MS Arvia is born – maritime voyage of discovery through Papenburg and its Meyer shipyard
Las Vegas is located in the Nevada desert. Is it colourful, lively and green there? Quite – although it may also be unreasonable.
Papenburg is in the inland of Lower Saxony. Can it be maritime here? Can the largest cruise ships in the world be built here? Absolutely – and that is even very conclusive.
Do I want to compare the two cities? Certainly not. The differences could hardly be greater – no question.
SHIPS@SEA travels to Papenburg, which is geographically and thematically closer, instead of to the gambling paradise in the Far West and seeks maritime traces on the Ems. Bonne chance – let’s go.
It’s maritime here in the inland, as I discover when I arrive – water everywhere I look: Today even from above. So it’s better to start my programme indoors and in the dry.
Hotel Alte Werft Papenburg
Welcome aboard – welcome to an interesting hotel with a shipbuilding tradition. Already in the lobby, on the ground floor and in the numerous staircases I find historical, but also modern ship photographs on the walls. One shows MS Homeric – it is the first cruise ship „Made in Papenburg“: built in 1985, it was even launched by slipping on a transverse launch. The operation was a success and from then on ever larger ships were built at Meyer. These ships float – as is customary today – and have not had to slide into their element ever since.
The Meyer Werft has its roots on what is now the „Alte Werft“ hotel site. It was here that Willm Rolf Meyer founded his shipyard back in 1795 and began successfully constructing and selling ships. The family business remained at this location until 1974, before a major order led to the construction of the current Meyer Werft shipyard facilities. In 1995, today’s hotel began operations and accommodates guests in 122 rooms in three categories. In the public areas such as the staircases and restaurant, the hotel has succeeded in preserving the industrial charme of the shipyard halls with some integrated machinery. In addition to its special roots, the house has a privileged location in the town of Papenburg.
Papenburg Highlights – my favourite spots
The one-hour harbour tours with MS Papenburg depart from just around the corner several times a day. Only a few metres away on foot is the extensive exhibition of the Maritime Erlebniswelt Papenburg. Using an innovative app, you can learn a lot about the development of the city, the wooden shipbuilding of earlier times and the development of modern steel shipbuilding. What sounds unimaginable today: at first, people were anything but open to this development. But in the end, Meyer’s success proved him right – it was impossible to imagine life without steel shipbuilding.
Equally indispensable are the city’s historic fen canals – all of them carry water; but they are not navigable: they preserve contemporary history as witnesses of former peat extraction. Nevertheless, I find some ships floating in them: they are all 19th century replicas made by Meyer. The most famous ship is the Friederike von Papenburg, which is moored in front of the town hall. Here I am also on the main canal and in the heart of the city. It is well kept and picturesque to look at: Colourful flower arrangements delight the eyes, while numerous wooden bridges shorten the way to the canal side crossing and delight the feet.
On the day of arrival, the Head of PR & Communications at Papenburg Marketing is exclusively at my side for my Papenburg discovery tour. Christoph Assies takes a lot of time to show me the most beautiful and above all maritime corners of his region. A travel start could hardly be better!
In addition to numerous charming shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, the range of the Stahlbieger shop is particularly tempting. Here you can rent bike & cruise bicycles for your stay in Papenburg to cycle to the shipyard or through the Papenburg countryside. On the other hand, you can choose from a large assortment of interesting maritime articles related to the shipyard. It was no surprise that I also shopped here 😉
Meyer Werft – the cruise ship makers build MS ARVIA
I turn the corner of the shipyard’s largest construction hall, 75 metres high, and there in front of me lies the latest masterpiece of the Papenburg shipbuilders: MS ARVIA looks directly at every visitor with her striking bow. Behind it, 19 decks tower over the 345m long ship. What a sight – the dimensions alone are impressive and make me pause for a moment. It’s not every day that I stand so close to a brand new ship.
The new ship seems to lack a classic promenade outside deck – but the three-deck high atrium amidships is impossible to miss. „ARVIA“ translates as „from the coast“ – many windows and outside deck areas will allow the 5200 passengers a view of the seas and coasts of the world. MS ARVIA is the sister ship of MS IONA, which will be delivered in 2020, and also features the most sustainable ship propulsion system currently available, powered by low-emission LNG.
The transfer of the ARVIA to the Ems is scheduled to start next month and, after final outfitting work in Bremerhaven, it will be delivered to the British cruise line P & O at the end of the year.
But how does the traditional Meyer shipyard – celebrating its 225th anniversary in 2020 – build its ocean liners? This is presented to me on 3500m2 of exhibition space on two floors. Two short films about the sea and the history of the shipyard get you in the mood.
Other stations are propulsion technology, ship construction, today’s shipbuilding and visions of the future. A large room is dedicated to ship models from the shipyard production. All of them are in the impressive scale of 1:100 and there I see her again: MS Homeric Meyer’s first cruise ship is of course not missing from the collection.
Kalle Kreutzer is not missing either: he accompanies young children through the exhibition with questions, answers and small tasks – so that even young visitors get their money’s worth.
The highlight of every visit is, of course, the view into the world’s largest covered building dock. You can really get close to the running shipyard operations – only walking through half-built ships yourself can be nicer. Currently, MS Carnival Jubilee and MS Silver Nova are being built alongside the ARVIA. In the case of the latter, construction is already well advanced.
You have to book tickets in advance, but then you can stroll through the exhibition at your own pace or book a premium tour. There’s no doubt about it: even those who have never been involved in shipbuilding will be fascinated. Here’s to the next 225 years of Meyer Werft – what will the ships look like then?
A Bit of a Hanseatic City in Emsland
Back in the city, I get back on my bike: along the main canal I reach St. Michael’s Church. Here I like to linger under the Old Tower – it was rebuilt in 1848 after Papenburg sailors were impressed by the original in Riga. Since then, the octagonal tower has exuded Hanseatic flair in Papenburg with a lighthouse feeling.
I pedal past windmills with E-motion to a local gem that you shouldn’t miss in Papenburg: the Von-Velen-Freichlichtmuseum with the Papenbörger Hus. This museum is run by committed volunteer members of the association and shows very clearly how the old settlers lived and worked.
For a small fee, you can take a leisurely boat trip from the museum to discover the „Papenburg Amazon“. This is at least as worthwhile as stopping for tea and pancakes at the Papenbörger Hus afterwards.
Meyer Oldtimer Treffen in the Concert Summer
In the harbour of the Old Shipyard, two historic ships from the Meyer Shipyard will provide the setting for the colourful programme of the Oldtimer Reunion. The historic steamship Prinz Heinrich, built in 1909, is Germany’s national cultural monument at sea and the last witness from the days of the Kaiser. The elegant ship is lovingly maintained and operated by its professional, volunteer crew.
The Schmack Gesine from Papenburg, also a historic ship, looks very similar but different: She is the only Frisian Schmack in service. The ship with the attractive ambience can even be chartered. In this way, the voluntary association repeatedly sets the sails of the gaff sailer, which was reconstructed in 1985.
In the evening, the ships provide the perfect backdrop for a rocking shanty concert by Störtebecker. The maritime-rock, partly melancholic lyrics enthuse several hundred Papenburgers and the free(!) live concert lasts until late into the evening. Only after several encores does the CD sale of the new group album take place and a successful first festival day comes to an end.
Of course: Papenburg is the Meyerwerft and the Meyerwerft is Papenburg. The two places are irreversibly linked and are quite simply Germany’s maritime duo. And if you’re interested in cruise ships, you’ll love the Meyer shipyard. There is much to see, discover and experience here. Even for longer than a day.
After my three-day stay in Papenburg, I learned one thing: the city itself has a lot to offer and is definitely worth exploring for a short holiday or a long weekend. I got to know many interesting things that I would not have expected. The local people are also very welcoming. Many do voluntary work for their maritime and urban treasures. That is impressively likeable.
Papenburg – the city with the southernmost seaport in Germany – in the inland of the republic, offers so many maritime opportunities that many other coastal cities can take a leaf out of their book.
It doesn’t always have to be Paris, Perth or Prague. Nor does Las Vegas, for that matter 😉
Papenburg, the region and the shipyard have it all. I will definitely come back – next time with the whole family.
Advertising: SHIPS@SEA travelled at the invitation of Papenburg Marketing GmbH, with the support of Kommunikation Will Bremen, Freundeskreis Gesine von Papenburg e.V., Traditionsschiff Prinz Heinrich e.V., Maritime Erlebniswelt Papenburg and Papenbörger Hus e.V.BACK