30 November 2010

Saga Ruby, 9 July 2008

Saga Ruby

IMO 7214715
Built 1973, Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Wallsend, United Kingdom
Tonnage 24 492 GT
Length 191,09 m
Width 25,05 m
Draught 8,23 m
655 passengers
655 berths
2 Sulzer diesels, combined 17 650 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 20 knots

Saga Ruby originally started life as the Vistafjord of Den Norske Amerikalinje (Norwegian America Line, NAL). She was largely based on NAL's 1965-built Sagafjord. Although the Vistafjord was never used on transatlantic services, she was built with separate first class accommodation (the North Atlantic conference of passenger shipping demanded all transatlantic liners to have two accommodation classes). The Vistafjord's main use was to be cruising. During the 1970s Norwegian America Line was, alongside the Royal Viking Line, the most luxurious cruise line around. In rankings of the time the Vistafjord and her sister were always amongst the top five cruise ships of their time (the other three in the top five being Royal Viking Line's Royal Viking Star, Royal Viking Sea and Royal Viking Sky).

Despite their high prestige (or perhaps because of maintaining it) Norwegian America Line's cruise ships were not very profitable. In 1983 Trafalgar House purchased NAL's operations and their two ships. The Vistafjord and Sagafjord now came to be marketed under the brand Cunard Line, which was at the time owner by Trafalgar House. However, the two ex-NAL ships retained their original names and NAL's grey hull colour, the only visible change being Cunard's red funnel colours. (During 1983 Cunard's flagship QE2 had also been painted in a similar colour scheme with a grey hull, but by the time of the Cunard-NAL merger she had reverted to a black hull). At the same time the ships were also re-registered from Norwegian to Bahamian registry.

The Vistafjord continued sailing for Cunard for several years. During the 1990s she was rebuilt with additional structures on the top deck, though I could not find the exact date for this change. The Sagafjord was sold by Cunard to the new Saga Cruises in 1997, becoming the Saga Rose, but the Vistafjord stayed with Cunard into the Carnival era. In 1999 the Vistafjord was renamed Caronia, after Cunard's famous cruise ships of the 1940s-1960s era, repainted with a black hull and re-registred in Southampton, presumably as a part of the attempt by Cunard's new owners to emphasize the line's long history.

The Caronia's long Cunard career finally ended in 2004, after the delivery of the new Queen Mary 2. Like her elder sister Sagafjord/Saga Rose, the Caronia was sold to Saga Cruises and became their Saga Ruby. Initially she was registred in London, but in 2010 this was changed to Valletta, Malta. To this day the Saga Ruby remains in service with Saga Cruises. She has outlived her elder semi-sister Saga Rose, which was sold for scrap in 2009.

The photographs below show the Saga Ruby departing Helsinki on 9 July 2008, photographed from Kustaanmiekka. Click on the individual images to view full size.

Entering the Kustaanmiekka strait. Ships still in service don't get much more classic than this, even though the Saga Ruby is still far from the oldest ship in service.
In the strait displaying her fine sheer.
Still in the strait, camouflaged in part by vegetation.
...and passing on to the relatively open water of the gulf of Finland.

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