30 September 2011

SeaDream I in Helsinki, 11 July 2011

SeaDream I

IMO number 8203438
Previous names: Sea Goddess I, Seabourn Goddess I
Built 1984, Wärtsilä Helsinki New Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 4 253 GT
Length 104,81 m
Width 14,60 m
Draft 4,17 m
112 passengers
2 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 3 540 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 15 knots

SeaDream I is an ultra-luxe boutique cruise ship (or a yacht, as her owners call her) owned by SeaDream Yacht Club. She was built in 1984 at Helsinki as the Sea Goddess I for Norske Cruise, probably better known as Sea Goddess Cruises. After just two years in service the Sea Goddess I (and her sister Sea Goddess II) was chartered to Cunard Line, retaining her original name. The Sea Goddesses stayed with Cunard Line for the next 14 years. Changes came after Cunard was acquired by the Carnival Corporation in 1998: ships deemed by Carnival to be ill-suited for the Cunard brand were transferred within the Carnical group to Seabourn Cruise Line. The Sea Goddesses now became Seabourn's Seabourn Goddess I and Seabourn Goddess II (while the Royal Viking Sun became the Seabourn Sun).

The Goddesses career with Seabourn was short, as already in 2001 they were sold to a new company, SeaDream Yacht Club that had been established by Atle Brynestad, who had also been the fourder of Seabourn Cruise Line. The Seabourn Goddess I and Seabourn Goddess II now became the SeaDream I and SeaDream II, respectively. Despite being over 25 years old, the pair remain amongst the world's most luxurious cruise ships.

The photographs below show the SeaDream I departing from Helsinki on 11 July 2011. Click on on the individual photos to see in larger size.

I decided not to include any photos taken more "head on" than this one, as the ship really doesn't look her best from such a point of view. As you can see, the Finnish summer weather (which was surprisingly fine over the whole summer) did not respect SeaDream I's wealthy passengers.
I was surprised at how much smoke the SeaDream I generated - she certainly did not seem like a green ship. Neither did the Ocean Countess sailing ahead of the SeaDream I.

27 September 2011

Ocean Countess in Helsinki, 11 July 2011

Ocean Countess

IMO 7358561
Previous names: Cunard Countess, Awani Dream II, Olympic Countess, Olympia Countess, Ocean Countess, Lili Marleen, Ruby
Built 1976, Burmeister & Wain Copenhagen, Denmark (hull), Navali Mechaniche Affini La Spezia, Italy (outfitting)
Tonnage 17 593 GT
Length 163,56 m
Width 22,80 m
Draugth 6,40 m
959 passengers
4 B&W diesels, combined 15 447 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 21,5 knots

The Ocean Countess and her sister Mano Cruises' Golden Iris (ex-Cunard Conquest, Cunard Princess, Rhapsody) belong to the category "ships I like because I think they look great even though I have no idea what it's like to travel on them". Maybe I should go onboard one day and try one of them out.

Ocean Countess departing the decidedly un-sunny summer Helsinki on 11 July 2011, photographed passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait. Click on the image(s) to see them in larger size.

It was a dark and story day and the autofocus of my camera wasn't working... Well, actually it wasn't stormy, just overcast. But the autofocus really wasn't working.
They knew how to design ship's exteriors in the 1970s.
The Ocean Countess' fairly high smoke-generation and the direction of the wind conspired against me when it came to taking good photos from her from this direction.

23 September 2011

Mariella in Helsinki, 6 July 2011


IMO 8320573
Built 1985, Wärtsilä Turku New Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 37 860 GT
Length 175,70 m
Width 28,40 m
Draugth 6,78 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
2 500 berths
400 cars
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 23 008 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

Ah, the Mariella. To be honest it's difficult to get excited about this ship. She's just two years younger than I am and for as long as I can remember she has been plying the Helsinki-Stockholm route. Other ships come and go (she has had five different running mates on the route to date - six if you count the Amorella that has occasionally done short stints on the route). The layout of the Mariella has proven to be an extremely practical design; the generation of Viking Line ships that followed her in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Amorella, Isabella, Cinderella, Athena, Kalypso and Silja Europa) were all further developments of the Mariella's design. In the 2000s Tallink's cruiseferries Romantika, Victoria I, Galaxy, Baltic Princess and Baltic Queen also show clear influence of the Mariella in their interior layouts.

Yet, despite all that, the Mariella herself is... after a dozen or more trips on her there's nothing interesting about visiting her anymore. Even the quite extensive changes made to her interiors during the recent years can't turn her into a different, exciting ship. Her interior design is crowded and for a discerning passenger of the 21st century there aren't enough entertainment options onboard. I've done great cruises onboard her but it really is time to bring something new to the Helsinki-Stockholm line.

The photographs below show the Mariella departing Helsinki on 6 July 2011, photographed from Kustaanmiekka. Click on the individual images to see in larger size.

It's coming right at us!
Phew, it just missed us. According to Viking Line's 50 anniversary book (which is also available in English), of the two shipyards SF Line negotiated with for the final building contract of the ship, Valmet's proposal was better-looking, but Wärtsilä's was technically superior and hence Wärtsilä was chosen. It would be interesting to see how Valmet's design differed.
Another tidbit from the same book is that SF Line originally wanted to order from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, but could not get a go-ahead from the Bank of Finland (who had to approve all transactions from Finland to abroad at the time).
Judging by the direction of the ship she sailed through the Porkkala shipping lane, not through the open-sea route. In the bankground on the right is the Harmaja lighthouse and in the distance the Silja Symphony.

19 September 2011

Discovery in Helsinki, 6 July 2011


IMO 7108514
Previous names: Island Venture, Island Princess, Hyundai Pungak, Platinum
Built 1972, Rheinstahl Nordseewerke Emden, West Germany
Tonnage 21 186 GT
Length 168,74 m
Width 24,64 m
Draugth 7,49 m
796 passengers
4 Fiat diesels, combined 13 240 kW
2 controllable pitch propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 18 knots

Discovery is  currently the sole ship of the All Discovery Cruising's Voyages of Discovery brand (until November 2012, when she will be joined by the Voyager). The Discovery was ordered in 1967 from the Rheinstahl Nordseewerke shipyard by a joint venture of Fearnley & Eger and Øivind Lorentzen for a planned Caribbean cruise service, Flagship Cruises. The design work of the ship, eventually named Island Venture, was entrusted to the well-known naval architect Knud E. Hansen. The Island Venture was delivered in 1972, a year after her older sisten Sea Venture. She was placed on two-week long cruises from New York to the Caribbean.

The Flagship Cruises joint venture was not a success, and soon Fearnley & Eger and Øivind Lorentzen decided to go their separate ways, with the former taking the Island Venture and the latter the Sea Venture. Fearnley & Eger had purchased Princess Cruises and already at the end of 1972 the Island Venture was transferred to the Princess Cruises fleet as the Island Princess on cruises from San Francisco. In the end of 1974 P&O purchased Princess Cruises and the Island Princess. The following year P&O also purchased the Sea Venture, which became the Pacific Princess. Between 1976 and 1986 both the Pacific Princess and the Island Princess starred in The Love Boat.

The Island Princess sailed for Princess Cruises until the year 1999, when the classic ship was sold to Hyundai Merchant Marine and renamed Hyundai Pungak for "pilgrim cruises" from South Korea to the shrine on Mount Kumgang in North Korea. For these cruises Hyundai also acquired two other classic cruise ships, the Hyundai Pongnae (ex-Sun Viking of Royal Caribbean) and the Hyundai Keumgang (ex-Royal Viking Sky, current Fred. Olsen's Boudicca). Hyundai Merchant Marine was not a huge success and it was closed down in 2001, following the death of the Hyundai boss whose brainchild the line was.

Soon afterwards the Hyundai Pungak was sold to Gerry Herrod, perhaps best known as the man behind the now-defunct Orient Lines (the cruise line, not the liner operator that had merged into P&O in the 1960s). The Hyundai Pungak was renamed Platinum and sailed to Europe for a $15 million refurbishment into a modern cruise ship (other sources state $10 million). Meanwhile negotiation were being carried out between Herrod and Voyages of Discovery, the latter wishing to take the Platinum under charter. Voyages of Discovery had previously sold cruises on ships of other companies but had not before operated a ship of their own. An agreement was reached and in 2002 the Platinum became the Discovery. In May 2003 she entered service with Voyages of Discovery, cruising to exotic destinations and mainly aimed at the British market. In 2005 Voyages of Discovery's (then-)new parent company All Leisure Group purchased the Discovery from Gerry Herrod. She (obviously) remains in Voyages of Discovery service to date.

(Much of the previous account is sourced from Voyages of Discovery's website for the ship).

The photographs below show the Discovery departing from Helsinki on 6 July 2011. Photographed from Kustaanmiekka. Click on the individual images to see in larger size.

Cue the theme from The Love Boat starting to play in your head.
The Discovery and her sister (currently laid up as the Pacific) are fascinating ships in terms of their exterior stylings... even by the standards of Knud E. Hansen, whose creations tended to be quite unusual. Even by the standards of that day, IMO.
The Discovery (and the Pacific) are better-looking when viewed from the rear in my opinion. Perhaps it's the nicely-rounded aft or the terraced superstructure or something completely different... or maybe the fore just doesn't match the aft in terms of attractive design.
Yeah, I had a similar image in the preceeding entry on the Gemini. What can I say, the little lighthouse-thing by the shipping lane just looks too photogenic to ignore.

16 September 2011

Gemini in Helsinki, 6 July 2011


IMO 9000687
Previous names: Crown Jewel, Cunard Crown Jewel, Superstar Gemini, Vision Star
Built 1992, Union Naval de Levante Valencia, Spain
Tonnage 19 093 GT
Length 163,81 m
Width 22,50 m
Draugth 5,40 m
940 passengers
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 12 945 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 17,5 knots

For a detailed history of the Gemini, see last week's entry on her. I apologise for posting two entries about the same ship in such short sequence - I'm trying to maintain a chronological order on the photos I've taken this summer. Unlike most of the photographs features on this blog, that have been taken with a Canon EOS 350D camera (in digital camera terms an antiqiety), these have been taken with an EOS 7D my friend was kind enough to lend to me while my own camera was misbehaving. In my opinion at least the image quality is much improved.

Gemini passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait on 6 July 2011. Photographed from the ramparts at Kustaanmiekka. Click on the individual images to see in larger size and in Blogger's nifty new slideshow (which they implemented without giving any notice of the change. Good job!).

Inbound to the Kustaanmiekka strait.
A fairly dynamic show in the strait itself. I find this view rather flatters the ship's fine lines.
Clearing the strait...
...and onwards to the open sea.

12 September 2011

Princess Maria in Helsinki, 30 June 2011

Princess Maria

IMO 7911533
Previous names: Finlandia, Queen of Scandinavia
Built 1981 Wärtsilä Turku, Finland
Tonnage 34 093 GT
Length 168,05 m
Width 29 m
Draught 6,72 m
Ice class 1 A Super
1638 passengers
395 cars
4 Wärtsilä-Pielstick diesels, combined 22 948 kW
2 controllable pitch propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 sterns thruster
Speed 21,2 knots

For a history of the Princess Maria, please refer to this previous entry on her. The sight of her sailing through the Kustaanmiekka strait will (again) soon be history, as the company's Helsinki terminal will relocate to the West Harbour later this month.

Princess Maria departing Helsinki on 30 June 2011. Photographed from Kustaanmiekka. Click on the individual images to view in larger size.

By the terms of their looks, the ex-Finlandia and her sister are probably amongst the least liked to have sailed on the North Baltic (although the general population seems to often dislike everything, as long as it's big). For whatever reason, I really like the Princess Maria's exterior.
A sight from the time before I was born. And after. But in different incarnations, the Princess Maria has been around for a long time. Come to think of it, last April was the 30th anniversary of her maiden voyage.
I'm not entirely pleased with the way this image has been cropped. But the ship looks good regardless.

09 September 2011

Gemini in Helsinki, 30 June 2011


IMO 9000687
Previous names: Crown Jewel, Cunard Crown Jewel, Superstar Gemini, Vision Star
Built 1992, Union Naval de Levante Valencia, Spain
Tonnage 19 093 GT
Length 163,81 m
Width 22,50 m
Draugth 5,40 m
940 passengers
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 12 945 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 17,5 knots

During the summer now drawing to a close, a frequent visitor to Helsinki has been one of my favourite cruise ships, Happy Cruises Gemini (favourite in terms of exterior and interior design at least; I have never been onboard her). In a previous entry I gave a very quick history of the ship, but perhaps it would be prudent to look at her in more depth.

In the late 1980s Effoa (perhaps better known in english as Finland Steamship Company) and Johnson Line ordered two cruise ships to their Commodore Cruise Line brand from the Union Navale de Levante shipyard in Spain for delivery in 1992 and 1993, repectively. These would become the largest cruise ships ever built in Spain. Before the ships were completed EffJohn (formed in a merger of Effoa and Johnson Line in 1990) acquired Crown Cruise Line in 1991 to become a a more upmarket arm of Commodore Cruise Line. At the same time decision was made to complete the ships under construction under the Crown Cruise Line brand, under the names Crown Jewel and Crown Dynasty (the latter sails today as Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Braemar, albeit in radically rebuilt form).

The Crown Jewel was delivered in May 1992. Immediately afterwards she was chartered as a hotel ship for the duration of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona (alongside another EffJohn ship, the Sally Albatross) and it was not until September 1992 that the Crown Jewel started her first cruise for Crown Cruise Line from New York. However, by this time the young EffJohn was in financial difficulties, and the worst loss-maker was the cruise division of the company: Commodore Cruise Line and it's subsidiary Crown Cruise Line. Resultingly EffJohn begun planning the closure or sale of the Commodore and Crown Cruise Lines.

In 1993 an agreement was reached with Cunard Line by terms of which Cunard would take all Crown Cruise Line ships on charter. These would be placed under a new Cunard subsidiary brand, Cunard Crown Cruise Line (in addition to the Crown Jewel, Crown Dynasty and the older Crown Majesty, Cunard's own Cunard Countess and Cunard Princess were also transferred under the Cunard Crown brand). Possibly the former Crown Cruise Line ships were given a Cunard prefix to their names while in Cunard Crown service, becoming Cunard Crown Jewel, etc., but different sources do not agree on whether or not this was really done.

Cunard Crown Jewel's time with Cunard Crown Cruise Line proved relatively short. The Cunard Crown venture was not a big success and EffJohn's worsening economic position meant they were actively looking to sell their remaining cruise ships. The Cunard Crown Jewel found a buyer in 1995 in the form of Star Cruises, who renamed her SuperStar Gemini for cruises from Singapore. For the next fourteen years the SuperStar Gemini stayed in Star Cruises service. In February 1997 she suffered an engine room fire in which nine people were injured. Apart from that her career with Star Cruises seems to have been uneventful.

In 2007 the SuperStar Gemini was sold to a company called Jewel Owner (presumably a subsidiary of some company or another established for this express purpose; I have been unable to discover who actually own Jewel Owner) but chartered to Star Cruises until the beginning of 2009. Following the end of the Star Cruises charter the ship was renamed Vision Star, but in the end she re-entered service in Spring 2009 as the Gemini for the Spanish-market Quail Cruises on Mediterranean cruises. Subsequently Quail Cruises rebranded themselves as Happy Cruises. For the 2011 summer season the Gemini relocated to northern Europe, doing cruises on the Baltic Sea as well as Norwegian fjord cruises from Copenhagen.

The photographs below show the Gemini in Helsinki South Harbour in the afternoon of 30 June 2011 and departing from Helsinki the same evening. Photographed from onboard the ferry to Suomenlinna (first two images) and from Kustaanmiekka (the rest). Click on the individual images to view them in larger size.

At quay in Katajanokka. Notice that the ship's name appears on her bow twice: below the crane in very small letter in the Star Cruises typeface closer to the bow and in large block letters on the hull.
I was surprised to notice the ship's current port of registry is Majuro (in the Marshall Islands), as the last information I had was that she was Maltese-flagged.
Five hours later, inbound from Kruunuvuorenselkä to the Kustaanmiekka strait. The ship departed approximately and hour behind schedule, and having not been too particular about the scheduled times before, deviating from scheduled arrival/departure times was at least briefly referred to as "pulling a Gemini".
For whatever reason, I love the design on this ship. It's sleek, modern and not too big. The Gemini's lengthenined and otherwise rebuilt sister Braemar doesn't look nearly as good.
The ramparts of Suomenlinna and the Gemini with her attractively terraced aft decks. She was an unusually small new cruise ship when built (particularly considering the fact neither Commodore nor Crown Cruise Line was a luxury cruise line) and perhaps her small size contributed to the demise of the said line(s), but if we got such a good-looking ship thanks to it, I'm not complaining.
Sailboard are always a nice addition to any ship photo.

05 September 2011

Princess Danae in Helsinki, 30 June 2011

Princess Danae

IMO 5282483
Previous names: Port Melbourne, Therisos Express, Danae, Anar, Starlight Express, Baltica
Built: 1955, Harland & Wolff Belfast, United Kingdom
Rebuilt as a cruise ship: 1976, Chalkis, Greece
Tonnage 16 531 GT
Length 162,31 m
Width 21,34 m
Draugth 7,69 m
707 passengers
2 Harland & Wolff diesels, combined 9 709 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 17 knots

The Princess Danae, in addition to being a fascinating older cruise ship, also bears a personal importance for me. In the mid-1990s when she was sailing as the Baltica for (the now-defunct) Baltic Line, she was the first real cruise ship I knew existed. Baltic Line delightfully included detailed deck plans and all sorts of other information in their brochures and thanks to these the ship left a lasting impression on the mind of a budding ship enthustiast. For years I had hoped for a chance to photograph her and this summer I finally happened to be in the right place at the right time.

But before we get to the photographs, it's perhaps a good idea to look at the history of this ship. A read through the history of her sister Princess Daphne is also recommended.

The Princess Danae was originally built in 1955 as the reefer Port Melbourne for Port Line's UK-Australia-New Zealand service. She and her sister Port Sydney plied the route for seventeen years, until sold to the Greek shipping magnate John C. Carras. The Port Melbourne was renamed Therisos Express with the conversion to a car-passenger ferry in mind. However, Carras soon abandoned that plan and instead the Therisos Express and her sister (that had in the meantime been renamed Akirotiri Express) were converted into the luxury cruise ships Danae and Daphne. The rebuildings were completed in 1975-1976 and the sisters then proceeded to sail on varied iteneraries from the Amazon river to East Asia. During this time the Danae became the first western cruise ship to call in the People's Republic of China.

The Carras Cruises venture failed to find popularity despite their impressive iteneraries (the hard competition in the luxury cruise segment from the longer-established Norwegian America Line and Royal Viking Line probably didn't help) . In 1979 Carras Cruises ceased trading and the Daphne and Danae were chartered to Costa Cruises. Following the end of the five-year charter period in 1984 Costa bought out the ships outright. In 1990 the Danae and Daphne were transferred to Prestige Cruises, a new joint venture between Costa and the Soviet Union's state shipping company Sovcomflot. The Danae sailed for Prestige Cruises for less than two years when in 1991 she caught fire while being drydocked in Genoa. After the fire she was declared a total loss and was subsequently sold for scrap.

Yet she wasn't scrapped. The Danae was sold to Harbor Maritime, renamed Anar and towed to Keratsini in Greece for restoration into a cruise ship, including a slight expansion of her forward superstructure. She was subsequently renamed Starlight Express, but re-entered service in 1994 as the Baltica. By this time she was owned by Flax International but operated, as said, by Baltic Line. During this time she made cruises from Gothenburg to the Norwegian fjords during the summer and cruised around the Canary Islands during the winter. According to William H. Miller's book Greek Passenger Liners she also ran German cruise charter during this time.

Her career as the Baltica proved short however, as by late 1995 Baltic Line was in financial trouble and the ship was arrested in Skaramanga, Greece. In early 1996 she was sold to Arcalia Shipping Company, aka Classic International Cruises, and was renamed Princess Danae. Since then she has remained in CIC service but also doing charters to other operators. In 2007 Classic International Cruises also acquired the Princess Danae's sister, that was subsequently renamed Princess Daphne.

The photographs below show the Princess Danae in and departing from Helsinki on 30 June 2011. Photographed from one of the HSL ferries to Suomenlinna (so either Suokki, Suomenlinna II or Tor) and from the breakwater of the Suomenlinna marina. Click on the individual images to see in larger size.

At Katajanokka cruise quay.
More of the same. I'm a big fan of the Daphne and Danae's funnel. It's got a deflector plate and all kinds of groovy things.
Assisted by the tug Atlas during departure.
On Kruunuvuorenselkä.
And sailing towards the Kustaanmiekka strait.

01 September 2011

Isabella in Turku, 9 August 2011

An announcement to those of you fortunate enough to speak Finnish: the latest issue of the Ulkomatala webmagazine was published yesterday and can be read for free on the magazine's website. This issue also includes two articles by yours truly: a review of Thom companies shipping history book From High Arctic to Antarctica by Matti Pietikäinen and a look into the prospects of the English Channel ferry operator SeaFrance. Check it out.

Now onwards to the actual entry.


IMO 8700723
Built 1989, Brodogradiliste Split, Yugoslavia
Tonnage 35 154 GT
Length 169,40 m
Width 27,60 m
Draugth 6,40 m
2 480 passengers
2 166 berths
364 cars
900 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä-Pielstick diesels, combined 23 760 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 21,5 knots

For the history of the Isabella, see the first entry on her.

The photographs below show the Isabella arriving in Turku on the evening of 9 August 2011. Photographed from a birdwatching tower in Ruissalo (well, it was more of a quay, really). I apologise for the fact that there are quite many images here... this was the first time ever I had a chance to photograph the Isabella in decent conditions with a proper camera.

Click on the individual images to see in larger size.

Personally I have always been a big fan of the Isabella's exterior. The added red stripe along deck 6 that's missing from her sisters in particular improves her looks.
Do I really need to say anything about this photo?
By the looks of it I should have rotated this one counterclockwise a bit. Still, it's a nicely atmospheric pic.
Inbound to Turku harbour.
Doing a(n almost) 180 degree turn before reversing into quay.
Beginning to reverse into quay, with Silja Europa already berthed on the left.
Almost at the terminal.