Arcadia (IV), Artemis, & Freedom of the Seas UK Debut
An early start to see the three of them arrive on the 29th April 2006 in Southampton.  By the time we got to the marina just before 6am, Arcadia was already close to the turning circle while Artemis was in front of us.  Both were listed as docking at 6.30am.  Artemis docked on time while Arcadia was still turning and docked and getting on for 6.50am.
As we waited, Artemis put the flags out around 7am.  Finally at 7.45am, 10 minutes later than the estimated time, Royal Caribbean's 160,000grt (or 158,000grt depending on what you read) Freedom of the Seas began her UK debut as she was sighted off Fawley and made her way up the river to Southampton, home of the previous largest passenger ship in the world, Queen Mary 2.  By now the marina was absolutely chock-a-block with people.  Numerous Internet sites (including the BBC) wrote about her visit to Hamburg on the 24th and Oslo on the 26th where she sailed from on the 27th but failed to mention the four-day call here, instead saying she would cross the Atlantic to New York which just goes to show they should do proper research instead of copying each other when the information has been available since 2005.  Slowly she made her way towards us and was an impressive sight, blasting her loud, deep, burring horn as she was passing Hythe Pier.
Then this Goliath (until their next one in 2009) passed the 45,000gt Artemis.  Freedom blew her horn three times, Artemis returning the gesture with three of her own as she was being completely swamped. One more from each of them as Freedom continued her way towards the City Cruise Terminal.
As Freedom headed towards her berth, she gave three more blasts before giving another three five minutes later.  She finally docked a little after 9am at what would be her home until the 3rd May.

Unfortunately the sailing that night for Freedom didn't go ahead but we returned later that afternoon for the sailings of Artemis and Arcadia, who were both listed as sailing at 5pm.  The weather had improved from the morning and was sunny but still cold.  Again the marina was packed, though I suspect a lot of people thought Freedom of the Seas would be sailing too.  Artemis couldn't wait to get away it seemed, having some ropes off before 5pm.  She moved away from the dock at six minutes past the hour.  Meanwhile up in Western Docks, Arcadia was also casting off and slowly made her way towards Freedom, giving three blasts as she passed which disappointingly weren't reciprocated.

For photos of fireworks and Freedom's sailing at night on the 1st May 2006, click here and for her leaving in daylight on the 3rd here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 29th April 2006
Not to be reproduced without permission
3rd May 2006