Mediterranean Freighter Cruise 2012

 
Europe / Mediterranean
 

In Feb/Mar 2012, I took a freighter from Southampton, England visiting seven countries in 29 days, disembarking in Bristol, England.  The ship sailed for another 5-6 days to four more countries before making the full circuit back to Southampton.

I’d been thinking about a freighter cruise for about ten years, ever since I first found out there was such a thing.  Blocking off one to two months for such an adventure is not easy, even for a retired person like me. But, I finally decided I needed to quit talking about it and “just do it” ! 

Freighter cruising is not for everyone, of course, including my lovely wife.  And, all my buddies either didn’t have the money, the time (still working) or thought I was “crazy”.  Hard to argue the last point, I guess.

Freighter travel costs about the same as the more luxurious conventional cruising, but it is free from all the “distractive amenities”.  So why go:  the adventure, the unusual, stepping out of your comfort zone and the “road” less traveled.

Flexibility is the key to freighter travel.  The original sail date was established as Feb 18.  Before I made my flight arrangements to London, it was changed to Feb 22. After booking my flight is was changed to Feb 26.  Once in London, it was changed AGAIN to Feb 28 !!  Thus, while I had planned to spend 4-5 days in London, I spent four days there then rented a car and traveled Central and Southern England and Wales for six days with a “spur of the moment” itinerary. Look at the Great Britain tab for those photos.

The ship was the Grande Mediterraneo of the Grimaldi Lines of Naples, Italy.

It is a RO/RO ship – roll on, roll off vehicle carrier with up to 4,500 cars, vans, and light trucks at any given time. In addition, there was an assortment of buses, cement mixers, cranes and other very heavy equipment as well as several hundred large containers. 

The food was Italian and was quite good.  I did get quite satisfied with pasta – it was served for every lunch and dinner, along with some type of fish or meat.  Here is a photo of an octopus salad I ate (tasted like chicken!).

Service was great with white linen table clothes, china and wine.  There were about 25-26 workers on the ship at any given time.  Half were the Italian officers and half the Pilipino “worker bees”.  All very nice and accommodating people.  For most of the cruise, I was the only passenger on board – there was an Italian man on for about 6 days; then later a very lovely Swiss couple for about 5 days. I read 9 or 10 books and played a lot of games on the iPad and kept a diary.   I spent a fair amount of time in the bridge with the captain and other officers.  He was very engaging.

Shore times were shorter than I expected – 4 to 10 hours. The docks/terminals were usually not in the touristy section where the passenger cruise lines dock. Each time I left the terminal, I took a photo of the gate in case I got lost.  Here is the one from Greece.

The most excitement of the trip was at the port in Ashdod, Israel where I was intensely interrogated by the Israeli security.  The night and day I was in port, Ashdod was being bombed by the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.  We ended up not traveling out of the terminal, too dangerous per the captain.  While in the duty free store at the docks I heard the sirens go off for the first time – LOUD !  The Israelis walked fast or ran to the bomb shelters – I was close behind !!  The sirens went off 5-6 times during the day we were there – I have an iPhone video of one to the Palestinian bombs being intercepted by the Israeli “Iron Dome”, their missile defense system.  About 100 rockets were launched; the Israelis shot down about half of them.  The others exploded it town.  We could hear them !!

Way too much to write about in this short space.  Here are the cities and countries visited:

  • Southampton, England
  • Salerno, Italy (twice)
  • Piraeus/Athens, Greece
  • Izmur, Turkey
  • Ashdod, Israel
  • Limassol, Cyprus
  • Savona, Italy
  • Setubal, Portugal
  • Bristol, England

Enjoy the baker’s dozen photos.  By the way, while I enjoyed the trip immensely, no more freighter cruising for me – was on the “bucket list” and has been crossed off !!

 

 
 
 
 
 
Here is the ship docked in Savona, Italy – 11 decks, two football fields long at 600 feet and 105 feet wide !! This is the starboard side of the  bow showing the bridge.
 
This is the stern and the ramp for the ship. The ramp takes about 20 minutes to lower or raise. 
 
My cabin was about the same size as on regular passenger ships. I had my own bathroom and plenty of storage space and a nice desk on which to upkeep my diary. 
 
The port and terminal at Pireaus, Greece. It was pretty typical port showing the cars and trucks waiting to be loaded. The gate was about three-fourths mile away to get to the city. Some ports the distance was less, some more.
 

Each deck held about 500 vehicles – the capacity was 4,500 !!!! We’d unload and load cars in each port. It was quite fascinating watching the process – organized chaos!

 
Nice foggy shot of the ship in Salerno, Italy showing part of the city and the beautiful Amalfi Coast. This is one city I will take my wife to and then travel the coast.
 
On the sacred rock of the Acropolis is the 2,500 year old Parthenon which is undergoing intensive repairs.  The view of Athens from the Acropolis was awesome !!
 
Another of the 21 buildings and structures on the Acropolis.
 

On the left is Ferdinando, the officer’s steward and attendant (room cleaner, mopper, Mr. Everything). To the right is the chef Giuseppe. He knew his pasta. Giuseppe doubled as the medic – my thought was, well at least he is probably good with a knife if he needs to take my appendix out !!

 

This photo was taken from a castle on a hill in Setubal, Portugal showing the ship about three miles away. It took me about an hour and a half to walk to the castle. A very nice English couple staying at the hotel in the castle was kind enough to take my tired body back into town.

 
 
Captain/Master Rosario Lucchesse, a very fine Italian gentleman who befriended me right away. I spent a fair amount of time on the bridge where he would ask the Pilipino steward for coffee (espresso) as soon as he saw me. He was very talkative (bored with his crew no doubt), engaging and humorous.  

The “famous, not to be missed” Clock Tower in Izmur, Turkey. In the square I heard religious chanting over a load speaker system and saw the only “fully clothed with nothing but the eyes exposed” woman dressed in black – spooky. There were numerous street vendors/hawkers pushing everything from cologne, shoes, tissues, carpets, food, drink, etc.

 
Top deck after unloading the vehicles on our way out of the Mediterranean at this point with a beautiful view at dusk.
 
Southampton, England (1), Salerno, Italy (twice) (2), Piraeus/Athens, Greece (3), Izmur, Turkey (4), Ashdod, Israel (5), Limassol, Cyprus (6), Savona, Italy (7), Setubal, Portugal (8) and Bristol, England (9).

 

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