In creating a list of just some of the amazing cruise ships that we’ve lost (and I’ve really had to aim for just a small handful since otherwise I’d have been here gushing for thousands of words about some of the greats), it almost feels like I’ve composed one of those montages that you see at awards ceremonies of actors or sportsmen or musicians who’ve passed away in the past year. It’s been quite sombre.
I’m not even making light – two of the ships on this list resulted in the loss of human life, not just a ship, which is a sobering thought. However for the purposes of this blog post I’ll be mourning the loss of these engineering icons. I’ve picked out four, each for a different reason, but feel free to fire some comments at me if you want to add to the list, or argue against my choices.
Beginning not just at the start chronologically but also with the biggest disaster, and the most famous, the Titanic was a tragic loss of both life and vessel. The fact that she was lost on her maiden voyage makes it even worse – the potential of the ship to be an inspiring legend was never even close to being realised.
Of course it would be remiss to wax lyrical about the Titanic without touching on her gaping flaws, primarily in the lack of lifeboats and in the training of the crew to ensure that what lifeboats the ship did have were filled to capacity. The sinking of the Titanic was a horrific tragedy, but made even worse by the fact that many more lives could have been saved if it weren’t for a succession of human errors.
If one of the saddest things around the Titanic (from an engineering standpoint) was that it barely got to sail as a passenger ship, her sister ship the HMHS Britannic was never able to even sail once as a passenger liner, which almost feels heart-breaking. Instead the ship, launched just before the First World War but held up due to the fighting outbreak, was commandeered as a hospital ship.
The ship served this new purpose for almost 11 months before an explosion, caused either by a torpedo or a mine, sunk the ship just off the coast of the island of Kea. 1,036 people survived while 30 people lost their lives. It is unfortunate that the ship never had the chance to sail with recreational passengers on-board.
Moving onto happier topics now, and I want to touch on the Empress of Canada. This ship was built in 1961 as an ocean liner. However the significant moment in her career as a cruise ship came in 1972 when she was sold to Carnival Cruise Lines. This gave Carnival its first ship, before it became the huge corporation that it is now, running ten different cruise lines. It was sold in 1993 where it was passed around numerous cruise lines before being scrapped in 2003 with little fanfare. A shame for the ship which launched the success of one of the major players in modern cruising.
Finally, I want to discuss the Queen Elizabeth 2. This remains the longest-serving ship in the history of Cunard Line, a great achievement for such a prestigious company. She launched in 1967 and was sold in 2008. Much of the sadness in this case comes from the passing of an era, as the QE2 was one of the most famous and revered cruise ships to ever sail the oceans. However the legacy is slightly tainted following the sale as she is now in Dubai with an uncertain future – rumours continue to swirl that the ship may have been sold for scrap, which has been denied. I just hope she is given a fitting send off.
By Ian Lewis