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World Renaissance is seen in this official
Royal Olympic Cruises postcard.
Aaron Saunders Collection
For many, their first cruise is their most memorable. For me, my second cruise was my most memorable, largely because of the ports, the quaintness of the ship, and the extraordinarily adverse weather conditions we faced.
It was a five-day voyage in March, 2000 from Piraeus, Greece to some of the most beautiful places in the Mediterranean: Mykonos, Kusadasi, Patmos, Rhodes, Heraklion and Santorini. Taking us there would be the 492-foot World Renaissance, operated by now-defunct Royal Olympic Cruises.
I’d been on one cruise two years before, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Wind – now sailing Asian waters as Superstar Aquarius. Built in 1993, there were some obvious differences between the Wind and the 1966-built World Renaissance. The Norwegian Wind, with its recently-inserted midsection, vast array of bars, lounges, dining rooms and theatres, and comfortable accommodation, easily bested the little Greek ship – which interestingly was constructed by the same yard that built the Wind, France’s Chantiers de l’Atlantique, now part of STX Europe.
There were also some unexpected surprises from the little Greek line I’d never heard of: the ship sparkled like new, the crew were exceedingly friendly, and the food was better than I’d have thought.
Venus-deck aboard the World Renaissance.
Click for larger version.
Aaron Saunders Collection
In contrast with the easy-to-navigate passenger corridors on modern cruise ships, the lower decks of the World Renaissance were a maze of twisting, winding hallways. Friends in our group were staying in an oceanview cabin almost all the way aft, and it took us a full day before we could successfully find it without loosing our bearings. It was also the first ship I’d ever been on where the printed deck plan in the brochure didn’t quite match the actual ship: a small staircase near the El Greco Lounge provided access to the lower decks without having to go all the way forward to use the ship’s main staircase.
But there was something appealing about the ship: it had character. It’s razor-sharp bow had an almost ocean liner type of grace to it, and hearkened back to another era in shipbuilding. The vibration from the rotating screws caused the fantail to pulsate up and down in a slow, mechanical motion. Whump, whump, whump. You felt like you were on a ship, even if reading in a deckchair proved to be a challenge.
On our voyage, we also had a taste of our ship’s sea-keeping abilities: after our evening departure from Rhodes, Greece, a storm began to move in. Ever so slightly, the seas got a little higher and the ship pitched a little more, until by dinner there were only eight of us – on the entire ship – who arrived for dinner in the dining room.
The only past cruiser in our group, I immediately became the one to turn to for questions: was this normal?
Absolutely. Up until then.
The seas grew more intense as the evening went on. Those of us who kept down dinner tried to escape our growing sea-sickness by watching the 1996 film Mission: Impossible in the ship’s theatre. To this day, the theme song makes me feel nauseated; all I can recall are the red velvet curtains on either side of the screen swaying back and forth, almost eerily in tune to the music.
Back and forth.
After crawling into bed, most of us were awakened at 1:55am on the morning of March 22, 2000, when the World Renaisance was broadsided by a wave. Everything not bolted down in our small stateroom became airborne briefly, dousing one of my friends with a pitcher of ice water that had been left on a bedside table, breaking phones, tables, luggage, and the contents of the bathroom. From the gift shop directly above us came the sound of hundreds of dollars worth of perfume heading for the floor, and three decks below the plates in the dining room were doing likewise.
We heard conflicting reports from the crew as to how large the wave was, but estimates from twenty to thirty feet were fairly common. Regardless, it was enough to cause the speakers in the El Greco Lounge to crash down from their mounts in the ceiling, a Grand Piano to become lodged between the stage and a bulkhead, and resulted in the use of paper plates and plastic cups in the dining room for the last two days of the voyage.
We spent a sleepless night shuffling between public rooms, trying to get some shut-eye on furniture that, unlike our mattresses, wouldn’t shift with the motion of the ocean.
In the end, we missed our calls in Crete and Santorini due to the storm. The Captain tried all day to find safe anchorage near the famous island, but as we circled it for three hours, the storm was unrelenting: it lasted a full twenty-four hours, and by dinner time seas had “calmed” to a mere twelve feet in height.
While I may have missed out on Heralkion and Santorini, I feel like I’ve gained a unique experience on a ship that has more than stood the test of time during her long career with lines like Paquet, Costa, Epirotiki, Royal Olympic Cruises, and many others.
But last month, after a career spanning five decades, she was run full-steam onto the unforgiving beaches of Alang, India where she will be torn apart piece by piece by scrap merchants looking for a deal. Her hull will be cut in pieces and removed until nothing – not even the keel – is left behind.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch: it’s like seeing an old friend on their deathbed. An updated photgraph on Maritime Matters shows the ship – now dubbed Maestro – beached and awaiting final breaking.
For more about the World Renaissance, be sure to view the excellent postcard-history of the vessel on the Simplon Postcards Website.
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