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Category Archives: France

SS Oceanic – Dutch Design (66)

SS Oceanic

SS Oceanic

Becoming a member of PicFair inspires me to go through old photo’s to see if they are still of any interest.

At wikipedia I found out the ship was built in Italy in 1965

But at SS Maritime I found out something really interesting: It seems the design was of Dutch origin..by a designer of Maatschappij de Schelde. A huge yard at Vlissingen.

Question – “Who Really Designed The Oceanic”?

By William Vandersteel – Alpine, NJ – USA

Little known history behind the identity of the original designers of the SS Oceanic, steadfastly denied by the Italian shipbuilder and the CEO of Home Lines, is the true story of how it came into being. It goes back to a meeting between Aristotle Onassis, John W. Hupkus, Managing Director of the Dutch shipyard, Kon. Mij de Schelde and the writer, William Vandersteel, USA representative for de Schelde. The meeting took place in Monaco in 1957.

Ari Onassis had asked for the meeting to discuss his proposal for the De Schelde Shipyard to develop a design for two ships, specifically designed as cruise ships, and with trans Atlantic capability, to operate in the Mediterranean during the winter and the Caribbean during the summer. Onassis and Hupkes were friends and, except for specifying cruise speed and passenger capacity, Onassis left all design details to de Schelde.

In 1953, de Schelde had completed the Kungsholm II for the Swedish American Line and, during the maiden voyage to New York, which I attended, I mentioned to Hupkes that the new Kungsholm was a nice design in the traditional sense and observed that I could suggest some “improvements” to bring the design and styling into the modern age. After discussing my ideas, Hupkes was intrigued and suggested I meet with his naval architect during my next visit to Holland. In 1955, I met with de Schelde’s naval architect, Mr. Pieterse to discuss my ideas. Pieterse was a young chap and, initially, less than enthusiastic with my ideas. Unfortunately, he died prematurely from cancer at age 36, shortly after completing the design for the Onassis cruise ships.

As for my background, I am an aeronautical engineer with a lot of experience as a youngster, sailing all over the globe with my family, giving me an abiding interest in ships. I also gained some styling design experience with my first job, after graduating from MIT, with the General Motors Styling Section for car design. The job lasted only 8 months when World War II broke out and I volunteered to join the US Army Air Corps to be trained as a fighter test pilot.

De Schelde’s Naval Architect, Mr. Pieterse and I sat down in 1955 to discuss my ideas, briefly outlined as follows;

Change the conventional curved sheer line to a straight line, parallel with the water line. Eliminate camber to make flat decks, like floors in any building ashore. Neither sheer nor camber serve any purpose on a large ship, or any ship for that matter, and they only add to cost. At first, Pieterse was horrified at the thought of a ship without a graceful sheer line as he had designed for the Kungsholm. Pieterse tried to defend camber on structural ground but eventually conceded that the same structural integrity could be achieved without camber. To achieve proper styling, all decks must be flat and parallel with the waterline.

Next, I insisted that all promenade decks be fully glass enclosed. I knew from experience that the first thing an experienced ocean traveller does after boarding, is to run for the deck steward and reserve a deck chair on the limited space of the fantail (stern), the only place where you don’t get blown away. Also, I insisted that the only promenade deck be at the very top level, also fully glassed in, with an unobstructed view of the ocean.

I also insisted that the lifeboats be stowed on a lower deck and not on the top deck so they would not detract from ship’s styling. My attempt to substitute life rafts for life boats was apparently not allowed by Lloyds’ rules, though they are obviously a safer and better solution. Naval ships only use life rafts even in the face of much larger risk.

Then, as a main feature of the ship, I envisaged an open space near the ship’s center, with a transparent sliding roof and a swimming pool as the central attraction. The beam sides to be fully glassed in with all seating (deck chairs) facing inwards, overlooking the swimming pool. The presumption is that passengers would rather stare at Bikinis than look at the ocean which they can see from their cabins or top deck. The sliding roof would close during inclement weather. I named this the Lido deck though I do not know if this name was original at that time.

After Pieterse completed the design, he had become an enthusiastic supporter of the new configuration and conceded that eliminating sheer and amber might reduce the total construction cost by as much as 10%. I was given a ten page copy of the completed design and I was satisfied that Pieterse had faithfully followed all my suggestions.

De Schelde’s proposal and drawings were presented by John Hupkes to Ari Onassis in a Paris meeting sometime late 1955. I was not present and do not know what transpired. Hupkes did indicate to me that Onassis was not ready to proceed with his plans. Though I have no first hand knowledge, I surmise that Onassis conveyed the drawings to his friend Eugen Eugenides, owner of the Home Lines. The Home Lines eventually contracted with the Italian shipbuilder Cantieri Reuniti del Adriatico of Monfalcone, Italy to build the Oceanic and it was delivered in 1963.

The significant fact is that every cruise liner, without exception as far as I know, built since the completion of the Oceanic has followed every feature and configuration which led to the Oceanic’s original design. That neither the Italian builder or the Home Lines, as far as I know, has ever claimed credit for introducing a wholly new design concept for cruise ships, probably stems from their concern that such a claim could lead to the revelation that the original design was made by Mr. Pieterse, Naval Architect for the Kon. Mij. De Schelde of Vlissingen, Holland.

William Vandersteel.

A bit of old skool piracy huh?

SS_Oceanic_in_Helsinki

After cruising for Pullmantur Cruises the Oceanic was chartered or owned by Peace Boat for a couple of years.

2000—2009: Career with Pullmantur Cruises

On 30 December 2000, the Big Red Boat I was acquired by the newly founded, Spain-based Pullmantur Cruises. She reverted to the name Oceanic and sailed to Cadiz, Spain for refurbishment. Following completion of her refurbishment, the ship entered service on cruises from Barcelona in May 2001. During her career with Pullmantur, Oceanic was gradually rebuilt by removing flammable materials so that the ship would be better in keeping with the new SOLAS regulations coming into effect in 2010.

Oceanic was reportedly due to be withdrawn from service with Pullmantur in September 2009. In March 2009, the ship was sold to the Japan-based Peace Boat, with delivery date already in April 2009.

2009 onwards: Career with Peace Boat

Oceanic entered service with Peace Boat on 23 April 2009, departing Yokohama on an around-the-world cruise that was due to conclude in Yokohama on 6 August 2009. Oceanic ’​s circumnavigation was Peace Boat’s 66th “Global Voyage for Peace”, and the first to feature extensive visits to various ports in Scandinavia, with a goal of learning about the northern European welfare and education systems.

Sometime during the week between 3 and 9 May 2010, the Oceanic came under attack by pirates while off the coast of Yemen. The ship was attacked by grenades, but managed to avoid being boarded by adopting zig-zag manoeuvres and blasting the pirates with high-pressure water hoses. Reportedly the pirates were subsequently apprehended by NATO forces.

Thereafter it seems having been scrapped in China in 2012.

Wine and Water

Wine and Water

Wine and Water

The French do believe in fairy tales: Their Wine Museum in Paris is located in the ….Water street (or more precisely the Ch. Dickens square…still named after a fairy tale writer)

Chateau Eza – an Eagle’s Nest Hotel

Chateau-Eza-IMG_8185Full Moon and a view on St Jean Cap Ferrat

Chateau-Eza-IMG_8198An excellent place for Super Yacht spotting, here the 90m Lauren L, built in 2002 in Germany

Last year we took a few days off from our hectic life as hoteliers to visit the south of France.

I was able to make a last minute reservation for one night in a suite of the magnificent Chateau Eza.

However, there are a couple of things to note:

  • Eza is the old name for Eze. It is a little picturesque medieval and hence car free village on a rock approximately 500m above sea level with a magnificent view of the Mediterranean. It is the first village west from Monaco and not far from Nice and Nice Airport. It is draped like an Eagle’s Nest on a steep hill. Hotel Chateau Eza is situated on top of the village, about 20 minutes walking on a steep uphill path, partly with stairs. It’s an excellent place for Yacht spotting.
  • If you travel by car like we do, you should be aware that Eze village is a bit of a tourist trap with few parkings. On busy days it is hardly possible to park your car somewhere in the neighborhood of the entrance to the village. Many buses drop by. If you want to make a day trip by car to for instance Monaco or Nice, it takes about 1/2 hour before you reach your car and you have no guarantee you’ll find a parking spot when you return after your trip.
  • Eze can be foggy, even if the rest of the Riviera is sun blazed. Just be aware of this, if you booked for the view as we did.
  • They run an excellent restaurant, but they don’t give hotel guests a guaranteed seat for a session in the restaurant, what amazed me for a 10 rooms only hotel.
  • Checking in into the hotel is a somewhat peculiar experience, as there is a little office for the concierge in the main street not far from the car park, approximately a mile downhill form the hotel entrance itself. The hotel site is not clear about this feature. It should be in my opinion. The confirmation of the reservation gives some directions, but are not very clear. The porter does a good job bringing your luggage to the hotel. All in all it took us 2 hours from arrival by car until we were checked in.
  • Friends of us stayed somewhere in the not too distant neighborhood, and we would have liked them to meet us at the hotel for lunch, however when we were settled Eza had closed the kitchen, notwithstanding they advertise, even today, on their site: Tapas service and à la carte salads are served from 12h30 to 18h00. Moreover with a 5 stars rating you may expect 24/7 room service for tapas and salads. No flexibility at all and that annoyed me most.
  • As a final observation: The neighborhood is rocky. On the night vision photo above you look West and see the light glow of Nice behind the hill and the traffic on the secondary road. It means if there is no wind, there is a lot of traffic noise amplified by the steep rocks around. Traffic goes on all night.

All in all it was quite an, but not so quiet, experience which I won’t repeat.

Chateau-Eza-IMG_8207

After a wonderful, but bit hazy, breakfast on the terrace we left for the Burgundy region.

Proud 2010 Gault Millau Hotelier

Gault Millau 2010 sticker for Haagsche Suites

Yesterday, as the first of the 5 or 6 prestigious restaurant guides in The Netherlands, the Dutch version of the Gault Millau Guide presented its 2010 awards and 2010 guide with the best 500 and something Restaurants and best 220 Hotels of The Netherlands here around the corner in The Hague. I’m a bit sad I had to miss the ceremony…so near by.

Today I received the sticker proving the Gault Millau editors deem Haagsche Suites worthy to belong to the best 220 Dutch Hotels in their guide. Thank you Gault Millau for the quick service, that even beats the new listings on your own website :-)

Gault Millau started in France as a restaurant guide in 1969. It was founded by two restaurant critics, Henri Gault (1929-2000) and Christian Millau. The French site is a mere window for their paper guide.

Yesterday the Belgian and Luxemburg Branche of Gault Millau also presented its 2010 Guide and awards.

I grabbed the following from the Misset Horeca Site:

Plaese note the best restaurant has been awarded 20 points out of 20 which is remarkable in the Gault Millau history. At the same time our Belgian neighbors awarded a Dutchman, Roger van Damme the Chef of the year award for his Antwerp based lunches only restaurant.

Gault Millau’s top 13 Restaurants of The Netherlands:

Points Restaurant City
20 Oud Sluis Sluis
19,5 Inter Scaldes Kruiningen
19,5 Beluga Maastricht
19,5 De Librije Zwolle
19 De Leest Vaassen
18 La Rive Amstel Hotel Amsterdam
18 Chalet Royal Den Bosch
18 De Lindenhof Giethoorn
18 De Bokkedoorns Overveen
18 Parkheuvel Rotterdam
18 De Zwethheul Schipluiden
18 De Leuf Ubachsberg
18 ‘t Brouwerskolkje Overveen



gaultmillau 2010 logo
Two of those top restaurants, Parkheuvel and De Zwetheul are easy to reach for a dinner when staying in Haagsche Suites.

Two other Restaurants Calla’s and Seinpost who also earned good points are even nearer to Haagsche Suites. Seinpost has the best wine food combining sommelier of 2010.

Austria, Italy, Germany and Switzerland each have their own Gault Millau guides.The US and the UK have their Gayot guides. Gayot was a friend of Gault and Millau and they published joint guides until a schism in 2000.

Gault Millau is said to be the guide of the food purists more than the Guide Michelin….

10 Questions For (31): Gesa Noormann of Escapio

Happy to present Gesa Noormann of Escapio

Gesa-Noormann
1) Who Are you?
My name is Gesa Noormann. I am doing PR for Escapio, a booking platform for exclusive, handpicked hotels. I especially love testing out and reporting on our gorgeous hotels in the Escapio Blog. I live in the middle of Berlin with my twin daughters and two rabbits. Aside from travelling, I love cooking and having friends over to share food and drinks

2) What do you like about what you do?
It may sound a little kitschy, but I have always dreamt of landing a job like I have at Escapio. It combines my passions for travel, great hotels and writing. The internet offers so many possibilities to communicate with people and to develop new marketing ideas that I really feel I’m doing exciting and new things every day.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
Sometimes I miss meeting people personally instead of having virtual contacts on the internet.

4) Please tell us all about your site / blog and your aims with it.
Escapio is a booking website with a selection of handpicked hotels. Our concept is that customers can choose their hotel by lifestyle criteria like romantic or design hotels rather than just by destination or price. In times of bargain deals we want to give our customers the security of enjoying a special stay in an excellent hotel. Our blog is a complement to the website, for our customers to share our experiences with hotels, locations and lifestyle.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Egypt: so many things to see, such a rich cultural heritage, the Nile in the middle of the desert… just great!

Provence/Côte d’Azur: beautiful landscape, great food, my favorite language, fabulous shopping opportunities.

Venice: The City of my heart, a mix of beauty, decadence and melancholia.

La-Posta-Vecchia
La-Posta-Vecchia

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
La Posta Vecchia, Rome. The perfect hideaway for lovers (ex-villa of Paul Getty and his lover). You actually sleep in the bed of Katharina de Medici, enjoy great food and eternal beauty near the city. Great restaurant with one Michelin star

The Hotel Al Moudira Louxor. The Lebanese owner brought all the antiquities and style from her villa in Cairo to this new built hotel in the middle of the desert. This hotel near King’s valley is a real oriental dream.

The Hollmann Beletage in Vienna: A very special and unique place in the historic center of Vienna. Actor Robert Hollmann realized with this hotel his personal idea of feeling at home – only better.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?
Restaurant Hugo’s in the Intercontinental Hotel Berlin: Thomas Kammeier got his Michelin star for a good reason. He serves excellent, honest food with regional influences (his interpretation of the “currywurst” is unforgettable). Great panoramic view of Berlin.

Restaurant Le Castelleras near Fayence, France: This attractive stone villa is perched on a hillside and overlooks Fayence and the valley. A hidden and splendid location to enjoy refined Provençal-style cuisine. Great home-made ice cream with olive oil from the olive plantation behind the villa.

Harry’s Dolci in Venice with a great view on the Canale Grande. The food is fantastic and the other reason why I will never forget this experience is that my boyfriend and I, freshly in love, were not allowed to kiss. The manager’s severe call “Not in my restaurant” has become kind of an idiom between us since then.

8) Your top 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
Unfortunately, I have canceled the names of these places out of my memory, so I cannot warn you

A hotel in downtown New York City, a so called in-place for artists. Perhaps I am not bohemian enough to live cockroaches in my bed as an interesting experience.

A hotel in Etropole/Bulgaria (best place in town!): My boyfriend is still getting spots on his face when he remembers the 50-years-of-socialism-carpet, 40 degrees in the room and no curtains…The wedding of my ex au pair was great, however, and for 19 euros per night you cannot really complain either.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
Well, just have a look on Escapio’s Berlin hotels. I would send my most stylish friends to the Hotel Q in West Berlin. It is really fashionable and cool with guests like Angelina Jolie and Amy Whinehouse. Prices are really affordable, and the bar is a great chill out place.
The Ellington Hotel is great, too. Or for party people, I would choose the Arcotel Velvet in Berlin Mitte. If you want more luxury and are post materialist-design lover, please do not miss The Mandala at Potsdamer Platz, it is just gorgeous!

For people who like to spend money on food, I would suggest the Hugo’s (mentioned above), the Margaux at Unter den Linden or the Horvath in Kreuzberg. For a lower budget, a great rustic Italian is the Café Aroma in Kreuzberg or the Vietnamese Si An http://www.expedia.de/vc/reisefuehrer/restaurant-si-an-berlin-27737) in Prenzlauer Berg.

Hollmann-Beletage-Vienna
Hollmann-Beletage-Vienna

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Perhaps why people should choose Escapio? Because we believe in our choice of hotels (one of the best in the Mediterranean) and have a great, enthusiastic team that loves to help our customers book their dream hotel.

My Take

Thank you Gesa! In Berlin you mention places I certainly will check out at a future occasion and your mention of Hollmann Beletage will surely make me try out that one once over my current Vienna favorites. Big question: When will Escapio follow up my suggestions for Dutch additions to its site?