Maxim Gorkiy was built at the Deutsche Werft in Hamburg, Germany for the German Atlantic Line (Deutsche Atlantic Linie). This company was formed by some investors who joint forces with the Home Lines to re-open the North Atlantic service out of Hamburg under German flag after the second worldwar had deminished the whole German passenger fleet. They bought the old Empress Of Canada from the Canadian Pacific Line. This ship was built in 1930 as Empress of Japan but was, due to her name, renamed in 1942. In 1957 she started sailing for the new German company as Hanseatic, a very popular name in Germany .In 1966, this ship burned out in New York just hours before departure. In that year she was 36 years old and by no means suitable for rebuilding. The company had to charter a ship quickly to stay in operation, but soon there were plans to build a replacement.
In 1968, at the 21st of februari, this 24.981 tons large replacement ship, designed by George Manner, was launched in Hamburg and she received the name Hamburg. The wharf where she was built, was chosen out of 30 wharves that were selected. The ship had a lenght of 194,72 meters, she was 26,62 meters wide and her draft was 8,25 meters. She had accomodation for 788 passengers and 350 crew on ten decks. A part of her building costs was actually paid for by several loyal wealthy passengers, who bought shares for 25.000 US dollars. She started her trials one year later and was delivered to German Atlantic Line at the 20th of march 1969. The ship was origianally meant for service on the Atlantic and she was also designed for this role. But in 1969, German Atlantic recognized that line-voyages would soon be a thing of the past and Hamburg was mainly used as a cruiseship in het carreer. She started her services with two cruises from Cuxhaven to South America, and afterwards she sailed her first sceduled line-voyage from Hamburg to New York on june the 19th, 1969.
When Hamburg entered New York harbour for the first time on jun 26, 1969, a special event was created by German Atlantic Line for her introduction. Together with the Sylvania Electric Company, 'the big shot' was arranged. When she returned to port a day later after a quick cruise with celebrities, 1145 lightbulbs would be lighted simultaneously when she entered port at just around ten in the evening. Some 25.000 ship enthousiasts gathern around the quayside to witness this event. The ship was nicknamed the 'Space Ship', because of her spacious interiour and the personal room per passenger. She was rated among the most luxurious cruiseships afloat in her first years, although just twenty years later, when the American president Bush and the Russian Michael Gorbachov held a meeting on board, her interiours were referred to as 'Soviet-deco'.
As a novelty in her early years, Hamburg introduced television and radio in every cabin. Next to this, the cabins had individual air-conditioning controls, wall-to-wall carpeting, two-channel radio, a closed circuit television and telephone. Nowadays normal, at that time a sign of splendid luxury. Not to be forgotten, all but 18 cabins were equipped with a full-size bathtub. The ship was the first German liner built since 1939, but she was never really succesful for German Atlantic Line. The company went into financial troubles in 1973 and the ship was laid up at Hamburg and renamed Hanseatic. Just before this, she was used as decor in a Richard Lester directed film called 'Juggernaut' with stars as Richard Harris, Omar Sharif and Anthony Hopkins. She was to resemble the Britannic, a very strange choice because of the many differences between these ships.
In 1974, the Hanseatic was sold to the Black Sea Shipping Company and renamed Maksim Gorkiy. In the time she sailed for BLASCO, a serious incident happened in november 1975, when two explosives were planted on her hull just below the waterline when the ship was docked at San Juan for maintanance work to be carried out. Later that month, the explosives were detonated when the ship sailed close to New York, but luckily the ship survived and there were no injuries reported. One cruise had to be cancelled. She was repaired at the Bethlehem yards at Hoboken, New Jersey. She was used by this Sovjets untill the year 1980, when the USA banned all Russian ships from its shores after the Sovjet-Union invaded Afghanistan. At the 18th of september that year, it was also the reason for American harbour workers to refuse and help the ship docking in New York. The ship had to anchor near Staten Island instead and the passengers had to be tendered ashore. Because of these problems, she was chartered out to the large German holiday company Neckermann and later to Phoenix Reisen. In 1988, the ship was modernized and she became one of the most popular cruiseships of her time. In 1989, she was nearly destroyed when she became stuck in the ice near Spitsbergen and she struck a leak. The ship sank up to her main deck and her passengers were evacuated. At first, it was thought the ship was a total-loss, but it was still possible to tow her to Spitsbergen where some reparations were made. She sailed back to Germany on her own power and was repaired at Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven. In august of that year, she resumed cruising.
When the Sovjet Union collapsed in 1991, the ownership was changed to SOVCOMFLOT and her homeport became Nassau at the Bahamas. Also, her name was restyled to Maxim Gorkiy. In that same year, in a fire in the aftermath of an impoding television in the crew quarters, three crewmembers died after they suffered from smoke-poisoning. Furthermore, her carreer went smoothly and she became one of the older passengerships in the modern cruisefleet. Her popularity was still great, especially with German passengers and she sailed worldwide cruises, dedicated to the European market. In 2008, it was announced that Maxim Gorkiy would leave the fleet of Phoenix Reisen. There were some rumours that she had been bought by Roman Abramovic, the Russian millionaire and owner of the English footballclub Chelsea. This was because his personal yaught, that he just had build in Holland, was surpassed in size by another yaught of a Russian millionaire and he did not liked this at all. That's why he bought Maxim Gorkiy so he again was the owner of the largest personal yaught in the world and he could now have 400 guests or more at one time. Her new name was told to be Chelsea Princess. Abramovic always denied these rumours and nothing happened indeed.
A more likely story was that the ship would become the Marco Polo II after Orient Lines was shut down in 2007 and the old Marco Polo was sold. The Orient Lines name was revived at the end of 2008 and a new ship was found in the now workless Maxim Gorkiy. Plans were almost complete and everyone expected the deal to go through. But in january 2009, news came out that Orient Lines would not be revived and Maxim Gorkiy would only sail to the breakers in India instead, due to the bad financial markets at the time. She was beached at february 25th of that same year.
Pictures were taken in 2003 while she was on her way to Amsterdam passing the North Sea channel passage near Buitenhuizen in The Netherlands.