Cruise News 05.06.09

Today sees the arrival of Prince Albert II, but not until late evening. She is due to arrive from Mousa and leave at midday tomorrow for Noss and then to Trondheim in Norway.

Her cruise itinerary started at Hamburg on 1st June, then Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Aberdeen, Fair Isle, Mousa, Lerwick, Noss, Trondheim, the Norwegian fjords, Lofoten Islands, Bjornoya (Bear) Island, Svalbard and Longyerbyen, arriving on 17th June.

Built in 1989 at 6,072grt as the World Discoverer for Society Expeditions, she has had an extensive multi-million dollar rebuild at the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy. Her original passenger capacity of 175 has been reduced to 132 and are accommodated in ocean-view staterooms. These include Owner’s Suites and Grand Suites, and 12 named suites that will mirror the concept of the Silver Suites aboard other ships in the Silverseas fleet – with a separate dining and living room and clubby atmosphere.

The vessel has a strengthened hull that carries the highest Lloyd’s Register ice-class notation, appropriate for sailing in Antarctica where she will spend six months a year with the other half spent in the region of French Polynesia, with excursions into northern Europe.

This World Discoverer is not to be confused with the 1974-built ship that visited Lerwick in 1977 and 1987.

Tuesday sees the maiden visit of the Azamara Journey, built for Renaissance Cruises in 2000 as R Six at 30,277grt. She arrives from Geiranger and departs to Torshavn.

Following the collapse of Renaissance Cruises in 2001 the R Six, along with many of her sisters, were laid up in Gibraltar, and auctioned and acquired by Cruiseinvest, an offshoot of her builders, which still had a significant financial interest in the ships.

Pullmantur of Spain eventually chartered her and in 2005 she was acquired by Pullmantur and renamed Blue Dream. Pullmantur was acquired by Royal Caribbean in 2006 and one of the first moves was to take this ship for the Celebrity Expeditions brand.

She was intended to take the name Celebrity Journey for her new owner, but just before she entered service following a major refit she was switched to new brand Azamara Cruises as the Azamara Journey. Her normal capacity is 710 with 376 crew and the name Azamara is a coined term derived from the Romany languages.

Also in Shetland waters but not shown as calling at Lerwick is the Russian-registered Professor Molchanov, shown as visiting Foula on Sunday. She was built at 1,753grt in 1983 and able to carry just 49 passengers and 23 crew and will arrive from Fair Isle and leave for Rona. The only chance of seeing her in Lerwick is if bad weather forces her here.

Passengers landing at Foula by flit boats are met by members of the Foula ranger service who divide the people into particular interest or physical ability groups. They tailor the guided walks according to the interests and ability of the passengers.

Foula has four environmental designations, so they try to ensure passengers have an interesting visit ashore but they are “managed” to avoid sensitive habitats or breeding areas. The walks encompass a mixture of every aspect of island life – history, social, cultural, environmental.

Popular activities are bird-watching, botany, archaeology, trying peat casting, seeing the coloured Foula Shetland sheep and feeding caddy lambs, photographing Shetland ponies and young foals, seeing a sheepdog working and talking to islanders about daily life. Those who can’t walk very far are driven round the island and taken for a very short easy scenic walk. Thanks to Isobel Holborn for advising me on the Foula activities.

The ship is named in honour of Professor Pavil Alexandric Molchanov, born in the USSR in 1893, a famous meteorologist who specialised in the Arctic. He developed radio signals for weather balloons and was the first Soviet person to captain a Zeppelin airship. He drowned in 1930.

John-ward Phillips


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