The reason this web site came into being is because on July 6, 2003, I read an article in The
Orlando Sentinel by Arline Bleecker regarding steamships, particularly
the S.S. United States, which since then I have found out means as
much to her as the S.S. Argentina means to me. Through our e-mails,
I found out the city and state where the Enchanted Isle is
currently laid up. I then located docks and ports in Violet, Louisiana.
Fortunately, Violet is not a large town and I was able to find the
Enchanted Isle in the first phone call. Tefferny ("Teff")
answered the phone and stated that the Enchanted Isle is at their
location and, because she did not think I was a nut case wondering if the
Enchanted Isle was at their docks, she answered my questions as
best she could and mentioned the ship would be leaving "soon." After
hanging up with Teff, I decided I was on a mission, not only for myself,
but for my fellow students of the Escola
Americana do Rio de Janeiro ("EA") who traveled on the
S.S. Argentina, including the S.S. Brasil, her sister ship.
In a little over a week's time, I knew I was going
to a Class Reunion for
EA in Coral Gables, Florida, so I wanted to find out as much as I
could so I could relay the information. While speaking with Teff,
she told me that John, an agent for Commodore Cruise Lines, could assist
me with more information. I contacted him and he mentioned the
was due to leave within 30 days for Asia. I then knew it was fate
that I read Arline's article. Thirty days is all I have if I wanted to see
her before she was to leave for whatever was down her watery road. The
Enchanted Isle has been laid up at the same dock since December 30,
2000, and now finally having the time, I found her before she has to
leave. John told me that because of the shape she is in I probably should
just keep my memories of her and not to try to visit her. Over the next
couple of weeks, I was thinking I should go, I shouldn't go, I should go,
I shouldn't go.... Was she really a rustbucket?
While attending the Reunion, I spoke with Bruce
Stirling, Webmaster of the
EA Alumni Site. He mentioned that it would be nice to have
photos of the S.S. Argentina as she currently is so we could give
her a proper closure. This is all the incentive I needed. You see, I
really wanted to go, but was afraid to go, and all I needed was a little
My friend, Bill Vinson, and I were scheduled to be
in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on Saturday, July 26, 2003, so it was decided we
would see the Enchanted Isle on the way to Gatlinburg.
Leaving from Orlando, Florida, to go to Gatlinburg by way of Violet,
Louisiana, is a long road trip in only the five days we had allotted for
our Gatlinburg trip. But after all the information and generous
assistance given to me from various sources, I just had to go. The
Argentina was calling me.
On the day before leaving, Wednesday, July 23, I
called Teff to see if the ship was still there. She said yes, but the
Enchanted Isle is expected to leave the following Monday, July 28, and
she didn't know where the ship was going. Bill and I left the
following day to drive up to and across the Florida Panhandle, stopping in
Chipley, Florida, on personal business, then going on to take a photo of
Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where the S.S. Brasil
and the S.S. Argentina were built in 1958. That was quite an
adventure because we got there at 4:30 p.m. just as as the employees were
leaving for the day. Wrong Move!! The shipyard is at a
dead-end and we certainly didn't have a pass to enter the facility, so all
we could do was to take a few photos and hope security didn't come
charging at us. After we waited for about 2,367 employees (I swear
there were that many) to leave, we were able to turn around and drive on
to Biloxi, which was only a few miles away.
When I awoke Friday morning, July 25, I couldn't
wait to see her. We were close. I could taste those Shirley Temples.
A couple of hours later, as we were driving across the bridge on Lake Pontchatrain to New Orleans, I was getting nervous. What if she
really is a rusty piece of metal with her insides falling apart and smelly
as John described her to me. Would I be able to see her in her in
But all that left my mind when I saw her out of my
car window. She was gracefully sitting in the Mississippi River looking
tired, beaten, and seemed ready to give up, but certainly not as bad as I
had pictured she would be. She was beautiful. I knew her heart
was in there somewhere. Fortunately, I wasn't there to see her
deteriorate as Teff had in the last 31 months. The last time I saw the
S.S. Argentina, was when my Mom, Dad, brother, sister, and Louro, our
blue-crested Amazon parrot, disembarked in New York almost exactly 39
years ago to the day, July 28, 1964.
When our car came to a stop, I couldn't take my eyes
off her. I was afraid she would disappear. When I was finally able to pry
my eyes off her, I went up to the office to meet Teff in person. Teff is a
very friendly, southern woman with a captivating voice like Lauren Bacall.
After she filled me in, she called Captain Pavlos Papantelaras on the
phone who generously agreed to give us a short tour. The Captain and his
small crew were getting ready for the ship to leave on Monday and had a
lot of work to do in front of them.
As Bill and I walked up and over the levy to the
Enchanted Isle, I could not believe that I was there. It had been 39
years. I realize I could have traveled her as the Enchanted Isle,
but it wasn't meant to be. It was only a few years ago that I finally
found her through the internet. Before the internet, it was next to
impossible. When I was able to, I started to book a cruise for February
2000, but through no fault of my own, I had to cancel my plans. I
knew her time would be short because she was getting up in years and most
ships don't last as long as she had and I knew I would have to see her
soon. When I was able to book another cruise, she was lost. No
internet site, no Commodore Cruise Lines, nada. It wasn't until I
read Arline's article that I decided to try to locate the S.S.
Chief Steward Errol Fletcher waved us onto the ship.
You could say that I really had to see her because I am afraid of heights
and we had to climb up this super colossal ladder to the Promenade Deck.
The last few rungs were difficult and I tried not to look down but I just
had to to see each rung so I knew where to place each foot. After
having made that treacherous
journey, he led us up to Boat Deck to meet with Captain Pavlos
Papantelaras in the Captain's Quarters. The Captain told us that he
has been Captain of the Enchanted Isle for one year, but he had
also been Captain while she was the Monarch Star. Captain Pavlos
apologized to us that his time was short because there was a lot of work
to be done in two days before the ship was to leave on Monday. He was not
sure as to whether the ship could leave for dry dock in Mobile, Alabama,
under her own steam or she would have to leave under tow. As we
graciously said our obrigados and obrigadas, the Captain gave us a deck
plan of the Enchanted Isle and he had Errol show us around the
ship. Shortly after we left Captain Pavlos' quarters, I realized
that his Quarters was the only space that was air conditioned on the
entire ship. The ship's power was being supplied by a generator and
there were only a few light fixtures on.
While Chief Steward Errol Fletcher was explaining
the ship to us, he guided us by flashlight, and where we were able, we
snapped a few photos. Since the additional deck and a half that was
added to the S.S. Argentina in 1963, I have noticed the following:
The Observation Cafe on the Sun Deck is still there but has been renamed
Spyglass Lounge. (A poem was written for the Spyglass Lounge, check
out "Jack's Joint.") The Enchanted Isle has expanded its deck
space on Boat Deck. The Boat Deck Cafe was removed and more
staterooms were added. The S.S. Argentina did not have a
complete deck on Boat Deck but had a U-shaped decking effect where you
could look down at the pool from Sun Deck and Boat Deck. The decking
was expanded on Promenade so that the pool was added closer to the stern
than where the original swimming pool had been. This was because
more lounge area was added to the Promenade Deck up to where the
twin uptakes are. There was a large amount of square footage of
decking on the stern of the S.S. Argentina that was prohibited to
passengers and it is now useful deck space. The Junior Pool was
removed from Upper Deck. An excellent view of S.S. Argentina's
decking can be viewed by enlarging the second photo of the Brochure by
enlarging it twice (once by clicking on it then by clicking on it at the
bottom right hand corner). Where there was gray decking on the
S.S. Argentina, there is now green indoor-outdoor carpet. I also noticed the beautiful teak deck on Promenade, starboard and port, now gave way to more green indoor-outdoor carpet. The lounge areas on Promenade
were barely recognizable and totally refurbished. The Dance Studio, Gift Shop, and Writing Room are now a Casino. The Dining Room is in the same place as it was, but revamped. The ship seemed to have been
refurbished in order to book more passengers (725 instead of the original 553), but I think there is more deck space as it presently sits.
I wanted to see so much more, but we didn't want to
keep Errol from his job. He was very friendly and more than happy to
show us around, but I knew we should not take up his time. Besides I
was in awe and couldn't register everything at once. Errol had a lot
of ship stories to tell and I wanted to hear all of them. He worked
on many ships, as a Chief Steward and assisting in refurbishing a few
ships. Some of the ships he helped refurbish included the Pacific
Princess (the Love Boat), the Oceanic (one of the Big Red
Boats), and the one that did the Commodore in, the Enchanted Sun.
He found his way
a shipping career while he was living in Bermuda and admired a ship which
regularly came to Bermuda, the Bermuda Star. His dream was to
work on her. When he was old enough, his dream came true and he
worked himself up from Head Cleaner to Chief Steward. Today we know
the Bermuda Star as the Enchanted Isle. Errol found
his way back to her a few months ago and is assisting in repairing her.
He, too, wants to see her cruise again because out of 23 years in his
shipping career, she is his favorite. If only we could pull a few
million dollars together and put her out there again. How about a
Semester at Sea for EA or a place for our class Reunions? Or as
Bruce has stated, what about timeshares for EA Alumni? Her home port
could be where I can keep my eye on her though, Port Canaveral, Florida.
As I was walking away from her, I took some photos
myself. I kept clicking away. It was hard to leave because I
felt I had not visited her entirely. So, we sat there for a while on
a roll of chain link fence, soaking her in and comparing her to her photo
as the S.S. Argentina. There were many changes that we could
see. The funnel's windows that disappeared underneath yellow paint
in the refurbishment of 1963 were still there but painted over in blue.
The twin uptakes on the stern now have a cross beam between them. As
I was taking this all in, Bill reminded me that it was getting late and we
had better leave if we wanted to get to Gatlinburg that evening. So,
reluctantly, after saying our good-byes to Teff, we left and as we were
leaving I kept looking back at the ship through the car's windows until
she was out of sight. After five minutes of driving I realized I
forgot to take Spike's picture with her. After all, Bill and I had
our pictures taken in front of the ship, so Spike should too.
(Because I can't take my two cats and Quaker bird with me while I travel,
Spike volunteers to travel with me wherever I go.) So, goody!
We have to return. We returned to the Enchanted Isle and we
sat Spike on the roll of chain link fence and he proudly posed with the
ship behind him. Again, I looked back until Bill had to turn
my head around.
To date, we do not know what the near future holds
for the Enchanted Isle. During my search, I read stories from
many people who traveled her over the years. They developed a Love
Affair with her as much as the students and their families did from EA.
She was supposed to leave for dry dock two days after our visit, but on
the afternoon of our visit, it was found out she would be kept in Violet
to be considered for repairs. But for what? Is she being
considered for a few more years as a passenger cruise ship? Is she
going to be repaired in Violet in order to be able to make it to dry dock
in Mobile? And after they check her over in Mobile, will she then
head towards the
breakers in Alang, India or South Africa? The
S.S. Ryndam sank
before it arrived in India, but then maybe that was considered lucky
for her. It's probably better to be a reef than to be torn apart
piece by piece like a turkey being carved up. As I find out
information, I will keep you informed. Select Destination,
"Timeline," for information as it develops.
We know our beloved ships can't travel the waters
forever. The S.S. Argentina has a soul. It will hurt to
see her leave without us, but for those of us who have traveled on her
either as passengers or as crew will keep her in our hearts and memories
If you have a story to tell, please
let us know
or place your comments on our Guest Book.
Ginger Quering Casey
September 1, 2003