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Visit to the Former PACIFIC PRINCESS

Peter Knego heads to Genoa to inspect the PACIFIC, the former “Love Boat” PACIFIC PRINCESS, which has been laid up since 2008 at the San Giorgio del Porto shipyard. Sold for scrap in March, the iconic vessel is once again in a state of limbo after the buyers failed to complete their purchase.

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: Peter Knego’s brand new DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.

Update: PACIFIC arrived at Aliaga under the name ACIF for scrapping on August 6, 2013.

Tuesday, May 14, 2012

Genoa calling.

Perhaps because it is so underrated, I always feel compelled to champion the virtues of Genoa’s spectacular setting and architecture. And that is even before considering its magnificent maritime past.

PACIFIC peek.

But I wasn’t in Genoa for sightseeing. I was on a mission to document the laid up PACIFIC, quite possibly the most famous cruise ship of all time. In March, it was announced that she was sold for scrap but that deal, even after the planned buyer shelled out a Euro 500,000 deposit, had just fallen through.

Museo Luzzati.

I checked into the Holiday Inn Genoa City Center, then walked down the waterfront to Porto Antico, where a number of interesting landmarks, such as the Aquarium, Maritime Museum and Museo Luzzari share the scenery with an armada of mega yachts. What a shame the beautiful AUGUSTUS, now dismembered and slowly vanishing at Alang, was not given a home here. I continued up the hill, past the bustling San Giorgio del Porto Shipyard in search of dinner.

Cuppola captured.

On my return, I took a more northerly return through the heart of the city.

Piazza di Ferrari.

I remain in awe of one of the most spectacularly underrated cities in the world. And, yes, I know the Genoese prefer it that way.

Wednesday, May 15, 2012

PACIFIC PRINCESS and her twin ISLAND PRINCESS together at Los Angeles in 1976.

For me, the PACIFIC is much more than just the former Love Boat. She was a regular fixture in my home ports of Los Angles and San Francisco during my nascent years of ship enthusiasm. She represented the future of cruising and had a special cachet that probably only the QE2 surpassed in her heyday.

PACIFIC at Genoa.

In the shadow of several imposing cranes, the now former PACIFIC PRINCESS rests a few meters beyond the entrance to the heavily guarded San Giorgio del Porto shipyard.

Coral Dining Room, facing starboard.

Captain Benedetto Lupi greeted me at the shipyard entrance and led me aboard PACIFIC through the shell doors just forward of the Coral Dining Room, which is now stripped of its settings and sparsely lit.

Lobby, facing aft from bottom level.

We climbed up to the famous lobby, whose enlarged sound stage doppelganger was featured in almost every episode of “The Love Boat”. Although I had read reports stating the lobby was stripped of its original finery, I was pleased to see that most of the Carrara marble paneling and the bronze sculpture were still intact.

Starboard panel and passage.

The vestibule immediately forward flickered in a tenuous fluorescence. On either side, continuing aft, were passages infiltrated by beams of sunlight through open cabin doors.

Carousel Lounge, facing forward from starboard.

Up on Riviera Deck, save for stacks of mattresses on the bandstand, the Carousel Lounge looked pretty much as it did in its last Princess Cruises incarnation with semi-circular turquoise banks of seating radiating from the stage. Since-addressed water leakage had sullied the carpeting in the adjacent Carousel Bar, which was also basically original.

Photo gallery facing aft.

Long galleries with full length windows continued aft on either side of the ship. On the port side, just beyond the aft lobby, the photo gallery had seen its share of water influx before the leakage was repaired.

Pacific Bar, facing forward.

The Pacific Bar at the aft end of Riviera Deck looked especially nice with its original wood paneling still intact. Had PACIFIC continued sailing through 2010, this would have been removed to comply with new SOLAS laws.

Gym, facing aft.

When Voyages of Discovery took the ex ISLAND PRINCESS, they turned the dreary gym into a nice Library and built a new gym and spa higher in the ship.

Pacific Lounge, facing aft.

In addition to the lobby, the most impressive space on the PACIFIC PRINCESS is her Pacific Lounge, which features a double deck screen of aluminum and glass that faces the aft lido. Its Saarinen-like pillars appear to have been inspired by those in the QE2’s Queens Lounge.

Pacific Lounge, facing port.

Everything in the lower level of the Pacific Lounge was still intact. Even the furniture had been stowed and covered.

Starboard spiral.

If the pillars were reminiscent of the Queen’s Lounge, the sleek spiral stairs on the starboard side of the Pacific Lounge may have taken their decorative cue from the QE2’s since rebuilt Double Room. The upper level, once a nice terrace for a quiet read or a card game, was last used as a children’s play space.

Promenade Deck cabin.

The best accommodation and suites are located on Promenade Deck. For the most part, this area of PACIFIC was in good order.

Sun in Promenade Deck vestibule.

Even the psychedelic sun faces in the vestibules have been left unchanged.

Suite —, facing port/forward.

Captain Lupi was proud to show me fully made-up Suite 104 at the forward end of Promenade Deck, which looked ready to receive guests.

Quail product in Suite 104.

On the bathroom counter, an assortment of Quail Cruises amenities was laid out.

Aft from fo’c’sle.

New anchor stables.

We worked our way down and out to the bow where new anchor stays had been installed. Containers with construction debris sat atop the forward Promenade Deck terrace.

Down from the tip of the bow.

I took a shot through the hawsers down to the PACIFIC’s bulbous bow.

Outside A Deck cabin, facing starboard.

On A Deck, we inspected several outside cabins, all with similar layouts.

COLUMBUS versus HAMBURG maneuvering.

In the nearby drydock, tugs were maneuvering the former Hapag-Lloyd COLUMBUS to a fitting out basin. The ship still had Hapag colors on her funnel and the name C. COLUMBUS on her bow, although her hull sported Plantours colors and her stern had the new name HAMBURG.

Facing port from aft Promenade Deck.

Over stern.

Four of the PACIFIC’s boats now rest on aft Riviera Deck.

Dry boats.

And the rest lay alongside the ship.

Starboard Promenade, facing aft.

The once beautiful teak-lined promenades are now in need of some serious TLC.

Misaligned davit.

The reason the boats have not been reattached to the davits is a bit of a conundrum. The worn davit bases were reinforced with new steel but when the davits were re-installed, they were all an inch or two off the mark and thus are not able to retreat into their sockets.

Starboard wing decay.

Steel repair.

And yet, for all the decay and neglect the ship experienced in her most recent active years, there is an equal amount of repair work. Throughout, corroded steelwork has been replaced with new structural beams and plating.

Aft from starboard wing.

From bridge to bow.

Time has taken its toll on the bridge wings…

PACIFIC final charts.

Wheelhouse, facing port.

…but inside the wheelhouse, things look just as they always have.

Commandante Benedetto Lupi.

I joined Captain Lupi for a small lunch break, visiting with him in the ship’s office. He was a former Italian Line officer and worked on the AUGUSTUS during that ship’s late 1960s’ South American service and met his wife of 35 years on board. Ironically, on that very day, a container of items I rescued from the AUGUSTUS, which is being scrapped at Alang, had arrived in Los Angeles. As we ate, he showed me an incredible video of the MICHELANGELO on her sea trials. It’s a small, often wonderful world…

Skylight Lounge, facing aft from port.

We continued my visit to the ship in the Skylight Lounge which was originally an observation lounge that was eventually converted into overflow seating for the adjacent Lido Grill on Sun Deck.

Sun Deck pool, facing aft.

A bit further aft, the sliding glass Magrodome over the Lido Pool was sealed shut.

Pool, facing forward.

Notably missing from the pool was the bronze statue of a boy with his ear to a sea shell. Along with that iconic piece, the builder’s plate and bell were also nowhere to be found.

Observation Deck, facing forward from starboard.

PACIFIC puffs.

Up on Observation Deck, the turf had disappeared, leaving exposed decking.

Mast platform, facing port.

Downward climb from mast ladder.

I climbed into the radio mast for a bird’s eye view but the glass was too opaque to accomplish the mission.

Eggs over the stern.

Back down and aft, we proceeded with caution past one of several gulls’ nests in order to avoid a “bombing” from protective “parents”.

Fantail beams reinforced.

Under the fantail, new steel beams had been installed.

Unfinished steelwork.

C Deck repairs.

On C Deck, a great deal of steelwork had corroded during the ship’s time under the Pullmantur, CVC and Quail banners. Much but not all of it had been repaired during the unfinished 2008 refit.

C Deck crew passage.

Crew cabin, facing starboard.

We followed C Deck aft, deep into crew territory.

Control Room, facing starboard.

I was happy and even a bit surprised to find the control room and machinery spaces lit up.

New generator.

Captain Lupi pointed out a brand new generator that had just been installed but was never put to use.

Engines, facing forward.

Throughout the engine room, there was evidence of work. Almost anything the color of brown/red primer was new.

New ducting.

Most of the new ducting and valves were clearly visible.

New machinery.

Some of the new equipment had not yet been unwrapped from layers of protective plastic.

New plate versus old plate.

Large sections of hull plating had also been replaced. We also inspected the cold stores, various holds and the laundry.

Infirmary.

And, near the gangway where we entered, the infirmary.

MV PACIFIC at Genoa.

Captain Lupi took me across the yard where there were some beautiful views of the PACIFIC from the outer end of the drydocks.

Captain Lupi and the MV PACIFIC.

PACIFIC beamed in the afternoon light, her future still very uncertain. Captain Lupi mused that he never could have imagined he would be the captain of the Love Boat.

Dim all the lights.

When we went back aboard to get my gear, the lights in the famous lobby had dimmed once more.

Stern view.

What an enigma this lovely old lady is. With so much to do and yet so much already done, she is either a glass half full or a glass half empty. Her next owners will have much to consider.

Thursday, May 16, 2012

COSTA ALLEGRA at Sestri.

Before my train to Milan, I had just enough time to take the Genoa harbor cruise, which is really a two hour round trip ferry ride to the nearby town of Pegli. En route, the boat passed the Sestri Ponente shipyard, originally the famed Ansaldo where ships like MICHELANGELO, GRIPSHOLM and LEONARDO DA VINCI were built. Now owned by Fincantieri, the facility is being shut down after having delivered Oceania Cruises beautiful RIVIERA (see last blog). Tucked away under a sea of cranes was the COSTA ALLEGRA, which had recently suffered a mechanical failure in the Indian Ocean.

Parting PACIFIC glance.

On the return, there was a nice, hopefully not final, view of the distant PACIFIC.

FTI BERLIN at Genoa.

Other interesting tonnage included the FTI BERLIN at the outer fitting out basin.

MOBY OTTA.

And, at the ferry terminal, another vintage semi-beauty, the former Tor Line MOBY OTTA.

Genoa never disappoints.

End of PACIFIC Sea Trek

Very special thanks: Richard Bastow, Martin Cox, Andrea Fertonani, Davide Ghiglione, Wayne Heller, Captain Benedetto Lupi, John McLaughlin, Jacopo Pedemonte, Alberto Quarati, Kaushal Trivedi

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