Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Cruise Weekly: Small Ship Shuffles


The small ship, expedition and adventure cruise ship fleet is continually on the move. Not just on the world's oceans, but between operators, owners and cruise lines.

Typically a ship is owned by an individual, an investment group or an instrumentality, like the Russian oceanographic ships, and managed by a specialist organisation like International Shipping Partners (ISP) in Miami. Ships are then chartered or leased to a cruise line that will sail it under their brand. Expedition ships, in particular, are a promiscuous variety, hopping from one line to another with new a persona as circumstances change.

Here is a short summary of some of the better known expedition ship movements over the last 12 months.

Corinthian II (one of the eight Renaissance class ships, R7) will conclude eight faithful years with US operator, Travel Dynamics, and be renamed Sea Explorer. She will begin with newbie operator Polar Latitudes in March 2013.

Orion II reverts to Corinthian for 2013
Orion II, once Clelia II (another Renaissance class ship, R4) after a shortened stint with Orion Expedition Cruises, is being returned to Travel Dynamics as Corinthian. She's had a tough life.

Hebridean Spirit (R6) became Caledonian Sky after Australian APT took a strategic stake in high-end adventure company, Noble Caledonia. She's heading to the Kimberley for the 2013 season (CW 02 Oct 12).

Sea Spirit (R5), once Spirit of Oceanus when with failed US cruise line, Cruise West, returns to Quark after a 2012 northern summer season with Dutch line, Oceanwide Expeditions.

Sold: Le Diamant
Ocean Diamond left service with Ponant Cruises at the end of 2011 where she sailed as Le Diamant. Quark will return her to service beginning this Antarctic season. Built in 1974 as a cargo ship, she was converted for cruising in 1986 and is nearing the end of her service life.

Scrapped: Lyubov Orlova
Clipper Adventurer, an elegant and trusted vessel, if somewhat long in the tooth, became Sea Adventurer in 2012 and will sail for Quark and Zegrahm in 2013. Built in 1975 in the former Yugoslavia, she is a twin of the Lyubov Orlova (sometimes unkindly referred to as 'lube oil all over') which, after languishing for many months under arrest in Nova Scotia, now seems destined for the breakers.

Rescued: MS Andrea
MS Andrea, a delightful little 1960-built former Hurtigruten coastal vessel (Harald Jarl) seemed doomed when her US owners went bust in 2008. Increasingly strict regulations made the cosy cruiser a liability, but it seems she will return to service this year under new Russian owners as MS Serenissima. Find her itineraries with Noble Caledonia.

Vavilov to serve new masters
One Ocean, in 2013
Akademik Sergey Vavilov, one of the most trusted and well-travelled ice-strengthened oceanographic vessels joins Andrew Prossin's One Ocean Expeditions this year after stalwart service with Quark. This writer completed his first expedition cruise in 1998 aboard this vessel while with Quark. The sister ship, Akademik Ioffe, began operations with OOE in 2010.

Le Levant departs Ponant Cruises after entering service with the French-flagged line from new in 1998. The sleek 90-passenger luxury vessel will be operated from this year by Paul Gauguin Cruises in French Polynesia after a comprehensive refit and overhaul.

Marina Svetaeva, the sturdy 1989-built Arctic ferry, bought by Aurora Expeditions founders Greg and Margaret Mortimer in 2008 soon became a burden. After sale to Dutch line, Oceanwide Expeditons, it became Ortelius and just completed its first year of service with new owners.

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You can keep up to date with ship movements and more at www.expeditioncruising.com

Roderick Eime writes regularly on small ship and expedition cruising for Cruise Weekly.