The penultimate day of our fortnight’s Baltic Sea cruise aboard the Crown Princess saw us retracing the course we’d previously taken when we were leaving Denmark. This time, however, we would be passing under The Great Belt Bridge during daylight and we knew that viewing positions would be at a premium. Our balcony was facing aft meaning it was of no practical use for this particular experience so we headed up to the highest platform on the ship’s deck nice and early to stake out a spot; we weren’t the first people there.
It’s difficult to keep me from snapping photos if the camera is in my hands even if I’d probably taken nearly-identical photos to those from the platform on previous Princess Cruises ships (or even the same one, as this was our second time on Crown Princess). You can never take too many photos, though.
We’re always fond of seeing or experiencing things that are the most or the least or the biggest or tallest or smallest, etc., so it was good to know that outside Asia the suspension bridge span of the Great Belt Bridge under which we would cruise was the longest in the world. There was a bit of haze on the horizon as the Crown Princess headed north between the two Danish islands of Zealand and Funen and it felt a little odd to notice the time ticking down when we were due to pass beneath the bridge yet still have no sight of it ahead. Slowly, the area on which we were standing in the shade started to fill up with more people.
Looking back at one point I noticed quite a bit of smoke coming from the stacks on the top of the ship. If you’ve seen many of my photos then you might be aware that I’m fond of the industrial feel in a photo; there’s a sense of brute force there and I think it forms a lovely contrast to a pleasant cruising picture.
There was a noticeable buzz of excitement as the bridge started to loom into view and a sudden influx of more passengers onto the top deck and platforms of the ship. I’d selected my spot at the rear of the foremost, highest platform for a couple of reasons: because it was the highest, obviously, and because I quite like having some foreground interest in photographs. Whereas there seemed to be a lot of jostling for position and holding of cameras up high to take photos without obstructions I was more than happy to ensure people made up a portion of the pictures I was taking.
Cruising under the Great Belt Bridge was exhilarating. You can almost hear a whoosh! in your head as the concrete structure slips overhead surprisingly fast. You never really get a feel for how fast you’re travelling on a cruise ship at sea – especially one as placid as the Baltic – until you pass some static marker very close. And the underside of the bridge felt very close indeed. With the various masts ahead of us on the ship forcing the perspective somewhat there were gasps from people all around as it seemed like we only just cleared the bridge by a couple of metres; the reality was probably four-to-eight times that amount, but it still made for a fabulous experience and memory to treasure.
Another wonderful thing about an experience such as this one where a large group of strangers share a moment of amazement is the sudden sense of camaraderie that breaks out. Cruising with Princess over the years we’ve found that people who also enjoy our love of holidays at sea are generally sociable people anyway but you could see instantly far more talking amongst the groups who’d gathered to see us pass by the bridge. People were showing the photos they’d taken to everyone to compare and there was lots of small talk about how close the ship had been or how it compared to other under-bridge cruising that people had witnessed. I ended up speaking for some time to a solo traveller about photography in general who then turned out to live only a few miles away from us. Nice when that happens.
We waited for the stairs to clear a bit before making our way slowly down and back to the cabin to put away the camera, stopping for some shots of the busy top deck of the cruise ship. The day was young, there was a quiz coming up, and the lure of beers or early cocktails was starting to grow.
By the time we reached our room the Great Belt Bridge was starting to fade away into the haze in our wake.
To date this has been the only time we’ve passed under a bridge while on a cruise ship and it was a wonderful experience. Personally, I’d recommend getting where lots of other people are when it’s happening so that the excitement that emanates from your fellow travellers washes over you. I also think that if you can then try to get some people in the photos you take when you do something like this as they make for more emotive pictures to look back on later.
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