Black Prince (II) Conversion, Aurora & Oceana (II)
The Fred Olsen cruise ship Black Prince had arrived back in Southampton after her farewell cruise on the 16th October 2009.  Once the last passenger had disembarked, the real work began.  I had decided to take the ferry across on the 17th since whatever they would be doing, it would be the beginning of the end of her current career.  At that time no one except Fred Olsen and the contractors knew exactly what would be done before she went to Venezuela.  I knew a couple of things would definitely be removed from the exterior but it wasn't until my dad phoned to tell me the funnel logo was missing, I realised how far they had gone so fast.  Aurora had arrived for 5.45am and in Mayflower while Oceana was facing out of Ocean.  Due to hurting my side midweek I was only planning the trip to town and back, stopping at Town Quay for a couple of hours, so no sailaway shots of the P&Os.  I caught the 12.15pm ferry over and it was a cold day.  The sun popped out occasionally.
Without the colour she looked like a ghost ship.  It was quite sad, especially after seeing her so much since she came back from Liverpool on the 22nd September.  Now we would be witnessing a work in progress.  The last time had been QE2 back in April 2008 but she was taken to 105 for that.  This was much better and more convenient.  I was itching to know what they were doing inside as well.  I was also delighted the Gruesome Twosome weren't being too much of a problem today.  Since she's a baby ship it was easier to get her fully.
Andy was on Town Quay duty so I told him what they'd done, as well as showed him my Black Prince arrival photos.  He couldn't believe they'd done so much so soon either.  He'd seen the white funnel on his way to work and that had surprised him.  I went for a little wander and got a pic of the other two.  It was pretty cold so I couldn't be bothered to go down the end for Black Prince.
I caught the 3pm ferry back and as the boxboat Liverpool Express arrived, we trudged at what felt like a crawl out of the Town Quay area then speeded up a bit.  Lady Madeleine was on her stern.
I didn't actually notice until I looked at the photos when I got home but there were a couple of men working on the prow where the figurehead had been.  What they were doing is anyone's guess so I can't wait to find out!
Less than three hours after I'd passed, nothing remained of 'Fred Olsen Cruise Lines'.  At least there had been something before.  So no illuminated name or company.  How long before the name on bow and stern disappeared to?  Was she being converted to Ola Esmeralda on my doorstep?  I'd actually expected her to sail to Venezuela and be done there.  Still, with these extra photo opportunities, I'm not complaining!  Although I only had one photo from 2005 before she returned and had hardly seen her, it was beginning to be a little sad as she changed before my eyes.
So that was my first stage photos completed and it had been a busy day for the contractors.  A shame we no longer have a working dry dock but with several wet docks under our belts and now this unexpected conversion, we don't really need one for general maintenance or things like this.  But what else are they planning to do before she sails?  To see photos of Black Prince arriving at the end of the farewell cruise, click here.
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© Patricia Dempsey 17th October 2009
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