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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Mona Lisa Cruise Part 2

Mona Lisa August 2009 Part 2

Tuesday 25th August 2009
We left the city after another admiring walk around, to take the train from Bremen to Bremerhaven, and discovered two more of our friends on board, travelling from Munich. There was another joyful reunion at the station when our final group member arrived from Denmark, via Hamburg. Local buses took us to the Bremerhaven Cruise Terminal where we could see the Mona Lisa picture on both sides of the ship’s funnel, set against a maroon-coloured background. I thought it added nothing to the latest look of this lovely ship, but then we were all simply delighted to be sailing on the KUNGSHOLM/VICTORIA, even if she only had one funnel instead of the original two.

Check in and 1 p.m. boarding was easy and quick, and once on board we were greeted by ship’s staff and escorted to our cabins.

A pleasant surprise was finding a small bathtub in the inside cabin bathrooms. I had an emotional few minutes at being on board this ship again, but a hug and sympathy helped tremendously. We went to check on dining room arrangements for the 6 of us to eat at 8.30 p.m. and then toured some of the ship. She looked wonderful, if a trifle worn in places, and it was so exciting to realise that this lovely vessel was to be ‘home’ for the next six nights. On this first day, enjoying the ship and dinner with friends was to set the tone for our trip.

Under a grey sky and threatening rain, we sailed at 6.30 p.m. from the German port of Bremerhaven, leaving the Columbus Cruise Terminal behind. On deck the unexpected Sailaway music started and we recognised the voice of Nat King Cole as he sang the popular song of ‘Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa’, known to many of us.

Several blue-hulled Maersk ships were loading and unloading on the quayside down river, with the cranes making interesting yellow parallels as we passed them. Yes, we craned our necks to see them all. (Maersk Kiel and other keels) The weather drove us inside at last and our voyage began.

Passenger decks start way down with Emerald Deck, with the Fitness Centre, Massage, Indoor Pool, Whirlpool and Sauna; above that is Dolfin Deck with Hair & Beauty, Hospital and passenger cabins.

Coral Deck above that has the wonderful Coral Restaurant forward, and more passenger cabins; Baja Deck above that has more cabins; above that Aloha Deck has passenger cabins, including the Luxury Suites, plus Reception. Up again is Riviera Deck, with passenger cabins aft, Photo Shop and International Bar midships, with the International Bar/Musiksalon forward of that.

Forward again on Riviera Deck was the port side Riviera Bar leading into the Library.

Forward midships was the Princess Cinema, with the Princess Boutique on the starboard side.
Up again was the Lido Deck with the forward Starlight Salon containing bar,dance floor and ship's model,
and raised above that were comfy chairs offering views of the sea ahead,

binoculars and charts; each side of this were two more rooms with sea views. Open decks were aft of these leading to the Lido Buffet, Lido Pool and Lido Bar. The Caribe Bar and Lounge were aft, leading to the Caribe Pool and more open deck.

I was so thrilled to be on this 1966-built ship again, amongst the glowing wood and original features; she has obviously been well used and enjoyed but I think comparisons with her previous ‘lives’ should probably not be made. She is what she is now, and although her future may be uncertain after October 2010, we are lucky to be able to sail on her for this cruise.

Our evening continued with 8.30 p.m. dinner in the Coral Restaurant with good food and good company, surrounded by familiar sights of golden wood, etched glass panels and flattering lighting.

Ships seen: Tug Lesum, Maersk Venice, MSC Maria Elena, Maersk Kiel,

Wednesday 26th August 2009
We have a day at sea! We are on a German-chartered ship (run by Lord Nelson Seereisen), with mostly German passengers, our first port of call will be Dover, England, but today we have lots of time to explore and take photographs, sailing south/south west in the North Sea.

The sun was out, so it was warm enough to meet for breakfast on the Lido Deck. Ah, more memories for me, but this time I was free to enjoy the start of a sea-day with all the pleasures that would entail. Amongst our little group the languages ranged from English to German to Danish, so most conversations seemed to involve quite a lot of helpful arm- and hand-waving, which must have been fun to see.
One of our group was lucky enough to see the good ship SAGA ROSE during the morning, and the KING OF SCANDINAVIA.

The afternoon’s treat started at 2 p.m. in the Show Lounge, when Mr Burkhard Schutt gave a lecture about MONA LISA from her first days as KUNGSHOLM to the present. We were thrilled that Burkhard was not only one of our travelling companions (with his wife) but also a respected expert on the ship, with some wonderful photographs to show the huge audience. Three of us were rather shocked when at the end of his talk, Burkhard invited us on the stage to thank us publicly for the help he had received in the way of pictures and other information for his lecture and his forthcoming book about the ship. A lovely speech of thanks for his thanks was made on our behalf.

In his talk he reminded us of the planning and building of KUNGSHOLM in 1966 by the shipbuilders John Brown & Co. of Clydebank, Scotland, for Swedish America Line’s passenger service between Gothenburg and New York. She was variously sold or chartered and renamed in 1979 SEA PRINCESS, in 1995 VICTORIA, in 2002 MONA LISA, in 2007 OCEANIC II, and then THE SCHOLAR SHIP, in 2008 MONA LISA, and in January-March 2010 is to be used as an hotel ship in Vancouver, Canada, for the Winter Olympics. She should be back on charter later in 2010.

The fascinating talk made us feel thoroughly immersed in the history and sense of the ship – enough to walk around and see what original features could be found during our stay on board.

The Captain of MONA LISA (Kapitan Dimitris Daoutis) held a Cocktail Party for passengers that evening before dinner so it was what I call a ‘posh frock’ night, with a Gala dinner to follow the Cocktails. A visitor to our table during dinner was a Producer for the German RTV television, who issued invitations to visit his cabin later and talk about the ship. So our day at sea ended with a most convivial evening.

Ships seen: Saga Rose, King of Scandinavia

To be continued...

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