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.

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