Balmoral Southampton Debut
Well this was an unexpected bonus on the 4th February 2008 as the ships in Southampton weren't returning until March and I hadn't expected to see this pretty little ship until December.  Fred Olsen's latest acquistion, Balmoral, wasnt supposed to be here.  They had bought the former Crown Odyssey/Norwegian Crown from NCL in 2006 but allowed them to charter her until November 2007 to finished the scheduled cruises.  Once she was handed over she headed for the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg to stretch her by 30 metres, thus her tonnage would increase from 34,250grt to 43,000grt.  Her maiden voyage would be from Dover on the 30th January 2008 - until it all went wrong!  Pre-inaugural celebrations were the first to be cancelled as there was a delay.  She apparently listed when they flooded the dry dock so once she emerged she was taken to another dock behind.  She was delivered and headed for Dover where more problems were discovered.  On the 28th January Fred Olsen were forced to announce the maiden voyage was cancelled as well.  Her next cruise, a twenty night voyage to the Caribbean from Dover on the 13th February, was still expected to go ahead.  Which is why her arriving in Southampton came as a surprise, albeit a pleasant one.  She had been in Dover previously and was originally due to dock in 102 (as City was occupied by a Dutch naval vessel) for 12.30am on the 4th but for some reason, possibly the weather as it was bad again, she continued past the Isle of Wight doing a leisurely 7-11 knots and just hung around.  Her time of arrival kept changing and she was also due to be moved to 101 between 10.30-11am.  She began to turn in the Channel just before 2am and slowly made her way towards Southampton, her arrival time now 12.30pm and docking in 101.  But what was she doing here and how long would her visit last?

After some sleep (though not much as I wanted to know what she was up to and if she'd ever get here) I got up and kept an eye on AIS and the ship locater.  Finally she did turn towards Nab and was going faster but then for some reason she did a 360 degree turn.  Her pilot boarded at 10am and this unexpected show was on the road!  It was a glorious morning.  You'd have thought it was summer if people hadn't been dressed in winter clothing.  It was also quite mild.  As there was no way she would dock for 12.30pm, having not even reached Cowes by 11.15am, we took our time going to the marina.  Mostly empty - bliss!  A few obvious tourists taking pics of anything moving on the water, couple of dog walkers, but generally we had the place almost to ourselves.  And
Hotspur IV was back!  Couple of weeks ago, my dad said, but reckoned he forgot to tell me.
Meanwhile about fifteen minutes ahead was the container ship CMA CGM La Traviata.  Now anyone reading these pages knows I occasionally use photos of other ships and this is one of those times.  Poor Great Expectations was trying to return to the pier only bad timing put the kibosh on it.  Due to the wake coming from the mega monster the ferry couldn't dock so had to keep having to move away.  Once La Traviata was gone, Great Expectations safely tied up.
Once that excitement was over and the pier was safe from accidental collision, we returned to the most important vessel on that water!
Her arrival into Southampton under her new name was, like Boudicca, low-key.  I wish I'd been able to get closer shots of her.  I couldn't even get the name on her bow which was very disappointing.  How did I manage with 120mm before???
Once she'd passed Hythe's most famous landmark we knew she was well and truly here and were seeing this not as little ship that I had a soft spot for since her first visit in September 1988.
Once she'd passed City Terminal she stopped and began to turn.  I was cursing myself as our original plan had been to go to Mayflower Park to get photos of her being moved from 102 to 101 but since she would now be arriving in daylight and that wasn't happening we didn't bother.
By now the clouds were gathering, the wind was whipping and and it was getting very cold so we decided to call it a day.  It was already after 1pm so she was late.  Didn't matter though, apart from being frozen.  She was here and that's all that counted.  VTS listed her as leaving PM on the 13th but that was subsequently changed to 3pm on the 12th so the mystery of her unplanned Southampton call continued.  To see a photo of her brand new as Crown Odyssey in Southampton, click here and of her in dock before leaving Southampton on the 12th February 2008 click here.

Back to Stalking Index

© Patricia Dempsey 4th February 2008
Not to be reproduced without permission
12th February 2008