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Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

7th December, 2018

After a night spent cruising gently eastward in the North Sea, we approached the River Elbe just after breakfast on Friday morning. As we entered the basin, our first local pilot jumped on board to assist our passage up the first section of this river.

The weather remained rather wintery: windy, overcast, spits of rain with visibility of only around a mile or so. The Elbe – indeed as with most rivers – starts off with a wide basin and narrows as one proceeds further upstream. After we passed the town of Cuxhaven on its western bank, some 2.5hrs into the transit, the banks on either side became visible and there were plenty of interesting views for everyone to enjoy.

75 miles further upstream from our entry into the river basin, our second river pilot called into Hamburg port control requesting permission to enter the busy port area. Muggins here drove the ship past the floating docks and into the city centre, where we would then swing about 180degrees before proceeding a few hundred metres back again to the Altona City Cruise Berth. It was becoming dark now having past into late afternoon in winter, and the weather was decidedly gloomy outside, with a gusty wind from the south-west which our Bridge Team needed to very aware of during the manoeuvre.

Typically, just as we approached our berth and the requirement for the Captain came to wander out onto the open Bridge Wing, it began to pour with rain. This naturally resulted in an expedited manoeuvre, and we found ourselves safely alongside Hamburg City Centre just as afternoon tea started, around 16:30.

We would be alongside here for 24hrs. Just after 17:00 that afternoon, our first organised excursion proceeded ashore – well dressed for Hamburg’s winter markets, and weather! This particular tour was entitled ‘Hamburg at Night,’ and promised its participants a traditional German evening meal (sausages & sauerkraut?) followed by a visit to the Red Light District. Surprisingly, some of the gentlemen took their wives along, too. I wonder if they were aware of the nature of the tour prior to its departure…

I am fortunate enough to have a friend in Hamburg and was treated to a personal tour starting with a visit to ‘Heaven’s Bar’ – a rooftop cocktail bar perched some 25 stories atop a high-rise building. After consuming an interesting German interpretation of a Horse’s Neck, it was time to wander around the Christmas Markets and eventually we found ourselves amidst a visiting funfair. Naturally, we tried one of the more hair-raising rides in the pouring rain, before proceeding slightly bedraggled to the Portuguese Quarter – a relatively newly born district of the town containing lots of nice restaurants. What did we eat in the Portuguese Quarter of a German town… an Italian meal, of course!

The following day, a usual array of daytime tours were offered. Hamburg city tours by land and sea, a visit to the beautiful Hanseatic city of Lubeck, and even a tour of the Airbus Aircraft Factory were all on offer. Fortunately, the rain was not persistent, allowing those enjoying various marches in between winter markets to choose their moments carefully in between showers…

As night fell upon Germany’s second largest city, it was time to set sail back down the Elbe river again. A picturesque sail-out with coloured lights adorning both river banks, was then followed an hour or so later by our farewell cocktail party and formal dinner. Delights such as haggis, lobster & steak were offered by Executive Chef John, for those who’d been ashore that hadn’t filled up too much with German sausages. After dinner entertainment consisted of the ‘Four D’s’ – a singing quartet bringing all sorts of West End style songs to the Discovery Lounge after supper.

Meanwhile, on the Bridge, we left the Elbe River just after 23:00, heading west again homeward bound after another successful short festive cruise. Next stop: Dover!

Captain Kim Tanner

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