Solway Shipping    


A 7 day cruise on board "MSC Preziosa" from Southampton to ports as far north as Hamburg was beckoning but first came the long journey south. Arriving the day before sailing gave a chance to travel the 30 miles to Portsmouth to see the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier "Queen Elizabeth"
After talking with someone who had just been in the dockyard to see the ship and was disappointed not to get a good photo, I decided on "plan B", that was to go up the nearby 560 foot tall (170m.) Spinnaker Tower, a landmark observation tower, (and save myself the eye watering £18 admission charge!) En route to the tower I passed the 1860 built "HMS Warrior", Britains first iron hulled armoured battleship.
The old and the new, Queen Elizabeth with Nelson's HMS Victory bottom right. Men walking on the quayside give a good idea of the size of the carrier.
The following day, Wednesday,  the MSC Preziosa arrived 4 hours late due to inclement weather and so it was not until 10pm that evening that the ship sailed for an overnight passage to Zeebrugge, the first port of call. Although there was not a great amount of ships docked in Zeebrugge when we arrived, there were several passing in the entrance channel on the way in.
"King Emerald" was the first past. I didn't notice at the time but you may notice an interesting shape in the sea!
A few minutes later another tanker, "Silver Entalina" passed also.
which was followed a short time later by the roll on roll off (ro-ro) cargo ship "Wilhemine"  The weather turned to rain as we docked and left the ship to head for Bruges for sightseeing, returning later for the overnight sailing to Amsterdam.
After leaving the North Sea and entering the sealock at Ijmuiden, we sailed the 13 mile long (21km) Nordzeekanaal  into the heart of Amsterdam and moored ahead of Hurtigruten's "Midnatsol"  Only a ten minute walk brought you to the main railway station and the city centre. The waterways were very busy with all manner of barges going about their business and the surprisingly long river cruise ships.
tanker barges were passing by pretty much continually.
river cruise ship "Amarkristina"
pleasure craft "Noralein"
After spending the night in Amsterdam we departed at 9am the following day back down the canal to the sealock at Ijmuiden for passage to Hamburg. It was a wet dull day when we departed but at least it was daylight which give the opportunity to see the numerous docks along the way. Not visible on the photos were the funnels of ships away in the distant docks, tankers and bulk carriers seemed everywhere you looked.
Luckily the weather improved as we made our way to the sea in time to catch the British Royal Research Ship (RRS) "James Cook" built in 2006 at a cost of £36 million pounds.
Clearing the sealock we made the overnight passage to Hamburg and woke to find a bright sunny day and as the curtains in the cabin were opened and we stepped onto the balcony, a dredger, "Geradious Mercator" and the promise of more shipping to come appeared to be on the cards.
"Sachsen-Anhalt"  F224,  a German frigate of the Baden-Wurttemberg class was nearby being fitted out and is expected to be in service by early 2019.
Although the city seemed fairly close to the ship it was a 20minute bus ride on the free shuttle. Arriving on a Sunday the shops were closed so a bit of sightseeing was the plan, return to the ship at lunchtime and then off on a long awaited harbour cruise. As the morning progressed the sun disappeared to be replaced by an ominous looking bank of black clouds approaching. On stepping back on board the "Prezoisa" there was an almighty flash of lightning and roll of thunder which continued for the rest of the day and put paid to the harbour cruise! It was a real disappointment.
 The rain stopped in the evening but the lightning was still going as we sailed for our next and final port of call Le Havre, France.
Passing the Hamburg container dock.
As we slipped past the Hamburg drydocks for the run to Le Havre it was time to make full use of the free drinks package and hope for better things!
On our arrival at Le Havre the sun was shining and the prospects looked good for more ships to see at France's largest container port and, with dozen's of oil storage tanks lining the entrance, things were definitely looking up!
Sure enough within minutes one of Cumbrian based James Fishers oil tanker's "Seniority" passed en-route to sea. Fishers took over the famous FT Everard company 10 years earlier and have retained the vessels name, Everards ships names usually all ended with "ity"
Next past was the Hong Kong registered "Mol Glide" which was actually the only container ship I saw that day despite it being the largest container port in France.
"Heinrich" another tanker, inbound. At this point it was time to leave the ship, reluctantly, for a look around Le Havre, it turned out to be a nice place and I certainly wouldn't mind visiting again.
In the town we came across this yacht, the "Love Love" which is actually a piece of artwork. It was formerly a shipwreck which was saved then cut in two and weighted down to be a permanant wreck.
Having returned to the ship after a days sightseeing it was time for the evening meal, the dining room had massive port hole style windows, we had a table next to them so my camera came to dinner with me. It proved to be a good decision as within minutes this hopper dredger, "Gambe d' Amfard" sailed past followed by two more tankers.
After dinner it was back up on to the deck to see the sun setting and to watch the cruise ship "Artania" departing. Built originally for Princess Cruises she was officially named by Princess Diana as "Royal Princess" in a ceremony at Southampton in February 1984.
A final chance for one last photograph as the 285m long crude oil tanker "Bodil Knutsen" slipped by before we cast off and headed back the 75 miles to Southampton and the end of the cruise.