All text and photographs (unless stated otherwise) © Paul Timmerman
of hull no. 455 was laid in
July 1965 at the Bergens Mekaniske Verksted in
Bergen, Norway. The ship was ordered by Klosters Rederi A/S in Oslo. This would
be Klosters first passenger vessel.
March 1966 and
Christened Sunward. All other vessels of Klosters had names ending with –vard.
The ward-suffix of Sunward was the English version because she was
built for this market. In de sixties lots of
British spent their holidays in one of the sunny Mediterranean countries.
Swedish Lloyd had their Patricia sailing to Bilbao in Northern Spain. So Kloster
saw many opportunities for a service between Southampton, Vigo, Lissabon and
Sunward dressed overall
left Southampton for the first time on
June 25th 1966. Unfortunately, bookings were very low. A disagreement
between Spain and Great Britain regarding Gibralter –Spain saw Gibraltar as a
part of Spain- didn’t help matters either.
just 4 months the service was abruptly ended. Now Kloster had a brand new
passenger ship, and what to do with it?
Part of her brochure when sailing as The Empress for Empress Cruise Line
Arison, an Israeli, managed several Israeli passenger
ships cruising out of
American ports in the sixties. These ships were gradually sold however,
so Arison was facing a situation in which he would be left without a ship. He
saw many possibilities for cruises out of Florida to the Caribbean. It was his
foresight that started Caribbean cruising. He contacted Kloster and unfolded his
plans for Caribbean cruising. Kloster agreed and the Sunward started sailing out
of Miami on short cruises to the
Bahamas for the newly formed Norwegian Cruise Lines. She was now used as a cruise
ship, although her car deck was still in use so passengers could take
their cars to the Bahamas. Sometimes she would make longer cruises to Jamaica or
the Bermuda Islands.
a huge success, and Kloster ordered two larger ships to be built in Germany (AG
Weser yards), Starward and Skyward. These ships had capacity for 200 more
guests. Sunward continued sailing for NCL until until she was sold in 1972.
Sailing as Ile de Beaute
owners were the French Compagnie Generale Transmediterranee of Marseilles. She
arrived in France in April 1973 and was renamed Ile de Beaute. She was rebuilt
to accommodate 562 passengers in cabins and 540 deck-passengers. In
she started a ferry service out of France to Sardinia and Corsica.
changed into SNCM (Societe Nationale Maritime Corse Mediterranee). SNCM ordered
larger ships and history repeated itself: again Ile de Beaute had become too
Ile de Beaute made a trip to the Persian Gulf as a floating fair for French
following year she changed hands again and was sold to eastern Gulf Inc. and
started a new life as Grand Floatel as a hotel ship in Saudi Arabia.
ended in 1979, and she was reactivated yet again as a ferry, this time for Saudi
Maritime Transport Co. Under Saudi Arabian registry, she started a ferry service
after having been rebuilt. In her
new role she ferried pilgrims from Suez and Aqaba to Jeddah. She was renamed
Saudi Moon I. Although sold again in 1985 to Sabah Maritime Services Co.,
she remained in the Red Sea under the same name.
Click on thumbnail for a larger image
Part of Empress Cruise Line brochure
years later she was offered for sale, but it took another year to find a buyer.
the beginning of a next phase in her career, sailing again as a cruise
owners, the American firm Ocean Quest International from New Orleans had
something completely new in mind for the Ocean Spirit as she was now called. But
before she could start on this new venture, she was again rebuilt and modernized
1989 she was back in service sailing from New Orleans to Cozumel, Cancun and
Belize. Her cruises were to attract amateur divers. The Mexicans however did not
accept diving in their waters, especially the diving equipment used caused
problems with the Mexican authorities. Although her ports of call were changed,
she didn’t attract enough passengers to make a profit and in
September 1990 she
was for sale again………..
quickly sold to Ferry Charter Florida and at once chartered to SeaEscape Cruises
for day cruises with a main emphasis on gambling, sailing out of Miami or St.
Cabins on board The Empress
as she was now called
was chartered to a Danish firm in 1991. A being refitted
again she started sailing as a ferry between San Juan (Puerto Rico) and
St. Thomas (Virgin Islands). Bookings were low and after three months she
was laid up.
In 1993 SeaEscape used her again for gambling Cruises for a short period. In December of
this year, she was
used on a new Caribbean route, this time on 7-day
cruises out of Havana, Cuba as Santiago de Cuba sailing for Fratelli Cosulich.
Bad luck continued, because this also didn’t work out according to plan. On
some cruises, as few as 30 to 40 passengers were aboard…………
laid up in march 1994 and within a few months Empress Cruise Lines chartered
Empress wanted their share of the fast growing Asian cruise market. Renamed The Empress, the former Sunward seemed to have found her niche. Although a one ship operation, Empress was a rather successful small firm, holding her own in a market dominated by competitor Star Cruises. There was even talk of a second ship, but Empress wanted to develop step by step and was not in a hurry to add further tonnage.
Suddenly, Empress Cruise Lines ceased operations. The exact reasons remained somewhat obscure, which happens more often in the Asian cruise scene. The Empress was laid up. Then, (summer of 2003) there were rumours of several (Asian) parties being interested in her while reports that she had already sailed for the breakers turned out to be incorrect.
Other reports indicated that she had been sold for $ 1.3 mio for further cruise service in Indian waters.
Her planned refit did not materialize however and she
was suddenly sold to Indian scrappers in 2004.
Her planned refit did not materialize however and she was suddenly sold to Indian scrappers in 2004.