Six Ships, Four Visits, One Day - Southampton 5th January 2011
Something happened in Southampton for the first time in over fifty years on the 5th January 2011.  The port had SIX ships!  Now there are places around the world such as Fort Lauderdale and Miami where this is usual for turnarounds.  Some comments have compared to Caribbean ports such as Philipsburg, which are calls so not the same thing.  It's like when I was in Civitavecchia in October 2010 and there was nine, including us.  Only one was a turnaround.  This was the first of two occasions this year when six would be due.  The second, in July, has five turnarounds and the maiden call from Artemis as Artania.  One logistical problem, however, is four of the five will be over 100,000 tonnes so no doubling up this time.  I'm sure with that one something will have to give.  But back to the freezing cold January day when we had the beauties.  In the six days leading up to them arriving, the arrival and departure times changed many times.  Balmoral would lead the way.  Originally sailing at 4.30pm, Fred Olsen had changed their ships to 8pm a while before.  But we had 0200-2015, 0230-2000 and finally 0300-2000 and she docked in 101E on her starboard side by 3am.  Next was Black Watch.  This was the first time two Fred Olsens had been in together.  Black Prince and Black Watch sadly don't count because Black Prince was waiting for her sale to go through.  Her timings went from 0400-2000, 0700-2000 then back to 0400-2000.  She was all fast by 4.15am in 101W, also docked starboard with thirty metres (ninety feet) between them.  Saga Ruby led the four ship conga around the Isle of Wight to home and was the only one to keep her timings of 0600-1745 and would be docking portside in 104, the fruit terminal where the fifth terminal will be built.  Now came the Vistas QV1, QV2 and QE3.  Queen Elizabeth also underwent time alterations from 0630-1630, 0545-1700 to the final 1600-1700 and would be starboard in Ocean Terminal.  Arcadia soon followed, 0630-1630, 0700-1800 to 0630-1800 and docked portside alongside Mayflower.  Bringing up the rear and the arrivals to a close was Queen Victoria.  She went from 0630-1630 to 0700-1630 and would be starboard in the QEII Terminal.  Phew!  I got a couple of hours sleep then was up for them arriving.
Towards the end of the year, I had been asked by my journalist friend, Steve Read, if I would like to hold his video camera while he reported on this monumental event.  He contacted all the cruise lines asking about access as well as ABP requesting dock clearance.  P&O immediately said no while Saga said yes.  New Year and two Bank Holidays passed before he received any other replies.  Fred Olsen was yes plus interviewing a Captain.  Cunard initially said no then agreed, letting us board one so we opted for Queen Elizabeth.  I may not be keen on Vistas as Cunarders but being a ship nut am also a nosy cow and dying for a look!  The port agreed too so he had to buy high-visibility coats and interview port director, Doug Morrison, at some point.  Not a problem with any of that and off his schedule went to the relevant people.  But then things went slightly awry - what's new with shippies????  He picked me up just after 9.30am and we ended up in a tailback towards the port with people going to their ship there and then!  For crying out loud!!!  Ocean Terminal was our first port of call (pun intended!) for QE.  We waited for a lady from Cunard PR called Lisa, who would be accompanying us around the ship.  It turned out she does the Facebook and Twitter sites and knows of this site and even me - yikes!!!  Steve plugged his website and I told her I also had one, totally shocked when she asked if it was Liner Lovers.  She told me her collegue Michael Gallagher knows of it too and me being local so hello Cunard!!!!  During our longer-than-planned visit as Steve filmed various things and I went photo crazy when not holding the camera, we saw the QE2 items brought back from Dubai.  The model in the Yacht Club looks strange being somewhere other than the midships Lobby with the blue light below.  I also asked if I could look at cabin 4041, which friends are booked into and Lisa was happy to show me as we were making our way back down to leave the ship, for which I'm grateful.  It had drizzled slightly as we went onto the open decks but generally the weather held nicely.  As I don't have enough interior shots for its own section, like other ships I've visited, I have included it all here.
As we were handing back the passes, I had a brief chat with Nicky, who did most of the passes when I visited the QE2 and, surprisingly after more than two years, remembered me!  It was lovely to see her again.  We said goodbye to Lisa and returned to the car, Fred Olsens next.  The schedule had Arcadia for 11.30am but a little juggling worked wonders and we arrived at City Terminal for some external filming just before 11.55am then went down for Rubes then Arcadia.
Luckily no one yelled at us on the private land as we got some of Rubes and then we headed to what was the old Bacardi/Martini bottling plant which had vans for shipping but otherwise was bare.
We drove back to City Terminal at 12.20pm where we had to meet Rachael from Fred Olsen who was already onboard Balmoral.  The queue at the pass office was huge with crew joining both ships so Steve flashed his press pass to get us through.  We were given them for both ships then I followed Steve up the crew gangway - oops!  No one told us not to though.  Like QE, I don't have enough internal photos so have included them here.
Mike Rodwell, the Managing Director of Fred Olsen, was also there.  Everyone was really nice and friendly.  An interview with the Captain had been arranged so off we went to the bridge to film, have a coffee then back down to look at a few things.  Steve wandered into cabin 9019 for a look.
By the time we left (via the passenger gangway after eventually being told not to go the way we'd come) and swapped our passes for Black Watch at 1.35pm, it was flipping raining!  Not a lot thankfully, but enough.  They were using a dockside gangway which, to me, went about three million feet up!  We had to use it.  I told Rachael I'm not good with heights so she asked the cruise director, Ronnie Finch who was at the top of the crew one, if we could use that and he said okay.  Since I had already visited in 2005 and cruised only a few weeks before, there are no internal photos since she is well documented.  I did, however, take a photo of Rubes and Arcadia from the Observatory and later some of Balmoral and the Cunarders from a drizzley Lounge Deck while Steve had some coffee and planned another piece for camera.  It was the first time Steve had been on a Fred Olsen and was very taken with Black Watch, in particular the dining area in The Braemar Garden.
We said goodbye to Rachael after handing back our passes then made our way back to the car for the final girl of the day - Rubes!!!!  Due to her location, we had no idea where we were due to go to park and were directed to the plot of land between 104 and 105.  By now (2.20pm) the rain was atrocious and it buggered up plans for dockside shots by camera and video.  We went into the Canary Islands fruit shed for our passes.  The poor woman had two halogen heaters on to keep warm.  I waited and waited for my stuff to be scanned and eventually, after many puzzled looks, the security guard asked if I have a lot of change in a purse to which I replied yes, it's for bus fares then my stuff came though!  We didn't have an escort for this one.  We could go virtually anywhere we pleased.  This is the one I was most excited about.  I had missed visiting Rosie and knew this one would be around only a few more years.  She is Steve's favourite, having had several cruises on her.  Now despite being in a shed, the port and/or Saga went to a lot of trouble to make the place look fairly decent.  They even had entertainment from a jazz band which plays on the ships.  I'd seen them on the QE2 during my cruises.  Up the high passenger gangway (though not three million feet like Black Watch's!) and after Steve showed me a few places, we had a bite to eat in the ballroom before he left me there a while while he had some business at Reception.  Due to being the only ship I was able to fully explore, there will be a link to more photos at the end.
Steve showed me around the rest of the ship and I could understand why she was his favourite.  She's very cosy and just marvellous.  We had a date with the Captain at about 4.10pm so up we went, passing the numerous port presentation plaques en route.  The stairs leading to the bridge were very steep, like my late aunt Mary's house!  As we waited to go into his quarters, we had a look around the bridge.  Then I checked the movements, since we still hadn't got to QV.  Well they were all changed again!  Arcadia was now 5.30pm, the Fred Olsens 7pm, QE 6pm and QV 5.45pm.  As the interview commenced with this Captain younger than I am, his phone rang!  He was told the new departure time of 7.30pm.  Once that was done I asked if I could take some photos of the room.  We discussed how long she had left and he replied they were looking at 2015 so, providing they don't retire her sooner than planned like Rosie, we have a bit longer to enjoy the last liner built in this country.
For over half an hour after leaving Rubes, we hoped the rain would stop so we could find somewhere to do some filming but it wouldn't.  There was also nowhere sheltered we could do it from.  When my dad told me on the phone QV was going to back into the Itchen to turn then reverse to QEII Terminal and hold for the fireworks with QE and Arcadia, we decided to go to the marina.  Traffic was horrendous and it took about forty minutes!  Thankfully no one had budged an inch.  QE blasted at 6.10pm and Arcadia moved at the same time.  About a dozen people turned out but the rain with the wind was a pain.  Steve volunteered to do my camcorder while I took photos.  He noticed once QE was out she stopped and wondered why then the fireworks began!
Not bad considering I was holding the camera against my arm with one hand and the edge of Steve's umbrella over me with the other.  My fingers were numb and stiff by the time the display ended after ten minutes.  I worried about the soaking my equipment was getting (you'd think they'd make them waterproof by now, especially if it cost a few hundred!) as well as me so decided to go home, skipping QE passing her sister and the others.  It had been a VERY long day but worth every moment.  Balmoral came out and turned at City, Black Watch went to the Upper Swinging Ground to turn and QV reversed at around 7.50pm, after the Fred Olsens passed while Rubes moved off at 8pm.

A HUGE thank you to Lisa at Cunard, Rachael, Mike and everyone at Fred Olsen, Beth Evans at ABP Southampton and Paul Green at Saga for giving Steve the permissions.  But the biggest thank you goes to Steve himself for asking little me to assist him on one of the best shippy days in my home in my life!  That's why it makes it incredibly hard knowing he died suddenly a month after we'd had such a marvellous day doing this.  He was in his element, doing what he did best, and it's tragic he was taken from us so soon.  None of us who knew him will ever forget him, whether it was only through his work at The Sun, Sky Travel, online or personally.  He will be forever greatly loved and missed

For more photos of
Saga Ruby, click
here.  Steve's video of the day is here.  My personal tribute to Steve is here.


© Patricia Dempsey 5th January 2011
Not to be reproduced without permission
15th February 2011