SWINGS AND ROUNDABOUTS- SOME MARITIME MUSINGS FROM THE PAST FEW WEEKS

Happy days; the dainty little Deutschland is off to Poenix Seereisen

Happy days; the dainty little Deutschland is off to Poenix Seereisen

While I was enjoying myself swanning around the Caribbean the other week, several quiet but subtle developments were going on behind the scenes in the cruise and ocean liner industry. Here’s my take on some of them.

First up, a big, heartfelt ‘well done’ to all at the SS. United States Conservancy for managing to secure another lifeline for this valiant, fabled ship. The story of their struggle would make for a wonderful movie script, even if we know that the final chapter has yet to be written. Hopefully, it will prove to still have a happy ending.

On the Dubai front, I’ll have something to say about the latest QE2 developments in a separate, upcoming blog. Stay tuned for that one.

Truly wonderful is the news that Phoenix Seereisen will take on the troubled, unsettled Deutschland. Not only does this put this gorgeous little jewel box back under German ownership, but it will also see her welcome return to the German cruising market. And, as an added bonus, this lovely little ship will finally be refitted with the ‘Juliet’ balconies that were bruited for her back in the last days of Peter Deilmann ownership. These should help to give this lovely little ship some kind of competitive edge, and ensure she remains a viable cruise option for a good few more years.

Sadly, almost inevitably, the end has come for the former Kungsholm of 1966. I suspect that politics played a part in the ship not being able to find a permanent future berth in either Stockholm or Gothenburg, and now the venerable, 28,000 ton paragon has left on a final, one way voyage to the scrapyard.

In any event, she was a ship with a hugely storied career. Many in the UK in particular will remember her as the Sea Princess, a long standing and popular member of the UK cruising market. Even with the unsightly truncation of her original forward funnel, she was a fine, stately, beautifully crafted paragon of an ocean liner that made a successful transformation into a long serving, hugely popular cruise ship.

But, on a final optimistic note, it was heartening, indeed, to hear that Viking Ocean Cruises has ordered another pair of vessels in its hugely anticipated ocean going fleet. Lead ship. Viking Star, has thus far cut an enviable swathe through the cruise industry, and continues to garner huge praise. And, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke- don’t fix it.

As ever, stay tuned.

AUF WIEDERSEHEN, DEUTSCHLAND…..

Conformation has finally come through the Peter Deilmann’s classic little jewel box of a ship, Deutschland, has been sold to Semester at Sea.

The 19,000 ton vessel, built in 1998 but idle off Gibraltar since last November, will be renamed the World Odyssey when she takes up her new role. I understand that the red band on her hull will be replaced with blue.

Management of the ship will be by V Ships of Monaco.

Semester at Sea was in need of a new vessel after selling it’s previous floating campus, the Explorer, to Celstyal Cruises, for whom she now sails as the Celestyal Odyssey.

While many- this author included- will find it sad that the delightful little Deutschland has not been retained for the cruising market, it was always really pretty hard to see who might make a go of her commercially, without totally destroying her unique, almost Victorian style liner interiors. These were quite unlike anything else out there, and still are.

She was rumoured to be going to Crystal at one stage, but these rumours appear to have inaugurated in Germany. They also sank without trace just as quickly under scrutiny.

Still, it is good that this wonderful ship will continue to grace the oceans. I just sincerely hope that her new owners appreciate her as much as her past passengers still do. It really is the end of an era.

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland…..

Bye bye to this.....

Bye bye to this…..

SHIPS GOING NOWHERE? DEUTSCHLAND AND A SUPPORTING CAST

Are some lines moving ahead faster than others this year?

Are some lines moving ahead faster than others this year?

The last couple of weeks have seen a blizzard of new, very positive announcements in the mega ship market from the likes of MSC Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian and, of course, most recently Carnival.

In addition, the mid size, upscale market has had cause to celebrate with the keel laying of a superb new vessel for Regent Seven Seas, plus the acquisition of a fourth of the original ‘R’ class vessels by Oceania. The exciting new Viking Star is imminent. And, in just a few months, Windstar is set to showcase the pair of lavishly refurbished ex-Seabourn yachts that are being added to the fleet.

In so many ways, it seems like ‘full speed ahead’ for the industry. But, while all of the developments listed above are welcome and to be lauded, somewhere in between, other ships seem to be slipping, forgotten and neglected, between the cracks in the sweeping media spotlights.

What, for instance, of Deutschland? Last linked with a bizarre takeover by Crystal Cruises, the former Peter Deilmann stalwart- one of the most beautiful, stunningly decorated ships ever built- is still swinging idly at anchor off Gibraltar. There were stated to be between two to four buyers interested in purchasing her only two months ago. Now, the sound of silence is deafening,

And what of Gemini?

Last known to be laid up in Tilbury following her stint as a hotel ship during the 2012 London Olympics, the trim little cruise liner seems to have donned some kind of cosmic invisibility cloak. No one seems to know who-if anyone- might be interested in this lovely little ship, built as relatively recently as 1992.

And no word, either, from Portuscale Cruises after stories began to circulate that the partially refurbished, 1955 built Lisboa had been put up for sale, appearing on at least one shipbroker’s sales list. The ship is said to be mechanically sound, with some work needed on the bridge instruments. Many are thinking that her future is not looking good and, par for the course, Portuscale has been typically recitent to say anything, A state of affairs that serves only to confuse the issue further.

On the plus side, the similar sized (20,000 ton) Astor has found a happy home with Cruise and Maritime Voyages, who will also continue to operate the veteran, 1948 built Azores and, of course, the superb, 1965 built Marco Polo. That ship celebrates a well deserved 50th anniversary this summer.

The latter news is a welcome glimmer of light in what seems like an otherwise constant parade of smaller, more intimate cruise ships to the scrapyard. And their demise, while perhaps understandable from an economic point of view, deprives the industry as a whole of some of the charming, quirky diversity that used to be integral to its make up.

In the midst of all the welcome news about the big ships, some more positive developments in the smaller ship sector would be very welcome as well.

And should any such news transpire, it will be recounted right here as it comes in.

My advice? As always, stay tuned.

MS DEUTSCHLAND PICTURE BOOK

Steamer chairs on deck of the floating time capsule, the Deutchsland

Steamer chairs on deck of the floating time capsule, the Deutschland

Lobby with Tiffany glass ceiling fixture
Lobby with Tiffany glass ceiling fixture

Upper deck, looking aft

Upper deck, looking aft

Gold leaf statuary gives the Deutschland an elegant feel

Gold leaf statuary gives the Deutschland an elegant feel

Name board

Name board

Sailing through the Amsterdam canal

Sailing through the Amsterdam canal

Pool deck, with cushioned deck chairs

Pool deck, with cushioned deck chairs

Wrought iron furniture on the upper deck buffet

Wrought iron furniture on the upper deck buffet

Deck heads on the Deutschland

Deck heads on the Deutschland

Well, it can't be all work.....

Well, it can’t be all work…..

Entrance to the Gallery

Entrance to the Gallery

Lobby way with potted palms. You don't often see that these days

Lobby way with potted palms. You don’t often see that these days

Deutschland's main lounge. This could almost as easily be on the Olympic...

Deutschland’s main lounge. This could almost as easily be on the Olympic…

The style is pure turn of the 20th century

The style is pure turn of the 20th century

This ship really does take you back to the days of the old German liners of North German Lloyd

This ship really does take you back to the days of the old German liners of North German Lloyd

Even the interior promenade deck looks like a time warp

Even the interior promenade deck looks like a time warp

This lovely statue is on top of the ship's forward superstructure

This lovely statue is on top of the ship’s forward superstructure

Another shot of the main lounge

Another shot of the main lounge

Painting of the late Peter Deilmann, very much the man behind building the Deutschland

Painting of the late Peter Deilmann, very much the man behind building the Deutschland

The furnishings and filigree glass window fittings are just exquisite

The furnishings and filigree glass window fittings are just exquisite

Even the ceilings have beautiful mouldings

Even the ceilings have beautiful mouldings

Dance floor in the main lounge

Dance floor in the main lounge

Beautiful, frescoed ceiling and chandeliers in the Kaisersaal Ballroom

Beautiful, frescoed ceiling and chandeliers in the Kaisersaal Ballroom

Antwerp is just one destination on Deutschland's usual calendar

Antwerp is just one destination on Deutschland’s usual calendar

Artwork throughout the ship is beautiful and impressive everywhere

Artwork throughout the ship is beautiful and impressive everywhere

Entrance to the 'Old Fritz' Pub

Entrance to the ‘Old Fritz’ Pub

The attention to detail everywhere on this ship is simply incredible

The attention to detail everywhere on this ship is simply incredible

Outdoors on the 'Old Fritz' terrace at night. It has built in overhead heaters

Outdoors on the ‘Old Fritz’ terrace at night. It has built in overhead heaters

That famous 'Traumschiff' funnel is slated to be replaced in an upcoming refit

That famous ‘Traumschiff’ funnel is slated to be replaced in an upcoming refit

 

DEUTSCHLAND- 21ST CENTURY TIME TRAVEL

ImageClive Palmer is a man with a mission. The ebullient antipodean has made headlines with his decision to gift the world his Titanic II project. He intends her to be a faithful as possible recreation, encapsulating all the glamour, opulence and style of turn of the 20th century ocean liner travel. There’s just one small fly circling above the brilliantine.

It’s already been done…

ImageAnd here is the proof. Her name is Deutschland. Internally, she’s an almost perfect tribute to such famous, pre-WW1 flyers as the Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse and the legendary Kronprinz Wilhelm. Small, highly styled and wonderfully anachronistic, Deutschland is possibly the most under rated passenger ship afloat today anywhere.

ImageShe was conceived by the late Peter Deilmann to be a tribute to that hallowed age of German ocean liners. But the ship herself is strictly first class, with just over 500 passengers carried in small but supremely comfortable cabins that echo the sumptuous, magnificent spread of public rooms on board.

Deutschland is wonderfully dramatic. Vast chandeliers hold sway above a sea of rich, thick red carpeting in the gold accented Kaisersaal ballroom. There are exquisite stained glass ceilings and deep leather sofas that look as if they were lifted intact from the Adlon or the Ritz. Potted palms are dotted around the public areas like random exclamation marks.

ImageGold cherubs and gilded balustrades predominate, while huge, cake rich paintings of ancient sailing ships and ocean liners loom above formal seating groups. Banks of floor to ceiling windows flood this wonderful little ship with light; this helps her to feel elegant, even coquettish. More Louis Quinze than stolid Prussian matriach.

ImageThe food and service is simply amazing. A 20.000 ton ship that boasts four separate dining venues- all included in the fare- is quite something. And where else would you expect to find boar and ostrich on the menu, if not here? The pleasures of the table are one of the main forms of entertainment aboard Deutschland.

ImageThe ship is a perfect, compact little jewel. Her outer decks are immaculate; lined with rows of teak steamer chairs, each one with its own, embroidered dark blue mattress. Lines of them are as perfectly presented as a parade of the Prussian Guard. She is without doubt one of the most immaculate ships that I have ever sailed on. or, for that matter, ever will.

It should go without saying that this is a ship with a genteel kind of patina; a wondrous, subtle vibe that puts the emphasis on enjoying the ship herself for what she is. If you can’t live without bingo, rock climbing walls or fur and feather floor shows, then Deutschland is definitely not for you.

ImageBut if you appreciate cool, classy jazz, wonderful food and service, and a level of charm, style and panache that simply cannot be fabricated (C.Palmer, I’m talking to you), then it may very well be that your ship has, indeed, come in. I wish this stunning, spirited little gem of a ship many more years of happy sailing.ImageImageImage