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Ship Visit to Ocean Countess

Liverpool - 25th September 2010

Report by John Harrison


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 David Robinson
Photo©2010 David Robinson, OCEAN COUNTESS at Liverpool

     
OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 CMV
OCEAN COUNTESS - CMV image


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
EXCURSIONS DESK - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
SHOP - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
SHOP - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
BOAT HOUSE BUFFET - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
BOAT HOUSE BUFFET - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
BOAT HOUSE BUFFET - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
BOAT HOUSE BUFFET - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
PROMENADE DECK AFT - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
CINEMA - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
HAMPTONS BAR - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
HAMPTONS BAR - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
HAMPTONS BAR - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
TOWER PIANO BAR - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
TOWER PIANO BAR - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
LIBRARY - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
CABIN - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
CABIN - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
CABIN - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hales
CABIN - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale



The OCEAN COUNTESS was built as the CUNARD COUNTESS for Cunard Line (logically!) in 1976. Her hull was constructed by Burmeister and Wain, Copenhagen and she was fitted out by Navale Mechanice Affini, La Spezia. She was, however, originally to have been the second of eight ships to be built for the film studios, MGM, as part of a diversification scheme for that company which never materialised, so she was taken over by Cunard. She served Cunard in the Caribbean area but in 1982 after the Falklands War she was chartered by the Ministry of Defence for six months to take troops between Ascension Island and the Falklands. In 1996 she was sold to Awani Cruises and renamed AWANI DREAM II. In 1998 after Awani fell into financial difficulties she passed to Royal Olympic Cruises and was renamed OLYMPIC COUNTESS. In 2002 Royal Olympic Cruises became Royal Olympia Cruises following objections from the International Olympic Committee and she was renamed OLYMPIA COUNTESS. In 2004 she was sold to Maximus Navigation Ltd, Madeira and renamed OCEAN COUNTESS. To fulfil charter requirements she bore the names LILI MARLEEN from 2005-6, OCEAN COUNTESS from 2006 to 2007 and RUBY in 2007 then reverting to OCEAN COUNTESS. Her gross tonnage is 17,593 tons and she has capacity for 800 passengers.

OCEAN COUNTESSS - Photo: ©2010 CMV
OCEAN COUNTESS - CMV image


There has been pressure for ship visits in northern ports and the visit to the OCEAN COUNTESS was a response to this. Within this context it was slightly disappointing that only 9 people attended. Two more members were supposed to come. Peter Godliman, our wonderful ship visit organiser, was to lead the tour but he had to opt out as his family was unwell. Matt Sudders was then appointed as leader in his stead, but then EasyJet stranded him in Paris. I would encourage northern members to attend ship visits in their area (and maybe bring friends) as otherwise they might not prove viable. I should perhaps explain that, though I live in the south (Loughton), I was brought up in Warrington and was able to attend this visit as we had a family celebration at my father’s home there the following day.

OCEAN COUNTESSS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale
RECEPTION - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


Our arrival at the ship brought one big disappointment, the quality of the cruise terminal. Liverpool has a modern cruise terminal in the centre of the city, but due to EC funding restrictions this can only be used for day visits, not as a starting or ending point for cruises. The Langton terminal is on the edge of the city and is approached through the dock network. The terminal itself is a large prefabricated building and a dockside shed and the security “office” is a retired caravan – the latter is very prominently located at the entrance to the terminal, so you cannot fail to see it! Whilst the terminal served its purpose and was clean, I could not help thinking that if you were embarking on your holiday of a lifetime or something, you might feel somewhat let down.

OCEAN COUNTESSS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale
PROMENADE DECK AFT - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


Before Cruise and Maritime Voyages took on the OCEAN COUNTESS she had been the subject of a £3m refit. We were told the ship had been quite dark beforehand and the intention had been to make her lighter and brighter. When we boarded her we entered the reception area on Deck 5 (logically called the Reception Deck). Here wood predominated and made this an elegant area and something of a contrast to the terminal we had just left. We walked past the two shops and the beauty salon to the Boat House Dining Room located at the stern on Deck 6 (Upper Deck). Whilst guests in the main dining room have set places and waiter service, this is the alternative with buffet service. Much of the seating is semi-open, so this would not be good in cold weather, but there is also an enclosed area adjacent on the starboard side of the ship. Forward of this was the cinema which doubles up as a lecture theatre, an area of the ship which was left untouched by the refit, but this did not mean it looked jaded in any way.

OCEAN COUNTESSS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale
HAMPTONS BAR - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


Above the cinema on Deck 7 (Promenade Deck) was the Hamptons Bar, a bar particularly used for late night entertainment. We then passed through the small casino area forward to the Hollywood Show Lounge where shows, frequently based on musicals, are performed each evening. This is the largest public room on the ship. The seating is set in a horseshoe-shape round a central stage. The deck above this is Deck 8 (Bridge Deck), but this does not have any public facilities. Above the bridge on Deck 9 (Lido Deck) is the Tower Piano Bar which provides good views forward and would be the place to be if you want to see what is going on whilst at sea. The rear part of this space is a small library and card playing area. Astern of the Tower Piano Bar is the internet area with the sun deck and swimming pool behind that. Further astern is gym and sauna, with more open deck beyond – the ship has generous open deck provision.

OCEAN COUNTESSS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale
TOWER PIANO BAR - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


We saw a range of cabins; from the most basic to the Owner’s Suite (one wonders whether the owners have ever used it!). All cabins seemed adequately equipped for one’s needs, though the most basic ones might be a bit cramped for a longer cruise. Cruise and Maritime provides traditional cruises on smaller ships particularly aimed at over 60s. There are no children’s facilities provided though children are accepted on the OCEAN COUNTESS (but not on Cruise and Maritime’s other ship, the MARCO POLO). The ship has an attractive interior of modern style – I could not put a label on its style other than modern. Whilst I do not know how she appeared pre-refit, she was certainly light and bright now.

OCEAN COUNTESSS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale
KENSINGTON RESTUARANT - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


Our visit ended up with a meal in the ship’s main dining room, the Kensington Restaurant, located on the Upper Deck (Deck 6). I had been on an Ocean Liner Society visit to the MARCO POLO on the previous Monday at Tilbury and though the meal on her comprised very good food, I felt the portions were somewhat small. On the OCEAN COUNTESS, the food was still the same good quality, but the portions were more generous. The group was able to sit round one large table with our main guide, Michelle. Michelle has worked in the cruise industry for almost her entire career. She enjoyed cruising herself and clearly was a liner enthusiast. Not only was the food good, but the company was as we talked about shipping matters with lots of humour injected. As I left the ship I got quite a surprise as the Society’s vice-chairman, David Trevor-Jones was standing in the queue waiting to board. He and our chairman, Bill Mayes (who had already boarded) were going on the OCEAN COUNTESS next cruise, a positioning voyage to Plymouth via Cork.

OCEAN COUNTESSS - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale
SUITE - Photo: ©2010 Paul Hale


There is a post script to this report. I have never cruised before, but subsequent to this visit my wife and I have decided to book a “taster cruise” on the OCEAN COUNTESS, her Christmas Markets cruise to Bremerhaven, Amsterdam and Antwerp (we are not going because we envisage spending a lot of time and money in the markets, but rather as the cruise gives a good opportunity to see these cities). I am not sure what the experience will be like, but having been on several cruise ships as a visitor, I have no reason to believe that the OCEAN COUNTESS will not provide a good introduction to cruising. Subsequently the winter programme for OCEAN COUNTESS was cancelled and a summer cruise on MARKO POLO was substituted.


OCEAN COUNTESS - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle
Photo©2010 Ian Boyle, Tilbury prior to maiden CMV voyage
The funnel logo is still being applied







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