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Lest We Forget The Lusitania

Today is the day to remember the Lusitania.


If there hadn’t been a Titanic, you’d know all about the Lusitania. It sank 100 years ago today, courtesy of a torpedo, and if the Titanic had missed that iceberg three years earlier, Lusitania would have been the word by which all cruise-ship disasters at sea would be measured.

There’s surely nobody left old enough to remember the Lusitania’s demise.

Cunard, at 175, is…and with good reason. The Lusitania was the first of 22 Cunard ships that were sunk during World War I, by then just a year old. Today, 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale in Ireland, near Cobh, Cunard’s Queen Victoria will hover over the Lusitaniaapproximate spot where the Lusitania went down. There will be floral tributes. Its whistles will sound. Chances are the Queen Victoria will linger for 18 minutes, because that’s how long it took for the old ship to disappear into the depths at 10 minutes past two that afternoon.

At the time, it was apparently the most famous ship in the world, heading from Liverpool to New York. Along with sister ship Mauritania, this was the first of what were called “floating palaces.” Many of the passengers were from the Liverpool area, Cunard’s original home. A church service and minute of silence were planned, along with a walk past the Lusitania’s propeller.

On the Queen Mary, in the midst of a 7-day memorial cruise, there is a Lusitania exhibition, assembled by Eric Sauder, who has dived onto the wreck and who was once a tour guide on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. Sauder has written two books on the ship, the release of the second to coincide with today’s anniversary.

David Dingle, CEO of Cunard Line, provided some context for the ship: “Her story was also one of triumph in the technical achievement of her construction and her glittering career from 1907 until the outbreak of war.”

That career began five years before the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage in April 1912. Cobh was the last port before both ships crossed the ocean on the trip to New York. On the Titanic, 1,517 people perished. On the Lusitania, 1,190 perished.

But the Titanic was first. As such, its name is forever memorialized and Lusitania’s is not. She is remembered only on anniversaries like today.

In the news…

• Carnival's brands donate $200,000 to Nepal earthquake relief
• All-inclusive suite class coming to Royal Caribbean in 2016 [Travel Weekly]
• Freestyle Choice freebies for Norwegian cruisers who book this month
• Mexico building a cruise home port southwest of Phoenix [Arizona Republic]

Today at portsandbows.com: Flight deals to get to Silver Galapagos

Norwegian Jade
7 nights
June 6, 2015
Venice (return): Dubrovnik, Athens, Ephesus, Split
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Ports a World Apart Shaping Up

We've been to San Juan, Puerto Rico twice. We've been to Liverpool, England once. At the risk of sounding like glass-half-full tourists, we enjoyed both places and, despite that, we haven't been in either as often as we'd like.

These days, a lot of our travel involves cruising. Duh! Anything that by whatever means returned us to San Juan or Liverpool would range between fantastico (San Juan) and splendid (Liverpool). Both cruise ports are taking steps to get us — or people like us — to visit them more often.

San Juan's strategy is impressive.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, signed off on an enthusiastic bill that Puerto Ricans hope will multiply tourism dollars over the next four years. Hugely discounted fees ($9) for each cruise passenger. A $1 per-passenger rebate to cruise lines that keep their ships in port longer than eight hours…$2 if they do it 21 times a year with that ship. And 10% discount on goods (supplies) and (maintenance) services that cruise lines purchase while in port.

Here's an example:

Suppose a cruise ship of 3,000 passengers meets the first two criteria. That's between $30,000 and $33,000 of savings per visit for cruise lines. If it's $33,000 per visit, that means the ship has been there 21 times. On our electronic calculator, that's $693,000 for the year. This will attract the cruise lines, who then must sell their customers on going to Puerto Rico. With savings to play with, cruise lines can make that financially attractive. Puerto Rico wins if the visitors come…and spend.

Liverpool's strategy is short-term.

In 2008, the city built a new cruise terminal. There were 13 ships that called in Liverpool that year. Last year, there were 42. Next year there will be 52. They're not all heavyweights, but Cunard's ships occasionally go to their ancestral home, Holland America's Prinsendam was there this week and the Ruby Princess will be next year, when during the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club the Celebrity Infinity will be staying overnight to accommodate its golf fans.

So it's growing. The problem is, or has been, that the terminal's temporary check-in facility needs a facelift. It will be replaced in another year and a half, but in the interim Liverpudlians feel it looks too much like…well, a warehouse. This steel-framed tent with gray walls is being re-decorated (make that "decorated") with large photographs and huge sails, hanging from the ceiling. It's all about the image and making the city feel warmer and more fun.

If it works, the terminal will be more like Liverpool's people…warm and fun.


Cunard Return…Just a Few Years Later

“We are committed to Southampton as our main base, but Liverpool is our spiritual home.”

Those are the words of Peter Shanks, Cunard’s President, after word leaked in the Liverpool Daily Post that the Queen Mary 2 may — that’s “may” — start sailing from Liverpool to New York on a one-off, sporadic basis.

The historical significance of this is that when Samuel Cunard founded the cruise line that bears his name, he did so in Liverpool. Somewhere along the way of the succeeding 172 years, Liverpool lost its cruise status to Southampton…at least with respects to Cunard it did.

Who, you may ask, would want to go to Liverpool to start a cruise.


You can view Liverpool as a somewhat-dirty port city, or you can view it as the spiritual — okay, original — home of The Beatles. We chose the latter, in the days when we trekked around England with three kids in tow, and were richer for it. Because we loved the music, and the history that came with it, we toured and enjoyed the city immensely.

From all that we’ve read, visiting Liverpool is an even better experience today.

This, then, could be a winner for Cunard. Ol’ Samuel would be proud.

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
May 13, 2012
Barcelona (return): Naples, Rome, Florence, Cannes, Marseille
Inside $699

Blokes and Folks who like Liverpool

There must be something in our lineage that connects us to seaports because we might be the only worldly (?) travelers around who raved about visiting Liverpool and Marseilles, port cities that tourists love to hate. So we read with a certain wistfulness — if anybody dares to read with wistfulness the ramblings of Carnival Cruise Director John Heald — that the Queen Victoria cruised into the British port this week to mark the 170th anniversary of Cunard’s first sailing from Liverpool.

In his daily blog, Mr. Heald usually takes a long time to say something and periodically fails to do so, while engaging his six million readers by being funny, inarticulate, clever, potty, entertaining and a list of other adverbs too long to fit this space. His coverage of the historic event in Liverpool lasted 3,968 words, including the ones that aren’t, and this little fact is relevant only if you thought blogs are supposed to be short.

In his bizarre but thoroughly compelling account, which can be read in entirety (yes, we did) on his blog, Heald provided some cruise or cruise-ship or people gems:

“The thought that people who could probably not have the funds to experience a Cunard voyage couldn’t derive any pleasure from seeing the Queen Victoria arrive is wrong. Because they do. They are the ones on the pier…pointing [in the rain]…smiling and saying ‘Look at that!'”

“It is remarkable that in the torrent of death that plagued ocean travel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that Cunard did not lose a single passenger until 1915.”

“…we boarded the ship to the sound of a local Ucayali band playing Beatles songs…I am not sure if you know what a Ucayali is but if you don’t it’s like a guitar that has been shrunk in the wash. You haven’t truly heard the music of John, Paul, George and Ringo until you have heard their music played on 12 Ucayalis.”

Or, ukeleles.

The star of the day, believe it or not, was the Duchess of Cornwall, otherwise known as the Queen Mary’s (the boat) Godmother or as simply “Camilla” — Mrs. Prince Charles. The encounter between her and John Heald…that alone makes this blog worth reading. Even if you don’t like Liverpool.

Besides, six million people can’t be wrong, can they?

Category: People, Ports, Ships, Stories  Tags: , , , ,  Comments off
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