25 October 2012

Albatros in Helsinki, 25 July 2012

The weather here in Finland keeps getting chillier by the day, so it is good to look back at the passing summer and some of the delightful cruise ships that visited Helsinki... such as Phoenix Reisen's Albatros.


IMO 7218395
Name history: Royal Viking Sea, Royal Odyssey, Norwegian Star, Crown, Albatros
Built 1973, Wärtsilä Helsinki New Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 28 078 GT
Length 205,47 m
Width 25,20 m
Draugth 7,55 m
830 passengers
1 100 berths
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 15 840 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 18 knots

The Albatros started life as the Royal Viking Sea of Royal Viking Line, the last ship of the company's initial trio of newbuildings. The Royal Viking Sea was owned by A. F. Klaveness. According to Fakta om Fartyg, her first voyage with passengers was a Bergen-Newcastle ferry crossing, but this might be a mistake as according to Bruce Peter's upcoming book Knud E. Hansen A/S - 75 Years of Ship Design it was in fact the Bergen Line -owned Royal Viking Star that entered service in this manner. Of course it is within the realm of possibility that both the RV Star and RV Sea started their careers in the same manner. In any case, the Royal Viking Sea entered regular cruise service in late 1973.

The Royal Viking Sea's owner A. F. Klaveness was the only company in the Royal Viking consortium that did not have previous experience of operating passenger ships. Perhaps reflecting this, the company decided as early as 1975 to withdraw from the consortium. The Royal Viking Sea was sold to Bergen Line and Nordenfjeldske Dampskibsselskab, the other owners of Royal Viking Line. In 1983 the Royal Viking Sea was lengthened with the addition of a 28-metre midsection (similar chop-and-stretch operations had already been carried out on her sister ships in 1981 and 1982). The next year Royal Viking Line's owners sold the company to the Kloster Group, the owners of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Initially the operations of Royal Viking Line continued much as before, but in the beginning of the 1990s Kloster Gorup felt the original RVL trio were outdated for Royal Viking Line's high-class brand and the ships were transferred to other Kloster companies. The Royal Viking Sea therefore became Royal Cruise Line's Royal Odyssey in 1991. She was later joined in the RCL fleet by her sister Royal Viking Star, now Star Odyssey, which had in the interim sailed as Norwegian Cruise Line's Westward.

By the mid-1990s Kloster Group was in financial difficulties. The Royal Viking Line brand and it's remaining two ships had been sold to Cunard in 1994. Royal Cruise Line disappeared in 1997, with the Royal Odyssey becoming Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Star. In 1999-2001 the Norwegian Star cruised in Australian waters for NCL's subsidiary Norwegian Capricorn Line. In 2002 she became the Far Eastern casino cruise ship Crown. In 2003 the Crown was chartered to Spanish Cruise Line for Mediterranean cruising from Valencia. This was to be another short interlude however, as in the beginning of 2003 the ship passed to Germany's Phoenix Reisen, who were looking for a ship to replace their aged Albatros (ex-Sylvania, Fairwind, Sitmar fairwind, Dawn Princess). The Crown took over the name Albatros and begun cruising for Phoenix Reisen. In 2005 her engines were exchanged for newer ones and she continues to sail for Phoenix Reisen to this day.

The photographs below show the Albatros passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait outbound from Helsinki on 25 July 2012. Click on the images to view them in larger size.

Albatros passing Finnish Navy's minelayer Hämemaa. The grey paint works surprisingly well as camouflage, at least in these weather conditions.
Very chic. Supposedly the Royal Viking trio's exteriors were inspired by the QE2.
In the full-size image, notice the Swedish flag flown aft of the bridge. Apparently someone onboard had done their homework on the subject of "how to irritate Finns".
Through the strait to the delight of the mandatory crowd of on-lookers.
And further on.
Next time: Seabourn Sojourn.

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