DISCOVERYng The Black Sea

Problogue: Sunday, April 26, 2009


MV DISCOVERY at Istanbul.

This latest blogspot beamed its way into the ether from Voyages of Discovery’s 20,216 gt, 1971-built MV DISCOVERY as she whisked her way from Istanbul to Sochi (Russia), Sevastopol and Yalta (Ukraine), Nesebur (Bulgaria), Canakkale and Kusadasi (Turkey), Heraklion (Crete) and Santorini, Mykonos and Piraeus (Greece). On it’s own, a great itinerary (with many “firsts” for me) on one of my favorite ships, but, wait(!), there’s more(!): the cruise was also the first portion of the ninth Maritime Memories voyage, and packed to the rafters with classic liner fans, crew, staff and officers.

Note: Click on images to view larger versions…

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Once past the hustle and bustle of Turkish customs at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, it was reassuring to find the Voyages Of Discovery placard in the sea of hand-held signs at the terminal exit. Within moments, I was escorted by a Christ-like Turkish gentleman to a mini-van to join a delightful couple from Vancouver who were taking their fifth cruise in their favorite ship, the 1972-built MV DISCOVERY (ex ISLAND PRINCESS). I would learn later that on this particular sailing, 61 percent of the ship’s 500 passengers were repeaters.

The shuttle wound its way out of the sprawling airport to the tulip-fringed waterfront, past several Byzantine fortresses and even a few open marketplaces until reaching the minarets, mosques and palaces of the Golden Horn. As we rounded the peninsula toward the Galata Bridge, an impressive line up of cruise ships included Louis Cruises’ wedge-like MV CRISTAL, Kristina Cruises’ twin funneled MV KRISTINA REGINA, Princess Cruises’ MV ROYAL PRINCESS, Aida Cruises’ glassy AIDA DIVA, Pullmantur’s EMPRESS (which was just maneuvering into her berth), and, at the very end, our dainty, fin-funneled DISCOVERY.

Porters were available pierside to handle the luggage but I chose to wheel mine through security and on board. Check-in was a simple matter of registering a credit card with the desk and having a security photo taken for the cruise card.


Cabin 4262, facing port.

I was led to cabin 4262, on port Bali Deck. An outside with two Tempurpedic twin beds, a pair of portholes, a dresser, night stand, telephone, wardrobe, television and bathroom with shower, hairdryer and cabinet with safe, it would be my home for the next two weeks as DISCOVERY plied the Black and Aegean Seas.

My traveling companion, Rob Di Stefano, arrived several hours earlier and was asleep in his Coral Deck cabin 3096, so I took advantage of the relatively early hour to document some of the ship’s accommodation, from spacious Promenade Deck suites to Bali Deck insides, then squeezed in a moment or two at the Lido for tea and tuna sandwiches.

Having visited DISCOVERY on a periodic basis since 1974, I can confidently state the ship looks better than ever. Under the supervision of Captain Derrick Kemp and Chief Officer Yaksa Kelez, her abundant teak deck areas are kept freshly scrubbed, all caprails are beautifully varnished, brass fittings brightly shined and bulkheads and glass panels kept glistening.

An ongoing refit and redecoration has gradually removed some of the fussy, latter era Princess decor in favor of warm, chic color schemes and new furniture that complements the ship’s original Midcentury Modern Scandinavian architecture. Even the suites have been spruced up with individual bits of decor, ranging from polar to boutique hotel modern.


The “Love Boat” lobby, facing aft from Pacific Deck.

The famous “Love Boat” lobby thankfully still sports its original Carrara marble panels and the Murano glass abstract map of the world.


Discovery Lounge, facing forward.


Discovery Lounge, facing starboard.

The double deck Discovery Lounge has been freshened up with some handsome mocha soft fittings and still boasts (quite proudly now) the original bronze Arne Vigne Gunnerud Viking mural centerpiece, which was once under threat of removal.


Hideaway Bar, facing starboard.

The Hideaway Bar looks splendid in its new blue and gold palette, offset by abundant cherry wood tones.


Yacht Club, facing starboard.

And, the Yacht Club is enjoying a decorative Renaissance following Princess’ disastrous tampering in the early 1990s, which saw the eradication of its original Space Age furnishings and cosmic mosaic mural. Now it is a handsomely-appointed daytime Lido adjunct and, with the addition of candlelight and tablecloths, a posh, sophisticated evening dining venue.

With DISCOVERY’s compl
ement of passengers gradually filtering in, we headed off to see the other ships and a bit of Istanbul. Although the sun was making a cameo appearance that afternoon, it was quite chilly, especially when the wind kicked up.


KRISTINA REGINA suprema.

As we reached the classic KRISTINA REGINA, her gangway was being raised and lines were loosened. A stern rope was “trapped” beneath one of CRISTAL’s lines, so for a while she was held by a single leash, aglow in the late day’s sun. Her remarkably beautiful silhouette will be sadly missed when SOLAS 2010 forces her from service. Finally freed, she sailed up past ROYAL PRINCESS, exchanging salutes and continuing toward the Bosphorus before turning in an arc to catch the downstream current on her passage into the Sea Of Marmara.


ROYAL exit.

ROYAL PRINCESS followed suit, her relatively modern machinery propelling her into the green waters effortlessly before she pivoted into the KRISTINA REGINA’s wake.


CRISTAL heads leeward into the Bosphorus.

CRISTAL finished off the Istanbul exodus with a few dramatic puffs of black smoke.


Springtime in Istanbul.


Anglers’ angles.

We strolled across the Galata Bridge to the ferry terminal, then back again past the fishermen and their network of rods and lines.


Baklava bastante!

We eventually settled in at a nice local restaurant to enjoy fresh Turkish salads, some marvelous sesame bread to dip in olive oil and a bit of baklava “to go” before returning to the ship, where I made a very early night of it. The 20 hour commute had taken its toll.


MV DISCOVERY at Istanbul.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The day’s agenda assuaged the painful sound of the alarm at 5:30 AM. Cameras gathered and layers of warm clothing donned, I stopped quickly by the Lido for a cup of jasmine green tea, then disembarked DISCOVERY and waited at the port entrance for my ride to Tuzla (some forty miles south of Istanbul on the Asia Minor side of the Bosphorus).


ITU’s Dr. Ata Bilgili and the MV AKDENIZ at Tuzla.

My host, Dr. Ata Bilgili (kindly introduced to me via Reuben Goossens of ssmaritime.com), is the assistant dean of Istanbul Teknik University and professor of marine architecture. He is largely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the magnificent 1955-built Turkish passenger ship, AKDENIZ (the subject of a dedicated Decked! feature in the near future), which has served the university as a training ship, classroom and dormitory since 1997. The 8,809 gt AKDENIZ was built by A.G. Weser of Bremen for Turkish Maritime Lines Mediterranean service and originally carried 95 first class, 112 second and 648 third class passengers before being converted to a full time, one class cruise ship.


MV AKDENIZ at Tuzla, Turkey.

We arrived in Tuzla at approximately 7:30 AM, just as the fog succumbed to a hazy, golden sun. I had all morning and a large portion of the afternoon to document the beautiful old lady from various external angles and every accessible enclosed space. Dr. Bilgili and deck post, Hakki Akca, were incredibly patient and supportive of my digital efforts, which can often be exasperating, even to myself.


The face of the MV AKDENIZ.


MV AKDENIZ, over stern.


MV AKDENIZ wheelhouse, facing starboard.


MV AKDENIZ, former first class lounge, facing starboard.


MV AKDENIZ Lux cabin #2, facing aft/port.

No doubt AKDENIZ is one of the most perfectly preserved, original remnants of post war passenger shipping left. She is a treasured survivor of a vast ocean liner fleet that once linked the Mediterranean and Black Seas.


MV AKDENIZ at Tuzla.

The ship has an uncertain future, being a bit larger than practical for training ship duties and requiring costly maintenance. The university is exploring all options to keep her in Tuzla but is also hoping to raise awareness for any potential buyers in the future. The AKDENIZ would make a charming floating hotel, especially in Europe, where her uniquely authentic vintage character would be most appreciated.


Tuzla jellies.

In the marina below AKDENIZ’ stern, masses of viscous jellyfish pulsated, harmless milky white ones and their venomous, coral-colored cousins.

Just as I took my last shot, the downpour began. By 3:00 PM, we were on our way back to Istanbul, my last view of AKDENIZ a rain-streaked blur in the rear window.

I returned to the welcoming warmth of DISCOVERY just before 4:00 PM, in time for a quick workout and to attend the very thorough boat drill.


Rain on the rail.

A cup of green tea helped counter the chilly wind on deck as as we dropped our lines and backed off, turning round to face the Bosphorus. The sun broke through just as we approached the first bridge, bathing the Asia Minor shores in a brilliant light.


Between Bosphorus Bridges, first aft.


Between Bosphorus Bridges, second forward.

The forward decks were frigid but the scenery was too magical to miss.


MV SAVARONA at Istinye.

We passed the 1931-built, William Francis Gibbs designed SAVARONA at her winter layup berth in Istinye, then wound through the hilly, verdant passage, marveling at the estates and palaces along the Asian banks. At several points, black dolphins danced alongside the DISCOVERY, teasing our lenses until we finally reached the mouth of the Black Sea.


Seven Continents Restaurant, facing aft.

Our second seating dinner began at 8:30 PM (first seating is at 6:30 PM) in the Seven Continents Restaurant.


Chris and the Seventh Continent penguin.

Tireless waiter, Chris, handled our table of eight through four courses (appetizers, soup, entrees and dessert) flawlessly and even managed to demonstrate a bit of penguin origami as after dinner coffee was being poured.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A day at sea early in a trip involving transcontinental flights provides a cherished opportunity to catch up on sleep and stave off jet lag. I dozed luxuriously into the late morning as DISCOVERY hummed leisurely eastward into the charcoal gray Black Sea.


Starboard Promenade in the Black Sea rain.

On deck, it was chilly, windy and wet, so there was little need for tripod and cameras.


Yellow bird, Black Sea.

We had lunch in the magrodome-enclosed Lido. I chased down a salad with some delicious chicken kebab skewers, then attended a bit of the SRO port lectures on Sochi and Yalta in the Carousel Lounge before working out.


DISCOVERY Gym, facing aft.

From the ellipticals, an interesting view through the drizzle-soaked windows included random exotic birds hopping along the caprails. One red breasted black bird was being stalked by would-be ornithologists who seemed stirred up when it darted off in a southerly direction, presumably off to the Turkish mainland. What I could not see hovering over the ship was a pair of hawks honing in on their intended prey.


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Internet Center, facing forward: MV DISCOVERY.

Alas, after almost two hours spent trying to access the web through my laptop (thank you Safari!), I finally threw in the towel and used the DISCOVERY’s Internet Center on starboard Promenade Deck. The ship was offering a reasonable 12 hour package for 21 pounds that puts most shipboard internet packages to shame.


Maritime Memories’ Des Cox welcomes seafaring friends and fans in the Discovery Theater.

At 5:00 PM in the Discovery Theater, there was a Maritime Memories welcome on board party. You never know who you are going to meet in these gatherings but it is a guaranteed ship lover’s delight. First, you have the irascible host, himself, a bona fide UK television star (who spent his early years at sea with the New Zealand Shipping Company), emceeing and often roasting his fellow merchant mariners. Fellow hosts include his wife, Ulla (a Swedish dazzler in the first degree) and my good friend Rod Anderton (formerly RMMV AUREOL’s second engineer). On this voyage, there were crew and staff from Cunard’s second MAURETANIA, Ellerman Lines, Shaw Savill, P&O;, Bibby and Blue Star Line, to name just a few. Aside from being our last human links to ocean liners past, they are just a fun-loving and welcoming group of people to be with.


MV DISCOVERY officers and staff on stage for the Captain’s Welcome Reception.

It was a full-scale “party eve” with the Captain’s Welcome Reception in the Carousel Lounge just prior to dinner.


Maritime Memories tabletop house flags on formal night.

The Captain’s Welcome Dinner was a gala occasion with every table featuring a bouquet of house flags of the great liner companies, courtesy of Maritime Memories.

Dinner began with delicious, freshly-baked breads to whet the appetite for an excellent assortment of courses. On the DISCOVERY, unlike many cruise lines that use stock menus on a rotating basis, there are new menus every night. On each formal night of the voyage from Istanbul to Harwich, in conjunction with Maritime Memories, there would be special selections from a liner menu of the past. Tonight’s were taken from Anchor Line’s CILICIA on August 28, 1954 and included: Haggis Layered With Pumpkin Mousse With A Whiskey And Vegetable Sauce, Beef Consommé Royale With Herbed Egg Custard Cubes, Cream Of Tomato Soup, Champagne Sorbet, Medallion Of Beef Au Jus and Plum Pudding With Brandy Sauce and Hard Brandy Butter. This, in addition to the regular vegetarian menu, a special dietary dessert menu and a selection of appetizers, soups, hot entrées and desserts. There was also the “always available” menu featuring minute steak, grilled chicken breast, baked potato, french fries and caesar salad. And, at our table, it was all accompanied by copious amounts of wine and spirited conversation.

An hour’s worth of sleep would be taken away tonight as we entered the Russian time zone. DISCOVERY was plowing along at a moderate 15.11 knot speed on her way to the resort town of Sochi.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Sochi sentinel.

I was up in the 6:00 AM gloom as DISCOVERY approached Sochi, hoping to perhaps encounter some of the old Black Sea tonnage that was until just a few years ago still active in this part of the world. Only a pair of small ferries lay in the distance with no hint of the once ubiquitous UZBEKISTAN class and other interesting Soviet ships anywhere in the quaint harbor.

It promised to be a fascinating, if long day with two tours booked since there was no individual access beyond the terminal without a proper Russian Visa. Despite the red tape, the jovial customs authorities welcomed us, smiling and stamping our passports as we passed through the gates.

MV DISCOVERY at Sochi, Russia. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2009.

It is suprising that Sochi’s relatively mild climate (which averages 58 Fahrenheit/14.5 Celsius in the winter) did not attract a large, permanent settlement until Catherine The Great’s expansion of Russia’s Black Sea coastal defenses in 1812, when the Naviganskoye fort was built in the vicinity. Until then, the region was sparsely populated by Scythians, Christians, Mongols and Tatars. In 1896, modern Sochi was founded, becoming a Soviet holiday town and spa retreat for its most powerful leaders, including Stalin, Yeltsin and Putin.


Tea Chalet at Dagomys, Russia.

Our first destination was a traditional Russian tea house at Dagomys, a relatively short distance but often long drive (thanks to the stifling traffic and old, ill-equipped roads) up the coast. As a precaution, we were provided with a boxed lunch just in case we did not make it back to the ship prior to our second excursion.

En route, a combination of Renaissance, Deco and grim, Stalin-era architecture vied with massive modern glass structures to dominate the rapidly-growing resort town’s skyline. Before long, we were atop a hill with a panorama of overgrown estates and plantations. Stubborn remnants of fog swirled in the ravine directly below us as our guides earnestly described how tea is harvested and processed before we headed down a forested path to the Tea Chalet.


Traditional Russian folkloric singer.

At the entrance, we were greeted by a folkloric musical trio and led to a rustic tea room where they danced and played for us.


Traditional Russian tea at the Dagomys Tea Chalet.

As they worked their way back and forth through both traditional and pop favorites, including the Mary Hopkin classic, “Those Were The Days”, we savored Russian black tea, pastries, jams and honey. Alas, the buxom ladies were not content until they had dragged several of us out to dance with them.


Traditional folkloric performers at the Dagomys Tea Chalet.

We could wander the gardens or just drink more tea before proceeding back to the coach and our return to the ship, just in time for a quick bite in the Lido as the sun broke through the gloom.


Olga gesticulates.

Our second excursion included a walk along the waterfront promenade of Sochi where guide Olga pointed out some of the pre-communist landmarks as well as statues of unfelled Soviet heroes such as Maxim Gorki and Shota Rustaveli. Olga’s historic overview of Sochi was informative but her personal recollections of life in the communist era were fascinating and poignant.


Stalin’s Dacha at Sochi, Russia.

Camouflaged in its arboreal surroundings, the aptly-named Green Grove was Josef Stalin’s sprawling, if somewhat spartan, summer residence. Photos of the former Soviet premier with Roosevelt and Churchill, his family and friends are on display in various wood-paneled rooms which still contain a few of his artifacts. There is even an oversized pool table where terrified opponents dared not play better than the ill-tempered “all nations leader”…


Stalin stilled.

A lifelike wax figure of Stalin sits ominously at his desk, greeting visitors who can strike a pose with their favorite despot.

A pairing of Stalin’s choice local wines were served along with some appetizers in the west wing of the dacha with a view of the sea through the verdant parkland.


Matsesta Spa Springs at Sochi, Russia.

Our afternoon in Sochi ended with a visit to the sulphur springs of Matsesta, which means “fire water”. From the ancient Greeks to the Ottomans and even during the height of communist Soviet rule, the mineral-rich springs have been sought out for their healing properties.

We were back aboard by 4:30 PM, just in time for tea in the Lido, followed by a quick work out before our 7:00 PM departure. Thankfully, we would get back that missing hour from the prior night as DISCOVERY made her northwesterly course for the Crimean port of Yalta.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Lido omelet by Roel.

The ships mostly Filipino wait staff are like a tight-knit family and after a couple days, certain friendly faces began to stand out. More often than not, Roel was at the Lido omelet station preparing my morning egg dish. My usual routine was to have an egg or two, a dollup of beans, the ship’s excellent muesli and, when available, some smoked salmon with capers, onions and lemon. At lunch, it was back to Roel for some freshly-prepared pasta with the day’s choice of sauces and extra ingredients like olives, sundried tomatoes or chives. The salad bar with its fresh greens, tomatoes and cucumbers topped with oil, vinegar and parmesan and a sampling of the fish or chicken entrées usually accompanied. One of bartender Allan’s cappuccinos served graciously by the likes of Carlos, Carlotta or Joy was a perfect coda to midday meals in the Lido.


From DISCOVERY bow to Yalta summit.

Once again rested, we were up on forward Sun Deck for our approach to Yalta, the celebrated playground of Russian tsars and aristocrats. I found its craggy, mountainous backdrop reminiscent of Santa Barbara, the California coastal haven that is often engulfed in wildfires.


From Lido Deck to Lido, Yalta.

Our tour was not until 1:10 PM, so we squeezed in a session at the gym and some time in the internet center. Unlike the prior day, it appeared as though the weather was deteriorating, with a gray mass of clouds descending upon us.


Massandra Palace at Yalta, Ukraine.

The coach wound its way up and eastward through Yalta’s lush mountainside villas until reaching Massandra Palace, Tsar Alexander III’s summer mansion completed in 1902. It was used by the Romanovs before the revolution and then became a favorite retreat for Politburo members as well as a hideaway for the KGB.


Carved lion face detail, Massandra Palace.

Designed by a French architect to emulate a grand chateau, the palace was built by French and German laborers and was decorated in a combination of Renaissance and Baroque styles. Numerous wood carvings, sculptures and works of fine art remain.


Woman with bun on Massandra Palace balcony.

Our guide led us through various salons, each patrolled by sternly stout, bun-haired Russian women to make sure no one touched any of the artifacts or used a camera flash.


Livadia Palace at Yalta, Ukraine.

We drove westward along the hillside to another promontory overlooking the harbor, where the 1911-built Livadia Palace awaited. Commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II in Italian Renaissance style, it also hosted the ill-fated Romanovs, where their former apartments serve now as the Tsar Nicholas museum.


Yalta Summit “round table”.

Livadia is best known for hosting the Yalta Summit, where Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt converged following the defeat of Germany in February 1945.


Murano glass chandelier, Livadia Palace.

After soaking up Livadia’s internal splendors, we converged on the courtyard for tea, some delicious cookies and a Russian balalaika performance before heading back to the DISCOVERY.


MV DISCOVERY at Yalta, Ukraine.

There was just enough time to wander the harbor promenade and park across from the ship where a towering statue of Lenin auspiciously faces a McDonalds.


DISCOVERY stern terraces.

DISCOVERY’s lovely after decks gradually emptied as the ship pivoted away from Yalta and sailed at a casual six knot pace to Sevastopol.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Post Soviet gloom, Sevastopol.

I watched through cabin 4262’s twin portholes as we approached Sevastopol. The massive harbor was somewhat reminiscent of Malta, with its branching bays and rocky promontories, albeit with a Soviet twist. In every direction, gray destroyers, battleships and other vessels of war loomed ominously. If Yalta was the elite playground of Crimea, Sevastopol was its battlefield. The early morning rain and chill only enhanced the dour first impression.


Chersonesus amphitheater.

Long before Sevastopol was settled as a strategic naval outpost for the Russian Empire in 1787, the region was occupied by Byzantines, Romans and Greeks, who founded the colony of Chersonesus near the entrance to the current port. Dating from 422 BC, the ruins are still being excavated but include an amphitheater, baths, a basilica and residences. Our excursion included a visit to the on site museum and time to wander the trails along the harbor’s edge.


MV DISCOVERY and Sevastopol harbor from Makakhov Hill.

The tour concluded with a stop at Malakhov Hill, Sevastopol’s highest point and key Crimean War fortification. Two major battles were fought here: one in June of 1855, when the Russians fended off the British and the second in September of 1855, when they lost control of Sevastopol. Cannons, statues and gardens now overlook the city square and harbor.


Behind the iron curtain: MV DISCOVERY at Sevastopol.

Upon our return to the ship for another lofty Lido lunch, the clouds finally made their retreat.


Soviet war monument, Sevastopol.

We took an early afternoon walk into the square near the passenger terminal where a statue of Admiral Nakhimov presided over a memorial to those lost in World War Two. War seemed to permeate every aspect of life in this fascinating, if star-crossed place.


MV SEVASTOPOL-I at Sevastopol.

From the embankment overlooking a remote part of the harbor, there was an excellent view of laid up Soviet era tonnage. One interesting find was the former research ship SEVASTOPOL-I, which was last used on “shopping” voyages to Istanbul where holds and any bit of open deck space were filled up with cheap goods obtained in the Turkish marketplace.


MV DISCOVERY at Sevastopol.

We next wandered the waterfront adjacent to DISCOVERY, where families had gathered to celebrate May Day in the parks and along the promenade.


Indian food banquet in the Yacht Club.

Many of DISCOVERY’s passengers headed off to a concert by the Black Sea Navy Fleet Ensemble while a small group of us had dinner in the Yacht Club. The dining venue is non-tariff but does require advance reservations and on the first week of our cruise, offered an Indian menu, which included:

APPETIZERS (served with various chutneys, raita and pickled ginger):
Murgh Tikka (boneless chicken marinated in unique Indian spices), Seekh Kebab (punjabi minced lamb with ginger, garlic and fresh coriander), Egg Pakora (egg in spicy light garam batter) and Vegetable Samosas (spicy potatoes and peas in pastry).

SOUP:
Saamish Mircy Soop (vegetable muligitawny soup)

MAIN COURSES {choice of one served with naan bread, papadam crackers, baingani biriyani (rice), and raita}:
Rogan Josh (tender lamb cooked in Indian spices), Chicken Korma (marinated, boneless chicken cooked in yogurt and garam masala) and Alu Matar Shorwedar (cauliflower and green pe
a curry)

DESSERTS:
Firni (warm rice, almond and cardamom pudding), Gulab Jamum (deep fried milk cake balls in sugary syrup) and Rasmalai (milk cake sponges in a cream milk syrup with pistachios and almonds).

Dinner was on par with premium plus and luxury lines like Oceania and Regent, enhanced by dim, atmospheric lighting, fine cutlery and stemware, a live jazz cabaret headlined by DISCOVERY’s cruise director/songstress Andrea Lowde and magnificent service.


MV DISCOVERY port Promenade Deck, facing forward.

After that meal, a walk around the beautifully lit but frigid decks was a mandatory prelude to a long night’s sleep and our second day at sea…

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Bubbles and Memories in the Carousel Lounge.

I attended the 11:00 AM Maritime Memories gathering in the Carousel Lounge, where Des Cox laid out the upcoming agenda and welcomed his troupe of merry cruisers with a glass or two of bubbly. An added highlight was guest lecturer David Bray’s brief presentation: a tongue-in-cheek overview of sea-going horrors rendered in today’s fanciful cruise brochure parlance.


PK Presents. Photo and copyright Bo Zaunders 2009.

At 2:15, thanks to the technical savvy of my traveling companion, Rob (who converted my Mac-based presentation into a PC-friendly version) and the use of darling Marjery Booth’s PC laptop, I was able to do an unofficial talk about Alang in the Discovery Theater. Considering it was not part of the printed schedule events and was up against a rather fascinating, official Discovery Lecture Program on Gallipoli in the Carousel Lounge by Major General Peter Williams, I was grateful for the turnout.

By the way, another fine aspect of sailing with Voyages Of Discovery is their enrichment lecture program. In addition to Major General Williams and Maritime Memories’ David Bray, we also had Sir Michael Burton, David Baskott and Scott Whineray covering topics relevant to the cruise and the history of the regions we visited, including: “The Yalta Conference and the Dresden Air Raid”, “Lessons From Chernobyl, “My Life As A Cold War Spy”, and many more. An extra plus is that all the featured lectures are broadcast throughout the day on the in-cabin television, so one need not worry about missing the live presentation.

The rest of the day was at leisure and included the usual routine of working out, writing, eating and enjoying time on DISCOVERY as she made a steady 9.49 knot southbound course to Bulgaria.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


MV DISCOVERY at Nessebur.

The ship’s daily program spells it “Nessebur”, versus the Shore Excursions Manual, which has it as “Nesebur” and the handy JPM pocket guide supplied at the beginning of the cruise, which shows it as “Nessebar”. I suppose the fairest compromise would be Nessebur, so that’s how I’ll refer to this “Black Sea Jewel”, a small peninsula connected via a causeway to mainland Bulgaria that was first inhabited by the Thracians circa 2000 BC and settled by the Greeks in the 6th century BC. It eventually came under the rule of Rome and the Byzantines, who built several churches that are now the UNESCO World Heritage site’s main attra
ctions. The nearest large city is the bustling port of Burgas, which lays to the south.


Church Of Christ Pantocrator at Nessebur, Bulgaria.

One of DISCOVERY’s tenders sped us along the calm green waters to a marina where we walked a short way to the city gate and passed through an amphitheater and fortress walls. The ongoing battle between sun and clouds waged overhead, occasionally providing a lovely photographic contrast of brick, blue sky, clouds and spring blossoms. One of the first churches we encountered, the Church of Christ Pantocrator, was built in the 14th century and now houses an art gallery.


St. John The Baptist Church at Nessebur, Bulgaria.

Further along, we found another former Byzantine church, the 11th century built St. John the Baptist Church, also serving as an art gallery. Some forty churches and temples were built on this little outcrop of land but today, only ten survive.


Nessebur handicrafts.

As Bulgaria was first occupied by the Germans and later taken by the Soviets in World War Two, some of the curio shops feature both Nazi and Soviet war paraphernalia in addition to local handicrafts and the usual designer knock offs.


Yum yum under the fig tree at Nessebur, Bulgaria.

Several of us headed to a restaurant overlooking the Bulgarian coast and the anchored DISCOVERY to enjoy local cuisine (garlic yogurt, eggplant salad, freshly-baked bread and olive oil) and a libation or two. The small eatery’s claim to fame is that it boasts the oldest fig tree in Nessebur.


Bulgarian algae.

Before returning to the ship, we walked along the beach, which in lieu of sand, is comprised of pulverized shells. The chilly, clear waters swirled with clusters of vivid green algae.


MV DISCOVERY at Nessebur.

Thanks to Staff Captain Yaksa Kelez and tender driver Joebel, I was able to circle the ship in the tender for some optimal photos of DISCOVERY. The timing was providential as the weather soon turned for the worse.


Nessebur wake.

I watched from the ellipticals as the last tender cut through the choppy anchorage toward the DISCOVERY. By the time I had finished, it was being raised up the starboard side of the ship as we made an arc around the peninsula and headed full speed toward the Bosphorus, where we would transition from the Black Sea into the Sea of Marmara in the early morning hours. Our third and final sea day lay ahead.

End Of This Blog Posting.

Continued in the next Sea Treks blog: DISCOVERYng The Aegean Sea

Finalized: May 14, 2009

Voyages Of Discovery

Des Cox’ The Great Liners Videos

Antarctica Cruise on MV DISCOVERY Blog by Peter Knego

Abbreviated DISCOVERY Blog by Peter Knego

Ocean Liner Fittings, Furniture and Art For Sale at MidShipCentury.com

Peter Knego Videos Link: ON THE ROAD TO ALANG and THE WORLD’s PASSENGER FLEET, Volume Nine

Very Special Thanks: Rod Anderton, Dr. Ata Bilgili, Margery Booth, Des and Ulla Cox, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Mark Flager, Reuben Goossens of ssmaritime.com, Staff Captain Yaksa Kelez, Captain Derrick Kemp, Lis Kemp, Chief Engineer Mike Vlacic, Bo Zaunders

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

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."
Peter Knego

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