Trekked and Decked!: 2010

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On the eve of what promises to be a very exciting 2011, here is a recap of the interesting year that was 2010.

The cruise industry held its own against a tough economy and some rather unfavorable press including rough seas (LOUIS MAJESTY’s encounter with a rogue wave in the Western Mediterranean; CLELIA II’s distressed Drake Passage; BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS tumultuous tossing off Alexandria) and the CARNIVAL SPLENDOR’s fire-induced flirtation with disaster off Baja California.

The latest and most stringent SOLAS amendments thus far forced two of the last classics, the 1966-built MONA LISA (ex KUNGSHOLM) and the 1960-built KRISTINA REGINA, from active service and landed the retired 1966-built BLUE MONARCH (ex RENAISSANCE), 1964-built SAGA ROSE (ex SAGAFJORD) and 1957-built IVORY (ex AUSONIA) in the sledgehammer-wielding arms of shipbreakers.

Despite the carnage, it was an exciting year in terms of newbuilds, which included a new Cunard QUEEN, the one off and controversial NORWEGIAN EPIC, a new NIEUW AMSTERDAM, the inspired CELEBRITY ECLIPSE, the dynamic DISNEY DREAM and, of course, the largest passenger ship ever built, the ALLURE OF THE SEAS.

My personal journey included shipyard visits, attending inaugurals and bidding farewell to graceful old favorites.

CONTE BIANCAMANO superstructure at Milan.

It began in February at Milan, on a gloomy afternoon visit to the Museum of Science and Technology to see the brilliantly preserved remains of the elegant CONTE BIANCAMANO, featured in the year’s first Decked! installment: CONTE BIANCAMANO Decked!

MV LOUIS MAJESTY sails into the night.

From Milan, it was a short coach trip through the snow-capped Apennines to Genoa to board Louis Cruises’ newest and largest ship, the LOUIS MAJESTY, for a cruise to the Western Mediterranean and North African Coast: LOUIS MAJESTY To Iberia

Roberto Bruzzone in his office at Monfalcone.

Next stop, Trieste, for an all-too-short visit with the talented and kind Maurizio Eliseo, who escorted me to the legendary Monfalcone shipyard now owned and operated by Fincantieri. At the former Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico, I was introduced to Carnival’s newbuild supervisor, Roberto Bruzzone, who was in charge of every aspect of construction of three massive new cruise ships: Cunard’s QUEEN ELIZABETH, P&O’s AZURA and Carnival’s CARNIVAL MAGIC. There was time for a brief interview with this accomplished maritime prodigy, who at the time was a mere 33 years old.

MV CARNIVAL MAGIC at Fincantieri's Monfalcone shipyard.

In the drydock that was once the slipway where such sculpted hulls as the EUGENIO C, AUSONIA and OCEANIC were launched, the new CARNIVAL MAGIC was in the earliest stages of construction.

QUEEN ELIZABETH at Monfalcone.

In the basin across the way, the structurally complete QUEEN ELIZABETH was being painted and fitted out. Sea trials and her much-anticipated debut were mere months away.

MV AZURA at the San Marco drydock, Trieste.

Out next stop was the San Marco shipyard in Trieste, where P&O’s AZURA was between trials, high and dry, in the process of painting and final fitting before being handed over to her new owners.

Bulbous shadow at Trieste.

We walked between the blocks underneath the AZURA’s massive hull in the same yard that built a number of great Italian beauties, including the long-lived Lloyd Triestino VICTORIA of 1953, later the missionary ship ANASTASIS.

MV MARINA shipbuilding team gathered at Sestri Ponente.

I cherished my time in Trieste with Maurizio, who is as kind as he is brilliant (I hope to write a “Retro Trek” about the visit at some point) but another famous Italian shipyard beckoned.

MV MARINA at Sestri Ponente.

Oceania Cruises’ gorgeous MV MARINA, first of a pair of spacious newbuilds, was readying for her float out at Fincantieri’s Sestri Ponente facility (the Genoa adjacent birthplace of great liners such as ANDREA DORIA, LEONARDO DA VINCI and GRIPSHOLM). The structurally complete vessel was a mere shell at the time, although she promises to be one of the most elegant ships of the next decade when she debuts in early 2011.

MV RIVIERA steel cutting begins at Sestri Ponente.

And, just as MARINA was ready to depart her berth, her twin, the 2012-due RIVIERA, was being conceived with a ceremonial steel cutting in a nearby warehouse. For the full story, click here: MV MARINA Float Out

Tendering toward the WINNER 5 at Alang.
SS WINNER 5 at Alang.
MONT broken at Alang.

There was not much time to rest after that winter whirlwind through Italy’s shipbuilding capitals as a much beloved former Italian liner made her way to the Indian shipbreaking beach of Alang/Sosiya. Nothing has had a more profound effect on my life than my visits to Alang, which are as spiritual and enlightening as they are stressful, confounding and heartbreaking. Here is the first part of my blog from there, including an unanticipated overnight stay on board the ex AUSONIA just prior to her demolition as well as dramatic views of the MONT (ex VIKING JAHRE, etc.), the largest ship ever scrapped at Alang: .Alang Again, Naturally 2010 — Part One

Discoverying Erminio Lozzi's painting from MV JASON at Alang.

March 2010 aerial view of Alang/Sosiya.

The second part of my Alang story included the usual round of visits to the traders, a look at a couple of other classic passenger ships in their dying days and a long distance glimpse of the broken and abandoned former INDEPENDENCE off nearby Gopnath: Alang Again, Naturally 2010 — Part Two


I wasn’t home for long before hearing, much to my surprise, that the last of the P2 tropp transports, the twin funneled GENERALs, were already being prepared for their final voyages to the scrapyards of Brownsville, TX. I had just arranged for a midsummer visit to the PATRICK and POPE at their longtime layup berths in Suisuin Bay, so it was a shock to learn the PATRICK had already left and was now in the stocks at the BAE shipyard in San Francisco, getting a hull cleaning before being towed onward to Brownsville, TX. Despite my many attempts, this is the “ship that got away” as far as a visit was concerned, although the good people at BAE did allow me a very quick walk underneath her graceful keel. I returned to San Francisco to document the PATRICK’s departure under the Golden Gate: Pursuing The USNS GENERAL EDWIN D. PATRICK

USNS GENERAL JOHN POPE returns to her element.

Luck was more on my side with the GENERAL POPE. I donned gloves, goggles and a a shiny yellow hard hat to join a team of linesmen in the very early morning hours to help “disengage” the POPE from her moorings and ride the ship for several hours on her passage to BAE. I posted a series of reports from the POPE, including a her “undocking” and final passage under the Golden Gate:


Passage of the POPE.


Passage Of The USNS GENERAL JOHN POPE, Part Three


My fling with Italy was not quite over. I embarked Voyages To Antiquity’s AEGEAN ODYSSEY for a short cruise from Civitavecchia to Palermo: AEGEAN ODYSSEY to Antiquity, Part One

Temple Of Hera, Paestum.

I enjoyed seeing a few new places, including the spectacular ruins of Paestum: AEGEAN ODYSSEY To Antiquity, Part Two

Although the ship was not quite ready for prime time, many of the kinks I experienced have since been worked out and happily the handsome little AEGEAN ODYSSEY is now beginning to carve a pleasant cruising niche of her own: AEGEAN ODYSSEY To Antiquity, Part Three

Teak topped QM2.

Back at home in Southern California, I began to prepare for the arrival of the next container full of items salvaged from the breakers and traders of Alang, which had just departed Indian shores. In the meantime, there was a trip to New York to see one of the most interesting and even controversial newbuilds to come along in years, NCL’s NORWEGIAN EPIC. But first, there was a day on the now venerable QM2 to celebrate ocean liner historian Bill Miller via producer/director Robert Neal Marshall’s “Mr. Ocean Liner” gala video premiere.  Mr. Ocean Liner Premiere On Board MV QUEEN MARY 2

Arrival of the MV NORWEGIAN EPIC at New York.

A two night cruise on the NORWEGIAN EPIC barely allowed time to cover the massive ship’s myriad facilities, let alone experience the dining and entertainment options: NORWEGIAN EPIC: Dawning Of A New Norwegian Epoch

Stacking the decks atop the EPIC.

And here is the link to the first of four Decked! installments covering the ship from top to bottom: Quadruple Decked!: MV NORWEGIAN EPIC, Part One

MV PHILIPPINES at Manila in 1999.

With MaritimeMatters’ transition from various hosts and servers over the years, it was time to revive a favorite Decked! detailing the 1951-built AUGUSTUS, now the well-preserved MS PHILIPPINES: Double Decked!: MV AUGUSTUS, Part One

MV AURORA cutting through the seas.

And, once more, the Bay Area beckoned. I was invited on board the 1955-built MV AURORA for her transfer from the Sacramento Delta town of Rio Vista to a berth along the San Francisco waterfront. The long voyage included a mid-bay circling in a zodiac to get footage of this yachtlike beauty “in action”:New Dawn For MV AURORA: Off The Delta and On The Waterfront

The beginning of what will be a two part Decked! feature was launched shortly thereafter: Double Decked! MV AURORA, Part One

Swedish American Line postcard of the "new" KUNGSHOLM.

Meanwhile, another favorite classic, the former KUNGSHOLM of 1966, was wrapping up her seagoing career as MONA LISA in the German cruise market. Fortunately, she managed to cheat the breakers for a stint in Oman as a floating workers hotel but her long term future still remains somewhat in doubt: Double Decked!: MV MONA LISA, Part One

Container full of fittings from scrapped ocean liners arrives in California.
SS AUSONIA Giovanni Majoli "Hunting In Ancient Egypt" Panel unwrapped.
Living room stacked with SS HAMBURG, SS OLYMPIA and SS AUSONIA fittings.

In August, the container arrived. Fortunately, a cabal of dear friends and able workers were at hand to disgorge its contents, which included some very important artwork, fittings and furniture from the AUSONIA, OLYMPIA and HAMBURG as well as the DALMACIJA, MERMOZ and JASON.

There was no time for a full blog, although one may come in the future. For the next month or two, it was time to dust, polish and photograph a catalogue of treasures for inclusion on my own website, MidShipCentury.

Fanfare for the QUEEN at Southampton.
HM Queen Elizabeth prior to christening the QUEEN ELIZABETH.

In October, the treks began anew with a magnificent trip to Southampton to greet Cunard’s new QUEEN ELIZABETH. The Queen, herself, was on hand for the christening, a moving and goose bump-inducing affair that only Cunard could execute: QUEEN ELIZABETH Preview And Naming At Southampton

QUEEN ELIZABETH at Southampton.

And, of course, a trio of Decked! pages followed, illustrating the new QUEEN from top to bottom: Triple Decked!: MV QUEEN ELIZABETH, Part One

MV WIND SPIRIT at Santorini.
Afternoon in Oia.

Days later, another series of adventures began with a sailing on Windstar Cruises magical MV WIND SPIRIT from Istanbul to Piraeus via the Greek Islands: Wayward On The WIND SPIRIT


WIND SPIRIT is Decked! here: MV WIND SPIRIT Decked!

THE EMERALD exhales!

Upon my return to Piraeus, the good people at Louis Cruises were kind enough to arrange a nostalgic visit to the SS THE EMERALD at her layup berth in Eleusis. The chief engineer even fired up the ship’s generators to light up the public rooms and gave me a tour of the machinery spaces. There was even time for a run to Petrola to see the wreck of the MEDITERRANEAN SKY, which will apparently be broken up in situ shortly.  THE EMERALD Of Eleusis and Piraeus to Petrola-ing

Welcome aboard the MV EUROPA.
MV EUROPA bone in teeth.

Back in Piraeus, I boarded Hapag-Lloyd’s five plus star MV EUROPA for an all-too-short passage to Trabzon, Turkey: MV EUROPA Eastbound: Five Plus Stars For Five Nights

Bernard Meyer and the MV DISNEY DREAM.
MV DISNEY DREAM nearing completion at Papenburg.

From Turkey, it was onward to Papenburg, Germany for a couple days at the Meyer Werft to watch as the striking DISNEY DREAM was floated out. Thousands of onlookers braved a chilly rain to witness the event:Wet Dream: MV DISNEY DREAM Float Out and Preview

Edgy blue flower aboard the MV CELEBRITY ECLIPSE.

There was no time for rest in the pre-holiday season with a double Florida header that began with the US inaugural cruise of Celebrity Cruises spectacular CELEBRITY ECLIPSE. While she is the third of five nearly identical sisters, she is my favorite new ship of 2011: Stellar ECLIPSE


I wrapped up a busy year with a two night voyage from Palm Beach to Freeport on Celebration Cruise Lines BAHAMAS CELEBRATION, the former Baltic Ferry PRINSESSE RAGNHILD: Grand BAHAMAS CELEBRATION

Thanks for joining me on this varied series of Treks and Decked!(s) and here’s to many more in the year to come!

Coming soon: AZAMARA JOURNEY to the Sea Of Cortez; DISNEY DREAM Christening and Inaugural Cruise; The New NIEUW AMSTERDAM to the Caribbean; Oceania MARINA Christening and Inaugural Cruise.

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 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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