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Ocean Endeavour

Ocean Endeavour shown passing the village of Velsen-Zuid after the first visit to Amsterdam under her new name at the 12th of may 2016.

At the end of the 1970's, the Sovjet Union owned shipping companies ordered a series of seven identical ships of just under 10.000 tons that would serve in the four most important fleets of the country. These were the Estonian Shipping Company of Tallinn, the Black Sea Shipping Company of Odessa, the Baltic Shipping Company of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and the Far Eastern Shipping Company of Wladivostok. The first of the ships was launched at the 10th of october 1979 for the Estonian Shipping Company under the name Georg Ots. The ship was named after a famous operasinger from Tallinn (1920-1975). She started service as a ferry beteen Tallinn and Helsinki in 1980. The second and thirth ship were built for the largest of the Sovjet companies, the Black Sea Shipping Company. Their names were Dmitriy Shostakovich, launched at december 29th, 1979 and Lev Tolstoy, launched at the 6th of february 1981. Dmitriy Shostakovich (1906-1975) was a Sovjet composer and pianist who's work was controversial because of the connections to the Sovjet Unions politics. Lev Tolstoy (1828-1910) was a writer who was also very much involved in the countries politics.

The fourth ship would eventually become Ocean Endeavour, but this ship was launched at the 17th of april 1981 under the name of Konstantin Simonov for the Baltic Shipping Company. She got her name from a Russian writer and poet (1915-1979) and he was very conservative and dedicated to the Sovjet system. The fifth ship of the class was the Mikhail Suslov, named after a Sovjet statesman (1902-1982), and she was launched at the 17th of july 1981. The last two ships of the class were the Mikhail Sholokhov, that was launched at the 5th of june 1985 and the Konstantin Chernenko that was launched at the 24th of january 1986. Both ships were built for the Far Eastern Shipping Company andwere bigger than the earlir five ships, measuring almost 13.000 tons. The first one was named after writer Mikhail Sholokhov (1905-1984). The last one was named after Konstantin Chernenko (1911-1985), the leader of the Sovjet Union between 1984 and 1985, when he died and was succeded by Mikhail Gorbachov.

In Amsterdam in june of 2011, as Kristina Katarina she had the opportunity to meet two German ships of Phoenix Reisen. At the terminal is the 1973-built Albatros and to the left is the newly aquired 1984-built Artania, former Artemis of P&O Cruises. For me, it proved to be a unique opportunity to picture three older cruiseships together of whom the youngest one, Artania, was 27 years old at the time. 

The ships were all built at the Stocznia Sczcecinska im A. Warskiego wharf at Stettin, Poland. Their yardnumbers were all the same, 492, followed by a '/' and 01 untill 06. Only the first ship in the class, Georg Ots, was built under another number, 493/01. So Konstantin Simonov was built under yardnumber 492/03 and she was delivered to the Baltic Shipping Company at the 21st of april 1982. For this company, she was used as a ferry on the service between Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and Helsingfors (Helsinki). She had accomodations for 376 passengers in 120 cabins and 170 crewmembers. The ship measured 9885 tons when she was put into service and she has a lenght of 136,61 meters, she is 21,01 meters wide and her draft is 5,60 meters. Her normal speed is 20 knots. In february 1988, the ship was modernized at the Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven and with this refit she also recieved a new bow.

Because of the political changes after the collapse of the Sovjet Union, she sailed under the flag of Russia instead of the Sovjet Union from 1991 onwards. A few years later, Leningrad changed its name to St. Petersburg in 1995. This of course also had a consequence for the ships of the Baltic Shipping Company, because their homeport changed also to St. Petersburg. From this moment on, the Konstantin Simonov was marketed under the banner of the Baltic Express Line, but kept sailing her normal route between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. But she also undertook some cruises now, although it was not her main focus. On the 30th of march 1996, she started sailing the service between St. Petersburg and Kiel but this was only shortlived. On the 28th of may 1996, Baltic Shipping Company was declared bankrupt. It was not a real surprise, these former Sovjet companies had always been owned by the state and now they had to be owned privately. This did not work out well, because their financial managements were not that good in their years after 1991.

As Kristin Katarina again, the ship is shown leaving Amsterdam at the 1st of june 2011.

The ship was laid-up at Kiel, Germany and was sold in november 1996 to the Columbia Ship Management from, good guess..., Venezuela, but registered for Pakartin Shipping Company, based at Limassol, Cyprus. She was meant to be employed in Australia (yes, a true world-wide network) under the name of Francesca. Her tonnage had been re-measured at 12.688 but nothing happened to the ship after she was relocated to Wilhelmshaven, Germany and she was laid-up again. It was not untill september 2000 that the ship was sold to Silver Cruises of Valletta, Malta and was used for service by Mano Maritime. For them, she was now truly rebuilt as a cruiseship and started cruising in the Mediterranean for Mano Maritime under the name of The Iris from april 2001 onwards. Her tonnage had changed to 12.825 and she was now sailing with up to 650 passengers in 231 cabins. In november 2001, she was joined by her sister The Jasmine, that had ben bought by Mano Maritime and was the former Lev Tolstoy. 

In 2009, the Finnish company Kristina Cruises was looking for a replacement of their magnificent but aging 1959-built beauty Kristina Regina that was to be taken out of service in 2010. In The Iris they found a good candidate and so the ship was sold to Kristina Cruises at the 11th of december 2009. She was delivered to the company a few days later, at the 17th of december. She sailed soon afterwards from Haifa to Kotka, her new homeport and homebase of Kristina Cruises. At the 24th of february 2010, she was officially renamed Kristina Katarina and brought under the Finnish flag. Her first cruise started from Kotka in the Baltic Sea at the 28th of august 2010 and after this, she started sailing around western Europe and the Mediterranean.

Because of the world's financial crisis, a lot of companies faced hard times and Kristina Cruises was one of them. Despite that Kristina Katarina is a comfortable, good ship that still has the style of a family owned company like Kristina Cruises, the company did not go well also. A lot of customers from Kristina Cruises preferred the old ambiance aboard the earlier vessels and for them, Kristina Katarina just misses the edge. The company mostly relied on their fair share of repeat-passengers and now they were partially gone, it seemed impossible to fill the ship to capacity. Near the end of 2013, it was announced that Kristina Cruises had to file for bankrupcy and Kristina Katarina was laid up at Las Palmas, but in later announcements this bankrupcy was denied by the company itself. Not that all was well, for the sake of a debt restructuring sceme the sailings of Kristina Katarina around the Canary Islands in the winter of 2013/2014 were cancelled. The company stated that the reason herefor was the bad overall economic situation in Finland as well as well as the drop in prices of vacations at the Canary Islands itself. The company was not declared bankrupt, though and it was believed that the sailings from march 2014 onwards were still going through and also the river cruises that Kristina Cruises is offering are still sailed.

In january 2014, Kristina Katarina was sold and the company ceased to be a cruise-operator. Kristina Cruises was reformed into a travel-agent for other operators, and the ship was sold to a part of International Shipping Partners, FleetPro Ocean. For them, she was renamed Ocean Endeavour and her first role was that of an accomodation-vessel for workers on the Petrovav Gas Project in the Scottish Hebrides. For her new role, the ship was stationed in Lerwick and she departed Las Palmas at the 18th of january 2014. During the summer of 2014, the ship started sailing again in charter for Adventure Canada, for whom she operated several cruises around Greenland, the Eastern coast of Canada and the Canadian Arctic. After this season ,the ship was rebuilt for Quark Expeditions as a true expedition cruiseship with space for just 199 passengers. Still as Ocean Endeavour, she now is a part of their fleet, although she sails under the banner of Polar Expeditions. 

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