Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 by Peter Knego
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.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Tuesday, May 14, 2012
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.
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.
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.
On my return, I took a more northerly return through the heart of the city.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Everything in the lower level of the Pacific Lounge was still intact. Even the furniture had been stowed and covered.
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.
The best accommodation and suites are located on Promenade Deck. For the most part, this area of PACIFIC was in good order.
Even the psychedelic sun faces in the vestibules have been left unchanged.
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.
On the bathroom counter, an assortment of Quail Cruises amenities was laid out.
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.
I took a shot through the hawsers down to the PACIFIC’s bulbous bow.
On A Deck, we inspected several outside cabins, all with similar layouts.
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.
Four of the PACIFIC’s boats now rest on aft Riviera Deck.
And the rest lay alongside the ship.
The once beautiful teak-lined promenades are now in need of some serious TLC.
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.
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.
Time has taken its toll on the bridge wings…
…but inside the wheelhouse, things look just as they always have.
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…
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.
A bit further aft, the sliding glass Magrodome over the Lido Pool was sealed shut.
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.
Up on Observation Deck, the turf had disappeared, leaving exposed decking.
I climbed into the radio mast for a bird’s eye view but the glass was too opaque to accomplish the mission.
Back down and aft, we proceeded with caution past one of several gulls’ nests in order to avoid a “bombing” from protective “parents”.
Under the fantail, new steel beams had been installed.
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.
We followed C Deck aft, deep into crew territory.
I was happy and even a bit surprised to find the control room and machinery spaces lit up.
Captain Lupi pointed out a brand new generator that had just been installed but was never put to use.
Throughout the engine room, there was evidence of work. Almost anything the color of brown/red primer was new.
Most of the new ducting and valves were clearly visible.
Some of the new equipment had not yet been unwrapped from layers of protective plastic.
Large sections of hull plating had also been replaced. We also inspected the cold stores, various holds and the laundry.
And, near the gangway where we entered, the infirmary.
Captain Lupi took me across the yard where there were some beautiful views of the PACIFIC from the outer end of the drydocks.
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.
When we went back aboard to get my gear, the lights in the famous lobby had dimmed once more.
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
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.
On the return, there was a nice, hopefully not final, view of the distant PACIFIC.
Other interesting tonnage included the FTI BERLIN at the outer fitting out basin.
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