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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

A Sunken Cunard Ship not called Titanic

For those of us who enjoy being on ocean liners, there’s nothing like an old story about a ship…or a new story about an old ship.

Today’s topic: Cunard’s Lusitania.

In the realm of ship tragedies, this is something of a forgotten example. For one thing, the Titanic sank first (1914) and anything that’s first is automatically more notorious, whatever the subject. For another thing, 1,198 souls perished on the Lusitania, about Lusitania300 fewer than on the Titanic, and the Lusitania — while smaller, older and faster than the Titanic — was the first of the “floating palaces” yet never had the same celebrity cache. And the Lusitania didn’t hit an iceberg…it was hit by a torpedo. Many believe her demise at the guns of a German U-boat was part of the reason the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, three years after it began.

This all happened 100 years ago next May, and Cunard will memorialize the event with a cruise from Southampton (return) that will pass where the Lusitania lies, 11 miles off the coast of Ireland. It’s called Lusitania Remembered, and passengers on the Queen Victoria will be able to attend a special ceremony on shore in Cobh, Ireland and commemorative dinner that night (May 7) on the ship

One of the passengers will be Eric Sauder.

He is an historian who was commissioned by Cunard to create a temporary exhibition of Lusitania artifacts and memorabilia. A former tour guide on the old Queen Mary in Long Beach, he has written two books on the Lusitania and has dived to the sunken Queen Victoriaship. If nothing else, he’ll be fascinating. The Queen Victoria embarks on her historic journey on May 3. Among ship aficionados and story tellers, only the superstitious wouldn’t want to be on her when she leaves Southampton.

Today at portsandbows.com: Great prices for the Caribbean

Carnival Victory
5 nights
October 27, 2014
Miami (return): Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, Nassau
Inside: $219
Cost per day: $43

Changing World Of Cruise Ship Balconies

Many cruisers (including these two) will do everything possible to enjoy a balcony stateroom on a cruise. There are people, we're told, who simply won't go on a cruise if they can't get one.

How times have changed.

Once, balconies were at such a premium that they cost twice as much as an inside stateroom. Today, while they're still more expensive, they run about 25 per cent more.

Once, cruise ships had no balcony staterooms (i.e. The Love Boat or the Titanic), and the watershed date for that change was Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, which increased the number available to five per cent of the staterooms. Today's new ships are built with 65 per cent, or more.

Once, the number of balconies depended on space available on the outside decks of ships. Some of today's ships have virtual (or will have) balconies on inside cabins…and balconies that face the inside of the ship.

Next month, we'll be getting a taste of that one when we board Allure of the Seas. The balcony rooms overlooking Central Park became popular after the arrivals of Allure and its sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, and Royal Caribbean has other ships with balconies that overlook the Promenade in the heart of the ship.

Stay tuned.

Later this month, the new Regal Princess will arrive in Europe. It will have a balcony-inside ratio of 80-20.

Indeed…how times have changed!

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
July 13, 2014
Bayonne (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $128


A Look Into Dry Dock…And What Follows

Knowing how fascinated we are by all things cruising, a good friend yesterday sent us an email with an interesting link.

If you've never fully understood what happens when a ship goes into dry dock, stick around.

The ship is the Norwegian Crown, or it was the Crown until it became the Fred.Olsen Balmoral, seven years ago. It takes three minutes to watch that transformation…the process probably took about 7,000 times that.

There are two places you can find it, in one click — liveleak or YouTube.

The story gets more interesting than the sale of a ship and what happens to it in dry dock. This was the second time the Norwegian Crown was so named. Originally the Crown Odyssey and operated by Royal Cruise Line, it was sold to Norwegian in 1996 and was part of the fleet for four years.

Then it became Crown Odyssey again, this time for Orient Lines, which was purchased by Norwegian. That lasted three years, then it was back to Norwegian for another four years as the Norwegian Crown.

Since 2007, it has remained what you saw in the video: the Fred.Olsen Balmoral. By today's cruise standards, it's on the small side, carrying just over 1,230 Balmoral-500passengers, but it was the subject of much discussion two years ago next month. Chartered by a travel company, it followed the path of the Titanic, pausing overnight where the famous ship went down to exactly 100 years earlier.

This time, the ship didn't sink.

Even little-known ships have stories to tell.

Today at portsandbows.com: A little Avignon, mais oui?

Crown Princess
7 nights
April 26, 2014 
Los Angeles (return): San FranciscoSanta BarbaraSan DiegoEnsenada
Inside $455
Cost per day: $65

Change in Plans in Northern Ireland

With the number of places cruise ships visit, there's always a possibility one of them will be a trouble spot.

Places like Northern Ireland. Specifically, Belfast.

This week, passengers on the Caribbean Princess had their shore plans altered to avoid trouble (or possible trouble)  between Irish nationalists and the police. When the dust settled, there were injuries on both sides of the street, none of it witnessed by visitors from the cruise ship.

For the most part, cruise line avoid the world's trouble spots. Cruises in and around the Middle East — habitually more volatile recently than Northern Ireland — have been canceled or re-routed to keep passengers from seeing first-hand the demonstrations in Egypt, as one example. And you always have the option of skipping a shore visit if you're concerned and enjoying the safety of the ship.

Sometimes, changing a shore itinerary, whether it's an excursion or a private (ad)venture, can be rewarding. On one of our visits to Cozumel, we wandered ashore with no game plan. We arrived the same time as a parade with a nationalistic theme. It was a parade by Mexican people for Mexican people. We're not even sure what they were celebrating but we just happened to be fortunate to see such a fun event.

In Northern Ireland, cruise passengers avoided seeing a nationalistic event that wasn't fun. Unfortunately, that probably meant they missed a chance to see Titanic Belfast, the impressive museum that was completed last year, 100 yards from where the famous ship's hull was launched.

The good and the bad…just like life.

Leslie Shaw photo

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
October 26, 2013
San Juan (return): St. Croix, St. Kitts, Roseau, Grenada, St. Thomas
Inside: $679
Cost per day: $97

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