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Spirit of Adventure blog


11th February, 2023

Our Continental Flavours cruise has had such a great start. It was a cold but sunny day that made the sailaway from Portsmouth such a lovely experience. As long as you did not forget to bring a jacket if you were on the open decks. Our breakwater transit was timed perfectly with the sunset on our starboard side. After we dropped off our pilot at the Nab, I handed the navigational charge to my 2nd Officer Tom and went for a walk and dinner. As it was already close to 8pm finding a table with guests who had just arrived proved difficult in the Grill, but there was a table in the Club where guests had just arrived - it was their 48th wedding anniversary and they were really pleased when I joined them for dinner.

Our first port of call was Antwerp in Belgium. With 8 hours of pilotage in the river Scheldt and the tidal window that we had to align for, our cruise was planned with a sea day between Portsmouth and Antwerp. This allowed us to have a nice and relaxing first day on board and an opportunity to have a Welcome party and a formal night as well. Our Pilot pickup time was scheduled for midnight at the Wandelaar Pilot station which turned out perfect for arrival at the Antwerp Roads Terminal just in time for breakfast.

The passage from Wandelaar to Flushing is considered sea pilotage and in Flushing (2 hours of navigation from Wandelaar) the sea pilot is exchanged for two river pilots. Safety Officer Chandon was in charge to pick up the sea pilot and I took over just before we reached Flushing. I briefed both pilots thoroughly and we all agreed on the plan. The only (tiny, almost insignificant thing) that nearly ruined our plan was the fog that was far denser than forecast, with visibility varying from 200 to 250m. There was no traffic apart from us in the river and the river is wide enough that our passage was safe at all times.

Our original plan was to swing on arrival, but with reduced visibility I was not comfortable to swing without having my visual bearings. Both pilots agreed with my approach. Our berth was as close to downtown as you could get, within walking distance of the Cathedral of Our Lady. Once we were all fast and the gangway was landed, I made my morning announcement and then went to bed until lunch time, leaving Staff Captain Kirill in charge.

With an overnight ahead, the crew started making plans, who will go ashore and when. As Kirill had dinner plans I went ashore with my CETO (Chief Electro Technical Officer) Stipe for a walk at 4 pm, in order to be back at 6 as I didn’t want to disappoint Kirill and ruin his dinner plans. We ended up walking through the city centre for almost two hours. Small shops and bars with terraces that had heaters properly spread out, with the outside temperature of +1 deg C. I was expecting to smell different flavours in the air with all sorts of small restaurants in the area and cuisine from all around the world, but unfortunately they have all copied the Spanish Siesta and the restaurants were closed between 2 and 6 pm. We even found a restaurant called Mostar that offers delicacies from our part of the world. Back on board I donned my uniform and, as it was time for dinner, took a walk to the Grill, where I had yet another privilege of joining a table with guests (perks of the job) to enjoy a very pleasant dinner. I opted for seafood and did not regret my choice.

Departure was set for 11 o’clock in the morning, with hopes of better visibility during the daytime transit. Once we had all back on board, along with two new pilots, we connected tugs both ends (we had to swing and I wanted to have an insurance policy), agreed on the plan, let go our lines and swung around as planned with our own power. I felt much more comfortable knowing that if I needed additional pull I had it available. Visibility was good, and although the sun was missing, the river transit was much nicer than on the way in. All in all, a very successful first port of call of this cruise.

Kind regards
Captain Franko Papić

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

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.