Queen Victoria Black Sea and Turkish Splendours

13 September - 3 October 2012

In this section I have included a series of galleries of photos taken during the course of Queen Victoria's "Black Sea and Turkish Splendours" cruise that sailed from Southampton on 13 September 2012.  I have included, as far as possible, one gallery for each day of the cruise, including sea days.  The emphasis in this "cruise gallery" is definitely on ships as an unforeseen and unwanted episode of sciatica severly limited my shoreside activites.

 

To navigate this section you can either click on the place marker on the Google Map or on the textual link in the itinerary below the map  - either of these options will take you to the appropriate gallery. For sea days, the place marker is in the approximate location of the ship's midday position .  The links will be activated as each gallery is completed.

Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd october - At Sea and Return to Southampton

The sea day after our call at Vigo was pretty unproductive with only five sightings, one of which proved to be impossible to identify. I have therefore added the remaining four sightings in at the beginning of this gallery, the majority of which covers our return to Southampton. We left Vigo not long before darkness fell and then ran north for a short while until we were past Cape Finisterre. After that we turned onto a north easterly heading to take us across the Bay of Biscay. By sun up we were due east of Saint Nazaire and about 150 miles south west of Ushant. The weather worsened steadily throughout the day with gale warnings in force for sea areas Fitzroy, Biscay, Sole, and Plymouth (among others). The sea state didn't feel particularly dramatic, but then Queen Victoria was handling things with some aplomb and the view of passing ships indicated that others were not faring quite so well! In photography terms this was a somewhat frustrating day as I could identify ships on AIS that were in relatively close proximity, but I couldn't see them because they were masked by heavy rain showers. Still, I was happy enough with the four that I did manage to catch. Arrival in Southampton took place in total darkness and I treated myself to a bit of a lie in thereby missing the anchorage and the occupants of the Fawley jetties. Most of what was on offer in Soton comprised the usual suspects, but I was happy to see Fred Olsen's Balmoral which followed us in and the woodchip carrier Glorious Hibiscus was another good catch. So that's it over for another year - except that it isn't because, next month, we're off again. This time it's another trip round the Med with a diversion into the Adriatic to visit Venice and Dubrovnik. Watch this space.

 

Monday 1st October 2012 - Vigo

During the night of 30 Sep/1 Oct we transited the Straits of Gibraltar (in darkness as usual!) and rounded Cape Saint Vincent, the most south westerly point of Portugal. After Cape Saint Vincent we set a more or less northerly course up the coast of Portugal passing Lisbon and Porto and, by first light, we had passed the Spanish frontier and entered Ria de Vigo. The light was barely adequate for photography before we berthed but I managed a couple of car carriers by a combination of luck and a clever camera. As always, Vigo had little to offer in the way of heavy metal but the fishing fleet provided a good variety of new sightings. Also present was the usual range of harbour craft and small ferries, almost all of which I had seen during our last visit. As it's a little hard to find anything new to say about these, I will limit myself to naming them unless there is something of particular significance to relate. In terms of highlights, I was particularly pleased to manage a longish shot of the new Royal Research Ship, Discovery, fitting out at the Construcciones Navales, P Freire SA yard. Score for the day was 31 ships of which 21 (mostly fishing vessels) were new sightings.

The Galleries

Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th September - On passage from Catania to Vigo

For the first time on this "virtual cruise" I have combined two days sailing and ship photography into a single gallery as the numbers on neither of the two days really justified a dedicated gallery. Our first sea day out of Catania had ended when Queen Victoria was north of Sakikdah in Algeria. During the night we continued sailing roughly west and, by first light were some 150 miles due west of Algiers. For the rest of the day we continued to run just south of west and, by last light, we were well into the Alboran Sea with about 120 miles to run to the Straits of Gibraltar. We transited the Straits during the hours of darkness (don't we always - maybe I'll get luckier come September!) and, by daybreak on 30 September, we had rounded the south western tip of Portugal and were running northwards heading for our next port call in Vigo in Spain. This particular area usually produces a respectable number of ships but, on this occasion, my luck largely deserted me and only two ships were sighted, one of which was beyond what I would normally regard as the maximum effective range of my lens. However, MarineTraffic.com is my friend when identification gets tricky and I was able to identify her from her AIS track. The weather on both days was reasonable with a few squally showers around, one of which was kind enough to produce a rather nice rainbow at just the right moment to enhance what could otherwise have been a rather dull photo. Rainbows apart, I suppose the highlight of two rather sparse sea days has got to be managing to get a reasonable photo of the Marshall Islands registered wood chip carrier, Pine, a very specialised type of ship and one that doesn't figure large in my collection.

Friday 28th September - On passage from Catania to Vigo

We sailed from Catania at the regular sailing time of around 1730hrs and by nightfall we were heading south down the east coast of Sicily. Sometime during the night we rounded the south east corner of the island, turning north west to pass through the Malta channel, and then transit the channel between Sicily and the island of Pantelleria. By the time there was sufficient light for photography, we were some 75 miles north east of Tunis.  For the rest of the day we ran roughly due west remaining roughly 40 to 50 miles off the coast of North Africa and passing some 80 miles south of the southern tip of Sardinia. The final photographs of the day were taken when we were approximately 40 miles north of the Algerian port of Sakīkdah (formerly Philippeville). The weather, as you might expect for this part of the world, was fantastic all day with bright sunshine and a largely cloudless sky. However, there were a couple of points at which the light was somewhat less than friendly. There were fewer ships around than when we passed through this area eastbound although the day's final total of 13 (including one repeat sighting) was far from shabby. Highlight of the day was the Danish tug, Frigga, with the newly completed hull of the offshore supply ship, Fanning Tide, in tow and heading for Norway where the hull would be fitted out.

Thursday 27th September 2012 - Catania

So, after Istanbul, our next destination was supposed to have been Piraeus. However, the prevailing economic and political conditions in Greece had led to yet another general strike being called in Athens for the date of our visit. It was anticipated that, as with previous strikes, this could lead to outbreaks of rioting and general unrest in the streets and Captain Olsen decided that the Piraeus visit should be cancelled. A change of itinerary was hastily re-arranged and, after some negotiation with the port authorities, a berth was found for us in Catania, a small port located on the east coast of Sicily about half way between Messina in the North and Syracuse to the south. We arrived very early and, as the sun rose, we were standing in to the coast with good views of Etna rising behind the city. The shipping scene in Catania, it has to be said, was a very poor substitute for Piraeus but, as I have frequently said on this site, where ship photography is concerned you always have to play the cards you are dealt so I tried to make the best of what was available. And "what was available" consisted largely of the local fishing fleet going about its business. Heavier metal was represented by a couple of ferries, one general cargo vessel loading grain, and a cable layer that looked as though it was in need of some tlc. As well as these, the local Gardia di Finanza patrol boat helped to add a bit of para-military interest. 

Wednesday 26th September 2012 - On passage Istanbul to Catania

Well, after the hundreds of images from the two days in Istanbul, it was quite a relief to only have to handle a small number for this sea day. After transiting the Dardenelles in the evening, Queen Victoria turned south to run down through the Aegean passing roughly midway between Athens to the west and Izmir to the east. During the early hours of the morning, she altered course to the west again to pass to the south of the Cyclades. As the sun came up we were due south of the Island of Milos, the most southwestern island in the Cyclades. From there we headed roughly north west to pass through the channel between the island of Kythira and the southern tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula. The next leg of the day's voyage took us slightly south of west to pass the tip of Cape Matapan, the southernmost point of mainland Greece. Once the Cape had been successfully negotiated we turned northward again and set a course to make an unobstructed passage to Catania on the east coast of Sicily. The final ship of the day, the Maltese tanker Sea Luck III, was photographed while we were some 18 miles southwest of Shiza, one of the Oinousses islands off the south coast of Messenia. The passage of the Kythirian Straits and our course round Cape Matapan were both significantly closer to land than the eastbound passage and this allowed me to photograph a couple of lighthouses that are marked on the map by an appropriate icon. So, it wasn't a big day in terms of numbers but, by and large, the weather was fantastic, the light was friendly, the long lens did its work and there were just enough ships to hold my attention without getting in the way of distractions such as eating.

 

 

Tuesday 25th September 2012 - Istanbul (Day 2) and Sea of Marmara

After an overnight stay in Istanbul, day 2 started with a short cruise on the Bosphorus. The start time for this was relatively early and a thickish mist hanging over the water with the sun just coming up behind us provided some interesting (and photographically testing) lighting conditions. Most of the photographic opportunities involved buildings, bridges and other landmarks. But there was no particular shortage of ships and it's ships that I will concentrate on here - my intention is to put up some of the general photographs from this cruise once I have all the ships out of the way so, watch this space. QV was scheduled to depart at 11.30 and we arrived back with sufficient time to spare. Sadly however, every other shore excursion also arrived at the same time and the lines to board the ship were long; even so, everyone got onboard in the end and we sailed promptly at the scheduled time.

It didn't take us long to get clear of Istanbul and we then set off through the Sea of Maramra. Quite a few ships were up for photographic grabs but, as luck would have it, a significant number were ones that I had already seen in the Bosphorus that morning. But, duplicates apart, there were plenty new sightings to hold my attention and I passed a pleasant enough afternoon sitting on the balcony snapping away when we passed a ship. The weather was very pleasant with the headwind over the ship keeping the temperature down to a comfortable level - it certainly beat the hell out of standing on the South Gare in a bitter easterly gale with certain parts of my anatomy threatening to freeze solid and drop off. The need to dress for dinner brought photography to a halt before we entered the Dardanelles and by the time I managed to drag my head out of the trough, it was dark. So, not quite as many ships as the previous day but enough to keep the new-sightings score ticking over nicely, and proceedings were very comfortably paced.

Monday 24th September 2012 - The Bosphorus and Istanbul (Day 1)

After our visit to the Romanian port of Constanta, the next phase of the cruise was to be a two day visit to Istanbul - to be more accurate it was to be an overnight visit as, on the second day, we sailed at 1130hrs so that was really only a half day. Having sailed from Constanta we headed pretty well due south across the Black Sea to make the 200 mile passage to the northern entrance to the Bosphorus. And, by the time I emerged from bed and poked my nose out onto the balcony, that's exactly where we were - about four miles into the strait with our escort tug on our starboard quarter keeping us close company. The sun had not yet made it over the horizon and, for the first few ships, light levels were pretty poor with only the first half-light of daybreak to help. So things are a little fuzzy to start with, but conditions improved rapidly and it was soon evident that we were in for a fantastic day weather-wise. It also turned out to be a fantastic day ship-wise with 113 ships seen and photographed, some of which were repeat sighting from our previous northbound transit on 20 Sep. Allowing for repeat sightings and for a couple of Goolies that turned up, the final score of new sightings for the day was 107 which wasn't too shabby. There was so much interesting stuff that it's very difficult to pick out a highlight but there were a couple of themes to the day that distinguished this port call from more mundane localities. The first recurring theme was the enormous number of small ferries and excursion boats that criss crossed the entire area throughout the day. There never seemed to be a single minute during the visit when there weren't at least two or three of these vessels visible somewhere in the area. They appeared to take no notice whatsoever of the heavy metal heading into or out of the Bosphorus and the whole performance was reminiscent of the old Royal Signals Motor Cycle Display team going through their act. The second theme was represented by the significant numbers of grand old coasters from the 1960s and 1970s still earning their daily bread in the region. Some of these were Turkish built ships, but others started their working lives in Western Europe and were now working out their final years trading around the Estern Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Sea. My only whinge about the first day was that I was unable to see more of Istanbul itself because of my mobility problem that had been developing throughout the cruise - still there's an upside to everything and the fact that I couldn't walk too well restricted me, for most of the day, to sitting on the balcony and photographing the passing shipping. This gallery is very image intensive with over 230 images and I apologise for that but I thought it was important to keep the images together in a single gallery.

Sunday 23rd September 2012 - Odessa and Tulcea, Romania

Our overnight passage from Odessa took us south down the western side of the Black Sea, arriving off the Romanian port of Constanta just as the sun was coming up. Constanta proved to be a pretty busy port, but I didn't get a chance to see much in the way of movements as I had booked a river excursion on the Danube Delta and the coach journey from Constanta to Tulcea took up more time than was actually spent on the river. Despite this, the short time in Tulcea provided an opportunity to photograph some units of the Romanian riverine fleet. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly seeing several major units of the Romanian Navy in port - in particular the former RN Type 22 frigate HMS London transferred to Romania as Regina Maria, and the Romanian built frigate Marasesti, previously the fleet flagship until the purchase the Type 22s. It was also good to see a couple of brand new ships fitting out in the Constanta Shipyard. The weather all day was excellent although, in Constanta, the light in the morning was tricky with a low sun, heavy shadows and bright highlights. This was mitigated to some extent by the fact that, in some instances, I was able to catch the same ships in better light as we sailed in the evening. It was a pretty productive day all round with a total of 53 new sightings and a couple of old friends from the local stamping ground now trading under new names.

Saturday 22nd September 2012 - Odessa, Ukraine

After a relatively short overnight passage from Yalta on a more or less north-westerly heading we arrived off Odessa while it was still dark so the opportunities for photography were a bit limited. As it turned out, though, there was only one ship outside the port, the gas tanker Kuzguncuk, and I was able to get some kind of an image of that by screwing the ISO up a good few clicks. When daylight finally arrived it revealed that the omens were not good - misty light and quite heavy, drizzly rain. I had booked a shore excursion that involved quite a bit of walking around the city but the sciatica that had been looming on the horizon since we left Soton was now developing into a full blown attack so, given the pain and the weather conditions, I scrubbed the shore excursion and stayed on board for most of the day. This increased the ship count somewhat and, in the late afternoon, the skies cleared and the sun came out improving the light and allowing me to re-photograph some of the early sightings in better conditions.  I would say that the main theme of this port call was tugs of which there were a large number and a good variety. Some of the tugs were involved in moving large floating cranes that were being used in some sort of construction project close to the harbour entrance and the cranes themselves were a welcome addition to the days haul of sightings. Other than that I would say that the highlight of the day was the Greek built, water tanker, Rodnik - 31 years old and still earning her daily crust.  Not a bad day's work with a reasonable, but not overwhelming, number of sightings all of which were new.

Friday 21st September 2012 - Ukrainian Visit (Yalta, Balaklava, Sevastopol)

After an overnight south to north crossing of the Black Sea, we arrived in Yalta at first light. There was only one ship anchored outside the port which was duly captured and then we entered port to berth alongside the long mole that forms the south east boundary of the harbour. Yalta didn't have a great deal to offer in ship spotting terms - a few ferries/tour boats, a couple of local tugs, and some harbour craft. One odd feature of the port, though, is the mole itself which serves as a kind of dry dock for a large number of tour boats and other craft that are in various stages of disrepair and dereliction. I'm not quite sure if they are being refitted or if they have just been left there to rot - some certainly appeared to have some work in progress but all of them looked as though they could benefit from some tender love and care. In one sense I was quite glad that there was little to photograph as I had signed up for the longest shore excursion of the cruise. For me it was more of a personal pilgrimage than a shore excursion as it would take us to the battlefield of Balaklava. The port of Balklava itself had a coast guard vessel to add to the day's total, and Sevastopol, where we went after Balaklava, provided the opportunity for some bus window photography that allowed me to capture some images of an assortment of Urkainian and Russian naval vessels and auxiliaries. In ship terms I think Sevastopol provided the highlights of the day although an opportunity to get out of the bus and photograph them properly would have been a big improvement.

Thursday 20 September 2012 (Part 3) - Northbound Transit of the Bosphorus

So, we come to the culmination and highlight of a fantastic day of ship photography - probably one of the best I've had in the 10 years I've been pursuing the pastime. Having crossed the Sea of Marmara in the middle of the day, by late afternoon we were approaching Istanbul and preparing for the northbound transit of the Bosophorus. We picked up our pilot at just gone 1600hrs with the transit scheduled to take around two and a half hours. This proved pretty accurate as I managed to take the last couple of photos while getting dressed for dinner. The weather was fantastic and the light throughout the transit could not have been better - and that applied to both the Asian and the European shores which is a pretty brilliant trick to pull off but which was largely due to the sinuous nature of the waterway. It is extremely hard to single out any particular highlights but passing under the two great Bosphorus bridges would certainly be one. Passing Istanbul at just the right time to hear the call to prayer being sounded from every mosque in the city (and there are quite a few of those) was another. In strictly ship terms, I think managing to get a photo of the nearly brand new patrol vessel, Tuzla, at the small Turkish naval base at the north end of the straits was certainly one; and watching how the ship was handled amongst the enormous weight of traffic in such constricted waters was another. All in all a fantastic end to a fantastic day.

Thursday 20 September 2012 (Part 2) - Passage of the Sea of Marmara

For this gallery, which follows on on the same day from the transit of the Dardanelles, I have taken a fairly flexible definition of what constitutes the Sea of Marmara. Effectively, the gallery contains images of all vessels photographed just after passing Gallipoli and dropping off the Dardanelles pilot, until we were approaching Istanbul and just about to pick up the Bosphorus pilot. The distribution of the sightings is very uneven with tight groupings at the beginning and end of the crossing and only a few scattered images around the middle section. This has probably got something to do with lunch and the ever powerful influence of my sea air sharpened appetite!  The weather, of course, was fantastic and the light was generally favourable too, at least until we were close to Istanbul, which time the sun was coming round to the west and a couple of the images in that section had to be taken against the light. Nevertheless the timing was excellent as it meant that, for the passage of the Bosphorus which will be presented in the next section, the light was very user-friendly. I was able to photograph a number of Turkish fishing vessels, many more of which I would see before QV returned to the Sea of Marmara a few days later, but the highlight of this sector was probably the sighting of a few older Russian river-sea ships, now flagged out to places like Cambodia.

Thursday 20th September 2012 (Part 1) - Transit of the Dardanelles

During the night of 19/20 September Queen Victoria wound her way through the Greek islands and then headed north through the Aegean until, by sun up, we were lying just to the west of the entrance to the Dardanelles. What would follow was just possibly the most productive day of ship photography that I had experienced in almost ten years of pursuing that particular (some would say peculiar) obsession. The number of new ships and the number of images was such that I have decided to split the day into three parts. Fortunately this is relatively easy with Queen Victoria's passage that day falling neatly into three well defined geographical sections. This gallery will cover the passage of the Dardanelles, next I will produce one for the Sea of Marmara and the area around Istanbul, and finally I will put together a gallery for the passage of the Bosophorus that was made in the late afternoon.

For practical purposes I have defined the Dardanelles as running from Seddulbahir on the European shore to a location where I photographed the last ship before we were well into the Sea of Marmara, a point that lies just short of Gelibolu (Galipoli). In fact, the first couple of ships in this gallery were taken while, technically, we were still in the Aegean but they are included here for the sake of simplicity.

Due to a shameful lack of effective homework on my part before we sailed (a recurring theme throughout my life history!) I failed to realise that, during the course of the morning, we would pass close to the spot where my grandfather's ship, the pre-Dreadnought battleship HMSOcean, was sunk by a mine during the Dardanelles campaign in World War 1. The net result was that, when I should have been up on deck taking photographs of the area, I was actually in the dining room stuffing my face with breakfast (so, no change there then!). Nevertheless, I have included a write up of the incident, and a map showing the relative location of the wreck of HMS Ocean and Queen Victoria's closest approach to the spot.

The weather throughout the day was absolutely perfect with great light
and some wonderful landscape in the background to most of the photographs. Highlights of this sector were probably the new build, Azov Future, fitting out at the Gelibolu Shipyard, Crystal Serenity passing westbound heading for Piraeus, and my first ever photograph in eight cruises a small pod of dolphins.

Wednesday 19th September 2012 - Second Sea Day on Passage Palma to Yalta

The night of 18/19 September was spent passing south of Sicily and, during the hours of darkness, we also passed the island of Malta somewhere to the south.  By the time the sun was up we were more than half way across the Ionian Sea and heading for Cape Matapan, the southernmost point of mainland Greece. By about 1400hrs Cape Matapan was in sight and, having passed the Cape itself, we then transited the narrow channel between the Island of Kythira to the south and the Island of Elafonisos to the north. The remainder of the day was then spent moving past the southeastern tip of the Peleponnese Peninsula (Cape Maleas). There were no ships on offer early in the day but as we got into the constricted waters south of the Greek mainland the hit rate rose dramatically. The weather throughout the day was absolutely sparkling with none of the fog and heat haze that had plagued me on and off up till now. The score for the day was 25 new ships (including one wreck). There was also a repeat sighting of an old friend from Goole and a former member of Strahlmann's fleet, the Antiguan flagged coaster Trader. Not a bad day all round, but much more was to come when we transitted the Dardanelles and Bosphorus the next day.

Tuesday 18th September 2012 - First Sea Day on Passage Palma to Yalta

Having departed Palma in the late afternoon of Monday 17 September, we sailed more or less due east during the night and daybreak found us roughly midway between the southern tip of Sardinia and the coast of Tunisia close to Bizerte. For the rest of the day we sailed on a broadly south easterly heading roughly parallel to the Tunisian coast until, by the end of the day (in terms of ship photography at any rate), we had entered the Strait of Sicily and were passing between the northwest corner of Sicily itself and the small volcanic island of Pantelleria to the south about 37 miles east of the coast of Tunisia. The weather throughout the day was excellent with only occasional tussles with haze - a much greater impediment to good photography than the sea mist that had troubled me on the previous day was heat shimmer that was particularly problematic when using the big Sigma 50-500mm zoom.  Heat shimmer notwithstanding the score for the day wasn't too shabby with a total of 23 ships including a couple of unidentified Tunisian fishing vessels.

Monday 17th September 2012 - Palma de Mallorca

For a European cruise, a three day sea leg is quite a long one, so I was well and truly "bedded in" to the ship's routine by the time we reached Palma.  Under these circumstances it can sometimes require quite an effort of will to motivate yourself to get off the ship for a shore excursion.  However, as I had visited Palma before, I hadn't booked any excursions, my intention being to take the shuttle bus and have a wander around the town on my own.  In the event I was glad I hadn't booked anything as I was already beginning to suffer the early symptoms of the sciatica that was going to plague me for the rest of the cruise.  I spent a few hours wandering around taking in the old part of the city and the cathedral and then returned to the ship.  In shipping terms the highlights of the visit were the presence of four cruise ships (including QV), and watching the departure of the Dutch submarine HMNLS Bruinvis that had been making a courtesy visit to Palma.

Sunday 16th September 2012 - Third Sea Day On Passage Soton to Palma de Mallorca

Sometime during the early hours of the morning on 16 September we finished our run down the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula and transitted the Straits of Gibraltar (something that always seems to happen in darkness - at least it does where I'm concerned!), and by sunrise, we were well into the Mediterranean.  For the rest of the daylight hours I was kept pretty busy photographing a long procession of ships, most of which, fortunately, lay to the north of us.  Despite the fact that they were on the ideal side of the ship for the light, there was a lot of quite thick haze around that plagued me intermittently throughout the day.  Nevertheless there were some interesting sightings and, when the light was good, it was very good.  If you look at the map that heads up the gallery you will notice that the ships were pretty evenly distributed throughout the day apart from a very noticeable gap about half way through - that was when I went to lunch. Some things are more important even than ships!

Saturday 15th September - Second Sea Day on Passage Soton to Palma de Mallorca

 

Sometime during the early hours of the morning on 15 September, we left the Bay of Biscay behind and ran on south down the coast of the Iberian Peninsula.  By the time the sun was up we were North West of the Berlengas Archipelago, a group of small islands of the Peniche peninsula in Portugal. The weather was becoming ever more pleasant as we traveled south and the light and the temperature were both much improved over the previous day.  Ships were a little "thin on the sea" here but the few that we passed were reasonably close and that fact, coupled with the better light, means that these few images are generally of better quality.  By the end of the day, or at least by the time the last ship of the day was photographed, we were just southwest of Lisbon and heading for the Straits of Gibraltar.

Friday 14th September - First Sea Day On Passage Soton to Palma

 

So, by sun up on the first sea day, we were passing Ushant and very nearly clear of the English Channel. The rest of the day was spent running south west and, by the evening, we were almost half way across the Bay of Biscay. The weather was nothing to send postcards home about - there was that type of uniformly grey cloud, once brilliantly described by Bill Bryson as resembling living inside a Tupperware box, and a long swell running in from the Atlantic. The swell was causing no great problems for Queen Victoria, but it did seem to be moving some of the smaller ships around quite a bit. Early on, the light was dire and the first couple of photos were taken in near total darkness, so I apologise in advance for the quality or lack thereof, but I am sticking to my long time policy of putting up on the site anything that I can positively identify. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view and personal taste) I have now developed a technique of using live AIS on the Internet to identify ships that I wouldn't have a cat's chance in hell of putting a name to from the camera images alone! There aren't many photos in this small collection and most were taken at extreme range with my latest toy, the 50-500mm Sigma. This is a fantastic lens and, during the course of the cruise, I had plenty of time to get used to its little quirks and foibles, but it does seem to perform best in bright conditions so this sea day was perhaps not ideal. Most of these ships were new sightings, and there were no "Goolies" present, although there was one previous acquaintance in the shape of Clipper Cuillin seen on the Mersey back in 2006. So, not an earth shaking day in numbers terms but a good enough warm up for busier times to come later in the cruise.

Thursday 13th September - Southampton Departure

 

On cruise departure day it always seems like there is plenty of time before you have to embark but the time always seems to go much faster than you anticipated, and this one was no exception.  Needless to say I was up at sparrow's fart to get down to the end of Town Quay before Queen Victoria, but more importantly Mein Schiff 2 (a new sighting), arrived. I was successful in that aim but it was a close call with QV arriving almost as soon as I was in position.  In fact she was some 30 minutes ahead of her scheduled arrival slot.  Mein Schiff 2 followed her in but, in the finest traditions of the German national stereotype, she was bang on time to the minute. Once the early morning activity was out of the way it was back to the hotel for breakfast then a quick trip round the Soton shops to buy a "few" last minute items that we had forgotten to bring with us!  After that the time passed rapidly and by 1230 we were on board and deep into the unpacking ritual.  Fortunately all the luggage arrived pretty much together this time and it wasn't too long before I was able to get out on deck for a few photos.  We sailed very promptly at 1630hrs and, having managed to persuade She Who Must be Obeyed to pass up on dinner in favour of a room service steak, I retired to the balcony to watch the passing shipping scene.  In fact, numbers were a little sparse this time out, in particular there were only two tankers at the Fawley jetties, but nevertheless the weather was lovely and so was the steak.  So we were on our way - watch this space for more photos.

Wednesday 12th September 2012 - Soton (Departure -1)

 

Our 2012 Cruise was on Cunard's Queen Victoria - now tying with QM2 as our "most travelled" ship in terms of individual voyages although, in reality, our trip on QM2 involved three voyages that ran end to end making up one cruise so, in terms of cruises, Queen Victoria is a clear winner.  The itinerary took us from Southampton, through the Mediterranean, up into the Black Sea then back through the Mediterranean and north to Southampton again.  There were a couple of port changes - Porto was dropped in favour of Vigo for technical reasons, and Catania in Sicily was substituted at the very last minute for Piraeus because of a one-day general strike in Greece. Before we sailed there was some last minute panic caused by a problem with one of QV's pods - Captain Olsen said in her pre-cruise briefing that the pod had been suffering excessive wear and that, when we returned and everyone had been disembarked in Soton, QV would go straight to Bremerhaven for dry docking and repair.  As a result of this, as mentioned above, the port call in Porto was dropped in favour of Vigo (although the thinking behind this was never explained) and the cruise after ours was cancelled. In the event the pod appeared to behave itself remarkably well and, most days, we managed to top 20 knots by a slim margin.  I also didn't notice the long established and well known vibration problem in the Britannia Dining Room - perhaps, as the pod was being run slower than normal, the vibration didn't have a chance to manifest itself. I haven't finished sorting and post-processing the images yet, but I think it's safe to say that this cruise, in ship photography terms, was among the most productive yet.  Current score stands at 262 new ships and I've only worked through as far as Yalta, the second port of call.

We headed south on Wednesday 12 September, the day before we were due to embark, and stayed the night in the Holiday Inn.  This proved to be a bad idea!  Preparations for the Southampton boat show were in full swing and every usable inch of the hotel car park was covered in trade stands, displays, boats, and god alone knows what else.  The result was that parking was restricted to a small area behind the hotel close to Dock Gate 8.  As it was impossible to drive the car to the drop off point in front of the hotel, this meant a long haul with all the luggage both when unloading and when reloading the next day.  If anybody is considering booking the holiday in at the time of the boat show, I have one word of advice - DON'T!  Sadly, next year, our departure will also coincide with the boat show so I will need to rethink our pre-cruise accommodation strategy.  Hotel problems aside, we arrived around 2.30pm, got ourselves installed in our room and then I headed out to see what the Soton maritime scene had to offer.  The answer, of course, was not much that I hadn't seen before.  But, on the plus side, the weather - that had been threatening heavy rain since we arrived - eased the taps back a few turns and I managed to dodge the showers to get a few half-decent photos. The highlights, although few in number, were the NYK car carrier Cassiopeia Leader, and Shieldhall looking very tidy in a new paint job.

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