Advantages See the whales and dolphins close up, have an amazing swim in the sea.
Disadvantages The boat ride is rough, there is a high risk of sickness.
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
Freebird One - A Luxury Adventure
This summer (2007), my family and I holidayed on the island of Tenerife. We wanted to experience a bit more than the hotel facilities, so after attending the Rep's welcome meeting, I decided to book the Freebird One Experience.Freebird Sailing was founded in 1994, specialising in cruises aboard a luxury 30-seater catamaran. They proud themselves with the title of being "the largest catamaran service in the Canary Islands" and whilst in Tenerife I witnessed no other catamaran passing us on the sea. There is also a Freebird 2 and a 3. The Freebird Two is about 25 metres long and has a passenger capacity of 126. This catamaran has six large netting areas at the front.
These nets have nothing underneath and resemble a trampoline, except underneath is the deep blue sea, which if you look down at can be a bit daunting. For some passengers this area is ideal for lying upon to soak up the sun and it was a bit like the Harrods sale the minute we were allowed on board.Freebird Three and Four both measure 16 metres and holds 56 guests. These two boats are used for private hire and the A La Carte service as well as for holidaymakers.
The service is joint British and Spanish owned, supported by a friendly team of 35 experienced crew members. There are also office and transport staff. The cruise specialises in 3 and 4 ½ hour whale and dolphin sight-seeing trips off the Canary Island's beautiful coastline. They operate all year-round with regular daily sailings, weather permitting of course.*** HOW TO BOOK****
The only way to book a cruise is through your tour rep or local travel agency. If you are travelling without the service of a tour rep, then it is worth enquiring at your hotel reception.
You will need to pre book in advance. Do not approach the company direct as they do not take indivividual bookings unless it is to charter the whole catamaran for a company or private party.
Tel: 922 716 864 (remember the international dialing code first)
Fax: 922 724 052
Disabled passengers are welcome aboard but must have some degree of mobility in order to climb the boarding steps.
**** DISABLED USERS/ BABIES IN PRAMS***
*** THE DAY OF DEPARTURE***Our rep told us the coach was picking us up from the hotel foyer at 11.30am giving us time to have breakfast, something which my eldest was going to regret later on.
I do not travel well on boats of any sorts so played safe and had nothing but a drink of tea. I remember taking two travel pills at 6.30 am; I was unable to sleep due to the stress of what lay ahead for me. The only thought getting me through this was that my three children would love it and it was an experience like no other. I was doing it for them. At 10.30 I took a further 2 Sturgeon travel pills and my stomach was in knots.When the company coach arrived (which I secretly hoped had broken down), a member of staff gave us all a boarding pass. The coach ride from Playa de las Americas took only 30 minutes with a few extra pick up's on route. The coach itself was very comfortable, a double Decker with air conditioning and plush fabric seats. Every window on the lower floor had sun lotion or sweaty skin marks from the holiday makers that had rested their arms against the glass. Other than that, the coach was remarkably clean.
At the marina we were told which point to board the Freebird and where to pick up the coach on the way back. The Freebirds are unmistakeable in that the staff uniform, décor and even large sail are all navy and white. The Freebird logo is very prominent and distinct on the flag at the rear of the vessel.**** ON BOARD****
You board the Catamaran via a wooden bridge with some steps. It is quite safe as there is a hand rail either side but pay attention that younger sailors do not fall through the gaps or trip getting onto the Freebird due to a small space between the steps and the Catamaran. The Captain welcomes you aboard and is very polite and friendly.Once aboard it's a first come first served for seating. There was a group of young people who literally pushed their way through to the netting at the front of the boat and claimed all the pitches, spreading themselves out in readiness for a suntan.
At that time I was furious, without any consideration for others; they all stripped off to next to nothing and covered their skin in heavy duty cooking oil. I am sure there would have been children aboard who would have liked to sit there but never got a chance. However, they will regret their eagerness later on when the Cat gets moving.There are seats available where the captain is at the top, the middle deck where we were and then also inside by the bar. Don't be over confident and think you can stand alone, once the Catamaran takes off there is no way you can, even with a pair of heavy duty sea legs.
The Captain introduces himself and the crew. We had a very entertaining cameraman called Roger, he was a bit like Eddie Murphy cloned with Lenny Henry, absolutely hilarious but always in your face with his camera filming you and the voyage. Though I was still nervous, he made me laugh and took my mind off the moment.Roger's DVD that he was making would cost you £40 to purchase and they send it to the UK. If you want a copy then you have to give him your details and Euros' before the trip ends. There is also another member of staff who takes your photo as a group just as you board and then returns with the pictures just before you leave for the coach.
These cost us £10 (sterling) for each 10" x 8" photo you buy, they usually take two posses and these are presented in a glossy folder. Even if you take your camera it is worth having one of these special pictures as a keepsake.The Catamaran is very luxurious and as the vessel slowly takes off out of the harbour, music is played through the loud speakers. It was a selection of 1970 and 1980 hits, mostly Soul with a bit of Tom Jones thrown in.
You are advised to not over do the alcohol (even though it is free and unlimited). It is best to sip small amounts of lemonade according to the boss himself as the fizz combats the nausea. The captain also informs you that is anyone feels ill they must report it to a member of the crew who will attend to your needs. This means they spray your face with water and give you a black bin bag to deposit any contents in.After hearing this and feeling the Cat gain power, the ride became more like a rollercoaster. The end of the Cat was dipping so low into the Solent that sea water was coming in. It was at this point that I swallowed another 2 tablets and crossed my chest in the sign of a Crucifix, hoping that my Lord would help me get through this. Looking back in hindsight, I realise this was foolish as I had now overdosed on the pills.
I do not recommend this to anyone but boy did they kick in. Within minutes my fear waned and I could not stop laughing. I felt so chilled I even walked to the front of the Cat to see just how close it was to the sea.After about 20 minutes, the dolphins were spotted as well as a whale and large dead squid. The Captain dropped anchor and we stayed at this point for about ten minutes to get pictures. One of the crew hooked the squid out to show us, not a pleasant sight but I couldn't care less at this stage, I even laughed at that!
Off we go again, a bit further out now, still with the dolphins alongside. The sail goes up and the Cat gains even more speed. Oh this is wonderful, I am savouring every minute. The sun is beaming onto my shoulders and I can feel the tan taking shape, but hey where is everyone?I looked around and the large group of teenagers who pushed their way onto the nets to hog the best seats have gone, the girl in the bikini who wouldn't let anyone else sit in the crows nest bench had also gone. Oh well, I'm off to get a lemonade at the bar.
Low and behold what do I see on the lower deck, three quarters of the passengers all with black bags over their faces and calling for God and Hughie. I know it was cruel but I fell about laughing, I really had no care in the world. This was until I saw a crew member mopping up a huge pile of vomit that was all over the floor and the bar wall and then my eldest son and my husband sitting next behind. It was my son that did it and my husband had flakes of food all over his trainers.I did warn my son not to eat much before the trip but he insisted on full English. I also thought that my children would be ok as none of them have ever had sickness travelling before, only me.
I took my son back up to the top deck and gave him a travel pill and also my husband. My other two children were having a whale of a time (pardon the pun) as the top deck was almost clear of roasting bodies and both were sitting in the crows nest bench getting their feet wet as the Cat dipped in and out of the sea.It was now time for lunch and surprisingly there was hardly a cue. My husband declined food as did my son, but me and my other two children thoroughly enjoyed the buffet. The selection at that time was small jacket potatoes, cold potato salad, paella, bridge rolls, salad, and tuna in mayo, ham, salami, cheese and coleslaw. I found it very delicious and for the first time in my life, I was eating on a boat! My bridge roll fell off as the boat dipped up and down and I started laughing again.
My poor son was huddled in the corner clutching his bin bag as if it was his only possession. My husband refused to look at me whilst I was eating and I could see him taking big gulps of air whilst looking for more dolphins. Still hungry, I went back for more, well no point wasting it.After lunch, the Cat took off again to a beautiful secluded bay. It was half an hour since my hubby and son took a tablet and both looked decidedly better. It was at this point that the passengers could jump off and have a swim . Infact the captain recommended it for all of those who had been ill, as long as they could swim.
The back of Cat was opened and then it was just a free for all. My son only put his feet in whilst still holding onto the rails, he didn't fancy the swim. His sandals were full of vomit and this was a welcome relief. My husband cannot swim and he was happy to just sit down with my daughter. However, my middle son and I jumped straight in and it was amazing. Trying not to think of the squid I had seen an hour ago or Jaws 1,2 and 3, the swim was very pleasant. The sea was actually quite cold as the weather was somewhat overcast that week of our trip but it was still enjoyable.The crew all watch you just incase someone gets into trouble and they also turn the music up for a party atmosphere. Oh boy this is the life; do I really have to return to Basingstoke???
After a 20 minute swim, its time to get back onboard for the leisurely sail back to the island and the waiting coach. There are no changing rooms onboard and the deck becomes very slippery. Engle Bert Humperdinck is singing his heart out as we all prepare for the slower sail to Tenerife. More people emerge from the bar, still clutching the bags but looking better.
These are at the bottom of the Cat and to gain access to them, you have to tackle some very dangerous and almost vertical steps. As the boat rides the waves it is difficult to hold onto to the rail.The Ladies loo is on the right and the Gents on the left. There are no baby changing facilities.
The corridor leading to the toilets is clean and pleasant, with flowers (plastic) and nautical ornaments by the port hole. It is when you reach the toilets that the stench hits you. Nearly all of them and blocked and overflowing, there is splash marks on the walls and doors. The toilets are similar to those in a porta loo.The Captain did give some advice about using the toilet but obviously no one listened. These points were:
1. Before flushing, open the door and reach over to the handle, leaving a good space between you and the toilet bowl otherwise you will get splashed.2. Do not put toilet roll down the pan, only in the bin provided as the loos will block. He said imagine you are in Greece doing a pooh!
3. Do not throw up in the toilet, only in the black bags as the vomit resurfaces as you flush and could splash you.***** CONCLUSION*****
Would I go again??? Well almost for certain I would. I loved the exhilaration, the feel of the sun on my hair and my skin, the sights of the whales and dolphins and the swim after lunch. I never thought I would ever say this but I enjoyed every minute and didn't want it to end.
However I will only get onboard again if I have my Sturgeon with me, these travel pills were fantastic. I also recommend you give one to all of the family members, just incase.
It is rough, even if the sea is calm. As soon as the sail goes up the boat dips and dives like a runaway train but if I can do it, anyone can. Please do not swallow as many travel pills as I did though.This is one very tried and tested holiday experience that I loved.
Thanks for reading.
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