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First Astor cruise ship scrapped after 40-year career

Although sold for conversion into a yacht in 2019, Saga Pearl II remained laid up near Piraeus, with little evidence of any work being carried out. Now, she is heading for Aliaga, following her younger sister, albeit two years later.

She was built as Astor for Hadag Cruise Line by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft and delivered in 1981. She was not a great success and was sold in 1984 to Safmarine to reopen the Southampton to Cape Town service, abandoned in 1977 by Union Castle.

Again she was not successful, due to her length being unsuitable for the wavelength in the South Atlantic and being underpowered for the long ocean voyages.

In August 1985 she was sold to the East Germans and renamed Arkona. She was largely chartered out to West German companies at that time. Her owner eventually became Seetours, owner of Aida Cruises, and when P&O acquired Seetours in 1999 she did not feature in the new business.

She was initially chartered and then bought by Transocean tours, who renamed her Astoria. Later that company collapsed and she was arrested in Barcelona. She was eventually released from arrest in order to allow her to sail to Gibraltar to be re-arrested, and it was there that Saga Shipping acquired her at auction in 2009.

She then went to Swansea, where a major refit was carried out, after which she emerged as Saga Pearl II. It was envisaged that she would eventually operate for Saga’s Spirit of Adventure brand, and she was refitted in the style of the company’s small Spirit of Adventure.

In 2012 she became Quest for Adventure, Saga’s discovery ship, but that was short-lived, as she returned to the mainstream Saga fleet in 2013 to replace Saga Ruby, reverting to her original Saga name.

In turn, in 2019 she was replaced by the new Spirit of Discovery and was then sold to Aqua Explorer Holdings and sailed to Piraeus for conversion. As built, she carried 600 passengers, but this was reduced to 450 after the Swansea refit.

Report by William Mayes, photo by Andrew Cooke

Ships Montly - January 2024

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