Oceana (II), Ventura & Saga Ruby
Oceana returned from her Caribbean season on the 28th March 2008 and headed to Bremerhaven for a refit at noon.  She arrived back in Southampton for 6pm on the 10th April, heading to the turning circle in Western Docks rather than turning at Ocean Dock, so she could greet her new fellow Princess P&O fleetmate Ventura before going the way she came and docking at the QEII Terminal.  Saga Ruby arrived late at 9.15am on the 11th April and docked in City Terminal.  Ventura meanwhile was loading up for the two night party cruise P&O introduced in January, thus angering many people who were on the maiden voyage.  This party cruise would contain the first fare paying passengers whereas originally it would have been those on the maiden.  No wonder they felt cheated.  All three ships were due to sail at 5pm, but Ruby was pushed back half an hour.  This would be Oceana's first sailing with the new P&O Cruises logo and the only reason we went really as she and Ventura would both be in the following week for Ventura's maiden voyage.
The forecast had been rain, supposedly drying up by 4pm but the rain had been in the morning.  The afternoon started out still windy but warm and sunny.  Quite a few people went to the marina.  It seemed to be split between those who knew someone on Oceana and those who wanted to see Ventura.  One bloke kept insisting to anyone he spoke to Oceana was sailing at 4pm.  He also told some people who didn't know much that she had just returned from the Caribbean.  As we waited the Red Eagle passed, still sporting their 'April Fool's Day prank' on the side, which supports the Wight Squirrel Project to help protect the island's red squirrels.
Oceana did her very loud eight bells at 4.15pm and the people behind started clapping, thinking she was off, having been telling people she would go after the container ship CMA CGM Don Giovani had passed a few minutes earlier and couldn't understand why she wasn't moving.  Meanwhile up the other end, Ventura's crew appeared to be having trouble taking down the flags which are usually off an hour before sailing.  As muster was finishing, the Adstream Surrey tug appeared from Ocean Dock and attached itself to Oceana's bow line.  Shortly afterwards came our favourite, Lady Madeleine, who went astern. We're hoping for her when we're on the QE2.
Several of Oceana's lines were gone well before 5pm and they they let go of the last one.  She gave three long blasts and two short and was out of there.  We had wondered if they would make a big show of Ventura passing Oceana this week as well as next but glad they didn't.
Once Oceana had gone many people left.  It had also turned much colder though thankfully the rain held off.  Now we had someone who kept saying Ruby was Saga Rose.  There are two obvious visual difference between these two beautiful vessels.  The first is Saga Rose has a funnel resembling a beret.  The other is Saga Rose has a name sign on the top deck.  So we waited for movement up the other end.  The tug Bentley went to Ruby then straight past, loitered by a barge, up towards Ventura then back again, finally attaching itself to Ruby's bow.  This was followed by another who went to her stern so 5.30pm came and went.  We saw one tug in front of Ventura but there may have been another behind we couldn't see.  Movement at last from one of them.  Ventura began to edge away from the berth at 5.55pm.  Hooray!  We were so cold we'd planned to give up at 6pm.  As Ventura neared Ruby she blasted.  No idea if they expected a reply but they didn't get one then or the next time they hit the horn.
We heard a loud blasting from Ruby, now completely hidden by the bulk of Ventura.  Slowly she was pulled backwards once Ventura was clear.
So off they went and as usual the docks looked very bare afterwards.  By now there was no one left watching the ships.  Poor Ruby.  We still love you!

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© Patricia Dempsey 11th April 2008
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