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| Ocean Countess 2010
Canary Islands & Madeira - A cruise from Plymouth
This is about a trip down memory lane - a cruise on the Ocean Countess that was originally owned by Cunard as the Cunard Countess. We had three memorable cruises in the Caribbean on the Cunard Countess in 1991, 1992 and 1994. We had seen her and her sister ship – the Cunard Princess – in different fleets and with several names over the years and on our last holiday in Guernsey we took a day trip to Herm island and passed a ship which looked very familiar. Back at the harbour we asked the crew operating the tenders and discovered it was the Ocean Countess nee Cunard Countess and operated since April 2010 by Cruise and Maritime Voyages who are based in the UK. When we got back home we had a look on the Internet and found some more background and also found that there were some silly late offers for a cruise to the Canaries on The Ocean Countess and, as the say, the rest is history. Our first cruise ever was in the Canaries on the Orient Express – she was born as a ferry but great fun with tennis courts on the old car deck in the winter and the doors un-welded for the options of a hop-on hop-off service round the Mediterranean in the summer - so it looked like a nostalgic holiday to take the old Countess back to the Canaries. Throughout this write-up we going to refer to the ship just as the Countess unless the time-line or context needs us to more specific. It will be written jointly by Pete and Pauline, you can tell the sections from the long convoluted sentences of a scientist and the short sentences and even shorter words of one used to briefing ministers.
Most of our readers will know that we have been dedicated Cunarders ever since those early trips on the Countess and this was to be the first cruise with anybody else after 500 days with Cunard - you will have to accept our many biases, in-built prejudices and our having an excessive interest in the history of the Ocean Countess rather than the present. We will, however, try to give as fair and unbiased account as possible. The cruise on the Ocean Countess was exceptional value, we paid £499 plus a £50 supplement for an outside cabin for 12 nights. When we first joined the Countess in 1991 we paid £1500 each and that included a 15% shareholder discount from Trafalgar House that owned Cunard in those days. And at that time we considered we had good value and some of our fondest memories come from those cruises on the Countess. It was there we met many of the Cunard staff we still know – Ron Warwick was one of the Captains on the Countess with his new bride Kim and by chance we met them just before coming on board. We also met Thomas who is now with the cruise staff on the new Queen Elizabeth who we were priviledged to visit the day before the Queen officially named her. They all still had fond memories of the Countess - although there were some doubts expressed on our sanity in willingly crossing the Bay of Biscay on her in the Winter.
The only catch was that she left from Plymouth but trains are painless and there was a special offer which made it little more expensive than going to Southampton. We also chose to stay with friends for two nights close to Exeter – they entertained us so well they asked for their names to be excluded from this account! We did not know the Plymouth area well and they gave us a delightful introduction with a trip up the River Dart after a good lunch and walk round Dartmouth where we also saw one of the original Newcomen Pumping Engines. They dropped us at the port the following day and check in was very efficient and pleasantly informal compared to what we are used to, only a sample of people were subjected to spot checks and x-rays, and credit cards only needed to be registered during the first couple of days on board. Hand luggage was carried to our cabin by polite and neatly dressed stewards, a luxury which seems to have been lost with Cunard on our last trip. The Countess was dressed in bunting and lines of outdoor lights running from the mast, which all gave a party atmosphere. We also noticed she is now registered in Madeira and carries their flag.
Having got to the point of arriving on board it is perhaps time to find out a little more about the Countess and especially her history since we last walked down the gangplank in 1994. That is covered on the next page in this series The Ocean Countess and her History. If you want you can also go straight to The Details of the Cruise and the Ports Visited