AIDAblu (II) & Costa Atlantica
We had two weather refugees on the 6th September 2011 when AIDAblu and Costa Atlantica sheltered from bad weather.  Both ships were originally due to call at Dover, which makes me wonder what AIDA will do during the winter cruising season with Dover as a weekly port of call.  It's not the first time it had happened.  In September 2009 Crystal Symphony skipped a call at Guernsey, coming directly here where she stayed overnight, also missing her Dover call.  It was a surprise when I saw the AIDA listed on the movements, arriving 2.30am in Mayflower and sailing 7pm.  A short while later, the Costa had been added, originally 12.30pm and moved back to 11.45am with no sailing time.  I know the AIDA has never called before but not sure about the Costa since both are rare visitors.  AIDAblu is the second ship to bear the name, the original being the current Pacific Jewel for P&O Australia.  This one weighs 71,300grt and is a modified Sphinx class, slightly larger than her sisters Diva, Bella and Luna and had her maiden voyage to Palma, Mallorca, on the 9th February 2010 after being named in Hamburg that day.  Costa Atlantica debuted in July 2000, the first of Carnival's 83,619 grt Spirit class and the inspiration for the latter Vistas spread around Holland America Line, P&O, Cunard and Costa themselves.  The AIDA left Le Havre after 8pm and made the fastest crossing by cruise ship, docking with the assistance of tugs Surrey and Bentley, by 2.45am.
Before I went to bed, the Costa FINALLY appeared on the AIS, destination marked as Dover despite the fact she was just over an hour away.  Now it wouldn't be the first time someone our end cocked it up and put a ship which wasn't coming, so I remained sceptical until I knew she'd safely passed and would be welcomed into the open shores of Southampton Water.  Around 6.30am, the AIS had gone off a few hours earlier, close to Dover, but checking the webcam saw her still bouncing around in the wet stuff - great!  We caught the 10.35am bus and headed to the marina.  Hythe was practically deserted, which was unsurprising considering the wind and rain.  The wind was blowing in every direction, almost killing my new umbrella when I went to the front for a photo of the AIDA in the gloom.  Maddie and Bristol had been summoned for 11.20am but were there by 10.55am, with Maddie loitering by the pier before being passed by Bristol as the Costa emerged from the misty rain ten minutes later.  This is why I refuse to use Photoshop.  This is exactly how it was, crap visibility but Photoshop removes the atmosphere and creates an illusion.  We huddled in the only shelter there was - the toilet block!  Not that it made much difference with us still getting wet.
AIDAblu was originally scheduled to sail at 7pm then 6.45pm.  By mid-afternoon it was 10.15pm then moved an hour later, her new destination being Zeebrugge instead of Antwerp.  Costa Atlantica was listed for PM then 11pm and then 11.15pm but she had just a short hop to Le Havre.  As it was, both were delayed by the boxboat NYK Venus, who was arriving.  The Costa left first around 11.30am once that had passed followed by AIDAblu, who had Maddie and Bentley on her.  Both had gone on their way by 12.05am.
It was a shame they changed the timings so the AIDA left in the dark as well as arrived but I'd get her a couple of weeks later. I enjoyed seeing these two and I hope AIDA and Costa won't be strangers in future.  It had been two years since AIDAcara and an even longer five since Costa Classica.

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© Patricia Dempsey 6th September 2011
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