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The ‘R Ships’ All Alive And Popular

When we ventured into the waters of the cruise world, the infamous “R Ships” were already history. Consequently, we have neither much knowledge nor appreciation for what they were, but every once in a while we hear about one of the R Ships, and what great ships they were when Renaissance Cruises was in business.

Or…what great ships they are.

The R Ships are still around, under pseudonyms. When Oceania set a one-day record for selling cruises this month, it was for one of the former R Ships, soon to be re-named (again) as the Oceania Sirena. Clearly, its history with seasoned cruisers had something to do with how anxious they were to sail on her again.

At the moment, the Sirena is still the Ocean Princess, which she will remain until Oceanundergoing a $40-million refurbishment one year from this month. Before she was the Ocean Princess, she was simply “R Four.”

There were eight R Ships, starting with R One in 1998. In case you’re wondering what became of them all, or even if you aren’t, here’s the list.

R One — After Renaissance went bankrupt, she became Oceania’s Insignia, then Hapag-Lloyd’s Columbus 2 and last year returned to Oceania as the Insignia again.

R Two — Chartered to Oceania, she was the Insignia before the Insignia was, and later Regattabecame what she is today, the Oceania Regatta (above).

R Three — Since 2002, she’s been the Pacific Princess.

R Four — See above.

R Five — Despatched to Pullmantur Cruises to become the Blue Dream and now with her Oceania brethren as the Nautica.

R Six — Another Pullmantur acquisition, the Blue Star, then the Blue Dream and R Five abdicated the name and went to Oceania and now, since 2007, the Azamara Journey.

R Seven — Chartered to a line called Delphin Seereisen and named the Delphin QuestRenaissance, then to Pullmantur as the Blue Moon and now, since 2007, the Azamara Quest (above).

R Eight — First became the Minerva II for Swan Hellenic Cruises, then sold to Princess to become the Royal Princess and now with P&O Cruises as the Adonia.

The fact that these eight ships — all of them exactly 30,277 tons in size, all of them carrying about 684 passengers — are still popular today is a testament to their design.

In fact, maybe they’ve improved with age. They certainly did when it came to their names.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Costa Fascinosa
7 nights
May 10, 2015
Savona (return): Rome, Palermo, Valletta, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.costacruise.com

Majesty of the Seas’ Royal History

Majesty-Matt H. Wade WC

Photo by Matt H. Wade Wikimedia Commons

Every ship has a story. Given that Majesty of the Seas carried close to three million passengers in her Royal Caribbean lifetime, it’s reasonable to assume the ship has a few thousands stories, at least.

But her story is more fascinating.

It’s about her Godmother. Her name is Sonja Haraldsen, although she became known as the Queen of Norway just over a year before the ship that would be hers made its maiden Queen Sonjavoyage. Queen Sonja became the Godmother that year (1992) and the Norwegians must have skipped protocol for the occasion because Majesty of the Seas was made in France.

It turns out that Queen Sonja, like “her” Majesty, was ahead of her time.

So smitten was her beloved, King Harald, that he told his father if he wasn’t allowed to marry this Oslo commoner, he would never marry, thereby ending the family’s rule as Norwegian royalty, since there would be no children to carry on the tradition. Harald and Sonja were allowed to wed and 23 years later she became Norway’s first “queen consort” in 53 years and the first queen to attend the swearing-in ceremony in seven decades.

Since then, she has gone other places where women of the past dared not go. She was the first queen to visit Antarctica and flew there in a Hercules transport aircraft…not exactly limousine service. Having undergone basic training and having participated in exercises, she is a Rear Admiral in the Navy and a Brigadier in the Army. An award in her name is given to schools that excel in promoting “inclusion and equality.” Over the years, promising artists and musicians, and Vietnam vets, have all been touched by her.

Today, Her Majesty is 77 and still going strong, while “her” Majesty is going to leave the Royal Caribbean fleet in the spring to join Pullmantur Cruises in Spain. The Queen has probably shaken the hands of as many people as have been on Majesty of the Seas, which was also ahead of her time.

In 1992, she and her Sovereign Class sisters — Monarch of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas — were the biggest ships in the world when they were launched. When they’re re-united at Pullmantur, they’ll be the largest ships in the fleet of a little-known cruise line, long surpassed on the oceans by so many bigger ships that they’re now among the smallest.

That, too, is part of Majesty’s story.

Today at portsandbows.com: The rush to mine cruise gold in China

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
January 3, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSt. ThomasNassau
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.ncl.com

Smokers Getting Squeezed on Ships

Our daughter, expecting their first child later this year, can’t (or, like the good mother-to-be, won’t) go into U.S. casinos. They are among the last bastions to be conquered by the anti-smoking brigade…smoking and gambling traditionally make standard bedfellows.

Cruise ships, slowly, are falling into line.

Two months ago, Princess announced there would be no smoking in staterooms and balconies on its ships, effective January 15. Yesterday, Norwegian announced the same thing for staterooms, but not balconies, also in January. Carnival has the same policy going into effect in December.

In this age when smokers are given leper-like status, most people would say this about the changing policies of cruise lines: “It’s a good start.”

There is inconsistency even within a cruise line. For example, Royal Caribbean ships allow smoking on balconies. Celebrity, owned by Royal Caribbean, prohibits smoking on balconies (also in casinos). Balconies on Azamara ships, also owned by Royal Caribbean, are non-smoking. But Pullmantur, a member of the same family, allows smoking everywhere.

The other extreme is Oceania. No smoking, bow to stern.

That would suit our daughter, not to mention more and more cruise passengers.

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