Celebrity Constellation, Sovereign & Golden Iris in Barcelona
I flew from Heathrow to Barcelona to join the gorgeous Celebrity Constellation on the 9th October 2010, for a week-long cruise.  By the time we landed nearly an hour late, I had missed Costa Magica (which sailed at 1pm) and MSC Orchestra (sailed at 2pm) but there was still Sovereign leaving at 5pm with Golden Iris due to arrive for 7pm.  Sovereign was the former Sovereign of the Seas, transferred to Pullmantur of Spain after her final Royal Caribbean sailing on the 31st October 2008, disembarking the passengers on the 3rd November.  When she had her original maiden voyage in January 1988, she was the largest cruise ship in the world at 73,941grt, undergoing a major refit in 2005 which also changed her port of registry from Oslo to Nassau.  Her new career began on the 23rd March 2009.  She was one I was looking forward to seeing, having already got her sister Monarch.  I'd booked the travel through Celebrity so we were bused to the airport, our first glimpses of the ships from the surrounding roads.

Due to muster at 5.15pm, I missed Sovereign sailing so shot out on deck as soon as it was finished in the hope I could catch her.  It was very hazy but I could still see her.  Meanwhile the one I really wanted to see, Golden Iris, was arriving earlier than the planned 7pm which was much better than as we sailed at 6pm.  Golden Iris started life for Cunard as one of their last newbuilds before Carnival Corporation took them over and built the Queen Mary 2.   The 17,496grt ship was one of two babies of the dwindling 1970s Cunard empire.  Originally to be called Cunard Conquest in 1975, she was renamed during the fitting of her interiors to Cunard Princess and registered in Southampton.   She was renamed by Princess Grace of Monaco and the maiden voyage was in March 1977, cruising mainly in the Caribbean, registry changing to Nassau in 1980.   Towards the end of her Cunard career she sailed around Europe.   After a brief spell as a recreational facility for US service personnel ship during the first Gulf War, she re-entered service in 1991 before being transferred with her sister, Cunard Countess, to Cunard Crown Cruises in 1993.  She was subsequently chartered to StarLauro Cruises (now known as MSC Cruises) to replace Achille Lauro, which had sunk after a fire in 1994 and they bought her in 1995, changing her name to Rhapsody.   She was sold to her current owners, Mano Maritime of Israel in 2009 and renamed Golden Iris.   In all my years I don't remember seeing either of these Cunard ships so it was a joy to finally lay eyes on one and she was gorgeous!
We sailed just after 6pm towards Villefranche in France.  We would have Sovereign with us.  To see those and other photos of ships along the Côte d'Azur, click here.  A review of my Constellation cruise can be found here.
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© Patricia Dempsey 9th October 2010
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without permission