Under the Captain's Table's Joyce Weighs In
Greek Ship Sinks; Two Passengers Missing
Passengers Evacuate Listing Greek Cruise Ship
Travel Guard Offers Free Help to Evacuees
Many concerned cruisers glued to the coverage of the Greek ship that sank earlier today off the coast of Santorini may not be all that familiar with the vessel or the Cyprus-based line. To that end, we'd like to offer a little background.
The ship was built in Finland in 1986 and christened Birka Princess, after which it sailed under that name for Finnish company Birka Line. In 1999, the vessel underwent a $26 million refurbishment.
Louis Cruise Lines acquired the 22,412-ton, 1,537-passenger ship just last year to be positioned in Piraeus, the port for Athens, for three- and four-night cruises. The line is part of the larger Louis Group, founded in 1935 as a small travel agency, which now operates hotels as well as cruises. The at-sea sector started its life operating short Eastern Mediterranean cruises from Limassol in the early 1970's -- and still does today.
Today, the fleet is 13 ships strong; the company also sails from Genoa and Marseilles to the Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa; from the port of Piraeus, cruises depart for the Greek islands and Eastern and Western Mediterranean.
Under Louis, Birka Princess was renamed Sea Diamond and outfitted with its first outdoor swimming pool. Over 10 passenger decks, the ship also featured an indoor swimming pool, three restaurants, bars, a show lounge, a nightclub, shops and a spa. Activities onboard mirror what you'd find on North American ships -- from trying your luck at the casino to grabbing a snack at a late-night buffet -- and even though it is technically international, the line attracts passengers from the U.S. and Canada as well as Europe (many of yesterday's evacuees were North Americans).
Have you sailed on Sea Diamond or another Louis Cruise Lines vessel? Share your thoughts, stories and photographs with us in an e-mail; be sure to put "Sea Diamond" in the subject line.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor