Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" left Southampton late on a Sunday afternoon for an 11 night cruise to the Mediterranean.
After letting go the ropes she made her way down the Solent towards the English Channel only to pass "Shieldhall" a 1955 built former sludge carrier which transported treated sewage down the River Clyde to be dumped at sea. Now a recognised historic ship she was bought and renovated by volunteers to run excursions for tourists. As it was passing Explorer she started giving vigorous blasts on her whistle which was reciprocated by the cruise ship, when the Explore had finished "Shieldhall" gave what sounded like a destroyers whistle in WW2, a type of whooping sound which got louder with every blast!
Not long after having dropped the pilot we passed this incoming container ship "Independent Vision" as we turned and headed for our first port of call, Gibraltar.
As we arrived into the straits of Gibraltar, the narrow passage into the Mediterranean Sea, on the Wednesday morning, a thick mist was swirling around reducing visibility, which was slightly concerning considering the amount of shipping which passes through this narrow entrance! Luckily the mist started to clear somewhat as we made our way to the cruise terminal after getting our pilot on board.
The end of the airport runway was nearby so the cruise terminal gave a good view of the aircraft landing.
Leaving Gibraltar later that day the mist had cleared which allowed us to see the anchored ships that were pretty much invisible coming into port. But first we had to wait for the P & O ship "Azura" to depart first.
passing our stern
as usual there were many tankers and other types of ships waiting to refuel attracted by the low tax and duty rates.
Looking a bit odd without her normal cargo of containers was "Navios Azure"
the tankers "Nordic Aquarius" and "BW Tagus"
as we left "the rock" behind we had the usual sight of the local dolphins.
The next port of call was Alicante. The waterfront near the marina was pleasant but apart from that it was quiet for shipping. This Guardia Civil launch was passing by.
One of the ferries, "Volcan de Tinamar"
the port of Ibiza is a good spot for plane spotters!
this Easyjet plane seemed a bit low though
Leaving Ibiza the next stop was Barcelona where there were 4 other cruise ships already tied up when we arrived
this cruise port can handle up to 7 ships at a time but these ships are not popular with some residents and they want them banned but I would imagine that would be a disaster for the local economy."
"MSC Seaview" departing
"Cruise Smeralda" entering port
After leaving Barcelona it was a case of another day another port as we reached the second largest city in France, Marseille
Looking from the balcony in the direction of Marseille city centre a few miles away, it was interesting to see the fumes being emitted from a moored ferry were being slowly but surely spread over the city. Over the past few years cruise ships have had to undergo huge expensive changes to their engines to prevent things like this from happening.
Moored adjacent to the Explorer was the "Costa Diadema"
and in a nearby repair dock "Liverpool Express"
After docking in 5 different ports in 5 days it was a 2 day voyage to the next port on the itinerary Lisbon, which gave time to recharge the batteries and take in an ice skating show. It seemed pretty surreal to be watching ice skaters in "snow" in the middle of summer in the Mediterranean Sea!
Docking at Lisbon's new cruise terminal seen us pass under the famous "April 25th bridge" which is modelled on the even more famous Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. On the ridge a 110m high statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooks the city.
No sooner we were tied up and this tourist boat came to check us out
"Pinnacle Spirit" and "Guanarteme" at anchor in the river
Soon it was time to depart back under the bridge and to head down the Tagus and onto the final port, Cherbourg.
As we cleared the river estuary back into the open sea we were greeted by the sight of whales which we continued to watch over the following couple of hours. They were easy to spot as the sunlight lit up the whales exhaled breath.
We arrived at the Cherbourg pilot station 48 hours later to collect the pilot
Cherbourg was pretty quiet apart from the cross channel ferries arriving from the UK
"Abielle Liberte" an offshore oil rig support vessel
With just the short overnight run back to Southampton there time for just a few more cocktails and to relax before the hustle and bustle the following morning would bring!... one too many maybe?