Archive for the ‘Maritime History’ Category

The SS Great Britain

October 10, 2018

In the past, I have had several excellent weekends 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: HERE 

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The QE2 Spa Is Now Open

October 2, 2018

Head to the QE2 Spa – a boutique wellness centre offering a variety of relaxing massages and results-orientated facials.

Delivered by highly trained Balinese therapists, enjoy a selection of massages including full body, Thai and the ultimate indulgence – a Four Hands Wave Massage.

For specialized facial treatments, choose from an Aroma Active Facial or a therapy designed specifically for men.

Upgrade your spa experience with an express add-on including a 15-minute foot or scalp massage, an eye sculpting treatment or hot stone massage.

The QE2 Spa is open from 10am – 10pm daily, Located on Deck 1.

(QE2 Dubai)

Malcolm says: After being laid-up in Dubai’s Port Rashid, since 2008, the QE2 was renovated to become a floating hotel. She started taking booking for accommodation on the 18th April 2018. Unfortunately the QE2 is a little far away from me in the U.k.,  to drop into the Spa, when I’m passing!

More info about the QE2 Hotel: HERE

QE2 December Trans 2002 review: HERE

The SS France Returns Home

October 1, 2018

The SS France is back in Le Havre, France. The city recently unveiled the ship’s prow, which is now installed by the city’s waterfront and cruise terminal.

The SS France was a Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT, or French Line) ocean liner, constructed by the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard at Saint-Nazaire, France, and put into service in February 1962. At the time of her construction in 1960, the 316 m (1,037 ft) vessel was the longest passenger ship ever built, a record that remained unchallenged until the construction of the 345 m (1,132 ft) RMS Queen Mary 2 in 2004.

The France was purchased by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) in 1979, renamed SS Norway and underwent significant modifications making her better for cruising purposes. She was arguably the first mega-cruise ship, mainly deployed in the Caribbean. She was sold and scraped in late 2008.

(Le Havre Tourism)

Malcolm says: The SS France was a magnificent ship of state for France. She was later converted into a cruise ship called the SS Norway, for NCL, but still retained much of her Ocean Liner appeal. I was lucky to be on-board her in 2001,  for her final transatlantic crossing from Miami to Southampton. She was one of the last ocean liners from the golden era.

A serious boiler explosion caused a loss of passenger confidence and effectively ended her career.  However so many people have very fond memories of this ‘classic’ ship. I suppose we should be grateful that her prow is in Le Havre, but France (or somebody) should have saved the rest of her!

SS Norway’s ‘Final Transatlantic’ review: HERE

The Anchor Line Restaurant, Glasgow

September 18, 2018

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The Anchor Line was originally an Ocean Line operating ships from Glasgow (U.K.) to New York.  The former 1st class office, is now a restaurant, in Glasgow.

Below the main restaurant, there is also a bar downstairs called the ‘Atlantic’. This also serves food and has its own separate kitchen. I ate in the main restaurant, above.

The restaurant is beautiful with much ocean liner memorabilia, featuring the Anchor lines many vessels of course.

This is fine-dining, so the A La Carte menu is expensive. HOWEVER there are some very reasonable set menus, including Sunday lunch and a pre-theatre menu, which both have a good selection of quality dishes at reduced prices.

The service was excellent as was the food.  The Truffle Roast Mushrooms were the best that I have ever tasted. The Thyme Butter Chicken was also very tasty.

I could not rate this establishment and the whole dining experience much higher – it is very classy. If you are ever in Glasgow, I highly recommend this fine establishment.

Malcolm

(Do you know of any dining venues with a nautical theme?)

Web site: HERE

Anchor Line 12 St. Vincent Place, Glasgow G1 2EU, Scotland

The Titanic Hotel, Belfast

September 2, 2018

There are at least three Titanic Hotels in the UK/Ireland (and a Spa) that I know of.  The one in Belfast, Ireland is the best, by far.

It was the former Harland & Wolff drawing office, the builders of the ill fated Titanic. Therefore it has much authenticity to bear the great ships name and is opposite the slipway where Titanic was built

However my experience of the Hotel was not prefect.

My full hotel review is HERE

SS Nomadic, The Titanic Tender

August 30, 2018

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The SS Nomadic, known as Titanic’s little sister, was built at the same time as the Titanic (complete by 1911), for the same people (the White Star Line) , in the same Harland and Wolff shipyard, as the Titanic.

Nomadic was used as a Tender and transferred those boarding the great liner at Cherbourg (France) to the ship, as Titanic was too big to dock there. Above is a slide-show of Nomadic in her permanent home in Belfast, fully restored after a long lay-up in Paris.

Wonderful Waverley & Brilliant Balmoral

July 1, 2018

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to experience a day river cruise on the Balmoral Motor Cruiser (1949), and the Waverley paddle steamer (1947), both departing from Tilbury, via Southend, cruising the rivers Thames and Medway (U.K.).

Waverley is the only Ocean going paddle steamer left in the world.

Built on the Clyde in 1947 – to replace the original Waverley that sunk off Dunkirk in 1940, the Waverley was originally built to sail only between Craigendorran & Arrochar in West Scotland.

On my Waverley trip, I was  lucky enough to see the ‘Kingswear Castle’, paddle steamer, on route.

The coal-fired paddle steamer KINGSWEAR CASTLE was built in 1924 by Philip & Son of Dartmouth and sailed up and down the River Dart with her virtually identical sister ships and COMPTON CASTLE until the 1960s.

Unfortunately Balmoral is laid-up for 2018 as she needs her hull repainting and funding is often a problem. Hopefully she will be back in service in 2019?

I’d recommend any of these three ‘classic’ ships (Waverley, Balmoral & Kingsear Castle) to you, if you get the chance.

It is amazing to think that the Waverley still sails around Britain annually, Spring to Autumn. She offers regular trips on the Clyde, the Thames, South Coast of England and the Bristol Channel with other calls at various ports & piers throughout the UK. So look out for her at a UK port near you.

Malcolm

Waverley cruises: HERE

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

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 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 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