P&O Cruises VICTORIA continued her successful U.K.-based cruise program until being withdrawn and sold in 2002. The ship made a final cruise from Southampton to Gibraltar, Barcelona, Port Mahon, Ajaccio, Toulon, Santa Margherita, Livorno and Civitavecchia, where some of her artwork and fittings were removed prior to being handed over to new owners, Leonardo Shipping, who chartered the ship to German-based Holiday Kreuzfahrten as the MONA LISA.
I had an opportunity to document the ship from top to bottom just prior to her sale by P&O. She has remained basically the same since her 1979 rebuilding, save for new soft fittings and furniture.
Forward Funnel Platform
When the forward funnel was cut down, it created a small platform of decks for officers’ use only, offering a nice view over the midships pool area.
Bridge Deck begins with the wheelhouse, which boasts much of the original KUNGSHOLM equipment in addition to recent augmentations.
The teak decking was beautifully tended on VICTORIA, leading aft from the wings to another platform
This level begins with an observation platform underneath the wheelhouse and continues aft to a screened-in sunning platform overlooking the midships pool.
Although this level heads aft along the base of the funnel through a crew only area, it opens back up to passengers with a turf covered terrace overlooking the stern.
The next level, Lido Deck, is the highest passenger deck with enclosed spaces. The Starlight Lounge fronts Lido Deck, offering a forward-facing view from its terraced observation area, and still has its dark paneling and original Scandinavian wooden furnishing.
The port and starboard annexes on either side of the Starlight Lounge have original wicker furnishing and more luxuriant paneling.
The forward stairtower descends from the foyer just aft of the Starlight Lounge and annexes, and is resplendent in rich cherry wood paneling and indandescent lighting.
Externally, Lido Deck, continues with narrow promenades that have unique, corresponding glass-enclosed spaces furnished with wicker and wooden deck chairs.
The promenades continue aft to the slightly terraced Lido Buffet, which serves the midships pool area with buffet style meals, tea and coffee.
The wood paneled midships foyer is quite remarkable as it spans two decks: the upper Lido Deck level featuring full length windows just aft of the midships pool and the lower R Deck level, with an attractive marquetry wood panel that depicts medieval Swedish life.
The KUNGSHOLM’s former enclosed promenade spaces just aft were transformed into a slot machine room on the starboard side and a gallery that doubles as a playroom on the port side.
The Carib Lounge and Casino were created out of a Sun Room and open deck space during the KUNGSHOLM’s morph into SEA PRINCESS. In effect, they replaced the Smoking Room, which was given to the ship’s new cabins on R deck.
A narrow glass-enclosed terrace follows just aft of the Carib Lounge and Bar, looking out over the Carib Pool, which was added in the SEA PRINCESS conversion.
Although the luxuriant terracing is now gone, the MONA LISA”s rebuilt after decks were more sensibly utilized with the Carib Pool and whirlpools.
R Deck is just below Lido Deck and contains the lion’s share of the MONA LISA’s public rooms. It begins with a hatch area that is out of access to passengers.
The dedicated passenger space on R Deck (formerly KUNGSHOLM’s Veranda Deck) begins with the Princess Theater, which is forward and center, with its original squared off seats and recessed ceiling dome.
In each corner one of the four metal sculptures representing the four classes or “Estates” (Nobility, Clergymen, Burghers, and Peasantry) of the pre-1866 Swedish Parliament were originally from the KUNGSHOLM of 1953 and still had their descriptive name plaques before being removed by P&O in 2002.
On the port side, R Deck begins with the lovely Library with its traditional furnishing and wood veneers.
R Deck continues on the port side with the Riviera Bar, which sports full length windows, and more lavish paneling. It provides access to the International Lounge via a passageway aft. The starboard side is a shopping gallery with brass and glass display cases, which was once a card room, Veranda, and a smaller shopping center.
The International Lounge, formerly the Main Lounge, was extensively rebuilt by P&O to accommodate the latest in seagoing stage technology and comfortable seating. The brass balustrades and some paneling remain from the KUNGSHOLM era.
In its aft/starboard corner is the inviting International Bar, which looks out to sea. The wood paneled midships foyer follows aft, sporting a handsome inlaid wood panel of medieval Swedish life.
Beyond the midships foyer, modular cabins have replaced the KUNGSHOLM’s Veranda Lounge, Cocktail Lounge, and Smoking Room.
The next passenger level, A Deck (formerly the KUNGSHOLM’s Upper Deck), begins at the fo’c’sle, which is a crew and mooring area.
Passenger accommodation begins within the superstructure and stretches aft. Here, the former KUNGSHOLM’s beautifully paneled cabins and passageways lead to the midships Purser’s Lobby.
The MONA LISA’s cabin accommodation ranges from large suites with picture windows to insides. As built, the KUNGSHOLM boasted some of the roomiest and most well appointed accommodation afloat. Nearly all of the original cabins have been left intact, save for those on starboard A Deck which were “doubled” into large suites named after former P&O vessels.
The Purser’s Lobby features anodized aluminum accents, frosted glass panes, and deep wood paneling. The Purser’s Office is forward, while on either side vestibules can be used for embarkation or disembarkation.
The midships stairs follow just aft before the accommodation continues to the fantail.
The popular teak covered A Deck fantail contains coit and shuffleboard courts.
B Deck is devoted entirely to passenger staterooms.
C Deck contains the Coral Dining Room as well as staterooms. The Coral Dining Room has an inboard forward section that was once relegated to the ship’s first class clientele when KUNGSHOLM made the occasional two class crossing.
The after portion is paneled in cherry wood. Cabinet displays in the center of the room featured displays of 18th century Swedish china until being removed by P&O in 2002.
The aft part of the Coral Dining Room is not only much wider than the forward section, it is also terraced up on either side. The aft bulkhead contains a series of etched mirrors depicting ancient Scandinavian vessels.
Many of the VICTORIA’s cabins have extra berths in addition to the usual two lowers. While the soft furnishings are bright and new, the polished woods have endured beautifully throughout the ship’s career.
D Deck houses the Beauty Salon, a small assortment of cabins, and the Medical Center.
The bottom passenger level is the indoor pool and gymnasium area on E Deck. Indoor pools were popular on liners that would spend all or part of their service on the North Atlantic.
The VICTORIA’s Gym adjoins the pool on the starboard side and offers cardio equipment, an assortment of weights, and an area for stretching.
MV MONA LISA: 2002 — 2006
As the Holiday Kreuzfahrten’s MONA LISA, the former KUNGSHOLM gained a loyal German following on long cruises throughout the world. Unfortunately, raising fuel prices brought the curtains down on this phase of her career in 2006 when the company ceased operations and the ship was laid up at Piraeus.
MV OCEANIC II/MV SCHOLARSHIP: 2007 — 2008.
Leonardo Shipping soon found work for the MONA LISA by chartering her to Spanish-based Pullmantur Cruises who operated the ship as OCEANIC II in the spring of 2007. For a few brief weeks, she was chartered to Louis Cruise Lines to fill in for the SEA DIAMOND, which sank at Santorini. Then she returned to Pullmantur as OCEANIC II for the rest of the summer before taking on the name SCHOLARSHIP for a brief season as a floating university.
MV MONA LISA: 2008 — 2010
German-based Lord Nelson Seereisen revived the ship for a charter as MONA LISA in the spring of 2008. That summer, the ship undertook a world cruise for Japanese-based Peaceboat as a stopgap replacement for THE TOPAZ (the former EMPRESS OF BRITAIN, which was sold for scrap). In 2009, the MONA LISA returned to Lord Nelson and Peaceboat service, reverting to full-time cruise service for Lord Nelson until being retired in September of 2010 due to the implementation of SOLAS 2010 regulations that prohibit any overnight passenger ship to operate with wood in its construction.
Once the pride of Scandinavian ship designers and the most prestigious ship in the world, MONA LISA continued to delight passengers well into her 44th year of service. Plans to bring the ship to Goteborg and later, Stockholm, to serve as a floating hotel and convention center under the ship’s original name KUNGSHOLM appear to have fallen through. At the time off this article’s publication, her future was in grave doubt.
Acknowledgements: D. Aris, Martin Cox, Danny Crosswell, James C. Cusick, Lars Hemingstam, Don Martin, Sandy Naugle, Bruce Peter, Vance Roach, Jennifer Roberts, Greg Sanders, Captain AS Varsamis, Lynne Varsamis, The officers, staff, and crew of the MV VICTORIA
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."