Queen Victoria Mediterranean Serenade

13 September - 30 September 2013

In this section I have included a series of galleries of photos taken during the course of Queen Victoria's "Mediterranean Serenade" cruise that sailed from Southampton on 13 September 2013.  I have included, as far as possible, one gallery for each day of the cruise, including sea days.


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.

Monday 30th September 2013 - Southampton

The last ship sighting the previous day was at about 1830hrs when we were some 80 miles south west of Plymouth. During the night we ran roughly north east through the English Channel until, by 0400hrs we were off the north coast of the Isle of Wight and about to follow Crown Princess around  the Bramble Bank and into the Solent. The lateness of the season meant that our journey up Southampton Water took place in total darkness and Sod's Law, of course, dictated that almost all the new sightings occurred on that part of the journey. Daylight didn't reach reasonable levels until a short time before we disembarked. Nevertheless, the morning wasn't a total write-off with thirteen ships altogether of which nine were new sightings. And so endeth the 2013 cruise. Watch this space though as I'll be off on my travels again on 22 June - it will be Queen Victoria once again taking in a couple of calls in the Norwegian Fjords, then a circumnavigation of Iceland, followed by a visit to Torshavn in the Faroe Islands and a call at Kirkwall in the Orkney.

Sunday 29th September 2013 - At Sea

Having signed off for the day in the late afternoon of 28 Sep when we were south west of Porto, we ran north for a while and then rounded Cape Finisterre, probably around midnight. After that we altered to a north easterly course and crossed the Bay of Biscay.  The first sighting on 29th September wasn't made until 1304hrs by which time we were about 70 miles south west of Brest. During the afternoon we passed Ushant and turned into the English Channel with the last sighting of the day being made when we were roughly 80 miles south west of Plymouth. The weather was generally fine and the sea state calm, but there were a few rain showers around which caused me the odd problem. Final score for the day was a somewhat underwhelming five ships of which four were new sightings.

Saturday 28th September 2013 - At Sea

Once we were out of Gibraltar Bay and into the Straits the previous afternoon, things began to get a little lumpy and, by the time we had passed Tarifa and turned north west into the Atlantic itself, things got downright rough. Coming back from dinner (and without a camera to hand) I saw a chemical tanker astern of us that was lifting about 20 feet of her bow out of the water on the crest of the waves. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the cabin and met up with my camera again, she had disappeared into a rain squall and there were no further sightings with sufficient daylight for photography. We spent the night running north up the coast of Portugal until, by the time the first sighting occurred, we were roughly midway between Lisbon and Figueira da Foz. The rough sea state of the previous evening had settled a little but it was still lumpy enough to add some interest to the day's photos - particularly for the smaller ships. The weather was generally ok with a few light rain showers and some sea mist around. The day produced a total of seven ships, five of which were new sightings.

Friday 27th September 2013 - Gibraltar

The last ship sighting of 26 September occurred when Queen Victoria was about 60 miles north of the Algerian port of Oran. After that we were left with around 250 miles to run, almost due West across the Alboran Sdea, to Gibraltar. Our arrival in Gib occurred in near total darkness and we were already secure alongside before daylight began to put in an appearance.  The weather was pleasant without being too hot but the low lying mist that had been present on and off for the past two days was still present and caused me some problems, particularly in the morning and the afternoon as we were sailing. As normal, in terms of overall ship numbers, Gibraltar did not disappoint. In total I managed 90 ships of which 74 were new sightings – I was particularly pleased at that latter figure because, with two previous visits under my belt, the collectors’ curve was beginning to kick in and I had anticipated that there would be a lot more repeat sightings.  It’s hard to pick out any particular highlight of the day and Naval ships were conspicuous by their absence on this occasion, but the sheer quantity made up for any deficiencies in the quality department. Once again the photos in this gallery are arranged roughly in the order in which they were taken, but if it was convenient or logical to do so I have grouped together multiple photos of the same ship taken at different times of the day.

Thursday 26th September 2013 - At sea

During the night of 25/26 September, we continued on a more or less westerly course running parallel to the North African coast and passing south of the Balearic Islands and north of Algiers. It was well into the day - around 1049hrs local - before the first ship was sighted, if sighted isn't too complimentary a term. The haze which had hung around in the early part of the previous day was back with a vengeance and the Phoenix Reisen cruise ship, Artania (ex Royal Princess (05), Artemis (11) was only just visible as she passed to the north of us on an easterly heading. Although the weather was warm and, technically speaking, the skies were clear, the mist persisted throughout the day causing me problems particularly as all the shots were taken at fairly long ranges.  The first three ships were all spaced out between 20 and 50 miles and then the final three were sighted more or less simultaneously, the final ship of the day being Hong Kong registered bulker, Clearwater Bay sighted about 160 miles west of Algiers. So, the total score was improved by one ship over the previous day, but Artania was a repeat sighting, so the day's total for new ships was tied at five.

Wednesday 25th September 2013 - At sea

We sailed from Messina at around 1730hrs local time on 24 September and, having exited form the Straits on a more or less northerly course we made a sharp turn to port to bring us on to a westerly heading and then spent the rest of the night running parallel to the northern coast of Sicily. By the time the sun was up we were approaching the sea area between the southern point of Sardinia and the port of Bizerte in northern Tunisia. The first ship wasn't sighted until about 1030hrs local time - an Italian purse seiner out of Maria la Scala. The weather for the rest of the day was generally good although a light haze (that would come a lot more obvious the next day) gave me some trouble as the day went on. The last ship, the Singapore flagged bulk carrier Bulk Costa Rica, was sighted about 50 miles north-northwest of Skikda in Algeria at about 1750hrs local. So, the total was a somewhat underwhelming five ships for the day, but at least they were all new sightings.

Tuesday 24th September 2013 - Messina

After leaving Corfu in the late afternoon, our course took us south west across the entrance to the Adriatic passing the heel of Italy and then running down parallel to the bottom of the foot.  We rounded the southern tip of the Italian mainland in the early hours of the morning and, by the time the sun was coming up we were into the Straits of Messina, my first photos being taken as we were roughly level with Reggio Calabria to starboard. At this point Etna was visible at some distance to the south west but light levels were still too low and I didn’t manage to work it into a usable photo.  The Straits were already quite busy with ferry traffic and some general shipping and the omens were good for another very fine Mediterranean day.I had no shore excursions booked, although I did take a brief walk ashore to photograph some of the sights in the city, so most of the day I was able to stay on board and photograph the shipping scene. The weather, as expected, was fantastic and there were plenty of ships on offer.  As usual, ferries were the most numerous type of ship in evidence but there were also two MSC cruise ships in port one of which (Preziosa) was a new sighting. There were also some minor units of the Italian Navy present, in particular it was good to see the Minerva class corvette, Sfinge which I think probably constituted the highlight sighting of the day. Although I had paid Messina a visit six years earlier there weren’t quite as many repeat sightings as I had expected. So, the final score turned out to be 54 new ships of which 38 were new sightings, and I was well pleased with that.

Monday 23rd September 2013 - Corfu

After sailing from Dubrovnik, another overnight passage took us south east down the eastern shore of the Adriatic, passing Montenegro then heading pretty much due south before entering the Straits of Corfu just as the sun was coming up. Once through the very narrow channel at the northern end of the Straits we ran south west to the port of Corfu itself where we berthed just after 0800hrs. The shipping mix was interesting with three cruise ships (including Queen Victoria), loads of local ferries in a variety of shapes and sizes and a surprisingly large number of the fascinating old Soviet era hydrofoils that used to be such a characteristic feature of the Piraeus shipping scene.  As well as ships, the shore excursion that I took involved a stop close to the runway threshold of Corfu airport and this provided a good opportunity for some aviation photography. The weather was sparkling throughout the visit and I would certainly regard the old hydrofoils as the highlight of the shipping scene. The final score was 23 ships, 19 of which were new sightings. The photos in the gallery are, again, presented more or less in the order in which they were taken although I have grouped some shots together where it was logical to do so.

Sunday 22nd September 2013 - Dubrovnik

Our departure from Venice had been delayed by anti-cruise ship protesters who, by swimming in the Giudecca Canal, had forced the Harbour Master to suspend all shipping movement in and out of the port. However, despite the delayed departure, we were able to make up time during the passage to Dubrovnik that involved a run of some 370 miles on a generally south easterly course that took us across the Adiratic. By my very rough and ready “back of the envelope” calculations, the run from Venice to Dubrovnik is around 370 miles and the passage was accomplished in just over 13 hours so QV must have run at her maximum service speed of around 24 knots for most of the way – not a bad performance. We arrived off the coast of Croatia just as the sky was turning from black to grey and, by the time the pilot arrived it was almost full daylight. The route to the berth was fairly circuitous and the scenery was impressive.  There were two “themes” to the day – the first was cruise ships of which there were four in port, although I only managed to photograph three; and the second was yachts, the largest of these by a very long margin was Eclipse, the world’s second largest private yacht, and currently the property of Roman Abramovich.  The weather was fantastic throughout our stay and the score for the day was 13 ships, all of which were new sightings.  Highlights of the day for me were MSC Armonia berthed under the Franjo Tuđman Bridge, and Roman Abramovich’s mega yacht, Eclipse, anchored off Cavtat

Saturday 21st September 2013 - Venice

After a rather unproductive sea day on 20 Sep which had produced only seven ships, I was looking forward to great things from Venice and I wasn't entirely disappointed. We arrived in almost total darkness so, to start with, photography was difficult to impossible and I apologise for the decidedly ropey quality of some of the images at the start of this gallery. Many of the vessels in this gallery are small trip boats, water taxis, and other harbour craft and I have only scant data for these and not much to say about them generally, so the caption notes will be limited to names (or numbers) unless there is some "added value" that I can provide. The photos appear more or less in the order in which they were taken although I have grouped some images together where it was logical or helpful to do so. The constant theme running through the whole gallery is represented by the numerous vaporetti that were zipping around everywhere. However, I would have to say that the highlight of the visit, in ship terms, was the presence of a total of nine cruise ships, four of which were new to me. Our departure was delayed by an anti-cruise ship protest which, unfortunately, meant that by the time we sailed I was already sitting down to dinner so there was no opportunity for ship photography as we sailed. I wasn't too worried though as much of what was on offer would just have been repeat sightings of the ships we had passed on our way in to port in the morning. The final score for the day was 79 ships, 73 of which were new sightings.

Friday 20th September 2013 - At sea

After leaving Malta during the late afternoon of 19 September, we ran north east, passing the south eastern corner of Sicily, by which time bad light (and the call of the dining room) had brought photographic play to a close. During the night we continued on a north easterly heading across the Ionian Sea, passing the heel of Italy, then turning north just before dawn to transit the Strait of Otranto and enter the Adriatic. This was not a vintage sea day in terms of ship numbers, and it was mid-morning before the first photographable ship was sighted. This was the general cargo vessel BBC Maryland, seen when Queen Victoria was some 35 miles east of Brindisi. Sporadic photography continued through into the late afternoon, but the final haul was only seven ships and an island! Still, all the ships (and the island) were new sightings, and the weather was perfect, so I’m not complaining. All the photographs, with the exception of BBC Maryland, were taken at extreme range and there is no particular highlight to report although it was interesting to see an FPSO actually earning it’s keep for once instead of being tied up alongside the quay or in dry dock under conversion.

Thursday 19th September 2013 - Valletta

During the course of 18 September we had maintained a steady easterly heading and, by the time photography ceased for the day, we were about 60miles north east of Tunis. Sometime during the hours of darkness we turned to the south east and ran down past the island of Panteleria  continuing more or less south east until, just before daybreak, we were off the north west tip of Malta. By the time we picked up the Valletta pilot there was just the faintest hint of daylight in the eastern sky. By that time, needless to say, I was out on the observation deck at the front of 6 Deck and was somewhat surprised to note that we appeared to be in a large bay with the lights of Valletta off our starboard bow, and another long line of lights off our port bow too. I was puzzled as to exactly what stretch of shoreline these lights represented and it was only as the sun rose a little more that I realised that they were actually the riding lights of a great mass of anchored ships. Sadly, the light was way too low to get any photographs of them and, on our departure we gave them a very wide berth indeed and they were beyond the reach of even my 500mm zoom.  I understand that many of them were laid up there, presumably because of the current economic state of the world in general and the shipping industry in particular.  During the course of the visit to Valletta the weather was very kind although there was quite a bit of thin high cloud around during the early part of the day. There wasn’t much in the way of heavy metal on offer but something not seen on my previous visit was the large number of small vessels operating in support of the growing tuna farming industry in the waters around the island. It’s hard to pick out a highlight of this visit but, I suppose it would have to be the unanticipated presence of another cruise ship in port. Costa Voyager was not a new sighting as I had seen her previously in Tallinn and Barcelona but the Costa livery suits her, the light was good, and she was in quite a photogenic location. Overall, it was quite a productive port call - I acquired a total of 56 ships, 48 of which were new sightings and, given that this was a second visit, I was pleasantly surprised at the low rate of  repeat sightings.




Wednesday 18th September 2013 - At Sea

Wednesday 18th September 2013 was the second sea day out of Cadiz and the final sea day before our arrival in Valletta. The run for the day, in photograph terms at least, was some 140 miles kicking off with the sighting of the bulk carrier ID Mermaid some 50 miles north east of the Algerian port of Annaba (known during the French colonial era as Bône). After that we continued more or less parallel with the North African coast until the last ship of the day, the Panamanian registered general cargo ship Aylin, was sighted some 60 miles north east of Tunis. The weather throughout the day was absolutely sparkling – the temperatures were hot but not excessively so, the sky was virtually cloudless and the sea state was lumpy enough to provide some interest without being so bad as to promote excessive camera movement. It’s hard to pick out a highlight of the day but it was interesting to see the Maltese bulk carrier Flash still anchored near Iles de Galite where she had run aground over a year previously. Final score for the day was 14 ships of which 12 were new sightings.

Tuesday 17th September 2013 - At Sea

On 16 Sep we had sailed from Cadiz at around 1600hrs and had passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on the night of 16/17 Sep in total darkness. I tried my utmost to get a photograph of the Rock by night and, failing that, tried for something on the North African side. However, I failed miserably and retired to bed to wait for the sun to come up instead. Next day the first ship was sighted and photographed when we were around 250 miles east of Gibraltar and some 70 miles north of Oran in Algeria. The weather, it almost goes without saying, was near perfect and there was a steady stream of ships reasonably well spaced throughout the day as we made our way roughly due east parallel to the North African coast and between abut  20 and 60 miles offshore. Last ship of the day, with the sun dipping rapidly to the west and the light fading fast, was photographed when we were some 70 miles west of Algiers following a run for the day of about 150 miles. Highlight of the day has to have been the rather quirkily designed French patrol vessel l’Adroit photographed about 70 miles north of Oran. Total for the day was 14 ships all of which were new sightings – not a bad result.

Monday 16th September 2013 - Cadiz

Sunday 15th of September had ended, as far as ship photography was concerned, as we were almost due west of Lisbon. After dark we continued to run southwards until, sometime around midnight, we rounded Cape St Vincent and then hung a left to run almost due east into Cadiz, our first port call after two days at sea. The sun was well and truly up by the time we arrived and I was out on the forward observation area on Six Deck as early as I could. The day was a little fragmentary as I had to leave the ship straight after breakfast for a quite lengthy shore excursion and only got back on board shortly before we sailed. So there's no real chronological thread running through these photos. I have simply grouped them, loosely, according to vessel type. The weather, throughout the day, was fantastic and, in ship terms, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the flagship of the Spanish Navy, the assault ship Juan Carlos I, which had made the relatively short passage from her home port in Rota for a visit by Queen Sophia. I was also very pleased to see the Mexican Navy sail training ship, Cuauhtémoc. In terms of what was to come later (Malta, Venice, Gibraltar) this wasn't a particularly productive port call, but I was reasonably satisfied with 18 ships of which 16 were new to me.    

Sunday 15th September 2013 - At Sea

Saturday 14th September ended, as far as ship photography was concerned, with a fair bit of daylight still to go, but once again the demands of my stomach dragged me off to the dining room and by the time I had risen from the table after consuming my normal light snack, darkness had fallen so I contended myself with backing up my memory cards and writing some notes to help me sort out the ship photographs when I got home. During the night we passed Cape Finisterre and altered course from south west to near enough due south for the run down the Iberian Peninsula towards Cadiz. By sun up we were about 160 miles west of Porto - a place that I will definitely get to visit one day if the vagaries of the ships and the cruise terminals don't deny me the pleasure yet again. As is nearly always the case, once we were out of the Bay of Biscay the weather brightened up considerably and a nice warm and sunny day ensued with excellent light for photography. The first ship of the day was the geared bulker Kouyou, launched only a few months earlier and in near enough showroom condition. But the true highlight of the day, if not of the cruise, was passed slightly later. I have seen several sailing ships at sea, mostly of the modern cruise ship variety, but for some reason I have never seen one under sail. So, it was particularly rewarding to see and photograph a ship as historic as Kruzenshtern, the cherry on top being the fact that she was flying about two thirds of her canvas. We passed her to starboard and, as she fell astern of us, she moved across our wake to port and I lost sight of her but not before I had managed to get a decent variety of shots. Overall numbers didn't stack up as well as the previous day with only seven ships in total. However all of these were new sightings and Kruzenshtern made up in quality what might have been lacking in quantity.

Saturday 14th September 2013 - At Sea

The last photograph of the previous day was taken just as we left Southampton Water, rounded the Bramble Bank and entered the Solent. After that we dropped the pilot at the Nab Station then, during the night we made our way slowly through the Traffic Separation Zone in the western English Channel, turning south towards Ushant while it was still dark. By the time daylight was starting to appear in the eastern sky we were some 44 miles north west of Ushant and the first ship of the day, the bulker Cielo di San Francisco, was photographed in almost total darkness. Throughout the day we continued to head south west through the Bay of Biscay with a fairly regular series of ships to photograph. There were no special highlights on this particular leg of the cruise although it was nice to see an old friend from Goole in the shape of Beaumare, and also interesting to see Carisbrooke Shipping's unusually designed general cargo vessel, Vectis Harrier. Total score for the day was eleven ships of which eight were new sightings - not a fantastic haul but satisfying enough to be going on with.



Friday 13th September 2013 - Southampton Departure Day

Departure day began in the traditional fashion with a very early visit to the Town Quay to watch the cruise ships arriving. On this occasion there were four in total, namely (and in order of arrival), Adventure of the Seas, Oriana, Queen Victoria, and Ventura. By the time I was in position to get any photographs Adventure of the Seas was almost alongside the Mayflower Terminal and was already "taking cover" behind the forest of masts and other clutter associated with the boat show. Oriana and Queen Victoria were more cooperative though and I managed some night shots of them before the pressing need for breakfast drove me back to the hotel. When I departed Town Quay, Ventura had not yet put in an appearance but she must have moved relatively swiftly because, by the time I was back in the hotel room, she was already backing up onto the Ocean Terminal. We had booked a taxi for 11.30 hoping to get on board nice and early. However by 11.50 no taxi had shown up. A phone call by the very helpful receptionist produced a replacement and, by 12.15 we were on our way. However, the presence of four large cruise ships coupled with the increased traffic brought about by the Boat Show delayed our arrival at the QEII Terminal even more. Nevertheless we eventually managed to board Queen Victoria and were swiftly installed in Cabin 6.001 at the extreme forward end of Six Deck - an almost perfect location for a keen ship photographer. For almost the first time in six years, the weather for sailaway was less than perfect and, before we had reached the Nab Tower, it was cold with a very wet drizzly rain falling so, at that point, I packed in photography for the day and addressed myself to the much more serious business of eating courtesy of cabin service. Despite the early finish, the less than optimal weather conditions, and sundry other trials and tribulations, the score was 19 ships, 8 of which were new sightings so I was reasonably pleased with my day's work.

Footnote: on Friday 20 September, while we were at sea on passage from Valletta to Venice, I was rather surprised when my mobile phone rang. I was even more surprised to discover that it was a taxi driver calling from the Holiday Inn in Southampton to say he was there to collect Mr and Mrs Christie. Clearly, his watch was keeping perfect time but his calendar was running slow.

Thursday 12th September 2013 - Southampton (pre-departure day)

Our 2013 cruise was, yet again, on Queen Victoria and covered a couple of port calls in the Mediterranean with a dog-leg up to the top of the Adriatic to take in a couple of port calls there. The full itinerary was Soton, Cadiz, Malta (Valletta), Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Messina, Gibraltar then back to Soton. As is now traditional, the ship photography element of the cruise kicked off the day before departure - we drove down to Southampton arriving in time to allow me an afternoon of serious rust-bucketing. The main attraction was the presence in Soton of two cruise ships that were new to me, namely Silver Whisper and Seven Seas Voyager. I also finally got around to doing something that I had been intending to do since 2007 but had always shied away from at the last minute - I took a return trip on the Hythe Ferry which turned out, as I had expected, to be quite a useful mobile viewpoint. The weather was not universally wonderful although there were some bright spells, and the fact that, yet again, I had managed to pick a departure date that coincided with the boat show meant that there were some quite serious photograph obstructions in place. Soton also appeared to be suffering a serious Rhinocerotoidea infestation - of which more later. The score for the afternoon was ten new sightings which, given my current position on the Soton "collectors' curve", I would consider to be not too shabby. All in all, not a bad afternoon's work.

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