Boudicca, Aurora & Queen Victoria Arrival
The 7th December 2007 heralded the beginning of three brand new cruise ships to be based in Southampton over the next five months, beginning with Carnival's latest Vista, Queen Victoria, for Cunard. Similar with a few alterations to her Holland America and P&O sisters, she is heavier, coming in at 90,000grt.  She left the shipyard on the 30th November and boy did the weather ever change!  Rain and gales. In fact the day of her arrival was also forecast to be like that.  Rain I can put up with.  Gales even I can put up with.  But fighting the umbrella during both while trying to take photos is another matter entirely! We got down to the marina about 7.15am and it was still dry, the sun coming up and cold with quite a bit of wind.  There were already several people waiting.  Boudicca and Aurora were already in.  Boudicca arrived at 12.15am while I saw Aurora pass the window at 5.50am and she docked for 6.30am.  As we waited and got colder I overheard someone on the ball say to people Queen Victoria was like Arcadia.  They had absolutely no idea, as do a lot of people.  In the months leading up to today, many around here were expecting a mini QM2 and were sorely disappointed when you pointed out exactly what she is.  The Shieldhall set sail to meet this new ship.
At 8.05am she came into view at Calshot.  This is where you can tell the fairweather ship stalkers from the regulars.  Fairweather ones have absolutely no consideration for their fellow spotters, crowd around in one area blocking views and constantly get in the way when you're trying to take photos.  I had one go right in front of me which made me as mad as hell.  Regulars know how ships work when they come in or go out so there is no need for them to do that.  Anyway the sun created a gorgeous golden sky behind the ship as she passed Fawley and made her way towards Netley where three tugs were waiting.
By now there were probably about 150-200 people at the marina which wasn't a lot compared to what it could be for a newbuild.  Perhaps it was because it was so early and a work day.  After seemingly doing a Sea Princess and drifting off course, she got herself back in the lane as the first firetug spouted its plumes of water.  Carnival were really pushing the boat out, so to speak, for this new arrival.
As she neared Hythe the second fire tug started up which would make up the rear.  Surprisingly, for such an important event in Southampton's cruising life, there were very few small boats accompanying Queen Victoria as she came in.  Shieldhall and a Blue Funnel ferry plus a few other small craft.  There was a helicopter which travelled with her, joined at Hythe pier by another.
As she approached Boudicca, the horn sounded in her home port for the very first time.  What a weird horn!  And quite muffled.  The wind had dropped considerably so that can't be the reason the horn is so crap and quiet.  There was a party onboard as I clearly heard Don't Stop Me Now by Queen.  If only the horn had been as loud.  As she neared Boudicca she blasted again and received nothing in response.
Originally due to go up to the turning circle before docking port in City Cruise Terminal, the plan had been changed the day before and she would now dock starboard.  In the morning VTS stated she would turn am sometime so it was a bit of a surprise to see her continue with the original plan, even though she had arrived early enough.  As she made the turn to pass Aurora, I overheard a chuckling woman say to her companion, "It's going the wrong way."  Fairweather stalker!  You can always spot them.  Even before I got back into this again properly in 2005 I knew the way the ships and river worked.
Most people had left by now.  As Queen Victoria passed Aurora she blasted, with Aurora returning the gesture.  Then she did more and so did Aurora.  For a ship also with a reasonably quiet horn, we had no trouble hearing Aurora's.  Queen Victoria's was just so quiet it was ridiculous.  We were a little surprised the forward firetug led her into the turning circle.  It looked very amusing seeing a plume of water above the vessel at Marchwood.
The marina swans and nearly-adult cygnets decided to swim from around the side.  I don't know if they were hiding and came out when it was safe or wanted to have a look.
As Queen Victoria emerged from the turning circle accompanied by one firetug and now one helicopter, there was more blasting between her and Aurora as she slowly made her way towards her home for the next four days.
We decided to call it a day at about 9.30am before she docked.  We were absolutely frozen having been out since quarter to seven.  The ship is due to be named on the 10th by the Duchess of Cornwall before the maiden voyage on the 11th.  For photos of the maiden voyage, click here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 7th December 2007
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