MV AKDENIZ Double Decked!, Part One

The 1955-built MV AKDENIZ is the last almost completely original working class liner in existence. Since 1997, she has served as a classroom and training ship at the Istanbul Teknik University in Tuzla, Turkey. Sadly, this onetime queen of the Turkish passenger fleet faces a very uncertain future. Peter Knego’s latest Double Decked! provides a top-to-bottom overview of this important link to the golden era of ocean liners.  In this first post, the top of the house, Bridge Deck and Promenade Deck are covered.

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AKDENIZ builder’s plate.

Owners: Istanbul Teknik University, Tuzla
Built by A. G. Weser, Bremerhaven for Turkish Maritime Lines
Gross tonnage: 7,864
Length: 144.31 meters/474 feet
Breadth: 18.60 meters/61 feet
Draft: 6.17 meters/ 20.3 feet
82 First Class Passengers (as built)
370 Tourist Class Passengers (as built)
554 Dormitory/Deck Class passengers (as built)
314 Passengers in one class after 1990
Speed: 16 knots (19 maximum)
Machinery: Two MAN diesels producing 7,240 BHP, twin screws

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 1998 and 2013, unless otherwise noted.

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MV AKDENIZ at Tuzla.

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In September of 2013, I booked an extra day at the end of a cruise assignment that brought me to Istanbul. Although I had visited the beautiful AKDENIZ on two prior occasions (in 1998 and 2009, respectively), it was well worth trekking off to Tuzla (some 40 miles south ) to see her again.

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Embarkation time.
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Morning ferry crossing.

Few cities can match Istanbul for its history and exotic beauty but a chance to see the AKDENIZ again was enough to lure my companion Mike Masino and me away from its myriad charms. After a quick breakfast, we hiked down from the posh Conrad Hotel overlooking the Bosphorus to the Besiktas ferry terminal and hopped on board one of those hard working vessels for the crossing to Kadikoy on the Asian side of the strait.

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Kadikoy to Tuzla bus screen.

Once in Kadikoy, we scrambled to locate the 130 bus that would take us on a forty mile, seventy minute ride to Tuzla. American buses have nothing on these comfortable and efficient Turkish coaches with their television screens projecting each of some 80 stops along the way.

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MV AKDENIZ in a first glance from across the basin.

There is a park across from the AKDENIZ with numerous cafes and a great view of the ship. We had just enough time to capture our sleek subject before the afternoon sun blacked out her silhouette, then headed directly to the campus gates.

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Aerial view from ITU tower.

Our host graciously met us, led us through security, then up to ITU’s recently built observation tower for an aerial view of the AKDENIZ.

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Dr. Ata Bilgili and the MV AKDENIZ.

Istanbul Teknik University’s Dr. Ata Bilgili is the main reason the AKDENIZ still exists. He understands and celebrates the ship’s history and knows what a unique link she is to the era of the great liners. He has worked closely with the campus in keeping the ship relevant to their needs but the very sad reality is that AKDENIZ is just too large for ITU’s cadet training purposes.

In the past few years, Dr. Bilgili has been trying to find a new home for the ship. Now past her sailing days, AKDENIZ’ only hope lies in a stationary role but even that would come with a long list of challenges. Perhaps in Turkey or Germany (where she was built), she could carry on as an ambassador to the era of the working liner. Her luxe and first class accommodation is still magnificent and some of her tourist class staterooms and dormitories could be re purposed into hostel accommodation with other parts of the vessel turned into a museum. On the plus side, it’s been done to a relative degree of success with ships like the CAP SAN DIEGO in Hamburg and the recently lost GEORG BUCHNER in Rostock.  On the minus side, despite Ata’s urgent efforts to persuade the necessary entities, time is running out and there is a strong likelihood that AKDENIZ will soon be towed off to Aliaga.

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Externally unchanged after four decades of service, the MV AKDENIZ is shown here at Tuzla in 1998 sporting her original Turkish Maritime colors.

Named for the Aegean Sea, AKDENIZ was built in 1955 at the AG Weser shipyard in Bremen as the first in a pair of four class (8 deluxe, 74 first, 370 tourist, 554 deck) vessels for Turkish Maritime Line’s Istanbul and Izmir to Black Sea service. The second ship, the nearly identical KARADENIZ of 1956, was named for the Black Sea.  While small by today’s standards, these would be the largest, grandest Turkish passenger ships of their day.

KARADENIZ post card, courtesy of Dr. Ata Bilgili.

In 1960, the two liners were switched to a trans-Mediterranean service sailing every 25 days from Istanbul to Beirut, Alexandria, Piraeus, Naples, Genoa, Marseilles and Barcelona. In 1980, both were converted to a single class with a capacity of 561 passengers for cruise service from Istanbul. In 1984, the KARADENIZ was damaged by fire and eventually sold for scrapping in 1987. Meanwhile, in 1989, the AKDENIZ was given a complete refurbishment for cruising with a revised capacity of 314. At that time, her accommodation was given full air conditioning and private facilities were added to all of her staterooms. For the next seven years, AKDENIZ enjoyed charter cruise service with Phoenix Seereisen and became a popular staple in the German cruise market.

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MV AKDENIZ at Tuzla in 1998.

In 1997, stringent new SOLAS standards forced the AKDENIZ (along with a number of other favorite classics such as CANBERRA, ROTTERDAM and FAIRSTAR) from cruise service. Our subject was saved by the Istanbul Teknik University and handed over during an official ceremony on July 2, 1997 under the stewardship of ITU’s then dean, Dr. Osman-Kamil SAG.

Anatomy Of A Classic Ocean Liner

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It begins with the gentle rake of her stem and pronounced sheer, the long open fo’c’sle area, clusters of deck housing and a small skyline of ventilators…

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AKDENIZ superstructure.

…and continues with a sea of working cranes, layers of picture windows, gently rounded surfaces and a hint of camber (downward sloping towards either side)…

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…a raked, curvaceous midships funnel, layers of open promenades, boats near the top of the superstructure and genuine brass portholes…

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…concluding with an aft “island” of superstructure, more open promenades and a gracefully rounded stern…

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Hakki Akca and his maritime cabinet.

Ata led us to the gangway where friendly watchman Hakki Akca greeted us. Hakki remembered me from my 2009 visit when we accessed just about every fascinating nook and cranny on board. Many of those same steps would soon be retraced but first, it was up to the open air Aspendos Bar to enjoy tea with our kind hosts.

Forward Stairtower

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Forward stairs, facing down from Bridge Deck.
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Forward stairs, facing starboard from Promenade Deck.
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Forward stairs, facing up from B Deck.

A grand staircase links, from top to bottom, AKDENIZ’ Bridge, Promenade, A and B Decks. It has an elegant triangular footprint that swirls around an open well. Note the mahogany-capped iron and brass rails and the embossed Turkish crescent in the ceiling.

Top Of House

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Over bow from top of house.
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Top of house, facing aft.

There is an open deck at the top of the ship. Years of scorching sun have been cosmetically unkind but all’s fully intact underneath the peeling paint.

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Top of house, facing forward from starboard.
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Over stern from top of house.

The top of the house steps down slightly as it wraps around the funnel and engine room skylights.

Bridge Deck

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Wheelhouse, facing port.
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From bridge to bow.

Bridge Deck begins with the wheelhouse, a veritable museum of vintage but still functioning brass nautical instruments.

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Inboard from starboard wing.
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Aft from starboard wing.

AKDENIZ, of course, has open bridge wings.

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TML tread.

Bridge Deck houses officers’ accommodation, most of which is now sealed off. Vintage elements, such as this weathered Turkish Maritime Lines runner, are still in use.

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Chart Room, facing starboard.

Immediately aft of the wheelhouse on the starboard side, there is a chart room.

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Officers’ Lounge, facing aft.

One Bridge Deck space that we were able to document is the Officers’ Lounge, with its slightly austere and yet magnificent elements of varnished woods, linoleum, leather and brass.

Forward Promenade Deck

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Bergama Social Hall, facing starboard.
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Bergama Social Hall, facing port.
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Bergama bands of bird’s eye and mahogany.

Starting off Promenade Deck level, the Bergama Social Hall is a true first class observation lounge with its floor-to-ceiling windows, elegant swirl of a bar, layered ceiling fixtures, glorious tropical hardwoods, plush furnishings and iron rails. This stunning room is used as a classroom and meeting facility, hence the long banquet tables now in its center.

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Starboard Promenade Deck vestibule, facing aft.
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Promenade Deck vestibule door handle.

Small vestibules on either side lead aft from the Bergama Social Hall to wide open promenades. This ship is filled with a mind-boggling array of vintage details.

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Port promenade, facing forward.

The former first class promenades are not especially long but they are wide enough for a deck chair or lounger from which to enjoy the sea views.

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Lux A Suite 502 living room, facing aft.
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Lux A Suite 504 bedroom.
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Lux A Suite 504 WC.
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Bird’s eye maple and zebrano banding in Promenade Deck suite.

There are four spectacular suites that comprise the ship’s original “lux” accommodation. Each has a separate bedroom and living room and updated WCs. No expense was spared in outfitting these spaces with some of the finest woods and craftsmanship of the time.

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Aspendos Bar, facing forward/starboard.

The Aspendos Bar is a sheltered, al fresco haven that evokes those atmospheric spaces on the Blue Water liners of yore. Oh wait a minute, it is an atmospheric space on a Blue Water liner of yore!

Aft Promenade Deck

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Facing forward from aft Promenade Deck. Note the pool and wading basin in the holds below.
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MV AKDENIZ Disco Demre, facing forward, in a 1998 view.
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Disco Demre, facing forward today.

Many classic combi-liners had “islands” of (usually tourist class) accommodation in a separate structure from the main superstructure. The AKDENIZ’ stern houses such a structure, which at its top Promenade Deck level last contained the open air but covered Disco Demre. A few years back, the ceiling was carried away in a storm.

End of AKDENIZ, Double Decked! Part One

Much More To Come…

Very special thanks to Ata Bilgili and Hakki Akca

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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