Pacific Pearl has now entered her final few months with P&O Cruises Australia before she heads off on her final cruise on 27th March on a 16 night voyage from Auckland to Singapore where she will undergo refit and emerge as Columbus for Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV)
At 63,786grt, 247m long and with a cruising speed of 21.5 knots, Pacific Pearl was originally ordered for the Sitmar Line as Sitmar FairMajesty in June 1986 with the keel being laid in mid 1987. Sitmar was taken over by P&O in 1988 and thus subsequently she was transferred to Princess Cruises where she was delivered in March 1989 and was named by Audrey Hepburn in Miami as Star Princess.
Star Princess’s stay with Princess was fairly brief and in 1997 she was transferred to P&O Cruises where she was renamed Arcadia. She was seen as direct replacement to Canberra and running mate to the then 2 year old Oriana and Victoria.
She was marketed for long distance cruising for P&O and undertook a maiden world cruise in 1998 and then again in 1999 before the newly built Aurora (2000) would take over in 2001 with world cruising duties.
She then continued normal cruising duties for P&O before yet another transfer in 2003 this time to a newly established arm of P&O, Ocean Village. A casual style cruising which was aimed at those that didn’t do cruising. It would cater for a younger market of passengers between the ages of 30 and 50 and renamed as Ocean Village, she would be based in the summer in the Mediterranean for a series of 7/14 night fly cruises and then in the winter season, she would head to the Caribbean. She would be joined by former Princess fleet mate Crown Princess, which had been sailing as AIDAblu for AIDA (Carnival Corp subsidary) in 2007 and was renamed Ocean Village II.
September 2008 saw Carnival Corporation, who merged with P&O Princess in 2002/3, announce that the Ocean Village brand was to cease trading and that both ships would transfer to P&O Cruises Australia. 2009 saw Ocean Village II make the transfer to P&O Cruises Australia and was renamed Pacific Jewel with Ocean Village following in 2010 in which she was renamed Pacific Pearl.
Pacific Pearl has enjoyed just over 6 years with P&O Cruises Australia. In that time, she covered many thousands of nautical miles and has carried thousands of passengers around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. She has undergone two refits in 2010 when she first joined P&O Australia and then in 2015 where she had quite an extensive refit.
2017 will see a new chapter in her career commence and she will be the fifth cruise line she will have sailed under and the sixth if you count Sitmar as owning company. It’s a new name for her too and she will be known as Columbus and will join Marco Polo, Magellan and Astor in the Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) fleet. It’s a return for her to the British market and she will be departing from Tilbury in her maiden season. 11th June will see the ship depart on her maiden three night cruise to Amsterdam and Antwerp and Cruisemarsh’s editor Anthony and assistant Jordan will be on board for that cruise. Editor Anthony sailed on her when she was Star Princess in 1995 and so will be an interesting experience for him to return on board under her latest guise as Columbus. Once she emerges from her refit in April, she will have capacity for 1400 passengers in 775 cabins. For the size of the ship, that is a fairly low capacity but will mean more space for passengers to enjoy on board and with her being the biggest ship to sail for CMV, there will be a lot of interest in her and surely former loyal followers of her when she was at P&O and Ocean Village might be tempted to sail on her yet again.
One final point to be made is in all of her career, she has been somewhat of a nomadic ship. She hasn’t stayed with one cruise line for more than 7 years and so her image has been re-invented over the years. For CMV though, the purchase of the ship is somewhat of a coup and will be seen as a rather shrewd investment. Time will tell as to how successful she will be but there is no doubt, it will be good to see her back in Britain again and catering for the British market after so many years away. We are excited for her arrival, are you?