Thursday, June 29, 2006

County Down to departure



















I still wasn't feeling wonderful this morning, and my B&B hostesses graciously offered to let me stay through this, my final day, but I thought I'd try to get some fresh air along the coastline of Co.Down. We sailed down the A2 (the same coast road as that I'd taken through Antrim on Monday), via Burr's Point (most easterly point of Northern Ireland, and actually of the whole island), and then via car-ferry at Portaferry through to Newcastle in the 'Kingdom of Mourne'.












The mountains of Mourne were a wee bit too misty to appreciate their reputed loveliness, and we descended from them to Newry, where I felt well enough to have a small lunch and an expertly prepared coffee (yay!) from Cafe Krem.












My car ferry to Birkenead (Liverpool) wasn't due to start taking passengers till 8.30pm but I thought that I should check to make sure I knew where that was going to happen. So, back in Belfast I followed the dock signs on the M2 for Norse Merchant ferries. When I got into the dock area, the signs dried up and the only openings were for the Norfolk Line. I drove out of the docklands and looked for a sign that I might have missed. Finding none, I asked the gate-keeper at the docks.

"Norse Merchants don't exist"
"But I booked with them and the highway signs direct you through along through here."
"They don't exist"
"Do you mean they don't exist or they are the same company as Norfolk Line?"
"
Yes that's what I mean"
"Wouldn't it make sense for the signs to say something? I can't believe I'm the first person to ask!"
"No, and you should take it up with them."

I went back into downtown Belfast for a while to pass the time, before returning to the Norfolk Line gates to queue up. Bondi flaked out in the holding bays until we started boarding around 9pm. For this crossing we were offered the option of leaving the car on the top deck, which would have made for a cooler crossing for car-bound Bondi. On previous long ferry trips (Sydney-Tasmania-Sydney, Swansea-Cork, Port Angeles - Victoria, Vancouver Island) he has always been in the hold.

This overnight crossing included cabin and meals, unlike the Swansea-Cork crossing we did in May where both were optional (and thus omitted from charges). The cabin was OK, but the food left a bit to be desired (I think the "catch of the day" was caught the day that the boat was commissioned) and for those caught in the long queues for everything (boarding, getting cabin keys, getting meals), not great value for money. Even the movie in the tiny screening room was more costly than going to a fully equipped cinema.










While waiting for dinner I read the poster for emergency signals, which seems to have been written by someone in Italy and never checked by anyone in the UK certifying the boat for safety controls: it's mostly quasi-English gibberish.

At the order of abandon ship becomes executive the charges for "abandon ship case".

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