The legendary Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 on the Hudson River in New York City, October 16, 2008, as she departs for the final time.

19 March, 2012

Something Titanic Related Coming to NYC?

Message above was kindly forwarded to me from a coworker, who is from the Belfast area.  I wonder what this celebration of Belfast's maritime history and glimpse of the city's future will be?  Would it possibly be related to Titanic or Harland and Wolff?  The Titanic Quarter redevelopment was in full swing when QE2 visited Belfast for its one and only time in October of 2008. 

Interesting, on the Titanic Quarter's website timeline section, they specifically flag the 2008 visit from New York's "Lord" Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the 2012 opening of their signature Titanic project, no doubt in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the sinking. 

We saw glimpses of the new construction and the remnants of the Harland & Wolff yard, including the graving dock and associated pump house, and the drafting room building, all visible from QE2's berth in the harbor. 

The massive yellow Harland & Wolff cranes dominated the skyline, along with their equally massive building, which has been leased out in recent times to movie studios.

We did a non-Cunard sanctioned shore excursion, a harbor cruise highlighting the history of the harbor.  According to our guide, the boats captain, these cranes were used in the construction of the three Olympic Class ships.  They deserve a better location and some measures of preservation.

We caught a glimpse of the historic building, the "drawing room", of the shipyard, where Titanic and countless other ships were designed. (grey building on the right) with additional yellow Harland & Wolff shipyard cranes in the distance.

Newer waterfront construction was evident along the harborfront.  Not sure what this non-descript building is, but much more dynamic building plans are in the works for the entire site, aptly named the "Titanic Quarter."

This was our view of the yard as we approached.  Here we see the Sampson and Goliath famous twin gantry cranes in the distance.  It is not widely known, but Harland & Wolff were initially considered for the construction of Cunard's replacement of QE2, Queen Mary 2.  These cranes, with an 840 ton lifting capacity would have been used in her construction.  Ultimately, they were not competitive with other yards and lost out to Chantiers de l'Atlantique in Saint Nazaire, France, making Queen Mary 2 the first Queen not built in the UK.  One has to wonder if the British government could have stepped in and offered some sort of assistance, similar to what they did with the previous Queens, to make the deal to build the next Cunarder in the UK more financially attractive.  The contract surely would have reinvigorated the entire area and I suspect the ship would be even more endeared in the UK, perhaps reinvigorating some sense of national pride.  Sadly this was not to be. 

Fortunately, the shipyard has been experiencing a resurgence, with renewed focus on renewable energy technology of wind and wave power as well as their offshore oil platform renewal and rehabilitation programs.  For ship enthusiasts, though, this pales in comparison to a much smaller project, but with far more significance.  Harland & Wolff have undertaken the restoration of the SS Nomadic, the last surviving White Star ship, who's significance is directly related to Titanic

This little ship served as a tender to the Olympic and Titanic when the ship anchored in the port of Cherbourg, France.  During our trip to Belfast in 2008, we saw the ship out of the water awaiting restoration in a fenced in area not far from where she was originally constructed in 1911.  She had been rescued from the River Seine in Paris, where she had sat semi-neglected after her career as a floating restaurant ended with the closing of the restaurant.  Read more about SS Nomadic's restoration here.

From the Titanic Quarter website:  In an area steeped in history, Titanic Belfast (opening spring 2012) forms a central part of the development of Titanic Quarter. The state-of-the-art building, designed by leading international architects and designers, will include a ‘Titanic Experience' exhibition, an ‘immersive theatre' diving underwater to explore the wreck, a Titanic-themed banqueting suite and a community arts facility for local exhibitions, performances and conferences.

The project will also include the restoration of the Titanic and Olympic slipways, the Thompson Dock and Harland & Wolff's former Headquarters building.

Here is a rendering of the "signature" building scheduled to open in 2012, the Titanic Belfast.  As part of the development, the Harland & Wolf headquarters building (the drawing room) will be restored and integrated into the redevelopment of the site.  Now the question is what will be unveiled during the event on May 2nd in New York City? Stay tuned.

All development images courtesy of

09 March, 2012

Love Boat Final Episode

The former Pacific Princess, made famous as the cruise ship featured in the TV series "Love Boat" has been reported sold to a Turkish company specializing in shipbreaking.  The ship has been tied up in Genoa, Italy since 2009, when it was seized by the Italian Coast Guard for non-payment of a shipyard bill.  Previous attempts to sell the ship were unsuccessful and now it looks like she's been sold for scrap;  a sad end to the ship that without a doubt, was instrumental in the rapid expansion of the cruise industry in the 80's.  More information on the ship's history can be found here.  She was built in 1971, almost as old as QE2 and she served Princess well for most of her time in service.

While I cannot credit the TV show for sparking my interests in ship, I watched "Love Boat" as a teenager religiously.  There was something about seeing the ship in the opening credits, with the bow shots of the Pacific Princess slicing through the water, and then from above, with the ship at speed with smoke from her funnel that always intrigued me.  Sure, now that I see some of the clips, the show was a bit cheesy, but I recall they would cast a wide variety of the current stars as passengers so it was always fun to watch, and  for that matter, also dream of taking a cruise one day.  For instance, the clip above shows that one of the "Brady Bunch" girls was "onboard" for that cruise....err episode.  And then there was the Marcia episode.....I'm sure I watched that one.  Yeah, I watched the "Brady Bunch" alot, and it had nothing to do with the dad, Mike Brady, being an Architect.  Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

Check out this website that lists each and every episode and the guest cast. 
Admittedly, I also had a thing for Julie, your ever cheerful cruise director.  She had that Dorothy Hamill (USA Olympic gold medal figure skater from my childhood)  hair style going on for a while that was all the rage.  Funny thing, I've never had a cruise director on any of our cruises even remotely resembling her. They've all been men.  Well, Max, on the Costa Magica was along with his wife, who was also on the cruise staff  played the Julie part well, so that is as close as it gets for me.  Cunard's had a fine staff of cruise directors in our experience.  I believe we've had Ray Rouse both on QE2 and most recently on QM2, but the "Julie" type remains elusive.

Now the show ran for a long time, ten years, maybe too long.  My interest in the show was clearly waning, though, by the time they tried to spice things up by introducing captain's daughter to the plot line.  They also had trouble with the real Julie and had to replace her.  The show was never the same.

Back to the captain, Captain Merrill Stubing, played by Gavin MacLeod of  "Mary Tyler Moore" TV sitcom fame.  I have to admit, it was pretty cool to see our last name, by no means a popular name, on the TV screen.  Hey, maybe I would be a ship's captain one day....It was only recently that I learned that he isn't really a true MacLeod of Scottish heritage at all, but American Indian! Indians go bald? Oh the humanity!  He thought it would make a cool stage name.

Now my interest in ships, Clydebuilt ships actually, goes back farther in time, to that Irwin Allen blockbuster "Poseidon Adventure."  I'll never forget seeing the opening credits and recognizing her instantly as the Queen Mary, probably since I had spent many hours at the kitchen table recently painting and gluing up the Revell model of her.  That insane childhood obsession with Queen Mary is another blogworthy topic that continues to this day.  Recently, we played the "Poseidon Adventure " DVD, on New Year's Eve actually, to coincide with a friend's overnight stay onboard her in Long Beach that very night.  Happy to report....she did not sink that night.