Solway Shipping    

LIVE COVERAGE

Departing from Southampton on a 14 night cruise to the sunshine in the Mediterranean on Royal Caribbean's "Navigator of the Seas" my camera was soon in use as we sailed past Cunard's "Queen Mary 2" which was still alongside collecting her new batch of passengers.
and P and O ship "Britannia" 
As we made our way down the Solent there was very little to see apart from the numerous fast Isle of Wight ferries going past so with our first port of call Gibraltar over 1100 miles away it gave a chance to explore the ship and check out the facilities on offer.
On arrival a few days later at Gibraltar the anchorages outside of the port were very busy as usual as ships from all nations were refuelling, taking advantage of the low costs involved. It has been estimated over 71,000 vessels pass through the straits every year which places the port in a very advantageous position and may explain why Spain is very keen to take over the Rock.
"BBC Rosario" with a cargo of wind turbine parts.
Chinese "Xin Chang Hai" getting refuelled and dwarfing the refuelling tanker.
Two of the refuelling tankers, "C Rock"  and "Symi"
Meanwhile the police launch "Sir John Chapple" was on patrol around the ships at anchor.
even the tankers were refuelling tankers!     We were all too soon underway en route to our next port of Villefranche as the sun started to edge toward the horizon.

Villafranche has no jetty suitable for cruise ships which means the ship stays in the sheltered bay and passengers are tendered to shore by small boats, it was a slick operation with no undue delays. A short walk when ashore was the railway station where passengers have the choice to travel the short distance to Nice or Monaco. We headed to Monaco where preparations were well under way for the forthcoming boat show.

The picturesque marina where the smaller boats were moored.
Round the corner the large expensive luxury cruisers were beginning to assemble
"Kismet" owned by the billionaire Shahid Khan
and "Madam Gu" owned by the Russian billionaire Andrei Skoch but dwarfed by the 115m long"Atlantis 11" owned by the Niarchos family alongside her.
Later that day we departed for Ajaccio, Corsica which gave me a chance to take a "selfie" of our ship "Navigator of the Seas".
A small but interesting marina and town were only minutes away from the ship which was also a ferry terminal.                                                      The very colourful "Megaexpress Two" 
Our stay in Ajaccio was all too soon over as we headed south to the Italian island of Sardinia and its capital Cagliari. It's a wonderful place for aircraft spotting!
Thankfully we were soon out of the airport flight path and tied up adjacent to the ferry terminal where the flagship of the Tirrenia fleet "Bithia" was being loaded. This ship, I have to say, had undoubtedly the most amazing paint job I had ever seen on a ship. Superman and Superwoman. I have no idea why,  but why not...it was great!   With a top speed of 26 knots (30mph) it was one of the few vessels that we encountered that could go faster than "Navigator of the Seas" It is employed on the Civitavecchia - Cagliari route.
Leaving Cagliari the pilot boat came alongside for the pilot, a task I would not fancy in rough weather with the boarding set up on the pilot boat.      I noticed also, there was no second man on deck either in case the pilot fell while stepping from one to the other.
Next port of the itinerary, where the ship was scheduled to remain overnight was Palma de Mallorca where it was to be re-provisioned. Moored behind us was "MSC Opera" which sailed at midnight with a party going full swing on the upper decks making sure no one could have quiet night on board our ship!
The following morning "Costa Diadema" had replaced her. 
Palma is also a wonderful place for plane spotters with planes passing the ship every two minutes or less, its also a very busy place with boats of all shapes and sizes ranging from cruise ships, luxury yachts (lots) and fishing boats but this caught my eye. Described as a for charter luxury cruiser it was being escorted into port by two police ribs and had policemen all over the deck. Apparently the boat had been boarded in Ibiza by the police who had found 300 tons of cocaine hidden away. The German and Dutch crew were arrested and the boat seized.
"HCH X"
Passing by on the other side was the stable mate of our ship was the "Symphony of the Seas" the largest cruise ship in the world, weighing in at 228,000 gross tonnage and capable of carrying 6680 passengers...more than double what the Navigator carries.  Note the size of the figures on the gangway. There was lots of cheering as the ships passed and lots of horn blowing by both vessels.
The penultimate port of the cruise was Malaga where this unusual cruise ship was moored, "Wind Surf" When cruising the sails are deployed to take advantage of any breeze and therefore save fuel costs. There are 310 passengers on board who are looked after by 200 staff.
Spanish Navy auxiliary tug "Mar Caribe"  A101  
Unfortunately is was a quiet day for shipping so I was looking forward to our final port,Cadiz, the following day.         It was quiet in Cadiz on arrival as well with only the small container ship "Spica" being loaded.
After spending the day in town we departed for home and Southampton but as we were leaving I took a photo of this Spanish fishing boat. They were blowing an air horn and shouting but were too far away to hear clearly. When the picture was enlarged it was interesting to see one of the crew, the man in the blue shirt in the centre of the boat looking far from being happy.
Some ports inhabitants have been protesting about the amount of tourists arriving all at once off cruise ships and swamping their town, This looks like some of them but I cannot help but think "you should not look a gift horse in the mouth"
the local Search and Rescue boat returning from a call out passed.
a very stiff northerly breeze was developing as we headed north to the Bay of Biscay which might explain why these pigeons were flying alongside of the ship before landing for a rest.
Happily the wind dropped as we approached the Bay leaving a heavy swell, not noticeable on our ship but this cargo ship "Puppis Ocean" was certainly feeling it rolling from side to side.
finally a couple of photos of "Navigator of the Seas" bridge and at anchor.