Saga Pearl II, Saga Ruby Leaves, Arcadia (IV), Queen Mary 2 & Queen Elizabeth (II)
The end of an era on the 10th January 2014 when Saga Ruby was going to sail from Southampton for the very last time.  She had arrived the night before, several hours behind Pearl, and both docked in City Terminal.  The irony of her stuck in Southampton exactly a year before after breaking down and now leaving the very same date wasn't lost on me.  It would have been more weird of Mary had been in QEII Terminal, as she was originally scheduled to be.  Instead they swapped her and Betty over while Arcadia made up the numbers in Mayflower.  In the morning, I went over on the ferry for some photos and typically, traffic blocked the view!  First the dredger, Cornelis Zanen, and then Red Falcon!  The dredger was going to 49 berth and docking as I was taking photos from Town Quay.  But after a quick bite to eat, I saw it was gone!  Had Mary squashed it for daring to be in the same view as a Queen?  Sadly not.  It just went to another berth by Empress Dock.  We still had Red Falcon to slightly contend with as that came out at the same time as us so we went behind.  After some lovely sun, the heavens opened while I was waiting for the bus home.  Typical!
Time to say goodbye to Rubes as I headed over to Mayflower Park.  My friend Fay came over while her friend Dave Shepherd came up from Portsmouth just as Rubes was leaving.  Her departure had been put back to the original 3pm.  Good job too as at 2pm it absolutely bucketed down so me and Fay sheltered in Kev Webber's car.  Slowly, more people turned up so we went to get a spot.  The pilot was stuck in the really awful traffic around Southampton so they brought one by the Southampton Patrol boat.  Then there was a problem with the gangways, apparently due to more people stuck in traffic and finally they forgot to load something, so another delay.  Despite a few showers as we continued waiting, it did dry up at the crucial time but was bloody cold.  With Wyestorm on her bow and Surrey attached, aft and 44 passengers, she gently eased away from the berth for the last time at 3.30pm and then began a racket to wake up the dead as Pearl and she said goodbye to each other - a lot!  As she neared Mary, she too said a fond farewell to her former fleet mate.  I don't know if Betty did as we were beginning the chase to Calshot for some final glimpses of this gorgeous girl as she sailed away from UK shores forever.  Weather was absolutely foul and sadly we had to give up as she rounded the Hook as it was just too awful.  The miserable weather pretty summed up how many of us were feeling about her leaving.
Back to Hythe for the ridiculously staggered departures of the rest.  Pearl was 5pm, Arcadia an hour later with fireworks at 6.30pm.  The most stupid ones were the Cunarders.  8.05pm for fireworks followed by Mary sailing at 8.15pm and Betty 8.45pm.  As usual, nothing ran to time but at least it was dry!  Pearl is so dark with the hull and now blue funnel, it's very difficult to see if she moves at all but she finally did almost half an hour late.  And what decided to make an appearance as she neared Mary?  That bloody barge, Cornelis Zanen!  Arcadia blasted off not long after time as morons appeared for fireworks, getting in the way.  She was passing Betty when the whiz-bangs started.  THEN they blasted to each other while Mary had been snubbed!  Bloody cheek!  It was a loooooooooooong wet, freezing wait for the 8.05pm fireworks.  Dan Gosling, Anthony Marshall and Christian Reay arrived close to the time and so did a hoard of people wanting the firecrackers so we all had to stand at the front.  The rain got heavier as we waited before three blasts from Mary then a bit more waiting.  Anthony and Christian gave up as the weather was so bad.  No movement from Mary but Betty slipped out on time - the only one all day to do so, and went out via the Needles for the first time.  Dan disappeared after she passed him then we gave up and went for shelter around 9pm and went home, absolutely soaked through.  It turned out, Mary had been waiting for an ambulance and moved just before 9.30pm so I got her passing the house.  Amazingly, considering I'd been out a little over eight hours standing, twisting and sitting, my back and knee held out very well.
And so it really was the end of an era.  Although I had little of her pre-Saga career, I had watched Rubes arrive from my house on that February day in 2005, watched all of her joint world cruise departures with Saga Rose (except 2008 as I was away but saw both in Madeira) and even got mild frostbite and hypothermia from the 2009 one!  But some things are worth it.  Her first stop had been Gibraltar on the 13th January, where she underwent drydocking before being handed over to her new owners on the 31st January.  Her name was officially changed to Oasia on the 3rd February and registry returned to Nassau.  At 2pm the 15th, she headed to the Far East to become a hotel ship, first stop Suez on the 21st.  Sadly on the 12th April 2017, she beached at Alang.  End of an era.  To see photos of Ruby arriving in Southampton for the final time, click here or any index for other photos.

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© Patricia Dempsey 10th January 2014
Not to be reproduced without permission
12th April 2017