An old Earl reborn: ex. Harald Jarl, ex. Andrea becomes Serenissima.
"Harald Jarl" was built for the Nordenfjeldkses Dampskipsselskap in Trondheim (NFDS) as a replacement ship for their aging (and the company's last steamship) "Sigurd Jarl". The order to build the ship was signed in February 1959, and 11 months later, on the 29th of January 1960 the newly built ship was launched from Trondheims Mekaniske Verksted in Trondheim, Norway. When built, she was the penultimate Hurtigruten ship to ever be built for Hurtigruten in Trondheim (TMV also delivered the "Narvik" in 1982). The yard that once built this proud ship has since been turned into a shopping mall called Solsiden (literally meaning the sunny-side). Acceptance and delivery of the ship was done half a year later, on June 20th 1960, while the maiden voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes started at 22:00 hours sharp on Midsummer Night, June 23rd 1960. Captain on this maide voyage was Captain O. Chr. Ødegaard.
The ship was based on the experiences made with the Ragnvald Jarl (1956), but at the same time also made larger, and with the addition of a new panorama lounge on the boat deck. With a tonnage of 2568 GRT, and a length of 87,1 meters, she was also a full 6 meters longer than Ragnvald Jarl.
Passenger capacity in coastal waters of Norway were 600 passengers, with cabin facilities for 55 on first class, and 170 on second class.
Harald Jarl's nteriors were largerly designed by architect Finn Nilson of Arnstein Arneberg Architects, while the famous artist Kaare Espolin Johnson was in charge of artwork on board.
Harald Jarl was delivered with a powerful Burmeister & Wain main engine producing a healthy 3450 bhp. On sea trials in 1960 the ship achieved the speed of 18,3 knots. The Harald Jarl would in the years ahead prove herself to be a fast ship.
Harald Jarl quickly became an extremely popular ship along the coast, and in June 1968 she also opened the Svalbard Expressroute. The ship also did several springtime trips to the Shetland Islands during the 1970's.
In 1983 she was given a refit to comply with new safety regulations. She was rebuilt in many places, including updating some cabins to also include bathrooms. This refit reduced the cabin capacity to 169 berths, all of a single class. The engine was also given a major overhaul and renewal.
When NFDS ceased operations on 31st of May 1989, the ship was transferred to Troms Fylkes Dampskipsselskap in Tromsø. Although the long and historical tradition of the "Jarl-ships" was transferred to Paris of the North, Tromsø, Harald Jarl continued her service in Hurtigruten.
Harald Jarl's last trip as a Hurtigrute began on 9th of October 2001 in Bergen, and ended 11 days later, completing the round-trip on the 20th of October 2001. Later that evening, the 1956-built Nordstjernen replaced Harald Jarl on the route.
During the first days of retirement, Harald Jarl made a short cruise to Oslo before she was laid up as a hotel ship in Frengen by Fosen Mekaniske Verksted in Fosen, Norway, on the 31st of October. It was at this time that the original Kaare Espolin Johnson pictures were transferred to the new ship being built at Fosen MV, the Trollfjord. Trollfjord was intended to replace Harald Jarl, and was still under construction at Fosen Mekaniske Verksted.
"Stiftelsen Harald Jarl" from (a Trondheim-based group consisting of Nor-Cargo, Trondheim Havn, Klæburuten, Erling Haug, Taubåtkompaniet and Lawyer Roald M. Engeness) worked hard in trying to save the ship from being sold out of the country, and to keep her as a Trondheim-based ship. Sadly, all their hard efforts failed in the end, and although the asking price for the ship was 12 million NOK, her subsequent sale to Elegant Cruises in July 2002 only brought in 4.2 million NOK.
At delivery to Elegant Cruises on July 31st 2002, the ship was immediately renamed Andrea, and on the 15th of August the same year, she departed Frengen and sailed via a short stop at Ålesund, directly to Uddevalla in Sweden. She spent some time here for upgrades and conversion to a cruise- and expedition ship. During this conversion, her berth-capacity was reduced to 120 when cabins were combined. Almost all her public rooms were also modernized and given a thorough facelift. She would from this time onwards, be marketed as a 4-star cruise ship offering cruises in the Baltic, Norwegian Coast, Mediterranean and to such far-away waters as the Antarctic.
On April 4th 2009 the cruise ship Andrea was seized in Split, Croatia, when their operators, Elegant Cruises went bankrupt. Official statements from Split's Port Authority at the time, confirmed that the ship was indeed there and under impound by the bankhouses until Elegant Cruises would make some payments for unpaid bills. The news eventually emerged on CaptainsVoyage Forum on the 6th of May the same year, and it was found that the ship had indeed been removed from their operators website. Information was desperately sought by all her fans.
For the months to follow, the beloved former Norwegian coastal liner continued to spend a life in uncertainty. About six months after her seizure, she was found listed on the Internet for sale, and with an asking price of $15 million (plus an estimated $3 million for upgrade to Solas 2010). The price was at the time considered to be quite high, despite her 2003- extensive upgrade. The $15 million was also later found to be $4 million for the actual ship, and the rest in unpaid debts belonging to the vessel at time of impound.
After years in the unknown, the bank tried selling the ship at an auction. But with no takers, the ships was relisted again for sale. She remained docked at Vranjic, Split, in Croatia.
And this is where it gets really interesting: according to the current owner, he learned about the fate of the Andrea at CaptainsVoyage Forum, and after following the story of the ship for quite some time, serious considerations had to be taken. When the time was right, Volga Cruises eventually decided to make a move and take possession of the ship with so much history. The ship was officially purchased on April 4th 2012 for an undisclosed sum.
After the purchase of the Andrea, and for the next several months, the ship underwent a complete restoration at Solinbrodogradnja Shipyard in Vranjic, Split, Croatia. Members of the CaptainsVoyage Forum continued to follow the ship through the website shipspotting.com ( link ) and it was from the beginning clear that the ship generated massive interest not only in Norway, but also in the UK, Germany and France.
The buyer of the ship, Volga Cruises, is a well known operator of an exclusive and luxurious river-cruiseship by the name of "Volga Dream". The "Volga Dream" offers the luxurious alternative to the Russian Waterways. Please visit the company's website for more information on the "Volga Dream" and their cruises: www.volgadream.com
As time went by, it became clear that Andrea would eventually be renamed and relaunched as the Serenissima. Serenissima is a well-known name in the Adriatic: La Serenissima is the name for the Republic of Venice, from the title Serenissimo (literally meaning the most/very serene): Scuderia Serenissima is a successful auto racing team: Serenissima is a nickname for the San Marino national football team: and additionally, Serenissima is also a strategy board name in which players fight for economic dominance of the Mediterranean. But most importantly, Serenissima means "the most serene".
While the members of CaptainsVoyage Forum closely followed the progress of the restoration, discussions continued. At the shipyard, her entire hull and superstructure were sandblasted, deck- and weathertight doors were replaced with new wooden doors and her wonderful decks were given a yacht finish.
One of the biggest exterior changes was made on the bridge deck: four new suites with balconies were built while the original combined mainmast and funnel were kept and refurbished.
Lifeboats were replaced with two brand new covered Fassmer boats, while Zodiac exploration boats are being added. Additionally, a life raft crane on each side with supplementary evacuation space was installed.
The hot galley on deck 4 was completely refurbished together with the pantry/ galley on deck 5. These were now completely up to modern requirements of health and safety.
The tip of the bow was replaced because of earlier damages and the hull was given an amazing finish that only super yachts can match.
Further information on the refurbishment can be found on the company's website ( LINK ):
Few ships of this generation are still cruising and MS "SERENISSIMA" (ex. Harald Jarl, ex. Andrea) is a great testament to her present and previous owners that they have seen fit to invest considerable sums over the years to keep her in top form and complying with the stringent health and safety requirements.
She spent many years cruising the Norwegian coast as the "Harald Jarl". The decision by the Norwegian owners, Hurtigruten, to invest in much larger new vessels, presented an opportunity to the American company, Elegant Cruises, to purchase the vessel in 2002. After a substantial refit in Sweden she began her new life as "Andrea" and undertook worldwide cruising around Britain, Greenland, Norway, the Baltic and Mediterranean and as far away as Antarctica.
Perhaps, one of the best known and loved features of this vessel is its unique style. During the major refit in Sweden the then owners commissioned Swedish interior designers to create a Gustavian style interior. This bright Swedish 18th century influenced, country house style works particularly well on a vessel of this vintage, providing intimacy and classic nautical sensibility often lacking in larger vessels.
After purchasing the vessel in spring 2012, joint owner Serenissima Cruises, intends to undertake in 2012-2013 a profound refurbishment of MS "SERENISSIMA" which includes new crew cabins, zodiac fleet, life tenders, fin stabilizers, jacuzzi, Lido bar and fitness center, the addition of new suites with balconies on upper deck, replacement of carpets, wall-papers, fabrics in existing passenger areas.
Accommodating just over 110 guests, the 59 cabins are attractively designed for comfort and convenience and are fully air conditioned with a modern shower and toilet, telephone, flat screen televisions and other thoughtful appointments. There are eight different grades of cabins arranged over five decks and with the exception of the five inside cabins, all staterooms feature either windows or portholes, some of them with balconies.
The free seating Venice Restaurant accommodates all guests in one sitting. In addition there is an outside dining area for when the weather and itinerary permit.
Other facilities on board include two lounges, library with computers for Internet access, a spacious observation deck, fitness area, laundry service, first aid, massage and an elevator. In areas such the United Kingdom, Greenland and Norway the vessel is equipped with Zodiac craft allowing us to visit remote places where normal tender arrangements are not possible.
The European captain, officers, expedition staff and crew offer a first class service and have been selected for their professionalism and caring attitudes. The atmosphere on board is warm and welcoming and dedicated to discovery and relaxation.
On the 3rd of April 2013, the almost completed Serenissima made a sea-trial in the Adriatic Sea with an overnight visit to Ancona, Italy. The auspicious date continues to follow the ship: impounded on April 4th (2009), purchased on April 4th (2012) and the sea trial departed on April 3rd (2013). For many who knows the story of Hurtigruten, Ancona is also the place where the four "Italian ships" were built after World War 2: respectively "Erling Jarl", "Midnatsol", "Vesterålen", and finally, "Sanct Svithun".
Early in the morning of April 4th, the ship returns from a successful overnight sea trial in the Adriatic and to Ancona, and docks at port of Split.
The maiden voyage of Serenissima:
April 5th 2013: Split, Croatia
Under a clear blue Croatian sky, the ship shines like a newly polished piece of jewelery at her dock, awaiting her maiden departure and her first distinguished guests. Arriving on board, and finding the cabin relatively fast, exploration of the vessel immediately commenced.
The first guests started boarding the vessel during mid-afternoon and also quickly found their way around the ship. Serenissima's current guest capacity is only 117 people, in 59 cabins on 4 decks, while the crew counts some 55 people. With such a low guest capacity, there is naturally a lot of space on board while still providing an intimate and friendly atmosphere. Some of the crew are transfers from the Volga Dream and do indeed know the product well, despite this being the first ocean going ship of the company.
In the forward stair tower, there is also now a small lift. This lift was installed during her conversion to Andrea. The lift runs from deck 3 up to deck 6. It should be noted that the lift does not give wheelchair access to the balcony suites on the bridge deck, which is also deck 7.
On the boat deck, there is now an observation platform around the forward superstructure. Some re-arrangements of the stairs were made here since her time as Andrea: the stairs from the forward structure observation platform were removed to give more privacy to the suites, and the stairs to the top of the forward deckhouse, were moved from port side to midships. Furthermore, moved from the forecastle to the boat deck, the exploration Zodiac-boats will be placed in the location of the forward lifeboat on each side. Reduced guest capacity naturally means they won't any longer be required to carry four lifeboats. Aft on the boat deck, the former wind-shielded glass house has been totally refurbished too. During the time as Harald Jarl, this was just a simple sheltered area with no facilities. In her Andrea years, there was a buffet and bar counter installed in this area. In her latest conversion, very beautiful wooden benches with lots of pillows have been built here. The glass house can also be enclosed with a canvass wall in the entrance. Lighting is superb and can be locally dimmed to perfection. This is certainly a great place to relax and the yacht finish is clearly evident. The plan is also to use this area for drinks and meals when weather permits such activities.
Forward on the main deck, deck 5, the former smoking room is perhaps the most intact room from her Hurtigruten years. The lounge carries the original name of the ship, Harald Jarl Lounge and is mainly decorated in yellow tones. The pictures of Kaare Espolin Johnson which so many people love are reproductions, and still in place. As mentioned earlier, the originals were moved to the new Hurtigruten vessel "Trollfjord". On the starboard side aft corner of the Harald Jarl Lounge, there is a small library corner with two desktop computers. Internet and Wifi-connectivity is offered on board for the price of 0.4 Euro per minute.
The lobby between the Harald Jarl Lounge and the Venice Restaurant now contains a display for on board souvenir articles on starboard side and a reception on the port side. The Venice Restaurant is largely kept from her last career with small modifications to color of ceiling lamp-bases and table settings.
The Andrea Lounge, the former cafeteria of Harald Jarl is also largely kept original from her time as Andrea, with some minor modification to lamps that have been replaced. In the Andrea Lounge, there is afternoon tea and cookies set up every afternoon, and in the evening, there is music entertainment and a fully stocked bar open after dinner.
The so-called aft flag deck has tables and chairs for outdoor enjoyment. New chairs and tables are on order and are expected to be installed immediately upon their arrival from the vendor.
On deck 4, where the ticket office once was located, there are now several cabins. It is believed that these cabins are from the conversion to Andrea. The outdoor cross-ship passage where distance-traveling passengers used to store their luggage is now a crew only area: in fact, everything aft of this cross-ships passage corridor is now considered a crew area. New weather-tight doors have been installed in the forward part of this cross-ships passage, and the gangway will for the most part be located forward of this weathertight door, giving guests direct access up the stairs to the new reception hall on the lounge deck. On starboard side, if you walk forward, you will also find what perhaps will be the best area on the entire ship: the former cargo handling area. A whirlpool is in the location of the cargo hatch, and an elevated platform has been created on top of the deckhouse. Interestingly, the deckhouse has also been built up higher a bit so that it can contain a (whirl)pool bar and a small fitness room with two treadmills. A breeze across this deck may be expected whilst at sea, and it is hoped the operators will install plexiglass on the insides of the shipside railings to prevent a cool breeze from crossing the deck.
At 10 in the evening, the familiar rumbling of the engine starting up can be felt. The moorings were let go and almost unnoticeably, the ship departs Split for her maiden voyage. From the bridge, it is an almost surreal feeling to see the ship head out to sea: starting a new, exciting and hopefully long career into the future. The feeling we hoped to have with the Kong Olav returning to Norway, can be felt deep in the soul. The Captain is obviously as proud of the vessel as a true seaman can be. "This is a ship totally unlike any other ship: she is strong and she is built to last" he proclaimed as the pilot disembarked. For any ship-enthusiast in-the-know, we all know that ships like these are not being built any more.
April 6th 2013: Kotor, Montenegro
During the night, and as the ship approaches the only fjord of the Mediterranean Sea, Boka Kotorska, Serenissima encounters heavy swells and for many, this is the first meeting with the ship's rolling tendency. To many people in Norway, she is known as a "heavy roller" in rough - and sometimes calm - seas and special conditions. It may look dramatic, but this ship has been through some of the the toughest storms King Neptune could throw on the Norwegian coast and during her time in Antarctica as the Andrea, through "the roaring 40's". Stories of lists up to 42 degrees have been told, but this ship is nevertheless, an extremely seaworthy and exceptionally strong ship. For many however, this wonderful rocking of the boat might not be a comfortable ride for those that easily get seasick. It is stressed however, that there are indeed plans to install stabilizers at an up-coming drydock of the ship.
As the ship reaches calmer waters of the Montenegro fjord, an amazing scenery reveals itself. For many, and myself included, this is an incredible realization that not only Norway and New Zealand have fjords, but also Montenegro. The ships sails through the narrows which are commonly known as the "Chains": a name given in old times because locals protected Kotor from pirate ships by stretching chains across the narrowest part.
Serenissima then makes a sail-around of the two small islands St. Georges Island and Church of Our Lady of the Rocks before making a sail-by past Perast. As the ship passes Perast, three really long blasts are made in the ships horn. Clearly, this is the original sound of Harald Jarl.
Well after breakfast, the Serenissima docks at Kotor and guests immediately start their day exploring this wonderful medieval city. Walking through one of the three city gates and into the old city, it is almost a surreal experience. With the high mountains as a backdrop, the old city almost feels like a movie set. Many people make their way up the hillside, along the old city walls perched high above Kotor for a better view of the ship and the old city. These walls were gradually built up between the 9th and the 19th centuries, and circles the Hill of Saint John. The total length of the entire wall is 4,5 kilometers. The view from the top, is nothing but spectacular and well worth the walk.
Well back on board Serenissima, in the afternoon, empty cabins on board are opened for showing. All cabin-furnishing has been kept largely unchanged from her time as Andrea, while the new balcony-suites at bridge deck are also decorated in the same Gustavian style.
In the evening, all guests are invited to Andrea Lounge for a welcome drink of champagne and presentation of her Captain, officers and key personnel. Since this is a formal evening, the otherwise buffet-style Venice Restaurant is for the occasion turned into a served-by-the-table dinner. There are every night selections of a normal menu and a vegetarian menu.
Serenissima departed Kotor late in the evening to make the short voyage to her next port.
April 7th 2013: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Early in the morning, and well before breakfast, the ship is softly landed at the port of Dubrovnik, despite strong southernly winds. Throughout the day, the wind remains strong but in the afternoon, guests are served with a wonderful sunset and calm waters again.
A shuttle bus to town is provided for the guests after breakfast. Sufficient time to explore the old city of Dubrovnik is given before the shuttle bus was ready to take the guests back to the ship for a late afternoon lunch. Upon returning to the ship, guests are served a BBQ lunch in the ship's Venice Restaurant. Had the weather been slightly better and with less winds, the BBQ would have been done out on the afterdecks. There are tables and chairs for outdoor dining on the flag deck and boat deck aft, but naturally, this is weather permitting.
Dubrovnik is an amazing place to visit, and extremely picturesque. A walk around the old town will be well worth the time, and if weather permits, a cable car to the mountains above the old city is recommended. A walk around the old city walls is also an excellent way of seeing the entire town: 2,5 kilometers, and 170 steps.
April 8th 2013: Korčula, Croatia
Around breakfast time the ship docks in the tiny village of Korčula: from the ships railing guests can clearly hear locals point to the ship and talk of her as the Andrea. There is no doubt that in this area of the Mediterranean, she is known by many as Andrea. Actually, people of Croatia, and also other places around the Mediterranean, have an equally great passion for old classical ship, the Captain tells me. It's not only in Norway that this wonderful ship has a big following, but throughout the Adriatic Sea as well.
It will however be quite an experience to see the former Harald Jarl back in Norway again, and particularly back in Trondheim: the city of her birth. Both the ship's owner and Serenissima's Captain are fully aware of the history of the ship and takes her legacy seriously. When the ship returns back to Norway, I made sure that they would not blow their whistle like the Hurtigruten ships. That would most certainly cause a stir in the smaller ports that still remember this venerable ship and the countless number of arrivals both on north- and southbound in the Hurtigruten run.
Korčula is also known as the place where Marco Polo was born. Most guests go ashore to enjoy the streets and sights of this charming and very quiet place. Within an hour, most of the city can be covered on foot.
Already before lunch, the ship is ready to depart under a blue sky and wonderful sunshine. The ship has an open bridge policy and the bridgewings are a great place to see the sail-away. The Captain departs the port with a firm command, and guests enjoy all that the ship can possibly offer.
In the location of the former cargo hatch, there is now an open air whirlpool, and in the forward deckhouse there is a pool bar and a small fitness room with two treadmills. Most guests however spend the afternoon on the ships afterdecks, enjoying the sun and friendly service by bar personnel.
A visit to the ship's engine room is made in the afternoon: and yes, the original engine is still in full use. The engine room is otherwise in a very clean state, really ship-shape. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Chief Engineer and the ship's Captain are extremely proud of this area, as well as all other areas on board.
In the evening, after a drink at the Captain's farewell in Andrea lounge, and a gala dinner in Venice Restaurant, guests could settle their on board accounts at the reception desk in the forward lobby. Charges were made in Russian rubles. Payment may also be done in any currency, including Euros. A gratuity for the crew on board is recommended at 12 Euro per person per day, and can be conveniently be placed in a "tip box" at the reception.
April 9th 2013: Venize, Italy.
Waking up really early in the morning from a nice warm bed, I made my way up to the boat deck and the semi-covered glass house aft, to sit and quietly listen to the ship's engine down below, and looking at the light slowly arriving.
Well before breakfast, the pilot of Venice was picked up, and while the ships started making its way passed the old city, breakfast was served. Slightly behind schedule, the ship approached the canals off San Marcus Square. Passing the San Marcus Square, a tug trailed the ship, not because it is necessary, but because it is a requirement of the port. Since the ship is a whole lot smaller than the largest ships that come to town, she docked at the cruiseship terminal San Basilio. Turning around in the channel and docking was done effectively, as is normal for this ship.
Disembarkation was recommended to be done before 9 in the morning, and was nothing but effortless. The endless long lines of a much larger mega-ships is something you wont be finding too often on this small vessel. Deliver your cabin key to the reception, and your passport is returned to you. Immigration was done and customs performed random checks at the terminal building.
Turning back and casting a last final look at the Serenissima, guests make their way for onwards journeys.
Having now experienced the Serenissima and having been a part of her legacy, all we can do is to wish the ship happy sailings on all seven seas in the future. May you bring pleasure and enjoyment to all your guests, in safety and learning. There is no doubt that this classical vessel still has lots of life in her to continue sailing, and to become a true treasure in her own niche of the cruise-industry.
The most spectacular thing with the Serenissima, is that this ship is the realization of all the dreams and plans we had for her sister-ship, Kong Olav. It was not only my personal dream, but the dream of many others as well, that when she returned to Norway, it would be with a dark blue hull, yacht finish, a completely sandblasted and painted hull and superstructure - approaching a Norwegian port under a clear blue sky. The Kong Olav Project sadly failed at making this become a reality, but Serenissima is therefore the realization of many peoples' dream.
For the in-depth and full background story on the ship, we kindly invite you to read the extended and very long thread on CaptainsVoyage Forum (please note that this thread is currently, a full 22 pages long): ( LINK )
To read more about the wonderful ship and her future cruises, we invite you to please visit: ( LINK )
Direct link to film: https://vimeo.com/64304897