Home » Knego's Ship Blogs » MV AURORA Double Decked! Part One: WAPPEN VON HAMBURG to FAITHFUL


Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 by

Updated with larger images on August 15, 2011.

The 1955-built mini-liner MV WAPPEN VON HAMBURG, after a long life and years of neglect, is about to embark upon a new life along the San Francisco waterfront as the MV AURORA.  Part one of this Decked! feature details this handsome ship’s history from German coastal liner to pioneering cruise ship and Christian accommodation vessel and, just when hope was all but lost, her gradual, ongoing restoration.

Click here to access the ongoing AURORA blog with all the latest news on the ship.

Click Here for Peter Knego’s latest Sea Treks blog about this ship: ” A New Dawn For MV AURORA”.



First published on MaritimeMatters, February 6, 2004.  Updated and edited August 2010.

All images and text copyright Peter Knego (unless otherwise noted). Updated May 10, 2004.

Built in 1955 by Steinwerder Industrie AG (Blohm and Voss), Hamburg
(hull number 786)
Rebuilt at Piraeus 1960, various refits over the years
2,496 gt
293 feet by 40 feet
12 foot draft
Five Maybach 12 cylinder diesels;  electric drive; 6,000 bhp; twin screw; 17.5 knots
Passengers: 186 (double occupancy)

AURORA in San Francisco Bay on August 1, 2010.

AURORA has just been towed from the Sacramento River Delta town of Rio Vista to the San Francisco waterfront — See Sea Treks Blog — and now sits at some prime real estate at the end of Pier 38, adjacent to the bustling AT&T Park. A number of exciting proposals for the ship’s future are being proposed as her ongoing on board restoration continues.

Click On Images To Access Larger Views.


Post card view of the WAPPEN VON HAMBURG as built. Peter Knego collection.

AURORA was built in 1955 for Hafendampfschiffahrt A.G.(also known as HADAG) as the WAPPEN VON HAMBURG by the Steinwerder Industrie AG shipyard at Hamburg, Germany.  Steinwerder is better known today as Blohm and Voss and this was their first post war seagoing passenger vessel.

As she was intended for day cruise service between Hamburg, Cuxhaven, Heligoland and Hornum, she had a rather enormous capacity of 1,600 passengers.

The similar 1957-built BUNTE KUH. Peter Knego collection.

In 1957, a similar but not quite identical ship was placed on the Hamburg, Cuxhaven, Heligoland service. The 2,520 gt BUNTE KUH carried 1600 passengers, and was powered by Maybach diesels capable of 18 knots. The most obvious external difference was her uniquely shaped funnel.

MV DELOS: 1960 — 1967

MV DELOS. Peter Knego collection.

In 1960, the WAPPEN VON HAMBURG was sold to Nomikos Lines of Greece. She was renamed DELOS and refitted at Piraeus in 1961 with a swimming pool, full air conditioning and cabins for 186 passengers in one class.

Bridge Deck plan. Peter Knego collection.

In the conversion, the ship took on a configuration that has pretty much lasted until this day. She had six decks, beginning at the top with a small monkey island type observation platform atop her wheelhouse, meshing into a streamlined, semi-Lascroux type funnel. Its open forward vent allowed air to flow upwards via an angled platform to push smuts away from the decks (A “bonafide” Lascroux funnel would have open vents in the aft portion of the funnel, as well).

Bridge Deck featured a proportionally large wheelhouse, chart room, captain’s and chief officer’s quarters. Bridge Deck had a narrow outside platform in front of the wheelhouse that continued aft on either side past the funnel to an open deck containing ventilators and the engine room skylight.

Promenade Deck. Peter Knego collection.

Lots of wide open space for such a small ship. MV DELOS promenade in "relax-tion". Peter Knego collection.

Deck games on aft Promenade Deck. Peter Knego collection.

Promenade Deck began with an observation platform and stretched aft along either side to a sports and sun deck. The interior portion was fronted with an observation lounge and a vestibule leading down to Upper Deck.

Upper Deck. Peter Knego collection.

Upper Deck began at the fo’c’sle with the postage stamp-sized swimming pool, which could be lifted off the ship for access to the forward hold. It continued inside the superstructure with a series of cabins.

Reception Hall. Peter Knego collection.

A Reception Hall spanned the width of the ship at the base of the forward stairs with its dramatic elliptical descending staircase, at the time enhanced with a black and gold Greek art panel.  DELOS’s eight largest suites followed aft to a smaller vestibule with a mini-grand staircase.

A seductive moment in the MV DELOS's Lounge. Peter Knego collection.

The Lounge was quite large in proportion to the ship, with seating for 135.

Dancing on the DELOS! Peter Knego collection.

It also featured a large, circular inlaid marquetry dance floor.

MV DELOS bar in aft/starboard corner of Lounge. Peter Knego collection.

In its aft/starboard corner, the Lounge offered a small, circular bar. The open fantail finished off this level.

Main and Second Decks. Peter Knego collection.

MV DELOS shop display. Peter Knego collection.

MV DELOS Purser's Office. Peter Knego collection.

Main Deck began with cabin accommodation, leading to the forward lobby where, at the base of the elliptical stairs, there was a gift shop kiosk and a purser’s desk. A beauty parlor was adjacent, just forward on the starboard side.

MV DELOS cozy cabin. Peter Knego collection.

Cabins followed aft along the midships portion of Main Deck, leading to the dining room.

Dining on the DELOS. Peter Knego collection.

With seating for 125 people, it still boasted fine wood paneling and sturdy glass fixtures from the ship’s WAPPEN VON HAMBURG days. A galley and stores area were aft.

Second Deck featured accommodation forward and aft of the machinery spaces.

White roofs and white ship at Mykonos. Peter Knego collection.

DELOS was considered a pioneering cruise ship and outclassed the motley fleet of aged but interesting vessels sailing from Greece to the Aegean at the time.  She was so successful that the BUNTE KUH soon followed in her wake, going to the Kesseuglou family who converted her into Sun Line’s first STELLA SOLARIS.  In 1971, with the purchase of the second STELLA SOLARIS (ex CAMBOGE), she was sold to the Shiekdom of Quatar and renamed NAIEF for use as a royal yacht and has since disappeared from all registers.

Tender time on board MV DELOS. Peter Knego collection.

By the mid to late 1960’s an ever-expanding fleet of former liners and ferries were being refitted for Aegean service for an array of companies like Typaldos, Sun Lines, Epirotiki, Efthymiadis, and K-Lines. DELOS maintained her Piraeus to Delos, Mykonos, and Rhodes service until 1967, when she was bought by Westours and renamed POLAR STAR.

MV POLAR STAR: 1967 — 1970

The POLAR STAR in a post card view. Peter Knego collection.

POLAR STAR was a perfect fit for the burgeoning Alaska cruise market. She joined stalwart regional mainstays like the CP and CN veterans PRINCESS PATRICIA and PRINCE GEORGE on summer Inside Passage cruises from Vancouver. In the winter, she sailed for Westours subsidiary West Line on cruises along the Pacific Coast to Mexico and even ventured as far as Tahiti and the South Pacific.

MV PACIFIC STAR: 1970 — 1972

MV PACIFIC STAR. Christopher Willson collection.

In 1970, she was officially transferred to West Lines and renamed PACIFIC STAR.

MV XANADU: 1972 — 1977

A popular post card view of Xanadu Cruises' XANADU. Peter Knego collection.

In 1972, she was sold to Xanadu Cruises of Panama and renamed XANADU.

Xanadu Cruises funnel markings. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

During her time with Xanadu Cruises, XANADU was touted for her yacht-like external beauty as well as her rather chic interior decor, which, peppered with personal artifacts from the owner’s wife’s collection, had a Southern Asiatic theme.

XANADU in Xanadu Cruises' colors. Peter Knego collection.

The ship’s layout was left pretty much as it was during her DELOS period although some of the original paneling and marquetry from DELOS and WAPPEN VON HAMBURG was covered or painted over.

MV XANADU at Los Angeles on April 28, 1976. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

MV XANADU layer cake superstructure at Los Angeles. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

MV XANADU at Los Angeles. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

I visited the ship on April 28, 1976 and took some rather crude but rare images of her.

Observation Deck

MV XANADU over bow from Observation Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

Bridge Deck

XANADU wheelhouse, facing starboard. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

XANADU over stern from Bridge Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

Promenade Deck

On Promenade Deck, the observation lounge was divided into two separate areas: the Library of Kubla Khan on the port side and the Kinbalu Card Room starboard.

XANADU, facing forward from aft Promenade Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

Angkor Deck(formerly Upper Deck)

The forward Angkor Deck lobby, facing starboard. Peter Knego collection.

The forward lobby was given a backlit Asian-inspired panel that replaced the Greek-themed artwork on the stairtower bulkhead.

The Kogatin Suite, facing forward. Peter Knego collection.

The aft Angkor Deck lobby, facing port. Peter Knego collection.

MV XANADU Marco Polo Lounge, facing forward/starboard. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1976.

Bokhara Deck(formerly Main Deck)

The Balashan Dining Room. Peter Knego collection.

Cathay Deck(formerly Second Deck)

Aside from the redecoration, the only other significant change was the relocation of the beauty shop aft.

An evocative view of the diminutive XANADU with a towering Alaskan backdrop. Peter Knego collection.

Despite a loyal following and high ratings, Xanadu Cruises was unable to compete in the soft cruise market of the mid-1970’s.  The fuel crisis and general public disinterest in the pre-“Love Boat” era found the XANADU in troubled waters.

MV EXPEX: 198? — 1991

EXPEX at anchor in the outer Los Angeles harbor. Photo copyright Peter Knego 1988.

Another view of EXPEX at anchor in the outer Los Angeles harbor. Note the stern structure. Photo copyright Peter Knego 1988.

In 1977, XANADU was laid up near Vancouver.  At one point, she was seized and most of her fittings and navigation equipment were stripped and auctioned off. Her next few years are rather sketchy, but by the mid-1980’s she was sold for use as an exhibition and trade fair ship and brought to an anchorage off Los Angeles under the name EXPEX.

MV EXPEX at Los Angeles on July 4, 1989. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1989.

Aside from a large container on her aft Promenade Deck, she was little changed from the XANADU era.  As EXPEX fell further into decay and became the target of vandals, her future looked very bleak.

MV FAITHFUL:  1991 — 2009

View in blue. The FAITHFUL looking rather dashing in her new livery, riding at anchor on February 19, 1994. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1994.

In 1991, she was purchased by Wilmington, CA-based Friendships and renamed FAITHFUL.  Their intent was to restore the ship as a Christian missionary and relief vessel and deploy her along the west coast and into Caribbean waters.  FAITHFUL’s hull was painted a handsome shade of dark blue, topped with a red band. She was moved from her anchorage to a San Pedro berth in 1994, and some interior work was undertaken, involving the removal of the forward Angkor Deck cabins to make room for a meeting/sermon room.

The FAITHFUL at her San Pedro berth on 5 November 1994. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1994.

Friendships maintained their intent to completely refurbish FAITHFUL, but funding never materialized. In the interim, it had been reported that a number of missionaries took residence on board. She was evicted from her berth and returned to her Los Angeles anchorage until finally seized and sold to Florida-based owner who moved her to Southwest Marine shipyard on Terminal Island for a planned refurbishment into a hospital ship in early 2003.

The FAITHFUL at Terminal Island's Southwest Marine Ship Yard, Los Angeles Harbor, 6 September 2003. Photo copyright Peter Knego 2003.

To Be Continued…

Click here to access the ongoing AURORA blog with all the latest news on the ship.


19 Responses to MV AURORA Double Decked! Part One: WAPPEN VON HAMBURG to FAITHFUL

  1. Glenn L.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Great collection of pics, I like the seductive moment caption. It looks like the Captain is contemplating a move but the Blonde woman is aware thinking, “Go ahead, try it and I’ll put that cigarette out in your eye.”

    To bad the ship was stripped of her fittings on the bridge.

  2. Glenn Paull

    August 25, 2010 at 7:03 am

    For a ship of this size she has an incredible amount of well planned passenger space. The Forward and Aft Angkor Deck lobby’s are a good example of her attractive interiors. It would be nothing short of fantastic to see her returned as much as possible to her original grandeur. Captivating, hope there is more to come. Thanks Peter

  3. Glenn Paull

    August 25, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Was it C. Willson who restored the piece of teak railing? great restoration work. Glad to see the Marine blue stripe has been replaced from her Xanadu days.

  4. Mage Bailey

    August 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Wonderful stuff, Peter. Thank you so very much for all this detail. I’m looking forward to seeing her in person.

  5. Glenn L.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    After looking at the deck plan and history (Thanks Peter), I would love to sail on this vessel right now. No zip lines, no internet, just a voyage in time. Can anyone just imagine looking for a shooting star and being very close to the hissing sea below? I’d be first to book!

  6. Joseph Sturges

    August 27, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Good things do happen! A classic ship that well deserved to be saved.
    Now if we can only manage to save UNITED STATES! A daunting task but a worthwhile one!!!

  7. Peter R

    August 28, 2010 at 5:37 am

    When she became the POLAR STAR under West Line her Marine Superintendent was a Brit named Frank Wiggins! He had many challenges because of the European/Metric to USA/Canada plumbing and wiring specs. I remember on many an occasion him tearing his hair out in frustration.

    At this time Marguerite West (Chuck’s wife) was actively involved in the “Interior Design on a “cost be damned basis” and that too drove everybody crazy!

    One of the most beautiful (and left alone features of the Dining Room was the cascading lights along the post and starboard sides of the room — like baskets of grapes. and being European crystals they truly sparkled!

    At this time a Canadian, Barry Bailey was the Purser who went on to own a Baskin-Robbins franchise in Whittier CA.

    But the most memorable even was at the end of the 1972 after much difficulty with the Canadian Unions while she was arrested and tied up in Victoria, she surupticiously “Vanished” from her berth. In actuality, though in the “bead of night” she was towed to Tacoma Washington by a privately hired tug. It was several weeks before she was identified! I was on hand at Victoria as she left and I thought we were all going to be blugeoned by the Union thugs! But they never found out!

    Finally, she had a horrible propensity to roll and Jack Musiel (Westours President at the time) ordered launches to be added to her for Tahiti to bring down her center of gravity and make her more stable for the sometimes-rough waters! Tahiti was not her best operating location, though picturesque, she did not have the food or water capacity to serve this market and her AC was abysmal!

    Just a few thoughst

  8. Glenn Paull

    August 29, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Hey Peter R. thanks for sharing this. There is something about this little ship that tugs at the heart, a book could be written about her. I hope Peter K. posts more on her. Thanks man

  9. Ralph

    August 30, 2010 at 10:03 am

    What happened to the succeeding Wappen von Hamburg?
    I stayed overnight on her in Hamburg several times in the ’80’s–she was
    also a charming little ship.

  10. Fredrik Matthaei

    November 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Hi Ralph!

    There is an entry in the German Wikipedia under http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wapen_von_Hamburg

    “Your” Wappen von Hamburg is mentioned under

    Wappen von Hamburg (3). She was scrapped in Esbjerg/Danmark in 2011.

    I suppose, you can translate Wikipedia’s German text into English.

    Best regards,

  11. David G. Ray

    March 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I lived on the MS EXPEX for c. 11 months, while in the San Pedro area, hoping to help get the EXPEX project sailing. It was a wonderful old ship but needed much work. I am happy to see it kept “afloat” with so many ideas and owners! Stallone once nearly used it for a safe house in a “Cobra” movie.

  12. Robin Widdrington

    March 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I lived aboard the Expex in San Pedro for one year and was a deckhand running the launch for all the people working on the ship when they were trying to convert her into a floating U. S. trade exhibition ship. The ship at that time was owned by Javid Jalali an Iranian American who had plans to sail her around the world with support from the U. S. Department of Commerce. This was my first break into the maritime industry and I jumped at it even though none of us were payed. After about a very hard year on this ship and the clear failure of the venture I left and went to the California Maritme Academy-after seeing a catalog of the Academy in the ship’s library. Four years later I was a third Officer in the U. S. Merchant Marine-I figured if I could do a year on the Expex I could give going back to school a try. I write this post from the Research Vessel Roger Revelle AGOR-24 deep down the Antarctic Waters in transit to Australia. The Expex gave me my career path-I am now a licensed Master Mariner. This would never have happened if not for this little old ship. I hope she gets put back into sea service-perhaps as a hospital ship. Robin Widdrington

  13. John E.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Just started looking into this vessel. Can anyone offer any updates on her. Location, condition, is she for sale, who owns her, cost of refit, etc. Much thanks. Please send replies to John@outtahere.com as well.


  14. Rob Washington

    July 4, 2012 at 5:30 am

    As a very young man a few years out of high school, I was going nowhere fast at a dead end job at Mattel where I was just making enough to pay the bills. If you can believe it, my actual title was “toy tester!” I know, it sounds pretty sad, now that I look back. Not to mention that I was commuting 2-3 hours on the 405 from the O.C. to their old corporate building—each way!! How fortunate I was to find the opportunity of a lifetime aboard the Expex! The owner and his kind, loving family welcomed me with open arms and gave me my very own triple occupancy cabin to live in and delicious meals prepared fresh from scratch three times per day. And it was all free!! All I really did was drive the office crew to and from shore two times a day on lovely brand new $17,000 powerboat (that was a lot of cash back in 1987!) , and back up this brilliant kid who was almost half my age on some mostly routine duties aboard the ship–nothing too hard or demanding. Most of my “duties” on the ship were actually quite fun. Actually, anything that was difficult or even slightly dangerous was handled by the kid, seeing how all the responsibility and accountability actually rested on his young, though brave, responsible and mature, shoulders. I actually felt a bit like a prat, as I always stood back and let him handle all the hard and dangerous tasks. I spent my ample free time reading the Bible, magazines and books. At night, the kid would make giant tubs of popcorn and we’d all gather in the lovely lounge and watch “Must See T.V. on NBC,” and anything else that was good, like Miami Vice. Living on the ship gave me time for reflection and the direction I never had as a young man: something that would have taken years of counseling and thousands of dollars in psychology bills to have done on my own. After an all too brief year on board, full of wonderful birthday parties for all the crew and great Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, I finally became a “mature” man and figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I decided to go to California Maritime Academy and now I’m a Master Mariner—the highest designation a deck officer can have! And I owe it all to my time on the Expex. It was the pivotal experience of my life and I owe a lot to the sweet Jalali family for welcoming me in to their home! Everybody should be so fortunate as to have a similar experience! Toy tester…how sad, I’d still be doing that lame work today it not for the Expex! But I wonder what ever happened to that kid. Maybe I’ll look him up when I’m back in port in San Diego. I wonder what he’s been up to…

  15. Tim Dick

    August 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    With new SOLAS 2010 (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations, this beautiful ship is unlikely to be certifiable for anything but private (super)yacht duty. I hope the current owners see the wisdom in selling this vessel o a new “curator” that may renovate her honorably in the way that new owners of Onassis’ classic Christina motor yacht. (I own a model of this ship in her original WvH colours.) http://www.elmarine.com/christina-o-yacht-charter.html

  16. Dan

    August 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    The real potential that I see for the Aurora is for the fittings that was salvaged from the MS Augustus are transferred onto the German built vessel. Then it would be a real sight to behold because it would be a floating Art Deco ship!!!

  17. Tony Elliott-Cannon

    January 18, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Is the M/V AURORA available to purchase? I would appreciate any information vis a vis location, condition, availabilty price etc. Any info would be appreciated.


  18. Dan

    January 21, 2015 at 2:07 am

    Hi Peter Knego,
    Do you know the current status of the Aurora? It’s way too long without an update. I hope all is well for the ship.

  19. Uwe Heynitz

    June 7, 2015 at 12:31 am

    Hi, folks, as long as Aurora is waiting toi be restored, take a trip on the WAPPEN VON HAMBURG in year 1955.
    From 04:24

    Have fun
    Uwe (Hamburg)

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