British tourists, stranded in Europe after Icelandic volcano 'Colin' erupted, have heaped praise on the Royal Navy after their journey from Santander in northern Spain.
The crew of HMS Albion have welcomed the plaudits being showered on them, and on their naval assault vessel which had recently been refitted in a £26m makeover. Captain John Kingwell explained, 'When I joined the ship she was a building site, you would have thought her unlikely to ever get to sea, but less than a year later here we are - casino, cinema, even the waterskiing deck is complete.'
Navy chiefs are said to be 'very pleased' that the Albion's maiden civillian-carrying voyage has gone so well. They say their new cost-recovery strategy of using Royal Navy vessels for pleasure cruises during times of peace 'will benefit the country as a whole'.
'It was incredibly convenient that the Albion was already heading for the Mediterranean when the request came in to rescue the stranded tourists,' said Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, 'Her first pleasure trip isn't scheduled until the middle of next month, so this was a really useful trial run before the ship takes up position just off the Greek coast, awaiting her first full compliment of paid-for passengers. We've just started taking bookings through Thomas Cook, it's all very exciting.'
The Albion is just the first of the Royal Navy's vessels to undergo major upgrade work. 'The nuclear submarine, HMS Vanguard, is currently in dry dock following repairs after her crash with a French sub last year', said Admiral Stanhope, 'so we've taken the opportunity to add picture windows and net curtains in place of two of the torpedo tubes, and diving boards have been attached to the conning tower. She should start tourism work later this year.'
If the hospitality shown by the crew of the Albion is indicative, the Royal Navy should be able to make a very respectable profit from their uplift work.
'I have just spent the most magical 36-hours of my life and would gladly book a cruise with them,' said Sarah Widgery, who had been on holiday with her husband and daughters in Spain when the problems with aircraft flights began. 'I nearly wet myself when I heard how we were getting home. I know it was a little unusual because they were transporting troops at the same time, but I was surrounded by nearly five hundred military personnel, all in uniform, and all of them hadn't seen any action in a long time.'
'They took all my worries away after six days of nightmare in Madrid, I was in heaven. It was just what I needed because the stress levels had been so high. I was on a knife edge when they offered space in their beds and I gladly hopped in, some of them are really gorgeous, my husband didn't get a look-in. They even had their own stock of union flag emblazoned condoms, it was brill, they're not called able seamen for nothing.'