Typical, you wait ages for a cruise ship, then 5 come along all at once. To be fair, there is hardly a day goes by when Santa Cruz hasn’t got at least one major passenger ship dropping anchor but on Friday 13 November there was a feast of funnels as 10,000 passengers had the capitals tills ringing out with joy.

My first task was to snap a few photos of the ships, not as straight forward as it sounds, the inter island ferries of Fred Olsen and Armas, no dwarfs themselves, come and go all day and mingle with the other visitors. Luckily I have an in depth technical knowledge of ships, sharp end, blunt end, pointy bit in the middle, I know all the terms.

Island Escape was first into port at 5 am, the majority of it’s 1,690 passengers were flying into Tenerife for a 5 port tour that takes in Gran Canaria, La Palma, Madeira, Agadir and Lanzarote before returning to fly back to the UK and Germany from Tenerife. It looked pretty imposing on the quayside but who’s the Daddy in this dock? It has to be the MSC Fantasia, towering over all with 18 decks, and packed with mouth watering luxury.

I caught up with Siswanto Wakiman of Housekeeping Sevices and some of his Indonesian crew friends. “I”M part way through a 9 month run, it’s an 11 day cruise from Genoa to Barcelona, Casablanca, Funchal, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Malaga, Rome and back to Genoa, then it keeps repeating until April.” There’s a lot of housekeeping to do on board, 3, 274 passengers and 1,637 cabins, many with balconies, plus 5 restaurants, a 4D cinema and even a thermal cave for health treatments. It may sound a punishing work schedule but Siswanto said with a broad smile “I love the life, this is my 15th year with the company, we get to see some great places.” With that he was gone, heading into Santa Cruz for a few hours relaxation, the Fantasia has only 12 hours in Tenerife. The crews of the liners do their bit to boost the Santa Cruz economy, the Fantasia alone has 1,332 staff, all itching to part with some of their wages.

In the Calle del Castillo, the main shopping drag of Santa Cruz, police bikes were criss crossing the side streets, promotion and charity stalls were out in force and all the shops, bars and restaurants were buzzing, eager to get a slice of the financial invasion. At the port, shuttle buses were ferrying passengers into the city, and coaches were shipping visitors further inland to see some of the main tourist traps. A group of French ladies from the Fantasia had just returned from a few hours in La Orotava, my ancient school French just about got that information out of them, although the pictures on their clutch of shopping bags gave a good clue.

The Astor with just 590 German passengers might not be the biggest ship on the water, but probably had the most turbulent recent past as Security officer Roger Chamley -Shaw,with wife Carol, explained to me. ” The owners Passat went bust in September and the new owners have made a few late changes to the itinery. We go from Nice to Genoa with stops at places like Cadiz, Agadir, Casablanca, Lanzarote and La Gomera, Malaga was cancelled and we were supposed to tender (moor outside harbour with boat shuttle ashore) at Capri but that was changed to Naples.” Roger is another good advert for the cruise liner life, he has done 6 years with the Astor and loves it.

Looking along the line of tethered ships, one looks at odds with the other, the Sea Cloud is a 4 mast sail ship, but runs cruises. The 1931 barque specialises in the more sedate and personal cruise, the 37 cabins are decked out with marble, solid brass and antique furniture. The current trip has come from Germany to visit Tenerife, Fuerteventura, La Palma and Morocco.

Due to the high costs of staying in port overnight, nearly all cruise liners like to love and leave their stop off points, the Grand Mistral made a quick getaway at 4 pm, heading to Natal with 1.100 Spanish and Portugese passengers on board. Even the latest departure, Island Escape would be out at sea before the clock struck midnight. The business owners of Santa Cruz have their eyes gleefully set on the horizon, it’s a bumper time of year for cruise ships. If Nelson’s crew had arrived armed with credit cards and pieces of eight, they would have got a much warmer welcome.

More pics at Flickr.

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