Cruise News 29.05.09

The Polar Star will make her second visit on Sunday. Built in 1969 at 4,998 tons as the Swedish icebreaker Njord, she was converted into an expedition cruise ship in 2000. She has a normal capacity of 92 with 30 crew. Her route for this visit is to be from Kirkwall to Bergen, before continuing to Spitzbergen for the rest of the summer.

The Island Sky will arrive on Tuesday from Fair Isle and depart to Rona; she was built in 1992 at 4,200 tons by Nuovi Cantieri Apuania at Marina di Carrara in Italy as the Renaissance Eight for Renaissance Cruises (and called three times in 2001 as that ship).

She remained with the company until it filed for bankruptcy in the autumn of 2001, following which she was renamed as the Renal 11 and laid up.

She became the Sky in 2003 and was renamed Island Sky in 2004 when acquired by Mauritius Island Cruises.

The Island Sky and her sister the Island Sun (now Corinthian II of Travel Dynamics International) were acquired by Danish container operator Clipper Group from Mauritius Island Cruises, which has now ceased trading. Noble Caledonia has chartered the Island Sky from 2004.

She is currently owned by International Shipping and has a normal capacity of 114 with 72 crew. According to Berlitz Guide to Cruising she is rated at four star, scoring 1,540 out of a possible 2,000 points.

The spacious cabins (four were added in the 2003 refit) combine highly polished imitation rosewood panelling with lots of mirrors and hand-crafted Italian furniture, lighted walk-in closets, three-sided vanity mirrors (in fact there are a lot of mirrored surfaces in the decor), and just about everything you need, including a TV set and VCR and a refrigerator. The bathrooms are extremely compact units; they have real teak floors and marble vanities, and shower enclosures (none have bathtubs, not even the owner’s suite).

The Aidacara makes her maiden visit on Thursday and is 38,557 tons. Built in 1996 for Arkona Touristik of Germany as the Aida, she has a normal capacity of 1,180 and a maximum capacity of 1,250 with 370 crew.

Sold to Norwegian Cruise Line in 1997, due to financial difficulties, but chartered back, the Aida was re-purchased by Arkona Touristik in 1999, restyled as Aida Cruises and renamed Aidacara in 2001 in anticipation of the delivery of the first of the pair of ships under construction in Germany.

The “body and soul wellness” area is on two decks (which are connected by a stairway) and encompasses some 24,757 square feet there is also an open-air wellness deck for relaxation/nude sunbathing in an area atop the ship forward of the ship’s mast.

In keeping with the times, all the trendy treatments are featured in a contemporary setting that invites you to take your body on an “enhancement vacation”. There are saunas and steam rooms, and 14 rooms, massage and other treatments (most named after places and islands), neat showers, funky changing rooms and a tropical garden with waxed palm trees and relaxation lounges; sporting types can play golf in the electronic simulator, or billiards, or volleyball, or squash, or go jogging. Berlitz guide rates her at three star plus scoring 1,393 out of a possible 2,000.

Her bows feature the red lips as well as the blue eyes of Aida (from Verdi’s opera of the same name, written to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1871). The Aidacara will be arriving from Oban and departing to Invergordon.

Overheard on Victoria pier: “Oh you do have buses.”

John-ward Phillips


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