Premier Cruises To Return 1960-Vintage Vessel To Service
By Shawn J. Dake
Premier Cruises, Ltd., no relation to the previous cruise line of the same name, will begin service in April, 2013 with the 117-passenger SERENISSIMA on voyages within Europe. The ship was originally built in 1960 at the yard of A/S Trondheims Mek. Verksted, at Trondheim, Norway as the HARALD JARL for the Norwegian Coastal Express service. It was the first full-size Hurtigrute ship to be built in Norway since 1942. During its early career the vessel sailed for the coastal company Det Nordenfjeldske Dampskibsselskab (NFDS) and later with Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskab (TFDS) during a 41 year career spent exclusively in Norway. In 2001 the ship was sold and remarkably embarked on a second career as an expedition ship under the new name of ANDREA beginning in 2002 which took her to far flung ports in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Elegant Cruises & Tours promoted voyages on the ANDREA until they ceased operations in April of 2009. The ship was seized and laid up at Split, Croatia.
The new Premier Cruises is owned by a Russian national, Vladimir Esakov, President and CEO of Volga Dream which operates a riverboat of the same name between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The 314-foot m.s. VOLGA DREAM is described as one of the most luxurious riverboats on the Russian waterways with 60 crew members serving just over 100 passengers. It can be expected the SERENISSIMA will have a similar ratio. The Senior Vice-President of marketing and sales is Christer Morn, who comes from a long background in the cruise industry, serving most recently with Sea Cloud Cruises. The SERENISSIMA will operate its inaugural season in 2013 with cruises in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, British Isles and a return to Norway. Charters and wholesale tour companies are expected to play a large role in the marketing of the ship.
When it became the ANDREA, few exterior alterations were made and the profile of the ship remained recognizable as the former HARALD JARL. The interior was modernized, furnishings updated and many of the cabins were reconfigured yet it retained the warmth and feel of a small coastal ship. It had one of the best collections of Norwegian artwork among the Hurtigrute ships and many of the paintings were retained onboard. In preparation for its latest role the ship has already been dry docked and is currently undergoing refurbishment in Croatia which includes new carpeting, while mechanically a new set of stabilizers is being added. The registry has been changed from Monrovia to St. Vincent. Premier Cruises is headquartered in Mariehamn, Finland.
When constructed the HARALD JARL was the third of four similarly designed ships but could always be distinguished by having a combined funnel with attached mainmast situated just slightly aft of amidships. Of the others; FINNMARKEN, RAGNVALD JARL and the LOFOTEN of 1964, only the latter remains in occasional service on the Norwegian coast. The SERENISSIMA has a gross tonnage of 2,632 tons. The principal dimensions are 268.8 feet in length, 43.6 feet in beam with a 22.0 foot draft. Premier Cruises plans to operate the ship as a four-star cruise experience.
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.