The final port we’d visited on our week-long cruise aboard the Sapphire Princess back in May was A Coruña on the northern coast of Spain where the Atlantic Ocean more-or-less meets the Bay of Biscay. Now, some people like calm seas and when they’re cruising they like to get cabins low down and near the centre of the ship in order to limit any movement; and then there are people like us who love rough seas and so choose cabins higher up and near the front in order to get the most motion and the sight and sound of swells crashing and spraying against the bow of the ship as it cuts through or rolls over the waves. When we’d booked this short trip with Princess Cruises it had been our hope that we would get some decent wave action in the Bay of Biscay as it’s renowned for it but prior to this last day it had been a very calm cruise.
Upon completion of our excursion to Santiago de Compostela we boarded the Sapphire Princess for the final time ahead of a sea day on the way back to Southampton and set off from A Coruña. We always like to head out onto our balcony as the ship departs unless we’re in the middle of some other activity on the cruise ship (typically showering, drinking, or taking part in the trivia) and this was no different. The Spanish port was pretty unremarkable and the departure away from the dock was smooth. It’s possible to stand on top of the bridge on most Grand-class cruise ships like Sapphire Princess and this usually provides a good spot for those without balconies or who want to get a far wider view with a good vantage point for these port departures and arrivals.
Coming into or out of ports and harbours requires a pilot to board the cruise ship and guide it safely through the channels. With their local knowledge and skills spent the pilot will then be picked up by the pilot boat and leave the cruise ship to proceed under the direction of the bridge crew.
Looking across the stretch of water that would take us into the Bay of Biscay we could see Oleiros, a municipality of A Coruña. This area of the province had a long, sandy beach and some rockier cliffs and it was against these cliffs that we soon noticed increasingly large waves were breaking. At this point in our cruise away from Spain we hadn’t really noticed much vertical movement on the ship at all.
But as the ship moved further from the mainland and more into open waters it lost the shelter from the wind it had benefitted from up to this point and we suddenly found ourselves rising and falling with the increasing swells coming towards and across the bow of the ship. From other balconies around us we could hear loud exclamations of either joy or humorous panicking as the ship would reach the peak of a wave and that momentary almost-weightless feeling would take over before the descent into the next trough started. Being on a cruise ship in rough seas is like having a fairground attraction thrown into your holiday for free.
The size of the waves crashing against the headland we were passing can be guessed at when comparing the spray with the Mera lighthouse you can see in the following pictures and which is 11 metres high.
However, obviously, photographs can’t really convey any motion. For that you need video and while I neglected to take any while on the ship we were lucky enough – after sharing our previous Sapphire Princess cruise highlights video on a forum – to be told about some beautiful footage of our ship leaving the port and hitting those swells in the Bay of Biscay. If you compare the smooth pulling away from the port by the cruise ship at the very start to the sudden riding of the waves from about five minutes in (see the change in height above sea level the bridge moves, for instance) then you can see just what a difference the sea conditions north of Spain can make to a cruise. We loved it. Video taken by José Ricardo Rodriguez Montero.
The waves subsided as we got into deeper water which was a shame. We’d have quite happily spent the entire next day crossing the Bay of Biscay rocking up and down. Still, as a taster for what the sea conditions in the area could throw at us it was nice to experience and we look forward to taking another cruise through that part of the world at some point in the future.