Mystery surrounds the fate of cruise ship retiree Saga Ruby, which arrived in Gibraltar today.
The last passenger vessel to have been built on the Tyne, she has reached the age – in shipping terms – at which she should have been expecting a telegram from The Queen, according to Saga Shipping MD Robin Shaw.
Ruby, launched in 1972, returned to Southampton on Friday after a farewell cruise that did not go entirely to plan. A generator failure forced the Captain to cancel the entire Caribbean itinerary and instead the passengers spent Christmas in the Mediterranean – taking a 40 per cent money back offer on their fares. Only about 36 chose the option to accept a full refund and fly home.
But even the end of the voyage was different from expected. The ship spent several days sheltering in Lisbon instead of braving the worst of the winter storms in the Bay of Biscay, reaching Southampton shortly before midnight on Thursday.
By Friday, with the last of its passengers heading home, Ruby set off again. The visit to Gibraltar is likely to be for a spell in dry dock. Beyond that, its future is far from clear.
Saga has confirmed that the ship, which sailed under the names Vistafjord and Caronia for Cunard and can accommodate 655 passengers and 380 crew, has been sold for conversion into a floating hotel.
But they cannot say where, other than that it will be in Asia.
A report on the ship’s homecoming published on the BBC News website suggested Ruby will end up in Singapore, although in the video clip that went with it, transport correspondent Paul Clifton said the ship was going to Burma.
Given that there is no shortage of hotel accommodation in boomtown Singapore, it seems unlikely there would be much of a market for Ruby there.
Burma, however, is a different story. Fast emerging as a popular holiday destination now that its people have been freed from an oppressive military dictatorship, it has virtually no tourist infrastructure and very few hotels of acceptable Western standards – as I have discovered on two recent visits.
After a wash and brush up, Ruby would shine like a jewel on the Rangoon waterfront, or wherever her new owners see fit to berth her.
My thanks to ChrisR for his YouTube video of Ruby’s final departure from Southampton.