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|Grand Latino |
She began her life as Royal Viking Sky and is currently operated by Iberojet Cruceros. Sold to Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will be renamed Boadicca
Arturo Paniagua Mazorra (August 30, 2005)
The Spanish owner Iberojet Cruceros bought their first cruise ship in January last year, and soon it become the Grand Latino. She entered service in the summer 2004 sailing every Monday from Barcelona offering weeklong Western Mediterranean cruises, which were a big success.
Iberojet also operated the faster Grand Voyager from Valencia last year, also offering seven night Western Mediterranean cruises. This summer, the Grand Latino is based in Valencia.
The Fast Growing European Cruise Market
Spain represents the fastest growing European cruise market, Alfredo Serrano Chacón, Iberojet Cruceros general manager, said at the last Seatrade Mediterranean, "The Spanish market has some specific characteristics: first, the passengers are younger and tend to cruise mainly in summer. Furthermore, they select their cruise mainly for the calls, and don't like mixing with other Europeans.
The language is a fundamental factor for the Spanish passengers. Lastly, Spaniards don't like formal dress in the evenings, or the rigidities of some cruises".
Secondly, Mr. Serrano revealed that Iberojet had ordered a market study in Spain about cruises. In that sounding, in which 12 % of those interviewed gave no opinion, 60 % of those interviewed declared that they chose their cruise on the recommendation of their travel agent.
Another 16 % chose from the publicity messages, while a 9 % made their choice base based on the reputation of the cruise operators. Lastly, only 3 % made their decision exclusively on price. Lastly, Serrano commented that the European cruise market was designed almost exclusively for newcomers and commented on the difficulty of attracting repeat business with the existing limited fleet.
From Luxury Ship To Mass Market Vessel
The Grand Latino began her life as Royal Viking Sky. She was the second of a three ship series built by O/Y Wartsila, for a consortium of Norwegian owners, which also formed Royal Viking Line to market their new ships.
They were de-luxe ships, designed for worldwide cruising, and designed for a select clientele constituted mainly of healthy middle aged American or European executives with their partners, who had both the time and the money to afford a RVL ticket.
The itineraries of these ships were very varied, and never repeated a trip in their first years. Her cruises were usually very long, and a three months Round the World cruise was offered each year. Inside, these ships were very roomy, with a low grt/pax ratio, and the passengers were attended by a well trained, well paid, highly motivated and numerous crew, among them their always renowned Scandinavian waitresses.
These well balanced liners were gifted with a pronounced clipper bow surmounting a bulbous forefoot, the sunning spaces were amidships and aft, around the pool, which was housed in one of the terraced decks that finishes in a beautiful cruise stern.
The aerodynamic funnel had a big Q.E.2 influence.
The Royal Viking Sky sailed quietly in her first ten years. The old Guard people enjoyed her decks: senior financiers, artists, professionals, etc.
However, towards the end of the seventies in trying to accommodate the development of the cruise market, their owners resolved to increase the size and passenger capacity of the three ships by 200 people, with the introduction of a new 28 m. section.
The advantages were clear: the cost of the three lengthening operations (100 million $) was the same as a fourth similar ship, but the building time was reduced from two years to three months. The crew costs of that fourth ship were eliminated and the seafaring conditions improved notably, as was also the aesthetic appearance of these ships.
The fuel expenses increased by 20% for each ship, but increased their capacity by 40%. The Royal Viking Sky underwent this conversion in 1982 from September to November in the German yard AG Weser.
Also, in these years, her Scandinavian crew begun to be changed to cheaper Filipinos and Third World crews... But a de-luxe ship needs a de-luxe crew.
This transformation was not well accepted by their traditional clientele, who loved the intimacy of the small ships.
A deluxe ship needs a deluxe clientele in order to survive, and that clientele began to have other options like the two Sea Goddess ship, the Seabourn trio, etc.
These small ships displaced the Royal Viking trio from the de-luxe market and the logical consequence was the sale of these ships. They were sold in 1984 to the Norwegian owner Kloster Cruises, which already owned Norwegian Caribbean Line, a mass-market operation.
Unexpectedly, their new owners not only retained the Royal Viking Line original spirit, but they also constructed a fourth ship, the larger Royal Viking Sun, also built by Wartsila O/Y in 1988, and even built a fifth cruise ship the small Royal Viking Queen, in 1992.
This was the first of a chain of mistakes that drove Kloster to a troubled financial position. The logical consequence was a reduction of the Royal Viking Line capacity and at the beginning of the nineties the three former RVL trio were transferred to other Kloster branches: the Royal Viking Star and the Royal Viking Sky to the Norwegian Cruise Line in 1991, to become Westward and Sunward, and Royal Viking Sea to Royal Cruise Line, to become Royal Odyssey.
A ship built for the deluxe market never operates well in the mass market.
So, the use of the old Royal Viking ships was revealed to be a mistake. So, in 1992, the Sunward was sold to Finnish owners, who planed to operate her in Baltic short cruises, of one or two nights duration. She was renamed Birka Queen, and the financial result wasn't goodŠit was another lamentable mistake. After only a summer Baltic season, the old Royal Viking Sky was bare boat chartered to Princess Cruises, who renamed the vessel Golden Princess and begun in June to offer cruises to Alaska. In 1996 she was sold again to Gentling Int. for $50 million, with delivery in 1997. It was renamed Superstar Capricorn.
She was converted in Hong Kong to increase her capacity to 1.500 passengers. Her first cruise after the refit began on 8/2/1997.
Afterwards, Star Cruises used her in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. In March 1998 she begun a charter for Manhattan Cruises as a ship casino based in New York. This operation was a financial failure and in May the charter was annulled.
Again she sailed towards Asia and was based in Taiwan and Japan. In July she was again chartered to Hyundai Merchant Marine for four years, with delivery in September.
She was renamed Hyundai Keumgang and begun to offer cruises between North Korea and South Korea. In July 2001, the charter contract was broken due to the traffic failure between both Koreas that never reached the desired levels.
In October she was returned again to Star Cruises, and renamed Superstar Capricorn. She was based in Singapore and Bangkok. In 2003 she was refitted in Sembawang, and provided with three new auxiliary engines.
From Spanish Cruise Line to Iberojet Cruises
Spanish Cruise Line began sailings on April 23 2001, coinciding with the start of its three-year charter of the 900-passenger Bolero, with an option for a further two years. The company is a joint venture between Bolero owner Festival Cruises, Spanish tour operator Iberojet and the ferry company Trasmediterranea.
In the first season, seven-night round-trip sailings from Barcelona were offered. Then in October the vessel should have been repositioning to the Caribbean, but due to 11/9 terrorist attack, she continued sailing in the Mediterranean. In 2002, the Bolero was based all year in the Mediterranean and, in 2003, Spanish Cruise Line, doubled its summer capacity, operating the Bolero and the 1973-built, 800 passenger Crown Mare Nostrum (ex Royal Viking Sea).
In January 2004, Star Cruises sold the SuperStar Capricorn to Iberojet Cruises.
The sale, according to Chong Chee Tut, ceo of Star Cruises, was part of a larger overall strategy, which involved fleet rejuvenation plans of the Star Cruises and NCL fleet. An integral part of this modernisation programme, involved the redeployment of ships within the group, from time to time, to capitalize on growth and revenue opportunities in the various markets in which they compete. Star says this strategy requires it to be on the lookout for opportunities to sell identified Star ships as and when a potential buyer is interested. This sale of SuperStar Capricorn was consistent with that approach.
Grand Latino Public Decks
Iberojet, spent ¤10 millions in refurbishing the 30 year old Superstar Capricorn. The refit was carried out in Genoa in the first quarter of 2004. All public rooms were re carpeted and re panelled, new furniture was added and her outdoor decks were improved.
The passengers embark through hull doors on deck five, the highest one of the hull. The reception zone occupies the interior central corridor of this deck, which was only one deck high, and lacks the height found in other early seventies built cruise ships, with two deck high central corridors, such as Pacific and, of course, the spaciousness of the modern cruise ship's atriums.
The embarkation doors are located aft of this corridor, and the information desk was at her forward end. Between both were located the commercial gallery, the new photo gallery and the shore excursion desk.
The carpeting was blue, while the walls were panelled in light blue tones. The pictures that had been on the walls were later auctioned during the cruise.
The new counters were marble, and in front of them were located armchairs and sofas with beige upholstery. Here, the roof was cream, and housed the indirect lighting, some false girders were built-in in.
Star Cruises converted the old two-deck theatre into a meeting room on the upper level and more cabins on the lower level. Iberojet also created a playroom for children in the former meeting room.
The most important public rooms were located on deck 6.
This deck was higher than the rest found in this ship, in order to give more headroom for the public rooms. The spaciousness of the area also increased because only the big rooms (dining room and two cabaret rooms) are housed on this deck.
The El Portillo restaurant was located in the forward half of the deck. It was completely refurbished in the 2004 refit, with an ambiance in which featured blue and mauve tones.
Star Cruises had build two small VIP dining rooms both sides aft of the restaurant which Iberojet added to the main dining room to increase the passenger capacity. An ample buffet table was located in the central part of the dining room.
The mauve carpet was added in 2004, and the restaurant became darker due this fact.
The dining room worked on two sittings, both later than most cruise ship due the fact that Spanish passengers dine well into the night. The passengers sat on curved sofas located around the buffet table and on the perimeter of the restaurant. New chairs without arms were provided.
The lighting equipment was new, including the lights between windows.
Furthermore the girders and the pillars had mirrors fitted to increase the roominess of the restaurant. The kitchen was located forward, and to avoid long runs for the bus boys to the waiter stations, only heated dishes were transported.
For the cold ones, the buffet table was used. Aft was located a small wine cellar, with walls of dark wood panelling, stocked with mainly Spanish wines to drink.
The El Cortecito had live music where a drink or a coffee after dinner could be taken. It was located aft the dinning room, in the place formerly occupied by the casino Club Royale. It had a bar, located forward, and a wooden area and a small stage aft. New blue carpet was fitted, but the roof was golden, and this later fact gave it much more dynamism.
The bulkheads were panelled in wood and yellow fabric. The chairs had blue upholstery, and the glass tables were of circular shape.
Between the aft stairs block and the pool the Bachata Cabaret was found. This room had kept the same use from the RVL times, and mainly the same lay out.
The central section of this room was at a lower level than both sides and forward, where the bar was located. The new carpet was blue, and the chairs were upholstered in oranges and violets. The wooden area, and the little stage were situated aft.
They were some original parts that were kept practically unchanged, such as the roof, with the original dummy girders that houses both air conditioning and lighting, and the bar lay out. The bar counter had a rounded shape, with golden, blue and stainless steel details. The separation between distinct levels was made by fixed sofas. The green curtains completed the decoration. The Bachata Cabaret had dated lay out and installation, and the entertainment was low budget.
In the extreme after part of this deck the main pool was found. On the starboard side there was an outdoor casual dining room, called Gambrinus brewery, and a pizzeria. This deck was enlarged toward the stern and after this enlargement, there was only two or three meters between the pool's edge and the stern of the ship, so after the lengthening, this distance was increased to ten meters. This lengthening also involved an overall increase in the length of the ship.
This entire zone was teak decked. Maybe, the only problem found here was that all the increased surface was filled with chairs, and as a consequence, there was little space for the lounge chairs.
In the aft part of poop on deck 7 another three public rooms were located.
The Sutton Club disco had large windows aft, a old fashioned bar forward with a counter covered in blue leather, while the elliptical wooden dance floor was situated aft, close to the windows, occupying all the breadth of the ship. In the years that the ship was owned by Star Cruises, three karaoke rooms were installed in this zone, forward of the disco.
Close to the stairs, around the funnel casing, the Casino was located, an "L" shaped room, which is very small, and of poor decoration. Within the stairs hall was located the library, open, small, and far from her former "old guard" times.
The deck 8 was initially used for crew cabins. But later, some crew cabins were converted for passenger use between the two stair blocks.
And, in the aft part of the deck 8 the Spa was also installed with only seven health machines. Again the decoration was poor and plain. Iberojet had a clear target, the Spanish families, and as consequence the gymnasium had very little use.
In the forward part of deck number 9 El Malecón, was located, the Grand Latino observation lounge.
This "U" shaped room has large windows with splendid views, and a new red and green carpet was fitted in the Genoa 2004 refit.
Here, the wood panels were darker, and some mirrors and Formica were also used. The carpeting was mauve, as on the deck 6 dinning room.
The large tables were square and had a small bar of rounded form with red leather covering. There was a buffet with "tapas", the Spanish famous aperitifs, located aft port, which was usually full. But, at night time, El Malecón doubled as an intimate and quiet place. Aft of this deck La Bodeguita del Medio was located, one of the most popular outdoor facilities, in the taller deck of the terraced aft part of the ship.
The bar had a big canopy and there were a lot of tables with umbrellas. Opposite the bar the second pool was located, around a traditional teak sun deck. A wadding pool for children and a sporst track were located on deck 10.
The Grand Latino had six main cabin classes, but Iberojet Cruises had a fourteen-class structure.
There were cabins for every taste and budget, from families in four bed cabins to two person cabins. The suites and executive suites were located on deck number 9 and 7.
They had private balcony, separate bedroom, ample closet, full size bathtub and shower, and an area of about 50 square meters.
The second most luxurious cabin type were the Junior suites, also located on deck 9 and 7 and fitted with private balcony, a good closet, bathtub and shower, and an area of about 30 square meters. The ocean view de-luxe cabins, fitted with large windows, small bathtub and shower, were the third grade accommodation. They had an average area of twenty square meters and were located on deck seven.
The standard outside stateroom (deck 7 and 8) had an average area of 15,6 square meters, and featured window, and bath or shower. Another cabin class (also of 15 square meters of surface), located on decks 3 & 4, was the standard outside cabin with two portholes. It featured bath or shower. Lastly, the inside cabins, located on decks 3 & 4, had showers and a surface of 14 square meters.
The Grand Latino's Future
The Mistral's purchase was the expression of the strategic vision of lberojet's cruise arm: to become the true four star cruise operator in the Spanish market, well above the three star mass market operators, Pullmantur Cruises and Globalia Cruises.
This requires a fleet of modern cruise ships, with all the amenities that a well travelled passenger likes to find in a cruise.
So, the Grand Latino became surplus to the requirements only ten months after her purchase and offered for sale.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines offered her customers a very special style of sea travel based on world wide itineraries on board smaller and more intimate cruise ships. So, soon took advantage of the situation and purchased Grand Latino from Iberojet last February, with delivery next October.
Ten years after Fred. Olsen Cruise Line purchased the Star Odyssey from a group of American investors, two former Royal Viking Line sisters will sails under the Fred. Olsen Lines house flag next year.
As a result, Fred Olsen will have four ships operating worldwide itineraries focussed on the expanding British market from next year.
The Grand Latino is a sister ship to the company's Black Watch and the Norwegian owners think that operating two sister ships will create synergies in terms of both technical costs and marketing activities.
The Grand Latino purchase was a big opportunity and a fast way to expand the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines fleet, and allow the Norwegian owner to operate an even wider choice of itineraries and homeports for both repeat customers and newcomers to cruising.
Soon after the Grand Latino purchase news, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines announced she will be renamed Boadicea. Mike Rodwell, md of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines said: "What more fitting tribute to a ship that will be operating out of the great English ports of Dover and Southampton, than to name her after a great English queen? Boadicea means "victorious" and we look forward to seeing her taking the seas by storm next year".
After delivery, the ship will undergo an extensive refurbishment prior to entering service in early 2006. The refit will include the creation of several dedicated single cabins, in keeping with the company's tradition. The final occupancy is expected to be around 810 lower berths.
Later, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines announced that this name has changed to Boadicca.
The new Fred. Olsen cruise ship will be a perfect consort for the highly acclaimed Black Watch, which will be extensively refitted and refurbished next summer in the German yard B+V.
The fact that two separate owners have spent a large amount of money in ships now over thirty years old is the best demonstration of her quality of construction.
Her passengers highlight her intimate ambience, the European decoration (either in public spaces and in cabins) and the functionality of the cabins. She was also fitted with magnificent outdoor installations.
The Fred Olsen cruise ships have always been highlighted for their maintenance and for the family pride in their administration.
Accordingly, we are sure that this ship will have the same level of repeat cruisers that the "Black Prince" and will provoke a notable increase of the competition between the English owners.
For further information: Iberojet Cruceros, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines