The Best Boats

In my quest to chase down old ships and boats, I’ve found some that have boatloads (pun intended) of character, and some that are sort of a letdown. Some of the best ones have been total surprises.

Here’s a list of my favourites, and why they really struck a chord with me.

Queen Elizabeth 2 (1967)
Cunard Line, Atlantic and cruise services

How can I not include my first love?

Lofoten (1964)
Hurtigruten, Norwegian coastal service

One of the greatest joys of a cruise I ever went on.

Belle of Louisville (1914)
Ohio River excursions from Louisville KY

She’s an American classic, the in-service epitome of Mark Twain. She breathes life in every board.

Natchez IX (1975)
Mississippi River excursions from New Orleans LA

She may not have the age that the Belle does, but Natchez is a legitimate steamboat in the archetype of a steamboat town.

Cape Henlopen (1941)
Cross-Sound Ferry, New London CT to Orient Point NY, USA

A pleasant surprise — the last D-Day vessel in service, though converted she had a certrain je ne sais quois on my first trip in her across a pea-soup-thick Long Island Sound.

La Suisse (1910)
Lake Geneva/Lac Leman, Switzerland/France

She oozed a certain class, a certain swagger. She was the maritime epitome of Suisse romande, and I fell in love with her double-expansion engine that slightly thrusted and torqued her hull with each stroke.

Stadt Luzern (1928)
Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Like La Suisse, it was love at first sight; a spur-of-the-moment six-hour trip up and down the lake. I booked an upgrade to first class, had veal and wine in her glorious first class salon, and whittled away the day writing in my journal in the room that once was Queen Elizabeth II’s private salon on a state visit cruise.