The 22,080 gross ton MV MARCO POLO departed Tilbury, UK on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 with a full complement of passengers for a special Maritime Heritage Cruise that traced a portion of RMS TITANIC’s initial route in addition to commemorating the RMS LUSITANIA’s sinking with a special wreath-laying ceremony.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
One of the last active vintage passenger ships, the still very spruce and elegant MARCO POLO, built in 1965 for Black Sea Shipping Company as the ALEXANDR PUSHKIN, is enjoying a new career under the banner of Dartford, Kent-based Cruise and Maritime Voyages.
After spending Wednesday, April 11, at Cherbourg, France, where TITANIC boarded a complement of 281 passengers on the first stop of her maiden and only voyage, the MARCO POLO departed for Cobh, Ireland.
At 12:15 PM Thursday, April 12, off the Old Head Of Kinsale, Ireland, over the precise spot where the RMS LUSITANIA was torpedoed, a special ceremony was held in memory of the 1,198 people who died when the ship foundered in only eighteen minutes on May 7, 1915. British ship historian Jonathan Quayle held a vigil at the fantail of the MARCO POLO as hundreds of passengers looked on from the ship’s terraced afterdecks. Two floral wreaths were dropped into the sea and a moment of silence was observed before the ceremony concluded.
MARCO POLO then continued on her route to Cobh, where she was met with an enthusiastic greeting from the locals. The ship will overnight in Cobh, offering special excursions in memory of the mostly steerage class passengers who boarded the ship in the port formerly known as Queenstown.
While the TITANIC eventually headed west into the Atlantic to meet her fate, the MARCO POLO will be sailing on a northerly course to Belfast, where the TITANIC was built. Excursions to the Harland and Wolff shipyard that built the ill-fated White Star liner and her two sisters, OLYMPIC and BRITANNIC (as well as dozens of other noteworthy vessels, including Shaw Savill’s SOUTHERN CROSS and P&O’s CANBERRA) and the new Titanic Belfast Experience will be offered. After that, MARCO POLO continues onward to Liverpool where excursions will include a visit to the former White Star Line offices. On the final day at sea, there will be a number of maritime lectures in addition to displays of White Star and Cunard Line memorabilia. Throughout the trip, special menus from a number of lamented British liners such as Royal Mail’s ANDES, Orient Line’s ORCADES and Cunard’s LUSITANIA will also be featured.
Stay tuned for further reports and images as well as a full Sea Treks and Decked! series of blog posts from this memorable voyage.
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."