NEARLY 150'000 passengers, 125 ships, 10'000 vehicles, boxes of ensaïmadas. People sleeping, people running and shouting, people embracing one another. All this is just part of a single day in the Passenger terminal of the Port of Palma.
6.30 am
The first passengers who are scheduled to leave on a ferry at 8am, arrive at the Port still half asleep. Some lie down on top of their luggage and others stoically try to fight off the relentless drowsiness. On the horizon appears the passenger boat from Barcelona. In front of Station Number 3, six young cyclists from Ibiza await the departure of the boat that will carry them home. They have just done the “Tour of Aragón” cycling race, and one of them, Andrés Romero, was returning with his pride and joy in his rucksack; the cup that proved their obtaining fourth place in one of the stages of the race. The bicycles, still silhouettes in the lead-coloured light, will be stowed in the lower decks of the ferry in the same way as vehicles are.
The majority of the passengers have arrived. Soon queues start to form in front of the offices of the three companies that operate from the Port of Palma (Iscomar, Trasmediterránea and Baleária). In the cafeteria, a symphony of cups and saucers is playing and the hour of departure looms ominously, awakening uneasiness and a whiff of farewell in the air. Román Pérez García arrived from Madrid to spend a few days holiday on Majorca. He returns to Denia today on a ferry of Baleária, and although he has arrived on time, he's not at all at ease. “I won't have any problems in getting on the ferry but I needed the help of the taxi driver that brought me here. My ticket didn't specify which wharf I have to use to get on the ferry and he had to lead me there. The truth is that in Denia, where I got on the boat to come here, everything is set out more clearly”. Like Román, other passengers were complaining about the lack of sufficient signposting at the Port, especially those who were arriving by car, and about the time they lost in looking for the correct wharf to depart from. Juan Vicente Soriano, an official of Baleária in Majorca, doesn't see any particular difficulties in the Port of Palma. He only suggested that there should be more space so that passengers didn't crowd together so much when they took out their boarding passes. He was happy, nevertheless, about other operations at the Port. “In order to minimize any difficulty, we suggest that travellers arrive to check in about an hour or an hour and a half before departure”.
Baleária's first ferry sets sail for Dènia. Luckily, no on has been left behind today.
10 am-12.30pm
The Port remains quiet after the commotion of the early morning. Sweepers clean up the wharf area and a maintenance team, including a crane, fix the lighting on the panel of Station Number 3. It's lunch time for the port's workers. With the sun high in the sky, a shaded area becomes the most prized possession.
An Italian cruise ship is approaching. One of the Port's tugs (Palma has five) sets out to meet it and guide it into harbour. By 4pm, the “Lírica” has docked. She is a cruise ship measuring some 244 metres and has capacity for 2'150 passengers. Hundreds of heads, curious to see what is going on, appear at the railings of the ship. It has just come from the Port of Tunis and will leave at midnight for Barcelona.
When the sun is about to set, the port area suddenly comes to life again. A stream of taxis, buses and cars appears.
Thousands of passengers descend once again.
Hurrying at the last minute and feeling nervous
There's only half an hour to go before Transmediterránea's “fast ferry” leaves on its journey between Palma and Barcelona. Three weeks ago, the company had to change its departure station for its fast service (they used to go from Station 2 but now go from Station 3). The departure of this service has been causing some problems. People who have arrived closer to 8pm than others who have arrived earlier, gather at Station 2 to find the offices closed. The change in departure station is announced over a loudspeaker and it is at that point that last minute haste and nerves set in. Many people don't know how to get to Station 3 and are left with no choice but to ask at random. Confused people run from station to station, giving sideways glances at the ship to make sure the moorings are still in place. The solution to the mêlé is perhaps up to both parties: passengers should arrive in good time and the port authorities should arrange for better signposting.
Night is falling and the ships light up like huge floating Christmas trees. The last vessel arrives at 11pm. It has been a theatre of intense activity that is played out every day of the summer in the Port of Palma.