It was a sad sight. Even as guests were arriving for a farewell lunch
on board the cruise ship Black Prince in Southampton today, workmen
were busy painting over the Fred Olsen name on the superstructure.
Earlier in the day her last passengers had gone ashore after an
emotional final cruise to the Canaries. Within minutes of their
departure, crew began to strip the vessel of its artwork, which
belongs to the Olsen family, and many of the other fixtures and
Within a week, the ship will set off for its new life sailing cruises
in Venezuelan waters, as the Ola Esmerelda.
But first, there was that lunch, where Passenger Shipping Association
director Bill Gibbons paid tribute to an “iconic ship,” which he said
had been a pioneer in many ways, particular in sailing unusual
itineraries to new and exciting destinations.
Fred Olsen marketing director Nigel Lingard recalled that when Black
Prince began a full-time cruising career in 1987, the entire British
cruising market amounted to 100,000 people a year, and Olsen carried
10,000 of them.
Now the company carries 100,000 people in its fleet which, although
reduced by one after today, includes Black Watch, Boudicca, Braemar
Lingard had been on board for the last week, and said he had never
seen so many loyal followers in one place at one time,. All of them
had cheered every single member of the crew to the echo as they
paraded through the Royal Garter restaurant during the last formal
No time for the tired old joke trotted out to every cruise ship captain when he attends a cocktail party. “Er, if you’re here, who’s driving the ship?” Because if all the 193 crew were on show, who was at the controls?
Anyway, there was a positive side to today’s lunch . As Lingard said, at least we could all be grateful that Black Prince would still be sailing with passengers on board, and is not heading for the scrapyard.