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Friday, August 29, 2008:
Orangerie, facing aft.
A barely audible, high-pitched hum is the only indication that Louis Cruises’ lovely SS IVORY is actually in motion. I begin this new Sea Treks entry from the Orangerie, the former AUSONIA’s starboard promenade, sitting on a rather comfortable wicker sofa, watching the occasional passenger stroll by as my watch ticks well past the midnight hour.
Vintage line up lights the board at Limassol: SS IVORY, MV SAPPHIRE and MV SALAMIS GLORY.
SS IVORY at Limassol.
This odyssey began over two days ago with a seemingly endless commute via bus, Metrolink train from Moorpark to Burbank, three planes and long airport layovers in San Francisco and Frankfurt just to get to Larnaca, Cyprus. A $100 3:00 AM taxi ride to Limassol this morning and a comfortable night’s stay at the modestly-priced Louis Apollonia Hotel (single rooms begin at 96Euro and doubles at 110Euro) preceded another taxi trip to the port of Limassol where the exquisite, 1957-built IVORY awaited. She was in good company, berthed with bow perpendicular to that of the 1967-built SAPPHIRE, my next featured blog subject. Salamis Lines’ 1962-built SALAMIS GLORY had left an hour or so prior to our arrival.
IVORY awaits and accommodates.
Embarkation was very smooth, with one short queue to get our tickets and another to drop off our luggage before passing through immigration control. IVORY was immediately adjacent to the terminal, her lovely hull, superstructure, and finned, black-capped funnel proudly wearing Louis’ livery, a logo consisting of a blue “L” topped with a stylized red sun. How delicious to again savor the ship’s fine architectural details, from the sculpted forward superstructure, tripod mast, the shapely curl of her funnel fin, those thickly ribbed promenade windows and her exquisitely rounded cruiser spoon stern.
I am trying to brace myself for the grim reality that this will most likely be my final encounter with this vintage Italian-built beauty, which has managed to eke out another year of service against insurmountable odds. Between Louis’ rapid fleet modernization, the current fuel crisis, IVORY’s dated turbine machinery, and the looming SOLAS 2010 regulations, it is actually a miracle this still sparkling, graceful ship has not yet joined her former fleetmates PRINCE (ex PRINCESA MARISSA, originally FINHANSA) and SERENA (ex MERMOZ, SERENADE, originally JEAN MERMOZ) at Alang.
Fortunately, IVORY is quite popular with the Cypriots, who appreciate having an entire deck devoted to public rooms, making it a convenient walk from bar to dining room to casino to show lounge. The ship has some delicious original wood paneled suites and a wide range of accommodation that is extremely appealing to large families on two night voyages to the Holy Land and Egypt and three night weekend romps to Rhodes.
For their relatively modest per diems, Louis provides a satisfying, high quality cruise experience. Not only does the company have some of the world’s most interesting small to moderate sized ships, each is a well maintained, unique entity. The food is quite good (excellent, if you like authentic Greek cuisine), the service is on par with or better than most U.S.-based mass market lines, and the itineraries cover some of the most interesting and historic ports in the Mediterranean.
Door to the Magellan Suite.
Cabin 142, facing starboard.
After we turned in our passports at IVORY’s D Deck information desk, a steward led us to the maitre’d, who happily fulfilled our request for a table for two, second sitting, before walking us to our starboard D Deck accommodation, the Magellan Suite (142). The Category K cabin was “fused” together from two smaller cabins in one of AUSONIA’s mid-1980s refits and sports twin beds, large wardrobes, two portholes, four dressers (including a semi-dresser between the beds), a mini-bar, sitting area with sofa, a bathroom with tub and a huge open space large enough to perform aerobics in. While not boasting the lustrous wood paneling of some of the ship’s original staterooms, it is very tastefully done in pale beige, gold, and blue soft fittings.
I unpacked a few garments, then headed up on deck just as SAPPHIRE began to back into Limassol harbor. Despite the modular cabins and tenders added to her forward superstructure and the strange grillwork just aft of her mast housing, she is still quite a beauty, resembling a miniature version of Home Lines’ OCEANIC. With an occasional puff of black diesel for emphasis, SAPPHIRE turned about and exited the breakwater, heading into the mist-shrouded Mediterranean.
Kontiki, facing forward.
A cappuccino with my traveling companion, Christopher Kyte, in the Kontiki Cafe gave the late afternoon a nice jump start.
Boat drill in the Discovery Lounge.
We followed in SAPPHIRE’s wake, backing stern first into the turning basin, then swinging around in a full circle to exit Limassol. Once we hit the calm, open seas, it was time to muster for Boat Drill.
IVORY gym, facing aft.
As much as I would have preferred to just relax or walk IVORY’s open decks (including a wonderful, fully-encircling promenade and spacious forward observation area on B Deck), I decided a nice workout would be a good investment toward keeping shipshape after all the recent travels. Although the ship’s gym is quite modest by mega-ship standards, it does have an elliptical machine, several treadmills and free weights.
IVORY life ring.
IVORY night at speed.
B Deck pool, facing forward.
After dinner, I joined my friend, Christopher Kyte, for a walk around the deck areas and a chance to snap some high speed digital images of the IVORY, quite literally in the twilight of her long, successful career.
We joined Captain Foudoukas in the Voyager Bar for a drink before heading to second seating dinner at 9:15. The soft spoken captain could not have been more accommodating, and shared some great memories of his early career on Sun Line’s brilliant STELLAS MARIS II, OCEANIS, and SOLARIS as well as a number of ships operated by ROC. He also shed some light on the Luzzati “Chariots” painting I acquired from the former SOLARIS at Alang, noting that it actually depicts Alexander the Great in his decisive battle against the Persians and not Apollon, as I had once surmised. Captain Foudoukas has been with Louis for many years and has been master of SERENADE (he took her to Piraeus from Limassol for destoring prior to her journey to Alang), PRINCESA MARISSA, EMERALD (ex SANTA ROSA), and this very ship, as both AEGEAN tWO and AUSONIA.
Pharoah’s Dining Room, facing forward.
The Greek Night dinner was what this type of cruise is all about. It began with appetizers such as olives and dolmatae (stuffed grape leaves) and tangy avgolemono soup (lemon, chicken and rice) followed by fresh Greek salad and a main course of lemon chicken and rice pilaf. Dessert was a plate full of flaky baklava pastries, dripping with fresh honey and pistachios. Ambrosia.
Discovery Lounge, facing aft.
Alexandra, the great chanteuse!
We then proceeded to the Discovery Lounge to catch the show. Thankfully not aspiring to the generic Vegas-meets-Broadway frills of mega-ship cruising, the entertainment on these sweet, old fashioned Mediterranean cruises must appeal to a wide range of nationalities. Maybe it’s the Eastern European in me, but with the right combination of talents, these nightly cabarets can be exotic and, at times, even electrifying. You get a little bit of everything, from the “Can Can” to Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were The Days” (sung in Greek by Nikos, who with cruise director, Yiorgis and soulful Bulgarian songstress, Alexandra, form an extremely talented trio of leads). Add a pair of male and a trio of female, classically-toned-and-trained Bulgarian dancers, a wonde
rfully skilled bouzouki player named Kiros and some truly gifted live musicians, and you’ve got quite a show.
As I wrap it all up in the Orangerie with laptop and leaden eyelids, this first day aboard IVORY has come and gone far too quickly.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Rhodes off IVORY’s port bow.
At 10:30 AM, there was an announcement that we would arrive in Rhodes two hours earlier than scheduled, at 1:00 PM. I scrambled out to forward B Deck to see if Rhodes was visible, and, indeed, the arid island loomed in the distance off our port bow. A small white speck directly ahead turned out to be the little SALAMIS GLORY; otherwise, a fishing trawler and a coaster were the only ships in our proximity.
Greek lunch in the dining room, part one.
Greek lunch buffet, ctd.
Christopher and I joined the lunch buffet in the Pharoah’s Dining Room. A fantastic spread of Greek salads (beets, potato, traditional, tomatoes, olives, etc.), pasta, rice, chicken, pork, lamb, and a roast were among the offerings. I devoured mine rather quickly, just in case we caught up with SALAMIS GLORY, but when I returned to B Deck, she was still well ahead of us.
Italian bridge windows, facing starboard.
Finned funnel from tapered wing.
Inboard from starboard wing.
Captain Foudoukas signalled from the wing for me to come up to the bridge, so quite happily, I obliged. The IVORY’s wheelhouse was largely rebuilt in the 1980s with modern equipment but still retains its original windows, some brass panels, and gorgeous wings with grated teak decking. From various vantages, I watched as the captain and staff captain (Giannokopoulos Nikolaos, who was captain last year when we sailed on AEGEAN tWO’s three night voyage from Athens) maneuvered IVORY into position to pick up the Rhodes pilot. Meanwhile, the captain told me that SALAMIS GLORY was on her way to Kos, and, although she left Limassol three hours earlier than IVORY, was barely able to keep ahead of us. In Rhodes, we could now clearly see the looming Louis’ AQUAMARINE (ex NORDIC PRINCE, CAROUSEL, ARIELLE) and Iberocruceros’ uncompromisingly boxy GRAND MISTRAL.
“IVORY coasting” as the Rhodes pilot boat appraoches.
Senior officers and pilot on the starboard wing.
Slipping in behind AQUAMARINE at Rhodes.
The pilot boat circled us, then came along the IVORY’s port side, delivering the curly haired man, who, with the help of IVORY’s two skilled captains, would bring us into Rhodes with two attending tugs and no bow thrusters. I savored every moment of the maneuvering, finally leaving the wheelhouse once we were secured to the quay, to join Christopher in Kontiki for the first of the day’s cappuccinos.
B Deck lido from A Deck.
Aft B Deck, facing forward.
Aft C Deck, facing forward.
Voyager Bar, facing starboard.
Reception lobby, facing port.
IVORY’s Orangerie, facing forward.
Cinema, facing aft.
As most of the passengers partook of the tour to spectacular Lindos and the Panaya Tsambiki monastery (only 24 Euro), I took advantage of the uncrowded ship to document her public spaces.
IVORY at Rhodes.
Rocky Rhodes and the AQUAMARINE.
If not quite blistering hot, it was still quite warm as we walked past IVORY and AQUAMARINE, along the stone streets into Rhodes town. We were hustled into the Red Rose Cafe with the promise of WiFi access if we bought some food, so Christopher ordered some gyros (which took over an hour to arrive) and cleared messages from his iPhone while I resized and uploaded images, trying to stay clear of some rather well-aimed pigeon droppings from the overhang above. After another cappuccino later, we were heading through the quaint town back to the ship to rid ourselves of the computer and seek out a local beach.
Zephiros beach, Rhodes.
Advised that the western beaches were too rough due to the winds, we took a Euro 5 cab to the nearest eastern beach, Zephiros. Perhaps not the most scenic of Rhodes’ myriad of beaches, it was pleasant enough, with clear, calm waters that soothed and invigorated.
IVORY at sunset.
Buffet under the stars in Rhodes.
Back aboard IVORY a little before sunset, we had time to clean up and head to the Kontiki deck buffet where the Mistrals whipped at our rather full trays. Greek salads, hummus, tahini, barbequed corn, cold cuts, potatoes, chicken, pork, and beef were among the selections. A bottle of red Greek table wine accompanied as the still very sleek and Nordic-looking AQUAMARINE backed past us and sailed toward Piraeus.
We were front row center for the Latin show, an enjoyable romp through the ages and around the world in Spanish and Portuguese.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
The vividly painted OCEAN VILLAGE (ex SITMAR FAIRMAJESTY, STAR PRINCESS, ARCADIA) was soaking up the morning light in the berth across from us when we arose this morning. Christopher and I consumed a quick breakfast in Kontikis and then stepped off IVORY for a stroll into Rhodes town. Enroute, we passed Overseas Adventure Travel’s little ARETHUSA.
It was quite hot as we meandered through throngs of mostly sunburnt Brits to find a vacant bench in the park across from the Red Rose Cafe. The internet access code they gave us yesterday still worked, so there was time to upload more images and text without being pushed into ordering an overpriced meal. It was amusing to watch yesterday’s barking waiter stalk passersby like a hungry wolf spider, drawing them into his web with promises of good food and cold drinks, only to let them sit unattended while he worked on his next catch.
Back on board IVORY by noon, I found a nice bit of flat caprail on the fantail to alight my video camera as the handsome Italian-built C&A; ferry DIMITROULA cast away from the berth behind us.
Friendly and highly professional, IVORY’s maitre’d, Dimitris Parmakis.
Friendly maitre’d Dimitry Parmakis, who spent 22 years at a posh hotel in Limassol before joining Louis two years ago, found us a nice table in the Pharoah’s Dining Room, where we consumed yet more Greek delicacies from the ship’s bountiful buffet. Today’s standouts were a marinated eggplant and a tangy tahini sauce.
Assisted by two large tugs, IVORY departed at 1:00 PM and began her eastward journey back to Limassol at a fifteen plus knot pace. Only on her fantail and, later, down in the gym, could the gentle churning of the former AUSONIA’s twin screws be detected. Fifty years prior, this Italian-built beauty was in her prime, plying the same sea lanes on her way to Beirut and Alexandria from Venice.
I spent the greater part of the afternoon by a window in the Discovery Lounge, writing and relaxing while Bingo, a cooking demonstration, the duty free shops and casino kept most of the other passengers occupied.
Our final dinner on IVORY was by the window at Table 6 in the Pharoah’s Dining Room. A chicken vol au vent, cream of asparagus soup, garden salad, and a vegetable cutlet on a tasty spinach risotto hit the spot before we adjourned to the Discovery Lounge to catch the Greek night show.
Greek night on the IVORY.
The show, perhaps because it would be the last one I will likely ever enjoy on this wonderful ship, seemed a bit low key. The stage was set up to resemble a taverna with the singers and dancers seated at tables on either end of the proscenium. The bouzouki player and band were, once again, extraordinary, providing a magical soundtrack to end this short voyage with.
Ring of IVORY twilight.
One final walk around deck and a chance to enjoy the the dramatically lit tripod under a mystic canopy of galaxies and constellations, and then it was back to the cabin, where I removed my gear and clothes from the lovely wooden bureau and wardrobe before we called it a night.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Loading the Limassol port pilot.
At 7:00 AM, IVORY was steaming into Limassol roads, ready to embark the pilot. Within thirty minutes, she was berthed port side at the terminal, the only cruise ship in this often busy port. A fueling barge was soon alongside as the 600 or so passengers disembarked, many racing off to Monday morning work.
Mahmoud, IVORY’s assistant bar manager.
We had breakfast in the dining room, then ordered a final cappuccino or two in Kontikis,where I had a chance to visit with friendly asst bar manager, Mahmoud, who was born in Port Said. As a child, he was so impressed by P&O;’s visiting CANBERRA, that he decided he was going to work on passenger ships. His first ship was the VASCO DA GAMA (ex INFANTE DOM HENRIQUE) before joining Louis in 1989 on their newly-acquired PRINCESA MARISSA. As fate would have it, he was our waiter on the lovely PRINCESA VICTORIA, a ship he remembers fondly, in December of 1997 when I took two back-to-back cruises to Israel. He is grateful to Louis for giving him the opportunity to work and live his dream and has served on an impressive roster of ships, from the PRINCESA CYPRIA (ex PRINSESSE MARGRETHE), PRINCESA AMOROSA (ex SCOTTISH COAST, GALAXIAS) and EMERALD (ex SANTA ROSA), to the ORIENT QUEEN (ex STARWARD).
Pieces of Pulitzer and lingerings of LURLINE in IVORY’s Bahia Deck cabins.
Louis were kind enough to allow us to stay on board until 1:00 PM before our transfer to the SAPPHIRE. For me, it was a nice chance to linger on a favorite surviving liner and explore her vintage details for what seems certainly the very last time. In some Bahia Deck cabins, there are chairs from the PRINCESA VICTORIA (designed by Gustavo Pulitzer) as well as some tables from the LURLINE (moved to VICTORIA from the former LURLINE and later transferred to AUSONIA)).
Sadly, all indications are that IVORY will be sold following her final scheduled cruise in October. Another permanent good bye in the works…
Softening the melancholy, the exquisitely sleek SAPPHIRE motored into Limassol at about 11:30 AM. Despite her forward revisions, she is quite a spectacular example of 1960s Italian design.
Although altered, IVORY remains one of the most beautifully proportioned ships ever built.
Shortly after o
ur transfer over to the SAPPHIRE, IVORY departed at 3:00 PM for Port Said, Egypt. Serenely, she backed into the harbor, showing off her thoroughbred lines one final time before sailing off into the Eastern Mediterranean.
Special thanks to: Martin Cox, Nicholas Fillipidas, Captain Foudoukas, Christopher Kyte, Iliana Marangou, Captain Giannokopoulos Nikolaos, Marlene Oliver, Dimitry Parmakis, Stephanie Pavlidou, Maria Villarrubia
End of IVORY Blog. SAPPHIRE Blog follows.
Finalized: September 14, 2008
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
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