|Saturday morning was gloomy on Tyneside and grey skies had replaced the blue of Good Friday. We drove along the southern bank of the river, headed for A&P's Hebburn yard, stopping along the way to photograph the QUEEN OF SCANDINAVIA and JUPITER berthed across the Tyne at the Royal Quays terminal. Our immediate target however was the AFRICA MERCY, the former DRONNING INGRID of DSB dating from 1980. The AFRICA MERCY has been on the Tyne for years and years - it was never intended to take quite this long although quite a lot of the work is being done by the Mercy Ships staff themselves, but due the lengthy financial problems of the shipyard, now resolved, delay met delay with work ceasing entirely whilst the whole mess was sorted out. Finally though things are moving on apace, with anticipation that the ship should be ready for service later in 2005.
Sadly, there is not too much of the DRONNING INGRID, as she was, left – the ship has been extended aftwards and the passenger decks astern of the signature central hallway are in the process of being converted to cabins and other living areas. At the time of our visit, these were simply space after space of square, unfurnished rooms with wires and exposed pipework indicating just how far there still was to go before she would be ready for action. Thankfully, the hallway itself has been retained, including the key central mural by Arne L Hansen. This is now slightly obscured by the stairway installed whilst the ship was still with DSB which links directly the two levels of the hall, but it is the intention to retain it in full. Not so lucky perhaps will be the rectangular murals located at either end on either side of the lounge areas adjoining the hall. Whilst these areas will themselves be retained as recreation areas, our guide informed us that the murals would probably be removed, or perhaps painted over. That said, it would be remiss not to mention that sailing on sister KRONPRINS FREDERIK just over three weeks later, still in service with Scandlines, we witnessed workmen removing the equivalent murals. Given how they have "modernised" (read as "massacred") several of the other original spaces from the FREDERIK in an ongoing in-service refit, one wonders whether they will be returned when all is completed. Back in the AFRICA MERCY's hall area, the original Kay Korbing chairs lay scattered around, paint-splattered but intact; on the FREDERIK they had been removed and piles of Korbing seating could be seen on the quayside at Gedser!