04 October 2010

Birka Paradise, 1 October 2010

Birka Paradise

IMO 9273727
Built 2004, Aker Finnyards Rauma, Finland
Tonnage 34 728 GT
Length 177,00 m
Width 28,00 m
Draugth 6,50 m
1 800 passengers
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 23 400 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 21 knots

Birka Paradise was the second-ever newbuilding delivered to the Åland islands -based Birka Cruises (previously Birka Line). She was delivered in November 2004, joining the company's previous newbuilding Birka Princess in service (in the early 1990s Birka had in fact had newbuilding under construction, due to be named Birka Queen, but the bankruptcy of Wärtsilä Marine raised the ship's price so much Birka declined to continue with her construction. In the end the ship was completed for Majesty Cruise Line as the Royal Majesty. Today she sails for Louis Cruises as the Louis Majesty).

In service the Birka Paradise replaced the Birka Princess on the company's main service, 24-hour cruises from Stockholm to Mariehamn. The Birka Princess was transferred to making two-night cruises from Stockholm to Turku, Helsinki and Tallinn. These were not popular and in early 2006 the Birka Princess was withdrawn from service, forcing Birka Cruises once again to revert to one-ship operations (the Birka Princess was sold to Louis Cruises and sunk in 2007 as the Sea Diamond). Due to the wtihdrawal of the Birka Princess the Birka Paradise begun making longer cruises out of Stockholm during the summer season.

In June 2009 the Birka Paradise was re-registered, with Stockholm replacing her original home port Mariehamn. This was due to EU legislation disallowing the sales of snus within the Union and onboard ships registered there - except in Sweden, where it continued to be allowed for cultural reasons. As snus sales contribute a sizeable portion of of Birka Cruises' income (this holds true to most companies operating between Sweden and Finland), Birka decided the best option would be simply to re-register their ship. This makes additional sense when you remember that the company markets itself exclusively to Swedish passengers.

Photographs below show the Birka Paradise arriving in Stockholm from another cruise to Mariehamn. Photographed from onboard Viking Line's Gabriella. Click on the image(s) to view full size.

On Stockholms ström, with Djurgarden in the background on the left.
A better view of the ship in the delightful autumn weather, still on Strömmen.
Passing the Gabriella en route to her quay. Behind the ship on the right is Beckhomen island with it's shipyards.
Passing further, with Stockholm's delightful cityscape in the background. Just visible in front of Birka Paradise's bridge is Ånedin Linjen's vintage cruise ship Birger Jarl, briefly laid up due to SOLAS 2010 regulations (reportedly she got a six-month exemption within days from this and is back in traffic now).

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