Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Imperial Majesty's Regal Empress - Future Uncertain

Unconfirmed reports state that Regal Empress will sail her last cruise for Imperial Majesty Cruises in Mid March. Imperial Majesty which purchased a replacement vessel last year, the Bahamas Celebration (ex Prinsesse Ragnhild), has been undergoing a refit in Freeport in the Bahamas.

The Regal Empress has an illustrious career, first entering service in 1953 as the Olympia for Greek Line. Built by Alexander Stephens and Sons on the River Clyde, she was primarily used on transatlantic cruises between New York, Boston, Piraeus and Haifa Israel.

By 1970 the transatlantic trade had become unprofitable, the Olympia spend most of her time cruising. In 1974, expecting to sail Greek Island Cruise from Piraeus, she was laid up due to increasing fuel prices.

Purchased in 1981, by Commodore Cruise Line the Olympia underwent a major refit which replaced her traditional funnel, with uptake pipes, flanked with steel swirls. This was not an attractive addition. The other major enhancement. which definitely extended her life, was the replacement of her steam turbines with diesel engines. Returning to service in 1983 as the Caribe 1 she sailed from Florida to the Caribbean.

Later in her career, her smoke stack was replaced with a more traditional funnel.

In 1993, she was sold to Regal Cruises and renamed Regal Empress. During the winter, she sailed out of Port Manatee, Florida and New York in the summers.

Following the events of September 11th, 2001, the Regal Cruises went bankrupt on April 18, 2003, when U.S. Marshals "arrested" the Regal Empress. An engine repair vendor reportedly owed $750,000, obtained a lien against the ship, resulting in the cancellation of cruises.

The Regal Empress was purchased by Imperial Majesty Cruise Lines, at auction, for just $1.75 M. It was estimated that Imperial Majesty, would save over $1 Million dollars in fuel savings, over their current steam driven ship - the Ocean Breeze annually.

Due to the recession, in September 2008, the Regal Empress was removed from service. She was chartered by the government to serve as a hotel and office space for relief workers (in Galveston, Texas), helping those impacted by Hurricane Ike. This charter only lasted for 2-months before the ship was returned to Imperial Majesty. Imperial Majesty immediately deployed the ship on 2 -day cruises from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau in the Bahamas.

There were discussions about chartering the ship for a week, as a party cruise to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama. The cruise was to sail from Florida to the Bahamas and Baltimore, but lack of interest cancelled the charter.
The ship is an excellent example of the traditional cruise experience and a historical transatlantic liner. Large Cabin and rich wood paneling adorn this great ship.

Although her future is uncertain, there is still hope that the ship may find further use under charter or use as a stationary hotel. There are even rumours about the ship returning to Greece, as a national monument.

Due to lessened demand for steel and raw materials, some believe the scrappers may not be interested in purchasing the ship at this time. More to come.

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