Kristina Cruises, the family-owned Finnish cruise line that operates the small-sized cruise ship KRISTINA KATARINA (ex-KONSTANTIN SIMONOV, FRANCESCA, THE IRIS), has sought approval for a debt restructuring programme and has at the same time cancelled their winter cruise program in the Canary Isles. For the moment the company are stating that this does not affect the river cruises they run, not the KRISTINA KATARINA’s already published cruises starting after 20 March 2014.
The KRISTINA KATARINA departing Helsinki for her 2012 midsummer cruise. Photo © 2012 Kalle Id.
According to Kristina Cruises’ press release, the reason for the suspension of activities is the drop in prices of vacations in the Canary Isles and the difficult overall economic situation in Finland. However, the company had been known to have experienced acute financial difficulties for some time – indeed, their equity ratio at the end of the 2012 economic year was 0%. The company’s current difficulties can be said to be a continuation of difficulties that begun in 2010, when the company’s second ship, the 245-passenger KRISTINA REGINA, was replaced by the newer, 450-passenger KRISTINA KATARINA. The company had always heavily relied on a group of loyal repeat passengers – Kristina Cruises has probably the highest ratio of return passengers in the business – but has largely failed to find the additional passengers to fill the largest KRISTINA KATARINA. This is definitely something that needs to be addressed in the current restructuring programme, if Kristina Cruises is to continue trading as a profitable company.
The KRISTINA BRAHE, originally an US naval escort, at quay in Helsinki near the end of her 25-year career for Kristina Cruises. Photo © 2009 Kalle Id.
Kristina Cruises was established in 1985, when the Finnish coastal shipping company Rannikkolinjat (lit. “Coastal Lines”), owned by the Partanen family of Kotka, Finland, acquired the small cruise ship KRISTINA BRAHE from Fager Lines. The Partanen’s new company was named Kristina Cruises, taking its name from the ship. Three years later the KRISTINA BRAHE was joined by the larger KRISTINA REGINA (ex-BORE, BOREA). Initially, Kristina Cruises restricted their operations to the Baltic Sea and aimed their product at a more international clientel. At the time their ships were laid up for the winter seasons in Kotka. However, this changed in the late 1990s: the company now concentrated on the Finnish market and the KRISTINA REGINA travelled further afield: to the Norwegian Fjords in 1998, followed by the first Mediterranean winter cruises in 1999.
Kristina Cruises most iconic ship, the KRISTINA REGINA, in Helsinki near the end of her career for the company. Photo © 2010 Kalle Id.
As the years progressed, the KRISTINA REGINA spent a larger portion of every year cruising away from the Baltic Sea. The KRISTINA BRAHE, meanwhile, was restricted to sailing within Finnish territorial waters due to her not being compliant with the latest SOLAS regulations. SOLAS also caught up with the KRISTINA REGINA in 2010, and Kristina Cruises acquired THE IRIS, originally a Soviet ferry, to replace both her and the KRISTINA BRAHE. When the KRISTINA KATARINA entered service in autumn 2010, The KRISTINA REGINA was sold back to her original home of Turku, Finland as a museum ship under her original name BORE, while the KRISTINA BRAHE was sold to Saimaan matkaverkko for further trading as the BRAHE.
For more photographs by Kalle Id, visit kships.blogspot.com.
Kalle Id, MaritimeMatters' Helsinki correspondent, is a Finnish maritime historian, photographer and journalist, with a Master's Degree in history from the University of Helsinki. His early-age exposure to ferry travel led to a lifetime fascination with passenger ships, both the cruise ferries of his home waters and the cruise ships and ferries of further afield. Kalle maintains his own ship photography blog at kships.blogspot.com. Contrary to the popular belief, he writes under his real name.
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