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March 29, 2009
Four plus hours via train from Rome to Venice this morning allowed some time to work on the prior blog as the wet, green Italian countryside clacketed by. Although the greater portion of Italy was being inundated with a gushing torrent of rain, our spirits remained undampened, since, in Venice, Peter Deilmann Cruises’ deluxe MV DEUTSCHLAND awaited.
MV DEUTSCHLAND funnel.
The 1998-built, 22,400 gt, 520 passenger vessel would be taking us on a seven night cruise to Zadar (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro), Corfu (Greece), Katakolon (Greece), Naples (Italy) and Rome.
MV DEUTSCHLAND at Venice.
The DEUTSCHLAND (which will be featured in a full Decked! top to bottom tour in the near future) has seven passenger decks, beginning at the bottom with Quartermaster’s Deck (Four) and going up via Captain’s Deck (Five), Deutschland Deck (Six), Commodore Deck (Seven), Admiral’s Deck (Eight), and Lido Deck (Nine) to Golf Deck (Ten). She was built with lavish attention to detail as a tribute to the classic ocean liner and sports wonderful teak decks and some magnificent Deilmann family-owned artwork. Special fittings were ordered at great expense, and, along with the much more contemporary Hapag-Lloyd EUROPA, the DEUTSCHLAND is at the apogee of the German luxury cruise market.
Alas, upon arrival at the Santa Lucia train station, the Venetian weather gods unleashed a tempest of wind and rain down upon us as we rolled our luggage over a stepped arch bridge to reach the nearest taxi stand. A pair of 4 Euro umbrellas we hurriedly purchased from an oportunistic vendor were quickly fragmented into splinters of aluminum and torn cloth.
Soaked and chilled, we arrived at San Basileo (the former Adriatica terminus), where our luggage was hauled off and our passports surrendered to the strains of a traditional German music trio. An “ooom, pah pah” or two later and we had finally reached the DEUTSCHLAND!
Italian, German and Peter Deilmann pennants.
We clambered onto the gangway and entered the welcoming portal of our splendid, Mewes-inspired home for the next week. In this case, DEUTSCHLAND’s design “muse” might as well have been the interior decorator of the three great Albert Ballin-designed, pre World War One Hamburg Amerika liners IMPERATOR, VATERLAND and BISMARCK.
Cabin 4026, facing starboard.
A stewardess immediately escorted us up the warm, wood-toned and ornately-festooned brass stairtower to cabin 4026 on starboard Quartermaster’s Deck (Four), which featured two twin beds (not separated but with separate bedding), a brass-framed picture window, conventional television, plush bathrobes, ample closet space and burl-veneered counter storage in all shapes and sizes.
Cabin 4026 bathroom.
The bathroom had a large, tiled shower and amenities that included shampoo, shower gel and moisturizer.
Ballroom, facing forward.
Tea time on the DEUTSCHLAND.
My traveling companion, Christopher Kyte, and I needed to venture back ashore in the frigid deluge but could not resist a quick tea break in the double deck, gold leaf and maroon velvetry of the Ballroom. An elegant spread of pastries and cakes was laid out in the Deutschland Deck (Six) landing just aft. On stage, as wait staff circulated with gilded white china teapots, a pianist politely pelted out the Polonaise.
Torrent of Venice.
Alas, it was back out into the drench for a round of high speed wifi access, accidentally discovered in the terminal after an unsuccessful canvassing of the shuttered cobblestone canals. Thankfully, we had both been to Venice on prior occasions, so the magnificent water city’s charms were not a missed opportunity.
Stormy night passage through Canale Giudecca.
We returned to DEUTSCHLAND in time to dry off and head up to Lido Deck (Nine) which had enough awning overhang to shelter the ship’s more curious contingent, a welcoming, well-traveled and relatively prosperous crowd with a median age of 60 or so. We would later learn that there were only a total of seven Americans and two Brits on this cruise, the overall majority of guests being, of course, German nationals.
Lido Gourmet Restaurant, facing aft.
We were assigned a table for two second seating in the main dining room, the Berlin Restaurant, but chose the more casual but still very elegant, Tiffany glass-crowned Lido Gourmet Restaurant. We soon learned the DEUTSCHLAND’s cuisine is definitely geared to a traditional German palette, with red meat, venison or pork in nearly every main course. However, my California appetite was well satiated with a variety of delicious veggie side courses, such as ratatouille, a salad bar with fresh olive oil and a selection of vinegars, some delicious breads and broiled grouper.
Two days of transit had taken their toll, so we returned to the cabin, finished unpacking and hit the slumber button as the DEUTSCHLAND plunged through a force six or seven swell on her short Adriatic crossing to Croatia.
March 30, 2009
In cabin coffee.
With coffee delivered to our cabin at 7:00 AM, we arose as DEUTSCHLAND entered the shelter of the Dalmatian archipelago.
Croatia on high.
The one time islet of Zadar is now the fifth largest city in Croatia, has a population of 91,238 and features several historic churches and basilicas that were largely restored after annihilation in World War Two.
Lido Terasse, facing aft from starboard.
A not so totally random carpet shot.
We tied up at the city center berth shortly after sunrise. With the largely empty upper decks conducive to photography, I started with Decks Ten and Nine, then worked my way inside with the handsome Lido Terasse, its sculptures and wicker furniture very much reminiscent of the Palm Court on an Albert Ballin liner. The windows in this lounge and in most parts of the ship are distinctively framed in highly polished brass. The Lido Terasse became a favorite place to sit and write, sip a cup of tea and/or just stare out at the passing scenery.
Kneeling in the forward Deutschland Deck (Six) foyer.
Something to whet the apple-tite?
Nary a nook or cranny on DEUTSCHLAND is without ornament of some sort. Expensive, provocative and/or elegant artworks and an extensive collection of sculptures and statues prevail throughout the ship.
Muesli and grain depot.
I am not by nature a breakfast person, preferring to develop an appetite and then indulge it with lunch. However, in Germany and, now, on board this German ship, I find breakfast the culinary highlight of the day. Excellent breads and a wide variety of grain cereals, including an absolutely delicious roasted muesli simply cannot
Beautifully presented serving stations are constantly replenished with offerings, such as fresh fruit and cuts of meat. Silver cutlery and handsome porcelain plates by Bauscher of Germany are used in all of the five star DEUTSCHLAND’s restaurants, even in the Lido.
Steffen, the omelet chef, always responds with an “Of course!” and a smile as he finesses a special request, such as my daily tomato, onion and chive omelet. No eggs poured from cartons here!
Sea organ of Zadar and MV DEUTSCHLAND.
A free package of tours is provided English-speaking passengers. In Zadar, local guide Marina escorted a friendly family from Virginia, a well-heeled British couple and the two of us on a walking tour of the charming town. Our first stop was the waterfront park, where the sea organ, which is “played” by lapping surges of sea water, emits its natural symphony through vents in the walkway.
Many of Zadar’s cathedrals were built from the ruins of a Roman forum and temples, which were destroyed in a series of powerful earthquakes that hit the region.
Roman relief in Zadar.
In medieval times, the street level was some four feet higher than it was after various excavations revealed the original Roman foundation.
Pillar of Shame, where the unfortunate were hung in medieval times.
This particular pillar was one of two that served as the entrance to a temple dedicated to Jupiter, king of the Roman gods. It was used in medieval times to hang criminals, adulterers and other unfortunates. Toppled, it was raised after World War Two.
Ostrich on deck.
Back on board DEUTSCHLAND, the poultry dish in the Lido Cafe on aft Deck Nine was ostrich.
MV DEUTSCHLAND pool area from Deck Ten.
At 2:00 PM, we cast our lines and headed into the bay between Zadar and pine and olive-fringed islands speckled with red roofed villages. Helios and the haze fought an ongoing duel as DEUTSCHLAND entered an isthmus in the rocky archipelago. The ship’s upper decks were populated with sun worshippers and camera-savvy sightseers.
Cruising off the coast of Zadar.
By late afternoon, the ship had entered the wind-whipped Adriatic, which was only a bit calmer than it was in the early morning hours. As we crossed southward with the Dalmatian coast off our port horizon, there was time to catch up on the Sea Treks entries, rest and unravel, before an invigorating workout and the first formal dinner, which we chose to enjoy in the low key elegance of the Lido Gourmet.
March 31, 2009
Entering Kotor fjord.
We were up on Lido Deck as DEUTSCHLAND turned into magnificent Kotor fjord. The mariners’ village of Perast, a picturesque little hamlet underneath fanglike cliffs of gray stone, was off our port stern. Swirls of mist streaked the Montenegrian mountains, which were now on either side of us.
DEUTSCHLAND maneuvered slowly along, until reaching the fjord’s southernmost cul de sac, fortress-enshrined Kotor. Even the Ottoman Turks were foiled in their attempts to capture this town, which is hidden between a stone buttress and a Tolkein-esque ba
salt promontory studded in turrets.
DEUTSCHLAND deck portal.
We spun around and backed into the jetty, near the small marina and alongside Overseas Adventure Travel’s smart little ARTEMIS.
Our walking tour began at a very civilized 9:30 AM, heading via the city gate into a medieval square (Trg Od Oruzja) not unlike nearby Dubrovnik’s Stradun. But perhaps because of the overcast sky and the glistening, gloomy granite backdrop, Kotor has a far more ominous and foreboding presence than its Croatian rival.
Our tour lasted some ninety minutes and took in the requisite churches, including the historic, twin towered St. Triphon’s Cathedral, built in 1166.
Left, Church of St. Nicholas (built in 1909) and, right, St. Luke’s Church (built in 1195).
We also visited the Kotor Maritime Museum, which features a number of schooner models, paintings, weaponry and a small gallery dedicated to Montenegrian shipping of the twentieth century.
On my prior visit, I only made it about half way up the mountain to a little stone chapel, the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, built in 1518.
DEUTSCHLAND uber ARTEMIS.
Today, we had plenty of time to explore, so ventured up the slippery granite switchbacks, stepping carefully between loose stones and goat droppings for spectacular views of the fjord and our ship, almost directly below.
Goat tree, Kotor.
We encountered a small herd of shaggy goats, perched precipitously over a ledge, gnawing away at any remaining bits of greenery in the treetops.
MV DEUTSCHLAND at Kotor.
Finally, near the summit, the sun broke, injecting some life into the red-tiled roofs and turquoise waters below.
Dual DEUTSCHLANDs at Kotor.
After zig-zagging back down the 1,000 foot summit, which was actually dwarfed by the surrounding, snow capped mountains, we returned to the DEUTSCHLAND for a quick lunch in the Lido Gourmet and then walked around to the opposite bank of the fjord just as a squall of rain struck. A kindly taxi driver returned us to the ship, waiving the charge in a gesture of goodwill that left a lasting impression.
MV ARTEMIS at Kotor.
Before we returned to the old town and our search for a wireless (and particularly) smoky internet cafe, the little ARTEMIS loosened her lines, backed out and sailed off to her next destination.
MV DEUTSCHLAND at Kotor.
We returned to DEUTSCHLAND at dusk.
Berlin Restaurant, facing aft from starboard.
We decided to take dinner in the Berlin Restaurant, an entirely lovely setting with a cadre of elegant, dedicated service staff at beck and call. Alas, my California culinary sensibilities were a handicap with nearly all the regular courses featuring copious amounts of meat and/or meat products.
Vegetarian entree: baked medallions of Emmentaler and Gouda cheese with basil noodles in cream and baby tomatoes.
I decided to stick with the vegetarian offerings (pine seed cream soup, blue Curacao sherbet with pomegranate, Passionfruit curd tartlet with strawberries and chocolate sauce) but they were either sweet and fruity or high in cholesterol, so made a light meal of it and enjoyed the
spectacular setting and the sterling service. The main portion of the menu included a wide variety of starter courses from tiramisu of curled strips of smoked dogfish with caviar sour cream to seafood soup with garlic croutons, ragout of calamari in garlic cream sauce, fried fillet of catfish and blue Curacao with pomegranate sorbet. Regular main courses were veal loin Orlow and grilled surf and turf skewers.
Haute Kotor looms over MV DEUTSCHLAND.
The mountain fortifications were lit up in a crown of golden light behind the DEUTSCHLAND as she pulled away from Kotor that evening.
Calligraphy from on high.
Reflected in each rivulet off our port bow, the moon spelled out a continuous, calligraphic code. Soon, we were motoring off Perast, between the town and two islets, their tiny stone chapels floodlit in DEUTSCHLAND’s high beam searchlights. A marvelous way to end a long, scenic day in Kotor.
April 1, 2009
Deck Five Reception Lobby, facing aft.
Commodore Deck Colonades Shopping Passage, facing forward.
One reflection in a corner of the Four Seasons Restaurant.
The Sauna and Gym on Aft Deutschland Deck (Six) can be accessed only via Commodore Deck (Seven).
On Spa Deck, there is a heated fresh water pool (shown facing forward), a thermal suite, treatment rooms and thalassotherapy in the Wellness Spa.
By 8:00 AM, I was out and about, exploring and documenting the DEUTSCHLAND’s mostly empty public spaces. I began with the Deck Five Lobby, worked my way up and aft, then back down again, as the ship gradually sprung to life.
Aft Lido Deck terrace, facing starboard.
By late morning, the northernmost Ionian Greek island of Corfu was on our starboard side, opposed by the snow-capped peaks of Albania to port. We entered the narrow isthmus between the two nations and were soon within view of scenic Kerkyra, also known as Corfu Town.
MV DEUTSCHLAND at Corfu.
By noon, DEUTSCHLAND was tied up alongside the passenger terminal — the only cruise ship in what is, during the peak summer season, a bustling port.
Cappuccinos and Corfu.
We had a few hours to seek out a cafe, post another update, and then find a chicken gyro to tide us over until dinner.
Captain Jungblut maneuvers MV DEUTSCHLAND away from Corfu.
Captain Andreas Jungblut is an amiable, extremely able seaman who is hugely popular with DEUTSCHLAND’s loyal passengers. Born in Elbstrand (a sector of Hamburg/Alto
na), he comes from a seafaring family. After graduating from the maritime academy/captain’s school of Altona/Rainvilleterasse, he spent some time at the helm of various cargo ships before joining Peter Deilmann’s MV BERLIN (now sailing for Saga Holidays as the SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE) in 1985. In 1994, he became the BERLIN’s captain and then transferred to the DEUTSCHLAND when she entered service in 1998.
MV DEUTSCHLAND wheelhouse, facing port.
Passing the old Corfu fortress.
The captain and his officers were very, very kind to invite me to the bridge for the Corfu departure, which took place at exactly 6:00 PM.
MV DEUTSCHLAND, aft from fo’c’sle.
I was even granted a visit to the fo’c’sle head for a quick photo or two.
Later, I spent an invigorating hour or so on the elliptical machine, eyes fixated on the DEUTSCHLAND’s hazy wake as Corfu faded into twilight.
In the Lido Gourmet, sous chef Steffen prepared a spicy Nasi Goreng with chicken (and no other meats, thank you!) as we enjoyed yet another casual dinner. The staff in this eatery is superb, a perfect combination of welcoming, efficient, friendly and un-intrusive.
Still in the throes of jet lag, I had no qualms about returning to the cabin for an early night’s sleep while Christopher sought a quiet nook of Teutonic Edwardiana to indulge his latest read.
April 2, 2009
At 6:00 AM, I peeked out the blinds into the dark, Peleponesian fog. On the bowcam, the lights and breakwater of Katakalon were barely visible. No other cruise ships were in the region, so I decided to continue my morning slumber.
We made it to the Lido Gourmet in plenty of time to consume our now routine breakfasts: Christopher with the usual chive omelet, corn flakes and a pair of cappuccinos; for myself, a dollup of freshly-made fruit yogurt, roasted muesli and smoked salmon with shavings of onion, bathed in lemon juice.
An ongoing strike had closed Katakalon’s main attraction, the site of ancient Olympia (and home, of course, to the original Olympic Games), so many DEUTSCHLAND passengers remained on board this morning. Fortunately, I had visited Olympia last year on the NORWEGIAN JADE and had planned for a leisurely day wandering the quaint waterfront of the friendly village, which is home to a mere 1,000 occupants. And, of course, if there was some fast wireless internet, all the better!
Aft from the balcony of the Kaisersaal with a touch of Mozart.
While I documented the approximately 450 capacity Kaisersaal, the ship’s classical quartet was rehearsing. Incredible musicianship, good acoustics, and a perfect setting.
MV DEUTSCHLAND bathes in the Olympic sun at Katakalon.
At midday, the sun had finally broken through, so I managed a couple of quick shots of DEUTSCHLAND and a wonderful old tug from the otherwise empty jetty, uploaded a blog installment from a strangely smokeless internet cafe and returned to the ship to meet with hotel director Willy Gebel.
Willy Gebel, hotel director emeritus.
Mr. Gebel, who is originally from Kiel, kindly took the time to answer some questions I had about the ship and life on board. We also discussed his maritime career, which began in 1962 on Holland America Line’s 1951-built SS RYNDAM, when that ship was on the relatively austere Europe to Canada emigrant service. After a year, he left and worked in Scotland before moving to Switzerland. After several years in the mountains, he was ready to return to sea, joining SAL’s GRIPSHOLM and KUNGSHOLM in 1966 for what he thought would only be a year or two before pursuing his dream to live in Asia. Instead, he remained with Swedish American Line until its demise in 1975, then transferred to Norwegian America Line’s SAGAFJORD, which was followed by a long stint on the LINBLAD EXPLORER. Mr. Gebel’s duties included obtaining the stores for that expedition ship, which called at some of the world’s most remote spots. “Everything had to be bought in the local marketplaces, which was often quite a challenge and after eight years, I became more than familiar with every species of penguin!” Then came a seven year contract on NAL/Cunard’s VISTAFJORD before he joined the EUROPA, which had a more family-friendly two-month-on, two-month-off contract. When the current EUROPA was under construction, he spent most of 1999 in Finland, then came to the DEUTSCHLAND in 2000. “EUROPA is a very beautiful ship but DEUTSCHLAND is more like home: a warm and welcoming place. Which is why DEUTSCHLAND enjoys one of the highest repeat factors in the industry (40% on this cruise but up to 80% on certain voyages).”
Tripod mast, rivets and sheer to see us off!
Out on deck, the handsome, yellow funneled tug escorted us out of the harbor as DEUTSCHLAND began her leisurely Ionian crossing, with a full sea day ahead.
We finally managed an early evening swim in the salt water, heated midships pool, then headed to the Lido Gourmet for our usual dinner routine, the lights of the Greek island of Sakinthos off our starboard side.
In the Kaisersaal, there was a crew show with many of the ship’s staff gathered for a spirited sing-along in traditional German fashion, growing livelier with each tray of shots circulated by the cruise director.
April 3, 2009
Morning Tea in the Terasse.
Sea days are perfect for catching up on much-needed rest, enjoying unhurried meals, sipping tea, writing (if the mood permits) and enjoying the low key ambiance of the ship.
I did it all, in addition to spending a good portion of the brilliantly sunny but chilly afternoon in a padded deck chair, shrouded in a thick blue blanket, watching the southern coast of mainland Italy and the northern coast of Sicily gradually converge into the busy Straits of Messina. Was that the faint outline of Mt. Etna in the distance off our port bow?
Prior to entering the high traffic zone between Messina (Sicily) and Reggio de Calabria (Italy), DEUTSCHLAND took on the pilot. I could not see the whirlpool that harkens back to the Homeric legend of Scylla and Charybdis, although the red and white electrical pole at the tip of Sicily marked our maritime monster-free passage from the Ionian into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
DEUTSCHLAND seemed to be well ahead of schedule and meandered in the lanes off the western coast of the Italian mainland. On the horizon ahead of us, the Aeolian Islands loomed, with their northernmost outpost, the 3,000 foot Stromboli, jutting from the water like an obtuse wedge. Stromboli, one of three active Italian volcanoes (Etna and Vesuvius are the other two), has been erupting continuously for the past 2,000 years. As we approached, the summit was obscured in cloud cover, so if there was a magma spectacle, it was only for the gods to enjoy. A magnificently eerie, salmon-colored sunset turned the sea into a darkly tarnished silver as DEUTSCHLAND drifted onward.
Stelle in the salon.
Johannes and Alexandra.
It was the final formal night, so after dinner, we attended quintet Musica per le Stelle’s spectacular tribute to Mozart and Théodore Dubois in the Kaisersaal. The farewell show followed, including a performance by dancers Johannes and the Ukrainian beauty, Alexandra, whose porcelain face and marble torso could surely launch a thousand or two ships.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
MV DEUTSCHLAND at Naples.
Fog-enshrouded Vesuvius was on the bow cam and Mussolini’s Stazionne Marittima peered through the blinds at dawn as DEUTSCHLAND tied up at Naples. Too early in the season for ship spotting, it was safe to go back to sleep until mid morning. After the usual breakfast, Christopher and I headed into the chaos of Napoli to find some brick oven-fired pizzas margherita and local high speed internet access.
Castel Nuovo, Naples.
After getting this blog updated, we returned the laptop to the cabin and ventured back out to explore a portion of the city we had thus far not seen, the area past Castel Nuovo (built in 1279 to house the king of Naples), on the western side of the terminal.
Piazza Plebiscito, facing a backlit San Francesco di Paola.
Among the specta
cular sites we savored for the very first time were the Piazza Plebiscito, Naples largest city square and home to the domed, 1816-built San Francesco di Paola church (which took its inspiration from Rome’s Pantheon) and the 17th century-built Royal Palace.
Under the glass canopy of Galleria Umberto I, facing east.
There was just enough time for a quick chocolate gelato and a romp through the 1891-built Galleria Umberto I before returning to DEUTSCHLAND.
Final sunset over DEUTSCHLAND.
As the sun began to set beyond the Museo di Capodimonte (atop the hill overlooking the bay), DEUTSCHLAND cast her lines and began her slow journey to Civitavecchia. Vesuvius stood in full glory before us, her slopes bathing in the dusky glow.
Tonight, life on board would be rather low key. After another carefully chosen, if now routine, dinner in the Lido, it was back to the cabin to somehow repack all the things that barely fit into the suitcase and duffel a week prior and say good bye to various staff who were helpful throughout our short journey.
April 5, 2009
At 7:45 AM, we hurriedly showered, finished the last bit of packing, and dragged our luggage up to the Kaisersaal, where it was stored on stage as we lingered for the rest of the morning on board. This would be my only chance to document the DEUTSCHLAND’s various cabin grades, so instead of venturing off for a full day in Rome, we had a leisurely breakfast and waited. Finally, at 12:30, I was assisted by the ship’s chief housekeeper into a selection of cabins on Deck Eight, although, unfortunately, the master suites were not ready for their close up.
Fellini-scape of Trevi.
Il Vittoriano ablaze and above Piazza Venizia.
We said our final goodbyes and rolled off into Civitavecchia as DEUTSCHLAND prepared for her next sailing. From there, it was onward via train to Rome (one hour and seven Euros for a first class ticket), where a beautiful spring afternoon awaited. We devised our own custom walking tour, beginning with the splendid, 113-built carrara marble Trajan’s Column (Colonna Traiana — the inspiration for Emanuele Luzzati’s ceramic relief from Incres Line’s VICTORIA), past Il Vittoriano (built between 1911 and 1935 and dedicated as “a tomb to the unknown soldier”), to Nicola Salvi and Giuseppe Panini’s Trevi fountain, the chillingly beautiful Pantheon, and settled for a long dinner in the Piazza Navona, staring into the domed face of Sant’Agnese and across the fountains by Bernini.
April 6, 2009
At 3:30 AM , a 6.4 temblor devastated the nearby town of Aquila. It was enough to rattle our hotel and a few nerves in Rome but we were thankfully spared any damage.
And so ended this latest trek, away from the sea but still within reach of Poseidon, whose dominion also includes earthquakes.
Special thanks: Martin Cox, Willy Gebel, Elliot Gillies, Captain Andreas Jungblut, Christopher Kyte
End of Mediterranean Medley On The DEUTSCHLAND Sea Treks Blog — Finalized: April 10, 2009