Ocean Liner Oracle and maritime author Theodore W. Scull caps off a trio of fascinating books recounting his ocean liner voyages with Ocean Liner Sunset.
Joining the acclaimed Ocean Liner Odyssey and Ocean Liner Twilight, Ocean Liner Sunset is comprised of thirteen chapters covering a range of ships Ted sailed in between 1980 and 2004, from the Alaskan state ferry MATANUSKA to the QUEEN MARY 2.
Far from today’s mass market cruises offered aboard bloated megaships that brim with excessive distractions and every creature comfort known to man, crossing on these vessels was a much more organic experience.
Crossings were also purposeful, where often unlike people shared the common goal of getting from A to B. In lieu of mind-numbing activities, spas, loquacious cruise directors, karaoke and Andrew Lloyd Weber-infused stage shows, voyagers had to content themselves with a good book, conversing with fellow travelers and perhaps a few low key diversions like taking a walk around the promenade deck, getting inducted into a messy Neptune (Equator) or Arctic Circle crossing ceremony, playing shuffleboard or ping pong and maybe even a spirited frog race.
Unlike many writers who only have books and brochures to reference for information on liners of the past, Ted has spent a lifetime traveling aboard the world’s great (and obscure) liners and cruise ships. He writes from a wealth of experience and a true adoration of the subject matter and yet does so without flowery excess and overt sentimentality. And while he shares key facts and historic milestones for each ship, the core of this book is in recounting the actual experience of sailing in them.
Highlights on this outing with Ted include a ten night transatlantic crossing in 1981 on the pristine but old fashioned STEFAN BATORY, the erstwhile mostly tourist class Holland America liner MAASDAM, whose tiny staterooms (aside from a handful of former first class cabins) had no private facilities.
The STEFAN BATORY voyage makes a nice counter to the final crossing in 1997 aboard Holland America Line’s fifth ROTTERDAM, a true ship of state but sharing similar traditional Dutch origins with the old STEFAN B.
The ROTTERDAM met some rough seas on that particular voyage, including broken windows and burst pipes but that would pale to a 1998 crossing on the QE2 that even rendered Ted a bit spooked with the amount of damage and flooding the dowager Cunarder received.
On a much sadder note, there is also Ted’s account of a crossing on the NORWAY in September of 2001, when he learned of the 911 attacks via an announcement from the captain during lunch in the ship’s Windward Dining Room.
With the demise of the RMS ST HELENA this year, it was nice to be able to enjoy her vicariously through Ted’s 1993 voyage from Cardiff to St. Helena and compare that with his other relatively modern combi-liner experience on the dearly departed AMERICANA, shortly after that ship’s debut in 1989.
And then there’s P&O’s fabulously funky first ORIANA, with her two mismatched funnels, steaming along on her final line voyage to Australia in 1981 when I could have easily encountered Ted on the ship’s visit to Los Angeles — were it not for my car overheating on the 405 Freeway.
Of course, you can’t have “that” ORIANA without her rival and running mate, the CANBERRA, P&O’s “Great White Whale”, which is immortalized here in a nice tribute detailing her line voyage from Australia in 1985.
Two of my favorite lesser known old ladies, Turkish Maritime Line’s gorgeous, multi-class cargo liner AKDENIZ (sadly scrapped a couple years ago) and Hurtigruten’s still-going-strong LOFOTEN are also accounted for, the former on a stiflingly hot 1987 Eastern Mediterranean sailing from Piraeus and the latter on her traditional Bergen to Kirkenes coastal voyage in 2013.
It pangs to accept that most of these ships are now gone, which us makes even more fortunate to be able to relive Ted’s accounts of sailing in them via the wonderful Ocean Liner Sunset.
Ocean Liner Sunset is available in the U.S. directly from the author for $28.00 (including priority mail postage) at Theodore W. Scull, 325 East 72nd Street-10-D, New York, NY 10021, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through Overview Press.
All photos in this review are by and copyright Theodore W.Scull.
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."