Above: the Nieuw Amsterdam at New York’s Pier 92 in Aug 1969
Sun Apr 24th At Home in Secaucus: Busy times! Within two days, Norwegian Cruise Lines will have no less than 5 sailings from New York – and on 5 different ships. Today, the Norwegian Getaway & Norwegian Gem set off for Europe and their summer cruise schedules; the Norwegian Escape follows tomorrow, again to European shores; on Tue, the Norwegian Joy sets course for a cruise to Bermuda; and finally, on Thursday, the Norwegian Dawn also sails off to European ports .
The Norwegian Escape berthed at Tortola in a photo by Andy Hernandez
But back to New York, on Sunday afternoon, Apr 24th, and three cruise ships in port – Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Getaway & Ocean Explorer
Contrast: The giant Norwegian Getaway compared to the expedition cruise ship Ocean Explorer
The 93,500-ton Norwegian Gem was completed in 2007 and can accommodate 2,394 passengers
Commissioned in 2011, the Norwegian Getaway was completed in 2011 and can carry up to 3,963 passengers. She is seen on the north side of Pier 88 and where the likes of the Normandie once berthed (and later burned & then capsized) and later welcomed the likes of the France.
The two NCL both had delayed sailings – welcoming over 5,000 combined passengers
On Tuesday, the gigantic Norwegian Joy was in port. It’s capacity: 3,883.
Huge dimensions … afloat & in the skies above …
Looking east across the Hudson: A moody, misty April morning …
Mon Apr 25th: At Home in Secaucus: More & more ships are returning to the high seas.As an example, the Noordam re-entered service for Holland America Line yesterday in Florida. After a 25-month hiatus, the 2006-built cruise ship is resuming commercial service with two repositioning cruises ahead of a summer program in Alaska. First, the vessel is offering first a Panama Canal cruise. The 17-night voyage sails from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego and features visits to eight ports in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. Once on the West Coast, the Noordam embarks on a four-night Pacific Coastal itinerary that links San Diego and Vancouver, with a stop in Victoria.
Earlier days: Holland-America’s Veendam, the former Argentina, departing from New York in 1982.
On Tuesday, I turn 74! Not an especially amazing age (especially since a friend here in town is 107 and she is still going strong), but a number for me to perhaps stop, pause, take time for appreciation. From that little boy, of a most loving & nurturing & supportive family, and who played with toy boats on his grandmother’s kitchen table (and even who placed white cotton in the little smokestacks to suggest steam & therefore activity) all those decades ago, it all just sort of began.
And watching the Hudson River & all those ships back in the golden 1950s … with Grandmother Miller & my brother George
And my very first visit to a ship — my other grandparents were sailing on the Queen of Bermuda & it was actually my birthday, May 3rd 1953, and I turned five
Now, having traveled on hundreds of ships to hundreds, maybe thousands of places (over 125 countries to date and itineraries from the Arctic to the Amazon), then writing books (over 115 of them), belonging to maritime groups & societies, researching & collecting, and altogether meeting so many people, often very interesting people & some becoming lifelong friends. So yes, a pause this week especially: Seated in a favorite chair at home, a cup of coffee & maybe a book at hand and a big smile. Yes, I made it this far — and maybe, well, still more, maybe even lots more, to come. And a heartfelt thank you to you and for all of you — friends, shipmates, helpers, those friendly faces along the promenade decks. PS: Miss Marnell was my Hoboken High School English teacher. She was strict, feared, a bit of a terror in a simple black dress, but she loved travel and especially travel by ship. She knew of my interest and, back in July 1964, during summer vacation from school, she sent me a postcard from the SS Orsova and from faraway Fiji. A post card especially to “me” from the formidable Miss Marnell — well, that ignited something. I wanted to be a teacher & that traveler just like her! And just about the same time, I wrote a letter to the great maritime historian & author Frank Braynard and told him I too liked ships and could I come to work with him one day. His reply was wonderfully encouraging — plus I had a “real” reply (in my hands) from the very busy, legendary Mr Braynard. Yes, I had all his books in my then small library. A few years later (1968), I actually met him — and we even had lunch together — and then, hark, I began working with him (in 1977) and soon thereafter we even wrote books together, as co-authors. So yes, I have been so, so lucky! Again, thank you to all …
Above: Greek Line’s Queen Anna Maria at Boston in 1968
Mon Apr 3rd At Home in Secaucus: Lee & Rosemary are longtime cruising friends (we crossed the Pacific together, from Tokyo to Los Angeles, some twenty years ago, for example, and did a Viking Ocean trip more recently). Today, Rosemary wrote: “Lee and I returned from a spring cruise adventure on March 24th. The cruise had been planned a long time ago, not knowing if we’d be able to go or not. Well—we DID!!! We sailed on Regent Seven Seas Splendor (below)from Miami to Miami for 18 days through the Caribbean. We are just short of sailing with Regent cruises for 200 days over many years; one of our favorite cruise lines. It was one of our very best cruises everywhere – maybe our happiest. A highlight: Lee turned 100 while onboard!”
And from across the seas in England, our good friend Stephen Macey wrote following our posting about P&O and the liners Canberra & Oriana: “Amazing! Regarding the original Oriana, my first encounter with her was on 26 July 1968! And I spotted the Canberra (below, at Southampton in 1979) in the background of one of your pictures, mylast encounter with her was 45 years ago this evening, prior to docking in Southampton. As I type this, now 45 years ago, I was in the Peacock Room dancing the night away before arriving in Southampton on Sunday 3 March 1977! I must confess to starting to feel a little ‘mature’!”
Another one gone! TV characters sometimes become like friends, part of our life, our world. For many years, I was a fan of the British soap EastEnders. Today, news of the passing of June Brown, who was the iconic Dot Cotton on the long-running series. Brown first appeared in the series in 1985, the year EastEnders was created. She stayed until 1993, returning to play the same character from 1997 until 2020. An EastEnders spokesperson said: “There are not enough words to describe how much June was loved and adored by everyone at EastEnders, her loving warmth, wit and great humour will never be forgotten. June created one of the most iconic characters in Dot Cotton, not just in soap but in British television, and having appeared in 2,884 episodes, June’s remarkable performances created some of EastEnders finest moments.”
Some of her biggest storylines included Nasty Nick’s murder plot, when her son, played by John Altman, planned to poison her so he could steal her big bingo winnings to use on drugs. He changed his mind at the last minute. One of her most moving and controversial moments came when her close friend Ethel, who was terminally ill, asked Dot to help her take an overdose of morphine to end her life. Dot wrestled with her Christian beliefs but ultimately decided to leave out morphine pills for Ethel to take. Her relationship with husband Jim Branning, played by the late John Bardon, was much cherished by fans of the soap. Brown remained a favourite with viewers for years, but during a podcast interview in February 2020, she confirmed that she had left the series “for good”. In the last episode she featured in, Dot Cotton – or Dot Branning – left a voicemail message for another character, Sonia Fowler, saying she had moved to Ireland.
Tue Apr 4th At Home in Secaucus: This ‘n That: Cruise lines are finding that positioning voyages with added sea days have become especially strong sellers following the covid shutdown. … Some cruise lines are increasing their mandatory charges – such as gratuities. … It’s a cruise line staple that went away due to the pandemic, but the self-serve buffet is returning. With some modification of course, cruise giant Royal Caribbean International has brought it back.
Wed Apr 6th At Home in Secaucus: Carnival Cruise Line said on Monday that the one-week period of March 28-April 3 was its busiest booking week in the company’s 50-year history, showing a double-digit increase from the previous record seven-day booking total.
Another long-ago voyage! I had a call today from a lady who sailed from New York to Le Havre on the French liner Flandre back in Sep 1959. She returned home months later, in Apr 1960, on the very same ship and wanted to know the fate of the ship. Conservative in size by North Atlantic liner standards (only 20,000 tons and with quarters for just under 800 passengers), the Flandre (seen below at New York in Jul 1962) was commissioned in 1952, but then sold to Italy’s Costa Line in 1968 and renamed Carla C (a name later advertised as Princess Carla for a charter in the late ‘60s to then newly formed Princess Cruises and then later formally renamed by Costa itself as Carla Costa). She was again sold, in 1992, to the Greek-flag Epirotiki Lines and became the Pallas Athena. Unfortunately, she was destroyed by fire at Piraeus but two years later, on Mar 24th 1994, and then her scorched remains were sold off to Turkish scrappers later that same year.
Below: Another new face! Virgin Cruises has now added its third big cruise ship, the Resilient Lady.
Post card: Permanently moored in Rotterdam harbor, friends reported an excellent stay on the preserved, 1959-built Rotterdam. They noted, “It was as if the ship was brand new!”
Thu Apr 7th At Home in Secaucus: The restart of the global cruise industry continues to pick up pace as 300 cruise ships are expected to sail in April. That’s up from 264 ships in March, and just 22 last April. There will be 71 brands operating in April, compared to just 20 a year ago in 2021.
The Carnival Sunshine leaving Nassau in a photo by Andy Hernandez
Meanwhile below, our good friend & keen photographer Justin Zizes has been at the helm of harbor vessels – and with his trusty camera in hand. While sailing along the East River and on a moody afternoon, he captured the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) and the World Trade Center (2016).
Sat Apr 9th New York City: 90th birthday for our dear friend Des Kirkpatrick – late morning drinks in a luxurious townhouse, then to lunch (just around the corner) and then back to the townhouse for cake & Champagne. A fine tribute in every way! Des was, in his long and colorful and well-traveled life, a purser on Royal Mail Lines’ Andes and then Furness-Bermuda Line’s Ocean Monarch (seen below), and did countless cruises on the likes of the Rotterdam, Kungsholm & many others. He also worked for Lindblad Travel & so sailed off some exotic, often quite remote ports of call.
The Ocean Monarch laid-up and for sale in Cornwall’s River in a view from fall 1966.
Tue Mar 29th At Home in Secaucus: A call today asking about the fate of Holland-America’s Ryndam of the 1950s & ‘60s. Seems the caller was on one of the ship’s “floating university cruises” back in 1968. It was a four-month voyage completely around the world but with teachers & speakers onboard while passengers were enriched, enlightened and even earned credits (through the Chapman College). The ship is seen below sailing from New York’s Pier 40.
Wed Mar 30th At Home in Secaucus: The horrific situation in Ukraine continues to receive support. The cruise industry has, of course, many Ukrainian staff & crew. Among the honorable examples, Costa Cruises will be offering housing to Ukrainian refugees on its Costa Magica (seen below). A Costa spokesman added, “We have offered one of our ships to the Italian Government to be integrated into the National Civil Protection’s plans as a potential temporary hub for Ukrainian refugees in case of growing numbers of arrivals in Italy in the coming weeks”. Meanwhile, MSC Cruises is offering refugee accommodation in Eastern Europe, particularly Rumania, and while several European river boats are to be used as refugee accommodation. Many cruise lines are allowing Ukrainian staff to break their contracts, return home and even offering return air. Of course, citizens of many countries are providing lodging in their homes. Even the Dutch & Belgian royal families are pitching-in: They are turning unused castles into temporary housing.
Possible comeback! It has been announced that the fleet of insolvent Genting Hong Kong — those ships that sailed for Crystal Cruises, Dream Cruises and Star Cruises — will likely go to auction soon. Auctions are required as part of the legal liquidation process to clear any maritime liens (necessities like fuel, crew wages, supplies, etc.) with priority that rank before mortgages. Upon sale at auction, the ships would be purchased free and clear of any liens. If there are no adequate bids, the mortgage holder could take a ship in exchange for their lien and try to sell it on their own for more money than the auction would have produced, a maritime attorney said.
A number of parties reportedly have expressed interest in the Crystal Cruises ships and some in the company as a whole. One of those parties, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio’s Heritage Group, confirmed that ‘Heritage maintains a strong interest and we hope to be successful in acquiring [the] Crystal ocean fleet and brand.’ Before the liquidation, Genting HK is understood to have appointed Crédit Agricole — a longtime financial partner — to sell Crystal Cruises, and this process has continued under the subsequent appointment of the joint provisional liquidators. Overall, the hottest sale item is the quite new Crystal Endeavor, the most expensive and luxurious expedition cruise ship yet built. The 350-passenger Endeavor was en route (on Mar 29th) from South America to lay-up in London/Tilbury while the larger Crystal Serenity & Crystal Symphony were in the hands of caretaker crews and lying off Freeport in the Bahamas.
Out of the Basket! Cruise fares, which were very often very low following the long Covid shutdown, are now climbing. Bookings are up and 65% of Americans say they would rather vacation than, say, buy a new car. … More & more ships are returning to service and restricted capacities are now gradually being increased.
Thu Mar 31st At Home in Secaucus: Thanks to geopolitical tensions surrounding Russia’s war in Ukraine, there will soon be a new world’s longest flight — sort of. Cathay Pacific’s service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) will soon take considerably longer as the airline avoids Russian airspace. Instead of taking a conventional great circle routing that brings departures out of Kennedy over Greenland, Russia, Mongolia and China, the new flight path will bring Cathay’s flights on a more southerly route over the North Atlantic Ocean, Great Britain, continental Europe, the Black Sea and Turkey.
Fri Mar 25th Onboard the Queen Mary 2 at sea in the North Atlantic: Bruce Nutton had an American father & an English mother and as a teenager, in the 1950s, he crossed the Atlantic several times. Even as a young man, he himself had a fascination for ships, especially those big, famous liners. As it happened, he traveled on four of the most illustrious of the 1950s & ‘60s – the Liberte, Ile de France, Queen Mary & United States. Recently, we met aboard the Queen Mary 2. He’d attended my talks and some long-ago memories were sparked.
“Despite being English, my mother absolutely loved the French Line, in fact many things French,” he recalled. “The Liberte might just have been her favorite ship of all. We were very fortunate to travel in first class and the Liberte’s first class quarters were magnificent: Fine, highly polished woods, Aubusson carpets, Lalique chandeliers and chairs done in that deep, rich red and which came from the Normandie. It was all sort of post-war French Art Deco. The waiters were charming, often good looking and delightfully accented. Mother was absolutely charmed and even infatuated. And one of those red-suited bell boys would always appear to light her after-dinner cigarette. But of course the food, both the preparation and presentation, was, as was said so often, absolutely magnifique! It was Skate in butter sauce for breakfast just as you said in your talk. The caviar and the wines just flowed. Mother went to dinner wearing long gowns, jewels and a fur wrap. My parents sat each evening through 6 or 7 courses. Dining was the main event – and then more Champagne and dancing afterward. First class on the Liberte [seen below at Le Havre] was like being in the finest hotel in Paris except that it moved. It took 6 days, as I recall, to go from Le Havre to New York – and four of those nights were formal dress.”
The Liberte & Ile de France together at New York, but idle during a French maritime strike in 1957
The main lounge on the Liberte, done largely in gold & in red
But it wasn’t all glamor and luxury and that fine dining for a teenager. “My father took me one afternoon down to the ship’s indoor pool,” recalled Bruce. “I think it was on D Deck, at the very bottom of the ship. But I was petrified. I did not want to go in the water. I was convinced that there was a hole at the bottom of the pool and which extended underneath the ship itself. I feared I would be sucked into the ocean – and lost!”
“On another crossing on the Liberte, I did not want to go, to leave my friends in America. After leaving New York, I went down to the gym where there was a large ship’s wheel mounted on the wall. It was merely a decorative item, but I was convinced it could be useful – well, useful to me. I manage to loosen the wheel and turn it 180 degrees. I was sure this would cause the Liberte to reverse course and return to New York!”
On another crossing, Bruce and his parents took the equally splendid Ile de France. The year was 1957. “She was another ship of great decorative style. The first class restaurant was three decks high and the lounges had fine tapestries as wall hangings. Our cabin was large, styled in more Art Deco and had a bathtub as long as the Seine. The Ile was also unique – she had that rare sense of a ship having a ‘soul’. There was this ambience. This feeling. This sense of romance even. She was, after all, rated as the very best ship for a shipboard romance. Passengers strolled the promenade deck and it was called a ‘boulevard’ – with passing passengers. One or two movie stars were on our trip. You would always smell expensive French perfume on the lle de France. And on our crossing, the Ile was still heroic – she had just rescued lots of passengers & crew from the sinking Andrea Doria [July 25th 1956].”
“The Queen Mary was another ship with that sense of having a hidden soul, something different from the steel, wood, nuts & bolts. The feeling sort of embraced you. You just loved being onboard almost from the moment you stepped across the gangway. We do 3 trips in her. She was different than the French liners, however. She was more like some grand old British country house filled with traditions, order, a sense of stately solitude. The staff, again in first class, were Cunard trained and mannered down to their little fingers. It was all very proper. I remember thinking the chef looked like a winter snowman. He came to our table, with a silver trolley and to carve the finest beef you ever tasted, in an all-white uniform and a big puff hat. It was all done with a seriousness – there was no idle chit-chat, but highly trained manners. Yes, the Queen Mary was like the best run country house, a sort of Downton Abbey on the seas.”