Marco Polo, Saga Rose & Black Prince (II) Farewell Cruise
A bevy of beautiful ships older than I am in Southampton on the 2nd October 2009.  The 44 year old Saga Rose arrived first for 6.30am to ready herself for her penultimate cruise.  The 43 year old Black Prince was returning from her penultimate trip as she prepared for her swansong under the Fred Olsen banner.  She, in fact, was just a few minutes behind Rosie and also due for 6.30am.  Unfortunately, being October, it was dark at that time of the morning so we stayed home.  We were planning to go for their sailings anyway so it wasn't important.  The reason we were up before the crack of dawn was the 44 year old Marco Polo, who I'd last seen in Guernsey back in June 2008.  VTS had her listed for 7.45am and sailing at 5pm while Transocean Tours' German site listed the arrival as 8am with departure 6.30pm.  The day before VTS did correct their mistake but left the arrival.  It was beginning to get light when we got to the marina.
We'd been for a wander and when we returned to the lock we spotted the gorgeous Marco Polo in the distance, sun just coming up but the chilly air remaining.  At least it was dry!
As we watched the gorgeous Russian arrive full of Germans we chatted to Michael the street cleaner we hadn't seen since August 2008.  Meanwhile the banana decided to ruin my shot!
Clearly Red Eagle - that marvellous ferry which was the ONLY one to stay with Lizzie last November - wanted in on the act and came from behind then passed the port side of the ship.  To have one ferry ruin the view is unfortunate.  To have two is a conspiracy!
I had hoped she'd be berthed in the rarely used QEII Terminal, especially since she wasn't a Carnival-owned ship.  But for some reason they decided it would be Ocean so she went in bow first, mooning at the rest of us.
The harbour master's boat pulled up alongside of the pontoon, waited a little while then sped off again.  Very odd, we thought.
This was going to be terrible.  It's bad enough anything in QEII looking from Town Quay side and Ocean from ours is partially or completely hidden by the Gruesome Twosome.  But today they added the NYK car carrier Graceful Leader to the mix, making it the Gruesome THREESOME!  That wasn't laid up though.
The harbour master boat returned.  It turned out who they had been waiting for was late so the lock keeper called them back.
As the Transocean Tours itinerary said, she was for 8am.  We'd planned to go over to Mayflower Park for a few photos of Rosie and Black Prince, as well as Marco Polo en route but it was too cold so we went home instead.  We did do it in the afternoon, catching the 2.15pm ferry.  The weather was still a little cool but had warmed up considerably in six hours and was sunny.  The NYK left at 2pm and we passed it as we headed to Town Quay.  It was Andy's team on the ferry (Stewart and Patrick the skipper) and I think Stewart was relieved Andy had wound him up the other week about time and motion.  He's been more chatty since then.
As we passed QEII, we noticed someone working on one of the old cranes.  Perhaps that's the reason Ocean was being used for our guest.
The Red Funnels were really starting to annoy me now.  Osprey and Eagle in the morning.  Then as we neared Ocean Terminal not only did a Red Jet zoom by making us rock in its wash, but then Falcon completed the set of irritating ferries!  We rocked worse when that went by.
My dad spotted something we hadn't seen before flying off Ocean Terminal - a windsock!  This makes sense considering the bad wind it gets there and one day there may be a nasty prang worthy of Queen Victoria's stern itself.  Why does big business never listen to those who know more about things than they do?
There was a banging sound and looking round we noticed the ferry ramp either hadn't been raised properly or had somehow come loose during our bumpy journey.
Normally when you go into Mayflower Park, whichever ship is in 101 peers over the trees at you (Indy, Mary, Equinox etc).  Yet this time it was spot the baby!  Although with them all being smaller than the rest of our vessels, they were all peek-a-booing in one form or another.
Near the railings we bumped into someone who I have to call the nameless man because I don't know his name!  But we've spoken to him down the marina from time to time and it's always nice to see a familiar and friendly face.  He had just taken some photos and was sat on the bench putting his camera away.
The weather turned cloudy and chillier as we waited for the 4.30pm sailaway so I was glad of my cardigan and winter jacket.  Because of the Gruesome Twosome virtually hiding Marco Polo, we went up as far as the lock so we could get her and the other old timers together when they passed.  There were a small handful of people down there but a few sat in cars having a picnic!  Surprisingly Rosie was the first to move and blasted three times.  We thought, with it being the final cruise of Black Prince, she would lead the way.  But no.  It would be a repeat of the arrival only with more time between them.
Rosie gave three blasts to Black Prince as she passed.  The Fred Olsen returned the gesture but with just two.  It was a lovely thing for the captains to do since both ships are coming to the end of their current careers.  But while Black Prince has a future in Venezuela, Rosie's (to date) is uncertain with Saga keeping their plans close to their chest.  As Rosie moved out the way, Black Prince edged away from the dock giving three blasts of her own before turning.  It was quite bittersweet really with Rosie having yet to do her farewell while Black Prince will have gone before she comes back.
While trying to find Peter Knego on Rosie I took various deck shots.  Upon returning home and looking for him, I noticed rather a lot of orange.  It looked like they were doing or had just finished lifeboat drill.  Considering the original departure time was 5pm, could this have been why?  Maybe Peter will answer that in his blog.
We headed off back home to warm up for the second time that day, although it still wasn't as cold as it had been in the morning.  We watched Marco Polo leave from the house and, due to a late passenger bus, she was fifteen minutes later than scheduled.  But hey, Dover's only seven hours away so she can more than make up the time!  When Black Prince returns on the 16th she will remain in port to be stripped before beginning her new role.  To see photos of her homecoming, click here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 2nd October 2009
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