Archive for December 6th, 2015
Santa Cruz Is Cruise Ship Crazy

It reminded me of that bloke painting Red Dwarf in the opening titles as the camera pans back to reveal him as a minute spot against the massive spaceship. Well the only difference was this chap was hosing down the sheer side of Mein Schiff 4 in Santa Cruz harbour – oh and it wasn’t in space, wasn’t fictional, and involved water instead of paint. I hope the gentleman wasn’t employed just to gloss up cruise ships, he would have to forget about tea and sarnie breaks, this was another record breaking day for the Tenerife capital with even better to come.

As I looked up from the quayside four cruise ships, AIDAblu, Thomson Dream, Norwegian Epic, and Mein Schiff 4 towered over me, and the Minerva was moored separately on the other side of the port. The combined influx of visitors was 9,900 passengers and 3,580 crew, the shops and bars of Santa Cruz were poised in anticipation for the sweet sound of ringing tills. Other towns would also feel the benefit as an endless stream of coaches whisked eager tourists away to varied destinations, Mein Schiff 4 even had an army of bicycles and segways ready for some closer roving. That ship was built in Turkey just a year ago, and the Minerva has a tale or two to tell. Originally built to be a Soviet research ship the Minerva now sails for Swan Hellenic who are based in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. It’s one of the smaller cruise liners and specializes in cultural tours with intellectual guest speakers rather than cabaret acts.

My focus for the day was the Norwegian Epic and from the bridge I had a grand view of the port as it went about its business. Real Club Nautica looked neat and busy as a stream of  single mast sailboats set out as part of the two day Laser 4.7 race. It was quite a contrast to see them sail by one of the large oil platforms that come in for a makeover, a bit like Beast and the Beauties. Further along the road from Santa Cruz to San Andres the old steam ship La Palma stood proud, built in Middlesborough in 1912 it shuttled between the islands before falling into disrepair but a trust has been lovingly restoring it to be a floating museum. I was fortunate to cover a Peroni calendar shoot on the ship with some very able bodied sea ladies.

The port is always on my tick list for places to visit when in Santa Cruz so after my tour of Norwegian Epic I had a wander to see what was new. The Punta Salina rescue vessel was getting a few running repairs before going out to help those in peril on the sea. This is the time of year for the training ships to call in before heading out on their adventure trips with eager young recruits. It’s not really something I fancy, you have to pay for the voyage and also pitch in doing the work, scrubbing the deck, climbing the mast, and steering the ship. It teaches team work and builds character but I’d rather be enjoying the luxury of a cruise ship. Wylde Swan (above) had just come into the marina after being moored off Los Cristianos, billed as the worlds biggest two mast topsail schooner it had been making its way from Holland before embarking on a trip to Barbados. There was another tall ship nearby, this time from Sweden, Alva (below).

Santa Cruz port is undergoing a facelift, I noticed last trip that saplings were being planted along the inner edge of the marina and a raised ramp is taking shape for direct foot access to Plaza de España. This time I noticed the new tarmac walkway alongside the marina, special plaques have been mounted at discreet intervals to commemorate some of the great sea faring pioneers. That’s a nice touch, the port has already shown its respect for history by renovating the old French mini lighthouse, La Farola del Mar, down near the ferry terminal. The sea plays a huge part in the history of Tenerife and Santa Cruz in particular, visiting cruise ship captains often get presented with a bottle of malvasia wine, a popular old export to the UK and one of the peace presents bestowed upon Admiral Nelson after his failed conquest in 1797. Santa Cruz looks set fair for a new golden age of sea visitors, I hope they will be as impressed as I am.