Independence of the Seas, Aurora, Black Watch (III), MSC Opera, Oceana (II) & Balmoral
I headed to City Terminal via Mayflower Park as usual.  I hadn't been since January so had no idea the pavement by Red Funnel had been dug up, meaning you have to cross the road then re-cross to get to the park.  Indy was peeking over the trees as usual.  Today in 2008 was originally her maiden voyage but she was early meaning it had been brought forward to the 2nd May instead so ironic she began her final Southampton season on what should have been her birthday.  I'll miss seeing her there next year.  As I was earlier than planned due to cooperating ships, I took my time getting to the terminal and saw someone with a large camera and tripod nearer the fence before moving it closer to Indy.  It reminded me of the first time I met the late journalist, Steve Read, also in Mayflower Park, when he was filming MSC Magnifica's debut back in 2010 after knowing each other five years online.  He covered the first six ships back in January 2011, getting dock clearance and visits onboard four of them, and enlisted my help with his camera.  Black Watch and Boudicca were part of that too, docked the same way but in City Terminal.  It was much better weather for this one.  As I got closer, I recognised who it was but couldn't for the life of me remember who it was.  Too early in the morning after lack of sleep!  It was Andrew Pate of ITV Meridian, doing what turned out to be the only local television news item.  We got talking for a few minutes.  After I took a photo of him, he asked if he could film me taking photos of the ship.  After telling me the news would be on earlier due to the FA Cup, I said goodbye and went to the terminal to wait for Jeff and his friend.  The waiting room was packed, many of whom were moaning about being off the ship earlier than their estimated time.  A group of four were talking (parents, daughter and I assume boyfriend since the daughter said she had to pick her car up from his house).  First of all, the mother was so amazed to see the crew ashore I was half expecting her to yell at them to get back on the ship!  Then she and bloke were bemoaning how slow they were, "in the Solent".  I did wonder if they meant Southampton Water or actual bit between England and the Isle of Wight.  The bloke compared the speed to when they were in open sea, pointing out they had slowed down several hours out of Southampton, before saying they were still moving at 6.30am.  At that point I had to but in and correct him, saying they weren't.  When I pointed out Aurora passed and docked by 5.45am and Opera was behind at 6.15am, he replied, "If you say so."  When I said Opera couldn't have docked if they were still moving at 6.30am, he responded, "I didn't say it was 6.30.  I said 6.15."  Wazzock!  For some reason he stayed out of the waiting room as much as possible after that and they all went to wait outside for their transport ages before it was due.  Indy was finishing her manoeuvres and all fast by 5.30am (her original arrival time), was dressed overall shortly afterwards (and my photos show the flags when Opera was approaching) so I have no idea what was moving unless they come from a parallel universe.  It was hot so I went to the corridor but it appeared somehow Jeff had managed to pass me and was in the waiting room.  They had an interesting crossing by all accounts with medevacs, punch-ups, Diamond Plus members being kicked off.  We went to Town Quay via Mayflower Park and one excited man with his kids told us twice there were six ships in.  We all had a Coke and chat at Monsieur Hulot before I took Jeff to get some ship photos then I caught the noon ferry and they got a taxi to the coach station.  It was great meeting them Jeff and JP and hopefully next time will be longer.  The ferry was very busy with people wanting to snap the ships.
We went back down for the departures and it was still a glorious day.  As usual, too many parents/grandparents let their kids mess about on the rocks even if telling them not to.  Dan Gosling, Christian Reay and Anthony Marshall were already comfy on a bench when we got there and missed my two second appearance on Meridian news because they were waiting for the ferry.  Ciaran Culligan was coming from Ryde so had a mad dash.  Opera was down to go at 4pm, Oceana, Indy and Black Watch were all 4.30pm, Aurora 5.30pm and Balmoral an hour later.  Opera didn't move.  In fact, at that point, she had most of her lifeboats sticking out.  Oceana was the first to go, making a racket to get everyone's attention.  Indy moved shortly afterwards, only giving one blast.  My friend Ailsa Dixon was aboard with her friend Sammy.  Black Watch began to move as Indy drew closer, turning on the spot as she passed, and typically, Balmoral just began muster when they should have been saying hello to each other.  How disappointing when it's not every day you get two Freds together!  Red Jet 3 passed then passed again less than fifteen minutes later, heading back to Town Quay which helped pass the time.  Still nothing from Opera, which was now 5.30pm but she continued staying put as Aurora went to turn and the crane beside her seemed active.  FINALLY, at 6.13pm, Opera threw the ropes - yay!!!!!!  Balmoral decided to move a bit early too, though only ten minutes.  Just as things were getting good with Opera, she had to then slow her turn as the Höegh Copenhagen pulled out of Ocean Dock - ARGH!!!!!
Then we all went back to our various homes!  To see photos of the first time six day turnaround ships had been in Southampton back in 2011, click here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 17th May 2014
Not to be reproduced without permission