THE ANDREA DORIA- POST WAR ITALIAN ROYALTY

ANDREA DORIA
The Andrea Doria at speed on the Atlantic

For many, the Andrea Doria is primarily remembered for her untimely demise off Nantucket on a foggy night in July of 1956. As the last of the ‘great’ North Atlantic liners to founder, the drama of her sinking has largely served to overshadow three years of successful service, and the actual concept of one of the most brilliantly beautiful ocean liners ever constructed.

Andrea Doria and her almost identical sister ship, Cristoforo Colombo, were constructed to re-open the premier Italian Line service from Italy to New York and back. Before the war, this same route had been served by a pair of imperious 50,000 ton liners, the Conte Di Savoia and her running mate, the record breaking Rex of 1932.

Both of those liners became victims of the Second World War, as did much of the infrastructure that had built and maintained them. Many Italian shipyards were in ruins in those early, post war years, and this perhaps influenced the size- and style- of those first, nascent Italian liners to emerge in the early 1950’s.

Planning for the two new liners also deliberately eschewed any ambitions of creating a speedy record breaker. With normal speeds of around 23 knots on a 29,000 ton hull, both ships were designed to make a regular, nine day crossing from Genoa to New York, usually sailing via Naples, Cannes and Gibraltar.

Built by the Ansaldo shipyard in Genoa, the Andrea Doria was named in honour of the great, sixteenth century Genoese admiral of the same name. With accommodation for some 1,240 passengers across three classes, she was ready for her maiden voyage in January of 1953.

The ship that emerged was a stunning beauty, with a gracefully raked bow, a near perfect cruiser stern, and a sheer that gave her hull the same curvature as a subtle smile; a kind of nautical Mona Lisa, if you will. It was crowned by a white superstructure that ended in a series of stepped terrace decks that cascaded down to the stern. Each of those terrace decks contained an outdoor swimming pool- one for each class of passenger on board.

The funnel was the real crowning glory. As beautifully proportioned as a charm bracelet, it had a nonchalant, rear facing slope that gave the Andrea Doria an almost unique, quite racy stance. From bow to stern, both sister ships were exquisite examples of post war Italian styling; the perfect antithesis to the quite brutal ‘Mussolini Modern’ look that had dominated Italian architecture for the better part of the previous two decades.

Internally,. she was exquisite. A million dollar art collection, sprinkled around the ship, gave her an air of breezy, quite spectacular opulence. Superbly fed and served by an all Italian crew of 500, the new national flagship was a spectacular burst of bravado at the dawn of the stale, austere 1950’s; a sassy, splashy statement of intent.

Her maiden voyage in January of 1953 was a stormy affair, but the new Andrea Doria made jaws drop by the thousand when she sashayed into New York harbour for the first time. Tugs rode shotgun on the Andrea Doria, shooting icy plumes of welcome spray into the air. Overhead, helicopters buzzed the lithe new liner like so many curious dragonflies. Almost immediately, the travelling public took the ship to their hearts.

She was soon joined in service by the equally curvaceous Cristoforo Colombo and, before very long, the two Italian beauties had cornered the cream of the ‘Sunny Southern’ trade. Because they sailed on the often sunnier, more balmy route from the Mediterranean to America. the ships offered up the indolent, raffish lifestyle of the Riviera afloat.

With her open air lidos, outdoor cafes and pools, the Andrea Doria offered a delicious prelude- or even extension- of the seductive summer lifestyle that her passengers could anticipate in Sorrento, Amalfi or Portofino. She was Italy afloat; an amazing, seagoing maritime art gallery featuring a cultural glut of treasures that might remind passengers of their visits to the Uffizzi, or perhaps even the Pantheon. The two sister ships were a state of mind, and each was a fantastic advertisement for the mother country.

Andrea Doria and Cristoforo Colombo formed a popular, highly seductive duo for three years, and offered what was easily the most highly styled service on the southern route.

The tragedy that took out the Andrea Doria on the night of July 25/26th 1956, should not be allowed to stand as her sole claim to fame (or notoriety, if you will). Under any circumstances, she was a shimmering, sultry creation, and her loss deprived the travelling public of far more than just a certain amount of confidence.

PULLMANTUR CLOSES SOUTH AMERICA OFFICE

SOVEREIGN
Pullmantur’s Sovereign, the former 1988-built Sovereign of the Seas

The well respected website, Cruise Industry News (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) is reporting that Pullmantur cruises is closing it’s South America office at the end of March.

The Spanish cruise line- an offshoot of Royal Caribbean International- has been sailing troubled waters for some time now.

Last year, the intended transfer to Pullmantur of Majesty of the Seas was put on indefinite hold. The ship- the third of the original, pioneering Sovereign class of mega ships- was earmarked to rejoin her sister ships Sovereign and Monarch in the Pullmantur fleet.

Instead, it was decided to keep the ship at RCCL instead and, after a substantial refurbishment, she is due to start a new series of three and four day cruises from Port Canaveral for the parent company.

Then came the news that the 1990 built Empress (ex Nordic Empress, Empress of the Seas) would be leaving the Pullmantur fleet and returning to Royal Caribbean as- Empress of the Seas. The ship is currently being refurbished in a shipyard in Cadiz, before returning to Royal Caribbean after some eight seasons with Pullmantur.

All of this should have been enough to set alarm belles ringing, especially after the end of the rival Spanish cruise operator, Iberocruises. This offshoot of Costa had also been struggling for quite some time.

Thus far, Pullmantur is planning to have one ship in South America over the coming winter of 2016/17, and the likelihood is that she will be chartered and sold by one of the local market operators, such as CVC.

The South America market as a whole is witnessing some enforced contraction, with MSC, Costa, and even Royal Caribbean itself downsizing their winter deployments there. Interestingly, only Norwegian Cruise Line is bucking the trend right now, with a deployment this winter of the popular Norwegian Sun down South America way.

As for 2016, Pullmantur has the Monarch in the Baltic, marking the first ever deployment of a Sovereign class mega ship on any Northern European itineraries.

Part of the problem for Pullmantur is that, while Sovereign and Monarch are still fine ships, they have far too many small inside cabins, precious few balcony cabins, and few of the bells and whistles of the rival Costa and MSC ships. They also lack the raft of alternative dining options offered by the competition. Those likely so sail down South America way are more likely to be attracted to these newer vessels in many cases.

Pullmantur does have the theoretical advantage of being an ‘all inclusive’ product compared to the competition, but current events would seem to suggest that is not enough to even the scales.

It would be a shame to see this spirited little Spanish operation go to the wall. Let’s hope it does not come to that.

As ever, stay tuned for updates.

THE ILE DE FRANCE- A POST WAR PARADOX

ILE DE FRANCE NY POSTWAR
The Ile De France sailing from Manhattan for Europe

When the Ile De France made her first post war appearance in New York harbour in the summer of 1949, many people had to take a second look at her. The three famous, familiar stacks had been replaced by a pair of more stout, substantial funnels, still clad in the familiar red and black colours of the French Line. Raked at a more jaunty angle than their predecessors, they were an almost reluctant attempt to create some modern flair for one of the most timeless and elegant of all the Atlantic liners.

Despite being fully reconditioned from bow to stern, the fact remained that the Ile De France was, by then, some twenty two years old. She had performed valiant, incalculable good work as a troop ship between 1940 and 1946, a stint that had earned her the Croix De Guerre from an enfeebled but still grateful nation.

But the French Line was in a parlous state. With the glorious Normandie gone, and the soon to be Liberte still struggling slowly back to life, the need to get the French flag back out there on the Atlantic was paramount. Both of the giant Cunard Queens were already up and running, and already well on the way to becoming the most distinctive and successful double act in maritime history. For the French, the return to service of the Ile De France was nothing less than a statement of national renewal. She had to gleam from stem to stern, and she did. Her bow to stern, truck to keel renewal took a full two years to complete.

She progressed upstream to Pier 88, through  gracefully arched fountains of fire boat spray. Sirens and car horns tooted in salute as the freshly primped dowager swept proudly upstream. Crowds thronged the pier itself to welcome the celebrated liner back to civilian service. For all concerned, the return of the adored Ile De France was a cause for celebration.

Yet, for all of her restored, resplendent finery and peerless panache, the Ile De France was now something of a quaint anachronism herself. Back when she made her stunning debut in 1927, her astounding new Art Deco interiors  had completely swept the board in terms of maritime architecture. She was almost space age in terms of modernity back then. At one fell swoop, she had made almost every other liner on the Atlantic appear irredeemably dated.

Now it was the Ile De France herself that looked dated. Her hull-famously conventional in style even back in the twenties- now looked every bit as dated as the rival Aquitania. The knife edge prow and semi counter stern were, indeed, almost pure World War One vintage.

However, back in the twenties, the travelling public had a glut of ocean liners to choose from for their journeys. The advent of the Ile De France herself, plus the coming Great Depression, served to thin this ageing herd out massively.

Then of course, the war itself played absolute havoc with the new breed of ocean liners that had followed in the Ile’s barn storming wake. Fires, air attacks and sheer carelessness had thinned out the ocean liner families to such an extent that, by 1947, even the most superannuated old hull was pressed back into service with almost ruthless haste.

None of this implies in any way that there was anything wrong with the Ile De France when she returned to service once again that summer of 1949. The ship was as sound as ever; her public rooms had been completely restored and updated, insofar as possible. And, above and beyond anything else, she still had that almost effortless sense of ease, style and chic that only the French Line really had. And. being the lady that she was, the Ile De France flaunted it at every turn.

Only on the Ile De France could you have onion soup for breakfast even in tourist class, should the fancy suit you. The first class dinner menu still offered well over two hundred and fifty separate items each night. Of course, table wine was still free on the ship, and announcements on board were always made firstly in French.

There were still the scarlet jacketed bell boys to operate the lifts, and the scent of fresh cut flowers everywhere. Older she might have been, but it was not long before the Ile De France regained a huge part of her pre war reputation for fun and frivolity. Old hands returned, and an entire new generation fell in love with her.Once more, the travelling public fell hopelessly under her spell.

When she was joined by the Liberte in 1950, the two ships operated what many of those in the know regarded as the smartest, best fed and best served two ship service on the Atlantic. It mattered not one jot that the Queens were bigger, or the United States much faster. Ile De France and Liberte sported the style, panache and sheer fun of the frivolous, free spirited France of popular perception- a huge irony, since the country itself was still struggling with the aftermath of four years of casually incompetent German occupation. More than anything, those two ships represented the venerated spirit of France; they were idealised creations, ablaze with light and laughter, setting out between the old world and the new. Quite literally, they were, indeed,’France afloat’.

That first post war decade and a half was the most profitable in the history of the transatlantic liner. On average, well over a million people sailed across the Atlantic each year, either on business or pleasure. In high summer, it was nothing unusual for the two French liners to be booked solid many months in advance.

And there were dramatic moments, too. It was the floodlit Ile De France that stood off in the Nantucket gloom, ready and able to rescue the shell shocked survivors of the slowly foundering, three year old Andrea Doria on a foggy night in July, 1956. Her intervention- and the passenger’s salvation- made her front page news on every paper in the world for a few days again.

Later, while on a winter Caribbean cruise, the old girl ran aground, and had to be towed to Norfolk, Virginia, for eye wateringly expensive repairs. None the less, the ‘Grande Dame’ soldiered on until 1959.

Sold to Japanese scrappers in Osaka that same year, the veteran liner was then chartered out to a Hollywood film company. It was just a year after Walter Lord’s book about the TitanicA Night To Remember, had been made into a hugely successful film. Suddenly, films about sinking liners became all the vogue.

Hence, The Last Voyage, starring none other than the Ile de France, playing the role of the SS. Claridon, a vintage liner that was, coincidentally, on her way to the scrapyard. In the course of this soggy escapade, parts of her deck were blown up, her forward funnel was toppled over, and she was then sunk in shallow water. The directors called it ‘entertainment’.

All of this for a decorated war heroine, a ship that had become a legend twice over, and a floating symbol of France itself. At the conclusion of filming, the Ile De France was raised from her resting place, and then towed to Japan to be butchered like a dead animal.

Yet the spirit of the Ile De France has survived well beyond her shabby, degrading demise. Indeed, she seems to have merely grown in retrospective glamour since her hey day. ‘Iconic’ is a word bandied about too much these days, especially in the case of vanished ocean liners. But, in the case of the Ile De France, to describe her as ‘merely’ iconic goes nowhere near far enough.

She was, in fact, platinum chip maritime royalty, and she will ever remain thus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASTORIA RETURNS TO CMV AFTER REFIT

ASTORIA
CMV’s Astoria returns to service later this month

Cruise and and Maritime Voyages’ Astoria (the renamed Azores) is set to leave Greece for the UK today after her winter lay up in Piraeus.

The 16, 144 ton, 550 passenger Astoria began life in 1948 as the Swedish American liner Stockholm, and became world famous in 1956 after being involved in a collision off Nantucket with the Italian liner, Andrea Doria. The latter subsequently foundered with the loss of fifty six lives. Three people were killed on the then Stockholm.

Back to the present; prior to going on charter to a French company, the popular Astoria will operate some five ex-UK sailings to and from Bristol’s dedicated cruise port of Avonmouth.

These begin on March 21st, with a seven night sailing to Scotland and Ireland. On March 28th, Astoria embarks on a fifteen night swing out to the islands of the Azores, as well as Madeira. This cusp of spring cruise is particularly attractive.

April 12th will see the ship embark on a nine night cruise around the British Isles, returning to Bristol on the 21st to sail on another nine night cruise, this one a Scottish Islands and Faeroes adventure.

The final spring sailing takes the form of yet another nine night cruise, this one taking in the magnificent Norwegian fjords. On this particular cruise, the relatively small size of Astoria enables her to get ‘up close and personal’ to the stunning natural scenery in a way that no big ship can.

ANDREA DORIA
The Andrea Doria at speed on the Atlantic

Astoria will inevitably be the centre of much attention this year, it being the sixtieth anniversary of that fateful, fog shrouded collision off Nantucket. As such, this handful of 2016 cruises represents a unique opportunity to voyage in a small, intimately scaled time capsule with a storied past, and a whole host of modern comforts.

Definitely worthy of consideration, methinks.

FRED OLSEN ANNOUNCES 2017 CRUISES FROM NEWCASTLE

BALMORAL FOCL
Fred, Olsen’s stately Balmoral will be back at Port of Tyne for another season in 2017

Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines yesterday confirmed a second consecutive season of sailings from Newcastle’s Port of Tyne on it’s flagship, Balmoral.

The 43, 537 ton ship accommodates some 1,350 passengers across some 710 cabins. Beginning in May of 2017, she will offer some thirteen departures from Port of Tyne, sailing through until the end of September.

Highlights of the 2017 Balmoral programme will include a five night departure to western Norway, an eleven night ‘Swedish Waterways’ round trip, and a fifteen night ‘Authentic Andalusia’ sailing that will highlight seven ports of call in Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar.

The news, announced last night, comes as a welcome boost following the recent announcement of the return of Thomson Cruises to the Tyne for 2017- their first such sailings since 2014. That company will offer a series of Norwegian and Baltic itineraries. And, with the continuing presence of Cruise and Maritime Voyages for several Newcastle sailings next year, the placement of Port of Tyne as one of the premier regional departure ports in the UK seems assured.

Located just eight  miles from the centre of Newcastle, Port of Tyne boasts easy, accessible links from London and the north west via rail, road and air travel, and a dedicated cruise and ferry terminal that offers a seamless embarkation process overall.

For 2016, the Port of Tyne season commences with the arrival of Cruise and Maritime’s Magellan for the first of a series of seven night sailings to the Norwegian Fjords.

Stay tuned for further details.

OCEAN COUNTESS-SOME MEMORIES FROM ON BOARD

OCEAN COUNTESS
Ocean Countess, probably taken at Santorini

The famous Cunard Countess was one of a pair of very popular twin sisters. By 2007, renamed as the Ocean Countess, the cruise ship was sailing on a brief lived charter to Louis Cruises as a replacement for the Sea Diamond, which had foundered after striking uncharted rocks in the caldera of Santorini the previous April.

For the purposes of the charter, the ship was renamed as Ruby. I found her sitting alongside the terminal at Piraeus on a warm July morning in 2007, her trim, tidy little silhouette at once instantly recognisable from her former days.

Along with her twin sister, Cunard Princess, she had been built in the mid seventies to offer a series of fun, frivolous cruises in the Caribbean, primarily from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Both ships were wildly popular for many years but, inevitably, successive generations of newer, more amenity laden ships put them on borrowed time.

With her name changed from Cunard Countess to Ocean Countess, the doughty little ship carved out a new niche for herself, operating short, port intensive cruises from Athens to the Greek islands and Turkey. In this role, she would find a whole new lease of life.

At 17,000 tons, the ship that I encountered as Ruby was a perfect size for meandering around the pretty little harbours and yacht havens that dot the Aegean. With expansive, open terrace decks at the stern that included a quite memorable, almost one-of-a-kind indoor/outdoor nightclub, she was so obviously made for fun in the sun.

The single, swept back funnel was unchanged from her Cunard days, and it gave her a jaunty kind of grace and balance that defined her as very much a 1970’s baby. Up forward, the famous Observation Lounge still offered a fine, intimately styled venue for watching those flaring Aegean sunsets. And I was ridiculously tickled pink to find that the original Cunard lions were still there, etched into the glass doors as if frozen in time.

OC POOL DECK
Ocean Countess/Ruby pool deck

Indeed, there were very few changes at all from her Cunard heyday that were readily obvious. A central lido complex contained a small, oval shaped pool and a pair of hot tubs, set in a sun bowl just forward of the funnel. I would spend a few happy hours sun worshipping up here over the course of our three day weekend cruise.

These great little trips sailed from Piraeus, the port for Athens, just before noon on a Friday. Hugely port intensive, they allowed for short runs ashore in exotic chic spots such as Mykonos, Kusadasi, Patmos, Crete and Santorini over the course of four days.

In between all of this, there were buffet lunches on deck and Margaritas in the hot tubs, and warm, wonderful evenings under the stars at the aft deck club. Because she was so small and compact, most of the main public rooms were on one deck, which made strolling and rolling a pleasant, gentle evening affair. Even in 2007, the Ruby was still a captivating little classic; solid, unpretentious and welcoming. No wonder so many people fell in love with her during her Cunard days.

The cabins? Ah yes, the cabins… They were indeed about as large as the average pygmy’s postage stamp, and the wall insulation was thinner than Donald Trump’s wig. But somehow, you made it work; in any event, dressing up was not a priority on this carefree little weekend jaunt. Tuxes and tiaras were in very short supply indeed.

She was a slightly faded little gem, obviously past her best by 2007, but still game; and extraordinary good value for money. The food was plentiful and often very good, with an expected emphasis on Greek staples. And, because we visited some ports on the evening, eating ashore on such wonderful waterfronts as Mykonos and Patmos presented a really delightful alternative- or supplement in many cases.

I am glad that I got the chance to sail on the Ruby when I did. Had she stayed in the Aegean, I would certainly have gone back and done it again, but fate decreed otherwise.

Ruby. Ocean Countess. Cunard Countess. Really just three different bits of stage wear for the same,  essentially unchanged ship. One with a heart and a soul so big as to totally belie her actual, relatively diminutive size. She was a lovely little girl and, despite the very real sadness of what ultimately befell her, I still cannot help but smile when I remember her.

 

 

THE MAJESTIC-POST WAR PLUSH TO THE MAX

RMS MAJESTIC
The beautiful lines of the Majestic are clearly apparent here

Another of those great, largely under rated transatlantic liners that crossed the ocean between the two word wars was the White Star Line’s Majestic. Originally launched as the Bismarck in June of 1914, she was intended to be the third- and the finest- of Hamburg America Line’s stunning triple response to the Olympic class super liners of the rival White Star Line.

Work on her was suspended during the war. Not until 1922 would she be finally completed, under the supervision of a working team from Harland and Wolff of Belfast. Bismarck, now renamed Majestic and handed over to White Star, was taken to sea for her trials by her original intended German captain, Hans Ruser.

When her new English captain boarded for the delivery trip to Southampton, he was not made especially welcome by the Germans. Bertram Hayes found his cabin full of yet to be installed bathroom sinks. All the same, British crewmen were already painting her three towering funnels in White Star colours, and her new name already adorned both bow and stern. In this condition, the newly wrought Majestic came round to Southampton.

She was ostensibly a direct replacement for the sunken Britannic, which had been lost in the Aegean after striking a mine laid by a German U-boat. At the time of her takeover by White Star, the 56,000 ton Majestic was the largest ship in the world. In May of 1922, the company put her into service on the Atlantic crossing between Southampton, Cherbourg, Queenstown and New York.

The Majestic was advertised as ‘The Queen of the Western Ocean’ by White Star. Despite her German origins, she became the flagship of the line. Like her near sisters (and new rivals), Berengaria and Leviathan, she was in essence a vast, grand Edwardian hotel (in first class at least). With her trio of gracefully raked funnels and her trim black and white exterior, the Majestic did indeed look every inch a queen.

In the 1920’s, the Majestic would routinely sail westbound from Southampton at noon on a Wednesday, arriving in New York some six days later. After four days tied up in Manhattan, the ship would depart eastbound for Europe on a Saturday on another six day voyage. After four days’ stay in Southampton, she would embark again on the next Wednesday for New York.

White Star ran a three ship service on this route after the war, putting the Majestic in tandem with the Olympic, the surviving sister ship of the lost Titanic, and the Homeric, another, smaller ex-German vessel. With this line up, White Star could offer a first class express service to New York on a weekly basis.

But the Homeric was nowhere near fast enough to maintain her place in tandem with her two speedier, far more reliable siblings. As a result, the White Star service-splendid as it was- never quite matched the rival Cunard troika. That line’s trio of Aquitania, Berengaria and Mauretania was able to offer a far more balanced, reliable service in those post war years. The Cunard Line trio offered Wednesday departures from Southampton to New York, but the timescale of the weekly service broadly equalled that on the White Star liners.

None the less, the Majestic was very popular indeed. In that incredible, post war era of steamships, flapper girls, gin joints, baseball and jazz, the White Star vessel was hugely prestigious. Her crossings were events; newspaper reporters mobbed her gangways on both continents, hoping to catch scoops from the politicians, movie stars, sportsmen and the simply idle rich before they were ushered into her plush interiors.

She was fast, too, probably second only to the still speedy Blue Riband holder, the legendary Mauretania. Still, no attempt was ever made on setting a new record by any liner in those first post war years. Even in the wake of the most disastrous global conflict in world history, the long shadow of the Titanic still hung over the Atlantic like so much baleful fog.

As the twenties approached their nadir, the first of a new breed of post war ocean liners emerged from her cocoon in a French shipyard. Her name was Ile De France, and she was about to become a legend; an Art Deco suffused sanctuary that instantly made almost every other liner look and feel like an antiquated relic.

With her stunning debut, all those ageing fleets of prewar Edwardian ocean liners suddenly began to look fusty, dingy and dated, like a line of overly powdered dowagers competing against some incredibly pretty girl in a shimmering ballgown. There was only ever going to be one winner.

Even the ‘Queen of the Western Ocean’ was beginning to look increasingly dated against a looming backdrop of gleaming new German vessels, hell bent on regaining prewar German ascendancy on the Atlantic. And, when the Wall Street crash of 1929 triggered the worst global downturn of that time, it took many of the high rollers of the Atlantic crossing down with it. Passenger numbers plummeted, and the rump that remained tended to cross on the newer ships.

By 1934, both Cunard and White Star were in such dire straits that the only route to salvation lay in a forced ‘shotgun wedding’ of the two age old rivals. This done, the government advanced funds to the newly monickered Cunard-White Star Line that would enable them to complete the moribund hull that would soon become the Queen Mary, plus the funds for an upcoming companion ship- the eventual Queen Elizabeth.

With the new ship finally on her way, there was an obvious need to shed ‘old blood’ at Cunard White Star. Largely, the former White Star Line was the loser in this maritime parade to the block, one that witnessed the end of Mauretania, Homeric, Olympic and, in the spring of 1936, the disposal of even the Majestic herself.

The arrival of the Queen Mary effectively marked the end of the commercial life of the Majestic. One year earlier, she had finally lost the honour of bring the world’s largest liner to the shimmering new Normandie. A new generation of giants had clearly surpassed the old order.

For all of her glamour and style, somehow the Majestic never quite got the laurels accorded by history to many of her fleet mates and rivals. Inexplicably, she was never quite as popular or avant garde as her sister ship and rival, Cunard’s Berengaria. Never a speed champion, her active life was bookmarked by the end of the Great War, and the coming of the Great Depression. She was always something of an ‘also ran’; even in the White Star fleet, the older Olympic was always the more popular ship.

As much as anything, the Majestic was a victim of changing times and tastes. Envisaged as a paragon of Teutonic splendour, she was quite literally launched into a totally alien world. A few years of genuine popularity and success soon foundered in the wake of a fleet of splashier new French, German and Italian rivals. And, at the end, she became acceptable collateral damage for a company which, by 1935, was fighting for its very financial survival.

But the Majestic would not yet face the axe. Sold to the Royal Navy in 1936 for use as a static training ship, she was renamed as HMS Caledonia. Just before she sailed for her new home at Rosyth, in Scotland, the tops of her three great funnels were cut down, so that she could sail under the Forth Bridge. Here, she endured three further years of static stagnation, terminated just after the outbreak of yet another world war by a fire that devoured her from stem to stern. It was a tragic loss, one that deprived the war effort of what could have been a potentially very valuable troop ship.

The charred, ruined hulk was scrapped to recycle all that valuable wartime steel. By the time that this second global war had run its course in 1945, the one time ‘Queen of the Western Ocean’ was long gone.