DISCOVERYng The Aegean Sea

Monday, May 4, 2009


Aft from starboard wing: MV DISCOVERY.

With the Turkish coast partially obscured in mist off her starboard side, DISCOVERY drifted on a plodding, four or five knot westward course through the Sea of Marmara. Our final sea day would be a lazy one with the next port of call, Canakkale, a mere ninety or so miles ahead.


MV DISCOVERY Wheelhouse, facing port.

Our small group was given an opportunity to visit the bridge in the late morning. A bit traditional and a bit contemporary, DISCOVERY has open bridge wings but in lieu of telegraph stands and a steering station, her equipment is largely housed in a modern console.

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2009 unless otherwise noted. Please click on images to view larger versions.


MV DISCOVERY’s Captain Derrick Kemp.

One of the great pleasures of arrivals and departures on board the MV DISCOVERY is watching Captain Derrick Kemp in action. He manipulates his 20,216 gross ton, 553.5 by 80.7 foot charge with more finesse and seeming ease than your average person would park a sports car. When he is giving commands on the bridge wing, it is usually with a walkie talkie in one hand and bow thruster control in the other, as fellow officers and the local pilot hover on standby.

His daily reports and frequent commentaries, delivered in a splendidly crisp, authoritative and yet genial fashion are known to contain an ironic twist or two.

A bona fide ship lover, Captain Kemp and his sweetheart of a wife, Bernadette, whom he met when studying for his Master’s Certificate, have four children and nine grandchildren. Captain Kemp has a special fondness for Cunard Line’s SS FRANCONIA (ii) of 1923, which he sailed aboard as a child. His roster of passenger ship commands includes the MV ASTOR, MV OCEAN PEARL, MV CALEDONIAN STAR, MV SAGA ROSE and most of former Renaissance Cruises’ “R” ships.


MV DISCOVERY’s Staff Captain Jaksa Kelez.

Staff Captain Jaksa Kelez was born in Dubrovnik in 1957 to a sea-faring family. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jaksa studied at the Maritime Academy in Dubrovnik and then joined Jadrolinija’s MV ISTRA in 1982. He also worked aboard the ISTRA’s sister, MV DALMACIJA, and then went on to pursue his Master’s Certificate in 1987. One of his many commands was the MV ADRIANA (ex AQUARIUS) before he joined the DISCOVERY. He lives in San Diego, California, with his wife and son.


MV DISCOVERY Chief Engineer, “Mike” Vlacic.

Chief engineer Miodrag “Mike” Vlacic also hails from Croatia. He is extremely proud of the DISCOVERY and her enduring, hard-working Fiat diesels. Vlacic prefers smaller, intimate ships like DISCOVERY, which he joined after a completing recent contract on board the MV LEISURE WORLD (former NCL SKYWARD) in Singapore. He lives with his wife near Kotor, Montenegro.


Ulla and Des Cox.

A DISCOVERY day at sea promises any number of interesting diversions, from quizzes, enrichment lectures and classes to deck quoits and wine tasting. I generally like to catch up on sleep, eat and work out — all the simple things long port days tend to interfere with. My one absolute “must” was to attend Des Cox’s 2:15 PM Maritime Memories presentation in the Cinema: a special highlight “trailer” made from bits of his incredible, 30 volume “The Great Liners” series.

The Great Liners videos combine archival footage and a wonderful narrative written by Mr. Cox and spoken by Ian Collington, a well-known and very distinguished media voice in the U.K. During the Maritime Memories cruises, one of the DISCOVERY’s television channels is exclusively dedicated to showing a different volume each day. Absolutely brilliant, nostalgic and compelling viewing that is not restricted to ship enthusiasts.

What the casual fan does not always grasp is the extent of work that went into locating and preserving the archival
footage before the films were so seamlessly edited together. Des shared some bittersweet anecdotes on the process before treating us with the “best of” reel. Huge props to Des and Snowbow Videos for such a dazzling, inspired tribute to the great liners of yesteryear.


Bird’s feet from under the magrodome.

During afternoon tea in the Lido, several local birds came down for a visit, hopping and hoping, perhaps, for an errant crumb or two.


RMMV AUREOL’s Rod Anderton celebrates his 70th in the Yacht Club.

Rob and I were honored and delighted to attend Rod Anderton’s special 70th birthday celebration in the Yacht Club that evening. Rod served on board Elder Dempster Line’s dandy RMMV AUREOL in the engine department, rising to Second Engineer during his stint from 1961 to 1969. He contacted me shortly after I acquired many of the former AUREOL’s fittings from Alang and we became fast friends. A kinder, more fun-loving, generous and all around agreeable chap would be hard to find, although he’s in great company with his fellow Maritime Memories cohorts.


Oriental table setting in the Yacht Club.

The Yacht Club menu had just switched over from the first week’s Indian to Oriental. Japanese fans and bright lanterns set the mood for a Pan-Asian culinary extravaganza.


Yacht Club Sushi and Chicken Teriyaki starters.

The Japanese appetizer course was a knock out:

Spring Roll with Crab Meat and Chicken Skewer (served with pickled ginger, wasabi, sushi and roasted peanut sauce)

It was followed by a soup course from Thailand:

Thom Ka Gai, a Lemongrass Infusion with Mushrooms

There was a choice of steamed or fried rice to accompany.


Yacht Club Drunken Salmon entree.

The main course was a choice between:

Japanese DRUNKEN SALMON — grilled and steeped in Sake on Asian Vegetables with Bok Choy and served with a chili and soy sauce

OR

Chinese MARINATED DUCK BREAST — served on Shanghai noodles with Original Dressing served with Chinese style “Kan Shao” Green Beans.

The salmon was tangy, tender perfection. Between the service, ambiance and cuisine, the Yacht Club was fast becoming one of my favorite floating dining venues.

Oops, almost forgot to mention dessert. How about:

Khao Niew Man Uang (Coconut Flavored Rice Pudding With Mango and Caramel Sauce — from Thailand)


Half dome, MV DISCOVERY.

An invigorating evening walk around deck was called for after that indulgence. If the half-open magrodome was any indication, perhaps some warmer weather finally lay ahead.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Five ports of the Seven Continents, MV DISCOVERY.

Our hopes for warmer weather were dashed when we awoke to find DISCOVERY securely tied to her berth at Canakkale. A howling, damp wind blew the chill into our bones as we queued at the quay for one of the morning shuttle coaches into town, which is several miles away from the port.


A Trojan Horse amongst the pansies: Canakkale, Turkey.

Originally, we had planned on an excursion to the site of ancient Troy but the combination of bad weather, a long coach ride and whispers that the ruins were largely obscured by scaffolding found us opting to just explore Canakkale, instead. Our first stop was the Trojan Horse monument on the waterfront.


Tas Firin, bakery extraordinaire.

“High pressure” zones like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or Kusadasi’s carpet boutiques can be full of aggressive, persistent salesmen who wear on a visitor’s nerves. Quite the opposite is tr
ue once one is off the beaten tourist tracks, where the Turks are actually among the kindest, most hospitable people I have ever encountered. I went into a bakery, Tas Firin, for some much-needed “fuel” in the form of a sesame pretzel. Unfortunately, the store had just opened and did not have change for my bill. No matter, the sweet lady proprietor sent me on my way with the pretzel, trusting that I would return once I found change. When I did come back, I made sure to buy a couple extra cookies.


Yellow mine at the Canakkale Maritime Museum.

The Canakkale region is as well known for the ancient settlement of Troy (which, in Homer’s Iliad, was sacked by Greeks hidden in a giant wooden horse presented to the unsuspecting Trojans in about 1200 BC) as it is the bloody 1915 Gallipoli Campaign launched by the Allies in World War One. Canakkale, itself, is considered the gateway to the Dardanelles, a relatively narrow strait bridging the Aegean and Black Seas. Barely more than a mile wide, this part of the Dardanelles is also where the Persians and, later, Alexander The Great, built pontoon bridges of ships to transfer vast armies from one side to the other. Today, the northern shores belong to Europe and the southern shores, where Canakkale is located, to Asia Minor. The park adjacent to the maritime museum features a collection of land mines, torpedoes and a simulated warship.


Hamam entrance, Canakkale.

A hamam or therapeutic Turkish steam bath can be found on just about every street.


Canakkale apple cart versus pretzel wagon.

We settled at a local restaurant for a flavorful and inexpensive lunch which was ordered by pointing to courses of interest, such as: green beans and tomatoes cooked in olive oil; grilled eggplant with yogurt sauce; grilled peppers; aromatic rice and bulgur wheat. From there, it was off to the outdoor cafe to observe local life to a “taste track” of baklava and mint tea.


DISCOVERY wingdom, from left to right: Staff Captain Yaksa Kelez, Captain Derrick Kemp and Canakkale pilot.

Once back on the ship, I joined a large cluster of spectators on Sun Deck overlooking the port wing as Captain Kemp led DISCOVERY out into the busy sea lanes, timed perfectly to turn in a graceful “U” despite the efforts of severe wind gusts, oncoming ships and a notorious current that surges in both directions between the Black and Aegean Seas.


Bell on the bow and the “face” of the MV DISCOVERY.

As the sun finally broke through, I enjoyed a moment on the DISCOVERY’s lovely, long fo’c’sle, where her brilliantly polished bell dangles in front of a most pleasingly sculpted superstructure.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


MV VISTAMAR at Kusadasi.

Kusadasi is one of my favorite ship watching ports, which generally means if I want to get good footage, I have to be up at dawn for the early arrivals. My first visit was way back in October of 1992 on board Sun Lines’ little STELLA OCEANIS. I remember peeking out the porthole and gazing at the ACHILLE LAURO in a pinkish morning light. Today, the considerably less breathtaking but nonetheless interesting Spanish-built MV VISTAMAR was edging toward us on the port horizon. This was our third encounter with this unusual little ship during this cruise, having shared quays with her in Sochi and Canakkale.


MV VISTAMAR at Kusadasi, ctd.

The VISTAMAR’s truncated bow seems to have had its share of bumps and scrapes and the poor little ship is known to be a wild ride in rough seas. Still, any moderate-sized cruise ship that is not one of an endless series of clones is always a welcome sight in today’s common platform seas.


Turkish bollards.

With most of DISCOVERY’s passengers off to visit the remarkable Roman ruins of nearby Ephesus (one of the most interesting and well preserved archaeological sites in the world), I had all morning to document the empty public rooms.

{By the way, it’s long overdue for a full Decked! history and deck by deck tour of DISCOVERY, so please stay tuned for that when opportunity permits!}

Just after Azamara’s MV AZAMARA QUEST pu
lled in to the berth on our port side, I managed to get back to the cabin, shut the deadlight over the porthole, and take a quick nap. After lunch, I finally went ashore to Starbucks, where, with a bit of technical assistance from Rob, a strong and free wifi signal allowed me to install the first part of this blog.


MV DISCOVERY and MV AZAMARA QUEST at Kusadasi.

From there, it was off to the stone fortress on the small island Kusadasi (translates to “bird island”) is named after for some quick photos of the harbor. We made it back to the ship in time for tea in the Lido, then climbed down to forward Promenade Deck to witness our departure. Deep blue skies, star sapphire seas, whisps of fleecy white clouds and the terra cotta skyline of Kusadasi were bathed in a golden sunlight as DISCOVERY backed away, then turned on her southerly course to Heraklion.

After retiring the cameras for the day, we enjoyed a late afternoon workout as DISCOVERY sailed past the cliffs of Samos. She was making good speed in the moderate seas, which were met in stride, albeit with a slight list to port. It was nice to feel movement after more than a week of millpond stillness.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


MV DISCOVERY conCrete.

The gateway to the archaelolgical site of Knossos, Heraklion is definitely not one of the most scenic harbors in the Aegean but it does have an interesting medieval city center. I like any place named for Hera, the altogether difficult but fascinating queen of the Olympian gods, who certainly spiced up Greek mythology with her tirades and vengeful temper.

I was just too tired to get up and document our arrival, which is unfortunate since Thursday mornings bring with them the interesting Piraeus-based cruise ships.


MV AQUAMARINE at Heraklion, Crete.

One of only two vessels regularly operating on Greek Island cruises from Piraeus at this time of year, Louis Cruises’ 1,194 passenger, 23,149 gt AQUAMARINE was soaking up the Cretan sun off our starboard side when I finally did emerge for quick breakfast prior to disembarking DISCOVERY. AQUAMARINE is, of course, the former Royal Caribbean NORDIC PRINCE of 1971. As time marches on and ships get boxier and less graceful, I have begun to form a new appreciation for the AQUAMARINE and her former Scandinavian peers but I still think the more Italian-influenced DISCOVERY and her erstwhile “Love Boat” sister (now PACIFIC) enjoy the aesthetic edge. AQUAMARINE’s competitor, the 1981 built, 9,878 gt EASY CRUISE LIFE (ex LEV TOLSTOY, etc., currently sailing for Monarch Classic Cruises) was berthed at the other end of the harbor near the OCEAN VILLAGE II (ex CROWN PRINCESS).


Knossos

A pair of cab drivers in the cluster outside of the cruise terminal practically got into fisticuffs over who would be taking our group to Knossos. We negotiated and eventually chose the lesser of the two evils and were off on a ten kilometer or so ride to the noted archaeological site. Knossos (I personally love that the “K” is pronounced!) was the hub of the Minoan civilization, which ruled the Aegean from 4,000 to approximately 1500 BC, when many theorize the volcanic eruption of Thira wiped it out.


Knossos.

Thankfully, it was not too hot and crowded, which it typically is during high season, although wandering the grounds without a guide left us with many unanswered questions and a shrug or two. No Minotaur sightings, although there were some incongruous peacocks chortling in the nearby tree tops.


Knossos crystals.

One visitor was apparently caught trying to scrape her initials in a bit of the alabaster foundation, which piqued our curiosity. Indeed, some of the stonework had fetching, quartz-like surfacing after eons of erosion.

From Knossos, it was off to a cafe in the center of Heraklion to enjoy Greek cuisine and an overpriced but absolutely perfect cappuccino or two before winding our way back to DISCOVERY. That annoying realization that the cruise was reaching its end was setting in. Normally, after almost two weeks, I am ready to go home and catch up on reality but not this time.


Translucent tracks.

A bit of blogging, another cappuccino or two and a workout — basically the usual routine — followed. I couldn’t ask for much more, other, than, say, dinner again in the Yacht Club, which we enjoyed with the group. From there, it was back out on the stern terrace to watch as DISCOVERY followed OCEAN VILLAGE II (her onetime Princess fleetmate) into the Aegean. We zigzagged listlessly onward toward Santorini, a mere 72 nautical miles ahead of us. The moon was radiant and those lovely, curvaceous teak decks temperate and breezy. I couldn’t help wonder what it must have been like at that same moment on the once equally alive afterdecks of the REGAL EMPRESS as she deadheaded with a skeleton crew through these very waters on her delivery voyage to the Indian shipbreakers. Rob and I decided that the DISCOVERY would now carry the torch for classic cruising.

Friday, May 8, 2009

All roads lead to the MV DISCOVERY at Santorini. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2009.

If there ever was an example to prove the old adage, “Out of bad, comes good”, then the story of Santorini (also known as Thera) might be it. The aftermath of the eruption that caused the collapse of the nearly mile high Thera circa 1700 BC and sent a tsunami across the Mediterranean (largely blamed for the annihilation of the Minoan civilization) formed one of the most beautiful and dramatic places in the world. The backlit crescent of the once vast island’s outer wall lay off our port side as I inhaled an abbreviated breakfast, then joined a few friends on the 10:00 AM tender.


Springtime in Santorini, facing Oia.

On my prior visit, there were several ships anchored in the caldera and it was well over 100 degrees. Between the queue at the landing and the crowds at the top, it was almost enough to make me swear off the place but today was altogether different. DISCOVERY was the only vessel in port and it was a breezy 75 degrees or so. Add a rainbow of spring blossoms to the rugged, unparalleled beauty, and Santorini was redeemed!


Sardinia in Santorini.

We meandered back and forth between the slightly more crowded but infinitely more scenic cliffside path and the more direct but remote walk for a gradual climb along the stone and terra cotta-lined rim. Eventually, we reached the Blue Note Cafe for the ultimate view, encompassing all of the caldera and a fin-funneled white speck otherwise known as DISCOVERY.


Santorini strata.

Before long, we were winding back on the trail for a bit of shopping (hint, the shop at the tender landing had the best prices on tees and souvenirs) and a nice lunch featuring the necessary Greek specialties (villager’s salad, olive oil, and a garlic-laced eggplant dip that is otherwise known as baba ghanouj).


Open Magrodome.

Back aboard DISCOVERY in the early afternoon, the Magrodome was finally open all the way and the afterdecks were overflowing with sunbathers who were soaking up ten days’ worth of sunshine in one blistering dose. Lobster time!


Santorini sunset.

Maritime Memories’ Rod Anderton and Margery Booth invited a small group of us to their spacious suite for pre-dinner drinks before the lot of us stumbled out onto port Promenade Deck to watch as DISCOVERY sailed into the sunset.


Twisted sunset, Santorini.

Maybe it was Margery’s generously over-poured South African vintage I had so enthusiastically savored but the sun appeared to be splitting apart as it made its descent into the sea. Fortunately, I was not alone in my assessment. Even the camera shared in the intoxication.


Full moon fin.

I still have the HIMALAYA’s daily program from her final visit to Los Angeles on February 28, 1974. The thought for the day was “Wine, Women, Mirth and Laughter; Sermons and Soda the Day After”. With a slight variation or two on the theme, our cabal of mirth-seekers lived it up, enjoying a wonderful dinner, entertainment on aft Riviera Deck under a gloriously full moon and even a delicious late night snack in the Palm Court before retiring. The clock was ticking and we were not going to let another moment go to waste…

Saturday, May 9, 2009


EUROPAfest, part one: MV BLEU DE FRANCE (ex EUROPA) arrives at Mykonos.

DISCOVERY had just tied up at the relatively new Mykonos cruise terminal, when, arggh(!), a quick peek out the porthole meant I had to clamber, bed head et al, up on deck to capture the dawn arrival of the extraordinarily handsome Croisieurs de France’s BLEU DE FRANCE (ex EUROPA). She slowly approached, turned and glided majestically past, berthing just ahead of us.


EUROPAfest, part two: MV EUROPA arrives at Mykonos.

Quite extraordinarily, the current EUROPA, Hapag Lloyd’s 1999-built replacement for the EUROPA that became BLEU DE FRANCE, was the next to approach, although she proceeded to the anchorage off Mykonos town. “That’s the real EUROPA”, I hea
rd someone exclaim, pointing to the BLEU DE FRANCE. The only people insane enough to be out on deck at this time, were, of course, fellow ship enthusiasts. Still a bit dizzy from the prior night, I managed to sneak back down to cabin 4262 for a couple more hours of sleep.


DISCOVERY Dennis.

Applause to my cabin steward, Dennis, who had just returned to DISCOVERY after a short break visiting his family in the Philippines. Dennis, who always managed a smile and a warm greeting, was so patient with my inconsistent sleeping and eating patterns and somehow knew instinctively when to come straighten up my cabin. Before joining the DISCOVERY, he worked with Premier Cruises on the BIG RED BOATs II and III.


Mykonos harbor.

It was a perfect, sunny, warm day in beautiful Mykonos. The water was so stunningly clear and inviting, we decided to head off to legendary Paradise Beach for an afternoon swim.


Paradise Beach, Mykonos.

Thankfully, the jellyfish we had seen earlier in the cruise were nowhere in sight — they were probably put off by the absolutely frigid water. After a painfully slow baptism, I managed to swim a bit before crawling back to the pebbly beach.


Dusky vanishing point, Syros.

The cold, hard reality of packing took up the rest of the afternoon. Piraeus was a mere 98 nautical miles away, so DISCOVERY carried us reluctantly into the sunset, one final time. Des and his merry Maritime Memories cohorts, many of whom were continuing on for another two weeks to Harwich, came up to our dinner table and serenaded us with, “Always look on the bright side of life..badum, badum, badum, badum de dum…”

Sunday, May 10, 2009


MV DISCOVERY at Piraeus.

With the new contingent of passengers not scheduled to arrive until early evening, Voyages of Discovery thoughtfully allowed us to sleep in and disembark late in the morning upon arrival at Piraeus. This gave us time to eat and say good bye to a non-pareil cast of officers, crew and fellow passengers before heading to the nearby Glaros Hotel. It seemed like yesterday that we were in chilly Istanbul, standing at the rain-drenched rail, as DISCOVERY began her journey, a wondrous circuit through the Black and Aegean seas filled with new sights, friends and memories to forever savor.


Parthenia.

The next day, it wasn’t entirely over, although the fond little DISCOVERY was en route to Malta with our happy “replacements”.

Rob and I took a train to the Acropolis on a picture post card afternoon. Ironically, the clusters of tourists we navigated around were from Holland America’s OOSTERDAM, which was berthed in outer Piraeus.


On a clear day, you can see……..Athens!

On perhaps the clearest day I have ever witnessed in Athens, the views from the Acropolis were nothing short of stunning.


City On A Hill.

We hiked down a dusty, flower-fringed trail to the Agora for a parting view of the great symbol of Western Civilization then returned to Piraeus for dinner in Zea Marina.

The following morning, as we stepped onto the airport bus, the harbor was bustling. OCEAN VILLAGE II, MINERVA, GRAND MISTRAL and EASY CRUISE LIFE were at their respective berths as the rust-streaked MONA LISA returned from her Japan-based Peaceboat duties to “freshen up” prior to her summer German charter. Behind her, the massive CELEBRITY SOLSTICE loomed silently, a parting glint of sunlight beaming from her angular glassworks just as the bus hurtled us onward into the rush hour traffic.

Continued from prior blog, DISCOVERYng The Black Sea Blog by Peter Knego

Finalized June 4, 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

End

Very Special Thanks: Rod Anderton, Dr. Ata Bilgili, Margery Booth, Des and Ulla Cox, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Mark Flager, 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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