Albatros leaving Amsterdam at the 1st of june 2011.
Albatros was built as the thirth and last ship of the original trio of ships that started up the Royal Viking Line under the name Royal Viking Sea. She was built at the famous Wärtsilä yards in Helsinki, Finland under yardnumber 397 and was launched at the 19th of january 1973. Her sisterships were the 1971-built Royal Viking Star and the 1972-built Royal Viking Sky. At the time her service started, the Royal Viking Sea measured some 21.848 tons and her lenght was 177,70 meters. She was 25,20 meters wide and her draft measured 7,30 meters. Originally, she was designed for 536 passengers and 324 crewmembers and this proved the meaning of the Royal Viking Line, a true up-market cruiseline in a time that cruising was starting to appeal to more people then only the most fortunate. Normally, the ship would sail at a speed of 21 knots and her homeport was Oslo, Norway, as Royal Viking Line was a true Norwegian company. The ship was delivered to Royal Viking Line at the 16th of november 1973.
Always a nice sight, two ships of the same company together in port, here Albatros is pictured in Amsterdam with her brand new fleetmate Artania, the former Royal Princess and Artemis of P&O Princess Cruises.
Although she was designed as a cruiseship and is mostly known as such too, her first service was a charterservice as a ferry on the route between Bergen and Newcastle. Her first cruise started at the 17th of december 1973 and she proved to be a very popular ship in her first years of service. Especially the small feel of the ship was something her many repeat passengers loved. Also the company understood that they had to create a greater passenger capacity onboard of their ships, but instead for choosing for a newbuilt, the Royal Viking Line decided to lenghten their ships instead. At the 11th of march 1983, just ten years after she started service for Royal Viking Line, the Royal Viking Sea was send to the Seebeckwerft at Bremerhaven for a huge refit, including a lenghtening of up to 205,46 meters. Her tonnage increased to 28.018 and she was now able to carry 812 passengers. Her sisters had been lenghtened also in 1981 and 1982 respectively.
Just after her lenghtening, the ship rescued 151 people that survived the sinking of the Indonesian ferry Dojo near Celebes at the 29th of november 1983. You'd expect that a large investment like this lenghtening would increase the three ships profitability too, but in this case this was not so. I guess some new people were attracted to the new versions of the trio, but a lot of former passengers, on who the company relied because the repeat rate had always been very high, found the ships to be too big now and also the extra crouds kept them away. It was after this lenghtening program, that Royal Viking Line came into financial difficulties and the company was taken over by Kloster Cruise from Norway, the owners of the Norwegian Caribbean Lines, in 1987. This move had changed also her homeport, now the ship was registered at Nassau, The Bahamas. Although the Royal Viking Line was still growing larger under the new owner, this was only shortlived. In 1991, the line was drasticly cut down when all original ships were transferred within the group. In this move, Royal Viking Sea was placed in the fleet of the Royal Cruise Line, another Kloster-owned company as the Royal Odyssey. But this also was not for long, because financial troubles within the Kloster-group were the reason that the Royal Cruise Line brand was discontinued in 1995. She was sold to a company named Actinor to gain some more capital and Kloster chartered the ship back so she still was in the same service. From 1997 onwards, the ship was sailing as Norwegian Star for the Norwegian Capricorn Line, a division of the Norwegian Cruise Line, the new name for Norwegian Caribbean Lines. For Norwegian Capricorn Lines, the ship sailed cruises from and around Australia. Her passenger capacity for this was increased to 1200 and her tonnage now was 28.018. In 1999, the ship was sold to Star Holdings (Star Cruises).
She was renamed Norwegian Star 1 in november of 2001 for a few months, before getting again a new name, Crown, in a charter for Crown Investments. She sailed casino-cruises for them between Shanghai and Cheju Island from the 7th of june 2002 untill november of that same year. After this, the ship was laid-up at Shanghai. But this was not her end, because she was chartered again to Halkion Viajes. For this, she as not officially renamed, but she was marketed under the name Mare Nostrum. She started sailing the Mediterranean but was laid-up again from november 2003 in Genua, Italy. For several years now, it seemed that there was not to be a new home for the the now 30-year old but still well maintained and reliable ship. But in february 2004, she was sold to the Dutch company Club Cruise and chartered out for long term to the German company Phoenix Reisen. For them, she was renamed Albatros, taking the name from the earlier ship operated by Phoenix Reisen, the former Cunard liner Sylvania built in the 1950's.
Club Cruise itself started out as a company that wanted to restart cruiseservice from Rotterdam in The Netherlands and to open up the Dutch cruisemarket. For this, they had bought the 1974-built Gruziya and renamed her Club 1 in 1999. It proved to be not a succes and the ship was chartered out to Novelles Frontieres in 2000 as Van Gogh. Club Cruise now started to buy other cruiseships too to charter out, untill they were declared bankrupt in novewmber 2008. This happened after the failure of the buying of Finnjet in november 2007. Due to economic hard times, the project of rebuilding her as a cruiseship had to be abandonned and the ship was sold for scrap at a significant loss. Although Club Cruise, the owner of the ship, was now bankrupt, Phoenix Reisen posted guarantee bonds and were able to keep the ship sailing.