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Cruise Ship Reviews|
More images and info of this ship (currently called "Balmoral") at July 3rd - 2012:
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Built in 1988 and transferred to Orient Lines in 1999 the Crown Odyssey is very nice and with very interesting itineraries represents an excellent alternative to cruises on mega-ships
Arturo Paniagua Mazorra (October 30, 2001)
Royal Cruise Line
Pericles Panagopoulos' relationship with the cruise industry began when he started work with Home Lines.
In those years he developed innovative ideas that he later applied in all his initiatives.
His career continued with another Greek owner, Sun Lines, but in 1971 he decided to get out of that company and to form his own shipping business, which was named Royal Cruise Line.
This enterprise was financed by a mortgage on a building in Athens, that was Mr. Panagopoulos' only property.
Royal Cruise Line was a novelty in many aspects.
While the other Greek owners usually operated their cruise ships in their own Aegean waters, protected from foreign competition by the Greek laws that defend the coastal trade, they only adventured in other seas when chartering the ships to other foreign operators.
Royal Cruise Line staked by the "fly-cruise", based principally in America, first alternated the Aegean summers with winters in the Mexican Riviera, and later offered cruises in Scandinavia, Alaska, the Orient and South Pacific.
In 1972, RCL opened a marketing and sales office in USA, which Mr. Panagopuolos thought was the principal source of wealthy passenger for his first ship.
The Golden Odyssey
In the late sixties and in the early seventies, the Greek owners had created a numerous fleet of cruise ships.
All the ships were purchased at the second hand market where, due to the decline in the passenger liner traffic, they found true bargains.
Epirotiki, Chandris, etc. formed their floats from excellent conversions of passenger ship to cruise ship, which were always made in Perama, near Piraeus.
However, Pericles Panagopoulos was the only Greek owner that opted for a new construction and in 1974 RCL received the Golden Odyssey from a Danish yard.
Because of the fly-cruise concept, that Mr. Panagopoulos had choosen to exploit his business, she had the same capacity as that of a Boeing 747 Jumbo.
The Golden Odyssey was designed by Knud E. Hansen, a famed Danish naval architect and, as a consequence, she had a European ambience and taste, and her decoration was the most cosmopolitan possible, but she had a strong Greek base both flag and crew being Greek.
Royal Cruise Line was born with the vocation of exploiting the ships intensively.
This fact means avoiding winter laid up period, when the Mediterranean high season is over.
To survive, considering the high investments in the cruise market, all the Greek owners have had to adopt this concept and then the novelty.
After overcoming the pitfall of the 1973 oil crisis, Royal Cruise Line needed to increase its capacity and opted for a used ship: in a short time, Pericles Panagopoulos bought the Royal Odyssey in 1982 from Home Lines, for which she had sailed as Doric since 1973, and later refitted her in Perama.
But Panagopoulos had not forgotten his original plan and so, in 1985, he ordered a 40,000 GRT new ship at the German shipyard Jos L. Meyer, with option for a second one, and so was born the Crown Odyssey.
Construction of the Crown Odyssey
The contract was signed in April 1985 for a cost of $150 million.
Crown Odyssey was the first ship built in the covered dry dock of this shipyard, which today, after some enlargements, is the biggest in the world.
The first section was laid on 30 April 1987 and, after six months of intense activity, the ship was floated for the first time on 1st November.
The first sea trials were undertaken during the 10 day period from 20 to 30 December, 1987.
The ship was christened Crown Odyssey by Irene Panagopoulos, daughter of the owner, on May 14th 1988, and delivered, after successful sea trials, on 31 May, two weeks in advance of the schedule.
Thanks to this the Company was able to sell an additional thirteen day cruise to the Baltic from Tilbury, which began on June 7, instead of the six initially foreseen.
The last cruise of this series was on the 25 of August.
Later, Crown Odyssey sailed on her first transatlantic voyage to New York.
After two cruises to Canada, the ship sailed on a transcanal cruise from New York to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles was her home port during that winter with round-trip voyages to Mexican Riviera and Transcanal cruises.
In the hands of the Kloster Family
The following year, Royal Cruise Line (RCL) kept the same program, and maintained ther flagship, the Crown Odyssey, based in Europe all summer.
But on 17 November 1989, Kloster Cruises bought RCL for two hundred twenty-five millions dollars.
The Norwegian Kloster family was, thanks to Norwegian Caribbean Line (NCL), one of the pioneer owners in the Caribbean market, and with the purchase of RCL they were trying to reach two objectives.
The first being to attract a share of the European market and the second to fill the segment of market comprised between the Kloster's two existing branches: Royal Viking Line, leader of the ultra-de-luxe market, and Norwegian, still a reference in the Caribbean mass market.
In those years, the cruise world was characterized by some mergers and purchases among the three top companies: Carnival, RCCL and P&O. Pericles Panagopoulos understood that an independent owner had no future in that market.
Then, he decided to establish a new ferry venture, called Superfast ferry, that revolutionized the maritime communications between Greece and Italy.
Royal Cruise Line had obtained, after 15 years of history, a loyal clientele of mature cruisers, many of which were repeaters looking for novel itineraries, value for money, and good service on board.
However, only a year after the purchase by Kloster Cruises, Royal Cruise Line started to lose its identity: in 1990, the ships were flagged out to the Bahamas, and their full Greek crew soon became "international", plenty of Third World nationals (mainly Philippines and East Europeans), less expensive than the Greek ones.
Furthermore due to heavy losses encountred by the ultra-de-luxe branch Royal Viking, some of the first trio of their cruise ships were transferred to Royal Cruise Line, including the brand new Royal Viking Queen in 1995.
The Demise of Royal Cruise Line
The financial fragility of Kloster Cruises was constant in the early nineties, and, in 1995, they were near bankruptcy.
It was rumoured that Carnival was a potential buyer.
In December 1995, Kloster Cruise became Norwegian Cruise Line, and her parent company, Vard A/S, was also renamed NCL Holdings.
A new management team, headed by Kristiam Seim, soon started to refinance the debts and restructure the company.
One of ther first measures was to close Royal Cruise Line, and concentrate all efforts in their core business, NCL.
So, the Crown Odyssey was renamed Norwegian Crown on 30 March, 1996.
However, the ship maintained her long cruise pattern within NCL, sailing in the summer of that year from Dover to the Baltic and Norwegian fjords.
In 1997, NCL announced new itineraries for the Norwegian Crown, with a South American schedule for the 1997-98 winter, and Bermuda cruises from New York in the summer of 1998.
This pattern was repeated the year after with strong public response.
In 1998, NCL Holdings bought Orient Lines, a destination oriented operator founded in 1992 by Gerry Herrod, which operated the Marco Polo.
Expansion plans for the new branch were soon designed and, in April 1999, it was announced that the Norwegian Crown will be transferred to Orient Lines, and renamed Crown Odyssey.
She was delivered on 13 April 2000 in San Juan, after her South American season, and then she sailed to Malta for a complete refit.
Later, she was christened Crown Odyssey again in Istanbul by Lady June Hilary, and began on that day her first voyage under Orient Line colours, a Mediterranean cruise which ended in Barcelona.
Throughtout the 2000 summer season she sailed between these two beautiful cities, in direct competition with the Grand Princess.
In the 2001 summer season, this pattern will be repeated, with the Millennium and the brand new Golden Princess as strong rivals.
The External Design of the Crown Odyssey
My first impression upon seeing Crown Odyssey was negative.
She is a ship with a very low length/breadth relation (5,5) and this fact means a disproportionate height profile, which is also build up.
This was only the second cruise ship delivered by Jos L. Meyer shipyard, which had previously delivered a lot of ugly car ferries, and the Crown Odyssey exudes this.
However her "silhouette" presents a certain equilibrium between the radar mast and the observation room, situated in the forward third, and the enormous gawky funnel, located in the aft third of the vessel.
This was clearly influenced by the stack of the Royal Princess though the designers of the Crown Odyssey did not take advantage of the breadth and overall size of the funnel as the designers of the P&O ship did.
The funnel of the Crown Odyssey reminds one of the Golden Odyssey's funnel, but is wider and less higher.
The central part of the ship looks like the one on the Royal Princess, it confers the ship a futuristic touch, thanks to the use of windows instead of portholes.
All three former cruise ships were products of the same naval architect, the Danish Knud E. Hansen who was also responsible for the refitting of the current fleet mate of the Crown Odyssey, the Marco Polo.
The designers opted to place the pool aft, following the pattern prevailing in the early eighties as on the Europe, the Noordam and Maasdam, etc.
This made them to use a transom stern, in order to obtain the maximum space aft.
This fact enhanced the "ferry" effect of the ship.
The use of a cruise stern as aboard the Marco Polo, the former Rotterdam, the Vistafjord, etc., would have improved the aesthetic of her aft hull a lot.
The superstructure, on her aft third, is terraced, another influence of the Royal Princess, and creates a pleasing view, an excellent location for different salons and rooms onboard.
This makes her very compatible with Marco Polo, wich is an aft oriented cruise ship as well.
The forward part is dominated by the wheelhouse, and its black windows give the ship a futuristic aspect, another influence of the ferry design in the 80s, and is enhanced by the boxy top of the Crown Observation Salon.
The Crown Observation Salon is similar to Viking Crown of the Royal Caribbean cruise ships and clearly influenced the discotheques of the Costa Classica and Costa Romantica, though these were clearly less brilliant than the one on the Crown Odyssey.
Another element that models the Crown Odyssey is her full outside promenade deck, that completely encircles the ship, which also has a jogging track...just over the deluxe apartments.
Finally the decision by Orient Lines to paint the hull blue improved her appearence greatly breaking the continuity of the hull-superstructure and thus making her look taller.
Many journalists claimed that the Crown Odyssey was an innovative ship and reported her as the cruise ship of the twentyfirst century.
However, her inside lay out does not present any novelty, and is very classic in some aspects.
The most important aspect of the decoration are the following:
- use of reflecting materials which is quite exagerated in some cases, unsuitable for the age group the ship was marketed for;
- use of garnet and blue tones;
- use of the octagon as an element of decoration throughout the ship, for example the atrium is octagonal, there are some bars of octagonal shape, the skylight and the dance floor of the Top of the Crown are octagonal, and so on.
All the interior design was done by the Greek firm AMK, and is very interesting to compare this ship with successive AMK designs for Celebrity Cruises and Festival Cruises.
The general layout is a compromise between the vertical separation of public spaces, very popular in the early eighties, and the horizontal separation that was later made popular on cruise ships.
So, the deck seven is completely dedicated to public spaces, including the main aft pool.
Below this deck, there are cabins and the main dining room on deck six, while above this deck there are the suites and some lounges aft on deck 8, 9 and 10.
The atrium is not very big and the decoration, plenty of reflecting surfaces, as stainless steel, brass, etc., is excessive, but the illumination is not so strong.
Aft on the lower deck, are located the purser and shore excursion decks, both large and well staffed. Forward cruises are sold to passengers in the place originally occupied by the library, a photo gallery and a shop.
On the upper deck forward we find the boutiques and aft the Montecarlo Salon.
The shop layout around the atrium was later used by AMK in the Century and her sisters, clearly influenced by Crown Odyssey.
The atrium contains a circular statue in its base, a work of Arnaldo Pomodoro, like in the Costa Classica, a ship with the same lighting problems in the atrium.
From the atrium, the passengers can reach the dining room through The Forum.
This passageway has plenty of craftsmanship works. This is typical of ships that emphasise on their itineraries and ports of call.
The ceiling is triangular in shape, and is made of mirrors of different tones and colours, while the showcases that contain the craftsmanship, sculptures, etc. have a splendid halogen lighting.
The two main stairs give the impression of floating in the block that hold them. The railings are of glass.
They are an example of decorative integration and are in proportion and coherence with the atmosphere aboard, with its garnet carpet and frontal mosaics (that repeat the tones of the ceiling of the Atrium), but the negative aspect is, for example, the abundance of mirrors.
The stairs of the Atrium are splendid too.
Around the atrium and the Montecarlo salon passengers can move easily.
The atrium is located between the two elevator blocks and it is used by many passengers to go from the main dining room to the Stardust Lounge.
Perhaps the only problem is the narrowness of the outside promenade deck, that impedes its traditional use as a place for relaxing and reading.
The access to the Palm Court bar, aft deck eight, was realised through the Card Room, with very narrow passageways.
Besides, on deck ten, it isn't possible to walk from one end to the other without going inside.
The 640 seat Seven Continents restaurant is located amidships on deck Marina, the upper hull deck, while the main galley is located aft on the same deck.
It is U-shaped, with two sections in the forward extremes that can be separated for private lunches.
The floor, in the central part of the dining room, is at a lower level than the sides, though ramps allow wheel chairs to accede it without problems.
All around it is decorated in rose tones while blue dominates the central part to match the new carpets which are also blue.
Both sides have large windows that complement the illumination of the crystal lamps, that are octagonal, like other areas aboard, and are located in the ceiling.
The worst aspect of this area are the ceilings, which are low - generating high noise levels - and reflecting, due to the large amount and disposition of mirrors.
All this gives a sensation of spaciousness, but the atmosphere is a little bit cold.
Nevertheless, the decoration after the 2000 refit, intended to have a reduction in the number of mirrors, could be positive.
The Filipino waiters are very attentive.
Just on top of the main restaurant is the Yacht Club, the alternative culinary option on board.
During the day, it acts as the inside/outside buffet, with a very similar lay out to the Lido Restaurant of the Rotterdam of 1959.
The Yacht Club offers buffet dining on most evenings, and special dining (at extra cost) on a few night each cruise.
The buffet line is situated in the center of the area and has been completely renovated in the 2000 spring refit.
The decoration is based on nautical motif with the carpet in blue tones and wood partitions.
The ceiling has now geometrical forms, except a small zone with reflecting ceilings, and is supposed to have greatly improved in respect to the former layout.
The pictures of sailing ships give a nautical aspect to the decoration.
The exterior section, aft the Yacht Club galley, is slightly raised over the teak pool deck, and this disposition allows very pleasing views during lunch.
The third culinary option is Cafe Italia, aft on Penthouse deck.
To create this new area, the existing galley of the former grill was enlarged and a buffet line was installed.
I think that this area on windy days is uncomfortable for dining.
Next to Café Italia there is an outside deck with various jacuzzis, with an outside octagonal bar, three decks higher than the main pool.
The concept of this space is the same as the Alfresco Cafe on the Costa cruise ships, though it doesn't reach the design of the Italian ships.
The main lounge, called Stardust Lounge, is located forward of deck seven and has seating accommodation for 500 people.
It is only one deck high, but the floor of the seating area is fairly well graded (there are seven semi circular shaped terraces) and the stage is raised to enhance visibility.
The ceiling has also the same slope as the floor, and descends toward the circular stage.
There are two corridors with ramps, and there aren't steps here. There are two additional aisles further down on each side and they begin about half way down.
To reach them the passengers must walk to the stage, and then back up.
This is an odd disposition.
Once again the red tones are dominant while the reflecting ceilings decrease the character of the area.
Though this ship does not offers Broadway type productions as her elderly passenger want a more low key productions, the stage can be raised or lowered hydraulically.
Aft port is located a bar, splendidly decorated with marble and a pleasing indirect lighting.
The only two-deck high area on board, decks eight and nine, is the Coronet theater, situated aft.
This area wasn't renovated in the 2000 refit, and kept its ancient decoration in green tones.
Her carpets and upholstery badly need a renovation.
It has splendid decoration details, such as the use of marble in the entrance from the lido deck, but it presents other details of doubtful taste, such as the red lighting in the passageways.
For the kind of cruises that the Crown Odyssey makes this area is used for lectures, conferences, conventions and sometimes as a cinema, though all the cabins have television.
Movies are a typical feature on the cruise ships sailing long cruises on which the passengers tend mostly to socialise rather than stay in the cabins.
Bars and Other Salons
One of the strange aspects of the Crown Odyssey is the reason why the casino is located in a privileged position considering that the ship has a passenger profile that don't play much.
Actually the casino is a part of the Montecarlo Court, a bar of octagonal shape that constitutes the most important center of daily activity.
The Montecarlo Court is quite different from the usual noisy and dark bars in the casinos.
Both areas have mauve, pink and red carpets and large windows both sides. They don't have the irritating reflecting ceiling used throughout the ship.
A small piano is played here in the evenings to entertain the passengers while they have tea.
The furnishings in the Montecarlo Court have a hard look because the materials used are copper, brass, glass, etc.
One of the zones that has gone trough a more radical change is the perimeter of the Coronet theatre, a "U" shaped space located on deck eight.
The Sports Bar
Norwegian Cruise Lines installed their typical Sports Bar here, to homogenize the ship with the rest of the fleet.
However NCL soon destined the ship to longer cruises to zones such as South America or Europe suitable for passengers that are potentially little sport oriented.
Later transfering the ship to Orient Lines the Sports Bar was candidate to be eliminated.
In its place, the Palm Court was built.
The Palm Court
It has the typical ambience that long distance cruise ships have, with wicker furnishings, tropical plants and marvellous views aft, in an atmosphere of extreme calm.
The library is located starboard, fitted with completely new furnishings, it's very functional, comfortable and welcoming, though maybe slightly small for a ship of this kind.
The Net center with six computers, from which the passengers could send or receive electronic mail, was installed, in the 2000 refitting, forward of the library.
It is interesting to note that aboard the ships oriented for the deluxe market, or that sail long cruises, net communications are inside the business centers, always near or integrated in the library, while aboard ships destined to the mass market they are placed in the so called "Internet cafes".
The Top of the Crown
The observation salon Top of the Crown is the hallmark of the Crown Odyssey and it provides a marvellous view 30 meters above the sea.
I think it is one of the best of its type afloat. Perhaps the secret lies in the slope of its glass bulkheads that give it a splendid sensation of inside amplitude.
Aboard the observation salons of the Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships, for example, the inclination is contrary and the perception of spaciousness is lower.
The spaciousness of the Top of the Crown is also accentuated by the extra height and by the skylight which is of octagonal base and located on top of the stage.
These pyramidal shaped sky lights are characteristic of AMK and are found on other ships of their design as well, like the Celebrity fleet, etc.
This area has two clearly different ambiences.
Forward, in blue tones, it is used as an observation salon during the day and a disco, with an octagonal shaped glass dance floor, by night.
Aft is located The Club. It is a quiet lounge, which is decorated in rose tones, with very confortable leather sofas, big chairs, and is raised over the forward zone.
There is a small semi-circular bar that seats eight.
The change from blue tones forward and rose tones aft is smooth.
The two areas formed the first observation salon composed of various ambiences and this influenced decisively in the evolution of the Viking Crowns of RCCL.
Crown Odyssey has only an exterior pool, situated aft on deck seven.
This means you have a major contact with the sea but this also means a smaller sun area, whereas when the pool is situated on the sun deck in the centre of the ship, there is a bigger sun area.
Here the deck is in teak, and for a deluxe ship, the plastic furnishings are not appropriate.
Aft of the pool is located a stainless steel statue.
When I went aboard there were chairs around the pool. This area is small and fills up quickly.
On this deck there is a traditional feature: an open promenade deck, behind the life boats, that encircles completely the superstructure and is used by joggers.
It is narrow, and doesn't allow the use of chairs.
The two decks above, which are horseshoe shaped, are in teak as well and overlook the pool providing more space for the sun lovers.
Finally, on deck ten, aft of the funnel, there is plenty of room, with two jacuzzis and an outside bar, with another statue.
But it is three deck above the pool.
Most of the bars and salons aboard have splendid views of this lido deck thanks to large windows.
The main problem is that when the ship is full, it is very difficult to find a chair free.
The exterior space between the stack and Top of the Crown, the Solarium, isn't cleverly used due to the exaggerated dimension of the funnel, furthermore, not being sheltered against winds, is not recommended on windy days.
Forward the Top of the Crown the deck is very useful while navigating through natural scenarios, like the Norwegian fjords, Alaska, Chile, etc. and is the only deck that hasn't a teak floor on board, perhaps for stability problems.
In her lower deck, the Crown Odyssey has a indoor fresh water pool.
It's small, but useful in cold weather.
The spa area is adjacent, with a couple of jacuzzis, sauna, massage area, fitness/gym area and a beauty salon.
This spa area is small compared to the standard found on later cruise ships, which have health facilities on their upper decks, usually behind the wheelhouse, with magnificent views of the sea.
In April 2001, NCL, the Orient Line parent company, signed a partnership with Mandara Spa, to offer treatments using natural blended ingredients and Oriental techniques, aboard their fleets.
The success was instantaneous.
Crown Odyssey has 516 cabins, 78 % of them outside, with a capacity of 1050 passengers.
The standard cabins are spacious with an average of 16 square metres, are well outfitted with colour television, dryer, safe, etc., and have sufficient space to keep the necessary baggage for long cruises.
Sound insulation is excellent between cabins.
There are 74 suites aboard which have living and sleeping areas separated by light teak and etched glass.
They have an area of 27 square metres and have ample king size beds and feature a luxurious bathrooms with marble walls.
However they don't have balconies, but their entire outer wall is a three-panel mullioned bay window, fitted with electric sunshades, offering view fore and aft, as well as straight ahead.
This type of window was first used on the old Italian liner Rex and in the Suites cabins on the Royal Olympic built by Blohm+Voss Shipyard.
On the Crown Odyssey the best cabins are the 16 apartments, located aft the bridge, of almost 40 square metres.
All have an ample balcony, teak deck, a big marble bath with a whirlpool and an ample walk-in closet.
Besides, four of these cabins have a connecting door between them and when opened, form a big suite with salon and living room.
The Technical side
The Crown Odyssey was fitted with a father and son type multi-engine arrangement with twin controllable pitch propellers, a concept that became familiar on the ships built by Meyer Werft, that is the first five Celebrity and the Oriana.
A maximum speed of 22.5 knots is achieved with all four engines engaged when they provide a total output of 21,300 kW.
The stabilisers are capable of reducing the rolling motion by 90 per cent at normal cruising speed.
The ship is divided into 10 fire zones and 15 watertight compartments.
Orient Lines is well known for creating exceptional cruise vacation experiences calling at the most fascinating destinations worldwide.
Orient Lines, in 2000, its first year with two ships, was the only cruise line to sail to the seven continents.
The Crown Odyssey travelled in the Mediterranean last summer and in the autumn she sailed to exotic destinations in Africa, India and South East Asia, combining different shore excursions such as Kenya Safaris, visiting ancient Indian ruins, etc.
Later, in the winter months, she sailed to Australia and South Pacific.
Orient Lines offered worldwide itineraries but no Orient ship had ever visited continental America until Spring 2001.
She sailed to Honolulu, Los Angeles and, in April, she arrived at Fort Lauderdale.
On 13 April 2001, exactly one year after Orient Line took possession of the Norwegian Crown in San Juan, Crown Odyssey received a warm welcome in her former homeport.
Orient Lines took advantage of the occasion to host travel agents and media in each city. They visited the vessel and appreciated her beauty and style.
During its Port Everglades stopover, the ship scored a 96 in Orient Line's first ever USPH inspection.
This ship is very important in a destination-oriented company because the passengers of Orient Lines usually lean towards the mature side and wish for comfort on board thus avoiding the "glitz" of new ships.
Aspects to improve
The Crown Odyssey has few cabins with balconies.
She lacks an alternative restaurant, with a la carte service, which passengers find on most of the rival ships.
She hasn't enough outside deck for sunbathing. There is no self-service laundry, which is a major drawback on long cruises.
Besides the amount of reflecting surfaces, both on the ceilings and walls, is exagerated.
Orient Lines Expansion
Last year Orient Lines doubled its fleet incorporating the Crown Odyssey.
The success was so great that the company announced the addition of the Superstar Aries, the former Europa of Hapag Lloyd, to its fleet in 2002.
But after the terrorist attack in the US this decision is delayed and the transfer is now planned for 2003.
They wanted to rename the ship Ocean Voyager after her last cruise for Star Cruises on March 2002.
New and fascinating itineraries were planned for all the three classic ships, an excellent alternative to mega-ships, but the uncertain future has changed the program of the company for the immediate future.
To summarise my impression about the Crown Odyssey, I think the ship is very nice but outdated in some aspects.
The Filipino crew is very good with excellent service and the food was good as well.
The ports of call are very interesting on all voyages.
Furthermore the cleanliness standard is very high and the ship sails smoothly, even in rough seas or at full speed.