LOUIS MAJESTY introduces a new blue and red rising sun Louis livery.
Update: Link to video clip shot on board LOUIS MAJESTY as she entered the Gulf of Lyon on February 18, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
MV LOUIS MAJESTY Royal Observatory, facing forward from port.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all! It’s so nice to be back on the high seas, especially when those seas lap at Mediterranean shores. I’m blogging to you from the Royal Observatory of Louis Cruises’ newest, largest acquisition: the handsome, 1992-built MV LOUIS MAJESTY. At the moment, I’m the only passenger in this richly paneled observation lounge with a temporary view over the northern entrance to Barcelona harbor. There is only foam left in my cappuccino cup and the accompanying biscotti is looking a bit apprehensive.
Sea Treks set up in the Royal Observatory.
Please click on image to open a larger version. All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2010 unless otherwise noted.
We are docked at the World Trade Center and my fellow media and most of the ship’s complement are off exploring this wonderful Catalan city of arts and culture. But I’m savoring the opportunity to catch up on what has happened since our departure from the U.S. West Coast a few days ago.
ROYAL MAJESTY’s Majesty Cruise Line funnel markings. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1995.
Kvaerner Masa builder’s plate.
Garlands and godmothers! Liza Minnelli christened the ship in New York on July 21, 1992.
First things first. Our means of transport was completed by Kvaerner Masa at Turku, Finland as the ROYAL MAJESTY (although she was laid down as the Birka Line ferry BIRKA QUEEN) for Dolphin Cruise Line’s upscale Majesty Cruise Line division. Her original tonnage of 32,396 and passenger capacity of 1056 were ideal for summer cruising to Bermuda and winter cruising to the Bahamas from New York and Miami, respectively.
MV ROYAL MAJESTY departs Miami on March 20, 1995. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1995.
Externally, ROYAL MAJESTY was nicely proportioned and boasted a rounded forward superstructure that gave her a distinct aesthetic edge over most ships of her era. Although it would come back to haunt her in ensuing years, her lack of balconies was also a pleasing feature in comparison to the cluttered looking superstructures of most ships that followed. Another unique feature included her “open” fo’c’sle head in the years before the movie TITANIC created a demand for such a thing. The ship was also blessed with a wide, fully encircling promenade deck, a full deck and a half of public rooms, a wide variety of intimate spaces and some of Athens-based AMK (Katzourakis’) best interiors to date, featuring dark wood veneers, marble and soaring skylights.
The “pre-stretch” MV NORWEGIAN MAJESTY departing Miami on March 6, 1998. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1998.
In 1997, NCL purchased the ship and renamed her NORWEGIAN MAJESTY. For a very brief period, she remained unaltered, although she sported NCL’s then new dark blue and gold funnel livery.
The “stretched” MV NORWEGIAN MAJESTY departing Miami on March 24, 2000. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2000.
In 1999, NORWEGIAN MAJESTY sailed off to the Lloyd-Werft shipyard at Bremerhaven for the addition of a 33.6 meter midsection (built by Wismar of Rostock), and emerged with an increased tonnage of 40,876 and capacity of 1460 (max. 1674). More technical details and a full top to bottom tour will be featured in an upcoming Decked!
Gradually, as NCL began to focus on its Freestyle cruising concept with a huge variety of dining options, its ships that were not originally designed with such features in mind were gradually phased out. Despite being extremely popular, NORWEGIAN MAJESTY was on borrowed time and was eventually sold to Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines, operators of one of the world’s most interesting and diverse collections of ships, ranging from the 1958 built steamship THE EMERALD (ex SANTA ROSA) to the relatively modern, 1990-built CRISTAL (ex LEEWARD). Louis took ownership of the vessel in April of 2008, but chartered her back to NCL so she could complete her 2009 cruise program. In November of 2009, the ship was officially named LOUIS MAJESTY.
Thursday, February 11, 2009
Streaks of Milan.
We arrived in Milan after a long commute from California (only slightly delayed by blizzard-like conditions at Frankfurt) to acclimate prior to our transfer to Genoa to board the LOUIS MAJESTY. We had a wet, chilly afternoon to explore Northern Italy’s city of fashion and industry. Alas, while most people would opt to visit its myriad art galleries and boutiques, we headed off to the San Ambrogio district to the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology, where something very, very special needed to be seen and documented.
Leonardo Da Vinci Museum Of Science and Technology, Milan.
Jet lag and overall bleariness made our circuitous routing a challenge but we eventually did reach the nondescript brick building via a combination of streetcars and somewhat cold, heavy feet.
CONTE BIANCAMANO superstructure.
A Decked! is devoted to the CONTE BIANCAMANO’s bridge and superstructure salvation but suffice it to say, seeing this magnificent remnant of one of Italy’s most spectacular liners was a dream come true. When the BIANCAMANO was broken up at La Spezia, her forward superstructure was carefully disassembled and shipped via train to Milan where it was rebuilt in 1965. The first class ballroom with its magnificent ceiling and bulkhead art comprises the lower portion of the exhibit (which is open to the public) and includes a large model of the BIANCAMANO and the REX as well as photos of the BIANCAMANO in her prime. The rest of the structure is not open to the public but through the kind offices of curator Mr. Lezzi (via and with huge thanks to Italy’s patron of all things liner-related, Maurizio Eliseo), we were given a tour of the suites and boat deck, the wheelhouse and monkey island. A brilliant, timeless exhibit and experience that put my jet lag on hold for the next few hours.
Il Duomo Milano.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, MIlano.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, MIlano.
With an hour before nightfall, we aimed ourselves toward the more well-traveled Il Duomo and adjacent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to be quite literally breath-taken by the spectacle of the piazza and its surroundings.
And, then, finally, our cold, somewhat swollen feet returned us to our hotel to dine with a great group of fellow media and travel people in a local trattoria, Sapori di Casa (via Ugo Bassi 22) for a multi-course feast of antipasti, pasta and other delectables before quietly fading off into a deep sleep.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Breakfast, a quick work out, and a brief look at e-mail were the morning’s truncated agenda before we boarded the coach for our transfer. En route, we stopped for a salad and another cappuccino at one of those all-encompassing, quite amazing Autogrills, this one overlooking the expressway (imagine anything you would want in Italy perched atop a freeway overpass), then wound through snowy pastures and mountainous terrain, reaching Genoa’s Ponte Mille in the early afternoon.
LOUIS MAJESTY in the majesty of Genoa.
After boarding, I immediately disembarked for a sprint around the harbor to Molo Vecchio for some photos of our ship in the beautiful backdrop of the most underrated city in the world.
Museo Luzzati monumentali, Genova.
En route, I zipped past Museo Luzzati (headquarters for the late maestro Emanuele Luzzati) in Porto Antico and a number of super yachts.
I was back on board in barely over an hour, just in time to join the group for a delicious meal in Le Bistro (antipasti, cream of mushroom soup, lemon-soaked fish and a cappuccino), then a brief tour of the LOUIS MAJESTY’s public rooms and accommodation before we settled in to our abode for the next eight nights, cabin 801 on forward/starboard Deck Eight, just aft of the wheelhouse.
Outside Deluxe category stateroom 801 features comfortable twin beds (with a third upper), a writing desk, two dressers, a mini-bar, three closets, television, individually-controlled a/c, a bathroom with shower, blow dryer and a large picture window.
Facing aft from port Deck 11 with Genoa astern.
Despite the freeze, we were up on deck as the MAJESTY departed at 7:00 PM, passing the Mariotti shipyard where a number of interesting ferries and cruise ships (including the PACIFIC — ex PACIFIC PRINCESS, HOLIDAY, both former Tor Line MOBYs and the SEABOURN SOJOURN) were either laid up, undergoing conversion or actually being built.
Quick buffet dinner in the Cafe Royale was about all we were up to before retiring.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Dawn from Cabin 801.
Marseilles du Soleil.
Jet lag has a wonderful way of waking me up early so I don’t miss arrivals in places such as Marseilles. Unlike my last visit, which was during a sweltering July, this morning was bone-chilling and face/finger freezing.
ADRIANA at Marseilles.
As we entered the western roads, I caught my first ever glimpses of the handsome little ADRIANA (ex AQUARIUS), whose early 1970s lines must have been among the last to feature pronounced sheer and a cruiser spoon stern.
A well-contained MARINA arrives at Marseilles.
Former container ship COSTA MARINA (ex ANNIE JOHNSON) followed us in, berthing on the north side of the jetty.
Fading ATLANTIC STAR at Marseilles at a tinted 50 kmph.
Far off in the distance was the ATLANTIC STAR (ex FAIRSKY, etc.), looking rather unwanted at the outer jetty. Later, as the shuttle transfer rumbled into the old port, I could see rust dripping from her promenade windows and various bulwarks. Has this relatively new 1980’s generation steamship come to the end of her useful life?
Seven Seas Restaurant, facing forward.
Reception, facing forward.
Frank Lloyd-Wright inspiration in the stairtowers of MV LOUIS MAJESTY.
Royal Fireworks Lounge, facing starboard.
After buffet breakfast in the Seven Seas Restaurant, I spent the morning documenting the LOUIS MAJESTY’s public areas as many passengers were off on tour, then headed into town to find an internet cafe.
Hotel de Ville, Marseilles.
After roaming for a couple hours through the local avenues in the stifling cold, I failed to locate a wifi signal. Thankfully, there was time for mandatory slice of pizza doused in fresh oregano and a pain au chocolat before heading back to the warm, much more welcoming ship for the remainder of the day.
Boat drill chill on starboard Deck 7.
After boat drill and a failed attempt at a work out in the gym (who’d a thunk there were so many fitness buffs and unsupervised kids who like to wreak havoc on treadmills?), I took a short nap before dinner in the Four Seasons.
Four Seasons Dining Room, facing aft.
Great service and excellent food were enjoyed by all. I went for salad with pungently delicious olive oil and vinegar, baked brie in raspberry sauce, spaghetti in basil and tomato sauce, an excellent tilapia in lemon dill sauce and frozen mango mousse. No images from this meal but there will be some in later installments.
From there it was off to the show but I faded during the opening bit and took advantage of the lag to get an early night’s sleep.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
NCL over Barcelona bow.
We were out on Deck 7 on our approach to Barcelona as a light snow fell. NORWEGIAN JADE (ex PRIDE OF HAWAI’I) was the only other cruise ship in the normally bustling port. The pilot boat pulled up, then hovered off the starboard side of the MAJESTY as she made her entry, then the MAJESTY pivoted with bow pointing outward from the south side of the World Trade Center terminal.
After an excellent buffet breakfast (love the fruit yogurt for its sparing use of sugar and think the fresh-squeezed watermelon juice is quite a nice touch) in the Four Seasons, my comrades departed for their day in Barcelona.
Now that I have caught up, I’m going to have a bite to eat in one of the dining rooms, then head off to find an internet place with wireless fingers crossed) where I can get this posted. Much more soon, as we head onward to Alicante, Gibraltar, Tangiers, Casablanca and Malaga before returning to Genoa…
Sunday, February 14, 2010, ctd.
Spain on the mast.
As it turned out, the Barcelona World Trade Center Terminal provides free wireless internet access to those who would prefer not to drag their computers through the scenic streets of Barcelona. A small but helpful example of Spanish hospitality.
In any case, this wonderful city was the sacrificial bull to the toreador of my Sea Treks missives. Admittedly, my relief in getting a solid blog post came with a tinge of envy when my media friends returned with huge smiles after a day eating tapas and visiting Sagrada Familia and other Gaudi monuments and parks.
All hands were on deck as the LOUIS MAJESTY, thrusters engaged, cast her lines and edged toward the harbor’s mouth.
Soon, the World Trade Center was blending into the skyline over our wake. Within moments, the rails emptied of revelers as the cold wind won its war with the alluring blue sky.
This gala evening would be rather special with a cocktail party in the Rendezvous Lounge where we would meet Captain Leonidas Panopoulos. Born in Kalamata, he grew up in Athens where he studied at the Maritime Academy. From 1982 until 1991, he served on container ships until moving to Royal Cruise Line, then Festival, before joining Louis in 2004. His first command as captain was the MV SAPPHIRE (ex ITALIA, etc.) followed by THOMSON DESTINY (ex SONG OF AMERICA), ORIENT QUEEN (ex STARWARD), and CRISTAL (ex LEEWARD).
Although my caviar cravings are non-extant, I could not help but be impressed by the Valentine-shaped clusters of black and red roe that were making the rounds that evening.
Cruise director Kamel Hamitouche led the troupe of visiting officers and staff. Born in Paris of Algerian descent, he delivers the ship’s daily announcements in no less than four tongues (English, French, Spanish and Italian). Kamel entered the world of cruising via Disney Cruise Lines, for whom he worked as a Kids Counselor in 2000, then joined the cruise staff of late Festival Cruises before moving over to Louis’ SAPPHIRE (ex ITALIA, etc.) in 2004. In 2006, he was promoted to Cruise Director and on the LOUIS MAJESTY, he oversees the Animator team and children’s playroom staff, as well.
Terry cloth terrier.
After our dinner in the Four Seasons, a terry cloth canine was awaiting in cabin 801, courtesy of our kind and efficient Indonesian steward, Mukoffi.
Monday, February 15, 2010
LOUIS MAJESTY and two trees of Alicante.
Alas, when I peeked out the window, the pane was drenched in a chilly rain as LOUIS MAJESTY pivoted into Alicante harbor. In the distance, I could see the dramatically lit Castillo Santa Barbara beyond the cranes and somewhere above the dense cloud cover, the sun was rising, just enough to add a tint of purple to the gray darkness.
Placa del Mar, Alicante.
We disembarked after breakfast but a long queue for the shuttle bus prompted us to just soak up a bit of the local drizzle and walk to Placa del Mar, a half mile or so away. This would be our first visit to this Spanish seaside hamlet of 320,000 residents.
Alicante under foot.
During the tourist season, Alicante is well-known for its beautiful beaches and turquoise blue waters and in recent years has become an extremely popular fixture in Spain’s Costa Blanca. It was founded in the 5th Century BC by the Romans and remained enclosed in protective sea walls until they were ordered demolished by Queen Isabella II in the mid 19th century.
Red Cathedral, Alicante.
We meandered a maze of stone streets above the Placa, stopping by the Red Cathedral en route to the Castillo Santa Barbara ascent.
From the base of the Castillo, we climbed a network of stairs to the Museo de Aguas de Alicante and then up a zig zagging switchback of slippery stone walkways until we reached the summit.
Facing South from Castillo Santa Barbara over Alicante and the western shores of the Mediterranean.
Castillo Santa Barbara dates back to the 9th Century, when it was settled by local Muslims who built its fortifications. Its highest point is 165 meters above sea level, offering a view west to the mountains and a view south and east over the sea. King Alfonso X conquered the castle in the 13th Century.
Bronze cannon and LOUIS MAJESTY at Alicante.
Additions were made in the 16th, 18th and 19th Centuries. Today, one can reach the summit via elevator or tour bus in addition to the stone walkways we scaled.
When we returned to the ship, we headed to the Seven Seas Restaurant for open seating lunch. At first, I hesitated when we were led to a table for six to dine with complete strangers. Although a standard policy with many ships, I tend to find it difficult to make conversation with people, especially when we don’t speak a common language. Anyway, I really felt like a heel once we joined the family of four from Marseilles, who could not have been more lovely. They did their best to speak English, which I am sure was better than my well-intended but disastrous French. I came away even more impressed with their sweetness than the excellent lunch we devoured, including tasty onion fritters, a delicious chicken and corn soup and fabulous chicken curry.
Sana Spa treatment room.
We both had massage appointments at 4:00 in the Sana Wellness Center. I went with the Balinese and was very happy with pretty Puspa, whose tender touch left me relaxed and unbroken. My companion, Mike, had the hot stone therapy and also gave it high marks.
Sana Spa entrance, facing aft.
What I especially liked was that there was no heavy push to sell product, which is commonplace with most sea-going spas, especially those run by Steiner affiliates. Regular massage rates run 55 Euros per half hour, 79 Euros for 45 minutes and 96 Euros for an hour.
Saffron Creme Brulée.
Dinner was at 9:00 in Le Bistro, where we had a chance to experience Louis’ first extra tariff (Euro 14.95 per person), reservations-only dining venue. My courses included a Caesar Salad, French Onion Soup, Salmon and Swordfish Skewer and Saffron Creme Brulée. Not exactly low fat but hopefully I can claim the French wine as a cholesterol deduction.
Before retiring, I realized I left my camera bag in the dining room at lunch. Among its contents were my HD camcorder, digital camera, a bastion of batteries and memory cards, my wallet, etc. I checked with reception to find it had been safely retrieved by the Seven Seas Dining Room’s head waiter. Everything was safe, thanks to his kindness and honesty. I dedicate this blog to him.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Something was not quite right when I peeked out the window this morning to view the rain-soaked lights of Gibraltar in the distance. The ship was lurching and my head was spinning (even more than usual). Moments later, Captain Panopoulous was on the PA system announcing that our morning at the “The Rock” had to be aborted due to the sea conditions. After three attempts at entering the harbor, it was necessary for the LOUIS MAJESTY to call off her visit. I had hoped to see the lovely SAGA ROSE in the anchorage but it was too dark to take photos and thus remained in the warm sanctuary of our cabin as we gradually turned on a southerly course across the narrow strait toward Tangiers, where we were to spend the afternoon.
My joints ached, I had chills and could barely keep my burning eyes open. In a way, my mystery ailment eclipsed what would surely have been the all-too-familiar seasickness as we plunged through the swells off Tangiers. When we finally approached our berth, a small ferry off our stern was rolling severely and the breakwaters surrounding the Moroccan port were being slammed by huge surf.
Cape Spartel lighthouse and cowboy hats.
Once ashore, our group gathered in a coach for a local sightseeing tour. We drove to Cape Spartel where an overlook provides a view of the lighthouse at the southern “gate” to the Mediterranean, where it meets the Atlantic. Clouds partially obscured the view, which on a clear day includes Gibraltar and the Spanish coast. There was time to barter with the local merchants and watch as the raging, muddy seas crashed into the rocky reef below.
The Caves of Hercules, some fourteen kilometers from Tangiers.
Our next stop was the Caves of Hercules, where, according to ancient myth, their namesake rested after completing his twelve great labors. With the surging seas, the grotto was equally dramatic and wet.
I was excited to add Tangiers to my list of places seen and visited. The very name evokes cinematic images of smoky tea dens, Cold War espionage, bustling casbahs and the tangy cousin of the orange, which continues to be heavily exported from its shores. The region was first settled in the 5th Century BC by the Carthaginians and was subsequently ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Portuguese, Spanish and French, each contributing to the cultural and architectural melting pot.
Casbah corner, Tangiers.
We had a chance to walk the narrow, labyrinthine streets of the casbah as the disonant calls to Muslim prayer echoed through its stone corridors.
Spices, stucco and the delicious aroma of fresh baked breads were all part of the aural ambiance. Breads are made at home and brought to community ovens to be baked and shared or sold in the market place.
Not unlike the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (albeit on a much smaller scale), there is a marketplace where just about everything can be obtained, from leather goods, handicrafts and spices to electronics and cigarettes. We spent enough time in the vegetable market for a few of us to buy some olives.
Misty Moroccan MAJESTY.
Our visit to Tangiers was relatively short. By 7:00 PM, we were safely back on board as LOUIS MAJESTY prepared to sail for Casablanca. I was “out” as soon as we got back to the cabin. We hit some pretty rough seas (Force 7 to 8) and bounced around quite a bit throughout the night.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I peeked out the window when the pitching stopped just as we entered the shelter of Casablanca harbor. I decided against going on the all day tour to Rabat and Casablanca but then changed my mind at the last minute. There would be long stretches where I could rest on the bus and in hindsight I knew I would regret missing the shared experience with our excellent press group.
After a very quick breakfast, we disembarked at 7:15. It was still dark and there was a steady, occasionally pounding rain. For the next two hours or so, I dozed off as we headed north towards Rabat, Morocco’s administrative center. Unfortunately, I missed most of our guide’s narrative but Rabat is Morocco’s Capital and is located at the mouth of the River Bou Regreg on the Atlantic coast. It’s name means “fortified palace” and it was first settled in the 3rd Century BC, passing through Roman, Arab, Spanish, Barbary (as in “pirate”) and French control until Morocco gained independence in 1956.
Rainbow arch, Rabat.
Our first stop was at a mosque adjacent to the nondescript and relatively modern Royal Palace. Monsoonal rains, a chill and a very sassy wind drew a collective “no” from the group as our guide did her best to coax us into the deluge toward its gates. Were its architecture more captivating or imaginative, I am sure most of us would have accepted the challenge. Meanwhile, as she explained how the horseshoe influenced the traditional Arabic arches we would see throughout the day, a full arch rainbow appeared for an additional measure of good luck.
Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat.
Our next stop was the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Morocco’s first king. Completed in 1971, the building is considered an excellent example of the Alaouite (Morocco’s ruling family) dynasty architecture. Even though it was still raining, a team of workers were engaged in the Sisyphean task of moping muddy water from its marble surroundings.
Mausoleum of Mohammed V ceiling, Rabat.
Inside Mohammed V Mausoleum, Rabat.
Even in death, the ruler and his two late sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdullah, live in an eternal splendor of bronze, polished marble, ornately carved cedar and lapus.
Hassan Tower, Rabat.
The fascinating Hassan Tower, begun in 1195 by Sultan Yacoub Al Mansour and intended to be the world’s largest minaret, is adjacent to the Mausoleum. The impressive brick monument is only half its intended height of 90 meters and overlooks some 90 columns of what was to be an accompanying mosque. Another rainbow appeared as we took a few minutes to wander its mystical grounds.
Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat.
From there, it was off to the Kasbah of the Udayas, built on the banks of the Bou Regreg, near the sea. Once through its thousand year old portals, we settled for some mint tea on a terrace in the Andalusian Quarter overlooking the river and the town of Salé across the way.
Gilded doorway in the Andalusian Quarter.
Cobalt blue and white stucco.
There was time to walk through the local stone streets where the stucco walls were painted cobalt blue and white and the doors were each festooned with a variety of baubles, bronze bits and other ornamentia.
Basic Plumbing, Morocco.
Another two hours of rest was enjoyed as our bus returned to Casablanca. The skies gradually cleared, retaining just a few brilliant puffs of white for dramatic effect. We stopped for a fantastic buffet at one of Casablanca’s best hotels, where a wide variety of fresh salads, lemon chicken, date lamb, couscous, pilafs, lentils and invigorating mint tea revived us for the second part of the tour. Clean w/cs were also a much-appreciated bonus, albeit with a few practical considerations.
As our tour resumed at midday, most of Casablanca’s streets were empty. We spent some time at the local City Hall where the Moorish architecture was impressive, then walked past the normally crowded gates of the palace.
Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca.
Undoubtedly the most impressive structure in Casablanca is the Hassan II Mosque, the world’s third largest, with the world’s tallest minaret (210 meters). Designed by French Catholic architect Michel Pineau and funded by donations, it was completed in 1993 after 13 years of non-stop construction in both day and night shifts.
Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca.
The mosque can accommodate 25,000 worshippers inside and an additional 100,000 around its perimeter. A laser pointing to Mecca is beamed from the top of the minaret, which is meant to be Africa’s symbolic equivalent to New York’s Statue of Liberty.
Hassan II Mosque Murano chandelier, Casablanca.
We entered underneath and stopped to view the massive Haman before slipping our shoes into plastic bags and walking through the palatial interiors, which feature cedar from the Middle Atlas mountains, glazed ceramics from Fez, Agadir and Carrara marble and Murano glass chandeliers.
Hassan II Mosque from afar, Casablanca.
Our next stop was at the promontory across the way where we had a final, impressive view of one of the world’s only mosques overlooking a then turbulent sea.
Golden sunset over Casablanca.
With the mysteries of Morocco behind us, LOUIS MAJESTY sailed off into the Atlantic at approximately 7:00 PM. The seas were much kinder tonight but I took it easy, skipping dinner and retiring to the cabin for some rest before another long day of touring on this itinerary-rich voyage. Next stop, Almeira, Spain!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
This wonderfully itinerary-rich cruise found LOUIS MAJESTY entering Malaga Harbor, pivoting and edging stern in behind the massive COSTA SERENA as we raised the curtains on the morning. I was still not quite physically up to snuff but after a quick breakfast in the Four Seasons, decided to not miss out on the sights and allure of the full day’s excursion to Alhambra. Our tour left the ship just before she sailed at 1:00 PM for Almeria, where we would re-embark in the evening. As the coach rumbled through the streets and placas of Malaga, I was impressed with the beauty and function of the Andalusian city, Spain’s sixth largest, with a population of 566,000. The birthplace of Picasso, Malaga has a 3,000 year history and a wide variety of architectural and cultural attractions worth returning to in the hopefully not-too-distant future. For nearly two hours, we wound through the coastal mountains, rife with vineyards, date and olive trees and cemeteries until we reached Granada, Andalusia’s capital. Over 2,000 feet above sea level, it is situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains and has a population of 260,000. We rode past the torrential Beiro River and an assortment of beautiful Moorish and Catholic monuments before once again climbing into the foothills to visit Alhambra.
Alhambra Courtyard iris.
Our guide was very lovely and stylish in her red Chanel style overcoat, black skirt and matching red umbrella but she was soft spoken and somewhat difficult to understand as she imparted the history of sprawling Alhambra to our group.
Alhambra (“red fortress”) was built by the Moors in the 14th Century. First a palace for the Muslim rulers (with scores of Harems and Hamams), it later became a Christian palace. In 1492, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile (parents of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon and sponsors of Christopher Columbus’ first journey to the New World), drove the Muslims from the region. A lovely circular courtyard by Charles V, rendered in Renaissance style during the early 1500s, was built at the cost of much pillaging of the original Moorish structure and, ironically, never completed.
Many of the chambers open onto a central terrace, some of those with running water fountains. A number of ornately-carved Moorish stalactites still remain.
Although much of the original Moorish craftmanship was vandalized, a good deal of it remains as some of Spain’s best preserved examples of the Nasrid style.
Calligraphic stucco reliefs adorn many of its walls and ceilings, quite boggling in their scope and detail.
Fountains and foliage at Alhambra.
Tendrils and topiaries at Alhambra.
We spent the greater part of two hours wandering from the myriad chambers through courtyards and into the gardens, which were thick with the aromas of citrus and cyprus trees, despite the wintry climate.
More Alhambra gardens.
From many vantages, there were breathtaking views of mist-enshrouded Granada, below.
All in all, despite the dampness and drizzle, our time at Alhambra was well-spent. After tea, mounds of fresh baked cookies and a serenade from one of the local university mariachi bands at a nearby hotel, we were back on the coach for another two hour drive through the coastal mountains on a northbound course toward the town of Almeria, where we would rendezvous with mother ship, LOUIS MAJESTY. Almeria is a 1,000 year old city with a rich history and a medieval fortress called the Alcazaba, well worth returning to visit one day.
Palm portals of Almeria.
Greek Salad in the Four Seasons.
Once past the palm portals of Almeria’s cruise terminal, we were safely back on board the MAJESTY, where dinner in the Four Seasons (Wasabi Orange Chicken starter, Greek Salad, Chicken Frickasee and Boston Cake) awaited, followed by the show and time in the cabin to prepare for the next day’s presentation in the Royal Fireworks Lounge.
Friday, February 19, 2010
As we awoke, LOUIS MAJESTY was sailing through the shelter of the Balearic islands, just off the coast of rugged Ibiza. A magnificent sunrise was turning the clouds over the starboard wing into swirls of brilliant raspberry sorbetto.
LOUIS MAJESTY totally random carpet shot.
With so much itinerary to cover in such a short period, my normal indulgences like totally random carpet shots had to wait until this, our second and final full sea day.
Makoffi and Anya attending.
Time for a quick wave to our sweet, hard-working and patient cabin attendants, Makoffi and Anya.
Aft from starboard wing in the MV LOUIS MAJESTY wheelhouse.
We were granted a bridge visit, which is always a favorite treat for this particular high seas blogger. The view from the wings was quite impressive as the MAJESTY cut through the moderate seas.
MV LOUIS MAJESTY Wheelhouse.
For her relatively small size, the MAJESTY has a large wheelhouse that has a central control panel, more controls on the wings and even a conference area. What, no aerobics?
PK Presents… Photo by Mike Masino.
My comrades and a few of the ship’s officers were kind enough to attend a quickly assembled presentation about Alang, recently lamented Louis ships and even a “tour” of our MidShipCentury home in Moorpark in the Royal Fireworks Lounge at 1:00 PM.
Surging through the Gulf of Lyon.
Later that afternoon, as we passed out of the shelter of the Balearics, the seas began to pick up. By evening, we were lurching quite dramatically in high winds and waves, estimated to be in the Force 9 range. The Gulf of Lyon was raging as we attempted to pack for the morrow’s disembarkation in Genoa.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Smokestack and snow caps.
Thankfully, the seas began to calm a bit after lurching us into a frenzy most of the prior night. Out on deck, it was sunny but ice cold as we passed within view of the snow-capped Alps above the northwestern edge of Italy’s coastline.
Shortly after noon, lovely Liguria loomed off our bow. Portofino peninsula, Camogli and the towns south of Genoa came into view on a crisp but chilly morning. I situated myself on forward Observation Deck, hoping not to miss anything after we picked up the pilot and made our turn into Genoa Harbor.
F DIAMOND at Genoa.
Genoa always has some interesting ships in its scenic surrounds, including the arrested 1967-built, 11,621 gt F DIAMOND, the former TOR HOLLANDIA. Described by one of my comrades as “Darth Vader-like”, her black and silver color scheme will hopefully not be emulated by any other vessel. Tied up at the end of the breakwater, her future looks dim, indeed. May the Force be with her.
MV SEABOURN SOJOURN at Genoa.
Seabourn’s SEABOURN SOJOURN was nearing completion at the Mariotti shipyard. She was near the former TOR BRITANNIA and TOR SCANDINAVIA, distinctive looking ferries that are now sporting ghastly Moby Line names and cartoonish liveries.
MV HOLIDAY to GRAND HOLIDAY transition at Mariotti.
In the drydock, Carnival’s 1985-bulit MV HOLIDAY was undergoing transformation into Iberocruceros’ GRAND HOLIDAY.
GRANDing up the HOLIDAY’s details.
The ship was in a momentary identity crisis of primer and dueling liveries.
MV PACIFIC at Genoa.
Poor little PACIFIC (ex SEA VENTURE, PACIFIC PRINCESS) lay in an incomplete state of refitting after her last operators, Quail Cruises, filed for bankruptcy. The mechanically-troubled icon of a cruise ship has a very uncertain future.
MSC FANTASIA at Genova.
The 130,000 plus gt MSC FANTASIA, the ship I last sailed into Genoa aboard, towered over Stazione Marittima, looking rather sleek for her gargantuan dimensions.
Stavros C. Mardakis, LOUIS MAJESTY’s financial auditor and friend of MaritimeMatters.
With great thanks to our host Nick Filippides, the LOUIS MAJESTY’s staff captain, and MaritimeMatters fan, Stavros C. Mardakis, I was granted access to the fo’c’sle head where the sun was just in the right position to illuminate the MAJESTY’s “face”.
Facing the MAJESTY.
Again, kudos to the ship’s designers for keeping curves in vogue.
Genoa the magnificent.
A teasing glance of one of the world’s most alluring and beautiful harbors was all I had before we were whisked off the ship, then gathered our luggage and hopped onto the coach for our ride back to Milano.
Snow en route to Milano.
It was a brilliantly sunny but cool afternoon as we wound through the coastal mountains and into the plains near Milan.
Milano’s Castillo Sforzesco, dating from the mid 14th Century.
We reached the city just as the sun began to set, dramatically bathing the great Castillo Sforzesco in a copper light.
Purple Snails and the Opera House of Milan.
In honor of Carnivale, purple snails were erected in the piazza adjacent to the Opera House and city offices, and with a nod to Valentine’s Day, they were paired in “kissing” position.
In Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, confetti was everywhere. A few of our tribe were even sprayed with it in celebration of the final eve of Carnivale. We had time to shoplook at Prada and a number of high fashion boutiques and make a mandatory gelati stop before returning to the coach.
Il Duomo Milano at night.
After a parting glance at the brilliantly lit Il Duomo, it was off to the hotel in Malpensa for a final toast and a delicious buffet before we bid our new friends goodbye and prepared for the next adventure…
End Of LOUIS MAJESTY to Iberia Sea Treks blog. Text and photos finalized February 28, 2010. Video Clips Forthcoming!
Louis Cruise Lines
Ocean Liner Fittings, Furniture and Art For Sale at MidShipCentury.com
Peter Knego Videos Link: ON THE ROAD TO ALANG and THE WORLD’s PASSENGER FLEET, Volume Nine
With special thanks to: Martin Cox, Nicholas Filippides, Maurizio Eliseo, Marco Lezzi, Stavros Mardakis, Michael J. Masino, Marlene Oliver