Former Cunard Princess becomes latest cruise ship to be scrapped
Another of the classic cruise ships that helped lay the foundations of today’s billion-dollar industry has reached the end of its long career. Introduced in 1977 as Cunard Line’s Princess Cunard, the small 17,500 gross ton cruise ship occupies a unique place as the last of the first generation of modern ships. She survived for 45 years, outliving nearly all of her contemporaries and now joining others in the breaker yards.
The 537-foot-long cruise ship was commissioned in the early 1970s as part of a pair to be built in Denmark Burmeister & Wain which were at the end of the wave of modern cruise ships. Unlike the others ordered by the fledgling cruise line, the plan was for these sisters to be used by the MGM hotel chain to enter the booming industry. However, before the ships were completed, they would be sold to Cunard, which was looking to expand its cruise operations. By the 1960s, the famous British company had successfully cruised the Caribbean using two converted ocean liners, followed by two smaller purpose-built cruise ships which it introduced in 1971 and 1972.
Cunard launched its new ships as the Countess Cunard and Cunard Conquest and took the unusual step of sending them from their builders to a second shipyard in Italy for fitting out. The first of two ships, Countess Cunard, entered service in 1976 and sailed year-round from San Juan to the Caribbean. Accommodating 800 passengers, she quickly gained notoriety as a newly built cruise ship sailing the Caribbean.
At 537 feet in length, the sister ships retained the original sleek appearance throughout their long career (Cunard)
Rename the second ship Princess Cunard, she entered service in March 1977, first operating cruises from New York to Bermuda, a market that Cunard had dominated in the late 1960s. She would be the last of the first generation of cruise ships built at that time. indeed to enter service and, with building costs soaring, many predicted that she would likely be the last cruise ship ever built. It would be three years before the next cruise ship building orders were placed for the first of the largest second generation of modern cruise ships.
The Princess and the Countess became the backbone of Cunard’s cruise operations alongside the much larger Queen Elizabeth 2 which maintained the traditional crossings of the Atlantic. Unlike the Countesswhich operated year-round from San Juan, the Princess operated during the winters from Florida while expanding its deployments over the years to include Alaska, the Mexican Rivera, returning to New York for cruises to Bermuda, and European cruises to the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. She was also briefly chartered to the Italian shipping company Lauro for summer Mediterranean cruises and to the US government for use as a recreation center in the Persian Gulf in 1990 and 1991.
After nearly 20 years in service, Cunard decided to sell the sister ships, but both ships would go on to long but diverse careers. The Princess Cunard was sold to StarLauro, the successor to the Italian Lauro line and the predecessor of MSC Cruises. Renowned Rhapsody she sailed mainly in the Mediterranean and Europe for MSC until 2009. During this time she had been rebuilt increasing her passenger capacity to a maximum of 959, but she retained her clean and now classic lines.
Vintage 1970s advertising brochure for the new sister ships (Allan Jordan)
In her last nine years of service, she started sailing in 2009 for Israel’s Mano Maritime. She was used to modernize the company’s cruise operations sailing seasonally from Haifa on voyages that included ports in Cyprus, the Greek Islands, Montenegro, Italy and Croatia. Known as the golden irisshe was eventually retired at the end of 2018 and put up for sale.
After spending the last four years at rest in Greece, it was announced that she had been sold to the demolishers in Aliaga, Turkey. He arrived in the surf at the start of the week after sketching out his nine-year-old sister ship. the old Countess Cunard had been destroyed by fire during a refit in 2013.
The arrival of the old Princess Cunard to the breakers also puts an end to much of the first generation of modern cruise ships. Recently, the last of the former Royal Viking Line trio, also introduced in the early 1970s, has arrived at shipbreakers in India, while new cruise ships are also being sold for recycling. The Marella Dream, built in 1986 as Homericrecently also arrived in Turkey for breakage while the Zenith introduced in 1992 by Celebrity Cruises has also recently left the anchorage in Greece and is believed to be on its way to scrapyards in Asia.
The pandemic has proven particularly difficult for the older generation of cruise ships that were primarily operated by small businesses. Outclassed by larger, more modern ships that were less economical to operate, more than two dozen cruise ships built between the early 1970s and mid-1990s have been retired and recycled, taking with them the history of the formation of modern industry.
Top photo by HG 32 (Wikimedia) — CC BY-SA 3.0 License