Saturday, 26 May 2012

Southampton, May 26th

Some shots from a trip to Southampton today...I decided to go over and see the new Sea City Museum up at the Civic Centre (more on this in a bit) and, as usual, the camera came along too.

As usual, click for largest size and better quality -

Celebrity Eclipse was in so I went to Mayflower Park first to take her picture ~

Grande San Paolo was also in ~ 

And Balmoral, which my friend Patsy is on for a short cruise up to Zeebrugge ~

Then it was a walk from Mayflower Park up to Sea City Museum at the Civic Centre, via Waterstones and the Saints Store at West Quay. The museum costs £8.50 for an adult (£6 concessions) and, quite frankly, I think it is very overpriced. Obviously the thing has to be paid for but, given you're paying the thick end of a tenner, the exhibits are quite disappointing, unless you are into the Titanic as it is mostly dedicated to that ship. The Southampton: Gateway to the World exhibit is rubbish, with a lot of prehistoric and medieval exhibits (including the skull of a Barbary Ape!). The giant model of the Queen Mary, previously housed in the old museum at the Wool House, was great as were the smaller model ships mounted around it - I'd love that model here at home but there'd be no room and the cats would have a great time breaking bits off it! The rest of it was just boring - as well as the prehistoric and medieval stuff there were pieces about West Indian folk coming to England, the influx of Poles and something about Chinese people studying here, as well as a glass case displaying bags containing different species of rice. None of these pieces were in-depth and none featured the way these folk - and bags of rice - got here. I'd have liked to have seen more about the ships - and planes - they travelled on.
The shop was crap, with mostly Titanic items - dare I say Tatanic? - and overpriced at that, a lot of which was stretching the boundaries of taste a bit. I am not much of a humanitarian but 1514 people died when that thing went down and now it's an excuse to flog overpriced fridge magnets, tea towels, beer mats and iPhone covers. Whether the disaster happened 100 years in the past or not, this strikes me as somewhat tasteless.

Overall it was quite disappointing and not worth the £8.50 I paid (as a senior citizen my aunt paid £6) unless you are a Titanic enthusiast and I have to admit that I am not. That said the Titanic exhibits were well done but there is more to Southampton's maritime history than that 'epic fail' of a ship. What about all the other passenger ships which have called this port home over the decades? What about the other merchant ships? Southampton is a busy commercial port and I'd have liked to have seen more on the cargo ships that have called here over the years. Hopefully, once the 100th anniversary of the Titanic is over at the end of the year, they might change things round. I hope so. I did take the opportunity to fill in a feedback form and said as much on there. Oh yeah and £3.80 for a dry cheese and tomato baguette make the cross-Solent ferry companies look positively good value for money.

Back to Town Quay and the chance for some more photos. Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess was at the Ocean Cruise Terminal, so I took a few pictures of her, although I couldn't get a decent shot without obstructions (I'd come over from the Island on the Red Jet so no opportunities for photos from the water). It's funny, I absolutely hated these ships - the Princesses, Azura, Ventura, etc - when they first appeared, but they are growing on me.

Town Quay really is a disgrace. The large fence on the southern end is still there and the place becomes more overgrown and decrepit by the year. I emailed ABP a few years ago, asking if they were ever going to repair the quay and remove the fence. They replied, saying they were aiming to do it within a year. Little did I think it would be a Plutonian year...! They rip people off for parking on Town Quay and there's a number-plate-recognition system there, so anyone who even drives onto the quay and drives off again without paying gets a hefty fine, so why can't they put the proceeds of that towards repairs and the removal of the fence?

There is a nice crop of ragwort growing on the end ~

And a Buddleia is nicely established, rapidly approaching large shrub proportions and providing food for any butterflies in the vicinity - maybe I should bring my macro lens ~

Ferry activity, with Hotspur IV off to Hythe ~

And here comes Red Jet 4, our ride home to the island ~

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Malik Al Ashtar

The new UASC container ship Malik Al Ashtar made her first call at Southampton yesterday (bringing some long-awaited and overdue good weather with her!). I missed her coming in but was hoping I'd catch up with her as she left. She was scheduled to depart at 1130, so I watched Solent AIS until she was on her way down to the Solent.

She eventually appeared at Fawley at 1240. Naturally, all the white sails appeared as if by magic but, for once, didn't interfere too badly with the subject.

Malik Al Ashtar facts: 141077 GT; year of build: 2012; IMO number: 9525900; flag: Malta.

Click for largest size and better quality.

NYK Altair and Cassiopeia Leader were on their way in, so there was a bit of a rush on!

Liverpool have got their own way regarding becoming a turnaround cruise port. They have to now pay back the public money they used to build their terminal but, unfortunately, they are allowed to pay it back in instalments. However, nothing has been said about the £8.8 million of EU money they had - which Liverpool have not offered to repay - which they really should repay. The thoroughly-discredited Labour government bent over backwards to accommodate the north of England, usually at the expense of the south, but the current ConDem coalition are no better. If this isn't giving Liverpool an unfair advantage over those ports which have built up their business with their own and private money, then I don't know what it is.
That said, it is going to be interesting to see what happens now. They have their eyes on what they consider the big prize, Cunard, but Cunard have already knocked them back.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The big P&O Party in July

On 3rd July 2012, there will be the big P&O bash celebrating their 175th Anniversary, when all seven of their current cruise fleet will be in Southampton. I haven't given it much thought, beyond planning to go to Southampton that day, take photos, return to the island and watch them all sail past Cowes in the evening or go to Culver Down if Cowes and East Cowes were too busy. I wasn't planning to join the special Red Funnel trip, although I had thought about it, not at £55 (plus we still have to pay to get to Southampton to join the cruise and home again later - and my email to RF asking about this didn't receive a reply so sod 'em. A 'no, sorry' would have been fine, but no reply is just rude) and the timings are awkward for Isle of Wight residents because the RF cruises don't begin and end here, only in Southampton.

Anyway, out of the blue on Wednesday I get a text from my good friend Patricia Dempsey who is going to be sailing on Oriana that evening (I was mildly envious). Patsy's text said that a friend who was supposed to be also going on Oriana with her can't, after all, make the trip - a four night cruise to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge - it's already paid for and would I like to come along? Is the Pope's religious leaning Catholic? But I initially said 'no' as I am flat broke after a trip to the USA in April and some extortionate vets' bills for my dog a couple of weeks ago, but after some gentle persuasion (although admittedly it didn't take a lot) I caved in and said 'count me in!'. Just as well I didn't fork out £55 for a Red Funnel ticket!

It should be a great trip and a marvellous occasion in Southampton. I'm going on an hour-long Blue Funnel Harbour trip at 1130, as is Patsy, and once that's over, we'll head to the City Terminal (Berth 101) and the ship.

Oriana at Southampton, December 2009

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Star Stratos

The acquisition of new material has finally begun! The weather isn't exactly favourable for photography (the calendar says 'May 17th' today but you could have fooled me, as it looks and feels more like November) and hasn't been for a while.
I was out at Seaview today and took this photo of the refrigerated cargo ship 'Star Stratos' as she approached Portsmouth. I used my 400mm lens for the shot, due to the distance, as the only other lenses I possess are a 70-200mm and an 18-135mm.

Ship facts - Built in 2007; IMO number: 9350991; gross tonnage: 14030; flag: Singapore

Click on the photo for the largest size.