The Norwegian Sky off Great Stirrup Cay

The Norwegian Sky off Great Stirrup Cay

When Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of the Norwegian Sky in 1999, it marked the beginning of a new dawn for that company. The ship represented the first of a new generation of mega ships which have come to be the mainstay of the line ever since. She was, in fact, the first ship in the fleet to exceed the veteran SS. Norway in tonnage, if not in length. After the stop and go doldrum years of the mid nineties, the ship was seen as the beginning of a whole new era in the storied history of the company.

In point of fact, the ship came to Norwegian by default. She had originally been ordered by Costa Cruises as the Costa Olympia, a sister ship for that company’s then new, and very popular, Costa Victoria. For reasons that have never been really disclosed, the Italian line cancelled the order; the option was, instead, picked up by Norwegian, no doubt much to the relief of the German shipyard.

As completed, the 77,000 ton ship featured a row of balcony cabins and several alternative restaurants. A 2001 built sister ship. Norwegian Sun, would have an extra deck of balcony rooms, and integrated restaurant set ups, designed to showcase the company’s new Freestyle Dining mantra. But initially, it was Norwegian Sky that truly took the nascent company into the 21st century.

Her first years were spent on the popular, seven night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruise circuits out of Miami. Then, in 2004, she was hurriedly redeployed to Hawaii to become part of the soon massively over subscribed NCL America. Renamed as the Pride Of Aloha and refurbished in a wash of Polynesian kitsch, she started seven night sailings from Honolulu, to mixed reviews.

A weekend pit stop for Norwegian Sky passengers

A weekend pit stop for Norwegian Sky passengers

New management at Norwegian presaged a period of retrenchment for the company, and nowhere more so than in Hawaii. One of the main decisions was the return to Miami of the Pride Of Aloha. The ship was given back her original name of Norwegian Sky but, other than that, she remained essentially unchanged from her Pacific days.

This proved to be an offbeat, quirky, yet welcome decision. While near sister, Norwegian Sun, is cool, elegant and classically European in decor, the Norwegian Sky is a gloriously kitsch, over the top melting pot of etched glass, polished brass, and multi-hued ‘Polynesian modern’. bright, but not quite as eye popping as you might imagine.

Since her return to Miami, the Norwegian Sky has been deployed on the twice weekly, three and four night round trip circuit to the Bahamas. Leaving Miami each Friday, she sails to Nassau and the company’s recently massively renovated ‘private island’ of Great Stirrup Cay.

The four night, Monday sailings call at the same two ports, adding another call at Freeport, Grand Bahama, into the mix. While the three nighters tend to attract more of an out and out party crowd, the four night cruises are a little more sedate. As sedate as any ship with more than 2200 revellers on board can be, in any event.

From ship to shore- the Bahamas lifestyle

From ship to shore- the Bahamas lifestyle

Norwegian Sky has been very popular since her return to Miami. Although many of the cabins are quite small, they are just about right for a long weekend break. The ship features more balcony cabins than any of her short cruise rivals and, with the addition of many signature Norwegian dining venues, such as Cagney’s Steakhouse and Le Bistro among others, she also offers by far the most comprehensive choice of food options on the short Bahamas circuit.

And she is a beautiful ship, too. With a sharply raked prow and a single, aft placed funnel, the Norwegian Sky is almost perfectly proportioned. Inside, there are more than enough bars, clubs and lounges to play and party in, as well as a huge casino and an expansive, upper deck spa and gym. The cruise experience aboard her is roughly comparable to taking a weekend break in a small resort town; one that moves the scenery each day.

Outdoors, there is a vast, expansive sun deck with two large pools, a quartet of hot tubs, two bars, and an indoor/outdoor buffet restaurant that is open virtually around the clock. With live music and party games prevalent through the day, this area can be pretty crowded, and it is never sedate for sure. The Norwegian Sky also hosts nightly discos out here, and these are tremendously popular.

While Nassau is great for shopping and sunbathing, I tend to skip going ashore here now. Because, with most of the passengers away from the ship, that vast, open sun deck becomes a sporadically populated, pristine swathe of paradise just perfect for lounging on. And this, for me, is when the Norwegian Sky really does become a platinum chip choice.

Outdoor deck party on the Norwegian Sky

Outdoor deck party on the Norwegian Sky

With the decibel level right down, and the pools and hot tubs practically bereft of human habitation, pure chill out is the order of the day. You can excel at leisure and ease. And, of course.the bars and buffet are still there for you to indulge in as the mood suits you. For me, this is the best day on the ship.

And the prices are incredible bargains, too. Especially when you factor in the avalanche of included food, entertainment, and of course, the accommodation. Try finding a similar quality hotel at the same price in either Miami or the islands- even room only- and you’ll try in vain. The value is unbeatable.

Yes, there is a lot on board that is programmed the same, cruise after cruise after cruise. But if all you really want is a quick little break from the endless, highly priced hugger mugger of South Beach, or even as a bit of an exotic add on to a stay at one of the myriad of Florida theme parks, then the Norwegian Sky will give you just what you want, when you want it.

Of course, these short, fun filled jaunts pass by at a  tremendous rate of knots. And no one in their right mind would call them a relaxing experience. But, short on time as they are, they are just as high on style.

And, in the final analysis, isn’t that the true return for your hard earned money? Enjoy.

Cocktail bar on the Norwegian Sky

Cocktail bar on the Norwegian Sky


MSC look set to confirm yet another two ship order from Fincantieri

MSC look set to confirm yet another two ship order from Fincantieri

I mentioned in a previous blog that MSC Cruises were very strongly rumoured to be about to announce a second pair of new builds, in addition to the pair of new mega ships just ordered from the French shipyard, STX. It now looks like that announcement could be imminent.

The two new Italian builds are bruited to be of around 152,000 tons, with a length of some 310 metres each, and a projected total cost of some 1.4 billion euros. The first ship could be slated for delivery as early as 2017.

And- as previously alluded- the same yard is also expected to announce confirmation of yet another order, this time for a brace of sister ships for Oceania Cruises. Unlike the new MSC designs, these two vessels are reported to be another pair of sisters for that company’s first two, highly popular new builds, Marina and Riviera.

The Italian yard has been fantastically busy, and indeed it still is. As well as the above projected announcements, Fincantieri is also cutting the steel, ready for all four of the Lirica class lengthenings. Beginning at the end of the autumn, each ship will be cut in half, then have a new mid section inserted.

The yard is also in the process of putting the finishing touches to the rival Costa Cruises new flagship, the Costa Diadema, which is due to debut this coming November, and is also building the fourth, expanded Odyssey class ship for Seabourn, as well as the new Seven Seas Explorer for Regent Seven Seas, the first new ship for that line in more than a decade.

The yard has literally just delivered the second of class Regal Princess, and is working now on outfitting the Britannia for P&O Cruises, a vessel built to the same design. In addition, the yard is also building the 47,000 ton cruise ship, Viking Star, for Viking Cruises, and also two similar sized sister ships which have recently been confirmed.

This construction programme amounts to a quite astonishing coup for the Fincantieri yard. While the likes of Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean continue to favour the Meyer Werft yard at Papenburg for their new builds, and the once dominant shipyards of Finland seem to be floundering, it is the Italian yard that is picking up orders for a whole raft of diverse new cruise ship designs, ranging from the mass market to the ultra luxury products.

With an enviable record for delivering superb quality vessels, on time and within budgets, the dominance of Fincantieri as the world’s pre eminent builder of cruise ships seems assured, at least for the next few years.

As always, stay tuned.


Could Iberocruises follow Quail Cruises into history?

Could Iberocruises follow Quail Cruises into history?

Rumours are circulating that hint at the possible demise of Iberocruises, the Spanish subsidiary of Carnival Corporation.

What was a three ship company this time last year is now due to downsize to just one- Grand Holiday- by the end of this year. The Spanish affiliate of Carnival Corporation has reportedly been hit hard by the continuing recession in southern Europe. Many now think that the one ship line will be wound up by the end of the year.

The first signs of fragmentation came at the end of last year, when Grand Mistral, the biggest and most amenity laden ship of the Iberocruises trio, was transferred over to it’s Italian sister company, Costa Cruises. Newly re wrought as the Costa NeoRiviera, the ship has now been assigned as one of two vessels offering the company’s NeoCollection, a series of longer, more intimate voyages on smaller ships, intended to showcase the culture and cuisine of the regions that they sail through.

And that left two. But not for long.

In a surprise move, Costa will also acquire the 47,000 ton Grand Celebration at the end of the year. Fresh from a seventeen day, 4.5 million euro refit in Genoa, the ship will operate her scheduled series of seven night, Adriatic sailings this summer, before going over to Costa- under the name of Costa Celebration- this winter.

And then there was one.

That ‘one’ being the sister ship of Grand Celebration, currently sailing as the Grand Holiday.

Originally built in 1985 for Carnival Cruises as the Holiday, the 45,000 ton vessel was the first real Carnival super liner. For many years, she was a hugely successful staple on the seven day Caribbean cruise circuit, out of Miami.

In line with usual Carnival policy, the Holiday was rotated out of the fleet as bigger, more amenity laden tonnage became available. She soon became one of the principal vessels in the fledgling Spanish satellite operation, sailing mainly in the Mediterranean.

Now the pioneering ship remains the last official member of the Iberocruises fleet. One ship operations tend not to last very long.

What then? Of course, the Grand Holiday could follow her sister ship, into the Costa fold. But for now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

If Iberocruises does indeed cease operation, it will follow another, smaller Spanish market operator- Quail Cruises- which was killed off by lack of demand in the local market. And, inevitably, it turns the focus on the biggest Spanish operator, the Royal Caribbean International chaperoned offshoot, Pullmantur.

As always, stay tuned.


The classic lines of Princess Daphne

The classic lines of Princess Daphne

It is with more than a little personal sadness that I have to report that the former Classic International Cruises  stalwart, Princess Daphne, has left her lay up berth in Souda Bay, Crete, bound for the scrapyards of Alang.

The ship had been there since the collapse of CIC in October of 2012. While the other four ships were rescued and reorganised as the nascent Portuscale Cruises– including her Belfast built sister ship, Lisboa ex Princess Danae– there was sadly to be no reprieve for this classically beautiful ship.

Originally built on the Tyne in 1955 as the Port Sydney, a combination cargo/passenger ship for the Port Line, the ship was remodelled into a cruise ship in 1975 at great expense. For many years she sailed, along with her similarly rejuvenated sister ship, for Costa Cruises.

The Italian company in those days was a very different operation to the Carnival affiliate of today. The two sister ships, renamed Daphne and Danae respectively, were very high end, luxurious vessels that operated on long itineraries all over the globe. In the seventies and eighties, they were among the most sought after luxury ships in the world.

After years of bouncing around various budget operators, the two sisters were reunited under the banner of Classic International Cruises. Under the guiding wing of the brilliant George Potamianos, the two ships were brought back to a level of pristine cleanliness and aesthetic perfection that no large scale operator would have even dreamed of attempting.

Along with the rest of the CIC fleet, Princess Daphne offered an elegant, intimate seagoing experience that was a million miles removed from that found aboard the conventional mega ships. She was, in essence, a floating time capsule; long, lean and low, with gracefully sweeping lines at bow and stern.

There were no rock climbing walls or five story showrooms. Nor were they needed; the ‘theme’ of Princess Daphne and her sisters was simple; a well run. traditional ship on a timeless ocean. I had the pleasure of sailing on her twice, and she was, quite simply, a joy to be aboard.

The elegant cruiser stern of  Princess Daphne

The elegant cruiser stern of Princess Daphne

George Potamianos cared for each of his ships like babies, lavishing his own love and paternal care on them on a scale that would give most of today’s accountants a nose bleed. But his sad death in May of 2012 presaged the end of his elegant, Elysian dream. By October, the company had collapsed, and all five ships were arrested.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Rui Allegre and Portuscale Cruises, four of the original five ships were saved, restructured, and massively refurbished. Two are back in service, with work on the other pair- including Lisboa- proceeding apace.

Sadly, there was to be no reprieve for Princess Daphne.

Despite being repurchased by the sons of George Potamianos in 2013, the ship remained in lay up at Souda. Her sale to Indian breakers was, sadly, inevitable, and now her time has come.

3/6/2014: Princess Daphne is expected to arrive at Alang today, though it is unclear whether she will be beached immediately.


For some excellent historical information and photographs on Princess Daphne, may I recommend the first class SHIPS AND THE SEA blog by the always excellent Portuguese maritime authority, Luis Miguel Correia. Anyone wanting detailed information on these wonderful ships can do no better than look there.


More Costa tonnage is setting course for the Chinese market

More Costa tonnage is setting course for the Chinese market

In an announcement today broken on the Seatrade Insider website ( Costa Cruises is to deploy a third cruise ship in the increasingly lucrative Chinese market from April of 2015.

The 114,000 ton, 3,780 passenger Costa Serena will be making a series of five and six night cruises to the highlights of Japan and Korea. She joins a year round line up that already includes the mega ships, Costa Victoria and Costa Atlantica.

2015 will also see the Costa Atlantica operate the first ever world cruise aimed solely at Chinese passengers- a massive leap of faith in offering such a deployment on such a large ship.

The addition of this third ship gives Costa an overall capacity of around 9,000 in a market that parent company, Carnival Corporation, is predicting will be the second largest in the world as early as 2017.

In terms of cruising numbers, the UK provided some 1.73 million cruise passengers in 2013, Germany had a figure of 1.69 million, and China had around 471,000 cruising passengers. By 2020, those Chinese numbers are predicted to rise to around 1.6 million.

While the figures for American passengers are obviously higher, this projected explosive expansion of Chinese passengers explains why companies like Costa and Royal Caribbean are reinforcing their positions in that market with premium new tonnage. The market must seem almost limitless.

Jaws dropped by the dozen a couple of weeks ago, when Royal Caribbean announced that it was sending the brand new, ground breaking Quantum Of The Seas out to the Far East, exclusively for the burgeoning Chinese market.

But, for now at least, it is Carnival Corporation that remains in pole position for the Chinese build up. As well as the Costa trio, sister brand, Princess Cruises, also has the  116,000 ton, 2,670 passenger Sapphire Princess operating in the region from May to September.

All of these deployments come against a backdrop of escalating regional tensions between an increasingly assertive pair of age old rivals,  China and Japan. In addition, Star Cruises has a pair of 144,000 ton new builds- the first that the line has commissioned this century- coming into the mix in the next few years, though there is no indication as yet that either of these will be dedicated to the Chinese market.

The bottom line is that Asia- Australia- Far East as a whole is increasingly on the radar of the major players in the cruise industry. As the market expands, I expect to see more, newer and more prestigious ships across all the major brands being assimilated straight into this increasingly lucrative market.

As always, stay tuned.

Additional Costa update: The line has also announced that the Costa Classica will be restyled as the Costa NeoClassica in a refit, and will then become the third ship in the Costa NeoCruises brand. In her new guise, the Costa NeoClassica will introduce a new series of Indian Ocean cruises.


Costa ships now hold one of the most rigorous boat drills of any cruise line

Costa ships now hold one of the most rigorous boat drills of any cruise line

In a move that will surprise some and baffle a few, Iberocruises’ Grand Celebration will be transferring over to parent brand, Costa Cruises, later this year, The ship is currently in dry dock in Genoa, Italy, where she is undergoing a nineteen day, 4.5 million euro general overhaul involving hull cleaning, some mechanical work, and interior refurbishments.

The ship will be renamed Costa Celebration. The 47, 263 ton, 1,896 pax ship originally started life for Carnival Cruises as the Celebration in the mid 1980’s, and was for many years a staple of the seven day Caribbean circuit.

From November through to February 2015, the newly wrought Costa Celebration will operate a series of fifteen and sixteen day cruises that showcase the highlights of the eastern and western Mediterranean, sailing from Marseille. From April 21st onwards, Costa Celebration will offer a series of eight night itineraries between Venice and Istanbul.

This seems a strange fit for Costa, coming hard on the heels of that company taking over the similar sized,  former Grand Mistral, and then remaking her as the Costa NeoRiviera as one half of a more upscale, boutique cruise operation (The other ship is CostaNeoRomantica). However, no plans have been announced yet to incorporate Costa Celebration as a third vessel.

Until November, the ship is so far scheduled to remain with Iberocruises, for whom she is slated to sail on seven night, Venice to Istanbul itineraries.

With all eyes focused on the November christening of the new flagship, Costa Diadema in Genoa, Costa still seems to be trying to settle on a definitive, post Concordia direction. The period of retrenchment is obviously not anything like over yet for the venerable Italian flag carrier.

Costa has for many years been seen as almost exclusively a big ship operator, catering to the mass market in regions including the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Greek Islands, Caribbean, South America and, of late, Asia as well. There was a brief flirtation with small scale that ended abruptly with the cancellation of the Costa Voyager programme of scheduled winter cruises to Egypt and Sinai, and the subsequent sale of that ship to a Chinese company.

Similarly, the original ‘big’ Costa matriach, Costa Classica, is due for a major refurbishment. She was originally intended to be lengthened more than a decade ago; a project only cancelled at the last minute, when the mid section had already been built and the ship was actually in the Irish Sea, en route for Liverpool.

To find out what happens next, please stay tuned.


Update 11/5/2014

A report today on the highly reliable Cruise Industry News website states that the soon to be wrought Costa Celebration will, indeed, be getting a new, Costa style yellow funnel to replace the current, former Carnival model.


I’m very grateful to the always excellent and perceptive Phillippe Brebant for pointing me in the direction of this story. Merci, Phillippe.


CNV00058Quietly, and amid all the mayhem surrounding events in black spots such as Syria and the Ukraine, the trail of the hapless Francesco Schettino, former captain of the capsized Costa Concordia, has been proceeding in a courtroom in Grosetto, Italy.

Media boards and forums have been asking for months why there has been ‘no news’ for several months regarding this, and asking why this was the case. Firstly, there was a lawyers’ strike in Italy not so long ago that slowed proceedings to a paltry few knots.

Then, there was a little something known as ‘due process’, the long and often interminable business of gathering, sifting and filtering the evidence, to eventually arrive at what are, hopefully, the right conclusions.

But yesterday, those that were looking did see something quite unique in the whole ghastly, long drawn out process. For yesterday was the day that the wretched Schettino was taken back to the scene of his epic meltdown.

For the first time since that dreadful night in January of 2012, Francesco Schettino was brought back, face to face with the grisly, mutilated carcass of the ship he had once commanded with such casual aplomb. The site where thirty-two people, assigned to his care, died even as he ‘fell’ into a lifeboat, before disregarding emphatic, heated orders to return to his ship from the local coastguard.

And he wept.

For the first time since that dreadful night, the captain finally broke down in public. Until now, he has always managed to keep his head firmly in the sand, rebutting a tidal wave of disparaging evidence and accusation time and time again. A twenty first century Canute, refusing to accept the inevitable, time and time again. Until yesterday.

What broke him? Was it the sad, battered, shabby corpse of his once beautiful, glittering command? It must certainly have been like a punch to the solar plexus to see the actual reality of this once proud ship, reduced to such an irreperable mess.

Was it the knowledge of those thirty-two lost souls that he had abandoned to their fate? He, the man charged with the care of every soul on his command, under God, for the duration of the voyage?

I suspect it was both.

For here, writ large, was the undeniable, devastating star witness for the prosecution; a grisly, gigantic presence whose final reality could not be denied.

And in that quiet, awful moment, I suspect that the unbearable weight of residual guilt, coupled with the desperate need he felt to maintain that implausible facade of a defence, proved just too much. As it would for anyone.

I do not for one moment condone, defend or excuse one thing that Schettino did during the horrific ordeal of the Costa Concordia. Ultimately, he is the man responsible.

But in that one little moment when Francesco Schettino was finally brought face to face with the wreck of his career, his ship, and his life, I found it impossible not to feel just a shred of pity for him.


Allure Of The Seas is Europe bound next year

Allure Of The Seas is Europe bound next year

Princess Cruises has announced that their new Royal Princess- launched just last year- will return to Europe for a full season of cruises over the summer. Her arrival- the latest in a slew of announcements from the major lines- points up just how much all the big players see Europe as seminal in filling- and for displaying- their prime movers and shakers. Just look at what else will be here next year.

Royal Caribbean’s new, second of class ship, Anthem Of The Seas will also be based in Southampton and, to no one’s great surprise, so will P&O’s new Britannia, a vessel being built on the same hull platform as Royal Princess.

The deployments by Princess and Royal Caribbean, in particular, represent a quite extraordinary statement of intent. Two of the world’s newest mega ships, with a capacity of well over 4,000 passengers each, will be based in the Hampshire port. It should be great news for the local business in Southampton for sure and, for the canny cruising purchaser, there should also be some great bargains available as well.

Nor is it simply Northern Europe that will be the recipient of state of the art mega ships. After four consecutive summer seasons in the Med, the game changing, 2010 built Norwegian Epic will be permanently home ported in Barcelona for 2015 onward. The one off mega ship significantly ups the ante for year round cruising from the Catalan port, though her itineraries will not be announced until next month, at the Seatrade Conference in Miami.

Larger still, Royal Caribbean took some people by surprise when it announced a full, summer season of 2015 Barcelona sailings on the jaw dropping Allure Of The Seas, one of the two largest cruise ships ever built. The gargantuan vessel will offer a series of seven night round trips from May through October. She will be by far the biggest ship to offer an extended cruise season in these waters and, with a passenger capacity in excess of 6,000, she will also offer roughly half as many berths again as her nearest rival. Should be interesting.

Pompeii's remains a staple of the Med cruise circuit. See them from Naples.

Pompeii’s remains a staple of the Med cruise circuit. See them from Naples.

Plus, next year will also mark the inaugural Med season for the new Costa flagship, the Costa Diadema. Due to debut this autumn, the ship is the biggest ever built by Carnival for the Italian franchise.

And, it has to be added, a few other players will stay their hands as regards dramatic new announcements until Seatrade. Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival, is on record as saying that the line might possibly return to Europe in 2015. Given that the newest Carnival ship- Carnival Vista- will not emerge from her Italian builders yard until 2016, the smart money would be on one of the Dream class trio coming back to the Mediterranean, though probably not the Baltic.

Though the numbers of ships being deployed are not really up on the 2012 figures, it is pretty obvious that nearly all of the major lines still see Europe as the prime arena for showcasing their new ships. Beside the big ticket, first time deployments in Southampton, Princess Cruises are also bringing over the huge Caribbean Princess and, for the first time ever, the line is offering an all inclusive drinks package in the fare.

So the European catwalk (cruisewalk?) season of 2015 looks like being quite a floor show, with each of the entrants bearing all the traits and positive selling points- both real and imagined- of their respective sponsors. One thing there will be no shortage of is choice.

Stay tuned.


CNV00002Even as the grisly, ghostly remains of the Costa Concordia rose sluggishly from her watery grave off the island of Giglio, the trial of her former captain, Francesco Schettino, was going full speed ahead in a converted opera house in Grosseto, Italy.

Unlike his five co-accused, the wretched Schettino has not been allowed to enter a plea bargain. His defence team are now conducting their stand along the extraordinary idea that Schettino alone was not responsible for the grounding and subsequent sinking of the ship under his command.

This ghastly playing with semantics will no doubt be of much concern to the families of the thirty two victims of the Costa Concordia, or indeed, the thousands of traumatized survivors, both passengers and crew, that lived through the terrible events of that dreadful night back in January of 2012. Frankly, for Schettino to contest that he is not solely responsible is more than laughable.

Because, as captain of the ship, he had the ultimate responsibility for- and to- all those under his care and command. And that duty did not end when the Concordia came shuddering to a halt after ripping her hull open. And in the exercise of that care and effort, Schettino failed spectacularly.

One of his officers has testified under oath that his captain seemed lost and uncomprehending after the disaster. Lost, indeed, to the extent that he failed to order an abandon ship, and lost to the extent that he failed to notify the local authorities of any accident to his ship, Indeed, so ‘lost’ that he ‘fell’ into a lifeboat, and then left his grounded ship while there were literally thousands still left on board. in the freezing darkness.

But if Schettino did indeed go to pieces after realising the enormity of what had happened to his ship, would it really have been at all surprising? Look back at two other classic examples of command in hopeless situations, and a tangible pattern emerges.

The obvious one is Edward Smith of the Titanic. Once the realisation of his ship’s true situation hit home, Smith seemed to implode spectacularly. Better than anyone, he knew that the lifeboats on board were sufficient for less than half the souls on Titanic, even if every seat was filled. He knew that the nearest rescue ship was four hours away, and that his ship had half that amount of time at best.

Coupled to that was the knowledge that he would ultimately be held responsible for this nightmare situation. That night, everything was left to the isolated efforts of his deck officers. On the port side, Second Officer Lightoller allowed women and children only into the boats. Murdoch, his opposite number on the starboard side, allowed men in as well when no more women were in evidence.

The result? Three times as many people were saved from the starboard side of the Titanic as from the port side, despite the exact same availability of seats on both sides. Another five hundred people could have been got in the existing boats, but Smith did nothing to overrule Lightoller, as he easily could have done. Captain Smith, with his thirty eight years experience at sea, was easily the most famous and feted skipper of any Atlantic liner. But he was simply overwhelmed by the events that overtook him.

Paradoxically, Edward Smith was to prove no more effective at evacuating the Titanic than was Francesco Schettino on the Costa Concordia. Two men, a century apart, bound  by the common ties of the same paralytic sense of stupor.

Another example of command in extremity was Captain Ernst Lindemann of the Bismarck. On the evening of May 26th, 1941, a torpedo wrecked the steering gear of his ship, leaving her limping helplessly towards an overwhelming, avenging pack of Royal Navy warships, all of them baying for the blood of the slayer of the ‘Mighty Hood’. For Lindemann and his young crew of 2,200, the Bismarck had become the biggest condemned cell in the world.

Add to that the fact that Lindemann, like most of his crew, had been awake for almost five days on end, as they fought a desperate series of skirmishes and pitched battles on a storm tossed, enemy dominated ocean, where any ship encountered could almost certainly be deemed hostile. After the torpedo hit, the already exhausted captain spent hours trying in vain to steer the crippled ship to safety by using the propellers.

In the small hours of May 27th, the duty engineer on Bismarck rang the bridge to request a routine order. The Captain’s response stunned him; ‘Ach, do what you like. I’m finished with them’…

Having realised the inevitable doom hurtling toward him, and knowing that he was powerless to either prevent it, or save his crew, Lindemann, like Smith before him, quietly imploded. At the same time, he was seen walking morosely around the bridge, while wearing an open life jacket.

And yes, I think something similar happened to Schettino; a kind of reverse ‘shock and awe’ if you will. What the public man is unwilling to admit, the heart and the brain can not deny. Schettino was overwhelmed by the events he had set in motion and, in the final analysis, he can never rise above that.


P&O's original Sun Princess was last sailing as the New Flamenco

P&O’s original Sun Princess was last sailing as the New Flamenco

The first part of this narrative detailed the ‘after lives’ of several former favourites that sailed for cruise lines such as Carnival, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean. The reaction to that piece was both surprising and very gratifying, hence this follow up.

Holland America Line made big attempts to upgrade its fleet in the mid eighties, well before the spectre of a takeover by Carnival began to loom. To that end, the company commissioned a pair of spectacular, mid sized sisters in 1983 and 1984, respectively; the Nieuw Amsterdam and the Noordam.

These two ships were very popular and successful, cruising mainly in the Caribbean and Alaska. However, after the Carnival takeover in 1997, Holland America began planning and construction of the new, far larger Vista class vessels that populate the fleet today. It was then  obvious that Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam were on borrowed time.

The Nieuw Amsterdam was sold to Louis Cruises in 2002, and Louis then chartered her long term to Thomson Cruises UK. She continues in service for that company as the Thomson Spirit, operating cruises in the Mediterranean and Baltic regions.

The Noordam also found a second life with Thomson, she cruises mainly in the Aegean and Adriatic regions as the Thomson Celebration.

Another former ‘Flying Dutchman’ that has found new life over at Thomson Cruises is the Thomson Dream. This famous ship started life in 1986 as the Homeric, the last newbuild for the ailing Home Lines.

Purchased by Holland America in 1988, she was renamed Westerdam, and then ‘stretched’ in a German shipyard. She then moved on to Costa as their Costa Europa before finally winding up with Thomson back in 2008-9, where she remains to this day. She typically spends her time making seven night cruises around the Mediterranean each summer, and relocates to the Caribbean for winter cruises out of Barbados.

Dreams and memories: the perky little Ausonia was the perfect 'mini liner'

Dreams and memories: the perky little Ausonia was the perfect ‘mini liner’

Another former Home Lines survivor is the 1982 built Atlantic. She went to MSC Cruises in 1997 as the Melody, and had a long and successful career with them. Put up for sale in January of 2013, she has yet to find an official buyer. I saw her laid up in Naples in October, still in her MSC colours, and still looking very trim indeed.

Back in the mid 1970s, Cunard tried to shake off it’s dowdy old class conscious image, when it commissioned a pair of 17,000 ton sister ships expressly for the Caribbean cruise trade; the 1976 built Cunard Countess and her 1977 sister, the Cunard Princess. The latter ship was christened in New York by Princess Grace of Monaco.

She is still sailing in the Eastern Mediterranean as the Golden Iris for Israeli-owned Mano Cruises, and has been since 2009. After a long spell with Louis Cruises, and then UK firm Cruise and Maritime, the Cunard Countess is currently laid up in Chalkis, Greece, under the name of Ocean Countess, awaiting a new buyer or charterer.