Ventura, Saga Pearl II & Queen Elizabeth (II) Arrival
The 8th October 2010 would see the last brand new ship based in Southampton for quite some time.  Cunard's latest Vista, Queen Elizabeth, was due to arrive for 9am and dock starboard in Ocean terminal after parading herself up to Redbridge and back.  At 92,000grt, she is slightly heavier than her sister, Queen Victoria.  But then once QV has the stern cabin addition and QE 3 gets a dented stern, they'll be identical!  QE 3 boasts a lawn - but then so do the Costa Vistas, an idea pinched from Celebrity Solstice class.  Cunard are getting more like the cruise ships they claim not to be every day!  The good thing about QE 3 is the news some of Lizzie's artifacts have been recovered from Dubai to be displayed aboard.  Whether they've been bought or loaned, it isn't clear, but great for many to enjoy for years to come and reminisce about their trips on the Grande Dame.  Meanwhile, there were two other ships in too.  We caught the first bus and when we arrived, Ventura was in the Upper Swinging Ground, due to dock at the slightly later 6.45am.  Some irritating fairweathers got out of the car as I tried to take photos just to look down river for the new ship before returning the the car.  It was quite mild but as Saga Pearl II was nearing, she was harder to see due to the mist and barely any lights.  She was due to dock in City at 7.30am.  The mist and light blurred my camera a lot so these are the best of the bunch.
The fairweather's were growing, along with those who knew someone working onboard.  Still there weren't as many so far as there had been for QV.
Due to the mist becoming thicker, we couldn't see down to Calshot so I kept an eye on the AIS as we chatted to Michael the street cleaner.  It's always nice to see a cheery face at the crack of yawn.  We heard the new Cunarder blast madly as she rounded the Hook into Southampton Water, and also some smaller craft such as Shieldhall.  We could only hope she did the same once she was nearer.  The air had become colder the closer she got so I put my cardigan on, wishing I'd taken my winter coat instead of summer jacket!  I just about managed to see her in the distance as more people slowly joined the rest of us but it was still well down, even on a weekday, than for QV.  But then, people know what they're getting THIS time.  Last time they kept QV being a Vista well under wraps with angled shots not giving away the design..
The bugger started as she clearly means to go on and blasted just once as she passed Dock Head.  Then, as we were leaving, did it once more.  As I was going over to meet my friend Fay at Town Quay and the Cunarder was earlier than the 8.10am approximately at Hythe, I caught the ferry at that time instead.  Typically Red Funnel (though not the former Banana) just HAD to get in the bloody way!
I went to find Fay and surprisingly there was plenty of space along the path.  Fay said there had been several more earlier.  She had also been interviewed by the BBC.  There was an annoying Town Cryer (I assume!) ringing his flipping bell and shouting something or other down the fence end.  A couple of blokes next to me thought she was beautiful, her fine lines and five decks!  It sounded like they've never seen QV or Arcadia.  As QE3 came out of the Upper Swinging Ground, she and Ventura blasted to each other.  Fay said they did a competition as she entered it.  Saga Pearl II also gave her a toot, something else more prolific before I got there.
We then made our way to the other side as she got into position in the Lower Swinging Ground to turn and reverse into Ocean Terminal.
We decided to leave before she docked then had some breakfast, especially since the 9am Cunard advertised turned into 9.30am.  After we'd discovered they'd closed the toilets and you had to use the Red Jet Terminal ones (one per sex!), we headed to Mayflower Park.  This was the first opportunity I'd had to get up close and personal to Saga Pearl II.  I hadn't been able to when she was last here in 2008 as Astoria due to the flipping Boat Show closing all access as usual the week after the event!  Still, despite the cool start to the day, it was beginning to warm up but the mist lingered.
We managed to catch the 10.30am ferry, only because it was held up by the Red Jet loading for a harbour tour.  It was Fay's first trip on the ferry, since she was coming to help us move a chest freezer so a bed can be installed downstairs and my mum can come home from hospital.  She pointed out the preparations on the dockside for Monday's naming ceremony by the Queen.
After Superwoman Fay moved the object single-handed in minutes and a cuppa, she caught the bus back to Hythe as she returned over the water to get her ferry to the Island.  Queen Elizabeth stays in port until her maiden voyage on the 12th to the Canaries, just as QV had done almost three years ago and Azura in April.  She is due to sail at 5pm after fireworks.  I'm away for this so any photos depends on whether my mum's out of hospital so my dad can go down.  Saga Pearl II sailed on time, blasting to QE 3 as she went by.  But for some reason Ventura was delayed until 8am the following morning, though left at 10am.

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© Patricia Dempsey 8th October 2010
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