MV Aurora (1955)

MV Aurora is a 1955 built vintage cruise ship, moored in Stockton, California after preservation efforts in Rio Vista, California.[1]

Wappen von Hamburg in 1958 at Heligoland island
  • 1955-1960: Wappen von Hamburg
  • 1960-1967: Delos
  • 1967-1970: Polar Star
  • 1970-1972: Pacific Star
  • 1972-1977: Xanadu
  • 1984-1991: Expex
  • 1991-2009: Faithful
  • 2009-Present: Aurora
  • 1955-1960: HADAG
  • 1960-1967: Nomikos Line
  • 1967-1970: West Tour
  • 1972-1974: Xanadu Cruises
  • 1974-1982: J. Eisenberg
  • 1982-1984: Pan Aleutian Seafoods
  • 1984-1985: EXPEX
  • 1985-1991: Xanadu, Inc
  • 1991-1998: Friend Ships
  • 2005-Present: Chris Willson
Port of registry:
Builder: Blohm & Voss
Launched: February 1, 1955
Completed: May 14, 1955
In service: 1955
Out of service: 1977
Identification: IMO number: 5088227

Moored at Stockton, CA

38.057521°N 121.500494°W / 38.057521; -121.500494
Notes: Her first name Wappen von Hamburg means "Coat of arms of Hamburg" in German.
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2,496 GRT
Propulsion: Maybach diesel engines
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Capacity: 1955 (as a ferry): 1,600 passengers


Aurora was launched as the Wappen von Hamburg for HADAG at Blohm & Voss, intended to be used for day long cruise voyages from Hamburg, calling at Cuxhaven, Helgoland, and Hörnum. She was the first ship to be built in West Germany since World War II.[2] However, after only five years with her original owners, Wappen Von Hamburg was sold to Greek interests, the Nomikos Line. With this sale she was renamed Delos and refitted for cruising with additions being a swimming pool and air conditioning in all cabins.[3]

In 1967 the ship was sold to West Tour and renamed Polar Star for cruising in Alaskan waters. The ship passed through several owners and names during her decade long stay in Alaska, even once being partially owned by the Holland America Line. Eventually as the cruise industry began to fade, the now renamed Xanadu was laid up in Vancouver in 1977. In 1985 a new Los Angeles-based company planned to rename Xanadu Expex and moor her as an exhibition ship. This plan never took off and she remained laid up.[4] In 1991 there were plans to convert the vessel into a hospital ship for use in the Caribbean, but this role never materialised due to funds falling through.

In 2005 the ship was towed from Vancouver to Alameda, California, with a plan to rebuild her into a luxury yacht in mind. At this point in time Faithful was in a poor visual condition, with the majority of the paint peeled off and faded, with metal rusting and parts of the wooden railings missing.[5] In 2009 the Faithful was featured on the Life After People episode Holiday Hell, in which maritime enthusiast Peter Knego is interviewed on the history and condition of Faithful.[6]

Soon afterward, the preservation of Faithful to Aurora began, which included repainting the hull white and funnel blue, and adding new carpeting, furniture, and paint to the interior, as well as a dance floor. On August 1, 2010, the newly renamed Aurora set out under tow by the research vessel Robert Gray to be berthed at Pier 38 in San Francisco at 3:00 AM, arriving the next day around 10:00 PM, and tying up at Pier 38 10:45. Aurora with plans to open the ship as a tourist attraction in the future.[7]

Current status

As of May 2016, work was underway by volunteers to restore the Aurora to her historical condition.

On August 12, 2011 the Port of San Francisco wharfinger approached the vessel's owner, Christopher Willson, with a notice that Pier 38 would be shut down due to structural and electrical issues. The Aurora would have to be moved to another mooring within three days, when all of the port's services to the vessel (mooring, electricity, location etc.) would be cut off. The vessel could be forcibly removed from Willson's ownership and sold for scrap. Willson stated he is "capable of finding another location but at this point we cannot move the vessel to a new location without proper finances or a donated tug.”[8]


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