Most passengers onboard
the MS Deutschland would choose one of the teak chaises on the open decks
for daydreaming. I saw the possibility of passing time in reverie, perched on
a couch in the Colonnades, a foyer fronting the beauty salon and
boutique in the mid-section of the Commodore Deck. Here in the
Colonnades the designer-architect crystallized the vessels mood, the "golden
age" of cruising by mounting two impressionist-type oils that face each
other, perhaps because the subjects in one are looking at the opposite scene.
|MS Deutschland docked in Portoferraio
(credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
On the port wall the
artist painted smartly clothed passengers in fashions--caps and knickers,
cloches and ankle length coats--that were in vogue during the third decade
of our century. Some stand at or stare past the rail; others are tucked into
deck chairs. The painting on the starboard side is of a busy harbor, as it might
have appeared 75 years ago. Smoke pours from the chimney of a luxury liner flying
the Dutch flag and tugboats seem ready to tow the liner through port traffic
out to sea on the first leg of a romantic journey. In the travel office, a few
steps down the corridor, I discovered antique steamer trunks crafted by the
master maker of luggage, Louis Vuitton, and proudly bearing his logo, LV. Like
other quiet symbols throughout the ship, the message is quality and taste, quality
in the workmanship and materials and taste in the design.
The MS Deutschlands
white exterior with red trim looks rather ordinary, a characteristic of many
small ships, and gives no clue to the sumptuousness within. But once I stepped
past the gangplank, déjà vu set in, transporting me to the backdrops
in old movies. I have sailed on many cruise lines, but the only "grand
hotel" Edwardian-era style liners I had seen before were the ones filmed
The 1920s ambiance extends
from the public areas to the cabins. My comfortable standard accommodation with
burled wood furniture, heavy upholstered fabrics and a cozy down quilt was decorated
like a room in a chic hotel. And the lighting was bright enough for nighttime
reading. But what really stood out about the nine-deck, 574-foot ship is the
amount of space devoted to the entertainment and dining facilities, lounges,
outdoor decks, gym and spa, translating into lots of elbow room for 505 guests
who were well looked after by half as many crew.
Everywhere I wandered
there was cause to fantasize that I was traveling the world in high style during
the heyday of cruising. Might the crimson Kaisersaal (Emperors
Ballroom) with its sparkling chandelier be a copy of a copy, a ships ballroom
in the 20s modeled after the theaters in 18th- and 19th-century European palaces?
I recalled the movie houses that I went to as a child. Could the cinema
have been moved, plush seats and all, to the Admiral Deck? When-ever
I walked around I found lavish accoutrements--marble statues, brass lamps,
Tiffany-style glass ceilings, old seafaring photographs, gleaming wood paneling
and blowups from motion pictures where, after dark, men wore black tie and women
dressed in gowns--throwbacks to former times.
I remembered scenes
from films of formally clad guests being served seven-course dinners on the
ships of yesteryear. I was certain that the superb food and attentive service
in the intimate Four Seasons and the Art Deco Berlin, the main
dining salon, matched the standards that were set at a time when cruising was
an exalted experience.
I dont know whether
there were gambling casinos on those early luxury liners, but the absence of
one on the MS Deutschland, boosts its image as a classy boat. Although the ship
is handsome in a formal way, the public spaces are seductively inviting. At
the Old Fritz Pub I was reminded of a Heidelberg beer hall I had visited
during my student days. I would not have been surprised if the Germans--the
ship is owned by a German company--who were drinking beer raised their glasses
and sang, "In Munchen schtat in Hofbrau House, eins, zwei . . ."
The Adlon Bar,
meant for cigar smokers and serving top-notch wines and cognac, reeks with glamour.
Had the Lili Marleen, the main bar, been smaller, it, too, would be atmospheric.
Other spots where guests
gather are four open and covered decks, an outdoor pool,
the Lido Terrace, which doubles as a library and tea salon,
a gym and a spa with an indoor pool. Both the gym and spa have
saunas and deliciously relaxing multi-fauceted Swiss showers. To reach the gym
you have to climb a set of outdoor stairs between two decks. I wondered whether
the architect had forgotten about choppy, windy or rainy days at sea.
Passenger boats belonging
to the Peter Deilman EuropAmerica Cruises have been plying Europes
rivers for more than 20 years, but their newest ship, MS Deutschland, whose
maiden voyage took place in May 1998, is the only one in the fleet that circles
the globe stopping at six continents.
When I traveled the
Mediterranean from Genoa to Venice in fall 1999 there were
21 Americans on the cruise. We did not feel left out because most of the guests
spoke another language. Since there were only 11 to 16 participants on the English-speaking
tours, which had to be purchased as a pre-arranged package with one excursion
in every port, we felt rather pampered. The staff is bilingual and daily programs
and menus were printed in English, as well as German. Peter Deilmann EuropAmerica
Cruises hopes that with extensive marketing efforts in America, within a year
or two, the number of vacationers from the States will equal those from Europe.
|Neapolitan family troupe entertaining on deck,
(credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
communication occurred occasionally. At show time when the MC delivered his
spiel, the German passengers laughed and the Americans looked as though they
had missed something. The language of all the other pleasant evening entertainments--opera,
dance, classical concerts, a trio, an orchestra and vocalists--was universal
and mostly performed by very likeable artists. On two evenings the presentations
approached amateur night. A Naples family troupe of musicians and singers appeared
to be untrained and an Italian baritone without talent left the stage abruptly.
registry and flag under which the ship sails, the food was not heavy. No Mitteleuropean
fare here, but Continental cuisine whipped up with flair. On three occasions
I ate at the Four Seasons, the special (open in the evening only) restaurant,
seating about 70 persons by reservation and at no extra charge. Consisting of
exquisite cooked-to-order food, the meals were as leisurely as those at any
four-star restaurant. The menu was often similar to the one in the Berlin. Maybe
it was the extra panache with which it was served and the TLC with which it
was prepared that made the food taste so special.
sent me to the Berlin and gave my shipmates their shot at the Four Seasons.
Both dining rooms offered seven delicious courses: three appetizers, like vitello
tonnato, carpaccio and a seafood terrine; two soups, one was usually creamed,
the other a rich consomme that had simmered for hours; an intermezzo,
fruit or wine-flavored sorbet; a fish dish; an entree such as quail,
beef entrecote, or loin of wild boar; a selection of cheeses; and wonderful
cakes, pastries, truffles and other fanciful desserts. Table service for breakfast
and lunch was also available in the Berlin.
on the top deck offered buffet-style indoor and outdoor dining at all three
meals. At lunch about six meat and fish items were grilled on request. Some
of the leftovers from the previous evening had been recycled into casseroles,
but they were always tasty. I counted 25 salads, hot dishes and vegetables,
as well as soup and pasta, five desserts, three flavors of ice cream, waffles,
fruit and cookies. At breakfast my tally totaled even more choices. The herring,
the only bow to German comestibles, was lip smacking. Since the country borders
the North Sea where the best herring is fished, I would have been disappointed
not to find it on the table.
a sailing, my primary concern is the ports at which the ship stops. You might
say that I am a cheerleader for cruising since it is such an effortless way
to visit a region. I seldom pick a cruise with more than a full day or two at
sea. The appeal of the 12-night Italian trip was that we docked every day but
one allowing us to trace Italys boot as it juts into the Mediterranean.
I had been to the Italian mainland many times, but never to the islands on this
itinerary. Cruising was a way to see several of them, with multiple stops at
some, as well as three coastal cities and Rome.
The ship left
Genoa at 1 a.m. and 11 hours later it moored in Portoferraio, the principal
port of Elba, where it remained until late in the evening. The organized
tour took us along the irregular coast to Porto Azzurro and to La
Grotto, seaside towns favored by vacationers. Before returning to the historic
center to tour Napoleons residence, Villa dei Mulini, we stopped
to admire the sea and the scenery. Although there are more than 200 hotels on
Elba, it is an unspoiled center of tourism. The islands attraction lies
in its tranquil beauty--white sand and limpid blue bays backed by rugged
hills. Portoferraio has the flavor of the Italian Riviera with cafes and shops
lining the three main streets surrounding the harbor; there was ample time to
explore them on our own.
In the wee
hours of the next day the MS Deutschland arrived in Citavecchia, near
Rome. Some English-speaking passengers took a nine- and one-half hour
excursion to the capital to see a few of the major sites, such as the Vatican
Museum, St. Peters Cathedral, the Spanish Steps and
the Coliseum. Several American guests hired cars to visit Ostia,
Romes old port and one of the countrys largest excavationsand
Tarquinia, formerly the seat of the powerful Etruscan principality.
(credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
The following two days
were spent in Sardinia, sightseeing near the northeastern coast, first
from a base in Olbia and then from Cagliari. Olbias main
attraction is its proximity to the Costa Smeralda or Emerald Coast
where the Aga Khan built luxury hotels. The inlet-filled 34-mile shore is edged
with granite rocks and pristine beaches lapped by a sea of brilliant colors.
The tour centered on the exclusive holiday resort towns, Baja Sardinia in
the Gulf of Arachena and Port Cervo, directly on the Mediterranean.
The second Sardinian
destination, Cagliari, took us from a contemporary setting near Olbia back a
few hundred years to Castello, a medieval section of Cagliari, and back
a few thousand years to Nora, outside the city. The ruins at Nora, founded
by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, contain the remains of an amphitheater,
thermal springs, Thanit temple and foundations of Roman villas with their beautiful
mosaic floors still intact.
|Main Piazza, Monreale,
Sicily (credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Then it was on to Palermo,
Sicilys capital. The boat remained there for the entire day so that the
morning could be devoted to a bus tour of Palermo and of Monreale, which
is famous for its splendid cathedral adorned with gold-painted biblical
scenes and its Benedictine monastery and cloister. For some passengers,
the afternoon was devoted to wandering Palermos old section on foot.
The next stop, Naples,
was surely one of the highlights of the cruise. Not for Naples itself, which
lacks the character of other major Italian metropolises, but for its nearness
to Pompeii, which may be the most famous and crowded ruin in the world.
The lost city, destroyed by a volcano eruption and rediscovered in the 18th
century, reveals daily life in a wealthy Roman town. Not only is it an archeologists
dream, but it is a sightseers, too.
(credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
On subsequent days the
ship was scheduled to dock at Capri and Stromboli, two islands
of mythic beauty. Highlights of Capri included a boat ride into the blue grotto
cave and a tour of the village of Anacapri situated on the cliffs above
Capri Town. Because of the strong wind we could not board the tenders to reach
Stromboli, but we circled the island and came close enough to see the small
town with its white houses and the smoke from the volcano.
The next to the last
stop was Catania, our second Sicilian port. Because the ship arrived
shortly after dusk we were able to walk in town at night to see the old buildings.
The illuminated Cathedral of Saint Agatha particularly catches the eye.
Its striking facade looks like grey and white Wedgwood. The pre-arranged
excursion to Syracuse, about one hour away, was another opportunity to
enjoy remarkable ancient remains. In the archeological park are the ruins of
one of the largest amphitheaters in antiquity and the "cave that talks"
where the echoes, which can be heard twice, improved the theaters acoustics.
The last night was spent
in Venice, the most romantic port of all. The ships tour of
the Doges Palace and Piazza San Marco was the only one
that disappointed, since we could have easily visited the palace and the piazza
on our own. In the other ports we had to be part of a bus tour to reach the
sites of interest. Of all the places at which we stopped, Venice is the one
where I most wanted to linger and luckily I could since it came at the end of
Peter Deilmann EuropAmerica
Cruises, 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 170, Alexandria, VA 22314. Tel. 800-348-8287,