28 September 2010

Braemar, 27 September 2010


IMO 9000687
Built 1993, Union Naval de Levante Valencia, Spain
Tonnage 24 344 GT
Length 195,92 m
Width 22,50 m
Draugth 5,45 m
977 passengers
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 12 945 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 17 knots

Braemar, a sister ship to Quail Cruises' Gemini previously featured in this blog, was originally built for Crown Cruise Line as the Crown Dynasty for Caribbean cruising. Unusually small for a mass-market cruise ship built in the early 1990s, the Crown Dynasty and her sister Crown Jewel were not huge success and soon a charter to Cunard Line was arranged, resulting in the formation of the downmarket Cunard brand Cunard Crown Cruises. To match the name of the brand the Crown Dynasty was marketed as the Cunard Crown Dynasty during this time.

The sources available to me about the Crown Dynasty's career for the period after the end of Cunard Crown around 1994 are less than clear. It seems that after the closure of Cunard Crown she returned to Crown Cruise Line service. EffJohn, Crown's owners, closed down the brand in 1997, and it is known that in 1997 the Crown Dynasty was chartered to Majesty Cruise Line as the Crown Majesty. In late 1997 Norwegian Cruise Line apparently acquired Majesty Cruise Line, and the Crown Majesty became their Norwegian Dynasty, still under charter from EffJohn. In 1999 EffJohn sold the Norwegian Dynasty to their former subsidiary Commodore Cruise Line, who reactivated the Crown Cruise Line brand and the Norwegian Dynasty re-entered service under her original brand and her original name Crown Dynasty. The second coming of Crown Cruise Line was short-lived, as already in early 2001 Commodore Cruise Line went bankrupt.

Around the same time as Commodore (and therefore their subsidiary Crown) went bust, the Norway-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines was looking for a third vessel to add to their fleet. As the Olsens' cruise operation has specialized in medium-size vessels, very few newer ships fit what they were looking for. The prospect of building a new ships of suitable dimensions was ruled to be uneconomic and as such Fred. Olsen was forced to seek out a second-hand ship. The Crown Dynasty appeared to suit the Olsens' needs perfectly and in May 2001 they acquired her, renaming the ship Braemar. The name Braemar is traditional in the Fred. Olsen fleet and this is in fact the third Braemar in their fleet. The name originates from the village of Braemar near Balmoral Castle in the UK.

After a large-scale rebuilding where the Braemar's passenger capacity was reduced(!) from 916 to 819, she entered service for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines in August 2001. With her new owners the Braemar sailed on diverse iteneraries in Northern Europe, the Caribbean, the Amazon river, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic isles. During the latter half of the decade the Olsens' begun enlarging the capacity of their fleet by lengthening their ships. The newly-acquired Balmoral acquired in 2007 was given a 30-meter midsection prior to entering service. Apparently the experiences with this were positive and in May-June 2008 the Braemar was lengthened by 31 metres at Blohm + Voss Hamburg.

Unfortunately for the external apperance of the ship, at the same time a new structure was added above the bridge of the ship (containing an observation lunge and cabins with balconies), which obliterated the sleek original design of the forward superstructure. Somewhat less damaging to her looks was addition of a new restaurant on the top deck aft of the funnel. All this not to say I wouldn't think the Braemar is still a nice-looking ship... but her unaltered sister Gemini looks much better.

Photographs below are of the Braemar in Helsinki on 27 September 2010. She was the penultimate visiting cruise ship in Helsinki for the 2010 season - the last one will be Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Marco Polo that will be visiting our port on 12 October 2010. Sadly I have an exam slated for her departure time.

Click on the image(s) to view full size.

At the cruise quay at Katajanokka, lifting one of the lifeboats. photographed from onboard Suomenlinna II.
Entering the Kustaanmiekka strait - notice the added observatory atop the bridge mentioned in the text above. This and the pictures below photographed from Kustaanmiekka.
In the Kustaanmiekka strait, with the ramparts of the sea fortress in the foreground.
Cleared the strait and heading out to the less-than-welcoming Bay of Finland.

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