Cruise News 19.06.09

The Black Prince will arrive today from Bergen to Greenock. Built by Lubecker FlenderWerke at Lubeck, Germany, at 11,209 tons in 1966, she has a normal capacity of 412 and 200 crew. She initially served Olsen’s services between Harwich and Kristiansand and Amsterdam and Kristiansand in summer and the Canary Islands service in winter as the Venus.

The Black Prince became jointly owned with Bergen Line in 1970 and continued her dual role until the ending of the agreement in 1986. Following her refit she was equipped with a retractable marina that could be put out from the stern when at anchor for the provision of a number of sporting activities. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has confirmed that she will be retired at the end of 2009. She is due at Lerwick again in early July and late August.

To mark her final departure, fiddlers Bryan Gear and Martin Henderson have agreed to play for an hour before the ship sails – from 4pm to 5pm – and some of the Jarl’s Squad also hope to attend, which should give the passengers a memorable send-off.

Derek Hendry is providing a PA system too, and will give the music a bit more volume and impact. We’re hoping that the Jarl’s Squad might manage a rendition of the Up-Helly-A’ and Galley songs at some point.

The National Geographic Explorer will make her maiden visit on Saturday. Built at 6,167 tons in 1982 as the Hurtigruten vessel Midnatsol, she was to be sold to Canadian interests, but the sale fell through so when their new Midnatsol came into service she was renamed Midnatsol II and later Lyngen. Lindblad Expeditions had paid $8.6 million and she was transferred to the new owners in October 2007. She has a normal capacity of 223.

The Athena, with a normal capacity of 638 passengers and 185 crew, will visit on Wednesday from Cuxhaven to Reykjavik.

She was built as the trans-Atlantic liner Stockholm for Swedish America Line by the Gotaverken shipyard in Gothenburg at 16,144 tons. While on her regular service between Gothenburg and New York, she collided with and sank the Italia Line flagship Andrea Doria. After repair by the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Brooklyn, the Stockholm re-entered service on her Atlantic route.

In 1960 Swedish America Line sold her to VEB Deutsche Seereederie for use by the East German Free Trades Union organisation, which renamed her Volkergreundschaft (German for “People friendship”). She operated cruises for East German workers until sold on in 1985 to Neptunus Rex Enterprises of Panama. She became the Fridtjof Nansen in late 1986 and was moved to Oslo for use as a refugee accommodation ship. Star Lauro acquired her in 1989 and intended to have her refurbished and renamed Surriento. In the event, she was laid up in Genoa and eventually renamed Italia Prima. She operated cruises from Havana, Cuba, as the Valtur Prima. From 2001 she was laid up at Havana, until chartered by Festival Cruises in late 2003 and renamed Caribe, but Festival collapsed shortly afterwards and she remained unused until taken on a 10 year bareboat charter by Classic International Cruises in 2004 and renamed Athena. She was to have replaced the Princess Danae, allowing that ship to go for an extended overhaul, but the work required to bring her up to standard was greater than expected, thus delaying her entry into service.

Following her refit she operated two cruises under charter in the German market. She then operated for part of the year for British travel company Travelscope until that arrangement was abruptly terminated in March 2007. She is now operated by Classic International Cruises; Athena last visited Lerwick in 2005 as a accommodation ship for the Island Games and at 61 years old she is a true veteran of cruising.

John-ward Phillips


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