25 September 2012

Thomson Spirit in Helsinki, 9 July 2012

Thomson Spirit

IMO 8024014
Name history: Nieuw Amsterdam, Patriot, Nieuw Amsterdam, Spirit, Thomson Spirit
Built 1983, Chantiers de l'Atlantique St. Nazaire, Frence
Tonnage 33 930 GT
Length 214,66 m
Width 27,26 m
Draugth 7,40 m
1 254 passengers (lower berths)
1 350 berths
2 Sulzer diesels, combined 22 400 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
1 stern thruster
Speed 21 knots

The present-day Thomson Spirit was originally the Nieuw Amsterdam, the first of two cruise ships completed for the Holland America Line at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard. Her sister ship was the Noordam, delivered a year after the Nieuw Amsterdam in 1984. The 1980s Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam were the last newbuilt ship delivered to HAL prior to the company being taken over by the Carnival Corporation in 1988. Unfortunately the ships suffered from poor constuction quality and also extensive vibrations, particularly towards the stern.

Despite these problems the 1983 Nieuw Amsterdam sailed with HAL for 17 years until the year 2000, when she was sold to America Classic Voyages, a US-based company that used her for cruising around Hawaii under the banner of the historic United States Lines (however, this new United States Lines had nothing to do with the original liner operator United States Lines). The new United States Lines renamed the ship Patriot and placed her under the US flag, an arrangement made possible by the US congress' permission as United States Lines were also to build a brand-new ship at a US shipyard, the Project America.

The new United States Lines' existance proved to be exceptionally short, as the company folded already in October 2001, due to the travel downturn that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In January 2002 Holland America Line bought back the Patriot and she reverted to the name Nieuw Amsterdam. I don't know if she ever saw service during her second stint under this name. Already in May 2002 the ship was chartered to Louis Cruises and subsequently renamed Spirit. It appears that the ship was not in fact used by Louis at all and she only re-entered service in May 2003 when she was sub-chartered by Louis to Thomson Cruises and renamed Thomson Spirit.

Since 2003 the Thomson Spirit has remained in service with Thomson Cruises. In 2008 she was bought by Louis Cruises (or more properly a subsidiary of theirs), but remains under charter to Thomson. Her sister ship, the ex-Noordam, also sails for Thomson Cruises as the Thomson Celebration, but she is still owned by Holland America Line and operated under charter from them.

The photographs below show the Thomson Spirit departing Helsinki's West Harbour on the afternoon of 9 July 2012, photographed from Sisä-Hattu. Click on the images to see in larger size.

Although the Thomson Spirit has both bow and stern thusters, these are apparently not very powerful as she required tug assistance when departing. Also notice old and new HAL in this photo: on the left you can see the superstructure of the Eurodam. Had it been the Eurodam's younger sister, the current Nieuw Amsterdam, one could have taken very poignant photos...
The ship's profile is quite unusual, being a fairly sleek ship built in the early 80s when most cruise lines were already opting for larger ships with substantial superstructures. One might presume that the Thomson Spirit and her sister would be loved by ship afficiandos because of this, but that does not seem to be the case.
I seem to have taken surprisingly many upright photos recently. Mostly thanks to my camera sharpening them nicely and not overexposing the ship too badly.
Traditional "onwards to open sea, with Pihlajasaari in the background" -photo, now with added foreground rock.
The lovely dark clouds in the background contrast the ship beautifully.
Next time: Eurodam.


  1. Nice images. Certainly true about weak thrusters. She takes forever to move away from the berth, and probly need a tug whenever there is any wind pushing her back onto the berth. Ian

    1. Thank you Ian. I was certainly surprised to see her leave with the help of a tug, you very rarely see tugs around in Helsinki. Although come to think of it, when I photographed the 1984 Noordam several years ago she too needed a tug and if I remember correctly it wasn't particularly windy on either occasion. (I should dig up those photos and post them here, actually).