Posted on Sunday, April 22, 2012 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego continues his Maritime Heritage Cruise on board Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ MARCO POLO with a wreath-laying over the wreck site of the torpedoed Cunard liner LUSITANIA and a visit to the Irish port of Cobh, the TITANIC’s final port of call.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
The nice thing about the special three part Maritime Heritage Quiz was that it covered not just TITANIC but a whole host of “linerly” topics. The winner would get a signed chart from our voyage and an engine room tour.
A few choice questions:
Which ship built in 1961 and still in existence has always carried her original name?
What were two revolutionary features of Orient Line’s Orsova of 1954?
What was the fastest liner on the U.K. to Australian run?
After finally sleeping in, it was time to awaken with a cappuccino in my favorite of the MARCO POLO’s many lounges, the 220 seat Captain’s Club. Spanning the width of the ship on Magellan Deck, it has picture window views of the sea, a small dance floor and seating at the bar as well as around a grand piano. In Orient Lines days, this room was a bit sterile with its deep blue color scheme versus the geometric Katzourakis hard fittings but it has since been “warmed up” with autumnal tones and more comfortable seating. Throughout the cruise, it was the setting for classical violin recitals by the talented Olga that were especially appealing on what was once the flagship of the Russian-based Baltic Shipping Company fleet.
As far as cruise ship cappuccinos go, those aboard MARCO POLO get points for at least having a little “kick”. I would make a regular habit of them as the week progressed.
Outside, crowds began to gather at the stern. We were approaching the southern tip of Ireland and at 12:15 PM, there would be a special wreath-laying over the spot where the RMS LUSITANIA was torpedoed on May 7, 1915, taking with her in a horrifying eighteen minute plunge, the lives of 1,198 passengers and crew. MARCO POLO’s officers presided as Jonathan Quayle delivered a prayer in memory of those lost.
Two wreaths, one from CMV and the other from White Star Memories, were dropped into the sea at geographical position 51• 25’ N and 8•33’W. A moment of silence followed, punctuated only by a gentle breeze and the gurgle of the waters beneath us before the MARCO POLO sounded her earnest whistle in one long, steady blast.
Ironically, for me, it was the LUSITANIA that inspired my interest in ocean liners when at age 12, I was assigned a paper on the subject. I then became smitten with the four funneled liners and, once hooked, never looked back. As we headed into the Irish Sea and the Old Head of Kinsale came into view, it looked just as I had imagined all those years ago.
Aside from being on such a special ship during a momentous anniversary, I was quite besotted with visiting places I had not yet seen, such as Cobh. Intermittent rain and a chilly wind did their best to dampen our approach but the sun did have its victorious moments, bathing the pastels of its quaint waterfront in a bright glow.
As crowds lined up to greet the handsome MARCO POLO, a White Star Line flag was raised in tribute to the last place the TITANIC visited before heading into the Atlantic.
MARCO POLO pivoted around to berth on her port side, allowing the skies to open up for one last major deluge.
We went ashore to explore the town on foot. With a population of 140,000, Cobh is a 30 minute drive from Ireland’s second largest city, Cork. Dating from 1750, it was renamed Queenstown in 1849 to honor a visit by Queen Victoria before taking its original name after the Irish Independence in 1921. Cobh’s southern location made it the principal Irish point of departure for emigrants bound for America,. Fittingly, one of the first things one encounters at the cruise ship landing is a statue of Annie Moore and her brothers — the first Irish immigrants admitted to the U.S. through Ellis Island in January of 1892.
A short walk up the embankment gave us a very nice view of the town. One man, spotting us taking photos, was kind enough to lower his clothes line so we could get an unencumbered view.
Cobh’s most prominent landmark is the granite and limestone festooned St. Coleman’s Cathedral, which was built between 1868 and 1915. It is said the spire was added to commemorate those lost in the sinking of the LUSITANIA, whose survivors were brought to Cobh.
Inside, there is a pulpit made of Austrian Oak and a Rose Window that depicts St. John’s vision of the throne of God as told in the Apocalypse.
In the town, there are several points of interest steeped in ocean liner lore. The LUSITANIA Peace memorial is located in Casement Square opposite the Cobh Library and Courthouse. Over 100 of the ship’s victims are buried in a nearby cemetery.
Right across the street from the LUSITANIA memorial, there is the MAURETANIA Bar. A peek inside revealed it is dedicated to both the 1907 and 1939 incarnations.
And we just happened to stumble upon the former United States Lines offices. One of my favorite ships, the SS AMERICA of 1940, was a regular visitor to Cobh during her 1946 — 1964 Atlantic reign.
As we walked back to the ship, a break in the clouds cast a haunting light on the MARCO POLO’s port flanks. She looked quite heavenly.
Even the waters that lapped at her hull seemed to have a certain magical quality.
We decided to go back ashore that evening to have fish and chips in a local pub. Easier said than done on the night after the 100th anniversary of the TITANIC’s fateful call but we managed. However, our planned visit to the town’s popular Titanic Experience exhibit was aborted once we saw the queue. As we headed back to the ship, a majestic chorale rendition of “Nearer My God To Thee” echoed from the amphitheater and into the surrounds. Throat-lumping, eye-misting and spine-tingling, even for this hardened soul.
Before re boarding, we had a chance to admire our lovely ship all lit up in the Irish twilight.
And, once on board, we did a quick round about to capture the ship from a more terrestrial vantage.
In lieu of a midnight buffet, late night snacks are served in each of the MARCO POLO’s lounges. While trying to post a few Facebook teasers about the cruise from the enhanced wifi waves in the reception area, it was nice to nibble on a few tempura-esque morsels.
If only I could have seen the expression on my face when a fellow passenger stopped to say (after looking at the daily program) he was looking forward to my presentation tomorrow.
Friday, April 13, 2012
It was like being in college again, cramming all night to get photos and text uploaded to Keynote (the Mac equivalent of PowerPoint). My “surprise” presentation would have to be about Italian Line’s AUGUSTUS of 1952 since I had quite a few photos of the ship from my most recent visit to Alang on my laptop. The brilliant and generous Maurizio Eliseo was kind enough to respond to a frantic e-mail in the middle of the night with shots of the ship in her prime for me to add as a nice contrast.
I may have missed my chance to spend a leisurely day in the Cobh region and kiss the Blarney Stone but once I had the lecture prepared, I relaxed on the ship, then headed to the bridge to witness our 3:00 PM sailaway.
MARCO POLO was given a nice send off with scores of people lining up on the quay and along the waterfront.
What a pleasure it was to see Captain Georgios Antonellos on the bridge of the MARCO POLO! I have sailed with the good captain on several occasions aboard Premier’s OCEANIC and Imperial Majesty’s REGAL EMPRESS. He is a real gentleman and a master mariner — born and raised on the Ionian island of Kefalonia, where he grew up admiring the visiting cruise ships such as Greek Line’s TSS OLYMPIA (which he would eventually command as REGAL EMPRESS).
At 4:00 PM, I delivered my presentation to a room full of fellow passengers and ship enthusiasts.
The rest of the evening was a bit of a very much welcome blur.
End of Part Two. Much more to come…
Very Special Thanks: Captain Antonellos, Richard Bastow, Martin Cox, Maurizio Eliseo, Michael J. Masino