FAIRSKY on her maiden voyage from Los Angeles, May 5, 1984, Photo (c) by Shawn J. Dake
Pullmantur Cruises has sold the ATLANTIC STAR (ex FAIRSKY, SKY PRINCESS, PACIFIC SKY, SKY WONDER) to an undisclosed buyer who intends to rename the vessel MONA LISA II.
Although unconfirmed at this time, the likelihood is the ship would operate on a charter basis for German passengers, replacing the previous MONA LISA built in 1966 (ex KUNGSHOLM, SEA PRINCESS, VICTORIA, MONA LISA, OCEANIC II). Late in 2009 , perennial entrepreneur Paris Katsoufis expressed an interest in acquiring the vessel for his Kyma Ship Management. If this company is the buyer, the last turbine steamship built and entering service in 1984, would be re-engined ending her career under steam. The 46,087 gross ton ship is costly to operate and has been plagued by mechanical problems over the past decade. Much of her recent career has been spent in lay up although the ship was reactivated August 29, 2010 to replace the PACIFIC DREAM (ex HORIZON, ISLAND STAR) which suffered a major engine failure.
When introduced in 1984 as Sitmar Cruises first newly-built ship, the FAIRSKY was among the most attractive vessels of her generation. Owner Boris Vlasov simply liked steamships and was used to having that means of propulsion in his other three passenger vessels, so intended to keep the fleet consistent, even though no passenger steamships had been built since the HAMBURG and QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 in 1969. Sitmar Cruises remained an outstanding company until being taken over by Princess Cruises in 1988, when the ship became the SKY PRINCESS. September 24, 2000, the SKY PRINCESS departed San Francisco, California on what would be her last voyage for Princess, a 28-day trans-Pacific crossing under steam to her new home in Sydney, Australia. Once there, she was quickly converted into the PACIFIC SKY for P&O Australia, replacing her former Sitmar fleet mate FAIR PRINCESS (ex CARINTHIA, FAIRLAND, FAIRSEA, CHINA SEA DISCOVERY). During the next six years the ship carried 275,000 Australian passengers, greatly expanding the popularity of these voyages, so that today more and larger ships are finding success in that market. After a series of mechanical breakdowns, in May, 2006 the ship was sold to Spain’s Pullmantur Cruises and renamed SKY WONDER. In 2009, she was renamed again, finally losing the “Sky” part of her name by becoming the ATLANTIC STAR. The hope was that the ship would create a new market for Portuguese passengers. Instead the aging vessel was mostly redundant to the company’s needs. The sale brings with it the good news that this ship, now into her 27th year, will continue to see further service, while tinged with the knowledge that this will probably result in the elimination of another of the ever-dwindling number of steamships still in service.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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