31 May 2016

Cruise Olbia in Civitavecchia, 12 May 2016

Today I was out and about, finally opening the summer cruise photo season for Helsinki - very much delayed - when the Marco Polo called. I have photographed the ship several times before, but CMV changed its livery for this year, so there was a reason to take another set of shots. Today, however, we'll be looking at something a bit different, a ferry I had never encountered before that I saw in Civitavecchia durig the recent Crystal Symphony cruise: Grimaldi's Cruise Olbia.

Cruise Olbia

IMO 9198939
Name history: Superfast VI, Bimini Superfast, Cruise Olbia
Built 2001, HDW Kiel, Germany
Tonnage 32 728 GT
Length 203,90 m
Width 25,00 m
Draught 6,80 m
1 595 passengers
842 cabin berths
1 000 cars
1 926 lanemetres
4 Wärtsilä-Sultzer diesels, combined 46 000 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
2 stern thusters
Speed 28,9 knots

The Cruise Olbia (something of a misnomer considering the quality of the onboard product, I believe) started life as the Superfast VI - which, as you can guess, was the sixth newbuilt ship of Superfast Ferries, a subsidiary of Attica Enterprises. It was a sister ship to the Superfast V, the pair being the first ships Superfast built at HDW, who would go on to build four additional units after the first pair. Although products of a different shipyard, the Superfast V and VI were externally near-identical to the earlier Superfast III and IV pair built at Masa-Yards in Finland.

The Superfast VI was originally due to be delivered by the end of 2000, but due to technical difficulties the delivery was pushed back to February 2001, after which the ship entered service on Superfast Ferries Adriatic Sea routes. The ship sailed primarily on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona route, apparently without major mishaps, for 12 years, until in February 2013 Attica Enterprises reported they had sold the ship to the Genting Group for delivery in March of the same year.

Genting were of course at the time primarily known for their Star Cruises brand, but the Superfast VI was destined for a different use: providing transportation between Miami and the Bimini (Bahamas) casino resort owned by the Genting subsidiary Resorts World. To make it more suitable for the new use, the Superfast VI sailed to Malaga, Spain, where it was refitted and renamed Bimini Superfast. Externally, the ship's livery was only superficially modified.

Originally, the Bimini Superfast was due to begin operations in late June 2013, but the US Coast Guard required modification to be carried out before it could operate out of US ports, and the service entry was pushed back until late July while further refitting was carried out.

As it turned out, the Miami-Bimini service was not a huge success. In January 2016, Genting withdrew the Bimini Superfast and laid it up, citing that they were looking for a more effective ferry as a replacement. Genting had, by this point, acquired Crystal Cruises and embarked on an aggressive expansion drive for the company - I'm personally mildly surprised they didn't rebuild the Bimini Superfast as a cruise ship for Crystal. Instead, the Bimini Superfast laid in Miami until March 2016, when it was sold to Grimaldi Group. Renamed Cruise Olbia, the ship sailed to Besiktas in Turkey for a brief refit before entering service with Grimaldi Lines in April.

The photos below show the Cruise Olbia arriving and moored at the port of Civitavecchia on the evening of 12 May 2016. Photographed from onboard the Crystal Symphony. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

The ship arrived at Civitavecchia somewhat delayed, which seems to be the way things are done on the Mediterranean.
I'm fairly certain the Grimaldi Lines text on the side is not in the standard font used by the company.
These photos could only have been taken from a cruise ship moored at Civitavecchia overnight (or at least one that stays quite late), so I'm very glad to have been there.
When the ship became the Bimini Superfast, the originally white area between the black stripes in the aft superstructure was painted red. For the Cruise Olbia, this was repainted Grimaldi's dark blue, which works even less well than the red..
The bow and stern thrusters were highly useful here. Also note Tirrenia's Amsicora in the background.
Later, that same evening, taken from the balcony without a tripod as I had already packed it away and left the luggage to be picked up by the crew. Considering the circumstances this shot turned out great!
Next time: Probably the Marco Polo.

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