MS Saga Ruby was a cruise ship that was last operated by Saga Cruises. She was built as the combined ocean liner/cruise ship Vistafjord in 1973 by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders in the United Kingdom for the Norwegian America Line. In 1983 she was sold to Cunard Line, retaining her original name until 1999 when she was renamed Caronia. In 2004 she was sold to Saga and sailed as Saga Ruby until sold in 2014 for use as a floating hotel and renamed Oasia. This never came to fruition. Her owners went bankrupt, and in April 2017 she arrived at Alang for scrapping.
Vistafjord in Piraeus
|Port of registry:|
|Builder:||Swan Hunter, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom|
|Launched:||15 May 1972|
|Acquired:||15 May 1973|
|Maiden voyage:||22 May 1972|
|In service:||22 May 1972|
|Fate:||Scrapped in 2017|
|General characteristics (as built)|
|Length:||191.09 m (626 ft 11 in)|
|Beam:||25.00 m (82 ft 0 in)|
|Draught:||8.20 m (26 ft 11 in)|
|Ice class:||1 C|
|Speed:||20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) (service)|
|Capacity:||670 passengers (maximum)|
|General characteristics (after 2005 refit)|
|Draught:||8.23 m (27 ft 0 in)|
|Decks:||9 (passenger accessible)|
|Capacity:||655 passengers (maximum)|
|Notes:||Otherwise the same as built|
Concept and construction
The Vistafjord was ordered by Norwegian America Line (NAL) from Swan Hunter Shipbuilders, Newcastle, United Kingdom. She was based on the company's 1965-built MS Sagafjord, but with an enlarged hull, additional superstructure deck and improved interior layout. However, as the cost of building the Sagafjord had put her builders, Forges et Chantiers de la Mediterranee, out of business, the Vistafjord had to be built at a different shipyard. She was launched on 15 May 1972 and delivered to the Norwegian America Line exactly a year later on 15 May 1973. She is the last cruise ship to have been built in the United Kingdom.
Norwegian America Line
On 22 May 1973 the Vistafjord set on her maiden voyage, a transatlantic crossing from Oslo to New York. In early 1980, the vessel was famously chartered by car manufacturer British Leyland to internally launch the Austin Metro to its British dealer network.
In 1983 Trafalgar House, the owners of legendary Cunard Line, purchased NAL and in October 1983 the Vistafjord joined the Cunard fleet together with her sister ship Sagafjord. She retained her original name and the grey NAL hull colour, but received Cunard Line funnel colours and was re-registered to the Bahamas. Despite the flag change she retained Norwegian command staff.
During this time, both Vistafjord and Sagafjord, were considered to be amongst the most luxurious cruise ships in the world, sharing the top 5 in Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising, together with her sister ship the Sagafjord and Royal Viking Line's Royal Viking Star, Royal Viking Sky and Royal Viking Sea for several years.
In 1999 the decision was made to rename the Vistafjord with a more traditional Cunard Line name. On 10 December 1999 she was renamed Caronia and re-registered in the United Kingdom.
She continued service with Cunard until November 2004, when she was sold to Saga Cruises. Following a £17 million refit at Valletta, Malta the Caronia reappeared as Saga Ruby in March 2005. In the Saga Cruises fleet she joined her former Norwegian America Line fleetmate Sagafjord (now named Saga Rose).
Farewell Voyage with Saga
She sailed her final world cruise in the first months of 2013. However it was marred by technical difficulties which kept the ship in Southampton until late February, which led to the cruise being renamed the 'Grand Voyage' visiting South America and South Africa.
It was reported that the Saga Ruby would depart on her final cruise with Saga Cruises on 7 December 2013 round trip from Southampton, England on a 31-day voyage to the Caribbean stopping at ports Praia da Vitória, Azores; Bridgetown, Barbados; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Kingstown, St Vincent; St George's, Grenada; Castries, St Lucia; Roseau, Dominica; Basseterre, St Kitts; St John's, Antigua; Funchal, Madeira; Lisbon, Portugal; A Coruña, Spain (for Santiago de Compostela). While on her final cruise she was forced to change her itinerary to a Western Mediterranean cruise stopping at Tenerife; Almeria, Spain; Valletta, Malta; Messina, Sicily; Naples, Italy; Civitavecchia (for Rome); Livorno (for Florence, Pisa); Monte Carlo; Barcelona, Spain; Valencia, Spain; Gibraltar; Funchal, Madeira; Lisbon, Portugal; La Coruna; and finally returning to Southampton on January 7, 2014. While in Funchal, Madeira the Saga Ruby met up with the Saga Sapphire for a New Year's Eve fireworks display; due to problems with one generator after reaching the Canary Islands. The loss of that generator meant that there was insufficient power available to run the air conditioning plant. The cruise also returned to Southampton late due to poor weather in the Bay of Biscay, eventually arriving on 9 January 2014, with passengers disembarking on 10 January.
Floating Hotel Oasia
In January 2014 she was sold for $14M USD to Millennium View Ltd, a privately held company based in Singapore. The new owners planned to convert her into a floating hotel in Myanmar. In mid-February 2014 she sailed from Gibraltar as Oasia under Bahamas flag and management of FleetPro Ocean. In February 2017, it was announced that Oasia was being sold for scrap. This came as quite a surprise to many, as the ship, still SOLAS compliant, had recently undergone a US$10 million overhaul as a hotel and museum ship. She was found in Thailand, awaiting tow to scrapping, after having US$20 million invested in her.
The Vistafjord was built with a very traditional ocean liner profile, with the funnel placed amidship and a notable sheer on her hull. The superstructure is terraced both at the fore and aft of the ship. In two refits during her Cunard Line career additional structures were added to the rear and top of the superstructure.
In Norwegian America Line service the Vistafjord carried the traditional NAL livery, with a grey hull, white superstructure, yellow mast and a yellow funnel with red, white and blue (colours of the flag of Norway) stripes. Following the sale to Cunard she retained the grey hull colour, but her funnel was painted in the red/black Cunard colours and her mast white. A red "Cunard" text was later added to her superstructure. Coinciding with her renaming into Caronia in 1999 the ship's hull was repainted black. As Saga Ruby her hull was repainted dark blue and her funnel yellow, with a dark blue top and a narrow white stripe separating the two colours.
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- "FleetPro takes over technical management of Oasia, ex Saga Ruby". Seatrade Insider. 6 February 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2014.