On a Mission to Save Cruise Ship and Ocean Liner Décor

Peter Knego at Alang (India) in 2005 with the former RMS WINDSOR CASTLE. Photo by Kaushal Trivedi, copyright MidShipCentury.com 2005.

Peter Knego is a top authority on passenger maritime history along with being a major cruise travel journalists.

His excellent stories on ships are featured regularly on the Maritime Matters website.

But when he’s not doing all that, he is trying to save the remains of a period in maritime design that we shall not see again. And to do that he has to go to Alang, India where so many liners end their days on the beach being scrapped.



Video interview with Peter on his visits to Alang, India to buy furnishings from famous ocean liners ready to be scrapped.

Peter’s vast collection of mid-century ocean liner furnishings are a major source for top interior designers.

The New York Times recently did a lengthy story on Peter’s fabulous collection of liner furnishings… remnants of an era when cruise lines turned to artists and craftsmen to create striking midcentury interiors.

Ocean Liner History:  On a Mission to Save Cruise Ship Décor
By FRED A. BERNSTEIN – NEW YORK TIMES

MOORPARK, Calif.

The beige stucco house, on a cul-de-sac here, 45 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, is filled with the remnants of midcentury cruise ships, in piles so large and precarious they make the house feel like an oceangoing attic.

For the last decade, many of the great ships of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s have made their final voyages to Alang, India, where they are sold for scrap. But as they are being picked apart in a ship-breaking operation rarely seen by outsiders, Peter Knego, a former music promoter, has been buying up their furniture and fittings, remnants of an era when cruise lines turned to artists and craftsmen to create striking midcentury interiors.

One of Peter’s many available pieces: The five section painting, “The Pharoah’s Feast”, created by Giovanni Majoli for the first class dining room of the gorgeous SS AUSONIA of 1957.

In 2008, a mural by Enrico Paulucci, rescued by Mr. Knego from the Eugenio C (a 1965 Italian ship), sold for $38,000 at auction. But most of the items he saves are far less valuable. On his Web site, midshipcentury.com, wood and chrome cocktail tables from the Holland America Line’s Standendam are $450; armless chairs from Eugenio C’s cabins are $150; and stairwell light fixtures from the Olympia, of zigzag patterned leather with star-shaped cutouts, are $400.

While the great ships of the 1920s and ’30s — Art Deco ocean liners like the Normandie and the Queen Mary — have many devotees, the ships of the postwar years are far less celebrated.

“I didn’t think this stuff was cool till six or seven years ago, so I understand it takes time for people to catch up,” Mr. Knego said.

(Left: Click on Peter’s logo to visit his website and view the vast collection of midcentury ocean liner pieces and furnishings available)

Altogether, Mr. Knego said, he has spent about half a million dollars on his seven trips to India, and another $70,000 or so shipping the spoils home to Moorpark. Friends help him unload the 40-foot-long containers and sort the contents in his backyard.

For the midcentury ships Mr. Knego loves, the beginning of the end was 9/11, which led to a decline in tourism that made many of the liners unprofitable. Now the end of the end is approaching. New provisions of the international Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention, effective Oct. 1, prohibit wooden construction in overnight passenger ships. That provision, Mr. Knego said, dooms most ships built before 1970, which would require such extensive refurbishment that it’s more economical to scrap them.

Mr. Knego expects several of those ships — including the Mona Lisa (formerly the Kungsholm) — to end up in Alang. After that, he said, “It will just be the ships of the ‘Love Boat’ generation — with cheap, mass-produced details.”

Click here to read more of the excellent New York Times story.

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