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Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

26th November, 2018

Our final port is an interesting one indeed – a first for myself and most of the team on board, and our second visit this cruise to an autonomous Spanish city located in north Africa.

Weather conditions proved to be equally as interesting this morning, as un-forecast winds of gale force on the Beaufort scale swept in from the unprotected north-west, meaning that we had to call for tug assistance in order to berth. Ceuta being a relatively small harbour with not much in the way of large shipping movements with the exception of regular fast ferries, did not have a tug on standby for us, therefore we had to wait for one to arrive from Algeciras, 14 miles or so away on the other side of the Gibraltar Strait.

Our pilot, who was yet to come out to meet us at the harbour entrance, then mentioned that the tug would assist a nearby tanker to un-berth first before coming to us. So I tactically brought the ship into the harbour and hove-to the wind, effectively blocking the port entrance. This obviously meant that the tug had to help us to dock first, before attending the tanker. Sometimes in these sort of places, thinking outside the box is required to speed up the processes…

Once we had secured the ship alongside with a few more ropes than normal to hold us in the strong wind, passengers were warned to tether their sunhats to their chins with some strong string before heading ashore. Despite the chilly, strong north-westerlies, the sun was bright in the sky throughout the day and provided shelter was found, conditions were actually quite pleasant.

Separated from the Spanish mainland by just 12 miles, this stronghold of only 10 square miles in size has had a turbulent past, but since 1580 has been held by the Spanish. I like to think of it as a Spanish Gibraltar. It has an interesting mix of both Spanish & African influences and is surrounded by massive 14th Century city walls, holding within a medieval city with plenty of grandeur and charm.

Tours today offered land & sea trips around the territory, a walking tapas tour, and also a visit to the Tetuoan UNESCO World Heritage Site, across the border into Morocco. This trip took passengers who wished so on a scenic drive past coastal fishing villages and up to the foot of the majestic Rif mountains. There, a distinctly old Andalusian town stands, although now part of Morocco. The tour winds through the narrow medina on foot, passing through Berber Zoco bazaar for some shopping perhaps, and many restaurants offering Moroccan specialities – the best of which is chosen to eat lunch in.

Back on the ship, we stayed late into the evening again allowing those who wished to do so, to take a stroll ashore and enjoy the evening sights, perhaps some Spanish tapas or Moroccan tagine, before retiring to the ship prior to sailing just before midnight.

Our route took us out of Ceuta Harbour, across the busy shipping lanes of Gibraltar Strait, and into the west-bound traffic scheme out into the Atlantic Ocean. Three days at sea lay ahead of us before returning into Portsmouth harbour; the first of which promised calm seas & winds, sunshine and a BBQ grill on the aft terrace deck. What a pleasant way to spend an afternoon at sea…especially when upon checking the latest weather forecast, the UK is shrouded in cloud and rain…

Captain Kim Tanner

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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