Another ship that I was fortunate enough to visit was Island Princess. She called in Durban on 25 March 1996, and was the first of 3 ships that we visited in a week. I had always taken a fancy to her and her sister, they were very attractive vessels, and of course they were famous for their role in the TV comedy “The Love Boat.” Originally built as Island Venture (sister was Sea Venture/Pacific Princess) in 1971, she spent most of her early life sailing for Princess Cruises as Island Princess. They were both products of Rheinstahl Nordseewerke, West Germany and had a gross tonnage of 19907 GRT. Principal dimension were 551x79x25, with a capacity of 644 passengers.
Because we were going on a cruise we actually arrived a day early, and managed to wangle a trip out to her with the pilot boat. The weather was grey and gloomy out at sea and sadly the photography was not great.
We followed her into the harbour, and she was one of those ships that really does look like her images. She berthed at “N” Shed and then the long wait began to get on board her.
Once on board we set about our mission of exploration. The ship was doing an “Around Africa” voyage and this must have been the first time we had seen a Princess ship in our waters in years. We just hoped that this would become a regular occurrence, I would really have liked to have sailed on her.
The decks were starting to come alive and the buffet on deck was gradually being more frequented. Interior wise the ship was smaller than I expected, although I had heard this from other sources. She also had a very different feel to other ships I had been on, and this had to do with the American passenger market. A friendly steward noticed us and introduced us to breakfast at the buffet. And, I don’t think I have ever tasted such strong coffee in my life! It kept me awake for the rest of that day and most of the night!
Then it was almost time to leave. We had a visit to the Bluff organised and had to be there to meet our contact. We bid the ship a fond farewell and promised to see her off later that afternoon. I was particularly looking forward to her sailing as I was less than pleased with the photography that morning.
Once we arrived at the Bluff and gone through the security we were in an area that had been unavailable to us before. We climbed up into the signal station and the view was incredible. The operator on duty did warn us to avoid photographing too much while we were there as the area was still restricted, but we could photograph the harbour side, and we decided we would wait out Island Princess from there. It is quite easy to picture the photographer that took so many images of the harbour and vessels like SA Vaal in the channel. It was a spectacular place to photograph from, but being the days of film we could not go crazy the way we do today with our digital cameras.
Then we saw tugs heading to “N” Shed, Island Princess was on the move. It was time to put that long lens to use.
There was something satisfying seeing her clearing the harbour mouth from this viewpoint. The next day would see us standing on board Rhapsody doing the same thing. I would have really preferred to be on Island Princess though.
Island Princess was eventually sold by Princess and had a somewhat odd career until she ended up in service as Discovery. Sadly, her sister fell on hard times while operating for Quail Cruises, structurally she was not in a great condition and there was talk of her being sent for breaking up. At the time of writing she was in layup, her future uncertain.
Update August 2013
Sadly Pacific Princess made the trip to Aliaga for breaking up under the name Afic. On the way to the breakers she started to take in water, and by the time she arrived was listing badly. Attempts were made to pump the water out, and two workers lost their lives in the process. The ship has since been stabilised, but is still listing and this may slow down the demolition process until she is stable enough.
And, regretfully Discovery did not outlive her sister by much, and her life ended at the breakers in November 2014.
A cruise on the Rhapsody 26-03-96 to 30-03-96. Durban-Bazaruto
Faced with the seemingly plethora of cruise ships visiting our shores, Rudi and I were faced with two possible affordable vessels. Namely Russ or Rhapsody. Of course there has to be an ulterior motive to everything, so we chose our voyage with care, finally deciding on a Bazaruto cruise on the Rhapsody, sailing from Durban on the 26th of March and returning on the 30th. The reason behind this particular voyage? well, the Island Princess was due in on the 25th while Rotterdam was due to call on the 30th! we could kill three birds with one stone.
Unfortunately by the time we made our booking (Early January), the ship was full and we struggled to get a berth. In an effort to bring the cost down, we opted for a third person to go with, namely Neville himself! As per usual time dragged on and after 3 centuries passed we were on our way to Durban in a rainstorm on Sunday night. Our arrival coincided with the change of shift at the pilot boat. Rudi had been doing some pre-preparation and soon we were on our way out to drop the pilot on the Island Princess. I had always taken a fancy to her, there is something about that design which is really attractive. She was outside awaiting our arrival, spotlessly white with only a dark green portion to her funnel and upper deckhouses. What an incredible sight she was!
After being dropped off at the small craft harbour, we hurried across to have a closer look and prepare for our visit which had been ably organised by Rudi. Soon we were on board the “love boat’s” sister and in for quite a surprise. The ship is reasonably plain, obviously comfortable but slightly different to what we are used to over here. There is a strong American influence on board with much of the show type lounge effect in the public rooms. Her upper decks are quite nice except for the astroturf which was about 2 inches under water above the Lido area. Alas for the poor passengers, our tummy rumblings were too much and Rudi persuaded the chief steward that he needed to feed us! The omelettes and waffles went down great! Incidentally, the coffee had to have been the strongest that I had ever tasted! After a thorough look around the ship we had to disembark and we quickly popped into visit the Port Captain and obtain our permit for a visit to the Port Signal Station.
This we achieved with no quibble at all and soon were were climbing up to one of the more well known and inaccessible landmarks in the harbour. The view, needless to say is stupendous and we spent the next few hours admiring it and talking ships with the guy on duty. From our vantage point we even got to see Island Princess sail!
The next day there was no sign of Rhapsody, she was delayed! Our embarkation was due to start at 12h00 but the ship only arrived at the pilot station shortly before.
Naturally chaos reigned at N shed as embarking passengers got in the way of disembarking passengers and vice versa. Of course in that heat things were not very pleasant. Rudi licked his way to the front of the queue, much to the chagrin of those whom we had to shoulder out of the way! We then found out that our cabin had been upgraded again, from three deck to four deck!
Things were looking up. Late that afternoon we sailed into nice weather with three days of food, relaxation and entertainment.
For those unfamiliar with the ship, she has most of her accommodation on the three lowest decks, with the restaurant midships on 5 deck, showboat lounge forward on 6 deck, 8 bells disco/lounge aft on 6 deck and the outrigger cafe aft on 5 deck. The Topsail lounge sits above the bridge with the pool midships on 7 deck.
The ship is quite easy to find your way around and generally quite pleasant inside. She was not an unattractive ship, but she did not really endear herself to me, even though she was an ex-Cunarder. I think if anything she seemed to be lacking character, or maybe I was not used to more “modern” ships?
We even spotted quite a few faces from Symphony and quickly settled into the shipboard routine. The most popular place on board was obviously the 8 bells disco/lounge with hordes visiting the outrigger cafe for lunch and breakfast.
The midships pool and jacuzzi’s were always crowded and the spacious decks were always populated by cancer seeking sun-bathers. Generally the food was adequate, however it tended to get monotonous at the buffet.
Our cabin was reasonably large, with a fold up Pullman berth, double window and very small bathroom. On the first day out we had lifeboat drill and did as little as possible. That night we met the Captain, while Neville tried to burn the cabin down while ironing his shirt. The next day our arrival at Bazaruto was late and once there they found that there was a swell running and the landing was unsafe. We shifted anchorage but it didn’t help so we all dumped our goodies back in the cabin and resigned ourselves to a day at anchor. From the ship Bazaruto looked like a pretty dismal sort of place, a lighthouse, tree, sand, sand and scrub seemed the only features, it was not my idea of paradise.
With much tugging Rudi persuaded Neville and myself to join him in a shady spot by the pool where we did some talent scouting and serious criticising. I was even persuaded into the Jacuzzi and pool (shock! Horror!).
Later that day they started to land passengers, but by then we were no longer interested in going ashore and spent the rest of the time around the ship. Shortly before 15h30 the passengers were recalled as the weather was getting up and by 17h00 we were underway once more. That night the swell increased and the Rhapsody was sending spray over the bridge. It didn’t dampen the spirit at the tropical evening though and by the next day the weather had cleared, much to the relief of one of the women at our table.
On our last day we were booked for a bridge tour, and with a bit of persuasion we had managed to swing an engine room tour as well. The bridge tour was very short, just a quick in and out before we scuttled below to meet up with the chief engineer who would take us on our own personal engine room tour. There is something very special about being in the engine room of a ship while it is at sea.
That night we had our farewell dinner and packed our junk, and said our farewells. The next day we were hoping to see Rotterdam at sea and take some great shots. However the next morning she was nowhere in sight and we sailed into Durban more tired than when we had left! Luck played into our hands once again as Rotterdam had arrived early the previous night to bunker and was awaiting us. We found Howard in the crowd and headed for her. Rudi had organised the visit as well and by 09H30 we were on board this great ship.
On board she is like a time capsule of 50’s and 60’s life. The furniture is from the past, the wooden panels are real! and the ship is spotlessly clean. We quickly made friends with Hans Hoffman, the 2nd officer who proved to be an amiable ship enthusiast with a love of tugs.
An engine room visit was quickly arranged and we descended into the greasy bowels of the vessel. An impressive engine room and a starting platform straight out of history! Then a bridge visit and lunch in the lido cafe was appreciated, and the food was astounding!!! We were very sorry to get off and we headed for North Pier to watch the Rhapsody sail.
She was so different to Rotterdam, almost insignificant. And I remember Island Princess and Rotterdam more than I do Rhapsody. She just did not really leave an impression on me, and while she was comfortable she was not special. Most of the other ships I sailed on had something that made them stick out. Rhapsody stuck out as having nothing to remember her by.
Shortly thereafter the Rotterdam sailed from Durban, lit by the setting sun, into an uncertain future. She was sold out of the Holland America Stable and served with Orient Lines before going to Premier Cruise line under the name Rembrandt, aka “The Big Red Boat IV”. Ships will never be built like that again. Sadly, in our plastic world we will be hard pressed to produce such a fine ship. (The Rotterdam was laid up for many years before she was towed to Gibraltar for restoration and then finally back to her home in Rotterdam where she is now restored). Sadly Pacific Princess went to the breakers in 2013, while Rhapsody’s sister Cunard Countess suffered an accommodation fire also in 2013.
However for us there was no reason to stay and we set off for home.