Vistafjord 1985
Itinerary = ports at anchor
Saturday 25th May- Fly to Genoa, Italy and
embark Vistafjord
Sunday-Villefranche, France
Monday-Barcelona, Spain
Wednesday-Malaga, Spain
Thursday-(am) Gibraltar
-(pm) Tangier, Morocco
Friday-Casablanca, Morocco
Saturday-Cadiz, Spain
Sunday-Lisbon, Portugal
Monday-Lisbon, Portugal (am)
& at sea
Tuesday-at sea
5th June
-(am) St Peter Port, Guernsey
(pm) Southampton

I had my eye on the beautiful Vistafjord from the moment Trafalgar House (which owned Cunard at the time) purchased the prestigious Norwegian American Cruises. John was reluctant to change from the QE2, saying "It's my favourite" but I persuaded him. Vistafjord was only a third the size of QE2 but she and her older sister Sagafjord were the highest rated ships in the world at the time and I wanted to sample their impeccable reputation.
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Vistafjord at anchor off Ibiza, seen from the ramparts of the old town; and (below) the original itinerary.

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Click to enlarge & View The Revised Itinerary Map

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The stunningly beautiful yacht-lines of Vistafjord, leaving Southampton in 1983, still in Norwegian American colours.

However, after we had booked, Cunard/NAC (as they had become) announced that this would be billed as the "Love Boat Cruise" because the actors and film crew were going to be aboard to film an episode of this popular TV series. A few passengers managed to get roped into being extras but mostly it all turned out to be a bit of a nuisance because they were forever closing-off various parts of the ship for filming, usually just when you wanted to be there!

Saturday 25th May
Flight to Genoa, Italy

Although Vistafjord wasn't due to sail until 7pm, we had to get up at 5.30am to make our flight from Gatwick; another British Island Airways flight, with cramped seats, plastic catering and crossing the Alps again.

Seeing Vistafjord below as we flew into the "shanty-style" airport at Genoa made us quite excited and we were in no mood to dally around but dally we did, being trailed around an overcast and humid Genoa before finally reaching the ship about 4.00pm.
(right) Gatwick to Genoa this time - British Island Airways and crossing the Alps into Italy again
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Boarding in Genoa
Our frustrations were compounded by Italian Customs, subjecting us to nearly an hour of pointless queueing. Vistafjord seemed rather small after QE2 but once aboard, we were impressed. Our cabin was compact but very smart - and on the dresser was a tray of fresh strawberries beside a silver ice-bucket containing a bottle of champagne. First Class at last - that was more like it!

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View from the dockside
Italian Navy Frigate
Russian CTC Lines'
(1975 - 13,251grt)
Exploring the ship didn't take long after QE2 but we immediately liked what we discovered. For what seemed such a small ship, she had everything; 2 beautiful lounges as well as a night-club, cafe, library, card-room and shop. She even had an indoor swimming pool and a full-size cinema!

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Garden Lounge Lido Cafe Cinema Vista Dining Room

(See more pictures together with a full report of the ship in the Vistafjord Gallery) Here >>

As we dressed for dinner, we were a little apprehensive but once in the Vista Dining Room, we soon settled in and got to know our new table companions. Group Picture >>.

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Sunday 26th May
Villefranche, France
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We arose at dawn to Vistafjord dropping anchor in the Bay of Villefranche and after breakfast, we took one of the boats ashore to join our tour of the "French Riviera". In just 4 hours, reality was given to romantic names such as Nice, Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu & Monte-Carlo, playground of the rich and famous.
(right) One of Vistafjord's lifeboat-tenders

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The 16th century fortress
Fort du Mont Alban
The colourful harbour and market
The Bay of Villefranche
Vistafjord at Anchor

We drove the beautiful "Corniche", the scenic mountain road where only recently in 1982, Princess Grace of Monaco had so tragically crashed in a setting reminiscent of the film "To Catch a Thief" in which the beautiful Grace Kelly drives the unsuspecting Cary Grant so recklessly.

Death of a Princess 1982
It was on this road, just 3 years earlier, that Princess Grace of Monaco lost control of her car and crashed, falling 100 ft from the road into someone's garden. She died the following day and the initial announcements claimed that her brakes had failed. Later, it was stated that a minor stroke had caused her to lose control, although it was rumoured that she was driving the same road on which she drove actor Cary Grant so recklessly in the 1955 film "To Catch a Thief".

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Monte-Carlo Casino View of the harbour towards the Grimaldi Palace Even the pedestrian subways are finished in marble! Monte-Carlo Beach

The tiny Principality of Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297 and its independence is still recognised today, although it covers less than 2 sq km and is entirely within the borders of France. Monte-Carlo is the main residential district and this is where the famous Monte-Carlo Casino is located. Viewing all the yachts in the harbour, the atmosphere of wealth and well-being here is almost palpable. It's no wonder all the locals are happy living here!

Returning to Villefranche for lunch back aboard Vistafjord, anchored in such a beautiful and tranquil setting, I wrote in my diary, "You can certainly keep Italy - I'll settle for the Cote d'Azur!"

We spent the afternoon aboard, enjoying the view, the sun and doing a spot of people-watching.

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Enjoying the sun and the view
Some of the off-duty crew of Vistafjord on the foredeck

26 years and A Circle is Complete!
I often wonder what became of people I photographed years ago. Well it so happens that in this instance I found out 26 years later because in 2010, I was contacted by Heinz, a Dining Room steward aboard Vistafjord back in 1985; he had spotted his picture (above, 2nd from the right) and we proceeded to exchange e-mails, photos and reminiscences of those days. Today he has his own restaurant and in 2011, he passed through Heathrow Airport en-route to a cruise of his own, but as a passenger rather than as crew, and I met him briefly for coffee. Read more in my Blog for 1st July 2011 at:-

Later that day, we went for a swim in the indoor pool and met the young actor Jack Coleman (at 27 years of age, already famous as "Steven Carrington" in the TV series "Dynasty". In 2006, he was to be famous again as "Noah Bennett" in the cult TV series "Heroes".

Open Welcome Dinner Menu After the compulsory Boat Drill, we prepared for our first formal evening aboard; a Captain's Cocktail Party with no queues and plenty of attention from the stewards, followed by a sumptuous Welcome Dinner (open the Menu on the left).

We closed the day watching the movie "Dune" in the ship's wonderful cinema.

Monday 27th May
Barcelona, Spain
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The next day was warm but initially dull and overcast. After the Captain's Cocktail Party the previous evening, followed by such a heavy Dinner, we were both a little hung over and what with all the shops being shut and the streets being deserted, we were not overly impressed with the city.

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Columbus Monument La Sagrada Familia
By Antoni Gaudi
The Spanish Village
Built for the Great Exhibition of 1929
A quick wash & brush-up!

It's amazing the difference a lack of sunshine makes; the unfinished Church of the Sacred Family by Gaudi failed to impress us and the Spanish Village, built for the Great Exhibition of 1929, lacked colour. But things improved a little after lunch and we returned to the Mirador above the harbour.
(right) Me at the Mirador overlooking Vistafjord in the harbour below
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Tuesday 28th May
Ibiza, Spain
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Here the sun was out again and we were getting used to being woken by the "rattle-rattle-rattle" of the anchor being dropped every morning!

On a promontory above the town is the old walled city or "Dalt Vila", so after a leisurely breakfast, we took the tender ashore to walk up through the old town and into the fortress. It was all uphill but we needed the exercise - and it was worth it!

The Cathedral at the summit is on the site of a Roman Temple & Moorish Mosque. There's also a little archaeological museum with Roman and Carthaginian finds, as well as some great views.

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Ibiza Fortress & Old Town or "Dalt Vila" Ibiza Fortress Terrace
Vistafjord at anchor

Back aboard the "Love Boat", the film crew were at work on deck see photo >>. Hidden by the umbrella, veteran actor Cesar Romero is trying to do a scene. It was interesting to see how much time was spent on just a few lines of dialogue.

Although their presence on board was seen by many as a bit of a nuisance, during a break from filming, seeing Lorenzo Lamas (the son of Ester Williams) dive off the ship into the Mediterranean was something by way of compensation!
More Trivia: star Melissa Sue Anderson also appeared in 2 episodes of "The Love Boat" in 1986 as "Vista Ford"

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Vistafjord's popularity with the Germans goes back to the time of Norwegian America Line, when the ship was based in Hamburg. All announcements are still made in English & German and there were quite a few aboard on this cruise. After a morning at sea, during which there was more filming on deck, they (and we) were getting increasingly annoyed at being told to "be quiet!"

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Wednesday 29th May
Malaga, Spain
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We arrived in Malaga at lunchtime and this time the ship docked alongside again. From here we took an afternoon tour up to the Andalucian mountain village of Mijas, nestled at 1,400ft above sea-level.

The village is extremely pretty, with its white-painted houses clinging to the hillside. It has a tiny bull ring that is strangely oval in shape and there is a terrific view down to the coast from here.

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The Andalucian mountain village of Mijas
and the View of Fuengirola
Bull Ring in Mijas Bull Ring in Malaga
From the Mirador

By contrast, back in Malaga before returning to the ship, we stopped at the Mirador near the moorish fortress for a view of the city's much larger Bull Ring seating more than 14,000 spectators.

As the ship was not due to sail until midnight, there was time after Dinner for a leisurely "promenade" ashore, and a rather nice view of Vistafjord at dusk, with all her lights on.
(right) An evening view of Vistafjord in the harbour at Malaga
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Thursday 30th May
Gibraltar (UK)
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Today the "Love Boat" film crew circulated an invitation to passengers to be "extras" at their own "Captain's Cocktail Party" being filmed on board, describing it as "more exciting than Gibraltar". A few donned their gowns and dinner-suits to be immortalised on film but we only had a few hours here, so we headed into town and took the cable-car to the top for this panorama.

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View towards the peak, the airport and the border with Spain beyond.

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Leaving Gibraltar at noon, we had the rare treat of this rather splendid view of the veteran P&O liner Canberra, dragging her anchor on the way in to take our berth.

Now 24 years old, Canberra recently made herself famous by her exploits in the Falklands War of 1982, in which she earned herself the nickname "The Great White Whale".
Read more about Canberra at the Canberra Ship Gallery >>

Somewhat confusingly, our daily programme told us to put our watches back an hour at 1pm (for Tangier, we supposed) but one lady must have misunderstood and done it too early because she arrived at the quayside just as we had pulled away! She made a distressing scene, collapsing on the dock and waving her arms in the air before someone took pity and brought her out in a small boat. She then had to suffer the indignity of everyone cheering as they brought her aboard! See photo >>

Later the same day...
Tangier, Morocco
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It's only 36 nautical miles to Tangier across the Strait of Gibralter but it was 3 hours before we were tied up alongside. It was fortunate that we had gained an hour altering the clocks!
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This was our first time on the continent of Africa and it was fascinating. Our tour visited the kasbah and walked through an emporium of carpets & spices, heaving with people. We drank mint tea in a cafe and visited the Forbes Museum, founded by billionaire Malcolm Forbes, publisher of "Forbes Magazine", to see a collection of 115,000 model soldiers >>, many in dioramas re-enacting famous battles. Everwhere we went we were mobbed by urchins and street vendors - a remarkable, if somewhat disquieting experience.

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Tangier Caves of Hercules Market & Street Traders Cape Spartel

In a rickety old coach, we drove out to Cape Spartel and its lighthouse marking the Atlantic entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar. Here, the part natural, part man-made Caves of Hercules are reputed to be where the mythical Hercules rested after completing his 12 labours, in course of which he is credited with smashing his way through the massive mountain in his path (with his indestructibe club!), so creating the Straits of Gibraltar - and of course, the Pillars of Hercules.

Open Culinary Dinner Menu Tonight was the Chef's special Culinary Dinner and he certainly pulled all the stops out for this one! (open the Menu on the left) We were most impressed. Together with the luxury of single-sitting dining and highly professional service, Vistafjord's dining experience was far better than anything we had enjoyed previously on QE2.

Friday 31st May
Casablanca & Marrakech, Morocco
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Casablanca was flat & sprawling - not at all the romantic place I imagined. Our tour to Marrakech left at 8.30 and took 3hrs in an old bus with no air-conditioning. In Marrakech, the kids and vendors crowded around us, constantly pestering for money wherever we went; in the M'dina, I naively took this picture of a snake-charmer before realising he wanted money too! Show Picture Full Size

Our guide was either useless or very clever because he kept leaving us in shops and disappearing! At one point, I looked the wrong way and lost the group in the crowd; instantly, the boys were all around me offering to "be good guide, good guide!" and I had to select one and give him money to lead me back to my group.

Unfortunately, John didn't travel well on the way back either and was quite poorly that evening, having to miss Dinner altogether. Not a happy experience, Casablanca & Marrakech!

Saturday 1st June
Cadiz & Seville, Spain
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We fared much better on our 9-hour trip up to Seville, where we toured the Alcazar Palace, a smaller version of the Alhambra in Granada, as well as the magnificent Cathedral, the largest in the world, begun in 1402 on the site of the Almohad Mosque. The awesome nave rises to 138ft. Adjoining the Cathedral is the Giralda Tower >>, a 320ft high bell-tower built in 1184 as the minaret to the Mosque. The inside was designed with ramps so that a man on horse-back could ride to the top to make the call to prayer! The top was adapted in the 16th century to form the present bellfry.

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Seville - The Alcazar The Cathedral The Spanish Square

Also impressive but more modern is the Plaza de Espana, an example of "Moorish Revival" built in 1929 for the Great Exhibition. Set in a park, the semi-circular building is 650ft in diameter and up close, the architectural detail >> is quite amazing!
Movie Trivia: The Square was used in the 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia" and later in 2002 for "Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones"

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Dressed for Dinner Vistafjord's Ballroom John & Me
& Capt. Kai Julsen

Open Chef's Dinner Menu When we got back to the ship, they were already dropping the lines ready to sail and it was time to dress-up again, this time for the Repeaters' Party. The Captain gave a speech and told us how proud he was that 65% of the passengers (330) were present. He gave out various prizes and it was followed by the Chef's Dinner (Open the Menu on the left).

Sunday 2nd - Monday 3rd June
Lisbon, Portugal
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We arrived in Lisbon after breakfast amid due ceremony, passing under the Tagus Bridge and sounding the ship's whistle. Quite exhilarating! Opened in 1966 as the "Salazar Bridge", it was built by the same company that built the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco & at 3,320ft was the longest in Europe. It was renamed the "25 April Bridge" after the 1974 revolution in Portugal. Show Picture Full Size

Emboldened by having been here 2 years ago on QE2, we joined our table companion Betty and took a taxi across the Bridge to the Statue of Christ the King. Standing 360ft tall, it was erected 1949-59 & was paid for by the women of Portugal in thanks for their men remaining neutral in World War II.
Additional Picture of Betty & John during lunch at our Dining Room table, with our lovely Austrian waiters, Johann & Akkim

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Arrival in Lisbon The River Tagus &
25 April Bridge
Statue of
Christ The King
The Alfama District Peacock
castle grounds

After an overnight in port, we then ventured into the city on a tram in the Monday rush-hour! We enjoyed a pleasant wander in the streets of the old Alfama district and climbed to the ramparts of the Castle of St George to see the view over the city >> before rushing back to the ship, only to find that sailing had been delayed by, guess who - the "Love Boat" team of course!

Show Picture Full Size The next day was at sea crossing the Bay of Biscay. Being on a smaller ship, we were more aware of the motion but having been designed for regular transatlantic crossings, Vistafjord had what were called "good sea manners" and we found it quite relaxing. During the day, there was an opportunity to visit the Ship's Bridge - although we were warned not to touch any controls!

Wednesday 5th June
Guernsey, Channel Islands & Southampton
On our last day, we made a brief stop at the island of Guernsey, dropping anchor off St Peter Port. We went ashore briefly but it was overcast & cool and we had to get back to do our packing! We sailed at noon, to the sound the "noon-day gun", and the afternoon was a sombre affair culminating in an early dinner and our arrival in Southampton, where our luggage was unceremoniously off-loaded in nets!
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However, we had now discovered an even better way of cruising - First Class!

Show Picture Full Size We loved all the extra touches; the stewardess laying-out your pyjamas and leaving a chocolate on your pillow; the little souvenir gifts and the printed cards reminding you to alter your watches; and we liked the friendly Norwegian Officers, so proud of their beautiful ship. The food and service aboard Vistafjord also proved so much better than on QE2 and John now proclaimed that "Vistafjord is my favourite"!
(above) Our Souvenir Rosenthal Ashtray (Note the original itinerary - not the ports we actually visited!)

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 2,483 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 8,754 n miles

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