Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Sovereign round the Med

Some images from a week-long circumnavigation of the Western Mediterranean onboard the MS Sovereign. Originally delivered to Royal Caribbean in late-1987, at the time of her inauguration, she was the world's biggest passenger ship and she knocked SS Norway into the number 2 spot and Queen Elizabeth 2 into number 3. As a 13-year-old boy, I remember being very excited reading about Sovereign of the Seas and realising that this great ship existed - albeit sailing weekly from Miami, a place I would be unable to visit for some years to come. In 2009, Sovereign was transferred to the Mediterranean to operate for the Spanish company Pullmantur and I joined her in Barcelona, accompanied by my good friends Ann Haynes (writer of the excellent Haynes World shipping blog) and the Danish maritime writer, photographer and all-round good chap Soren Lund Hviid( Sovereign proved to be a wonderful ship - albeit a little frayed around the edges after nearly 25 years' hard usage.

In Barcelona, the Sovereign was berthed aft of a much newer large Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Brilliance of the Seas. The newer vessel's toweing superstructure contains deck upon deck of outside cabins with balconies, whereas Sovereign boasts only a very few of these on one deck.

Sovereign's atrium; back in 1987, such a large shopping mall-like space had never previously been found on a passenger ship - but thereafter atria of this type became standard features of all subsequent cruise ships. Sovereign's atrium remains eighties-tastic.

Leaving Barcelona.

A warm Mediterranean evening on the lifeboat promenade deck with Sovereign's Spanish passengers chatting and smoking, much as they would do of an evening on a street in Barcelona.

Sovereign's wake and flagstaff at dusk.

Time for a cocktail in the Viking Crown Lounge, the wrap-around cocktail bar cantilevered from Sovereign's funnel.

At anchor in the bay at Villefranche, our first port of call and only a short walk from Nice:

A funny Art Nouveau mansion on the outskirts of Nice:

An aerial view of Nice harbour:

Back in Villefranche, Sovereign had swung round into a very helpful position for photography:

Villefranche maritime museum - scary!

Sovereign's show lounge:

Andalucian-style pig's cheek for dinner - it was delicious.

Signs in Livorno, our second port of call:

We took an Italian Intercity train to visit the lovely Renaissance town of Lucca:

In Lucca's famous piazza, which follows the footprint of a Roman amphiteatre:

A purveyor of various sizes of knobs and knockers:

A somewhat less glamorous diesel train for the return to Livorno:

Whizzy concrete sports hall, spotted from the train:

Livorno main square:

Moby Otta arrives in Livorno in perfect evening light:

Port number 3, Civitaveccia with Costa Mediterranean and Mariner of the Seas:

Time to read the Danish translation of the manuscript of my forthcoming book about Danish liner shipping, due out in the autumn from Nautilus Forlag (

The Italian Railways train ferry Scilla arrives (above), followed by Mega Express Two and Moby Freedom (below):

Taking photographs while holding a drink is a special skill of mine:

Scintu arrives in the early evening, followed by Nuraghes:

Nomentana leaves, then Cruise Roma appears:

Dinner - a big steak - mmm!

Some passengers form a conga-line in the dining room. I'm sure it's not good for the digestion to dance so soon after having eaten:

Approaching Naples in early-morning light:

An old Clyde favourite, laid up in Naples harbour:

Noordam approaches Naples' Stazione Marittima:

The Staziona Marittima is a very imposing building from the Fascist era - but I soon found more such wonders when I began to explore Naples:

Naples is a fascinating city, but its garbage collection is notoriously haphazard and so, on a hot summer day, its smelly streets are not suitable for those of a sensitive disposition:

The view from the fortress:

The sensational Post Office and Telegraph building - a wondrous example of the Fascist-era 'Littorian' style (ie Italian streamline moderne):

Approaching Palermo:

A travel agency in Palermo, little-altered since the 1960s and featuring the advertising and graphics of numerous long-vanished shipping lines:

Palermo's magnificent fire station - another Fascist-era monument:

Luncheon in Palermo - this was delicious.

Palermo's post office - this one verging more towards monumental neo-classicism:

La Superba arrives in Palermo harbour:

Onboard Sovereign during the final day at sea - the wind picked up causing quite a few of my fellow passengers to become unexpectedly re-acquainted with their lunches (for so big a ship, she's not a very good performer in a breeze):

The view from my cabin porthole:

Farewell night dinner - a Moroccan lamb confection (good, but not as good as the version Ann Haynes makes!):

1 comment:

  1. I delight in seeing you pointing and smiling at your notable meals, and I'm sorry to read that she isn't a good ship in a little wind. We took one trip on her years ago.

    I'd be curious about that obviously classically inspired building next to the fire station. It looks as if it might have Palais de Tokyo roots in there somewhere. As usual, your signs leave me smiling.