over the harbour. The other cruise ship at Mayflower was MSC Magnifica, and I managed a glimpse of her as we came into the station. From Town Quay she was just a white blob in a grey sea/sky and this is all I really saw of her, certainly not enough for a shipwatch on its own.
Oasis was due to arrive at 9.30ish and berth at 101, she has some very peculiar berthing arrangements and this maiden arrival had had to be carefully planned. Apparently she only berths starboard side to and once she was ready to sail would have to be swung up at the swinging area by the container berth. She was due to sail at 23.59 but there was no way I was going to hang around that long! I headed across to Town Quay via Mayflower Park. There was already a crowd gathering there, and there was probably a mob gathering at Town Quay too. The weather was still lousy, and Hythe was almost hidden in the mist. Saga Sapphire was berth alongside at QEII so would provide an interesting comparison.
By 9.25 there was movement, and it turned out to be a tug with her water canons open, and there was a buzzing helicopter making excited movements as its occupants photographed the ship that was now emerging between the buildings and Saga Sapphire. It was hard to get an indication of what was coming along at slow ahead, but soon the bow emerged, and then the broad front of this huge vessel. There was an exchange of hooters and either Saga Sapphire or her had a wonderful old style ships hooter. And I am glad that at least that occurred because this is after all, a maiden arrival.
Then the ship was clear and you could see how big she was, or should I say how broad she was. This was a really big ship and my first impression was of a large superstructure on a small hull, with a huge overhang on either side.  She was not a pretty ship from this angle, if anything she looked like an ungainly one, but that was really because of the odd angle. As she came closer the foreshortening effect diminished and you could finally get a feeling for her length. She was big, very big, and would probably make Independence of the Seas look small!
As she came alongside you could get a sense of how high the accommodation was, with its cluttered upperworks. The stern interested me because I had never been able to understand what was going on there. It appeared as if there were some sort of fabric sails that hid the hole in the back. Unfortunately, with our low vantage point there was no real answer. I would have to try get other pics from Mayflower.

Strangely enough her hull was a baby blue colour which I will reserve judgment on until I have seen her in sunlight. Then she was past me and I headed off to Mayflower to join the crowds. She was berthing a bit further towards 102 than the ships usually do and was coming alongside without a tug. She was quick though, there was no fussing or messing around, from arrival to this point had probably been 15 minutes.
Then I got a chance to look at that stern. I can see a hang glider there, and a large logo…
I took my pics, checked my watch and decided it was really time to get back to Salisbury. I stopped at Dock Gate 8 and took a few pics, although could not get past the gate to get other images.

I was glad that I had made this trip, although to be honest she doesn’t really appeal to me, although I would love to go on board to poke around. But sail on her? probably not. There could be over 5000 people on board (that’s probably 10000 items of luggage that has to be moved between ship and terminal), and that is 4999 people too many for me.

The nitty gritty is that when she was built she was the largest cruise ship afloat, although her sister Allure of the Seas is a smidgen bigger. Awhile ago I explored large cruise ships in a blog post called Really Big Ships,  so will have to make a few changes to that one


On 30 October the latest of these mega ships is arriving: Quantum of the Seas will be here and occupy the same berth. By then they will have sorted out all the peculiarities involved with a ship this size and things should go smoother. It is unlikely that I will be able to go down to see her as I am changing jobs next month so my leave is all tied up. However, I will see how things go, I wouldn’t mind seeing her, after all, it is not every day that the opportunity arises to see such huge moving objects. Its just a pity the weather had not played fair.

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated and links repaired 20/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:01

Southampton Shipwatch 34: Silver Cloud.

I have been patiently waiting for Silver Cloud to return to Southampton for quite some time. She did call here on the 9th of June, but I was working on that particular day and by the time I got finished all I saw was a feint white shape already past Town Quay.

Unfortunately she was an early morning arrival this morning, so by the time I got there she was almost alongside. Not even the sun was awake yet, although the seagulls were noisily doing seagull things. 

She berthed up at City Terminal, and is due to sail at 18H00 this afternoon which is when I will get other pics of her. But this morning, the pinkish/orange light made her look really good.

She is the second Silverseas vessel in Southampton this season, Silver Whisper was here in May, but this one is new to me. Her next port of call is St Malo, as part of a 12 day voyage to Monaco from Southampton.

By 10H30 the sky was looking grim, and it did offset her white hull quite well, but it did not auger well for her sailing at 18H00.
I was down at the harbour by 17H00 to watch the sailing of Suomigracht behind her, and I moved to Mayflower Park after she was gone. By then the white hull was starting to become less visible by the minute as the weather closed in. 


She did have a tug at her stern and without even a whistle she moved at the appointed time.


Unfortunately the mini harbour they are erecting at Mayflower Park really messes with the photography, but the birds seem to enjoy it a lot.

And then she was past, rapidly disappearing into the mist and drizzle. I did shoot a bit of video and it is available on my YouTube channel. She is a small intimate ship in the high end of the market, and her sister: Silver Wind, is a regular caller in South Africa. But I think her prices are way out of reach for South Africans anyway..


At this point I think she really looks like her name. A Cloud heading into the clouds.
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 10/04/2016

Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:43

Things I have learnt as a baggage handler.

Recently I have been working as a baggage handler at the cruise terminals in Southampton, it is really manual muscle work as opposed to brain work. I have also traveled as a passenger on aircraft and ships and may never view my luggage in quite the same way.
The views in this post are my own and reflect no official policy in force.
I have worked 7 shifts already and my muscles keep on reminding me that this is hard graft. However, I do get a vicarious thrill out of it for a number of reasons. The most important being that I am near ships.  Standing at Town Quay wielding a camera is great, but there is something even more special when you stand at the quayside and watch a large ship berthing. The vessel is so close that you could almost reach out and touch her. You can hear the noise of her engines and bow thrusters, and see the berthing crews standing at the hawse pipes with the  lines ready to come ashore.
Crown Princess

Crown Princess

Once the vessel is alongside a well oiled machine takes over. The airbridge is attached, the crew and services gangway is raised, shelldoors open and platforms are extended, forklifts move hither and thither moving conveyors, trolleys, bridges, cages, and all manner of things inbetween. On the night before the passengers luggage has been moved to central points on board from where it gets moved by conveyor or cage onto the quayside and then into the baggage hall where it is laid out in some sort of logical (and often illogical sequence). It is a frenzied period of activity which seems mocked by the quiet serenity of the ship alongside.

The passengers are many decks above the dockside level, and often peer down at all this organised chaos. I have stood in their position myself so know how it feels, although when I was cruising things were a bit more disorganised.

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

By the time the passengers have started disembarking we have sorted the luggage and moved onto other tasks, usually portering or trolley recovery. Given how most ships carry in excess of 1000 passengers, there could be anything between 1500 and 5000 items of luggage moving between ship, baggage hall, and passenger. It can been chaotic as passengers look for their luggage, but as time passes the hall becomes less crowded and some sort of normality starts coming about. (On 8 August I worked Ventura, for’ard conveyor, and counted in 1900 + items of luggage. There were was another conveyor working aft)


Of course while we are scurrying about like ants on shore, on board the ship things are happening too. The vessel must be fueled, and stored, and cabins prepared for the next round of inbound passengers. Every ship photographers bugbear will attach itself alongside and start loading fuel and offloading garbage, crew will paint and wash windows, and some crew members will go ashore to shop or look around the city.

Oriana in the background,  Whitonia alongside Celebrity Eclipse

Oriana in the background, Whitonia alongside Celebrity Eclipse

There is a lull at this point, and we reconfigure the system to handle inbound passengers. My favourite terminal has conveyors that lead into the baggage hall, and inbound luggage is stacked next to the conveyor entrance where it will be loaded once the embarkation starts. From there it will be moved onto a cage and transferred onto the ship, either via a conveyor or cage. On board ship it will be sorted and distributed to decks and cabins.  This is a hectic time because the ship has to sail, and cannot be held up while we load bags, and, as has happened before, the priority changes as sailing time gets closer.

Adventure of the Sea

A well managed embarkation will ensure that passengers arrive in a steady flow as opposed to huge amounts at once.  We will work constantly while around us passengers move from their transportation to the queue and finally onto the vessel. It is hoped that by the time the vessel sails their luggage will be at their cabin, but often that is not the case, and I expect some passengers get their luggage long after the ship has sailed. 

At some point we will see the pile getting smaller, and the queues shorter. Coaches stop arriving, taxi’s become less, and we start closing conveyors. The cage loaders will start seeing gaps in the queue too, and it takes longer to find 25 bags to fill a cage. Then we get the signal to pack up and sign off.

Crown Princess

Crown Princess

The terminal becomes a ghost town apart from the odd label blowing in the wind or the empty soft drink tins that line the area where we loaded. The baggage hall is now being filled with the detritus of baggage handling and the porters dollies start to fill their storage area once again. The ship, now full of passengers, starts to take on the chaotic role, but it will soon become a haven of peace as everybody settles down to their new home for the duration of the cruise.
Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

We are also on our way home, in my case it is a long walk home and then a bath and supper. Or, in some cases, a dash down to Mayflower Park to see a ship sail. From my photographic vantage point  I will watch to see the lines being dropped and then taken in, and see that first puff of smoke from the funnel. And if we are lucky the vessel will blow her horn, and I will hear the safety announcements, which often sound like a sermon on board some of the vessels.


Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2

Then the ship will start to move, an independent floating city that will twinkle with light, and the sounds of music. She will pass all us shorebound photographers and our cameras will click away, trying to capture that perfect shot.


Then she will be past, and on her way down Southampton Water, and the Solent, and whatever destination she has after that. Occasionally one of the ferries will try get in on the act, but we are used to that.
Red Eagle and Oriana

Red Eagle and Oriana

Then it is time for me to go home, and I will have to process more pics and add them to my collection. I recall how in the days of film we would have to wait at least a week to see the results of our efforts, today I can edit images almost immediately.




And that was a look at my day as a baggage handler.

However there are a few things I would like to add, from the perspective of somebody moving luggage. It’s really only of relevance to people taking a cruise, or somebody moving their luggage for them. 

Crown Princess

Crown Princess

You will be shocked as to how many people don’t take many sensible precautions with their luggage. The tag that goes on your bag is supposed to refer to where your luggage is going. On board ship there are many places: Fore, Aft, Midships and any cabin and deck in-between. These tags do go missing, and so your luggage could end up somewhere it shouldn’t or in limbo. When we sort luggage we look for the fore/aft/mid designation and it gets shunted to a cage or pallet for that designation. If there is no tag it usually ends up midships. If your cabin/deck is not on that luggage then somebody has to try to find a list of cabin numbers and figure out just where you are. 
Queen Mary 2 at QEII Terminal

Queen Mary 2 at QEII Terminal

Which brings me to your name. Please add your name onto your luggage, somewhere. Preferably 2 different places. the more robust the label is, the more chance it will have of getting to you intact.
Ah, and the bags that survive the best are those that are strongly built. Many bags we see are really shoddy and do not stand up to the punishment of handling. The bags realistically move from conveyor to conveyor and then onto the ship. They are picked up by hand, and they have other bags stacked on top of them. Giant bags that weigh more than we do just don’t make the grade because often that giant bag is not meant to hold the kitchen sink and dishwasher.
Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Wheelie bags are great because they have many grabbing points and handles. A non wheelie bag only has one handle. Invariably wheelie bags are placed wheels upwards on the conveyor because the wheels tend to make moving the bag on rollers very difficult. The bags generally are placed flat on the conveyors and not upright. These hard cased bags seem to stand up to the punishment better, but from our perspective they tend to be bulky and heavy. You would be surprised to see how many bruises I have on my shins already from moving luggage.

Crown Princess (Mayflower Terminal)

Suit carriers are a major headache because they get stuck in the machinery. Many have hooks that will get entangled in something. Try to avoid those or carry them on yourself. Oh, and please don’t load your suitcase down with unprotected bottles of alcohol, wrap those bottles well and then put them in a plastic bag. Bottles will get broken, your clothes could end up smelling like an off license.  

Small fiddly locks will come off, as will those ID straps that people festoon their bags with. Tags will come off, and the marker flower attached to your handle may come off too. If you must make your bag easy to see please be practical about it.
MSC Opera

MSC Opera

I know we often joke about bright pink or luminous green bags, they stand out, and they are the ones easily found by their owners, although explaining to somebody that your puce wheelie bag is missing will bog down when you try to describe what colour puce is. 
On many occasions we see bags that are not secured properly. We don’t have the time to sort that out, after all it is your responsibility. An average ship will have in excess of 1500 pieces of luggage to be loaded and offloaded. Some ships may have as many as 5000 items. The loading window is small, and sometimes the first to arrive is the last to get their bags, that’s because they get stored on board for final sorting and delivery by the crew. It does happen that your first bag on board is at the furthest point where the sorting is being done. We have no control over that aspect at all.
Enjoy your trip, and remember, we will be waiting for you when you get off.

Mein Schiff 1 and Norwegian Breakaway.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 08/04/2016 
Updated: 11/03/2018 — 09:20
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