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The 20/ 4/ 60, a consortium of Spanish yards won the building contract of two coastal passenger ships for the Brazilian owner Cia. Nacional of Nav. Costeira
They were later named Princesa Isabel and Princesa Leopoldina and cost 5 million dollars each
By Arturo Paniagua Mazorra (10-06-97)
The Isabel Princess (9.696 grt), was launched the 18/ 1/ 61 by Soc. Espanola de Construccion Naval, and delivered to her owner in August 1962.
The line was very modern and harmonic, with the funnel amidship, soft-nosed raked stem and an elegant radar mast above the bridge.
Inwardly, she was fitted with 170 cabins in three classes, fitted with air conditioning, and a wide selection of public salons like gym, writing room, hairdressing, nursery, etc.
She relied on wide external spaces, with two pools to stern. A little amount of cargo was transported in two small hold forward, capacity 72,500 cu.ft. She was propelled by two slow speed B&W motors and Denny-Brown fin stabilisers. The trials speed was of 17.5 knots.
South American routes
Both ships were engaged in South American coastal routes between ports on River Amazon, Belan and Manaus to Santos and other River Plate ports, with some departures from Buenos Aires.
However competition with commercial aviation made the ships increasingly uneconomic, causing the merger of their owner with the Brazilian state controlled Lloyd Brasileiro in 1967, that showed little enthusiasm for the coastal passenger ships.
Offered for sale
The Isabel Princess was laid up in Rio de Janeiro early 1968, and at that time her machinery was "cannibalised" in order to maintain operative her twins.
Offered for sale, the low draught and modern installations made her the ideal candidate in order to be converted in a cruise ship.
So, after remaining 18 months laid up, the English owner Dominion Far East Line (a John Swire and H.C.Sleigh joint venture) bought the vessel in 1969.
The Marco Polo
The 6/ 9/69 she left Rio de Janeiro towed by the Dutch tug Jacob Goes Heemskerck bound for the Scottish yard Barclay Curle, to receive her first great refit, which took seven moths: her main and auxiliary machinery was repaired, meanwhile the former accommodation spaces were completely dismantled and reconstructed according to a project of Mr. Monro, passing to transport 363 passengers in first class, with only six interior cabins.
Renamed Marco Polo under the British flag and actractively painted with a red, black-topped funnel and ligth blue topsides, she was delivered in June of 1970, and destined to the Australian market.
That same month she carried out her first cruise from Melbourne, then remaining for eight years in the Hong Kong - Singapore - Pacific area like the only ship in the deluxe segment.
In 1973 the Marco Polo was again reformed in Hong Kong, and fitted with a cinema. Due to her success, John Swire acquired the sister ship Princesa Leopoldina, that was renamed Coral Princess.
However, in June of 1978 she was offered for sale, carrying out her last cruise between the 14 to the 23 August. The Marco Polo was too small in order to compete with the ships of P&O, Sitmar and CTC.
Furthermore, the high operating cost caused a fall of reservations. She was bought immediately by Arley Nav.Co., a Liberian branch of the Greek owner Aquamarine Ltd.
Reformed in the Greek yard Khalkis, her superstructure was extended towards the bow, loosing the goal post and hatches of the holds.
In April of 1979 the vessel began to carry out cruises from Hong Kong toward China and Japan under the name of Aquamarine, under Greek flag.
Few months later she become laid up in Hong Kong due to the reservation lacking, and auctioned in order to pay the accumulated debts.
Bought by the Commercial Bank of Greece, she sails out Hong Kong the 24/7/81.
Laid up in Piraeus
During the eight following years she was laid up in Piraeus, in the rumours of a sale to several operators, among of them Rasa Sayang Cruise, American Global Cruises, Sun Coast Cruise, Polaris Cruises, etc.
This last for example, planned rename the Aquamarine Polaris under NIS registration, for cruises along the Baltic and Norwegian coast during the summer season, and from Malaga until Canary Island and the Mediterranean in winter, after carrying out a 3.5 millon USD$ refit.
In 1988 the vessel was finally bought by Epiritiki Steamship Co. and reconstructed in Perama, being prolonged the superestructure toward the stern, and new cabins were installed between the radar mast and the funnel.
Inwardly she was completely reformed for carry 496 passengers in 226 cabins. The interior decoration was from Arminio Lozzi.
In April of 1989 began to carry out 3-4-7 days summer Aegean cruises, and some years carried out cruises from South America and the Caribbean.
In some occasions the Odysseus has been chartered in order to carry out school cruises.
The 1/12/95 Royal Olympic Cruises was born after the merger between Epirotiki and Sun Line and the Odysseus was considered within the high range in the new common fleet.
Her hull was painted blue (like her fleet mates Stella Solaris and Stella Oceanis), continuing the same cruise program, although this year Royal Olympic will send the vessel during the summer to Scandinavia, for the first time.
Maybe this is the first pattern of diversity for Royal Olympic Cruises.
The cruise line owners, provided they can get state financial support, want to build two 920 berth cruise ships in Hellenic Shipyards.
But the Odysseus look very well, and I think she will sail for some years along. May be, both the new cruise ships will replace other vessels of the Royal Olympic's fleet.
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