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Aluminum "You Are Here" Signs

Varying Size and Condition -- SOLD  Priced Accordingly

What better memento from the dearly departed MERMOZ than a lovely profile MERMOZ (most face left) with the name of one of her passenger decks in both English and French. These are made of aluminum and took some heavy negotiating to get from the non-ferrous metal dealers in Alang. Apparently, there is high demand for the material, itself, and the rest of these were not rescued in time. Most are in excellent condition with just a few minor scrapes and scuffs after decades of service and then defying the elements of India.

Named for the famed French aviator, the JEAN MERMOZ was built in 1957 for Compagnie de Navigation Fraissinet et Cyprien Fabre (often referred to as Fabre or Fraissinet Line) for service from Marseilles to West Africa via Casablanca, Dakar, Conakry, Monrovia, Abidjan, Tema, Lome, Cotonou, Lagos, Duala, Libreville, Port Gentil, and Pointe Noire. She was the final passenger ship built from plans drawn at the end of World War Two for the fleet reconstruction program to carry 144 first class, 140 second class, 110 third class, 24 fourth class and 446 steerage passengers. 196 crew served a mix of French vacationers, local interport West Africans, and military personnel. The ship also had 6138 cubic meters of holds and tween deck cargo space as well as 617 cubic meters of refrigerated cargo space. The 12,460 gt vessel was rather modern and understated when compared with some of her French contemporaries, including the Messageries Maritimes combiliners that served the Far East and South Pacific.

The JEAN MERMOZ sailed successfully on her West African service in her early years with Fabre Line, and was also a very popular cruise ship, sharing dual role duties with near sister, GENERAL MANGIN. But soon, the transport of African troops in steerage class was to diminish with the decolonization of the French African nations. Occupancy rates would drop from 100 to 90 to 68 percent by 1962. With high operating costs, the JEAN MERMOZ and her fleetmates were soon running at a loss.

In 1965, the ailing Fabre Line joined forces with Paquet and Chargeurs Reunis, forming the Nouvelle Compagnie de Paquebots. The reorganized fleet, which included FOUCALT, GENERAL LECLERC, FOCH, GENERAL MANGIN, JEAN MERMOZ, and ANCERVILLE eeked on for a few more years, but the age of the ocean liner was drawing to a close. The older vessels were ultimately sold off, leaving the JEAN MERMOZ (with her new black funnel livery featuring the NCP logo) and the sparkling new all-white1966-built RENAISSANCE. Although still modern, JEAN MERMOZ was no longer a competitive cruise ship with her cargo spaces and multi-class arrangements.

In late 1969, JEAN MERMOZ was sent to the famous Mariotti Yard at Genoa for conversion into a full-time cruise ship. Her ownership had been transferred from Nouvelle Cie des Paquebots to Croisieurs Paquet in 1970. The conversion was quite extensive, foreshadowing that of another French veteran, Messageries Maritime's CAMBODGE, which would soon be completely rebuilt into Sun Line's STELLA SOLARIS. She would emerge with a one class cruising capacity of 757, crew capacity of 264, and a new 13,804 gross tonnage. In 1998, she would be remeasured at 14,173 gt.

JEAN MERMOZ would also undergo a slight name change, dropping the "JEAN" along with her outmoded ocean liner class structure, cargo holds, deck gear, and dormitory style accommodation. As the MERMOZ, she would emerge as one of the finest cruise ships of her day, taking on an all white livery and a very modern appearance. She also was fitted with bow thrusters, making her far more maneuverable than before.

Due to delays caused by strikes, the MERMOZ' rejuvenation was completed in Marseilles.

When Carnival-owned Costa Cruises sold the MERMOZ to Louis Cruise Lines in late 1999, the ship was renamed SERENADE, but otherwise little had changed as far as her appearance or facilities were concerned. Certain parts of the ship (like the promenades and wheelhouse) reflected her 1950s pedigree, but she was mostly a representative of the finest French design elements of the early 1970s with touches of the quality mid-1980s look applied by designer Marc Held.

SERENADE made her last season of cruises in 2007 and was sold for scrap in the Spring of 2008, arriving at Alang as SERENA.

I made my final visit to the ship at low tide during the 2008 August monsoon. It was quite sad to see this once proud and pristine ship in such a sorry state but she did have a very long and successful career. A few years prior, I had sailed from Limassol to Port Said on an all-too-short two night voyage in her most luxurious suite. She was spotless and beautifully run at the time. At least I was able to rescue the lights in her dining room, various panels from her bridge and stairtowers and her wonderful brass engine panel.

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