1984: A Royal Princess Launched This Aptly Named Ship

November 19, 1984

The record-setting cruise ship Royal Princess embarked on her maiden voyage, departing from Southampton, England, for Miami, Florida, with approximately 700 passengers on board. The transatlantic trip began only four days after the British-registered vessel, which had been built for Princess Cruises by the Finnish corporation Wärtsilä at its Helsinki shipyard, was christened at Southampton by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Hundreds of invited children were in attendance to watch Diana crack a bottle of Krug champagne against the ship. Other dignitaries at the ceremony included Mauno Koivisto, President of Finland. “Diana, wearing a bright red suit and hat, was launching her first ship,” reported the Canadian Press news agency. “She pulled a white lever to release the specially doctored bottle which broke successfully against the white hull.”

The Royal Princess, at a cost of $165 million, was the most expensive passenger ship built up to that time. It also had the distinction of being the first cruise ship to have only outside passenger cabins (oceanview rooms lining the edges of the vessel) rather than any inside passenger cabins (rooms built in the middle of a deck and without windows or other outlets for outdoor views)

The ship left Southampton for her maiden voyage shortly after 1:00 p.m. on November 19, and the rough conditions that she soon encountered invited comparisons with an ill-fated ship from more than seven decades earlier. A Knight-Ridder Newspapers article reported, “The Titanic ran into ice. The Royal Princess ran into 60-knot [111.1-kilometers-per-hour] winds with the blow of a hurricane. Both were on their maiden trans-Atlantic voyages from Southampton, England, to America. Both were being called the most luxurious, expensive ships ever built. Both ran into a little bad luck their first time out.”

As the Knight-Ridder account also confirmed, however, the Royal Princess – unlike the Titanic – stayed afloat. This was due to Captain John Young of the Royal Princess maneuvering the ship well out of harm’s way and taking her south past the Azores before turning west to Miami. While this emergency detour helped ensure the safety of the Royal Princess and everyone on board, it also delayed the arrival in Miami by two days.

This delay resulted in the cancellation of various festivities planned to welcome the Royal Princess to the United States. There was still live coverage of the ship’s arrival on November 29 by the television show Good Morning America. In addition, the ship’s crew and passengers were thrown a lavish party that was also attended by the cast of the long-running television series The Love Boat. The Royal Princess subsequently appeared on the series a few times as the cruise ship S.S. Pacific Princess.

Captain Sarah Breton Photo courtesy of P&O

The Royal Princess remained in service with Princess Cruises until 2005, when she was transferred to P&O Cruises and renamed Artemis. As Artemis, the ship made history yet again when Sarah Breton took charge as her captain in 2010. Breton was the first woman to command a major cruise ship for P&O Cruises. Even more significantly, she was only the second woman in the world to assume such a role. (Karin Stahre-Janson became the first woman to command a major cruise ship when she took charge of MS Monarch of the Seas of Royal Caribbean Cruises in 2007.)

Artemis sailed for P&O Cruises until 2011, when she was transferred to the fleet of cruise ships operated by the travel agency Phoenix Reisen. Artemis was renamed MV Artania by Phoenix Reisen and remains in service with that organization today.

For more information on MV Artania (previously called Royal Princess and Artemis), please check out http://www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk/mv-artania-past-and-present/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Artania.

A short video of Diana, Princess of Wales, christening the ship in 1984 is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_G6RlhRvCUY.

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