Aurora, Queen Elizabeth (II), Queen Victoria & Grand Mistral
An early start on a freezing 15th May 2013 for Aurora, Betty, Vicky and Grand Mistral arriving.  Aurora was well ahead of the Cunarders, even though they were all due for 6.30am, so we went via Shore Road first to get her rather than ruch to the marina only to find her there, as has happened in the past.  Betty was in view, so after a quick couple of photos, carried on to the marina.  By the time we reached there, Vicky was behind.  Aurora was still turning to dock in Mayflower while Betty would be starboard in 46 and Vicky likewise in QEII.  I hadn't seen the Cunarders like that since the 5th January 2011 when I helped my friend, the late journalist, Steve Read, cover four of the six ships we had that day.  Only one other person was down there waiting for Grand Mistral, which the Iberocruceros site listed from 8am-6pm but VTS had as 7.45am (after originally changing it to 9.30am!) and sailing at 5pm.  We'd seen someone pop up, take pics of the Cunarders and then drive off again.  Now Grand Mistral had visited in 1999 as plain old Mistral, but I missed her, but I think this was her debut under Carnival ownership. Cruise Southampton incorrectly had her as calling in 2012, despite the fact she would in the Med that day.  I told them she wasn't and gave them the link for 2013 but they only corrected their mistakes nearer both times.  It really beggars belief why Southampton VTS let them continue to do the cruise schedule when they get so much wrong even now and, because it's embedded on the VTS site, VTS get the blame for all the errors.  For accurate timings and ships, go by movements not the cruise schedule.  Anyway, as the Vista Sisters were docking, Grand Mistral appeared around the Hook but the car carrier, Integrity, had to get out the way first.  The bloke down the marina called it an ugly.  Tugs, Bentley and the new girl Alma, finished with Betty and headed up to wait for Mistral, which was on her first cruise after refit.
We were absolutely frozen so didn't wait for her to dock.  We got a taxi home and warmed up but planned to return for the departures of the Cunarders and Mistral.  Aurora was on a charter so not going until 8pm.  Stupid Cruise Southampton had her at 4.30pm but we decided against it and good job too since Vicky left at 4.55pm, her sister twenty minutes later while Grand Mistral was five minutes before her scheduled 6pm departure time.  For some photos of Grand Mistral docked in Dover from the English Channel, click here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 15th May 2013
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