21 June 2012

Le Diamant in Helsinki, 7 June 2012

Le Diamant

IMO 7325629
Former names: Begonia, Explorer Starship, Song of Flower
Built 1974, Kristiansands Mekaniske Verksteds, Norway
Rebuilt as a cruise ship 1986, Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven, West Germany
Tonnage 8 282 GT
Length 124,19 m
Width 16,03 m
Draugth 4,97 m
198 passengers
2 Wichman diesels, combined 5 202 kW
2 controllable pitch propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 15 knots

Le Diamant is a luxury cruise ship belonging to the French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant. Unlike all other Ponant ships she is not a a purpose-built luxury cruise ship but rather a ship with multiple previous owners and a fascinating history, having started out as a ro-ro freighter.

Le Diamant was originally built as the Begonia for Stoomvaart Maatschappij Oostzee in Netherlands Antilles (a subsidiary of the Norwegian Fearnley & Eger). As built she was one of the standard ro-ro freighters built by Kristiansands Mek. for many different owners (amongst others Silja Line). She could transport 695 lane metres of freight and 12 passengers. In 1985 the Begonia and her sister Gardenia were transferred under the ownership of the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, to be converted into a pair of luxury cruise ships. In the end only the Begonia was rebuilt, while the Gardenia remained in the ro-ro trades until scrapped in 2001. The Begonia's radical rebuild was designed by Petter Yran (of Yran & Storbraaten fame). She was given an unusual interior arrangement for a cruise ship with public rooms aft and cabins forward (away from the engine noise). Following the refit the ship re-emerged in 1986 as the Starship Explorer for Exploration Cruise Line. She was used for cruising to off-the-beaten-path destination in North America.

Already in 1988 Exploration Cruise Line went bankrupt. The Starship Explorer returned to Fearnley & Eger (presumably she had been owned by F&E but chartered to Exploration Cruise Line?) and laid up. The next year the Starship Explorer was sold to the Meiyo Corporation in Japan for their new Seven Seas Cruises brand - or to Skaugen Marine in Norway, the sources I discovered in my quick research for this entry do not agree (any and all clarifications are welcome!). Whatever her actual owners, she was renamed Song of Flower and used for cruising under the Seven Seas Cruises brand. In 1997 Seven Seas Cruises merged with the Finland-based Diamond Cruises to become Radisson Seven Seas Cruises.

In 2003 the Song of Flower was sold to Compagnie du Ponant and was renamed Le Diamant. Although Ponant's website claims that she sails under the French flag, she is in fact registered in Nassau, the Bahamas. After a rebuilt which decreased the number of passengers carried by over sixty the ship entered service for Ponant in early 2004.

The photographs below show Le Diamant at and departing from Helsinki on 7 June 2012, photographed from the ferry to Suomenlinna (either Suokki or Suomenlinna II) and from Kustaanmiekka. Click on the images to see in larger size.

At Katajanokka in front of the now-demolished Kanavaterminaali (Channel Terminal).
I was somewhat surprised to discover the ship had a blue hull, as I thought she was white. Later research revealed that she had been repainted sometime this spring. In my humble opinion the colour looks rather cheap, particularly when compared to the ultra-elegant Le Boréal.
The blue hull colour also exaggerates the size of the already-oversized funnels - particularly as the funnels are white. In conclusion, the amateus graphic designer does not approve.
But having said that, I do find the ship utterly fascinating. And even beautiful in some strange way.
The traditional photogenic ramparts.
And some panoramica for a change.
Notice the fact that the paint has peeled a bit from the starboard funnel - at first I thought it was intentional styling, but the port funnel looks different.


  1. Alus oli vuokrattu kyseiseksi risteilyksi muutamien muutamien yhdysvaltalaisten yliopistojen entisille opiskelijöille, ja risteilyä markkinoitiin nimellä "Changing Tides of History". Risteilylle oli hankittu erittäin mielenkiintoinen luennoitsijakaarti. Tukholmassa aluksella kävi luennoimassa Mihail Gorbatšov (ilmeiesti kävi vain laivassa Tukholman satamassa?) ja Lech Wałęsa.