Oceanwide Expeditions’ 180-berth Hondius – Other Cruise News: 50 Years Ago: The Jamaica Queen and The Sunward – Saga’s Second Ship Still An Option

by Kevin Griffin

Last week came news that Oceanwide Expeditions has ordered a new 180-berth expedition ship from the Brodosplit shipyard in Croatia for delivery in 2019. We also have a look back this week at events of fifty years ago that featured Arison Shipping and two ships, the short-lived Jamaica Queen and the somewhat longer-lived Sunward. These events precipitated not only the founding of Norwegian Cruise Line but also what later became today’s Carnival Group & plc. Finally, we have received a correction from Saga on the planning of their second new vessel.


Oceanwide Expeditions’ 180-berth Hondius

Oceanwide Expeditions, the Netherlands-based polar cruise company, last week announced that it had ordered a new 180-berth expedition ship.

The new 180-berth polar class expedition vessel (Artist impression)

The new 180-berth polar class expedition vessel (Artist impression)

To be called the Hondius, Oceanwide claim that, although she will be the fifth such ship to be built to the class, she will be the strongest ice-strengthened expedition vessel operating in polar regions.
She will be built by Brodosplit in Croatia and is due to enter service in 2019.

Said Oceanwide Expeditions ceo Michel van Gessel, “we currently sail with our ice-strengthened 116-passenger vessels Plancius and Ortelius, and the Hondius will give us the opportunity to accommodate more travelers, to grow as a company, and to offer new, innovative products in the polar regions. The name Hondius follows our custom to name our ships for celebrated Dutch-Flemish cartographers who continue to inspire us as we carry on their passion for exploration and discovery.”

The Plancius

The Plancius

Hondius was specially designed to serve Oceanwide’s exploration programs and to support its activity-based shore excursions in the Arctic and Antarctica. She will be rated Polar Class 6, and will be the fifth ship to be built to this specification, after Scenic Eclipse, Crystal Endeavour and two new ships for Hapag-Lloyd.

As it happens, the Scenic Eclipse is also being built in Croatia, but at the Uljanik Group’s yard in Pula.

The Hondius will be 350 feet long with a beam of 58 feet, and will have a service speed of 15 knots.


50 Years Ago: The Jamaica Queen and The Sunward

Today’s 50-year story is one of car ferries that became cruise ships. In the winter of 1964-65, the 550-berth Bilu, built in Belgium in 1964, went into service between Miami and Nassau for Pan American Cruise Line.

The Jamaica Queen left Miami on her first voyage on September 19, 1966

The Jamaica Queen left Miami on her first voyage on September 19, 1966

In 1965, her sister ship Nili was to haved joined her but Pan American cancelled the charter. The Bilu and the Nili had been built for a new Mediterranean carferry service between Nice, Naples and Haifa.

Meanwhile, a company called Arison Shipping, controlled by one Ted Arison, was acting as agent for the owners, Somerfin Ferries of Israel, and took over the charter on the Nili, renaming her Jamaica Queen to run 4- and 5-night cruises to Port Antonio and Kingston, Jamaica.

The Jamaica Queen left Miami on her first voyage on September 19, 1966. Very soon though, Somerfin Ferries got into financial difficulty, the ships were arrested by creditors, and Arison ended up with plenty of cruise bookings but no ship.

In the same year, 1966, Knut Kloster had founded Kloster Sunward Ferries, taking delivery of a 558-berth ship built in Norway. Launched in March, this vessel also carried cars and she entered service in late June on a route between Southampton, Vigo, Lisbon and Gibraltar.
By November, however, Kloster Sunward Ferries had shut down due to a combination of UK foreign exchange controls and border disruptions between Spain and Gibraltar.

Reading about this in Travel Weekly, Arison contacted Kloster, and that December, the Sunward moved to Miami to enter service for the newly-formed Norwegian Cruise Lines, a new subsidiary of Klosters, with Arison Shipping acting as its agents in the US.

The result was the basis for what would eventually become today’s Norwegian Cruise Line. Nor part of this story, but a few years after Arison would split from Kloster to form Carnival Cruise Lines.

Saga’s Second Ship Still An Option

Last week we recorded that a report by London-based BRL Shipping Consultants had indicated that Saga was firming up its option for a second new cruise ship from Meyer Werft in Papenburg.

The new Saga's cruise vessel. The Verandah and Outside Dining (Artist impression, courtesy Saga / Meyer Werft)

The new Saga’s cruise vessel. The Verandah and Outside Dining (Artist impression, courtesy Saga / Meyer Werft)

However, Saga have contacted us last week with the following statement:

“When Saga announced that we were going to launch our first ever new build ship in 2019 we also stated that we had an option for a second new ship. This position remains unchanged. We have not taken a decision about whether to exercise the option to purchase a second new ship. The option expires at the end of 2017 and we will make a decision before then.”

Saga currently operates two ships, the 446-berth Saga Pearl II and the 706-berth Saga Sapphire and demand for sailings has been very high, with about 25,000 passengers carried last year, and a 75% repeat passenger rate.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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