Unexpected Blue Hour-performance

A small handful of existing cruise ships ranks on my own, totally subjective list of classic cruise ship masterpieces from the modern cruise-era starting in the early seventies. A noteworthy number of them seems to have at least three things in common; They were built in Finland, they were designed with the involvement from the Danish naval architect firm Knud E. Hansen and finally, in their present day-operation, they trade on the German market often under the Phoenix Reisen brand.

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I try to keep up with potential photo opportunities involving those ships from that exclusive handful in my primary “hunting ground”, which means Jutland. Here time of the day – I normally avoid mid-day photo sessions – and of course the local weather forecast determines if I should go or not.

All parameters were optimal some weeks ago in Aalborg, where ARTANIA (ex. ROYAL PRINCESS from 1984) was set to depart at 20:00 under a forecasted clear sky. The time was slightly late for the optimum blue hour ultimo September in Denmark, but it’s not uncommon that cruise ships departs Aalborg between 30 to 60 minutes ahead of the published schedule.

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Together with two friends I was at the Aalborg Cruise Terminal already at 18:30, just in case. At precise 19:00 the fine-looking passenger vessel with its vast expanse of outside decks and stunning profile cast off. I was now a bit concerned with still 20 to 30 minutes to go before the blue hour.

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But the ships movement went on at an extremely slow pace. Then it just stopped around 20 meters from the quay, still aligned with it. After maybe ten minutes ARTANIA continued sidewise out in the basin, before a very slow 360-degree turn instead of the predicted 180-degree manoeuvre to face the eastern fairway through Limfjorden towards Kattegat.

First, we believed that there probably was a technical issue with the ships propulsion, and it might try to get along-side at the quay on the Nørresundby side of the fjord, but then ARTANIA suddenly started to sail very slowly westward against the way-to-low Limfjord Bridge. Fortunately, only for a few minutes before it stopped and took a 180-degree turn.

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Our common conclusion was now that it’s must have been a planned training exercise for a new captain or chief officer on the bridge. At precise 20:00, at the officially announced departure time, ARTANIA finally gained speed heading east for the two hours Limfjord-transit to open sea in Kattegat.

I was very pleased with the one hour long unexpected act right in front of me, well in the reach of my three fastest lenses (18 mm, 50 mm and 135 mm), and exactly within the frame of the twilight and the blue period after sunset. And last, but not least, with one of the world’s finest-looking existing passenger vessels as the object.

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ROYAL PRINCESS’s technical data as delivered October 1984

  • Owner: P&O Cruises, London
  • Operator: Princess Cruises
  • Building Yard: Oy Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • Yard No.: 464
  • Design: Oy Wärtsilä/Knud E. Hansen
  • Length (o.a.): 231.0 m
  • Breadth (mld): 29.2 m
  • Draught (dwl): 7.8 m
  • GRT: 44,348
  • NRT: 19,646
  • PAX (total): 1,260
  • PAX (berths): 1,200
  • PAX (cabins): 600
  • Special PAX-features: 3 swimming pools and 1 whirlpool, 6 elevators
  • Crew: 500
  • Propulsion: Diesel-mechanic 4 X SEMT Pielstick 6PC4-2L (medium speed) each 7,290 kW two-and-two coupled to reduction gears each to one 5.2 m diameter CP-propeller
  • AUX: None independent gensets , but instead 4 X PTO from gears to generators, each 7.5 MVA plus 2 X standby-diesels each 950 kW.
  • Trial speed: 22.0 knots
  • Fuel consumption: 120 tons/24 hour
  • The builders tender bid: 150 million US Dollars (approx. 700 million Finnish Markkaa in the early eighties)
    Sources: “Design 85”, by Klas Brogren (1985), www.faktaomfartyg.se, by Micke Asklander and “Innovation and Specialisation – The story of Shipbuilding in Finland” by Kalle Id and Bruce Peter (2017).

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