Archive for the ‘Maritime History’ Category

Hotel Ship, SS Rotterdam

May 13, 2018

We have heard a lot about the QE2 hotel ship in Dubai lately, but lets not forget that the classic Ocean Liner, the SS Rotterdam, is now a successful hotel ship in Rotterdam:

Have you cruised on the SS Rotterdam or visited/stayed on-board the Hotel?

SS Rotterdam Hotel review: HERE

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QE2 Hotel Is Now Taking Booking!

April 12, 2018

The phrase “Eat my hat” springs to mind.

I admit it, I never thought that there would ever be a QE2 hotel. I though it was just a pipe-dream.

After ten years of neglect and uncertainty the classic ship is almost ready to open after two weeks renovation work – impressive!  As the owners put it:“After spending the past 2 weeks in Dubai’s Dry Docks for a bit of a deep cleaning and paint retouch, the Queen Elizabeth 2 took one final voyage back to her new home in Mina Rashid…. “

The QE2-Dubai web site is NOW taking booking for accommodation commencing on the 18th April 2018 – onward. IT IS REAL!

They have called it  a soft launch as apparently not all parts of the ship are ready. She will be fully open in October.

Her exterior now looks fabulous as does the images of the new cabins. (I am told that they are NOT just renderings).

The QE2 Ocean Liner  has been docked in Dubai’s Port Rashid, since 2008, after the original plans for a hotel on board fell through.

The ship has a rich nautical history after she was launched by the Her Majesty the Queen, for Cunard, in 1967.

However the Telegraph  reported that the vessel had become “mouldy” and “filthy” during her time in retirement.

Then in 2017, Dubai-based construction company Shafa Construction announced it was going to give the classic ship a refurbishment and  launched a web site.  It promised  “a new take on hospitality” as well as “a royal experience”.  Of course I took this with a pinch of salt – how wrong was I?

Renovated luxury Cabin: Click to enlarge (Courtesy QE2Dubai)

How Much To Stay On-board?

I assume that the prices vary with cabin grade, date and occupancy, as with all hotels.  Maybe the early prices have been set at a premium rate,  to capture the QE2 fans, maybe not?

I checked out the prices for a ‘room’ (they are calling them rooms) for Saturday 28/4, one night, two persons.

The QE2-Dubai web site gave me six grades of cabin: ‘Standard’ through to ‘Deluxe’. These were priced 955AED (£183, $260) to 1394AED (£268, $379)respectively.  I guess that is the going-rate for a luxury hotel in many parts of the world, although this is of course a very unique one.

Offical QE2 Hotel web site (Courtesy QE2Dubai)

I will be interested to read the first reviews of the on-board ambience, accommodation, food and service.

Of course I never  wanted to see the QE2 scrapped but old ships often don’t tend to have much of a future.

The QE2 is an out-dated vessel by modern cruise ship standards. She was when Cunard retired her. In addition Dubai is full of many impressive hotels and I believe the QE2 is quite isolated, in terms of her location, within a dock.

I assume that you will probably get a bigger (more modern) hotel room in a conventional hotel and extensive facilities (maybe a resort) for the same price, as  a more modest room and modest facilities, offered by an ageing ocean liner.

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A standard cabin (Courtesy QE2Dubai)

The Future

The problem is that if they have upgraded the QE2’s accommodation and public rooms too much, she is no longer the QE2. It must be difficult to combine the concept of a museum-ship and a hotel-ship. It remains to be seen what the new owners have actually done in terms of tasteful renovation – we have only seen limited images so far.

Hotel-ships traditionally struggle to be profitable   (It must cost more to maintain a floating hotel than a land based one, for example).

The original Cunard ‘Queen Mary’ (in Long Beach, USA) is still a wonderful Ocean Liner but a very mediocre hotel. The SS Rotterdam is still a wonderful ship too, renovated with much taste, but only ship nuts would probably want to stay on her. Mind you, I did.

I genuinely wish the QE2 Hotel every success, but I am still sceptical about her long term viability.

Malcolm

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.Slide-show – QE2 Transatlantic crossing 2008: HERE

Oldest River Vessel

April 5, 2018

 

(Courtesy Gota Kanal)

Cruis Blog reader ‘Max M’ suggested that after discussing the biggest river boats (here) we should discuss the oldest.

I have done a little research and it would appear that the oldest registered marine vessel with overnight accommodation, is in fact a vintage steam canal boat called M/S Juno.  Juno was built in 1874 (yes, 1874) and has 29 passenger cabins.

M/S Juno operates on the 120 mile Göta Canal between Stockholm and Gothenburg, built with the help of Scottish engineer Thomas Telford.

In fact there are three vintage vessels on this route: The M/S Wilhelm Tham was built in 1912 and their youngest ship, is the M/S Diana, in 1931.

Doulos – The Oldest Ocean-Going Ship

The Medina was built in 1914 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for the Mallory Steamship Company of the United States. She was a freighter serving the Atlantic; during World War II she served with the United States Coast Guard.

The Panamanian company Naviera San Miguel SA acquired the Medina in 1948; they renamed the ship the Roma, and converted her into a passenger ship with cabins for 287 people, and dormitories for an additional 694 people.

In 1952 Naviera San Miguel resold the Roma to Linea Costa, an Italian company. At this time the SS Roma, a steamship, was converted into a motor vessel and renamed the MV Franca C. She carried passengers between Italy and Argentina. In 1959, the Franca C was adapted into a cruise liner, principally cruising the Mediterranean.

In 1977, Gute Bücher für Alle (Good Books For All) acquired the Franca C, and renamed her the Doulos (Greek for servant). She was manned by a volunteer crew and made sea port visits worldwide as a missionary ship. The MV Doulos held the biggest floating library in the world. Normally there were somewhere between 3000 to 5000 books on the shelves and half a million in the hold.

She made her last world tour in 2009 and was de-commissioning at the end of 2009 due to expense of making her compliant with SOLAS (maritime safety) regulations .

The ship is currently known as the MV Doulos Phos. She is now owned by Mr. Eric Saw, Director and Chief Executive of BizNaz Resources International Pte Ltd in Singapore.

There are plans to use the ship as a floating hotel with restaurants, a bookshop and a banqueting hall. However such plans do not always come to fruition. The QE2 is a prime example.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Malcolm Says: As Doulos is no longer operational as cruise ship, this raises the question what ocean going ship is now the oldest? anybody know?

I got to go on-board MV Doulos in 2004, when she visited Southampton. Her interiors were quite a mess, looking more like a Hippy peace-camp than an historic ship. However you could certainly still see some of the Costa décor in places.

The SS Norway Remembered

March 31, 2018
SS Norway in Southampton waters 2001

SS Norway in Southampton waters, 2001

In 2008 the Norwegian Cruise Line’s  SS Norway was cut up on a beach, in Alang, India, and disposed of.

She entered service in 1962 as the ‘SS France’ Ocean Liner. She was the glory of  France’s glory – a ship of state.

She was decommissioned in 1974 and left to rust in the era when the jet aeroplane replaced the ocean liner as the preferred meth of intercontinental travel.

However in 1979 she was purchased by NCL and renovated, returning back to service in 1980 as the then biggest Caribbean cruise ship. Although only medium sized by modern standards, It can be argued that she started the era of the mega-cruise-ship.

I was lucky enough to take her final Transatlantic crossing on the SS Norway, on 2nd September 2001, from Miami to Southampton.  I know that many of you have very fond memories of this special ship. Why not join me?

You can read some background information here and my ‘Final Transatlantic’ review: HERE

Malcolm

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style Exhibition

February 26, 2018

I went to the ‘Ocean Liners’ exhibition on Saturday, at London’s ‘Victoria & Albert’ Museum. It was excellent.

It focused on posters, decor, furniture and clothing of the Great Ocean Liner era. It’s not really about steam engines and rivets, ladies! (Although these are mentioned).

It’s not exactly cheap, but I thought it was worth the money – but then I do have an interest in maritime history.

If you live near London or are visiting, it may be worth a visit. The exhibition is on until the 17th June, 2018.

Booking a timed slot in advance, is recommended, via the museum’s web site: http://www.vam.ac.uk

Malcolm

(Courtesy V&A)

The End Of The SS Norway

January 27, 2018

(Courtesy NCL)

In July 2008 the legendary SS Norway was dismantled at the ships’ graveyard: the beaches of Alang, India. Ship enthusiasts had been praying for a reprieve since she was removed from service following a boiler explosion in 2003, but several plans to save her came to nothing.

Many ship enthusiasts experienced a period of morning. On the other hand, many cruise passengers have probably never heard of the SS Norway, and others would have considered her to be an outdated rusty old tub, anyway…

Full article: HERE

Titanic’s Harland & Wolff Makes A Comeback

January 10, 2018

A multi-million pound contract to refurbish a cruise ship has been won by a Newry firm, with all work to be done in Belfast.

MJM Group said it paves the way for future projects.

The 11-deck liner Azamara Pursuit, owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, will arrive at Harland and Wolff in April for a full interior refit.

MJM, which employs 240 people, said it would be “one of the first major refits of a cruise liner in a UK dry dock”.

A spokesman for Harland and Wolff said it was “delighted” with the deal, and hoped others would follow.

Harland & Wolff was formed in 1861 by Edward James Harland (1831–95) and Hamburg-born Gustav Wilhelm Wolff (1834–1913).

Thomas Andrews became the general manager and head of the draughting department in 1907. It was in this period that the company built Olympic and the two other ships in her class Titanic and Britannic between 1909 and 1914.

(BBC)

Below you can see the Titanic’s original dry-dock, in Belfast:

Titanic Replica: See HERE

Rise Of The Clones

January 5, 2018

SS United states (Top) and SS America, United States Line (Source unknown)

Ships Of State

In the era of the great Ocean Liners, each country that had the resources and know-how designed and built themselves unique ships. These were ‘ships of state’, each representing their country.

For example the UK had the likes of the Titanic and later the Cunard Queen’s ‘Mary’ and ‘Elizabeth’. France had their wonderful ‘Normadie’ and ‘France’. American had their ‘America’ and ‘United states’. Each ship represented their respective countries engineering achievements, excellent design and the finest decor and artwork.

Today cruise ship are much more generic and the design can actually be shared across different cruise brands. In fact the only differences in some cases, may be the funnels, livery and internal decor.

We are going to see even more ‘clones’ over the next few years.

‘Made to measure’ or  ‘off the peg’?

Carnival have shared ship designs between their brands for many years now: P&O have several Princess designs. Cunard have two generic Carnival ‘Vista’ class ships and P&O has one. P&O’s next mega ship (184,000 gt) is a design shared with Costa, AIDA and Carnival cruises. Cunard will be getting a new ship in 2022, a design shared with ‘Holland America’.

Surprisingly the Norwegian Cruise lines next class of cruise ship, called ‘Project Leonardo’, is not a new a class of ship designed by themselves either. It has been designed by the Italian shipyard Fincantieri.

I guess the advantage of this approach is that it must save development costs and time as the shipyard has already done the hard work.   However the disadvantage is that the shipyard can share this design with other buyers and it appears that they already have!

On closer inspection NCL’s ‘Project Leonardo’ looks remarkably similar to MSC’s ‘Seasisde’ also designed by Fincantieri.

However I believe Leonardo is shorter than Seaside, so will have a smaller gross tonnage and carry less passengers. Seaside is 154,000 gross tonnes and carry  4,140 (lower berth) passengers. Leonardo will be 140, 00 gross tonnes and carry around 3,300 passengers.

Seaside has a glass covered pool in front of her funnel, Leonardo appears to have a non-covered one in this location (for the Haven?) This may leaves just one sun-deck pool aft?

The big attraction of this ship design is the very large promenade deck, which is probably more expansive than NCL’s excellent ‘Waterfront’ feature found on-board their Breakaway and Breakaway+ classes.

I do find it a little sad when different cruise brands share a ship design. It just lacks originality.

I was going to say that Leanardo will be quite different internally to Seaside, as she will be designed to accommodate NCL’s ‘Freestyle’ dining system with multiple dining rooms.  However looking at Seaside’s deck plans (HERE) there are three full decks and two half decks of restaurants and other public rooms. I guess little will need changing apart from the décor and branding. I guess that was part of the appeal of using Fincantieri’s existing design.

Malcolm

*(Why is the project called ‘Leonardo’, anybody?)

The Historic Dockyard Chatham

May 30, 2016

I recently spent the day at the Chatham historic dockyard, Kent, UK. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in maritime history.

80 acres in size, it has over 100 buildings and structures – the majority of which were constructed between 1704 and 1855. Today it is the most complete Dockyard of the Age of Sail in the world. 

By the mid-18th Century the Royal Yards had developed into the largest industrial organisations in the world with complex facilities supporting thousands of skilled workers in a wide number of trades. Indeed it was the level of the facilities and skills provided in the Royal Dockyard’s, particularly at Chatham that underpinned the Royal Navy’s success at sea – from victory in battle; through the epic voyages of discovery made by Cook, Darwin  and others.

Did you know that the HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar, was built at Chatham dockyard?

Above is a short slide show to give you a taste of what is on show.

Official website HERE

Have you been? Did you enjoy it?

Malcolm

The Onassis Yacht

December 29, 2015

It’s not all about big ships:

The Christina ‘O’ (1943) was moored in London in 2012 and open to the public for a short period.

John & Jackie Kennedy and Winston Churchill were regular guests of millionaire Aristotle Onassis, before Jackie later married him.

Here are my images of this charming and very historic yacht:

SS Great Britain

March 31, 2015

I have recently returned from an excellent weekend in Bristol, UK.

Bristol has been an important seaport for more than a thousand years.  The term “ship-shape and Bristol Fashion” is said to have originated from Bristol and refers to their ability to build strong ships, that can sit on Bristol’s Avon river bed, when the tide goes out, without sustaining damage.

One of the highlights is visiting the ‘SS Great Britain’, now a museum ship.

The SS Great Britain is a former passenger steamship, which was very advanced for her time. She was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854. She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steamship Company’s transatlantic service between Bristol and New York. While other ships had been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, Great Britain was the first to combine these features in a large ocean-going ship.

She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, which she did in 1845, in the time of 14 days. Her four decks provided accommodation for a crew of 120, and 360 passengers who were provided with cabins and dining and promenade saloons.

When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat. However, her protracted construction and high cost had left her owners in a difficult financial position. In 1884 the SS Great Britain was retired to the Falkland Islands where she was used as a warehouse, quarantine ship and coal hulk until scuttled in 1937.

In 1970, the vessel was towed back to the UK, Great Britain was returned to the Bristol dry dock where she was built. Now listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, she is an award-winning visitor attraction and museum ship in Bristol Harbour.

Malcolm

Web site: http://www.ssgreatbritain.org

Titanic Hotel, Liverpool

March 21, 2015

Last month I had an excellent weekend break in Liverpool, UK.

I stayed at a newish hotel “30 James Street” which was the former offices of the ‘White Star Line’ (owners of the Titanic).

Below is a slide show.

I have now written a full review of my stay at the hotel, which unfortunately is not very favourable:

My review: HERE

Hotel web site:

http://rmstitanichotel.co.uk

The Cutty Sark, Greenwich, London

February 8, 2015

I recently visited Greenwich (London) which is on the Thames and is famous for its nautical connections. The two main attractions are the ‘National Maritime Museum’  and the ‘Cutty Sark’.

The ‘Cutty Sark’ is an historic 1869 Tea Clipper, built on the Clyde, Scotland, which has been on display in Greenwich (in dry-dock) since 1957.  The ‘Cutty Sark’ is in fact the last surviving tea clipper and fastest and greatest of her time.  However in 2007 she was seriously damaged by fire, during a renovation.

Some five years later and £45 million pounds later the ‘Cutty Sark’  was returned to her former glory. I had been a few times to see her over the years, as a child and as an adult.  I tried to visit her in 2012 shortly after she re-opened, to see the restoration. However she was a victim of her own success with queues snaking out of the door, so I gave her a miss.

I finally got to see her in January 2015.

I am pleased to say that she looks better than ever – inside and out. Although some  of her timbers were lost in the fire, many were also off-site in storage. You cannot tell the difference now.

Cleverly they have raised her up (like the SS Great Britain, In Bristol) by three meters so she looks down, more majestically than ever, over Greenwich. You you can walk right underneath the hull. There is even a café down there and display of historic figure-heads. There is a new entrance/foyer area with an enlarged gift shop. Visitors enter the hull and work their way up the ships inner decks to the open deck.

I’d certainly recommend a visit if you are in London.

Below is my slide-show, taken on my recent visit

Malcolm Oliver

Cutty Sark/NMM Web Site: http://www.rmg.co.uk/cuttysark

My visit to the Nat. Maritime Museum: http://wp.me/pfRKD-1ur