Penning The Ultimate ROSE Blog

Penning The Ultimate ROSE Blog

(Hail and Farewell to Saga Holiday’s SAGA ROSE)

Friday, October 2, 2009

The only thing that assuaged the grim reality of having to disembark the cozy, charming BLACK PRINCE after ten nights of carefree, nostalgic cruising was that we were heading directly over to Saga Holiday’s drop-dead gorgeous, 1965-built SAGA ROSE for an eight night segment of her penultimate cruise, a 28 night Black Sea Odyssey.

A ROSE awaits.

Please click on image to open a larger version. All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2009 unless otherwise noted.

The PRINCE’s hard-working and friendly cruise director Ronnie Finch was at the gangway bidding farewell as the exodus into Southampton’s City Terminal proceeded. We gathered our luggage and wheeled it off to the cab depot where a semi-disgruntled driver took us for a short ride over to Mayflower Terminal, letting us know he missed out on a much higher-paying fare by doing so. A few moments later, the lovely ROSE was looming over the scene, her sleek upper decks and rakish funnel gleaming beyond the grim shed that was once a portal to some of the world’s most interesting liners.


Reception, facing port/forward.

We were almost two hours earlier than anticipated, so we sat outside in the crisp air as the ROSE’s passengers disembarked. The arrival of “ace” Aberdeen-based shipping author and Glasgow University architecture professor Bruce Peter for his farewell visit to the former SAGAFJORD prompted us to try and board a bit early. Thankfully, cruise director Tanya Whitehurst gave us the thumbs up, although our cabin was not yet ready.


Suite 220, Korbing details.

We left our mounds of luggage in one of the foyer recesses and began our documenting spree in the ship’s accommodation. In the beautifully-paneled and still largely original suites, 220 and 218, on midships/starboard Upper Deck, I found the swooning Dr. Peter, enveloped in all the remaining bits of Kay Korbing-designed detail.


Saga Suite sitting are, facing forward.

With my handy pocket guide, I roamed all around to capture as many cabins and suites as possible. On a ship like the SAGA ROSE, the variety is astounding.

The sitting area of the dramatically-situated Saga Suite on forward starboard Sun Deck shares some stunning views over the ship’s prow along with its port side complement, the Vista Suite. This entire deck, which includes a block of verandah suites, was added to the ship in 1979, slightly spoiling her perfect profile but certainly assuring her a good deal more profitability and, thus, longevity.


Bruce Peter and Ann Haynes.

While I was clicking away at one of the staterooms on Officers Deck, a familiar voice called my name. Alas, it was Ann Haynes, the lovely author of “Union-Castle Purserette” and a future fellow blogger! Technical glitches with the HD video camera hampered my progress to the extent that I was sadly unable to join my traveling companion Mike, Ann and Bruce for a delicious curry lunch in the dining room but we did all manage a quick visit before they disembarked.


Britannia Lounge, facing port.

Once the cabins were covered, it was off to Veranda Deck to begin the sweep of public spaces, starting with the terraced, circular Britannia Lounge, originally the Kay Korbing-designed Garden Lounge from the ship’s SAGAFJORD days. With its 180 degree views, stepped down (and still original) white Italian marble dance floor, wood paneling and plush velvet seating, it is one of the most handsome public spaces afloat.


Library, facing forward.

Just aft, on the starboard side, there is a beautiful Library and gallery. A circular alcove is inset in its forward section, with original Canadian Rock Elm paneling and interesting, albeit slightly modified ceiling formations designed by Kay Korbing.


North Cape Bar, facing aft.

The Library’s port side complement, the North Cape Bar, has been changed a bit over the years but also sports some of its Canadian Rock Elm paneling. This trio of forward spaces is traversed by an elliptical stairtower lobby, also designed by Kay Korbing.


Steps in time.


Forward Veranda Deck lobby area, facing forward.

The forward stairs span five levels, from bottom to top: A Deck, Main Deck, Upper Deck, Veranda Deck and Promenade Deck. Its forward bulkhead is a striking juxtaposition of gold panels and slatted woodwork — utterly MidCentury Scandinavian. And the gently-curved and flared staircases are elegantly lit beneath each step, achieving a dramatic effect.


Ballroom, facing forward.

Veranda Deck continues aft via a large midships foyer with port and starboard vestibules that lead past the heavily rebuilt Shakespeare’s Card Room on the port side and the gift shop on the starboard side to the sweeping Ballroom, which is just large enough to host the ship’s full complement of passengers. The Finn Nilson-designed space has evolved considerably over the years but still sports sleek, back-lit recesses over its center. The lighting evolves from a soft palette of gold and pale violet in the daytime to a vibrant banding of red, neon blue and purple at night. Beyond the Ballroom, there is the Lido Cafe, which opens onto the stern terrace.


Ascent from Main to Upper Deck.

On aft Upper Deck, there is a spectacular lobby designed by Njal Eide and Fridtjof Platou, featuring an original gold-painted forged iron sculpture by Carl B. Gunnarson of ancient Viking craft, acid-etched anodized aluminum panels and a Y-shaped staircase that leads via a brass and glass balustrade and backlit steps down to the sweeping dining room.


Saga Dining Room, facing aft.


Totally random Saga Dining Room carpet shot.

The dining room, once a stark but stunningly modern Mid-20th Century space, originally featured ridges of anodized aluminum in its backlit ceiling and sleek Scandinavian furniture but was remodeled with Regency style crystal chandeliers by last owners, Cunard, circa 1994. Saga refreshed the soft fittings with a richer, deeper blue and replaced the heavy chandeliers with fiber optic lighting that resembles three hovering jellyfish.


Indoor pool, facing forward.

Down on C Deck, in the center of the bulkhead forward of the indoor pool, spa and gym area, there is one of the SAGA ROSE’s most interesting and beautiful original works of art, a vividly-colored abstract panel made of crushed glass.


Forward from aft Veranda Deck.

Although tempted by the aroma of curry and a chance to visit with my friends, I continued the exhaustive documenting spree in the limited window of time before embarkation began. Out on aft Veranda Deck, cushioned lounge chairs had been laid out with their backs to the stern.


Over stern from the top.

From the top deck, where there is a shuffleboard court, the view over the stern was a series of concentric curves.

Finally, with most of the ship covered and embarkation commencing, I laid down the cameras, grabbed some small tea sandwiches in the Lido and checked in with reception for our cabin keys. As I was joining the ship as a guest lecturer, my cabin assignment was pending on what space was available at the time of sailing and, I was advised, could even change after the sailing if another passenger requested it.


Cabin 283, facing port.

We were given 283, a spacious inside on aft/starboard Upper Deck. I liked the location since the open fantail was just a few steps away and there was immediate access to the Lido, just above. It featured four tall closets, a rosewood dresser and night stand, two twin beds, individually-controlled air conditioning, a television and telephone. Saga also provides use of binoculars and an assortment of DVDs.


Cabin 283 bathroom.

The bathroom was well-designed with plenty of toiletry racks and a half-tub. A nice assortment of Temple Spa amenities (shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and moisturizer) was also provided.


Bow thrusting.

At 4:00 PM, the authoritative and welcoming voice of SAGA ROSE’s popular Captain David Warden-Owen rang across the tannoy, advising all on board that the ship was ready to depart Southampton and, so that we could enjoy the sail-away, the scheduled boat drill would be pushed back to 5:00 PM. Soon, the ship began to rumble, gangways were detached and lines cast. SAGA ROSE had begun her penultimate voyage…


Ultimate PRINCE awakening.

As we glided out towards the Solent, I could see that BLACK PRINCE was loosening her lines, a few faint puffs of black smoke billowing from her funnel. The PRINCE was ready to leave on her final voyage, a three week trek through to the Atlantic Isles, the destination she was originally built to cruise. As the ROSE neared, the two former Scandinavian rivals exchanged a farewell triple whistle salute.


MV MARCO POLO at Southampton.

At the Ocean Terminal, the 1965-built MARCO POLO (ex ALEXANDR PUSHKIN), a ship whose graceful lines were inspired by the SAGAFJORD, prepared to sail. Of the handful of active vintage passenger ships left in the world, three were in Southampton on this special day. And, thankfully, in various vantages such as Town Quay, Hythe Pier and Spithead, there were enthusiastic cameras poised to capture the sheered procession.


PRINCE awake.


Muster cluster.

With Hythe on our starboard side and BLACK PRINCE a mile or so astern, drill officially began.


BLACK PRINCE passes onward through the Solent as SAGA ROSE turns into the Needles.

Afterwards, Captain Warden-Owen announced we would be sailing along the western shores of the Isle of Wight, past the Needles, in lieu of the usual route past Spithead.


Roast Corn-Fed Chicken Breast Stuffed with Ricotta Cheese and Spinach with Port Wine Gravy and Fondant Potatoes.

After a short introductory cocktail party with the other guest lecturers, musicians and entertainers hosted by the cruise director, we unpacked and headed down to dinner.

On the SAGA ROSE, there is just one seating between 6:45 and 9:00 PM. Table settings include elegant white china with angular silver plate cutlery, starched linen napkins and handsome blue and white chargers. Our waiters, Pampi and Rafael, introduced themselves and presented the Embarkation Night menu, featuring four courses (appetizer, soup, salad and a main course) along with vegetarian, “plain and simple” and “always available” options. I went with the cream of broccoli soup, salad with pine nuts and the delicious chicken main course.


Tart dessert.

Dessert was a supremely delicious, warm baked almond tart with custard. I was bonding instantly with the ship’s pastry chef. But that was not the end of it….


Petits fours.

Petits fours included marzipan, brandy pogens, coconut chewies and chocolate mini-cakes. And if that did not warrant an insulin shot, the crispy chocolate mints on the way out would surely do the trick!

The Welcome On Board show was a brief but promising indication of what lay ahead. The eight member cast of the Six Star Production Team, the Classical Fenyo Trio and various guest entertainers worked their magic, and then we were off. Me to the shipboard internet cafe for a first and last attempt (after some 45 minutes at 20 pence per minute, I was able to send just one e-mail) and Mike to the cabin for a good night’s sleep. I eventually followed suit.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

“STUGERON 1.5 Miligrams: Take two tablets initially, then 1 tablet every 8 hours for seasickness only” read the sticker on the envelope I obtained at Reception before retiring. But there was no movement aside from a barely tangible roll and a slight vibration from the SAGA ROSE’s screws, several deck levels below us. Were we not in the Bay of Biscay, the dreaded seas that turned me hopelessly green on the likes of FUNCHAL, VICTORIA (ex KUNGSHOLM) and ALBATROS (ex SYLVANIA)?


Noel, cabin attendant extraordinaire.

A polite tap on the door at 10:00 signaled the delivery of our muesli, tea and juice by Noel, excellent cabin attendant and “Filipino Lon Chaney” of vocal inflections. The cheerful and comedic Noel is an actor and has appeared on Philippine television, or so I was told by his comrades.

The fact that the orange juice on SAGA ROSE is fresh-squeezed is just one of about a million reasons I was happy this morning.

The Bay of Biscay was on its very best behavior, indeed! Instead of lying prone or spacing out on the seasick pills as planned, I was able to actually participate in life. Up on aft Veranda Deck, there were thin streaks of clouds above the SAGA ROSE’s faint diesel plume and the breeze was steady but only slightly cool. Far off on the port horizon, ARCADIA was passing northbound — they definitely had the better view.


A quick break in the flow of Biscay promenadin
g.


Promenade post.

My attempts to photograph Promenade Deck created a bit of a nuisance. The full wrap-around pine and teak passage was in constant use — not unlike the 405 (California’s version of the M-1) at commuter time.


Biryani.

After destinations lecturer John Skinner’s excellent talk on Vigo in the Grand Ballroom, I was off to the nether world of C Deck for a round of laundry (eight washers and dryers and detergent are provided free of charge). Once all the bits were hung or folded, lunch in the lovely dining room included that magnificent chicken biryani I missed on the prior day. Good Karma? Even better Korma!


Basking in the Bay.

The photography lecture in the Theater at 3:45 by the award-winning Dr. Philip Lawson and Janet Edwards was entertaining, informative and well-received. Following tea, even in the late afternoon, most deck chairs were occupied by sun worshippers not missing a chance to bask in the very unlikely Bay of Biscay.


Gym, facing forward.

I squeezed in a quick workout, then managed to get back up topsides to savor the salt air and the SAGA ROSE’s seductive open decks.


Starboard Promenade facing aft.

All in all, it was a perfect, relaxing first day at sea on the still very radiant ROSE.


Captain David’s welcome.

At 6:15, there was the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party in the Grand Ballroom. Nary a seat was to be found, so we contented ourselves with standing in the back while the good master charmed the ship’s full complement with his humor, cheer and a toast. Captain David Warden-Owen (a Cunard and Shaw Savill alumnus) and his wife Beverley live in Anglesey, North Wales and are much loved and respected by guests and crew alike. Even the brochures for the ROSE’s farewell season advertised he would take the ship on her two final voyages. These fiercely loyal passengers would not have it any other way.


ROSY sunset.

Before dinner, it was nice to get some wind in our tuxes via a quick stroll around the promenade, lingering in the aftermath of a spectacular sunset on the fantail. After dinner, it was up to the Grand Ballroom again for the show, a well-done Broadway-style romp by the Sixth Star Singers and Dancers and then an impressive mini-symphony by the String Idols, two strikingly-talented and beautiful violinists.


Starboard Promenade, facing aft.

Following another walk around the promenade, we finished off in the Britannia Lounge with Crepes Suzettes, flambéed with flair in the room’s circular center, and served with dollops of ice cream. Not so great for sleep or the waistline but you only live once…

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Vigo, Spain.

The main attraction of Vigo, a quaint sardine fishing port in a fjord on the northern Atlantic coast of Spain, is Santiago de Compostela, the huge Gothic cathedral dating from 400 AD. Not so keen on a 90 mile bus ride to Galicia, I was looking forward to just uploading images and text to finish off the last blog and then, perhaps, wandering Vigo’s hilly streets for a bit of local color.


Variations of Vigo.

As the weather deteriorated into a gloomy mist and since it was a Sunday, most of the cafes and shops were closed. The result: two hours of growling at my computer as it refused to “accept” the wifi in the cruise terminal and another hour of canvassing the local shops and hotels until, finally, UPLOAD!


MV SAGA ROSE at Vigo.


Curves and camber.


Funnel font.


Birds and bollards.

It was time to head back to the ship. Fortunately, I had taken images of SAGA ROSE’s gracious curves from various vantages prior to whittling away the day in front of the computer screen.


Reflections of ROSE.

Vigo’s waterfront is a picturesque combination of new and old, ordinary and exquisite.


Vigo “Liner” Building: SATURNIA?

One of my favorite bits of Vigo’s architecture is adjacent to the cruise terminal. The “Real Club Nautico” is a classic Deco building that appears to have been inspired by the Cosulich liners, SATURNIA and VULCANIA.


Reflections on ROSE.

With all aboard by 4:30, SAGA ROSE cast her lines shortly thereafter, turning in an arc on a southbound course. She gave the pilot boat a gusty three whistle salute before the rain began to fall in earnest. The usual routine of a workout before dinner (this time taken in the Lido), followed by the show (a revue by the Sixth Star troupe) and then some time in the cabin sorting out more computer issues put a finish on night three…

Monday, October 5, 2009

A trio of sea days had just begun. SAGA ROSE passed Gibraltar in the wee hours and was now on an eastbound course through the lower Mediterranean with Tunisia off her starboard side.

At 10:00 AM, it was standing room only for Philip and Janet’s second photography lecture in the Cinema. They shared some sensible and entertaining tips with an eager audience and were taking submissions for two ongoing digital displays in the Library. Well done, indeed!

After stopping by the cruise director’s office, I found out that all three of my suggested ocean liner lectures would be scheduled in the short time before our disembarkation on the 10th, so there was to be no wine at dinner and only the occasional “petits ones and twos” from today onwards. I could blame neither sugar nor booze if the brain cells didn’t cooperate.


ROSE colored glasses.

After lunch in the Lido, I was off to the cabin to brush up on my lectures, then to the gym for a workout, followed by the usual rounds of tea, dinner, sunset gawking and the show, a fine performance by London-based soprano Fiona Jessica Wilson.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Saga Theater, facing forward/starboard.

I felt a bit terrified this morning after attending Dr. David Baker’s inspirational “Messages From The Moon” presentation. Kudos to his splendid PowerPoint deus ex machina discussing the future of the American Space Program and what it has contributed to our daily lives. Powerful and heady stuff, indeed. Taking it into account with John Skinner’s anecdotal and rich destination enlightenments, the photography lectures and the general high standard of entertainment on the SAGA ROSE, my presentational skills would be put to the test in due course.


Christian at the controls!

Despite a few glitches in the Keynote (Mac) to Powerpoint (PC) conversion of my presentation entitled “International Style At Sea” at 2:00 PM, I was blessed with a very kind and willing audience in the Cinema as I discussed the evolution in passenger ship interior decor from the Victorian to the Modern Era. For this, I am hugely grateful to Stage Managers Christian Medina and Cesar Talens for doing such a good job of “wiring me up” and providing me with a nifty laser pointer.

It resulted in several visits with friendly fellow passengers who wanted to discuss their appreciation of the great liners and their design. I was hugely relieved that I did not sink like a stone under the harlequin-patterned ceiling in the Georges Peynet-designed Cinema but there were still two more talks to go before I could rest on any laurels.


Stern wing sunset.

The winds were following as we took dinner en plein air on the stern terrace. Nary a leaf of my top-heavy salad fluttered as the vanquished sun turned the skies into the most dramatically brilliant twilight of the past fortnight.

A small epiphany at dinner sent me scrambling back to the cabin for a last-minute alteration to the morn’s presentation. Entitled “Scandinavian Beauties”, it was to feature the ships of Norwegian America Line and Swedish American Line. I decided to drop the latter (Garbo anecdotes and all) and devised a quick “Heritage Trail” look at SAGA ROSE’s vintage features. Once it had been burned onto a stick and delivered to ever-patient Christian, I was able to catch the second half of the brilliant classical concerto by the Fenyo Trio in the Grand Ballroom. The soothing strains of Saint-Saens and Tchaikovsky filled my dreams as the ROSE gently hummed along.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Smoked salmon for brain power and a cappuccino for alertness, and then it was off to the Cinema to deliver “Scandinavian Beauties” to a packed house at 10:00 AM. Even cruise director Tanya Whitehurst seemed a little shocked by the turn out. The lo
vely, thoroughly engaged and engaging audience made it an everlasting highlight of my short time on the SAGA ROSE. My tribute to NAL, and, especially SAGAFJORD/SAGA ROSE’s designers Kaare Haug and Kay Korbing went over well, indeed. So many passengers since told me how I made them appreciate in a tangible way what was so special about the ship’s physical characteristics.


Stairtower style.


Dining door details.

Begging Garbo’s pardon, I delighted in watching throughout the day as SAGA ROSE fans combed the stairtowers and public rooms, taking photos of some of the features they had previously taken for granted. MidCentury artworks, acid-etched aluminum panels, doorknobs and Orrefors crystal light fixtures were no longer just a part of the backdrop. They were being understood and appreciated all over again.


Jazz brunch preparations in the Ballroom.


Jazz in the Ballroom.


Lunch in the Ballroom.


Dessert in the Ballroom.

I shed my suit and beelined it to the Ballroom, where a magnificent Jazz Brunch was in progress. Quel event, with grand ice sculptures, caviar and beautifully presented and delicious offerings throughout the room. As the band played a nostalgic set of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and other Big Band greats, I dolloped various treats onto my plate and ate quickly.


Chief Engineer Frank Little in SAGA ROSE’s engine control room.

Although he did not come to his first bona fide cruise ship, the SAGA ROSE, until 2005, Chief Engineer Frank Little is a seasoned veteran of the sea. Born and raised in Scotland, his home is now in New Zealand with his wife, four children and a deer farm. Frank joined Shell Tankers in 1971, serving aboard mainly steam-powered tankers and then switched to refrigerated cargo ships before taking a land-based job in New Zealand with the Maritime Safety Authority. Eventually, Frank returned to sea, serving on several U.K.-based fast ferries before joining the ROSE.


Sulzer platform, facing forward.

After meeting in Reception, we stopped in the control room to don earplugs, then visited the green-enameled machinery spaces where Frank patiently explained just what we were looking at. Twin nine cylinder Sulzer diesels are the SAGA ROSE’s primary source of power, capable of producing a maximum break horsepower of 24,000. After 43 years, they are still in fine form and during my brief time on the ship, were driving her at average speeds of up to 18 knots.


Starboard shaft alley, facing aft.

The generators, stabilizers, machine shop, air conditioning and de-salination plants, shaft alley and the steering compartment were all included. It was truly incredible to experience the ship’s power plant in action and I am thoroughly grateful for this rare visit to the heart of such an important and beloved ship.


Starboard Promenade Deck, facing aft.

Needless to say, the winds on the promenade were refreshing after the swelter of the machines.


SAGA ROSE Wheelhouse, facing starboard.


Aft from starboard wing.

I retrieved my tripod and then joined hostess Emily for a quick visit to Capain David Warden-Owen and his wife, Beverley in their quarters. It was great to spend time with the man who is so well-known and respected for his tenures with Cunard and Saga. The good captain also very kindy granted my requests to visit the wheelhouse and fo’c’sle, a special treat since even during my many visits to the ship as SAGAFJORD, I never managed to gain access to these off-limits vantages.


Bell on bridge.

I was thrilled to find the original SAGAFJORD bell on the port wing. At some point in its 44 year life span, the bronze beauty appears to have been damaged and repaired.


Facing the FJORD.

Alas, the late afternoon backlight made the fo’c’sle views a bit more atmospheric than representational and the winds made mince of my videography. However, it was quite a thrill to be on that magnificently long and well-proportioned bow as it plunged into the moderate seas. Peter, the young cadet officer accompanying me, had a polite look of horror on his face as I extended the DV camera and tripod through the hawsers for that vertiginous view of the “ROSE nose” cutti
ng through the gurgle…


Over stern from the top.

Even with such a full agenda, there was time to hover over the stern and admire the view of the deepening Mediterranean blue.

Early that evening, we accompanied Frank and the chief electrician for a visit with Captain David and Beverley, soaking up some colorful and salty seagoing reminiscences before finally hurtling ourselves to the dining room just in time for last call. All in all, a perfect day at sea that I will savor for many, many years….

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Maltese sunrise.

On the morning of August 15, 1942, the tanker SS OHIO limped into Malta’s Grand Harbor after being assaulted by German bombers and torpedoes that wreaked havoc on her Operation Pedestal convoy, which set out from the U.K. to deliver desperately needed supplies to the island nation. The badly-damaged ship discharged its crude and sank upright with a broken back in the middle of the harbor (she was eventually raised in two sections and scuttled after the war). In Malta, the OHIO is still fondly remembered and celebrated for her historic plight. Among her distinguished, heroic crew, was Captain David Warden-Owen’s father…


Dawning of Valletta.

The SAGA ROSE’s good captain arranged to pick up the pilot at 7:00, delaying our arrival ever so slightly so that we could witness the approach to Malta’s Grand Harbor just as the rising sun turned the east-facing embankments of its largest city, Valletta, a shadowed orange. There was a hush on the forward observation deck as our majestic ship slowly glided over the basin where the OHIO succumbed.


The ROSE shadowing Valletta.

Soon, our approaching silhouette darkened the quay. Named for La Valette, the grand master of the Order of the Knights of St. John, Valletta was founded in 1565.


Valletta variations.

Off our port side, the impatient Finnlines ro/ro EUROFERRY SICILIA refused to wait for our maneuvers to be completed, overcoming us at a near distance to spin around in the basin and dock across the harbor. Meanwhile, on the starboard side, the tranquil waters reflected striations of pastel stucco.


MV DILBAR and MV SAGA ROSE at Malta.

As the Russian super yacht DILBAR berthed behind us, we enjoyed a quick breakfast in the Lido. Then, we were off on the Valletta In Depth tour, which, after a short ride to the city gate atop the hill overlooking Grand Harbor, was all on foot.


Morning moon at Malta.

Our well-informed guide was high-spirited and articulate. We crossed the city square past the ruins of the Opera House (which has not been rebuilt since its bombing in World War Two). The moon lingered over the head of an ancient figure atop a stone archway. Bacchus?


Bands of gold over St. John’s Co-Cathedral.


Maltese Co-cross.

The highlight of the tour was a visit to St. John’s Co-Cathedral, one of the most ornate in Europe, adorned in hand-painted frescoes, gold leaf, bronze, lapis and rare marbles.


Knightly wall of St. John’s Co-Cathedral.

Different alcoves of the cathedral represent various crusading nations. I particularly like one nook with a frieze of Maltese crosses and floral crests. Caravaggio’s renowned painting of the beheading of John the Baptist is displayed in a smaller chapel where photography is strictly forbidden.


Marble floor-ishings.

We were told skull depictions in the marble floors are memorials to the fallen and that full skeletons are actual graves of the Knights of St John. All of the marble will eventually be covered in plexiglas to prevent further wear from visiting feet.


Maltese luncheon.

We were back on the SAGA ROSE in time for a wonderful deck BBQ lunch accompanied by The Saga Rose Orchestra and the Prime Attraction Trio.


MV SAGA ROSE at Malta.

With the sun now hovering over the ship’s starboard side, I had just enough time to clamber with cameras up to the park overlooking Grand Harbor for some spectacular views of the beautifully lit ROSE in her stone and sea surroundings.


Maltese maneuvers.

Once back on board, it was up to the bridge for the honor of watching Captain Warden-Owen and the pilot swing the ROSE’s stern to port and pivot out of Grand Harbor.


Compass and Vittoriosio.

As we sailed past, Vittorioso was a fascinating, rugged contrast of light and shadow.


Funnel nape.

Afterwards, I visited SAGA ROSE’s monkey island for views of the sculpted mast and funnel…


Sunset on monkey island.

…lingering until sunset, savoring every golden moment.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The final sea day was spent packing and preparing for my 3:15 presentation, “Beautiful British Liners”, a tribute to the unheralded RMMV AUREOL and the RMS WINDSOR CASTLE, finishing off with a look at their remnants. With a galley tour and fantastic weather on the fantail vying for the crowds, I was happy to have such a good final turn out.

It all came and went too quickly, this slice of life on the glorious SAGA ROSE. I’m thrilled and honored to have participated in it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Piraeus ROSE.

SAGA ROSE slipped into Piraeus at 3:00 AM and tied up along the west side of the main passenger terminal. I awoke at 6:45, hoping to catch the arrivals on a busy morning but COSTA ROMANTICA, SEA DREAM I, STAR FLYER, CALYPSO and WIND SPIRIT (I could not see SEABOURN ODYSSEY around the outer bend at Kanellos) were already berthed. I eventually went back to sleep, re emerging at 10:30 to grab some green tea in the Lido, spilling it all over myself and the counter in an awkward morning moment, just as the good captain introduced his visiting friend, the captain of SEA DREAM I (and former captain of the SAGAFJORD). As Captain Warden-Owen was a former master of the SEA DREAM I in her SEA GODDESS I days, it was a complementary switch of roles for the two. Late morning tea spillings aside, I am thoroughly grateful to Captain Warden-Owen for his, Beverley’s and Chief Engineer Frank Little’s hospitality and all the access they granted during my brief time on board.


Perama: ”BERGIE’s” Bay of Rest. The former 1957-built BERGENSFJORD (distant center) still lies on her side off Skaramanga after catching fire and capsizing on August 27, 1980.

After lunch, Mike and I rolled our luggage over to the Glaros Hotel, stopping for a moment to watch the COSTA ROMANTICA depart. Once at the hotel, I had planned on getting caught up on e-mails and this blog but the wifi was not working.

The ship gods apparently had something in store, so we decided to venture off to Perama for the princely sum of 1 Euro on the 843 bus. As there were no kiosks open (bus tickets are for some strange reason not sold on the buses, themselves), the exasperated driver allowed us to ride for free on the way over. En route, a couple of noteworthy distractions made me rule out taking the ferry over to Perama, where I had originally hoped to get new photos of the capsized wreck of SAGA ROSE’s one time fleetmate, the RASA SAYANG (ex BERGENSFJORD) off Skaramanga.


MONARCH blues at Perama.

The first distraction, now defunct Monarch Classic Cruises’ 1966-built BLUE MONARCH (ex RENAISSANCE, HOMERIC RENAISSANCE, WORLD RENAISSANCE, AWANI DREAM, GRAND VICTORIA) was berthed in the midst of ro/ros and ferries, awaiting the inevitable. In 2007, I spent a week in the Aegean on this quaint ship. With SOLAS 2010 and a weak local cruising market, her future looks rather bleak, indeed.


MV AEGEAN ODYSSEY at Drapetsona.

After finding an open kiosk for the return ticket, we took the 483 back as far as Drapetsona, where I sprinted over to a remote quay for photos of the AEGEAN ODYSSEY in the process of rebuilding. The ship was originally built in 1973 as Zim Lines’ ro/ro ferry NARCIS but was converted into the cruise ship AEGEAN DOLPHIN in 1988.


ODYSSEY in progress.

Most recently known as AEGEAN I, the vessel was tied up in ownership skirmishes until being sold to Gerry Herrod last year. He renamed her AEGEAN ODYSSEY and is now transforming her for his new venture, Voyages to Antiquity, with delivery date set next Spring.


MV AEGEAN ODYSSEY funnel and trident.

I couldn’t help but admire the new company logo, a variation of Poseidon’s trident, which is not unlike the Greek Line crown. But I’m still debating whether I prefer the angular new funnel to its slightly smaller, more curvaceous predecessor.


MV CALYPSO exits.

We made it back to Piraeus for the day’s great exodus, just catching the SEA DREAM I underway some fifteen minutes earlier than her scheduled 6:00 PM sailing time. Meanwhile, Louis Cruises’ 1968-built CALYPSO (ex CANGURO VERDE, etc.), which finishes up her long term charter to Thomson Holidays this season, was freed of her moorings and backed into the turning basin while I followed her into the outer harbor.


STAR FLYER at Piraeus.

STAR FLYER followed, looking utterly majestic as she caught the last of the sun in her bowsprit and rigging, a fine ribbon of diesel smoke emitting from her aft mast.


Penultimate Piraeus Parting.

At 7:00 PM, SAGA ROSE’s passengers were due back. As the sun was literally on the horizon, I gave up hope of capturing the lovely lady under way until the reassuring voice of Captain Warden-Owen rang over the tannoy. “Well, it appears everyone is now back on board, so with the pilot embarked, we are ready for departure.” With the help of a tug at her stern, the ROSE began to back majestically out of her slip.


Sailing into the sunset.

Her decks devoid of all but a few passengers, the SAGA ROSE silently sailed past and into the embers of another beautiful sunset. If this was to be my last view of her, then it was the very best one I could have asked for.


Post Piraeus partings.

For a very brief moment, Piraeus glowed, then faded into the dusk…

Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Lindsay Frost, Grant Laversuch, Frank Little, Michael J. Masino, Christian Medina, John Skinner, Captain David and Beverley Warden-Owen

End of Penning the Ultimate ROSE Blog. Finalized October 21, 2009.

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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