Queen Elizabeth 2, Independence of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas & Sea Princess (II)
A busy day in Southampton on the 26th April 2008.  The QE2 was coming to the end of her shortened refit and was due to be moved back from 105 to 38/9 between 5.15-6.15pm.  Sea Princess was back for her final season here, sailing at 5pm and Brilliance of the Seas had ended a transatlantic crossing before heading to Hamburg for a refit.  The 90,010grt Brilliance was the second of the Radiance class and had her maiden voyage in July 2002.  Independence of the Seas was going nowhere until the 27th when she would embark on a short jolly but this night was hosting the 15th birthday party of Virgin Radio where there would be a live broadcast from the ship between 6-10pm.  Brilliance was originally due to sail at 11am which was changed to 11.30am so, in the hope she would sail up to Western Docks to turn around thus passing her newer sister, we headed for Town Quay on an absolutely glorious day despite being a bit nippy in the breeze.
On the other side of the mast I noticed rather than a Union Jack flying (why they changed it from St George's Cross I have no idea unless Scottish and Welsh people complained but they are sailing from England), there was a Red Ensign!  I thought I was seeing things at first but no.  Red flag with Union Jack in the corner as clear as day.  Very unusual sight on a foreign vessel.
11.30am came and went and there was no sign of Brilliance finishing bunkering.  Then, around noon, as if under some sort of mind control,  Whitonia, Whitchallenger and Jaynee W all left their respective ships then finally movement from Brilliance.  Disappointingly she didn't turn up our end.  She didn't even blast in response to Independence.  Several people turned out to watch, some staying only when they knew she would be leaving imminently.
The Hythe ferry had to go around the enormous length of Brilliance as she straightened and it made a change seeing it arrive from a different angle.
Once Brilliance had disappeared from view we decided to check out the Caribbean Festival being held over two days at Mayflower Park.  We also wanted pics of the ships from there so had no choice really.  It was a joint event to celebrate Independence's arrival and had an excellent atmosphere.
Rather annoyingly we couldn't go through the gate to get to Dock Gate 8 so had to walk back out of the park and all the way round.  There were many cars arriving at the terminal, presumably for the Virgin Radio party as quite a lot were just overnight guests.  The security guard let us take photos of the ship when the gate was open.  I got chatting to a lady called Jill who was doing Norwegian Jewel soon.  I told her she should try a Tropical Itch.  After getting the framing shot I'd done with Freedom and Liberty, we strolled back to Town Quay to have a bite to eat and await the movements.
By the time 5pm arrived it had got much colder and windier though it didn't stop people coming to watch.  They had sent two tugs out for Lizzie and also one for Sea Princess.  Around 5.05pm Sea Princess slowly moved out of the berth.  She didn't even blast and, if Lizzie hadn't to her, would probably have not done it.
Sea Princess blasted at Independence but no reply.  How rude!  Don't respond to each other then to others who salute out of courtesy.  Meanwhile Lizzie was eager to start moving which she did once the tug attached to Sea Princess let go and went to Her Majness.
As Lizzie moved, a helicopter suddenly appeared and after hovering over Independence, then followed her.  She blasted to the new ship only to be met with the same silence Sea Princess received.  Never one to give up she tried again but still nothing.  How dare there be no one responding to such greatness!  One of the Point's at Marchwood blasted to her and she replied.  Nice to know someone respects her.
Time to check out the boot topping since she was given a lick of paint.  With the sun in my eyes it made it very difficult to see let alone focus the camera on it but I did my best.  There really are some advantages to the marina for sailings.
Because Lizzie was on the move, the 5.30pm Hythe ferry had to go behind her to get back to the pier.  How we wished we were onboard.  What a great angle that was!
We moved to the fence and found a spot.  I wish they'd fix the end.  The fence is a pain and not very stable.  As we watched them manoeuvre her into her home we overheard a man tell another in all seriousness that Royal Caribbean were owned by Carnival.  We had our laugh of the day!  We were beginning to worry everyone knew what they were talking about although it made for great conversations during both times of waiting and watching.
We caught the 6pm ferry back.  The open deck was crowded and I was desperate to see that starboard boot topping as I'd had so much trouble with port so managed to squeeze in.  I explained to an elderly lady who was taking photos of Lizzie about what we'd seen in LA.  Once the waterline came into view between the tugs we had a nasty shock.
We were appalled.  How could they let her go out like that?  Bad enough they never finished the fresh red paint but to leave the rust is...  Well words fail me.  I know this was much shorter than planned before they sold her and a wet dock has limitations but not that much, especially as she was tilted over.  Painting over the rust is one thing (although it still makes her looks dreadful with dark, patchy blobs), but to completely stop is another.  I overheard a woman tell her companion what I'd said to the elderly lady.  Even typing this I am completely disgusted at the corner-cutting by Carnival because they don't care about the ship.
A good day spoiled by the mess of that boot topping.  I do hope the interiors are better then the exterior.  I also hope when Independence sails from the 2nd May onwards she is docked port and NOT starboard.  Bad enough last year when Navigator wasted so much time turning around for the first four months.

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© Patricia Dempsey 26th April 2008
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