Though I have driven past the Liverpool P&O terminal many times I had yet to travel with the company. I was looking forward to the voyage also as it would enable me to see how the NORBAY compared to her smaller half sister BEN-MY-CHREE also a Van Der Geissen product.
The Gladstone Dock terminal check in is somewhat unusual, compared to that adopted at most ro/ro ports.
This isn't surprising given the compact nature of the Gladstone Dock terminal situated alongside the old Gladstone Graving Dock which is the main P&O ro/ro berth in Liverpool.
Cars line up at a gate through which they are admitted one at a time by member of staff who conducts a security check and then takes your ticket.
Drivers are then told to reverse in to parking bays on the quay side - no marshalling lanes here!
Once parked one enters probably the most basic terminal encountered to collect your ticket. Several people were sitting their Zombie fashion watching the TV. Surely it was more comfortable to listen to the radio in the car. Are people so addicted to the one eyed monster?
Boarding commenced just after 09:00. Cars were directed up onto the weather deck and lined up in the inside lane alongside the funnel facing aft on the starboard side.
A staircase in the funnel casing leads up two short flights of steps to a bridge which leads to the accommodation area.
As one made ones way up to the accommodation trucks continues to board. It was evident that quite a few vehicles would have to disembark before the cars could be liberated on arrival at Dublin.
One enters the passenger area via one of two substantial doors. This leads into the shop & reception area. A staircase leading up into the cabins.
After leaving the shop one enters the main passenger area. This is an area of similar size to that of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's BEN MY CHREE.
However the BEN is certified to carry 350 passengers, NORBAY only 114. The main passenger area is subdivided. In the centre is a small bar. Lounge areas are located both sides of the bar, with some high bar seats in the centre.
Forward of a partition is the dining area, again located both sides. These comprise mainly tables and four chairs with some larger group tables.
In the area, which on the BEN-MY-CHREE is occupied by the shop is the kitchen and servery area.
In the corner of each lounge area there is a large TV set which remained on for the entire voyage.
My father and I took seats in the starboard side lounge. All seating is either fixed couches or moveable chairs. There is no high back seating.
Considering the length of the crossing the lack of high back seating did not appear to bother passengers. So one wonders just why passengers on the much shorter Douglas - Heysham route complained about its lack on the BEN-MY-CHREE?
There is a large amount of open deck space on NORBAY. Stretching up three deck levels. Though unfortunately it is impossible to gain a decent view forward.
The fact that side rails are recessed frustrates a forward view, and unlike the BEN-MY-CHREE there are no forward view windows a slight downside for the photographer in trying to assess what is approaching during the voyage.
Breakfast was served at 10.00 and it was of course inclusive in the cost of the ticket. A good fry up it was too!
I then returned to the open deck. Carmet's tug VANGUARD was playing with Baco Liner barges moving them from west Alexandra to BACO LINER 3 berthed at the Seaforth container terminal.
NORBAY moved off the berth at 10:45. I missed the pax count but would estimate it to be around 100. The captain advising an alongside time of around 17:30 at Dublin.
As we moved to Gladstone Lock BACOLINER 3, MSC IRELAND and BRIKA FOREST could be seen in Sea forth.
NORBAY was secure in GLADSTONE LOCK at 11:00. As she ran down VANGUARD passed by with three more Bacoliner Barges.
MERSEY VIKING accelerated away from the Rock at 11:06 followed at 11:16 by LINDAROSA.
As NORBAY left Gladstone Lock at 11:22, SEACAT ISLE OF MAN could be seen coming off the berth bound for Douglas on the 11:30 sailing. She had 475 passengers on board.
At 11:47 SCIOM passed NORBAY by going north side of Formby light float whilst NORBAY passed southside.
NORBAY passed Q1 at 12:00
At 13:40 NORBAY had caught up with LINDAROSA. Her weather deck appeared very lightly loaded with drop trailers compared to the full decks of NORBAY.
Thirty minutes later we were abeam of Parys Mountain on Anglesey. NORSE MERSEY passed east bound on her morning sailing to Liverpool.
NORBAY passed a few miles north of the Skerries at 14:25 at 14:35 she was abeam of South Stack.
HSS STENA EXPLORER could be seen heading outbound from Holyhead on her afternoon sailing to Dun Laoghaire.
The distance between NORBAY and LINDAROSA continued to widen, though she was to remain visible for the remainder of the trip to Dublin.
Passengers were called for dinner at 17:00. There was a good selection of food served buffet style. I opted for Gammon & Pineapple followed by a sweet. Shortly afterwards the small bar closed.
The Baily was passed at 17:05, accelerating towards us from the south east was ULYSSES on her afternoon sailing from Holyhead.
HSS STENA EXPLORER could now be seen heading east bound back to Holyhead..
NORBAY passed Poolbeg at around 17:20 and North Bank Light at 17:25.
ESCO's VARBOLA, once again on charter to Norse Merchant was at the Norse Merchant terminal.
Berth 49 was passed at 17:34.
The container ship EUROPEAN MELODY was loading at the Dublin Ferry Port Terminals container berth.
Fred Olsen Lines cruise ship BLACK PRINCE was in Alexandra Basin.
NORBAY was alongside at 17:52. Some 22 minutes later that the arrival time advised on leaving Liverpool. Though for much of the run we appeared to have been running into a strong head wind.
All in all my first voyage with P&O Irish Sea on NORBAY was to be a very enjoyable experience. However, given the news which broke during my stay in Ireland, it will also probably be my last, given the pending sale to Stena Line.