MV Astoria was constructed as an ocean liner and subsequently rebuilt as a cruise ship. She was ordered in 1944, and launched 9 September 1946, as Stockholm by Götaverken in Gothenburg for the Swedish America Line (SAL). She made her Maiden voyage in 1948, under the command of captain John Nordlander. During her seven decades of service she has passed through several owners and sailed under the names Völkerfreundschaft, Volker, Fridtjof Nansen, Italia I, Italia Prima, Valtur Prima, Caribe, Athena, and Azores before beginning service... Read more
MV Astoria was constructed as an ocean liner and subsequently rebuilt as a cruise ship. She was ordered in 1944, and launched 9 September 1946, as Stockholm by Götaverken in Gothenburg for the Swedish America Line (SAL). She made her Maiden voyage in 1948, under the command of captain John Nordlander. During her seven decades of service she has passed through several owners and sailed under the names Völkerfreundschaft, Volker, Fridtjof Nansen, Italia I, Italia Prima, Valtur Prima, Caribe, Athena, and Azores before beginning service as Astoria in March 2016.
As Stockholm, she was best known for colliding with Andrea Doria in 1956, resulting in the sinking of the latter ship.
At 525 feet (160.02 m) with a gross register tonnage of 12,165 register tons, Stockholm was the smallest passenger ship operating on the North Atlantic route at the time. However, she was the largest passenger ship built in Sweden at the time. Originally designed to carry 395 people, a 1953 refit expanded Stockholm's capacity to 548 people.
On the night of July 25, 1956, at 11:10 pm, in heavy fog in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nantucket, Stockholm and Andrea Doria of the Italian Line collided in what was to become one of history's most notorious maritime disasters.
Although most passengers and crew survived the collision, the larger Andrea Doria luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning. Owing to the collision, 50% of Andrea Doria's lifeboats were unusable. However, a number of ships responded and provided assistance, which averted a massive loss of life.
Five members of Stockholm's crew were killed instantly, and several more were trapped in the wrecked bow. Despite its having lost about 3 ft (0.9 m) of freeboard, the crippled Stockholm helped in the rescue and ended up carrying 327 passengers and 245 crew members from Andrea Doria, in addition to her own passengers and crew. After Andrea Doria sank, Stockholm sailed to New York City under her own power and arrived on July 27. There, the crushed bow portion was repaired at a cost of US$1 million three months later.
On 3 January 1960, Stockholm was sold to the East German government, which renamed the ship Völkerfreundschaft ("friendship between nations") and operated her as an ocean liner until 1985. In 1985 she was transferred to a Panamanian company, Neptunas Rex Enterprises. Her name was reduced to Volker, and by the end of the year she was laid up in Southampton, England. She was later used as a barracks ship in Oslo for asylum seekers in Norway under the name Fridtjof Nansen.
The ex-Stockholm was sold to Italian interests in 1989 and towed to Genoa, Italy, Andrea Doria's home port; but when she arrived, the press called ex-Stockholm the "ship of death" (La nave della morte) due to the collision with Andrea Doria. It was discovered that the ex-Stockholm was in a very good condition. She was rebuilt from the waterline up and given a modern cruise ship design. Named Italia I, then Italia Prima, she later sailed as Valtur Prima primarily to Cuba, and was laid up there in 2001. Acquired by Festival Cruise Line in 2002 and renamed Caribe, she continued to sail to Cuba.
In 2005 the ex-Stockholm was renamed Athena, being registered in Portugal. She was flagged out of Cyprus operating for Classic International Cruises.
On 3 December 2008 Athena was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Reportedly, 29 pirate boats surrounded the ship at one stage until a US Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft circled above which led some of the pirates to flee. The crew prevented the pirates from boarding by firing high-pressure water cannons at them. No one was injured and the ship escaped without damage, and continued on her voyage to Australia.
On 17 September 2012, reports announced that she and her fellow ship Princess Danae were detained in Marseille, France, for unpaid fuel bills, it was also announced that Arion was detained in Montenegro for similar issues.
Early in 2013 Athena was bought by the recently created Portuguese cruise company Portuscale Cruises and renamed Azores. As soon as her acquisition was confirmed, she was taken to a shipyard in Marseille, where she was revamped before entering Portuscale Cruises service after completing a charter to Berlin-based Ambiente Kreuzfahrten, from whom she was chartered to Classic International to join her fleetmate Princess Daphne. The charter began in March 2014 with a cruise from Lisbon, Portugal, to Bremerhaven, Germany, and concluded in November 2014 in Genoa, Italy.
In 2015 she entered service with Cruise & Maritime Voyages, operating her first voyage with the line from Avonmouth Docks to the Caribbean in January 2015. From May 2016 until March 2017, the ship is on charter to French tour operator Rivages Du Monde. In June 2016, it was announced that Astoria would be leaving the CMV fleet after her final cruise on 27 April 2017 from London Tilbury. In a U-turn decision, it was announced, in February 2017, that Astoria would remain in the CMV fleet for a further season until 2018. She will offer a mini-season from London Tilbury, before being charted by Rivages Du Monde during the summer months.
After April 2018, CMV is advertising further cruises in Autumn 2018, and Spring and Autumn 2019.
Starting in December of 2019 she is scheduled to spend the winter cruising the Sea of Cortez from the port of Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) Mexico