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#DiamondOnStrangford - 'Diamonds' the title to a track that would be familiar to worldwide fans of singer Rihanna, though less known was yesterday's visit of Ocean Diamond to Strangford Lough,Co. Down, writes Jehan Ashmore.

This was understood to be Ocean Diamond's maiden visit to the north under the operation of Quark Expeditions, whose fleet of small ships specialise in Arctic and Antarctic adventure style cruising.

She made a transit through the scenic 'Narrows' as the name suggest is located between the stretch of water between the open sea and lough. Also along these shores is where the villages of Strangford and Portaferry face each other and are connected by car-ferry.

The expedition-polar cruiseship equipped with Zodiacs stowed at the stern then proceeded into Strangford Lough to anchor off the southern side of the scenic shoreline. The lough represents the largest inlet of either these Atlantic Isles, covering 150 km².

The blue hulled livery of Ocean Diamond had previously been an all-white affair commonplace with cruiseships when she was the La Diamant. Arguably she was better known in Irish waters when she held the name Song of Flower.

On Tuesday the 8,482 tonnes Ocean Diamond also made her maiden call to Waterford City where she berthed at the crystal city albeit on the north quays of the Suir. It is understood this was the second out of 18 callers due this season.

The Irish connection with the ship continues in the form of Quark Expeditions new loyalty program marketed as The Shackleton Club. The choice of the club's name is in honour of one of Antarctica's greatest explorers, and created to inspire guests to keep on cruising.

Ocean Diamond in exterior design terms is more that of robust looking super-yacht, and one of the largest of Quark's small expedition ships. She has a maximum of 189 passengers, and with two stabilizers and an ice-strengthened hull, the 1974 built vessel is suited for polar expeditions.

According to Quark, she is one of the newest, fastest, and most eco-friendly ships in Antarctica. There are 101 designed cabins and suites, all with exterior views, and expansive common spaces, a club lounge, and a spacious restaurant.

The ship offers numerous adventure options, plus on-board features such as interactions with photography instructors. After a full day of exploration, passengers can relax, browse books or DVDs in the polar library, or enjoy stunning polar scenery from the sun-lit, panoramic observation lounge.

The marketing publicity for the Ocean Diamond says her passengers travel to one of the world's most remote destinations will also do so in a "greener" fashion. That is to say that Ocean Diamond is the first ship in Antarctica, and in polar travel history, to offer certified CarbonNeutral® voyages.

Published in Cruise Liners

#RoyalConnections - Amadea anchored off Galway Harbour today is a fleetmate of the former Royal Princess named by the late Princess Diana of Wales and where yesterday Prince Charles visited the Marine Institute in Oranmore, Co. Galway, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The Amadea (1991/29,000grt) with 624 passengers is the second of seven callers due off Galway Harbour this season. The Japanese built cruiseship is operated Pheonix Reisen for the German market which is served also by Albatros and Artania (with an interim name of Artemis) having been launched as Royal Princess in 1984.

Last August during a call on Galway Bay, the Finnish built Artania required additional capacity to tender passengers ashore using Aran Island Ferries, Glór na Farraige (Voice of the Sea).

Only last week, Glor na Farraige, the 244-passenger ferry was chartered by the ships agent of the current Royal Princess which anchored offshore of Dun Laoghaire on her maiden port of call to the Dublin Bay harbour.

When the first Royal Princess entered service she was 44,000 tonnes and the difference compared to her namesake successor is stark considering the cruiseship is some 100,000 tonnes larger. This second Royal Princess has 3,600 passengers and built in Italy. She entered service in 2013 and was christened by the Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

A second scheduled visit off Dun Laoghaire for this Sunday is understood to be cancelled, however the Royal Princess will continue to call to Dublin Bay albeit by docking instead in Dublin Port.

It is not known why Princess Cruises is understood to be changing port to that of neighbouring Dublin, though conditions at sea involving anchorage can present a variety of factors not necessary due to weather when determining decisions.

Last year the weather had in this case proved too much which led to cancellation of the 51,044 tonnes Crystal Symphony, as the bad weather prevented tendering ashore. As previously reported on Afloat.ie instead she headed for Cobh.

The Galway Harbour Company have plans to redevelop the city's port with a new outer deepwater harbour in which An Bord Pleanála had a hearing into the €126 million scheme.

In the meantime, Galway Harbour can look forward to a further five cruiseships during the season. 

Published in Cruise Liners

#TheQueenReturns – Queen Mary 2 of 151,000 tonnes, the world's only cruise-'liner' anchored offshore of Dun Laoghaire Harbour today, however despite the prestigious Cunard Line visitor another massive cruiseship has cancelled a call for tomorrow, writes Jehan Ashmore.

MSC Splendida of 137,000 tonnes was scheduled tomorrow to anchor off Dun Laoghaire, instead her owners MSC Cruises have decided to abandon the harbour as prevously reported on Afloat.ie and instead dock in Dublin Port on the same day. This is the second time this has happened as MSC Splendida was to open the season on 11 May but instead called to Dublin Port.

In response to this latest cancellation, Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company have expressed dismay over the change of plans having carried out preparations for the anticipated visit with a passenger capacity of 3,200 passengers.

This season's record cruise season had started with 22 callers, however this is set to further reduce as yet another even larger cruiseship in the form of Royal Princess, 142,000 tonnes is also understood to have cancelled calling off Dun Laoghaire Harbour this Sunday. According to the Dublin Port cruise-schedule, Royal Princess of 3,600 capacity is to berth in Alexandra Basin on that same day over the weekend.

Afloat.ie await a response from DLHC as to the reasons why the Princess Cruises 2013 built Royal Princess is to be the second cancellation within this week. (This cruiseship had only last week made her maiden call off the harbour.)

When MSC Splendida calls to Dublin Port tomorrow in the early hours, this will be her second time following last week's port record that made maritime history as the largest cruise ship ever to dock in Dublin Port. She was also the longest cruiseship to the port at 333m and is one of 83 cruiseships scheduled to call to the capital. 

On that maiden occasion MSC Cruises staff were "blown away" by the amount of people lining the Liffey to wave it off as the 2009 built MSC Splendida is ranked the 11th longest cruiseship in the world. Due to such dimensions the cruiseship had to enter the port in 'reverse' as the turning circle leading to her berth in Alexandra Basin West is too confined.

Queen Mary 2 had arrived from Cobh overnight and her second call (see report) off Dun Loaghaire today will see potentially up to 3,000 passengers arrive by tender to the harbour. 

Another five star welcome is in store for the cruise-tourists who will be greeted by a piper and Irish dancers, tour guides, free wireless and business offers after docking at the Coal Harbour.

The 'Cunarder' measures 345m long and so beats off MSC Splendida, however her deeper draft prevents calls to both Dun Laoghaire Harbour and Dublin Port.

Both ports on Dublin Bay are proposing separate cruise-berth facilities to cater for such giant ships and even larger 'next generation' cruiseships.

Published in Cruise Liners

#SplendidaSwitchPorts - MSC Cruises operators of the massive MSC Splendida have confirmed that the ship will be back for a second visit to Dublin Port at 4.30am this Thursday, May 21.

Following MSC Splendida's debut call last week (Monday, May 11)  as previously reported on Afloat.ie, the cruiseship had been scheduled to anchor offshore at Dun Laoghaire, but has now changed its plans to re-enter Dublin Port.

"Getting MSC Splendida into Dublin Port is no mean feat," said Giles Hawke, MSC Cruises executive director for the UK and Ireland.

"But judging by the amazing feedback we have received, it is certainly an effort worth making. Our cruise guests love the convenience of being able to disembark quickly and make the most of their time in such a beautiful and friendly city."

MSC Splendida made maritime history as the largest cruise ship ever to dock in Dublin Port during her recent visit, and staff were "blown away" by the amount of people lining the Liffey to wave it off, Hawke added.

Having carried out preparations for the anticipated visit, however, the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company expressed dismay over the change of plans.

"We are disappointed and surprised that the MSC Splendida has transferred its call to Dublin Port, considering that this was a scheduled anchorage call to Dun Laoghaire Harbour," said Captain Simon Coates, Habour Master, Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Dun Laoghaire had expected to welcome 21 cruise ships this season; while Dublin Port is set to welcome 83.

For much more The Independent has a report here.

Afloat.ie adds that Royal Princess (see previous report) which is even larger than the MSC Splendida was due to make a return call to Dun Laoghaire this Sunday, however according to the Dublin Port cruise schedule she is also instead to call to the capital on Sunday.

The Royal Princess had been due to make a repeat anchorage call off Dun Laoghaire Harbour that same day next weekend though this will be her first call to Dublin Port.

Royal Princess at 142,000 tonnes is in fact larger than MSC Splendida and will so outpace last week's record for the largest ever ship of any type to visit Dublin Port. As for length, MSC Spendida still holds that title as the longest cruiseship ever at 333m to enter the port. 

Afloat.ie will have more to add to this latest developmment. 

In the meantime, Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company can look forward tomorrow (May 20) to the visit of Cunard Line's flagship Queen Mary 2, the cruise-liner having made her debut off the south Dublin Bay port in 2013. 

Published in Cruise Liners

#CruiseFerry – Royal Princess, one of the largest cruiseships ever to visit Irish waters this week anchored offshore of Dun Laoghaire Harbour yet required the charter of a ferryboat to assist in tendering passengers ashore, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Having watched the ferryboat, Glor na Farraige make her first departure last Tuesday morning out to the anchored massive 142,714 tonnes owned by Princess Cruises, the 3,600 passenger capacity ship's agents had chartered the 244 passenger ferry to transport those between the 8.5m draft ship and the harbour.

On the evening of Royal Princess's departure, the Fireball dinghy racing in Dublin Bay, under the burgee of DBSC was cancelled as previously reported on Afloat.ie. This was due to a combination of 'mother' nature and increased traffic from the ferryboat movements and flotilla of tenders that prevented dinghy racing from within the harbour.

It is not known exactly as to why the cruiseship which is larger than 137,936 tonnes MSC Splendida (see historic Dubin Port docking) had called in for the use of the Aran Island Ferries vessel. Normally cruise ships during anchorage calls rely on their own flotilla of tenders to transfer those ashore.

According to a Dun Laoghaire Harbour spokesperson, future arrangements of a ferryboat tender will be at the discretion of visiting ships during this record-breaking season of 21 callers bringing almost 100,000 passengers and crew.

Next week sees the return off Dun Laoghaire Harbour of Cunard Line's cruise-'liner' Queen Mary 2 which made her maiden call of the south Dublin Bay port this month two years ago.

The French built giant at 151,400 tonnes is to call on 20 May (Wednesday), where the 3,000 passenger / 1,300 crew cruise caller will transport those on board the liner's tenders to disembark at the purpose-built pontoon (as pictured) in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

The cruise-tender facility was completed in advance of the 2013 call of the famous 'Cunarder' at the harbour's inner Coal Harbour, which is accessed through the marina from where the proposed €18m cruise-berth is to be extended from.

It is from the marina's eastern breakwater near the former Stena HSS fast-ferry berth, that a 435m jetty would run almost into the centre of the harbour.

This is to accommodate the 'next generation' of cruiseships (up to 340m long that is to say Dun Laoghaire only) that would be even longer and larger than the 'Royal' and forthcoming 'Queen'.

Published in Cruise Liners

#ExploringDonegal - National Geographic Explorer visited Killybegs Harbour yesterday following a voyage along the western seaboard with anchorage calls off Aran Islands and Dingle Peninsula as previously reported here on Afloat, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The call of Lindblad Expeditions /National Geographic's operated 150-passenger cruiseship to Killybegs is the second arrival this season which was opened last week by Le Boreal with a 254 passenger capacity.

A sister of the Companie du Ponant's chic 'boutique' style mega-yacht like vessel, Le Soleal is the next caller due on 24 May. In total 9 cruiseships are scheduled in 2015, surpassing last year itself a record.

More than 6,300 passengers are to visit the town and along this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way. The main attraction of nearby Slieve League, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe that are 601m (1,972 ft) high above the Atlantic Ocean.

Of the P&O Cruises to visit the north-west, they will be made by the 30,000 tonnes Adonia, with a length of 180.45m (592 ft) and the largest cruiseship to Killybegs in 2015 goes to the 69,000 tonnes Oriana with a length of 260.00m (853.02 ft).

Adonia has a capacity for 710 passengers while Oriana is much greater with 1,822 passengers and a crew of almost 800.

Published in Cruise Liners

#RoyalVisitor – Royal Princess at a commanding 142,000 tonnes is even larger than yesterday's Dublin Port record caller MSC Splendida, as this morning's latest caller made her maiden call off Dun Laoghaire Harbour by anchoring in Dublin Bay, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 19 deck cruiseship christened by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge almost two years ago at her UK homeport of Southampton had yesterday called to Cobh. This is where her sister Regal Princess was the first caller to dock last month after completion of phase one of Cobh's upgraded deepwater berth.She also became Belfast's biggest caller last year. 

The work at Cobh Cruise Terminal is designed to accept RCI's mega sized 'Quantum' class 168,000 tonnes giants with almost 5,000 passengers in which the Port of Cork hope to attract in 2017.

It is the depth of water that restricts Royal Princess drawing 8.5 metres and those such as the 'Quantum' class from entering Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company have proposed a €18m single cruise-berth jetty as part of a 'masterplan'. The jetty would jutt out 435m and almost be in the centre of the south Dublin Bay port. The plans have been met with mixed reaction and in which An Bord Pleanala will review the planning application along with an Enviromental Impact Statement (EIS).

A similar process applies to Dublin Port Company's proposed €30m double-berth cruise terminal to enable much larger callers to dock closer to the city-centre. 

As for the length of these 'next generation' cruiseships, MSC Splendida's 333 metres is a Dublin Port record and also pips the Royal newcomer by a mere 3 metres.  

In the meantime Royal Princess launches the first of record 21 cruise callers this season to Dun Laoghaire bringing around 100,000 passengers and crew.

She had approached Dublin Bay from offshore via the Kish Lighthouse and North Burford before anchoring over a nautical mile of the harbour's East Pier, which offer some of the best vantage points as does Sandycove and Bulloch Harbour, Dalkey.

Royal Princess is deemed as one of the "Most Popular Ships at Sea" according to Cruise Critic and has already won five prestigious Travel Weekly Magellan Awards in the Large Ship, Atrium, Spa, Pool and Mobile App Design categories. A notably feature is the innovative SeaWalk which being hailed as one of the "Top Gee-Whiz Features at Sea" by USA Today!

Situated on top deck is the largest pool ever featured with Princess Cruises and an enhanced Movies Under the Stars screen. Those seeking a dizzying thrill, there's the aforementioned SeaWalk's of all 128 feet high offering a straight down vertical view!

Several decks below at the bow is where during this morning's anchorage procedures, a special Princess Cruises 50th anniversary flag was raised at the prow of the massive cruiseship.

As for another example of the ships dimensions, she has a breadth of 44 metres, that's four times that of the Naval Service CPV L.E. Orla (P41), a former Royal Navy coastal patrol vessel.

Her naval homeport of Haulbowline facing Cobh is where MSC Splendida today made her maiden call to Cork Harbour. She is one of the largest to visit Cobh noting the biggest albeit 'liner' status of Cunard's QM2 has called in more recent years. She made her Dun Laoghaire debut in 2013.

So when it comes to who is the Irish 'King' of the cruise crown title, this rests with RCI's Independence of the Seas of a whopping 154,000 tonnes which made her debut to Cobh in 2007.

Returning to the former Royal Navy CPV named HMS Swift she served the Hong Kong Patrol Squadron until transfer to the Naval Service in 1988. The CPV visited Southampton's neighbouring port of Portsmouth in 2013 where the RN's base nd HQ are located. Again the same year Royal Princess was commissioned into service to serve the expanding UK cruise market.

Published in Cruise Liners

#WestIslandsCruising - Two former Norwegian 'Hurtigruten' Coastal Express Voyage ships today visited the west coasts of Ireland and the UK, where passengers on board experienced totally contrasting scenery, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Anchored off the Dingle Peninula Co. Kerry this evening is National Geographic / Lindblad Expedition cruises small ship National Geographic Explorer (1982/6,471grt) which arrived from the Isles of Scilly.

The former Lyngen which took on other names since becoming a full-time cruise ship is understood to be calling next to the stunning Skelligs that pierce out of the Atlantic. 

Having boarded the 'Explorer' during an anchorage call off Inishmore, Aran Islands in 2008, the on board library been of National Geographic Magazine fame was not surprisingly well-stocked!

While making this ship visit, it was particularly noted how rebuilt the former Norwegian coastal cargo-car-carrying ferry/cruise ship had undergone conversion. The ship prior to then had served the routine Bergen-Kirkenes circuit.

The work involved a new extended aft gym structure on the top-deck. Also the fitting of a stability ducktail sponson at the stern which dipped up and down in the swell offshore of the island's Kilronan Harbour.

A Hurtigruten vessel that is currently in the fleet, Fram (2007/11.647grt) which unlike her counterparts is designed primarily as a polar expedition cruiseship was in nearby waters of the Natiional Geographic Explorer. As the 418 passenger vessel had anchored in Galway Bay off the city at the end of last month. 

As for the second former Hurtigruten ship, Serenissima (1960/2,598grt) which today visited the Scilly Isles, the low-lying archipelago off the Cornish coast. This former fjord fleetmate was the Harald Jarl that in her current role had anchored off St. Mary's the main island. It is also understood she is to be making a next port of call across the English Channel to St. Peter Port, Guernsey.

Serenissima was particularly smart (see photo) when within Dun Laoghaire Harbour in 2013 and year one after the revived cruise business began. She berthed at the Carlisle Pier while on the same day of Serenissima Cruises port call in stark contrast the giant Cunard flagship liner, Queen Mary 2 anchored on her maiden call off the south Dublin Bay harbour.

This evening Royal Princess which called to Cobh is underway. It will be the turn of the Princess Cruises 3,600 passenger caller as previously reported to make her maiden visit off Dun Laoghaire Harbour in the morning.

Published in Cruise Liners

#WatchSplendida – MSC Splendida's sheer size currently occupies almost the entire Ocean Pier quay within Alexandra Basin, where the largest and longest cruiseship in the history of Dublin Port docked today, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Towering 18 decks above the port estate and that of Alexandra Basin the main part of the port that accommodates the majority of cruisecallers. This latest record-breaking caller demonstrates how large these ships are and indeed becoming increasingly bigger!

Listed below is more detailed information of the 2009 built cruiseship completed for MSC Cruises from the yard of STX France in Saint Nazaire.

Splendid's Statistics 

Gross tonnage 137.936 tons
Number of passengers 3.247 (on double basis)
Crew members About 1.370
Number of cabins 1.637, incl. 43 for guests with disabilities or reduced mobility
Length/Beam/Height 333,30 m / 37,92 m post panamax / 66,80 m
Decks 18, incl. 14 for guests
Maximum speed 22,99 knots
Average speed 18 knots

So Where to Watch the Splendida...

With all that to take on board or even from the perspective as of a spectator ashore...where are the best places to observe this latest instalment to Dublin Port representing the global cruise industry.

The best vantage point is ideally along the Great South Wall which celebrated its 300th anniversary in which the Dublin Port Company held a conference recently to celebrate the decision to built the wall. Studies from an EIS for the proposed €30m cruise terminal formed as a major part in the contents of the conference lectures.

Also included in the conference was the beach on Bull Island which too will offer views as the ship departs behind the North Bull Wall that forms the other boundary of the port channel.

What about the open stretches lining the 'Splendid' horse-shoe shaped bay notably along Sandymount Strand that forms such a unique part of this amenity of a European capital.

From here you will be able to see the 18-deck ship glide above the port's skyline as it heads down the channel along the Great South Wall and beyond the Poolbeg Lighthhouse entrance.

Or if out jogging and walkers alike can look forward to either the pierheads at Dun Laoghaire Harbour giving another view as she progresses underway in the bay. Dun Laoghaire Harbour itself is where there are also plans to accommodate such huge cruiseships within the harbour with a purpose built €18m cruise-berth jetty.

In fact the MSC Splendida was originally due to make an anchorage call today off Dun Laoghaire Harbour with passengers tendered ashore, however she is scheduled to call on the 21st May.

Noting that the even larger! Royal Princess of 141,000 tonnes with 3,600 passengers and 1,300 crew is to call offshore of Dun Laoghaire tomorrow (noted latest update on ETA is 6 am in the morning). The 2013 built Princess Cruises ship will instead launch the season as the first of a record 21 cruiseships due in the majority to anchor off the south Dublin Bay harbour.

The arrival of Royal Princess given her closer anchorage call should arguably be more impressive than MSC Splendida particularly given the vantage available from coastlines south of Dun Laoghaire.

Published in Cruise Liners

#DublinCruiseRecord – A historic day for Dublin Port as the biggest ever ship to dock, MSC Splendida of more than 137,000 tonnes and towering 18 decks called this morning with the massive cruiseship entering the port 'stern' first or in reverse, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company's (MSC) Cruises 3,200 passenger / 1,370 crew cruiseship had sailed overnight from Greenock, on the Firth of Clyde.

Her call is another leap for the port as Grand Princess in 2004 marked a major maritime milestone as the first ship to exceed 100,000 tonnes complete with a gravity defying disco.

The MSC Splendida can boast too as she features Turkish baths!... offering the utlimate in luxury but only to those who join the MSC Yacht Club, an excusive ship within a ship experience.  

MSC Splendida's maiden call to Dublin Port also became the longest cruiseship to visit at 333 metres as she ranks as the 11th longest in the world. These impressive dimensions have pushed the port's operational limits as previously explained today on Afloat.ie and below.

Currently the port can only handle ship lengths of up to 300m which is why the 'Fantasia' class MSC Splendida could not sail up the channel normally, nor be able to use the turning circle prior to entering Alexandra Basin due to the confined quay layout space on such a longer ship.

Instead, MSC Splendida was skilfully edged astern or backwards within Alexandra Basin to berth No.33. This sees the bow already face the River Liffey in readiness for a straightforward departure this evening (from 7 pm) from Ocean Pier that separates both Alexandra Basins (West where docked) and that of neighbouring East basin.

However, back in 2002, the same procedure of bringing a cruiseship in reverse through Dublin Port's entrance involved Royal Caribbean Line's Brilliance of the Seas of 90,000 tonnes that docked also at Alexandra's berth No.33. At the time the brand 'Millennium' class newbuild was also the longest cruiseship to Dublin Port at 295 metres.

Likewise of MSC Splendida, this required a lot of preparation prior to handling such a vessel despite then there being leeway in terms of length for the 'Brilliance' to swing in the turning circle leading into Alexandra Basin. It is understood however that during the call then more than a decade ago, that there was insufficient depth for the 'Brilliance' notably on the river side outside the basin to allow for safe navigation of the turning circle into Alexandra Basin.

On a related note, further dredging would be required as DPC's proposed Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project and associated EIS is currently under review with An Bord Pleanala. The ABR is intended to transform phase one of the port Masterplan so to allow larger and deeper drafted ships of all types, including the world's largest cruise ships, to routinely call to Dublin Port.

In the case of cruise ships, they will berth upriver at a proposed €30m double-cruise berth terminal next to the East Link Bridge along the North Wall Quay Extension. The second berth would be within Alexandra Basin which would be accessed by an expanded turning circle that faces the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club Marina.

The proposed terminal would handle the world's top ten largest cruise liners, including those such as Royal Caribbean Line's 360m long Allure of the Seas. This is a mega 'Quantum' class cruiseship of 168,000 tonnes and carrying almost 5,000 passengers.

As previously reported, only the Port of Cork's cruise terminal at Cobh can handle these much larger cruiseships, though the port company are not expecting such callers until the 2017 cruises season.

Published in Cruise Liners
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