Louis Aura, the former Starward of Norwegian Cruise Line

Louis Aura, the former Starward of Norwegian Cruise Line

A report from Peter Knego in Maritime Matters today brings the sad news that Louis Rhea, the former Cunard Adventurer, is about to head off to the scrapyards of Alang.

This comes just days after the fire that seems to have consigned her successor in the Cunard fleet, Ocean Countess ex-Cunard Countess, to a similar fate. The timing is grimy ironic, to put it mildly.

Cunard Adventurer was one of a pair of sisters acquired in 1971. The other ship, Cunard Ambassador, was rebuilt as a livestock carrier after a major fire, and has since subsequently been scrapped.

After six years with Cunard, the ship was sold to what was then called Norwegian Caribbean Lines in 1977. Renamed Sunward II, she was then used for many years on twice weekly, three and four night cruises out of Miami to the Bahamas. It was a role in which she proved very popular for several years. While with NCL, her original tall, single funnel was replaced with a pair of twin, side by side uptakes, angled slightly outboard, to bring her into line visually with the rest of her fleetmates,

In 1991, the ship went firstly to Epirotiki Cruises, the Greek operator, who ran her in the Aegean and Mediterranean as the Triton. She continued in their service when the company name changed to Royal Olympic Cruises, staying with them until the line’s eventual, drawn out demise in 2004.

A move to Louis Cruises followed, when the 14,000 ton ship was renamed again, this time as Coral. A refit included the conversion of her former Observation Lounge, high above the bridge, into a block of de luxe cabins but, otherwise, her appearance had changed very little over the decades.

Coral went to work, both on short, three and four night Aegean cruises, and sometimes on longer, ten night Mediterranean cruises that allowed embarkation in both Genoa and Marseilles. It was a role she was to largely maintain right through 2011, when the ship was laid up at the end of that season.

There was an ambitious plan to bring the ship back into service as the Louis Rhea, running a series of seven night itineraries that would also have allowed for the welcome addition of an overnight stay in Mykonos. Sadly, this very promising option never did come to pass, and Louis Cruises has finally decided to call time on the career of the now forty-three year old veteran.

Ironically, another of her former Norwegian fleet mates- the 1968 built Louis Aura ex-Starward- continues in service for Louis Cruises, with a French charter in the offing for the first part of 2014.

The impending loss of Louis Rhea raises the decibels on alarm bells ringing for that first generation of purpose built, Love Boat era cruise ships. With Song Of Norway and Pacific Princess already confirmed casualties of this maritime cull, it looks as if the procession to the block is getting longer by the week. Deeply sad and inevitable.


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