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Ocean Countess

Ocean Countess as seen at the 5th of may 2012, sailing past IJmuiden, on charter to the British based CMV Cruises.

When the Caribbean cruiseindustry was starting to become a lucrative business, it was not only old linercompanies and new cruiselines that wanted to get a piece of the growing cake. The hollywood MGM studios, a filmcompany, also wanted to diversify, and they planned a staggering number of eight similar cruiseliners of about 17.000 tons to become one of the biggest cruisecompanies in the region. The building of these ships started in Kopenhagen, Denmark at the wharf of Burmeister & Wain. Unique in cruise history at that moment, the ships and the machinery would be built in Denmark, but the completion of the ships would take place in Italy.

Even before the first ship were ready for completion in Italy, MGM lost interst in their new venture and the contract was taken over by Cunard Line, that was eager to replace their first pair of purpose built cruiseliners, Cunard Ambassador and Cunard Adventurer, ships that were far too small and unsuccesfull. The first new ship, built as yardnumber 858, was to be called Cunard Countess and she was launched in Denmark at the 20th of september 1974. Ironicly, just one week earlier on the 13th of september, the Cunard Ambassador, one of the ships she was going to replace, burned while on route to New Orleans to take on passengers for a Caribbean cruise. The crew was taken off the ship by the US registered tanker Tallulah and although the ship survived, she was quickly sold to Denmark and rebuilt as a lifestock carrier. In july 1984, this ship again suffered a large fire and she didn't recover from this one. Her burned-out hull was scrapped soon after this second fire.

The Cunard Countess was delivered to her new owners at the 21st of may 1975 and sailed as plan for La Spezia in Italy, where she was to be completed at the wharf of Industrie Navali Meccaniche Affini. The ship was 163,56 meters long, 22,80 meters wide and she had a draft of 5,82 meters. She was designed for 959 passengers in one class and 350 crew. Her homeport was traditionally Southampton in England, and her topspeed was to be around 21,5 knots, although her cruising speed was to be 17 knots perfectly normal for her sceduled cruises. Her tonnage was 16.795. Her sistership was planned to become the Cunard Conquest, but because 'Conquest' wasn't considered to be a good name for a cruiseliner, this was altered to the more friendly Cunard Princess during the building. When this ship was named in march 1977, Cunard stated that this would probably be 'the very last passengership to be built.' They did not expect that the cruise-industry would expand any further. At least for Cunard Line it took a while before they had another cruiseliner built, the 2003-built Queen Mary 2 would be their next order, 26 years later.

Like the Queen Elizabeth 2the new flagship and transatlantic liner of the Cunard Line, Cunard Countess got an all-white funnel so the old Cunard colouring seemed to be abandonned for good. But this was only for a short while, because she did recieve the traditional funnel-colouring later on. Her positioning cruise to San Juan at Puerto Rico, that was to become her home-base in the Caribbean, was partially with passengers who sailed between Barcelona in Spain and Antigua, Barbados.  The ship was named in San Juan at the 14th of august 1976 by Janet Armstrong, the wife of the first man who walked on the moon, Neil Armstrong. After her naming, the ship settled in to become one of the most well-known cruiseships of the region, before she was chartered in 1982 by the British Ministry of Defence in the aftermath of the Falklands war. In government service, the ship served as a troopship between Ascension Island and Port Stanley, while the airport of Port Stanley was rebuilt. Also, the ship sailed a voyage with family and friends of those lost in battle and commemorations were held onboard for the victims of the war. When the ship was to become a cruiseliner again, Cunard awarded the contract for the rebuilding to Malta Shipyards at the small Mediterranean island with the same name, something the proud British were not to happy about in the aftermath of the war. Especially because Cunard stated that the rebuilding of the ship in Malta would be much faster done then in Great Britain. Her Caribbean cruises atarted again in july of 1983.

In 2005 and the first half of 2006, the ship was sailing in charter for the German operator Holiday Kreuzfahrten as their Lili Marleen. Holiday Kreuzfahrten was declared bankrupt in september 2006.

In 1990, the ship was registered in Nassau and so started flying the flag of the Bahama's. The flagship of Cunard Line, Queen Elizabeth 2, kept the traditional homeport though. Cunard Countess kept sailing mostly Caribbean cruises, before she was sold to a new company called Awani Cruise Line in october 1996. For Awani, the ship was registered in Panama and renamed as Awani Dream 2, she was marketed as a luxury vessel, which although she was very comfortable, in fact she was not. Awani also sailed another ship, the former 1966-built  Renaissance that was named Awani Dream for them. This also was no luxury liner, so Awani was not really a succes. The company failed in 1998 and the Greece-based Royal Olympic Cruises picked up the former Cunard ship and renamed her Olympic Countess. For this company, the ship was mostly based in the Mediterranean Sea, their main cruising region. But also problems arose for ROC in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in America. First, the company had a dispute with the International Olympic Committee, and they had to change the name of the company to Royal Olympia Cruises, because the word 'Olympic' was claimed by the Committee. Because of this, the ships within the company that had their names starting with 'Olympic' also had to change those. So Olympic Countess was renamed Olympia Countess in 2001. But this was not the worst for the company, because in 2004 Royal Olympia was declared bankrupt after they failed payments for their first newbuilds Olympia Voyageand Olympia Explorer. The ships of Royal Olympia were laid-up and Olympia Countess  was sold to Majestic International Cruises. This company, also Greece-based, doesn't operate ships under their own name, but they charter them out to other operators. The company owns two ships, next to Olympia Countess, that was renamed Ocean Countess for them, they also are the owners of the smallish Ocean Majesty.

The first charter for Ocean Countess was in the summer of 2005 to the Spanish company Globalia. After this, the ship was chartered to the new German company Holiday Kreuzfahrten. For them, she recieved another name, Lili Marleen. The company used a very innovative funnel-colouring, as the funnel of Lili Marleen possibly presents a painting of Marlene Dietrich. The song 'Lili Marleen' was written in Germany during the first worldwar by soldier Hans Leip and was an instant succes under the German troops. But it also became a hit under allied troops, especially when German moviestar Marlene Dietrich sang the song. This did upset the German forces, because they had used the song to keep their spirits up. Now the allies used it too and the song lost its power to the Germans because of this. At some moments, it was reported that both sides sang the song at the same time during the fightings, one side sang the English version, the other side the German version. This made the song later a symbol that music can bring people together in the hardest situations. The other ship in the Holiday Kreuzfahrten fleet was called Mona Lisa and this ship had been the 1966-built Kungsholm for the Swedish American Line earlier on. This ship presented the famous painting of Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci around 1506 on her funnel.

Also Holiday Kreuzfahrten was declared bankrupt in september 2006 and the ship had to find another home again. This, she found in 2007 with Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines for whom she sailed as the Ruby. The reason she was chartered wasn't a lucky one, though. She was the replacement-ship for the former Louis flagship Sea Diamond that had sunk after she hit rocks at the island of Santorini, Greece at the 5th of april 2007. Two of her passengers, a father and his 16-year old daughter from France, had died in the sinking. 

In december 2007, the ship was renamed Ocean Countess again, before being chartered out to Quail Cruises for a series of Mediterranean cruises in 2009. From april 2010 onwards, the ship was chartered to the British-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages, a company that also sails with the 1964-built Marco Polo. For CMV, Ocean Countess mostly sailed European cruises, untill her place in the fleet was taken over by Discovery for the 2013 season onwards. Ocean Countess sailed her 'Farewell Cruise' to the Canary Islands and Madeira at the end of 2012, before being laid up in the Greek port of Chalkis. Still owned by Majestic International Cruises, she was to be rebuilt for a charter to a Russian company from the spring of 2014 onwards.

Sadly, at the 30th of november 2013, a fire broke out midships and because the ships systems were not working due to her lay-up, the sprinklersystem was out. Five people who were aboard could be evacuated, but the ship itself was engulfed by the flames. After the fire was extinguished, it seemed very unlikely that she was ever able to return to service due to the damage done and she was only fit for scrap. At the 6th of march 2014, she left her lay-up berth in tow of the tug Christos XXII for the breakers yard.

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