Kaliningrad Akademiks Drop Passenger Trade – Other Cruise News: SunStone Up To Seven Ships – Another Luxury Yacht For Ritz-Carlton

by Kevin Griffin

Recent surprise news is that the Russian-owned Akademik Ioffe and the Akademik Sergey Vavilov have apparently been withdrawn from carrying passsengers after twenty-five years. In a possibly contradictory announcement it was stated that the charteres in charge of these ships is actuallly a company based in Cyprus and not the Kalinigrad-based owners P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanography.


Kaliningrad Akademiks Drop Passenger Trade

For more than twenty-five years, since 1992-93, the 96-berth Akademik Ioffe and the 92-berth Akademik Sergey Vavilov have been carrying passengers to the polar regions for western expedition companies.

The Akademik Ioffe

The Akademik Ioffe

Owned by the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanography and operating out of Kaliningrad for the Russian Academy of Sciences, charterers have included Quark Expeditions, Marine Expeditions, Peregrine Adventures and most recently One Ocean Expeditions. The Shirshov Institute operates five such ships.

Built in 1988 by Hollming, Rauma, Finland, the two ships measure 6,344 gross tons. Of the two, the Akademik Ioffe has had an extra part deck added atop her accommodation. Both ships are ice strengthened to Lloyd’s Ice Class 1A and while Russian owned, their cruising is organised by One Ocean Expeditions of Squamish BC.

The Akademik Sergey Vavilov in South Georgia

The Akademik Sergey Vavilov in South Georgia

Akademik Ioffe hit the headlines last summer when she went aground in the Gulf of Bothnia in the Canadian Arctic. Fortunately, although the ship was holed, it was possible to evacuate the passengers and non-essential crew to the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, which was in the vicinity. Akademik Ioffe then went to Les Méchins, Quebec, for drydocking and repairs.

A third ship, the RCGS Resolute, completed the One Ocean line-up for 2019-20. She was built in 1991 by the same Rauma yard, is Ice Class 1A and can carry 146 passengers.

Less than two months ago, on March 29, One Ocean Expeditions sent out a release headed “Akademik Ioffe is back and better than ever.”

The 146-berth RCGS Resolute

The 146-berth RCGS Resolute

“Akademik Ioffe has earned the title of the second most travelled vessel to Antarctica and is well-known for her capability, stability and experience in the Polar Regions. Purpose built for polar exploration, Akademik Ioffe is ice-strengthened with a Lloyds A1 rating, and continues to travel successfully through the world’s most remote regions. This season she welcomed new upgrades throughout including enhanced cabin and guest amenities, new educational tools and the installation of forward-facing sonar equipment.”

Improvements included cabin welcome baskets, velour robes, upgraded linens and towels, a new chef-designed expanded culinary portfolio, inspired by One Ocean’s Canadian roots, new dish ware, flatware, and serving equipment to enhance the dining experience, new gym equipment including spin bikes and hand weights, outdoor lounge chairs and blankets for comfort on deck, Smart TVs in all cabins and public spaces.

And to cap it all off, forward-looking Wassp wireless multi-beam sonar to search for whales and other sea life.

But last week came a surprise announcement to passengers, and one that was totally unexpected. One Ocean’s latest release stated that it was “with deep regret that we are writing to inform you that your 2019 Arctic cruise will not be proceeding as scheduled and is cancelled. In recent days One Ocean Expeditions (OOE) was informed that the shipowners have suddenly and very unexpectedly withdrawn the vessels from passenger service by Russian government order.” One Ocean Expeditions - OOE (Logo)

“The vessels are owned by Russian government entities. The ship owner’s decision comes as a complete surprise to our team at One Ocean Expeditions and is, unfortunately, out of our control. As the withdrawal of the vessels for the 2019-20 season is a breach of OOE’s contract it is creating a difficult situation for us to deliver our entire Arctic program. The matter is now the subject of legal action.”

The ships are both now in Kaliningrad but the story was muddied last week when the Shirshov Institute issued a statement regarding the Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov, saying that the Institute has no contractual relationships with and, consequently, not liable to One Ocean Expeditions. The Institute said that the pair of expedition ships were on time charter to Cypriot-based third party Terragelida Ship Management Ltd through the autumn of 2019.

Meanwhile, One Ocean has offered three options to affected passengers [A] to join a scheduled voyage in the Canadian Arctic this summer on board One Ocean’s RCGS Resolute to Baffin Island or Greenland, with added upgrades and pre- and post-hotel stays, plus a 40% of voucher on a future voyage, [B] join a 2020 Canadian Arctic scheduled voyage on board Resolute to the Northwest Passage and Greenland plus upgrades and other amenities and [C] to put the value of a booking towards any other voyage within the OOE Portfolio, with other amenities added. (Valid on departures until April 2022).


SunStone Up To Seven Ships

On May 29, Miami-based cruise SunStone Ships signed an agreement for the construction of its seventh “Infinity“ class expedition ship at the China Merchants Heavy Industries shipyard at Haimen, near Shanghai. “Infinity“ class newbuildings now under way include the following:

The Greg Mortimer (Courtesy Sunstone Ships of Miami)

The Greg Mortimer (Courtesy Sunstone Ships of Miami)

Greg Mortimer, scheduled to be delivered to Aurora Expeditions in August 2019. Then a series of ships with Ocean names: Ocean Victory for Victory Cruise Lines in October 2020, Ocean Explorer in January 2021, Ocean Odyssey in March 2022, Ocean Discoverer in September 2022, Ocean Albatros in October 2022 and a seventh vessel in September 2021.

Another Luxury Yacht For Ritz-Carlton

Spanish shipyard Hijos de J. Barreras and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection have signed an agreement to build a sister vessel to the luxury 298-berth yacht Azora.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's Azora

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s Azora

While Azora is due for delivery later this year, with a February 2020 maiden cruise, it is planned that the second unit will begin service in summer 2021.

The operator has been quoted as saying that now that ultra-luxury lines are building ships of up to double this size for parents Carnival Corp & plc and Royal Caribbean Cruises, it would like to build up to half a dozen of these luxury yachts to cater for a more exclusive market.

(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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