Much-loved cruise ship Black Prince is on her way back to Britain for the very last time. The old girls farewell cruise to the Canaries ends tomorrow when she arrives at Southampton.
Within a few hours, the last passengers will be disembarked, amid a flood of tears I’ve no doubt, and the ship will be prepared to sail to a new life, under a new name, Ola Esmeralda, in Venezuelan waters.
The ship, built for Fred Olsen in 1996, started life as a passenger and cargo ship carrying tomatoes from the Canary islands and sailing as a car ferry to Scandinavia in the winter months. In 1987 she was converted into a cruise ship carrying 439 passengers.
Now she is leaving the Olsen fleet because she does not comply with the latest SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) legislation and, to be honest, because however quaint she now is, most passengers now expect more modern facilities than the Black Prince can offer.
In her final entry in last the 2009 Berlitz Guide to cruise ships, Douglas Ward writes of the ship with marked affection, referring to a “well-rounded experience” with well-organised cruises, interesting itineraries, decent food and friendly service from crew members who “smile and mean well.”
He adds: “Passengers want to come back again and again, rather like going back to a favourite B&B.”
Before Black Prince leaves our shores for the last time, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines are holding a farewell lunch for suppliers and dozens of travel agents who have booked thousands of passengers onto the ship in the past few years.
I shall be there too, and will report back here when the tears have dried.