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Cruise ship Minerva made her maiden call at Chatham Docks, Medway, today (Wednesday, June 24).
The 350-passenger vessel was on a 15-day Islands and Highlands of Britain cruise in partnership with the National Trust.
More than half of the passengers chose to tour the nearby Chatham Historic Dockyard while others chose beautiful National Trust properties at Ightham Mote and Knole in Sevenoaks. There was also a tour to Canterbury Cathedral and a shuttlebus to Rochester.
Swan Hellenic’s traditional cruise ship was easily recognisable with a white swan logo emblazoned on her blue funnel. Captain Neil Bromhall skilfully manouvered Minerva in to the North Lock with a metre to spare – the lock is 27m wide and the ship is 26m.
The last cruise ship to call at Chatham was Fred Olsen’s Black Prince in 2009 but Peel Ports, which operates the port, as well as Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow and Sheerness is hoping that Minerva will be the first of a new wave of cruise ships to sail in to Chatham.
Martin Hughes, Chatham Marine Manager said: “Peel Ports has invested £6m refurbishing the North Lock and is also looking forward to receiving Hebridean Princess on August 15 and hopefully more ships will follow."
Chatham Historic Dockyard communications manager Gail James said: “This is fantastic news for Chatham and the Dockyard. We ran seven tours simultaneously and that’s the most we’ve ever run at once.
“The cruise passengers were fascinated by our rich maritime history and were able to step aboard some of the historic vessels such as the elegant Victorian sloop HMS Gannet and the submarine Ocelot which was the last warship built for the Royal Navy at the Dockyard, in 1962.
“Many guests also visited the Ropery, which is still a working site and a quarter of a mile long.”
Minerva and Hebridean Princess belong to the All Leisure Group and communications manager Matt Howard said he was delighted to see Minerva sail into Kent. He said: “Minerva is a small ship and can sail into ports that the much larger ships can not enter. With so many wonderful historic and National Trust sites in Kent, as well as the cities of Rochester and Canterbury, this is a well-placed port of call."
Until then, here’s a link to my last trip on Minerva http://bit.ly/1fCjZ44