Swapping Ships

Shawn Dake examines some of the most recent realignments in the cruise industry including a major announcement concerning two British operators of classic cruise ships.  A number of changes have occurred this summer as some smaller cruise lines make adjustments to their fleets.

MV DISCOVERY at Sochi, Russia. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2009.

This past week Cruise & Maritime Voyages announced the newest addition to its fleet beginning in 2013 will be the 698 passenger (780 maximum) motor vessel DISCOVERY (ex ISLAND VENTURE, ISLAND PRINCESS, HYUNDAI PUNGAK, PLATINUM) which is being acquired from Voyages Of Discovery, part of the  All Leisure Group.  Both companies will jointly market the vessel.  All Leisure also controls Swan Hellenic Cruises and ultra-luxury operator Hebridean Island Cruises. All Leisure is having a difficult year reporting an 11.2 million pound loss in the first six months of 2012.

PACIFIC PRINCESS and her twin ISLAND PRINCESS together at Los Angeles in 1976. Photo © Peter Knego

The DISCOVERY was built in 1971 as the ISLAND VENTURE for Flagship Cruises service from New York to Bermuda.  However the  20,216 ton ship is probably best known as the ISLAND PRINCESS, flying the banner Princess Cruises and the identical sister of “The Love Boat” PACIFIC PRINCESS.   The vessel features 8 passenger decks, spacious public areas, abundant open spaces and promenades while the interior boasts 2 restaurants – plus al fresco dining on the Lido Deck, 6 bars, 4 lounges, 2 swimming pools — one with a retractable macro-dome roof, 2 large Jacuzzis, a gym with health center, lecture hall/cinema, beauty salon, and a wide variety of comfortable passenger staterooms.   The DISCOVERY will undergo a very extensive dry docking and refurbishment over the winter before joining her new operators in February, 2013.  The final cruise with Voyages of Discovery will take place in October, 2012.  Cruise & Maritime Voyages will also continue their successful programs using the classic 1965-built MARCO POLO (ex ALEXANDR PUSHKIN) with a capacity for over 800 passengers.

MARCO POLO in Cobh, Ireland April 2012. Photo © Peter Knego

North American Vice President of Sales & Marketing, John Dennis said, “We are delighted to welcome DISCOVERY to the CMV fleet and are extremely excited with the incredible itineraries the vessel will perform throughout the UK, and Northern Europe sailing from great historic ports such as London-Harwich, Liverpool and Newcastle.  We will increase our highly demanded and unique Northern Lights voyages and offer many new cruises to complement our successful MARCO POLO programs.  We look forward to hosting our US and Canadian guests on two fantastic Cruise & Maritime Voyages ships in 2013.”

Cruise & Maritime Voyages will not continue to charter the 1976-built OCEAN COUNTESS (ex CUNARD COUNTESS, AWANI DREAM II, OLYMPIC COUNTESS, OLYMPIA COUNTESS, OCEAN COUNTESS, LILI MARLEEN, RUBY) as they have done for the last three years. The 17,593 gross ton ship operates its last departure on October 9th from Liverpool with a revised final 13-night Canary Islands & Madeira “Farewell Voyage” now scheduled to conclude in Barcelona instead of returning to Liverpool.  It is not known what the future holds for this ship after it is returned to its owners.  The OCEAN COUNTESS carries 800 passengers, a larger capacity, and is five years newer than the ship it is being replaced by.

VOYAGER rendering, courtesy Voyages of Discovery

Meanwhile, Voyages Of Discovery will continue as a one-ship line with the addition 0f the 1990-built, 15,343 gross ton VOYAGER joining the line in December. The 508-passenger vessel underwent a major refit which included adding balconies and a new bow.  It was built as the first ship of the now defunct Crown Cruise Line which also operated as Cunard Crown in a joint venture agreement in the 1990’s.  This rather intimate ship is 494 feet in length with a 68 foot beam and also has a smaller passenger capacity than her predecessor DISCOVERY.

MV COLUMBUS at Sydney. Courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Plantours & Partner based in Bremen and catering to German passengers began operating the 15,067 gross ton HAMBURG, built in 1997 as the C. COLUMBUS. The German ship owners, Conti, purchased the vessel from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and chartered it to Plantours. Capacity has been reduced slightly from 420 passengers to 400 guests. The ship was renamed in it’s namesake city of Hamburg on June 7th beginning a new phase of its career.

ORIENT QUEEN II, Abou Merhi Cruises

This freed up the 7,478 gross ton, VISTAMAR (ex SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE) to be acquired by Abou Mehri Lines, now restyled as Abou Mehri Cruises, who renamed her ORIENT QUEEN II.   The 385 foot long ship was built in 1989 and carries 290 passengers, with a gross tonnage of 7,478 tons; considerably smaller than their previous 728-passenger ORIENT QUEEN (ex STARWARD, BOLERO) chartered from Louis Cruise Lines.  The ship is based in Beirut, Lebanon.

And last but not least, Orion Expedition Cruises will return their second ship ORION II (ex. RENAISSANCE IV, CLELIA II), to its owners at the end of the year.  The 1991-built, 4,000 gross ton expedition vessel has been plagued by mechanical problems resulting in the decision to cancel the charter.  It had first joined Orion in June, 2011.

It can be hard to follow the game of musical ships without a scorecard.  Hopefully this helps.



Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

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.
Shawn Dake

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