When Athena left the UK market in 2010 at the end of a short charter to Page & Moy, it was the end of that company’s own cruise programme, and it was thought unlikely that the ship would return to the UK other than during transit calls. She had been chartered to the UK company Travelscope in 2007 and 2008, but, following the failure of that business, was then chartered to Germany’s Phoenix Reisen for 2009.
With the demise of owners Classic International Cruises, the future for this 1948-built ship, whose claim to fame was that, as Stockholm, she collided with and sank Andrea Doria in 1956, was beginning to look bleak. Portuscale Cruises came to the rescue and, along with three of her former fleetmates, she was acquired and extensively refitted.
She came back into service this year with a charter to Germany’s Ambiente Kreuzfahrten but, unfortunately, poor bookings resulted in the early termination of the charter and the closure of the company. Now, renamed Azores, she has a new charterer, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, who will take over the ship in January 2015 as a direct replacement for Discovery, which will be taken out of service by owners AllLeisure Group.
Azores’ first cruise for CMV will be a 30-night round trip to the Caribbean, sailing from Avonmouth on 26 January next year. Then she will be one of many ships (including some ferries) to cruise to the Faroe Islands in search of the next northern hemisphere total solar eclipse, which will last for about two minutes on 20 March.