MS Gabriella

Viking line Logo

MS Gabriella is a cruiseferry sailing on a route connecting and for Viking Line. She was built in 1992 in Brodogradiliste Split, Croatia as MS Frans Suell for service with Euroway. Between 1994 and 1997 she sailed as MS Silja Scandinavia for Silja Line.

Built in 1992, 35,492 gross registered tonnes
Length 171.2 m, Ice class 1 A Super
2,420 passengers, 400 cars, 2,402 berths
Finnish flag

Concept and construction
Euroway was a concept developed during the latter half of the 1980s by the Sweden-based Sea-Link Shipping. The new brand was planned to operate two state-of-the-art cruiseferries between Malmö in and Lübeck in Germany via Travemünde in Germany, with the service aimed in particular at conference groups. Sea-link decided to order the ships from Brodogradiliste Split in what was at the time the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The ships were based on the same design as the MS Amorella and MS Isabella that had been built by the same shipyard for the Finland-based SF Line for Viking Line traffic in 1988 and 1989, respectively. The Euroway sisters were designed with a somewhat different layout of public spaces and cabins, as well as an additional cabin deck.

The order for the first ship, Frans Suell, was placed on 28 September 1989, with the delivery date projected in mid-1991. The ship was launched on 23 January 1991, but due to the civil war in Yugoslavia her construction was severely delayed, and she was not ready for her first sea trials until January 1992. Following her second sea trials in March 1992 the Frans Suell sailed to Rijeka—in what was now independent Croatia—for finalization of her construction and to receive the Euroway livery. The ship was finally delivered to her owners on 4 May 1992 and left Split for Malmö.

Service history

1992–1994: Frans Suell
On 16 May 1992 the Frans Suell was christened in Malmö by the Swedish opera singer Birgit Nilsson. The following day she set on her maiden voyage from Malmö to Travemünde and Lübeck, with only invited guests on board. On 19 May 1992 she began normal service on the Malmö–Travemünde route, with a daily departure from both ports. The service had a troubled start, as marketing had been difficult due to delays in the construction of the ship. Due to restrictions placed by the city of Malmö on traffic through the city, no trucks could be carried on board, and operating the buffet restaurant on board caused difficulties for the company.

From 1 September 1992 onwards the Frans Suell's route was extended to Lübeck for the duration of the northern hemisphere winter season. The call at Travemünde was maintained as the city of Lübeck did not allow cars to be unloaded in the city. Due to the longer crossing times the timetable was altered with departures from every second day from Malmö and Lübeck, with overnight crossings.

On 1 June 1993 Sea-Link Shipping entered an agreement with , with the latter assuming marketing and operational responsibility of the Euroway service and ships. The service now became marketed as Euroway, with MS Silja Festival joining the Frans Suell as the second ship on the service (the original planned second ship, MS Frans Kockum, had been even more severely delayed than the Frans Suell, and eventually Sea-Link cancelled the order). From the beginning of June 1993 the Frans Suell (and Silja Festival)'s route was again shortened to Malmö—Travemünde, with two daily departures from both ports.

With hopes of attracting more passengers, for the 1993-1994 winter season the route was extended into –Malmö–Travemünde–Lübeck from 1 September 1993 onwards, with daily departures from and Lübeck. Due to the low passenger figures on the service and the poor financial situation of Silja Line, the decision was made to terminate the Euroway service on 12 March 1994.wished to charter the Frans Suell for use on their Turku– service, and already on 2 March 1994 she had been chartered to Silja.

1994—1997: Silja Scandinavia
Following the closure of Euroway the Frans Suell sailed to the Vuosaari shipyard in where she was fitted with rear sponsons, refurbished, painted inlivery and renamed Silja Scandinavia. On 31 March 1994 she entered service on the Turku—Stockholm -route. Silja Line's main rivals Viking Line, who owned two of the ship's sisters, were also interested in chartering the ship but thought the price was too high.

As Silja Line's charter agreement for the Silja Scandinavia was drawing to a close in 1996, the main funders of Sea-Link demanded that instead of continuing the charter the ship should be sold to the highest bidder. Althoughwould have wanted to continue operating the ship, the company was in such a poor financial condition that it could not pay the price asked for the ship. Instead, she was sold to Viking Line on 11 November 1996, with the delivery date planned in April 1997. On 4 April 1997 the Silja Scandinavia arrived for the last time in Turku incolours.

1997 onwards: Gabriella
After ending her service with Silja Line, the Silja Scandinavia again sailed to the Vuosaari shipyard in where she was delivered to Viking Line, refurbished, repainted and renamed Gabriella (the name having been chosen by a public naming competition). On 17 April 1997 the Gabriella entered service for her new owners on the route. On 30 June 1999 the a call at Mariehamn was added to the service to maintain tax free sales on board. In 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 the ship spent brief periods sailing on Turku—Mariehamn— route, in place of the ship normally used in the service. On 23 January 2004 she collided with the harbour ferry MS Ehrensvärd in the resulting in minor damage to both ships.

Between 2008-05-05 and 2008-05-27 the Gabriella was rebuilt at Öresundsvarvet in Landskrona, , as a part of Viking Line's fleet rebuilding programme. The refit included the removal of the original cafeteria from deck 7 in favour of expanding the tax-free shop, the addition of a games room on deck 7, the addition of a Tapas & Wine restaurant on deck 8, the conversion of the former BBQ-restaurant into an Ella's restaurant, the conversion of the two-storey discothèque on decks 9 and 10 into a new cafeteria, the addition of new cabins in place of the former conference rooms on deck 11, and redecoration of the majority of passenger cabins.

Decks and facilities
As Frans Suell, 1992
1. Engine room
2. Inside cabins
3. Cardeck
4. Cardeck (hydraulic platform that can be lowered to divide the car deck in two giving space for two layers of passenger cars)
5. Outside and inside cabins
6. Sauna, hot tubs, swimming pool, outside and inside cabins
7. Cafeteria, children's playroom, information desk, Tax-Free shops, luxury and inside cabins, suites, crew accommodations
8. Buffet and a la carte restaurants, pub, night club, casino
9. Discothèque (lower level), luxury and inside cabins, suites, crew accommodations, sun deck
10. Conference rooms, discothèque (upper level), crew accommodations
11. Luxury cabins with balconies, lounge, crew accommodations
12. Bridge, sun deck

The layout and functions of different spaces were maintained with only minor changes through-out the ship's career as Silja Scandinavia and the first decade of her career as Gabriella.

As Gabriella, 2008
1. Engine room
2. Inside cabins
3. Cardeck
4. Cardeck (hydraulic platform that can be lowered to divide the car deck in two giving space for two layers of passenger cars)
5. Outside and inside cabins
6. Sauna, hot tubs, swimming pool, Outside and inside cabins
7. Children's playroom, youth club, information desk, Tax-Free shop, luxury and inside cabins, suites, crew accommodations
8. Buffet and a la carte restaurants, pub, tapas bar, night club, casino
9. Cafeteria (lower level), luxury and inside cabins, suites, crew accommodations, sun deck
10. Conference rooms, cafeteria (upper level), crew accommodations
11. Luxury cabins with balconies, inside cabins, crew accommodations
12. Bridge, sun deck

Web References:

Royal Viking Line

Royal Viking Line Former type: Cruise Line
Fate: Merged into Cunard
Successor: Norwegian Caribbean Line
Founded: 1972
Defunct: 1998
Headquarters: One Embarcadero Center San Francisco, CA,
Key people: Warren Titus
Industry: Travel & Tourism
Products: Cruises
Parent: Kloster (from 1986)

The Royal Viking Line was an upmarket cruise line that operated from 1972 until 1998. The company was the brain child of Warren Titus and had its headquarters at One Embarcadero Center in San Francisco.

Each of the line's initial three vessels was owned by one of its initial investing partners. The first, the Royal Viking Star, was completed in July, 1972. Its owner was Bergenske Dampskibsselskab (Bergen Line). The second, the Royal Viking Sky, was owned by Nordenfjeldske Dampskibsselskab of Trondheim. She was completed in July 1973. The third ship, the Royal Viking Sea, was ready in December of the same year. Her owner was AF Klaveness & Co., Oslo.

The ships were all built by Wärtsilä Helsinki New Shipyard, , and were each approximately 21,500 gross register tons (GRT) and nearly identical in appearance, with a tall superstructure and a single, scooped funnel. However, the Star was two feet shorter (581 feet), and her interior arrangement differed slightly from her two fleet-mates. Each ship featured a double-height theatre occupying an interior space on the two lowest passenger decks; however, on the Star the space just forward of the theatre on the higher of these decks was occupied by a chapel, a feature not found on either of her fleet-mates, nor any of the Scandinavian-built cruise ships of that generation. Other differences included the placement of small lounges and facilities such as the library.

These vessels were intended for longer voyages to exotic destinations, and a significant percentage of the line's passengers were wealthy retirees. As such, they featured numerous single staterooms and suites, and thus their capacity was only about 550 compared to 750-850 on similarly-sized ships of other lines. Royal Viking Line prided itself on single-seating dining, and the restaurant was situated unusually high in the ship, with large windows. Another popular feature was a glass-enclosed lounge high atop the bridge, which afforded excellent views.

On May 1 1976 the Royal Viking Sky and Royal Viking Star became the first sister ships to have transited the Canal simultaneously in different directions, the Sky sailing westbound and the Star eastbound.

Beginning in 1980, each of the three ships was 'stretched' to 28,000 GRT by adding a 93-foot prefabricated midships section at the A.G. Weser shipyard in Bremerhaven. This increased each ship's capacity by 200 passengers, and mainly included the addition of cabins. Aft of the observation lounge, a new lounge and nine penthouse suites with balconies were added. The size of the main restaurant was also doubled and now occupied nearly half of one deck in order to maintain single-seating dining.

The line's management had determined the expansion was more economical than building a fourth ship; however, the plan backfired, because many of their loyal passengers felt the larger ships had lost their intimate appeal.

Purchase by Kloster
In 1986 the line was purchased by Norwegian Caribbean Line, then part of the Kloster group. The offices were moved to Coral Gables, Florida, and Warren Titus departed in 1987. While under Kloster ownership, Royal Viking built a fourth ship, the Royal Viking Sun. Constructed by Wärtsilä in Turku, Finland, she was 39,000 GRT and carried 850 passengers. The final ship built for Royal Viking was the Royal Viking Queen completed in 1992. She was just 10,000 GRT, carrying only 212 passengers and sharing a general arrangement with the Seabourn Pride and Seabourn Spirit of Seabourn Cruise Line, the new home of Warren Titus.

In 1990, Kloster moved the Royal Viking Sea to its Royal Cruise Line brand, where she took the name Royal Odyssey, and the Star to its Norwegian Cruise Line brand, where she became the Westward.

In 1991, the Royal Viking Sky was transferred to NCL and renamed Sunward.

In 1993, the Westward ex Royal Viking Star became the Star Odyssey for Royal Cruise Line. The passenger capacity on each of the original three ships had been increased to 850, mainly with the addition of staterooms amidships on the Bridge Deck, in what used to be officers' quarters. A buffet was also added in the lounge on the top deck, since the ships did not have the casual indoor/outdoor dining area (often called a Lido) that was becoming de rigueur.

In 1994, as part of Kloster Cruise's bankruptcy, the Royal Viking Line was dissolved. Royal Viking Queen was transferred to Royal Cruise Line as Queen Odyssey, while Royal Viking Sun and the Royal Viking brand were sold to Cunard Line Ltd. Cunard combined the Royal Viking Sun with four of its other ships, Sagafjord, Vistafjord, Sea Goddess I, and Sea Goddess II to form the reorganized 'Cunard Royal Viking Line', which lasted until 1998. In 1998, all of Cunard Line Ltd.'s ships were merged under the Cunard Line brand, following the company's takeover by Carnival Corporation.

The Royal Viking ships today
The Royal Viking Queen operated briefly as the Queen Odyssey for Royal Cruise Line, then joined her sister ships at Seabourn Cruise Line as the Seabourn Legend, after Kloster liquidated Royal Cruise as well. Cunard Line operated the Royal Viking Sun with her original name until 1999, then she joined her former fleetmate as the Seabourn Sun, as by this time, Seabourn had been acquired by Cunard's parent, Carnival, and merged into Cunard Line Ltd. This phase lasted until 2002, when she was transferred again to Holland America Line Inc. (another Carnival subsidiary), becoming the second Prinsendam, for Holland America Line, where she remains today.

After several more changes of name and ownership, the former Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sky sail with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, the Royal Viking Star as the Black Watch and the Royal Viking Sky as the Boudicca. Aboard both ships, the lounge/buffet on the top deck has been replaced with additional passenger cabins, while the observation lounge above the bridge remains. The length of Bridge Deck is now occupied by passenger cabins (with the ship's officers scattered around the ship). Aboard the Black Watch, the aft portion of the formerly vast main dining-room has been converted to two smaller restaurants and an additional lounge. A spacious, glass-lined space on the top deck hosts the fitness center and spa. The former chapel has been carved into three additional staterooms. The changes on Boudicca are even more radical, where the dining-room space was broken up into no fewer than four separate restaurants and the space formerly occupied by the theatre has been converted into additional staterooms and a fitness centre.

The former Royal Viking Sea sails for the German company Phoenix Reisen as the Albatros. Layout-wise, she has probably changed the least, with the majority of public rooms remaining in their original configuration.

Web References:


 Finland Map

This webpage was updated 27th January 2020