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Serenissima

In february of 1959, Nordenfjelkses Dampskipsselskap (NFDS) ordered a new ship for the Hurtig Ruten service along the Norwegian coast, to take over from the aging Sigurd Jarl, that had been built in 1942 and that was in the late 1950's the last steamship of the line. At the 29th of january 1960, the replacement ship Harald Jarl was launched from the Trondheims Mekaniske Verksted at Trondheim, Norway. She had a lenght of 87,40 meters, a width of 13,30 meters and her draft was 4,60 meters. The topspeed of the ship was 18 knots, although in the fjords the servicespeed was mostly considerably lower. Some 600 passengers could be taken along, of whom 224 could sail in the ships cabins. Of those, 55 were travelling first class and 169 travelled second class. The rest was taken as deckpassengers at the ships four decks. The ship had been designed as a somewhat larger version of the 1956-built Ragnvald Jarl, although Harald Jarl was six meters longer and had a higher tonnage because of an added panoramalounge at her deck. Her total tonnage-measurement was 2568.

Serenissima sailed past IJmuiden on her way to Amsterdam at the early morning of the 11th of august of 2015. Turning 55 this years, she still is a true classic cruise experience. And no, there is no rock-climbing wall or rope-course, neither a monorail skyride at those decks.

Harald Jarl was delivered to her owning company at the 20th of june 1960 and she sailed her first voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes, the traditional mailroute, departing at the 23rd of june, midsummer night. The ship had been designed by architect Finn Nielsen from Arnstein Arneberg Architects and her art-collection was provided by Kaare Espolin Johnson.

In 1968, the ship opened up a summerservice sailing up into Svalbard and from 1970 onwards she sailed several springtime cruises to the Shetland Islands. A few mishaps befell her in those years, as she collided with the Sunnmore in february of 1969, damaging her bow close to the town of Hustadvika. In january 1973, the ship grounded off Raftsundet and had to be repaired at Bergen because of this.

In 1980, the ship was rebuilt as a one-class mailship and three years later, she recieved a large update to bring her in line with the newest ships of the Hurtig Ruten combine. In 1985, NFDS was changing its name into NFDS Shipping , when 92 percent of the stocks of the company were bought by Norcem. A few months later, Norcem sold NFDS to Kosmos Shipping, a company that also owned Det Bergenske Dampskipsselskap, and in 1989, Kosmos sold both of these companies to Troms Fylkes Dampskipsselskap and both names dissappeared from the shipping world. For Harald Jarl, nothing changed much during those years, although her homeport changed from Trondheim to Tromso in 1989 and of course she also recieved the funnelmarkings of the TFDS company. Kosmos itself was split up in that same year and started trading under the names of I.M. Skaugen and Color Line.

In the 1990's, it became clear that the Hurtig Ruten service was more and more appealing to tourists and to cope with increased traffic, the combine ordered a series of six ships that were way larger then the classic mailboats and were also able to carry more passengers and cars. With over 11.000 tons, those six ships were a huge improvement for the combine, starting with the Kong Harald in 1992. The 'Nye Skipene' or translated the 'new ships' started to replace the older liners, although Harald Jarl kept sailing untill 2001, when the new Trollfjord was launched as her successor. At the 10th of october of that year, the ship sailed her last voyage along the Norwegian coast, arriving at Bergen for the last time at the 21st of october. Artworks from the Harald Jarl were brought over to the new ship and at the 1st of july 2002, the ship was sold to AML Shipping from Croatia and renamed Andrea. This, despite of the attempts of a Norwegian-based consortium to keep her in Norway as a ship based in Trondheim. But for the consortium, it was no possibility to obtain the askingprice for the vessel. Luckily, AML Shipping, trading as Elegant Cruises, started rebuilding the ship at Udevalla and later Göteborg and brought her back into service as a cruiseliner, departing her first cruise at the 4th of november of 2003. So although she did not stay in Norway, she was saved from the luring scrapheaps. As a cruisliner, she of course lost the ability for the carriing of deckpassengers and her cabins were also rebuilt so there now was space aboard for 120 passengers. Marketed as a four-star cruiseliner, all of herpublic rooms were also modernized and updated. For Elegant Cruises, the Andrea started to fly the Liberian flag, homeported at Monrovia. She mainly sailed the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas for the company, but was also seen in Norway and even as far as Antarctica. This all untill Elegant Cruises was declared bankrupt in april of 2009 and the ship was laid-up at Split, Croatia. It was hoped that Elegant Cruises would be able to pay for the outstanding bills, but as mostly in those cases, they were not. The ship was put up for sale by her creditors for $15 million, mostly considered way too high for the ship. Especially because a buyer had to update the ship for SOLAS (Safety Of Lives At Sea) 2010 regulations, adding another $3 million to this bill. Later in became clear that the price consisted out of $4 million for the ship itself, the rest of the price being the outstanding depts of the former company.

There were many fans of the small ship and, now scrapping was a true possibility for the 49-year old, some of those gathered at the internet forum CaptainsVoyage Forum. It was here, that the Russian company Volga Cruises, operating the rivercruiseliner Volga Dream at the Russian rivers, spotted the ship and gained affection for her and a thought about growing into sea travel. At an auction at the 4th of april 2012, the company decided to buy the ship and have her modernized and updated. To the relieve of many of the ships fans, althouh at first the company that was named as the buyer seemed non-existing and unknown (creating lots of scepticism), she was indeed updated at the Solinbrodogradnja Shipyard at Vranjic, Croatia and re-appeared under the name of Serenissima for Serenissima Cruises after rebuilding was completed for her trials at the 3rd of april of 2013. Of course, this all was watched with a sharp eye by the members of the captainsVoyage Forum. The name Serenissima means 'the most serene', but is also the name of the former Republic of Venice, once the true might over the Mediterranean Sea.

Returning back from her trials at Split at the 4th of april, she immidiately was getting ready for her first cruise, starting one day later. This cruise took her into the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. The update had created a fresh, modern ship totally cleared for the newest SOLAS regulations. The new passenger capacity was set at 117, cared for by 55 crewmembers. Those mostly came over from the Volga Dream, but this doesn't seem to give problems although the totally different natures of both ships. During rebuilding, the entire hull was sandblasted and repainted, the watertight doors were all replaced, the galley was updated and renewed and most strikingly, four new balcony-suites were added aft of the bridge. The mast and funnel of the ship were kept, keeping her classic profile. New lifeboats were added, just like zodiacs (small inflatable rafts for sightseeing) and cranes to lower those. Of course also the decks were re-done and given a yaught-like finish. For a smoother ride, also stabilizers were added and of course the ship could't do without a jacuzzi in her former cargo-hatch. Although she is a very small ship, she has quite a lot to offer her passengers. All cabins come with flat-screen television, modern interiours and a lot of comfort in the bathrooms. The Venice Restaurant has also an outside terrace when weather permits and is free seating. Next up, the ship has two lounges named the Harald Jarl lounge and the Andrea lounge, a library with internet-point, an observation deck and a fitness area, a massage salon and a first-aid office. The ship has many touches to her past as a Hurtig Ruten liner, and even te artworks are copied and replaced, as the Original ones were brought aboard Trollfjord. Interiours are done in blue, creme and red colours, creating a fresh modern but at the same time classic look and feel aboard.

The ship is now seen sailing all over Europe, including Norway of course and it seems that she still has a lot of life in her.

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