My bloggy friends who have been reading my blog for a while know that I love ships. I wrote three posts on this in 2010 starting with Recollection: the Sea and me (part 1) which you can read here then part 2 here and part 3 here. This really started when I went to Turkey with my mother when I was 6 years old. We traveled on a ship from Marseille to Istanbul. The voyage took about 10 days because we had to stop in Greece for ship repairs and also because there were torpedoes leftover from World War 2 floating in that area of the Mediterranean Sea – some ships had been hit and had sunk already. I do not remember the name of our ship but I would think that it must have looked like the one below – such as the ship Providence in Marseille pictured in 1946, and a standard cabin.
This was certainly not a cruise ship. Later when going to England from France I would always take the ferry across the Channel rather than fly – I was in a ship, it took longer and it was cheaper. As my three previous posts show I was often near or in a ship. I came to the USA in a German ship, the T/S Hanseatic of the Hamburg Atlantic Line – shown below on a postcard.
Years went by before I boarded a ship again. We visited my daughter in Long Beach one year. She invited us for a New Year brunch on the RMS Queen Mary which has been moored in the port of Long Beach since 1967. This was the highlight of our time in Long Beach for me as this is a beautiful and historic ship – in 1936, on its Maiden Voyage, it was considered one of the grandest ships ever. The brunch included a small tour of some of the areas on the ship which is now a museum – below is a bunk bed in a standard stateroom (pictured behind a glass window.) QM2 is now a hotel with 314 renovated staterooms, but we did not see them.
Another year when we visited Céline in Long Beach, she invited us on the Queen Mary a second time, this time for a Father’s Day lunch. It was a sunny day and I was under that ship’s spell once more.
Click on collage to enlarge, then click on each picture to see betterThis revived my longing for taking a voyage on a ship again. When I retired in January 2008 I told my husband that I would really enjoy going on a small cruise. He was not very enthusiastic, but I persisted and found a cruise going to Mexico from Long Beach on the Princess Cruise Line. We had a great time and my husband agreed that he had truly enjoyed this trip. Encouraged, I kept reading all the travel sites on the web to find good cruise deals - and there are many. I found a great 10-day cruise to the Caribbean which was on sale because it left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the week-end of Thanksgiving 2008. This was on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. It is truly an elegant ship. Below is my husband in front of Queen Mary2 (QM2) in Grenada, the QM2 in the port of St. Kitts and the great QM2 library.
The library on the QM2 is located in the bow of the ship (the front.) I did not have a blog then so I did not take many pictures but you can see, in front of where my husband is seating, on the right in the collage above, that he is facing some large windows. We would sit there and watch the sea and the limitless horizon. We spent many hours in that library. So far we have been on nine cruises. In December 2010 I received an email offer from Cunard for a two-for-one fare for a 14-day cruise to Hawaii from Long Beach on the MS Queen Victoria (QV.) The offer lasted only a few hours but we were able to buy the tickets in time. We left Long Beach in January 2011 and were on the open sea for eight full days. The ship is named for Queen Victoria, the United Kingdom monarch (1819-1901.) Below is MS Queen Victoria, a painting of the ship I photographed on board and Queen Victoria painted by Franz Xavier Hinterhalter (German, 1805-1873.)
The library on the QV is the most beautiful I have ever seen on a ship. It is not just a room filled with books, but a real library. It is two-deck high, trimmed with mahogany and contains a nice selection of more than 6,000 books, periodicals and newspapers. A graceful curved staircase leads from Deck 2 to Deck 3.
The ceiling is luminous as it contains stained glass panels which are lighted and wood-framed.
There are two full-time librarians (one on each level) to help select and find books among the many rows of bookcases full of various books in different languages. Comfortable arm chairs placed in front of large windows or near light fixtures invite guests to sit down and read for a while.
I was intrigued by the library carpet. It is dark green and “autographed” with famous writers’ signatures.
I recognized the signatures of D. H. Lawrence, Robert Browning, Edgar A. Poe and John Keats.
The authors’ signatures were also displayed on the wall with the dates of their birth and death.
The books could be checked out – three books at a time I believe. I was pleased to find on the lower level a large bookcase with a good selection of books written in French such as the one shown on the table below – “Les Biens de ce Monde” by Irène Némirovsky.
If we did not feel like reading in the library or in our stateroom it was easy to find a deck chair as there were very few, if any, people on this deck. Of all the cruises we took only the Cunard ships had deck chairs on the open deck. I don’t think there is anything better than reading an exciting story and looking up, seeing the open sea.
Early on the cruise I found paperback books in French on the second level of the QV library. The French books were at the top of the shelf. I asked the librarian if they had a small stool or ladder to reach that shelf – “no, madam” he replied. I would have asked my husband for help but he was on the lower level happily reading a newspaper.
So I went back to the bookshelf. It was hard to catch a book and I took the first one I could reach. It was called “La Femme de Chambre du Titanic” (the Titanic chamber maid) by Didier Decoin. I had not read this book so I checked it out. It was a fiction tale happening around the real story of the Titanic.
I read this book quickly then I wondered if I could find some non-fiction books on the Titanic in the library. There were quite a few. Below on the table in front of my husband you can see a large book I found on this subject.
There really were many books on the story of RMS Titanic. I was surprised until I found out that the White Star Line which had ordered the building of the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic had merged with its competitor Cunard in 1934. After the Great Depression both Cunard and White Star were in financial difficulties. The British Government agreed to help them financially on the condition that they merge into one company. This is the way that Cunard White Star Limited was created. It explained why I had seen a model of the Olympic (sister of the Titanic) in a glass case near the dining room and a picture on the wall of the QV.
So now the RMS Titanic history belongs to Cunard, too. I knew about the sinking of the Titanic (who doesn’t ?) but was not sure about all the details. I gathered a large assortment of books on the Titanic and checked them out, three at a time. During the crossing from Los Angeles to Hawaii I was always with a book on the Titanic, whether on deck, in the library or somewhere else. Below are some of the books I read.
While on the MS Victoria I found myself fascinated by the story of RMS Titanic. I read many books, but I’ll tell you about them next week. Below is a painting by Michel Guyot, French contemporary painter, showing the Titanic at Cherbourg, France, with the tender Nomadic bringing passengers out to the ship. (Photo courtesy Michel Guyot.)