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Archive for February, 2014

COLUMN | EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK | THERESA NORTON MASEK | FEBRUARY 06, 2014 2:57 PM ET

The fear that the iconic Pacific Princess — which sailed into our hearts in the 1977-86 TV show “The Love Boat” — is being torn apart for scrap has sadly come true.

Loveboat FarewellPHOTO: The former Pacific Princess lists in a shipyard in Turkey. Its final name was Acif, which was basically Pacific minus the P and IC. (courtesy Peter Knego, ©MidShipCentury.com)

Confirmation comes from Peter Knego, a noted cruise ship historian and journalist who secured photos of the ship in the Turkish scrapyard. “Scrapping of the ship has reached the point where the funnel came down. She is half to two-thirds gone,” Knego told Travel Pulse.

It is an ignominious end for the 1971-built ship, which introduced cruising to the masses by its weekly appearances on the TV show. Many credit the program with helping build the modern cruise industry in its early years.

In fact, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) inducted “The Love Boat” into the Cruise Industry Hall of Fame in 2006.

And Princess Cruises continues a relationship of more than a quarter-century with actor Gavin MacLeod, who played Capt. Merrill Stubing and serves the cruise line as a good-will ambassador.

The ship, though, left Princess Cruises in 2002. It changed hands several times and then came to languish for years as the cost to renovate it skyrocketed and it was eventually sold for scrap.

(Princess today operates another ship named Pacific Princess, but it is a 680-passenger vessel built in 1999 that was known as R3 when it cruised for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. And, the 1,974-passenger ship named Island Princess entered service in 2010.)

“Until ‘The Love Boat,’ cruising was perceived to be the pastime of the idle rich and aged, but Pacific Princess changed that very quickly,” Knego said. “The success of the show was a huge boon for Princess and the industry as a whole.”

Fascinated by classic cruise ships since the early 1970s when he researched the Lusitania for a school project, Knego in 2004 began salvaging what he could from the old vessels, many before they were dismantled in the breaker yard in Alang, India.

He saved one-of-a-kind artworks, vintage furniture, fittings, linens, silver, crockery, navigation equipment, brass bells and more. Much of it decorates his home in Southern California — which was featured in the New York Times and other publications — but some of the pieces are for sale on his website,MidShipCentury.com.

Knego wanted to salvage artworks and other items from the Pacific Princess, but his efforts were for naught.

“The breakers originally agreed to have someone assist me with rescuing fittings and some beautiful works of art that were still onboard and in excellent condition while the ship previously was at Genoa,” Knego said. “I visited her there in 2012 and was shocked to see so many original Scandinavian artworks intact.

“I made a list (all artwork, the iconic purser’s lobby landing, compasses, teak decking, original chairs, builder’s plans, railing, etc.) and even went to Turkey in early September to see the ship at the breakers but with the severe list and the ship threatening to capsize, it was too dangerous to board. I spent several hours taking video footage and photos that I hope to use in a future edition of my DVD series on shipbreaking.

“Sadly, the breakers changed their minds about making the efforts to salvage anything and proceeded to demolish the ship with all of the artworks intact. I’m not sure why, but everything is being removed with giant cranes that just dump all but the steel into a huge pile of garbage that is eventually recycled. Very heart-breaking. I booked a return trip to Turkey that would have had me there in mid-January but had to cancel when told by everyone there that I would not be granted any access and there was no hope of saving anything.”

RMS Windsor CastlePHOTO: Peter Knego stands in front of the former RMS Windsor Castle in Alang, India in 2005 (photo by Kaushal Trivedi, courtesy of Peter Knego, copyright ©MidShipCentury.com)

But there’s a silver lining to the story. Pacific Princess has a sister ship, formerly called the Island Princess, which was occasionally used as a stand-in on “The Love Boat.” That vessel continues to operate today as the 700-passenger Discovery for Cruise & Maritime Voyages, so those seized with nostalgia for the Pacific Princess can cruise on her sibling. Knego has sailed three times on the ship, which also has been known as Island Venture.

“Structurally, she is identical to Pacific Princess and, save for a few additions like a larger spa, her layout is exactly the same,” Knego says. “Most everyone on board enjoyed a descent down the ‘Love Boat’ stairs in her lobby and there was much pride in her heritage as ‘the other Love Boat.’ But potential cruisers take note: She is not a megaship; she has tiny pools and no waterparks and no verandas. Her cabins are relatively small and there is not a proper show lounge.

“But she’s a gem of a ship with beautiful teak decks, lovely lines and even some beautiful original artworks that were almost disposed of by an overzealous interior designer who later saw the light. With old ships, time has proven that major decorative refits often change the character in a negative way and don’t age as well as the original look.

“I would sail on Discovery again in a heartbeat and hope to do so before her time comes. She has been lovingly cared for and even been fitted with some spare parts taken from her sister at Genoa last year when the two were at the same shipyard. But she can’t last forever.”

DiscoveryPHOTO: The former Island Princess operates as the Discovery today for Cruise & Maritime Voyages. (courtesy Cruise & Maritime Voyages)

Knego understands that classic cruise ships cannot sail indefinitely, but his appreciation for their architecture and design will live on.

“Old ships are more costly to run, have limited facilities (no balconies) and just cannot compete with all the glamorous new ones,” he said. “I love the ships from the Post-War era through the late 1960s the most as they embodied mid-century style and were fitted with organic materials like wood and etched glass.

“They had a grandeur of form with gorgeous curves and hand-conceived designs versus the squared-off and computer-rendered ships of today.” He appreciates the “Scandinavian modern beauty” of Pacific Princess, adding that “I am really smitten with her and her twin sister. They are beautiful architectural creations.”

John Dennis, vice president of sales and marketing of Cruise & Maritime Voyages, said the Discovery today mainly sails in Northern Europe.

“There’s never a more opportune time than now to sail on her,” he told Travel Pulse. “There are still a lot of memories for these classic vessels to make. There’s a place in the cruise market for a vessel like the Discovery, and we continue to see that people do see the inherent value of these vessels. Many identify with the nostalgia.” (Cruise & Maritime Voyages also operates another classic ship with a strong following, the 1965-built, 800-passenger Marco Polo, which operated for the former Orient Lines from 1993 to 2008.)

Knego appreciates that so many people are sharing fond memories of the Pacific Princess and “The Love Boat.”

“There were many others, most larger, many even more beautiful, that have gone to scrap in recent years without even a mention, but Pacific Princess touched a lot of lives in a very positive way,” Knego said. “She will be remembered long after many of her successors, and we all owe her a nod for what she has done for the cruise industry. It is a tremendous shame that none of her treasures could have been saved but at least she will not be forgotten.”

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