Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 by Shawn Dake
Two new cruise companies have announced that they will begin operations early in 2012. After Carnival Corporation previously stated that they would be unable to sell the COSTA MARINA (ex AXEL JOHNSON, REGENT SUN, ITALIA) at book value, their Costa Cruises division has bareboat chartered the 25,558 gross ton, 776-passenger ship, to a new start up company called Harmony Cruises.
The South Korean firm has already renamed the ship HARMONY PRINCESS. Refurbishment work to make the vessel suitable for Korean passengers is taking place in Pusan. Management of the ship is being handled by Polaris Shipping, a bulk carrier line based in Seoul. The former COSTA MARINA was originally constructed as a cargo carrying container ship for the Johnson Line in 1969, before being converted to a cruise ship in 1990, so maybe the idea of a cargo shipping firm starting cruise operations with this vessel will be a harmonious transition.
In October, 2010 Hansa Kreuzfahrten and their 16,214 gross ton ship DELPHIN (ex BELORUSSIYA, KAZAKHSTAN II) were stopped mid-cruise at Villefranche over failure to pay 2.4 million Euros in charter fees. The subsequent bankruptcy of their parent company caused an enormous amount of consternation in Germany. Beginning in April, 2012, the 1975-built ship will see a return to service under the banner of Passat Kreuzfahrten, a new firm based in Hamburg, Germany, owned by Indian investor, Pradeep Agrawal. His purchase of the ship was announced in early December. Andrew Hey and Klaus Ebner will handle management of the new company as they did with the previous operator, with many of the original crew members also returning. The DELPHIN has 466 lower berths but can regularly carry up to 550 passengers. Like many former Soviet-era vessels, this ship has frequently changed hands over the years, but has managed to attract a very loyal following among her German passenger base. The 513- foot (156.3 meters) long ship is currently in the Viktor Lenac Shipyard in Rijeka, Croatia undergoing an extensive refurbishment. The interior, which was already quite attractive, is being renewed and flat-screen TVs will be added to all cabins, along with much technical work on the hull and propulsion machinery.
While this may be a tough economic time to begin new single-ship cruise lines, these operators feel there is a niche for their type of cruise product. While Harmony Cruises and Passat Cruises are brand new lines, it is nice to see an attractive pair of seasoned veteran ships returning to the sea lanes.