Have you ever roamed the halls of a cruise ship to discover a wall, or more likely walls, plastered with beautiful plaques? Well, those are ceremonial pieces signifying an inaugural exchange between the cruise ship and a port-of-call or another vessel, and as I witnessed onboard Viking Ocean Cruises' latest Viking Sea, such events are quite special.
I had the chance to sail on the brand new ship as it visited Norway for the very first time with Torstein Hagen, the chairman and CEO of the line, and attended several plaque exchanges including the one in the port of Bodo (pictured above). There, captain Gulleik Svalastog met with naval and cultural ambassadors of the destination as he presented a metallic crest representing the Viking Sea. And in exchange, the port presented a wooden panel commemorating the June 12, 2016 call.
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Traditionally, such plaques are displayed somewhere onboard. I have seen them displayed more privately on navigation bridges or more tucked away in corridors lower in the ship where they can more easily accumulate in large numbers. One of the greatest collections is actually on Fathom, the new cruise line from Carnival Corporation sailing to Cuba and the Dominican Republic on cultural immersion itineraries.
Fathom's singular Adonia ship actually started out life as Renaissance Cruises' R8 before later becoming the Minerva II, Royal Princess and finally Adonia for P&O Cruises, before the recent rebranding. As such, a storied ship can have a wide range of plaques, signifying its earlier incarnations, as they are often inscribed with the then name of the ship, and the Anderson's bar and lounge on the Adonia proudly displays the bulk of them publicly, more than is often the case.
I say the bulk of them because the room is already entirely full of pieces, and very few read of the ship's previous names, but you can be sure the rest are somewhere else onboard. I suggest you look through those on your cruise ship next time because it's a fascinating timeline of where the vessel has been and what other ships it has met. Besides ports, occasionally vessels exchange plaques with each other. Cunard does this frequently as the Adonia has mirrored panels from the Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2.
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In fact, Cunard's, and arguably Carnival Corp.'s, flagship Queen Mary 2 has one of the most extensive plaque displays of all. Mostly hidden away in the narrow corridors surrounding the Illuminations planetarium beyond the conference rooms is an exhibit worth seeking out to see the impressive list of where the genuine ocean liner has been around the world. You may even discover pieces from your own homeport as I have from San Diego, California on several ships.
While you may not have the opportunity to witness the actual exchange of plaques, the array of panels commemorating the events often remain to be seen by cruise ships' passengers, an infrequent activity that is deserving of your time.
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