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Norwegian Escape

Norwegian Escape

Every now and then an opportunity presents itself and the other day I learnt that NCL’s latest ship will do an inaugural cruise from Hamburg to Southampton in October 2015. In no time at all I had circulated enquiries around the cruise agents on my mailing list to find if I could get a good deal and nice cabin location. Cruise Club UK again came up trumps with something acceptable and I duly made the booking.

The initial cruise from Hamburg is for 2 nights but we have added a 1 night cruise to nowhere when we reach Southampton so we are actually going to be doing back to back cruises. The third night is exactly as described, a cruise to nowhere because the ship will leave Southampton at 5:00pm and return at 8:00am the next morning presumably doing a big loop in the English Channel.

Day Location Arrival Departure
Sunday, October 25, 2015 Hamburg, Germany 07:00 PM
Monday, October 26, 2015 At Sea
Tuesday, October 27, 2015 Southampton, England 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 Southampton, England 08:00 AM

For our accommodation, we have opted for a mid ship balcony stateroom on deck 11 which when looking on the deck plan will have an angled balcony which is slightly bigger than the others.

Norwegian Escape Balcony Cabin

Rendering of a Norwegian Escape Balcony Cabin

Norwegian Escape Balcony Cabin Schematic

Norwegian Escape Standard Balcony Bathroom

Norwegian Escape Standard Balcony Bathroom

Above are some of the available renderings of a balcony cabin, these are of a ship which is yet to be built. Even the current deck plans are are showing lots of blank areas on the upper decks so presumably NCL are planning something a little different to the two previous ships in this class. Its a long way off but I am already looking forward to the smell of a new ship.

Our journey started the previous day because of the distance involved in getting to Dover from home, we spent the night in the Premier Inn which was just a 5 minute drive to the cruise port. After we checked out just after 9:15 we made our way to the car and could see the the ship in the distance moored up next to HAL’s Ryndam

The Oceania Marina & HAL’s Ryndam in Dover

Upon arriving at the terminal we gathered with some fellow members of the Cruising Mates Forum along with Moira & Kerry from Cruise Select who had actually organised the trip. After surrendering our passports for a day sea pass we were then ushered upstairs where there were complimentary teas, coffees and bottled water available. After a short wait we then proceeded through security and made our way onto the ship.

Dover Cruise Terminal ready to accept the embarking passengers on the Oceania Marina

We entered into the main area of the atrium and the initial impressions was a positive one. Nice and spacious and very airy with lots of  brightly coloured artwork on display. It was then on to the Horizon lounge where we were given a brief introduction to the Cruise Line and ship before being split into groups to begin the tour.

Our first stop was the ships compact gym which for the size of the ship wasn’t too big, one can only assume that it not the sort of thing Oceania cruisers tend to do but it is there should you require it. There were Kenesis machines in the adjoining room which are said to be very popular but I can only say they are not something I am familiar with.  It all sounds too much like hard work to me.

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Oceania Marina Gym

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Oceania Marina Kinesis Machines

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Oceania Marina Spa Entrance

The spar area was nice and bright with again lots of highly coloured art on display. The following areas shown to us included an area specially designated for passengers to be able to utilise their creative sides. The first being a craft area which considering the rest of the ship did seem very dark. I thought artists liked a lot of light?  Right next door was the Bon Appetite Culinary Centre which is where you can learn to cook some of the dishes that on offer in the ships dining rooms.

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Oceania Marina Artist Loft

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Oceania Marina Culinary Centre

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Oceania Marina Culinary Centre

 Our first accommodation of the day was our next stop and we were shown into one of the Oceania Suites of which there are 12 on the ship and 10 of which are in a midship location. Each one of these boasts more 1000 square feet of floor space and has separate living room, dining room, fully equipped media room, large walk in closet, outdoor whirlpool and even a second bathroom for guests. The interiors are all by a New York designer called Dakota Jackson.

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Oceania Marina Oceania Suite

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Oceania Marina Oceania Suite

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Oceania Marina Oceania Suite

 A Vista Suite was the next on show and these were again designed by Dakota Jackson. There are 10 of them in total and all at the bow of the ship. Slightly larger than the previous example at 1200 to 1500 square foot depending on the deck location. These actually come with there own private fitness room.

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Oceania Marina Vista Suite

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Oceania Marina Vista Suite

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Oceania Marina Vista Suite

A short break from the accommodation saw us out on the pool deck and heading towards the Waves Grill where our guide Alex proudly advised us that  this is where you will get the best burgers and BBQ at sea. The surrounding dining area did look very appealing and I could quite easily have sat down and tried one out for myself.

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Oceania Marina Waves Grill Menu

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Oceania Marina Waves Grill

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Oceania Marina Waves Grill Seating Area

We quickly moved on through the Terrace Cafe which was a little disappointing as I would liked to have seen the rear terrace which backs onto this. We were seemingly to be more interested in one of the more important eateries which was where ended up next.

It goes by the name La Reserve and is for wine connoisseurs and devout epicureans. The room itself is a dark panelled affair with 3 tables all having sitting for 8.

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Oceania Marina La Reserve Restaurant

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Oceania Marina La Reserve Restaurant

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Oceania Marina La Reserve Restaurant

From there we continued on to the Board Room and the then Oceania@Sea which is the ships internet zone. Again another dark area with lots of timber panels and very traditional looking which led onto the Baristas which is a coffee and pastries servery next to the library. The library itself was probably one the best looking I have ever seen at sea. Very cosy with some really appealing areas where you go and sit to read a book.

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Oceania Marina Library

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Oceania Marina Library

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Oceania Marina Library

 Back to food which was beginning to be a bit of theme with this tour and next to be covered was the Toscana Restaurant which is an Italian themed one and according to our guide will provide you traditional Italian dishes by chefs trained in Tuscany, Italy. All offerings here are eaten on ridiculously priced Versace plates which are apparently valued at some some stupid price which floated over my head.

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Oceania Marina Toscana Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Toscana Restaurant Versace Plate

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Oceania Marina Toscana Restaurant

 Next on show was a private dining room called Privee where you can host a party for up to 10 guests. Centre stage is a large elliptical table made from Onyx which was brought onboad the ship during its construction because it was the only way to get it in. If you need to ask the price to dine here you most likely cannot afford to. Our guide informed us there was an absolutely amazing view to be seen but for us the blinds were down so we will just have to take his word for it. Perhaps Dover didn’t fit the bill on that day…..

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Oceania Marina Privee Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Privee Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Privee Restaurant

Yet another dining location was the next stop and one called Polo Grill which is the ship main steakhouse. Again a really lovely looking dining room and great emphasis was given to the sourcing of the ingredients. For example USDA Prime beef steaks, aged for 28 days to make the succulent and tender which we were again told were the best at sea. I think we heard that phrase a few times on this tour.

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Oceania Marina Polo Grill Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Polo Grill Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Polo Grill Restaurant

Accommodation time again and this time we were shown a Penthouse suite which has 420 square feet of floor area and comes with a dining table at the foot of the bed?  A nice looking cabin and a grade which is getting a bit closer to the one we like to sail at. Again this cabin comes as per the previous ones which a large bath/shower. It has a walk in wardrobe and private balcony.

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Oceania Marina Penthouse Suite

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Oceania Marina Penthouse Suite

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Oceania Marina Penthouse Suite

 Well if we thought we were heading towards something more akin to our own style of cruising we were totally wrong. The next area to be shown was one of the 3 aft facing Owners Suites. 2000 square feet of complete opulence!  With interiors from the Ralph Lauren Collection and spanning the entire width of the ship. A large living room, two walk in wardrobes, a second bathroom for guests and a music room with piano. Where an earth does the term Owners Suite come from?

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Oceania Marina Owners Suite

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Oceania Marina Owners Suite

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Oceania Marina Owners Suite

Finally we were shown a Veranda Stateroom which is more in line with what we would be looking at if we we were to cruise Oceania. A very plush looking cabin with their signature Prestige tranquillity Beds which are actually in all of the cabins and suites. I would loved to have had lie on one to see if they were as good as they ere being pitched.

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Oceania Marina Veranda Stateroom

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Oceania Marina Veranda Stateroom

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Oceania Marina Veranda Stateroom

 Zigzagging our way across the ship our next area to view was another restaurant called Jacques, this one  is completely dedicated to the Chef Jacques Pepin, again filled with wood furnishings and art from his personal collection and modelled on a Parisian bistro. Each dish has been selected and created by the man himself. It is yet another light and airy room which has an area curtained off one end which resembled a crematorium to me. Our guide made another big pitch at how wonderful the dining experience was here and by now I was beginning to wonder how he was managing to keep the momentum up.

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Oceania Marina Jacques Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Jacques Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Jacques Restaurant

 So what next I hear ask? Yes you’ve guessed it another restaurant and this time one with an Asian theme. Called Red Ginger, this one was again given full throttle by our guide as something quite extraordinary. I have to confess that the menu in here did appeal to me however despite our guide giving us some long winded story about how the chairs came to be in the room I found  the décor was quite ordinary. What I have since picked up on is there is only 1 window. You can be dining on a ship and at sea but you could be absolutely anywhere.

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Oceania Marina Red Ginger Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Red Ginger Restaurant

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Oceania Marina Red Ginger Restaurant

The theatre came next and this I would imagine has been downsized so they could incorporate all of the extra places to eat. It is on one deck and when you are sat at the back it felt like you were looking through a letter box. Certainly not as grand as other areas of the ship and probably very functional for the passengers who cruise Oceania.

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Oceania Marina Theatre Lounge

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Oceania Marina Theatre Lounge

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Oceania Marina Theatre Lounge

Two more stops before we headed for the Grand Dining room for lunch and the first was Martinis Bar which is very elegant and spacious and would be a lovely place to sit and enjoy a drink or two which is in contrast to the Casino Bar which is a something quite, quite different.

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Oceania Marina Casino Bar

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Oceania Marina Casino Bar

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Oceania Marina Casino Bar

Basically its Purple! Its illuminated and doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the ship. I am sure it has its fans but this to me was just another expensive gimmick to impress those who are taken in by how much things cost especially when it involves a lot of money.

Lunch in the Grand Dining Room was billed as a 7 course meal and consisted of

Fingerling Potato with Sturgeon Caviar

Asparagus Risotto with Provolone cheese and Black Truffle

Maine Lobster Cassolette with Bisque Sabayon

Wellington of Veal Tenderloin with Porcini Mushroom Stuffing

Pink Pralines and Roasted Pistachio Cream

and Petite Fours and Macaroons and coffee to finish.

A very enjoyable lunch which was very tasty indeed.

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Oceania Marina Grand Dining Room Luncheon Menu

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Oceania Marina Grand Dining Room Luncheon Menu

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Oceania Marina Grand Dining Room

 

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Asparagus Risotto with Provolone cheese and Black Truffle

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Maine Lobster Cassolette with Bisque Sabayon

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Wellington of Veal Tenderloin with Porcini Mushroom Stuffing

 

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Pink Pralines and Roasted Pistachio Cream

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Petite Fours and Macaroons

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Petite Fours and Macaroons

 So to sum up my thoughts, the ship is very tastefully decorated and is spectacular in lots of the public areas. Much detail has been given to certain places and an awful lot of money has been spent in the process. Did they need to spend that much money to achieve the same look or are they appealing to a certain market in the hope that they will be impressed with the so called high status of the ship?

I liked the ship very much but became very tired of the continual bragging about how many thousand dollars had been spent to bring it up to Oceania’s desired specification. I am not one to be impressed by that sort of thing and think that I would find it difficult to mix with the sort of clients they are hooking.

We were given a goodie bag on the way out which contained the Winter Collection brochure and I had a look through to see if anything appealed. There are some really fantastic itinerary’s in there and one that caught my eye was called South Pacific Wonders, a 27 night cruise which over nights at Easter Island. The cheapest brochure price for a Veranda Stateroom for these 27 nights is listed as £8439. There are no added incentives for booking such as pre paid gratuities or complimentary drinks packages but it does include flights. At £312 per night I think I won’t be looking to book it and for that sort of money you could get 3 separate cruises for 2 on one of the high end mass market cruise lines. In fact you could for another £3000 do a world cruise with Costa.

Very nice to see and to experience but I am going to need to be very wealthy if I ever set foot on an Oceania ship again and that’s not on the cards!

 

Goodbye Oceania Marina

Oceania Marina Ship visit

On Saturday I will be making the trip to Dover for a lunch and tour around the Oceania Marina cruise ship. Regarded by many as one the top cruise lines in the world, this is a golden opportunity to have a look at what they have to offer. Douglas Ward the author of the 2014 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships list the Marina in the top 5 Mid-size Ships, an accolade she has held since her maiden voyage in 2011. The tour costs £25 per person and includes a 6 course lunch so as you would expect I am eagerly looking forward to this and will hopefully have lots of photos to show you when I return.  Prior to heading off to Dover I will just post  brief descriptions the the cruise line and the ship, both of which are extracted from the Oceania website. These will hopefully give you an idea of what they claim to be about.

Oceania Cruises

Formed in 2002 by luxury cruise industry veterans Frank Del Rio, Joe Watters and Bob Binder, Oceania Cruises is the world’s largest upper premium cruise line. Cuisine, Comfort, Service and outstanding value are the pillars that define Oceania Cruises’ five-star product and have positioned the line as the cruise company of choice for travellers seeking a truly refined and casually elegant travel experience.

Our intimate and luxurious ships allow you to explore the world in unequalled style and comfort. Sophisticated, stylish and distinctly mid-size, you’ll find the onboard atmosphere is extremely convivial, and with an unrivalled level of personalized service as a result of us having two staff members for every three guests.

As the leader in destination cruising, Oceania Cruises sails to more than 330 ports around the globe. Itineraries are unique in that they call on the perfect mix of must-see marquee and boutique, off-the-beaten-path ports. Multiple overnight calls afford an in-depth, enriching destination experience and allow travellers to immerse themselves in the cuisine, culture and history of the ports we visit.

The Oceania Marina

Marina has been purposefully designed to carry guests to the world’s most alluring ports in elegance and style. The ship is full of rich woods, marble and granite, fine wool carpets and lustrous leathers which adorn public rooms. Facilities include 10 dining venues – six of which are open-seating gourmet restaurants, an array of bars and lounges, a full-service Canyon Ranch SpaClub and fitness center, swimming pool and hot tubs.

So lets go and see for ourselves……….

With the balance all paid and with just 79 days to go until we sail, I have had a quick look to see what other ships we may come across during the cruise.
Among the list there are 3 MSC ships, Lirica, Fantasia & Armonia along with an old acquaintance the Costa Serena.

We should also see 2 Seabourn ships, the Sojourn and the Odyssey along with 2 RCI vessels, Splendour of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas.

 

Date Port Ships in Port
Monday
4 August 2014
Civitavecchia, Italy Celebrity Reflection Depart: 05:00 PM
Costa Serena 9:00 AM – 11:59 PM
Ventura 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Tuesday
5 August 2014
At Sea Celebrity Reflection
Wednesday
6 August 2014
Santorini, Thira, Greece Celebrity Reflection 02:00 PM – 10:00 PM
MSC Fantasia 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Splendour Of The Seas 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Tender)
Thursday
7 August 2014
At Sea Celebrity Reflection
Friday
8 August 2014
Istanbul, Turkey Celebrity Reflection Arrive: 07:00 AM
Seabourn Odyssey Arrive: 1:00 PM
Saturday
9 August 2014
Istanbul, Turkey Celebrity Reflection Depart: 01:00 PM
Seabourn Odyssey 6:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Sunday
10 August 2014
Kusadasi, Turkey Celebrity Reflection 11:00 AM – 08:00 PM
Seven Seas Mariner 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Serenade Of The Seas 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM (Dock)
Monday
11 August 2014
Mykonos, Greece Celebrity Reflection 07:00 AM – 06:00 PM
MSC Armonia 8:30 PM – 11:59 PM
Tuesday
12 August 2014
Piraeus, Greece Celebrity Reflection 06:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Splendour Of The Seas 12:00 PM – 8:30 PM (Dock)
Wednesday
13 August 2014
At Sea Celebrity Reflection
Thursday
14 August 2014
Naples, Italy Celebrity Reflection 07:00 AM – 06:30 PM
Regal Princess 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sovereign 7:00 AM – 2:00 PM (Dock)
Friday
15 August 2014
Civitavecchia, Italy Celebrity Reflection Arrive: 05:00 AM
Regal Princess 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Seabourn Sojourn 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
MSC Lirica 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM

 

 

Well we have finally made it to Savona. We had to be out of the cabin by 8:00am with a meeting time of 9:15am in the theatre for disembarking.
Lots of talk yesterday about not getting until 9:00am but in the end we made it on schedule.
We have a flight from Nice this afternoon and so will be back in the UK at 4:25pm. Down to earth with a bump as its back to work tomorrow.

Arrival at Savona

Arrival at Savona

We awoke this morning not the sound of a ship in port but to one of a ship at sea. Having passed through the Messina Strait sometime in the night we have continued our northerly course towards Savona. For our last full day on board we have had clear skies which somewhat eased the disappointment of not stopping at Naples.
As with all cruises its sad to be getting off the ship and saying goodbye to all those who you have become so familiar with. I also feel for the poor old crew who now have to go through it all over again with a fresh set of faces but to carry on providing the same service while their families are so far away.
And talking of far away, we have spotted a few stowaways on board. We have seen about 5 of these little yellow birds and I have also spotted a slightly larger green one which is about the size of a Blackbird. I have no idea what they are or even when they came on board. The yellow ones are often seen flying all round the ship and by chance seem to have taken a liking to the aft balconys. They don’t seem to be too bothered by us humans and its quite amusing to see them wandering along the balcony decks. I wonder what will become of them?

Well I suppose its putting off the inevitable, time to start packing for home……

Posted a day late because Costa gave everyone 1 hour of free WiFi which then crashed the system. Its been rubbish at the best of times but now its beyond help!

The yellow one is about the size of a sparrow

The yellow one is about the size of a sparrow

The other stowaway

The other stowaway

Well as the day as passed the itinerary saga has continued with lots of stories being passed around by just about everybody. In a note delivered with the daily programme we have some sort of explanation for not stopping at the last two ports. It reads as follows…….

Dear Guests

We would like to inform you that due to a technical issue we are not able to sail at full speed and in order to assure our northbound cruise arrival at the port of Savona on time, we therefore unfortunately need to cancel our next port of call at Naples.

The inconvenience does not impact on the full safety conditions of our cruise, but just reduces the speed.
We are now heading to Savona with an estimated arrival time of 10:00am on Tuesday 15th April.

Those guests who were to disembark in Naples will be fully assisted and transferred to Naples by a dedicated charter flight which will leave Genoa airport at 2:00pm on the same day (Tues 15th).

In order to mitigate the discomfort caused by the route change, guests on board the Costa Fortuna are offered a credit of €100 (per cabin) to their onboard account.

We thank you for your understanding.

It would also appear there are a quite a few Italians & Germans still not happy with this and have demanded a meeting with the Captain and if everything I hear is to be believed then the shows in the theatre didn’t go ahead last night because 30 or so Italian passengers interrupted the performances by having a sit in on the stage to protest! You really couldn’t make it up could you?

All said though, I am slightly bothered by how we could have lost so much time. The daily programme had suggested that the Suez transit ranges from 11 to 14 hours depending on traffic coming the other way. They must have built the worst case scenario into the itinerary and if my observations were accurate then we started the transit 2 hours late and it took us 11 hours. I believe that put us more or less where we should have been at Port Said. The first we knew of any change to the itinerary was when it was when it was announced during the canal transit that Heraklion had been cancelled due to time loss? How could they have known that then?
We then proceeded into the Mediterranean doing 17-18 knots which isn’t that slow and have continued to do so ever since apart from when we did the emergency evacuation where we lost about an hour. This ship has a top speed of 22 knots so I think there is something they are just not telling us. OK, they could just about get away with saying one port needed to be dropped but two? We were due to be in Naples for 6 hours and Heraklion for 4.
Could it be the cost of having 2 tugs in attendance through the canal has cost too much and to try and recapture some of the overspend they have dropped 2 ports? But then why go to all the extra effort to get disembarking passengers back to Naples?
Some fellow passengers we have spoken to said that there were rumours that the decision to drop Naples had been circulating as early as yesterday morning. In the afternoon the navigational maps were altered without any official announcement, this eventually came over the tanoy at around 5:30pm. I don’t think the whole episode has been handled very professionally and its no wonder so many passengers are upset.
I guess we will never know the full story.
However as a final note I would be curious to know where MSC Lirica is in comparison to our location as she was only 2 hours ahead of us going into the Suez canal.

This is the view from our balcony clearly showing only one of the props working fully

This is the view from our balcony clearly showing only one of the props working fully

What an evening tonight turned out to be. First the almost mutineering Italian passengers then almost as soon as that had died down we temporary changed course for Crete to meet a helicopter for an emergency evacuation of a passenger.
The helicopter was almost right over our cabin as it attempted to winch the passenger up. Whatever happened the first time wasn’t successful so as dusk fell the helicopter made a second pass and was at last successful. I have to admire the skill of the pilot who hovered over the aft of the ship while the evacuation was carried out.

The helicopter hovers over the rear pool deck during its first attempt

The helicopter hovers over the rear pool deck during its first attempt

We finally exited the Suez canal at Port Said around 8:30pm last night in darkness and headed out into the Mediterranean sea towards Naples and not Heraklion.

I know we weren’t due to be in Heraklion for a full day stop and it was also one of the rescheduled ones but however we were looking forward to stretching our legs on dry land.

For today’s weather we had clear blue skies but there was a marked difference in the wind temperature which had quite a nip to it compared to the one we experiencing on the other side of the Suez canal. The outside temperature being given at only 16C so providing you could find a sheltered area on deck it still felt really warm.

On another note, I got a bit of a shock yesterday when a message popped up on camera screen. Memory Card Full! 8GB card and only 1620 photos on it, luckily I had a spare one in the cabin but can you imagine my horror if it had happened at Petra? Its not something I have ever done before on a cruise and it will certainly make me more cautious in the future.

We have since discovered that Naples has now been dropped too. No formal announcement has been made and we discovered this looking at the TV in our cabin. Guest services was a very interesting place I can tell you with a few very animated Italians going beserk!

The first time the rear pool roof has been closed during the day

The first time the rear pool roof has been closed during the day

One of many of my Suez canal photos

One of many of my Suez canal photos

The rest of today has been spent slowly cruising the 87.5 nautical miles (162 kms) north along the Suez canal. The only things we have constantly had behind us have been 2 tugs. The reason for this wasn’t announced until 5:00pm when the captain revealed over the tanoy that the ship is experiencing technical problems, hence our delayed entrance into the canal. I had noticed we had problems docking in Aqaba but nothing was said so I assumed it was something else. The result of all this is that we are experiencing a delay and Heraklion has been dropped and so we are now heading straight to Naples.

It wasn’t until we reached the first basin that we encountered any ships coming in the opposite direction. There has been a light breeze and beautiful sunshine all the way through which has been fantastic. The crowds which were on deck at the start have slowly disappeared and it feels more like the usual space we have come to enjoy.

Tonight is another gala night and we have received an invitation to join the captain with the other Costa Club members for a cocktail in the theatre. One of the perks of being a Pearl member is we get a free photo if we have one taken with him. Hmmmmmm.

Al Salam Bridge and our 2 tugs in attendance

Al Salam Bridge and our 2 tugs in attendance

Al Salam Bridge, Sinai side

Al Salam Bridge, Sinai side

Al Salam Bridge, Cairo side

Al Salam Bridge, Cairo side

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