For those who might be interested in such things, there’s a little bit of maritime history lying at anchor off Laem Chabang port at the moment.
Currently named “Ocean Dream” and operated by Eastime Shipping Limited of Pattaya, this venerable vessel began life in an Italian shipyard in 1970 when she was to have been the “Seaward” – a sister ship to the “Southward” of the Norwegian Caribbean Line.
But the Italian shipyard ran into financial trouble and the Norwegians pulled out of the deal. The unfinished hull was acquired by the P&O Company of London. The ship was finally launched in 1972 and was named “Spirit of London”.
Two years later P&O acquired Princess Cruise Lines and the ship was transferred to the Princess fleet and renamed “Sun Princess”.
Remember the TV series ‘The Love Boat’? Well, “Sun Princess” was one of the ships that featured in that popular TV series.
In 1988 after 16 years of line voyaging and cruising from Alaska to the Caribbean, the America’s to Australasia, the ship was sold to Premier Cruises and renamed “Majestic” then “Starship Majestic” a year later. From the pristine white of P&O, the ship was now painted a striking red.
1994 saw the ship sold again to new owners – this time CTC and she was renamed “Southern Cross” (not to be confused with a Shaw Saville passenger liner of the same name). Four years later she changed hands, sold to Festival Cruises when she was renamed “Flamenco”.
Festival Cruises went belly up in 2004 and the ship was sold at a bankruptcy auction to a company called Cruise Elysia for US$12.25 million. Cruise Elysia renamed her “New Flamenco”.
Another change of ownership occurred in 2007 when a company called Club Cruise bought the ship and operated her as a floating hotel in New Caledonia. This was short lived and the company went bust a year later.
What happened to the ship after this is a bit of a mystery. The old lady was laid up in Singapore for a year after which, it is reported, she was sold for scrap. However, three years later there is a photograph dated September 11, 2011 (available on the Internet – Google Image “m.v. Ocean Dream towed”) of the ship, under tow and now renamed “Ocean Dream”, en route from Malaysia and headed for the breakers yard at Zhou Shan in China.
Where had she been and what was she doing for three years in between being sold for scrap in Singapore and being towed out of Port Klang in Malaysia? What happened after she reached China? It is said that she cruised out of Haikou early in 2012 but that may be a confusion with another ship named “Ocean Dream”.
Some ships just never die. Far from being reduced to razor blades, this grand old lady of the seas, aged 40 years old, a ship that has had at least nine different names, is now sitting, in plain sight, off Pattaya’s beaches where, after just one inaugural cruise for her Thai owners, things seem to have come to a halt.
I hope not. There is a motor ship called the “Doulos”, built in America in 1914 which is the oldest ship in the world still in regular service after 98 years.
Maybe “Ocean Dream” deserves the same chance of immortality?
(Julian Hustwitt served in the British registered ships of the Orient Line and later the P& O Company from 1960 to 1970.)