A Purser's Tale - Part 1

Tony Gamblin's Notes from on board

After an extended winter hibernation, Balmoral left Bristol Princes Wharf with an invited party of civic guests and PSPS members, cruising through the City Docks to Cumberland Basin to take up her public schedule. Being the first of a series of celebratory cruises to mark her Diamond Anniversary, a cake was cut and she met and exchanged passengers with P.S. Waverley at Penarth with both ships cruising the Holm Islands. The opportunity was also taken to launch the new book ‘M.V. Balmoral: The First 60 Years’ (Deayton, Quinn and Murrell). In view of the freshening weather conditions the decision was made to return Swansea and Porthcawl passengers by coach while the ship continued light to Swansea for an overnight berth.

On the following day Balmoral set off on what was to be a somewhat lively passage to take up a short series of Irish Sea cruises, but sea conditions meant that the first of these had to be cancelled – with the ship anchored off Garlieston. By the next day the weather had improved considerably and she carried over 500 passengers to the Isle of Man on what will be her only trip from Scotland this season. Two very successful sailings from Whitehaven to the island followed and on the Tuesday she ran from Peel to Portaferry and Strangford Lough in idyllic weather conditions. Finally, on Wednesday 24th June almost 600 passengers were carried from Menai Bridge and Caernarfon around Angelsey in similarly glorious weather. After taking on fuel and water, the ship set off for the South Coast of England, anchoring off Bridport just after midnight on Friday 26th June.

Balmoral began her short series of cruises on the South Coast with a very successful run from Bridport (West Bay), while the following day – Saturday 27th June – a cruise round the Isle of Wight (sponsored by Red Funnel Ferries) commemorated the Diamond Jubilee of her launch, with over 600 passengers being carried and taking part in the festivities. On the Sunday a late substitution of Worthing for Shoreham attracted good loadings, but unfortunately the Eastbourne call the next day had to be abandoned due to a combination of thick fog, low tide and restricted navigation – with passengers being conveyed by coach to Ramsgate for the cruise to London.

Thus began the two week programme of River Thames cruises, with generally excellent weather conditions and good passenger loadings. Calls at Southwold – always a difficult pier – were achieved on Tuesday 30th June and Wednesday 1st July, but the following week it was deemed unwise to put out a gangway (although lines were secured), with passengers conveyed on to Great Yarmouth for their coach return on the Tuesday and Southwold passengers taken by coach to Clacton on the Wednesday due to swell at the pier.

The annual cruise from Rye to London proved to be a real highlight with over 500 passengers carried in superb weather and landed (unusually) at Greenwich due to a cruise ship being moored in the Pool of London. The presence of the Ocean Majesty meant that the following day’s trip up the London River turned above Greenwich rather than in the Pool of London and Balmoral was delayed slightly at Tilbury due to late departure of the ill-fated Marco Polo. (Waverley Excursions now use the plush facilities of the London International Cruise Terminal rather than Tilbury Ferry Landing!).

After a long run from Ipswich to Tower Pier on Sunday 5th July, Balmoral returned to Tilbury for a scheduled day off-service (a day of heavy showers and strong winds – with gale warnings in force – as it turned out).

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