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Friday, March 30, 2012

Ageless Ships - Part 8 - Swedish America Line's Gripsholm

Launched in April, 1956, this twin funnel beauty was another great creation of Italy's Ansaldo Shipyard. Swedish America Line's new Gripsholm incorporated dual, raked funnels, a rounded superstructure and stylish sleek lines.

Built for world wide cruises the Gripsholm normally undertook longer cruises to Northern Europe, the Med and other exotic destinations of the world. Sailing on cruises 20+ days at a time, the Gripsholm were popular with those wanting a relaxing yet elegant way to see the world. Cruises ranged up to 90 days and normally were not sold in segments.

The Gripshsolm successfully operated for Swedish America Line until August 1975.

By November 1975 the Gripsholm was sold to Greek interests - Karageorgis Cruises. The ship underwent a refit which included the removal of her king posts and modifications to her rear decks creating a more welcoming and expansive lido deck. Cruising primarily in the Mediterranean, the Gripsholm - now renamed Navarino - looked the best of her career.

In 1981, the Navarino was up for sale. Effjohn International was interested in purchasing the ship, She was renamed the Samantha but while in drydock for her new owners to inspect the ship, she heeled over and took on water. Declared a total loss, everyone thought her next trip would be to the breaker. The Samantha languished until 1983, at which time everyone was surprised, she was purchased by Regency Cruises.

The ship underwent a major refit and emerged as the Regent Sea. Sailing primarily on 7 day cruises from Jamaica to the Western Caribbean and partial transit of the Panama Canal. She was very popular and laid the ground work for future expansion for Regency Cruises.

Her engines did prove to be an issue and after a number of attempts to repair them, the Regency Sea was taken to a drydock in Brooklyn where the repairs were fully carried out. The Regent Sea did dock in Port Newark, NJ after her time in Brooklyn, for a day while repairs were completed. I remember being surprised seeing the ship from the NJ Turnpike in Port Newark.

The Regent Sea sailed until late 1995 when Regency Cruises went bankrupt.

At the same time there were some changes in the law which allow gambling cruises from New York. Many ships were purchased by prospective owners/operators to run gambling cruises out of New York. The Regent Sea was one of those ships. Major gutting of the once great Gripsholm was under-weigh in preparation for her new role.

Unfortunately the Guliano Administration changed the rules and laws around gambling cruises from New York, requiring cruises to sail overnight and have accommodations for all passengers. In addition, operators needed a $25M bond in place to operate from New York. All of the operators who purchased ships for gambling purposes were out of luck (reported to be about 10 ships).

The gutted Regent Sea languished in Tampa under the name Sea. The Sea could not find further employment and no one was willing to invest in restoring the interiors of a 44 year old ship. Also the ship had rain water entering the ship though opening left from the workers who gutted the ship.

The Sea was prepared for a tow to her new owners - the breakers in India. En-route to the breakers, off the coast of Africa, the ship encountered looters who boarded the ship and took whatever they could. It is believed that they left hatches and doors open.

Continuing on her way to breakers, the Sea encountered rough seas and began to take on water. The left open doors and hatches, combined with the prior demolition work done in Tampa made the ship more unstable. The ship was taking on water, beginning to list and eventually sank on July 12, 2001 .

The Gripsholm was a great ship and will be remember by cruise enthusiasts for years to come.

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