Name history: Birka Paradise, Birka Stockholm
Built 2004, Aker Finnyards Rauma, Finland
Tonnage 34 728 GT
Length 177,00 m
Width 28,00 m
Draugth 6,50 m
1 800 passengers
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 23 400 kW
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 21 knots
Since the Birka Stockholm's history thus far has been covered in two separate entries, I decided it would be prudent to compile the ship's complete history to date in a single entry here.
The Birka Paradise, as the ship was originally known, was the second-ever newbuilding delivered to the Åland islands -based Birka Cruises (previously known under the names Ålandslinjen and Birka Line). She was delivered in November 2004, joining the company's previous newbuilding Birka Princess in service (in the early 1990s Birka had in fact had newbuilding under construction, due to be named Birka Queen, but the bankruptcy of Wärtsilä Marine raised the ship's price so much Birka declined to continue with her construction. In the end the ship was completed for Majesty Cruise Line as the Royal Majesty. Today she sails for Thomson Cruises as the Thomson Majesty).
In service, the Birka Paradise replaced the Birka Princess on the company's main service, 24-hour cruises from Stockholm to Mariehamn. The Birka Princess was transferred to making two-night cruises from Stockholm to Turku, Helsinki and Tallinn. These were not popular and in early 2006 the Birka Princess was withdrawn from service, forcing Birka Cruises once again to revert to one-ship operations (the Birka Princess was sold to Louis Cruises and sunk in 2007 as the Sea Diamond). Due to the withdrawal of the Birka Princess, the Birka Paradise begun making longer cruises out of Stockholm during the summer season.
In June 2009 the Birka Paradise was re-registered, with Stockholm replacing her original home port Mariehamn. This was due to EU legislation disallowing the sales of snus within the Union and onboard ships registered there - except in Sweden, where it continued to be allowed for cultural reasons. As snus sales contribute a sizeable portion of of Birka Cruises' income (this holds true to most companies operating between Sweden and Finland), Birka decided the best option would be simply to re-register their ship. This makes additional sense when you remember that the company markets itself exclusively to Swedish passengers.
In January 2013 Birka Cruises decided to rebrand the ship and their whole product, shifting away from their previous emulation of Caribbean cruise ships and emphasising more their localness and Swedish roots (even if the company is in fact Ålandian). They originally wanted to name the ship simply Birka, as passengers refer to her as that anyway, but as a ship named Birka already existed in the Swedish registry, Birka Cruises had to think of an alternative solution. This was found in incorporating the ship's port of registry into it's name and marketing her simply as Birka. (Although I do wonder, if you're going to market the ship with a different name from the registered one anyway, why just not keep the name Birka Paradise?). Coinciding with the name change, the ship's livery was also altered. The original blue, yellow and red livery, drawing from the flag of Åland, was replaced by a blue & yellow livery drawing from the flag of Sweden.
The photographs below show the Birka Stockholm departing Mariehamn for Stockholm on the morning of 20 August 2014. Click on the images to see them in larger size.
|The Birka Stockholm did do a rather nice job avoiding me in good weather. Here the rainclouds make for a nicely impressive background, however.|
|Birka and pines. As was the case through-out our tour de Åland, the clounds cleared away for the day.|
|The Swedish flag in prominence.|
|Notice the unusual way the ship's port of the registry has been rendered on her stern.|