06 June 2014

Louis Aura in Helsinki, 5 June 2014

Louis Aura

IMO 6821080
Name history: Starward, Bolero, Orient Queen, Louis Aura
Built 1968, AG Weser Seebeckwerft, Bremerhaven, West Germany
Tonnage 15 781 GT
Length 160,13 m
Width 28,81 m
Draught 6,22 m
910 passengers
2 MAN diesels, combined 12 784 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 21 knots

The Louis Aura is another ship that has not been featured in this blog before (additionally she is the first Louis Cruises ship to be featured here). She has an interesting history and an accolade few can beat: completed in 1968 as the Starward of Norwegian Caribbean Line (aka the present-day Norwegian Cruise Line) she was the first modern, purpose-built cruise ship - at least arguably. As built, the ship had a side-lodable car deck capable of accommodating 220 cars and therefore should be classified as a cruise ferry rather than a cruise ship. Regardless of this, the Starward was the first ship ever purposefully designed for around-the-year cruising from Miami to the Caribbean, beginning the growth of the modern cruise industry that has continued to this day.

Despite her moderate size and ferry-like design, the Starward was an enduring ship in the NCL fleet. In 1976 she as rebuilt in Jacksonville, Florida, with the car deck replaced by cabins. A further refit in the same place in 1985 saw the addition of a duck tail. In 1995 the Starward was finally replaced by newer tonnage. She was then sold to the Greece-based Festival Cruises (known as First European Cruises in the United Sates) and renamed Bolero for cruising in European waters. Replaced by larger tonnage in the Festival Cruises fleet in 2001, the Bolero was chartered to the Spanish Cruise Line.

Soon afterwards, Festival Cruises entered financial difficulties and ceased trading in 2004. The Bolero spent most of the year laid up, passing first to Cruise Elenora and then to Orient Queen Shipping. The latter company renamed the ship Orient Queen and chartered her to Abou Merhi Cruises, who used the ship for cruises out of Lebanon during the summer months and Persian Gulf cruises during the winter. Abou Merhi Cruises was not an unqualified success, and in 2006 Louis Cruises purchased the ship. Initially retaining the name Orient Queen, she was used on Louis' staple cruises around the Greek isles, as well as cruising for the Cypriot market from Limassol. In 2013 the ship was renamed Louis Aura, bringing her in-line with Louis Cruises' current naming scheme. For the 2014 summer season she was chartered to the French travel agency Rivages du Monde, who use her for North-European cruising. She is slated to return to cruising from Limassol in the autumn, and possibly to South American cruising in the 2014-2015 winter season.

The photos below show the Louis Aura on Kruunuvuorenselkä in Helsinki, shortly after departing from Helsinki South Harbour in the afternoon of 5 June 2014. Photographed from Lonna. Click on the individual images to see them in larger size.

Passing behind Katajanokanluoto, with Katajanokka itself (and further back, the brutalist concrete towers of Merihaka) in the background.
A nice nautical touch with the way marker. I'm not entirely sure about Louis Cruises' new hull markings. The company name in the hull gives a very ferrylike appearance, and while the diagonal stripes look nice, they don't really have any relevance to the company logo.
Another nice nautical touch with the schooner in the background. Alas, the other shots of the Louis Aura and the schooner were ruined by the appearance of the Suomenlinna road ferry Ehrensvärd, the wake of which can be seen on the left.
A rather typical Finnish summer sight, with the lilac on the left and the birch tree on the right. The cyriot-owned classic cruise ship is a bit more unusual.
For further Finnish effect, add a pine tree.

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