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.

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