Due to work commitments, we’d left booking the annual summer holiday ‘til quite late. Trawling the usual websites failed to find us a reasonably priced ‘fortnight-in-the-sun’ type, relaxing holiday we have become accustomed to over recent years. An off-the-cuff comment about “doing something different if we’re gonna have to pay that kinda money” led to us booking our first cruise – 7 nights around the Mediterranean onboard the Island Escape.
Tuesday 19th August 2008.
TOM2851 NCL-PMI B752 G-BYAH
Photo © Malcolm Clarke
As the holiday was booked as a package, I had no control over the flights. I was pleasantly surprised therefore to find that we had been booked on well-timed day flights with Thomsonfly using B752 equipment. Several reasons to be pleased; it was my first flight with the airline since their Britannia days; it was my first 757 flight for too long; and not least, a family friend is a NCL based F/O on Thomsomfly 757’s. Wouldn’t it be great if he were to do our flight? Alas, after checking his roster, he wouldn’t be doing that particular flight until a fortnight later.
It was an early start, taxi picking us up at 4.30am for the short drive to the airport for our 5am check-in. I asked about seat choice, but we had already been allocated seats 14A-D, so we accepted those. We were sitting together and had a window seat. That’s all I wanted!
There is very little to see or do landside at Newcastle, so we headed straight off to departures, where there are great views over most of the apron and runway. At this time in the morning we are joined by all the businessmen and commuters and other travellers catching the first flight of the night stoppers, so there was a healthy queue forming at security. All positions were open though and the wait was not too bad – about 10 minutes. Once in the departure lounge, I found a table next to the window and watched as the apron full of night-stoppers gradually emptied. It was pouring with rain, with a considerable amount of standing water on the apron. Aircraft departing on RWY07 were barely visible behind a plume of spray before disappearing altogether into the low overcast.
Right on schedule, the departure board indicated our gate and we trundled off in that direction. Boarding commenced a few minutes later and soon we were running across the apron in a fruitless attempt to stay dry. Boarding at the second door from the front, row 14 was 2 rows to the right. The poor couple sitting next to the door in row 12 might have had plenty leg room, but they got soaked as they sat waiting for everyone else to board. The rain, now bordering on torrential, was pouring in. It was so bad, the FA’s spent a few minutes mopping up with paper towels once the door was eventually closed. As we sat and watched the neighbouring aircraft depart, the Captain informed us of a problem with the baggage. This ultimately led to us missing our slot, leading to an overall delay of about an hour. Fortunately, the ship wasn’t sailing until 2100hrs!
The flight was uneventful. Much of England was covered in a solid blanket of cloud. Despite being one of the busiest airspaces in the World, there was little aerial activity to be seen as we passed to the West of London. A hot breakfast was served, sausage and omelette, and then the drinks – a couple of cans of Stella to get me in the holiday mood.
Landing on 06L, we got a great view of Palma harbour and our ship on final approach.
(if the picture doesn't show, it's in my profile!)
After another frustrating delay over baggage (they had us standing at the wrong carousel), we headed off in search of the Island Cruise rep. I won’t dwell on the cruise itself, suffice to say it was excellent and we shall definitely be doing it again. From an aviation viewpoint, the ports of call were quite well served:
Palma, Majorca – great views of aircraft approaching over the sea.
Olbia, Sardinia – the airport is right next to the port, with aircraft approaching over the bay.
Civitavecchia, Rome, Italy – we used the local train to take us into Rome. The line runs passed the end of Leonardo da Vinci Airport’s runway, and under the final approach for some distance.
La Spezia – Italy – nothing of aviation interest here, but it’s a Naval base with plenty of ships and some submarines.
Nice, France – excellent views of the entire airport. Arrivals using the Riviera 04L procedure, departures making a sharp right turn to sea at 400’.
Mahon, Menorca – departing aircraft visible.
The week was over all too quickly, and it was time to leave the ship. The return flight was as uneventful as the outward, except it was on time. And the landing was hard. Very hard. Both of them!