Posted on Thursday, April 26, 2012 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego wraps up his Maritime Heritage Cruise on board Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ MARCO POLO with a visit to Liverpool — once the bustling gateway for the U.K.’s most illustrious shipping lines — and a day at sea.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Liverpool greeted us with yet more gorgeous sunshine and a deceptively chilly wind. We had no set plans other than to spend the day with Rod Anderton, a dear friend and the former second engineer of Elder Dempster Line’s RMMV AUREOL.
As we disembarked onto the landing stage that once hosted ships like the EMPRESS OF CANADA, REINA DEL MAR, AUREOL, ACCRA, APAPA, IVERNIA, SAXONIA, CAMITO, MEDIA, PARTHIA CARNITHIA, SYLVANIA, EMPRESS OF BRITAIN, ANDES and scores of others, the immortal ROYAL DAFFODIL, Gerry and the Pacemakers’ “Ferry Cross The Mersey”, sailed past.
Rod led us on a walk along the Merseyside waterfront. Much like Belfast, Liverpool is enjoying a renaissance of sorts with its historic buildings and monuments being cleaned up and restored. We paused at the obelisk memorial to the engineers lost on the TITANIC. It would be getting a new dedication that very day at noon.
It was actually hard to believe we were walking in the shadows of those picturesque buildings I had seen in so many paintings and photos. And, way up high, perched on their mini-cuppola resting places, the iconic, vertigris-encrusted Liver Birds looked frozen in flight.
Across the way, there was a clear view of Cammell Laird, the great Birkenhead shipyard that built RMS MAURETANIA of 1939 and the RMS WINDSOR CASTLE of 1960. I imagined being there, say in 1959, with the massive lavender hull of the WINDSOR CASTLE poised to slide into the river.
On the Strand, we encountered a series of mini “Superlambbananas” sculptures commissioned in honor of a much larger one in the City Center by Manhattan-based Japanese artist Taro Chiezo.
And while it is reportedly not quite what it once was as far as ocean liner treasures are concerned, the Merseyside Maritime Museum was a must-see. Even though the greater part of its once vast collection of builder’s models are now stowed away at an anonymous warehouse, we still had plenty to ogle.
On the 100th anniversary of the TITANIC’s sinking day, the museum was filled with spectators wanting to learn more about the ship and ensuing tragedy. Huge models of TITANIC and BERENGARIA got the lion’s share of adoration.
We found our own nirvana in the realm of something far more modest — a lovely painting of RMMV AUREOL on the Mersey. The 1951 built AUREOL was a gem of a ship that sailed between Liverpool (and later Southampton) and Lagos for Elder Dempster Lines until 1974. Rod’s floating home and workplace for many years, parts of the graceful ship now live on in our California residence, wrestled from the Indian scrappers in 2001.
Exhibits dedicated to the three major passenger ship tragedies of the early 20th Century, TITANIC, LUSITANIA and the “Forgotten Empress”, the EMPRESS OF IRELAND were very well rendered. Many of the TITANIC displays in the “Titanic and Liverpool: The Untold Story” yielded more information and allure than some of the more sophisticated ones we had seen at Belfast the night prior. The exhibit will continue through April 21, 2013 and admission is free.
MARCO POLO was leaving at 2:30 PM, so we had to maintain a somewhat relentless pace in order to see as much as we could. We walked past the Pumphouse to the Royal Albert Dock and along the Strand.
The Liver Building was now catching the late morning in a favorable light.
The former 1896-built White Star Line offices are now protected but the challenge is that no prospective tenant has stepped forward to pay for cost-prohibitive renovations.
A few hundred yards away, the former Cunard Line head offices are still in use.
We walked past the West India Building, former Elder Dempster Headquarters, which was unfortunately closed, to the historic and beautifully-preserved St. George’s Quarter.
On our way back to the MARCO POLO, we passed the Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas, the prow-like Atlantic Tower and the Liverpool Mast.
Rod joined us for a quick tea on board, then disembarked to wave us off from the landing. An all-too-short visit that barely scratched the surface.
It was bitterly nippy but ever-so-scenic as we pivoted around and made an easterly course for the Irish Sea.
A few more studies of the MARCO POLO’s liner-like architecture, then it was inside for some more tea…
As one would expect, MARCO POLO has a nice afternoon tea in Marco’s Restaurant. Tea and coffee as well as a selection of cakes, scones, sandwiches and some absolutely delicious cookies are all self-service.
Since the conditions were perfect and we had a bit of a following wind, I appealed to the authorities for permission to get my coveted “face” and “bone in teeth” shots from the fo’c'sle.
The ships of the day were “TITANIC And Her Sisters” and Jonathan Quayle provided a fascinating talk about the great interiors of the OLYMPIC class ships and where some bits still exist.
The rest of the afternoon and evening? Catching up with with a cappuccino, putting notes and images on the laptop, working out, enjoying dinner and trying, for a change, to let the cameras rest.
Monday, April 16, 2012
On a cherished sea day after some intense port and TITANIC immersion. Jonathan regaled us with his “Collecting Ocean Liner Memorabilia” presentation in the Marco Polo Lounge. Later, I joined him and the two Davids from White Star Memories for a nice Q&A, hosted by our excellent cruise director Gareth.
We managed to tag along with the quiz winner, Rich Turnwald, for a tour of the MARCO POLO’s fantastically spotless engine room. It pays to know savvy, well-connected people.
Chief Engineer George showed us just about everything, from the generators to shaft alley. Those Sulzer diesels have never been in better care, which bodes very well for MARCO POLO’s future.
Out on Magellan Deck, I missed the Great British Deck Party but its aftermath fluttered on.
Later, in the Marco Polo Lounge, the largely Russian cast delivered its finest show of the week with “From Russia With Love”, which featured Russian folkloric songs and dance.
Monday, April 17, 2012
Although we didn’t arrive at Tilbury Landing until 9:30, we had to be out of the cabins at a rather brutal 7:30 AM. Of course, it was much worse for the cabin attendants who had to turn the entire ship around in a mere couple hours before the next guests embarked.
In a way, I’m kind of happy the weather at Tilbury was so dreary — it made leaving the MARCO POLO that morning a little easier.
For those who bemoan not having sailed in a classic, affordable ship, MARCO POLO is waiting…
End of MARCO POLO Cruises In The Wake Of Triumph And Tragedy Blog.
Very special thanks: Richard Bastow, Martin Cox, Maurizio Eliseo, Mike Masino