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Some Notable Early Cruise Ships from Miami

Port of Miami : The New Generation


9,866 tons; length 441 ft., width 69 ft., draft 18 ft., 21 knots; 235 cabins; 500 passengers; diesel, twin screw; built 1968.

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ms Boheme
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Edwin Stephan had been president of Yarmouth Cruise Lines earlier in the decade and Sanford Chobol, a Florida hotelier, had brought the Brazilian liner Princess Leopoldina to Florida for a season of cruises in 1962. Together they founded Commodore Cruise Line in 1966 to operate a cruise ship that could successfully compete against ms Sunward. ms Boheme They reached an agreement with Wallenius Lines of Sweden, which had a partially-built ferry at Wartsila Shipyard in Turku, Finland. Cabins were added in place of the ship's garage, the superstructure was redesigned to provide more open deck space and the specified bow and stern doors for loading vehicles were never installed.

ms Boheme She was completed as the cruise ship ms Boheme and chartered to Commodore, sailing her first weekly cruise out of Miami on December 7, 1968 to Freeport, San Juan and St. Thomas. ms Boheme was the first ship to begin year-round seven day cruises from Florida, but only by two weeks ahead of ms Starward.

ms Boheme Public areas had an "opera" theme including the Rodolfo main lounge and Le Club Mimi bar, Marcello observation lounge, Cafe des Artistes by the swimming pool, Puccini and Paris Dining Rooms and Place Montmarte boutiques. Cabins were on Antilles, Bahama and Caribbean Decks including the Royal Poinciana Suite, 12 outside deluxe staterooms, 149 outside and 61 inside cabins with two lower beds and folding upper berths plus 12 cabins for two with upper and lower berth. Down below, the sauna, massage, gym and cinema were sandwiched between the crew quarters and the engines.

For most of her career from Miami the itinerary included Puerto Plata, St. Thomas, San Juan and Cap Haitien. ms Boheme was sold in 1986.


12,949 tons; length 525 ft., width 75 ft., draft 22 ft., 21 knots; 293 cabins; 736 passengers; diesel, twin screw; built 1968; scrapped 2018.

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ms Starward
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ms Starward was the first ship designed for cruising by Norwegian Caribbean Lines, however she had roll-on/roll-off capacity to transport 200 cars and 30 trailers. ms Starward entered service on December 21, 1968, operating seven-day cruises from Miami to Port Antonio, Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica. Her sleek design with twin side-by-side funnels was unmistakeable. She had a revolutionary look and made quite a visual impression at the time.

ms Starward Starting at the top, inside the solarium was an observation platform. Below that on Compass Deck was the Tropicana Bar, which overlooked the main swimming pool midship on Sun Deck with a small gym and sauna nearby. A second pool and the Lido Bar were on Boat Deck aft. Galaxy Deck contained the Venus Bar and Lounge, ms Starward Neptune Dining Room, the Verandah and finally the Orion Club aft. Midship on Atlantic Deck were the shops and casino.

The original configuration included five deluxe and two semi-deluxe suites, 160 outside cabins with two lower beds (including many with folding upper berths), 46 outside and 52 inside with a three-quarter lower bed and folding upper berth plus 28 outside cabins with an upper and lower berth. ms Starward The demand for cruises greatly exceeded capacity, so in 1976 the garage was rebuilt into 114 inside cabins with two lower beds, increasing capacity to 928 passengers.

The demand continued and NCL built more ships - the very similar ms Skyward entered service in 1970 and ms Southward in 1972. A sister to the ms Southward was to be ms Seaward, but she was sold to P&O Lines before entering service. P&O named her Spirit of London and deployed her cruising from Los Angeles to Mexico and Vancouver to Alaska.


18,416 tons; length 552 ft., width 79 ft., draft 21 ft., 21 knots; 377 cabins; 876 passengers; diesel, twin screw; built 1970; scrapped 2013.

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ms Song of Norway
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Re-enter Edwin Stephan of Yarmouth and Commodore Cruise Lines, who was intrigued by the new car ferry/cruise ships of Norwegian Caribbean and Commodore. But he was not satisfied. He envisioned a fleet of purpose-built, contemporary passenger ships designed for tropical waters combining European maritime technology and seamanship with American-style hotel operation and management. They would be air-conditioned, stabilized, and all cabins would be similar and have private facilities.

ms Song of Norway Stephan brought together three Norwegian shipping interests - Anders Wilhelmsen & Company, I.M. Skaugen & Company, and Gotaas Larsen - and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was formed. The newly created line put its first ship, ms Song of Norway, into service in 1970. A year later, the line added ms Nordic Prince to the fleet and in 1972 it added ms Sun Viking.

ms Song of Norway In 1970, ms Song of Norway was clearly the largest and most successful cruise ship that had ever sailed from Florida. She had seven passenger decks, with public areas including the signature Viking Crown Lounge built into the ship's funnel, a midship swimming pool and saunas, My Fair Lady Lounge, Lounge of the Midnight Sun, South Pacific Lounge, the King and I Dining Room and the Verandah Cafe. There were 9 deluxe midship staterooms, 222 outside and 100 inside staterooms with two lower beds (including many with folding upper berths) plus 28 outside and 4 inside with an upper and lower berth.


27,284 tons; length 650 ft., width 87 ft., draft 29 ft., 21 knots; 453 cabins; 1,240 passengers; steam turbines, twin screw; built 1961; scrapped 2003.

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tss Mardi Gras
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In the summer of 1971, the Arison/Kloster partnership at Norwegian Caribbean Lines broke up. Ted Arison had the reservations and advance deposits while Knut Kloster had the ships, and as it turned out in the end both were able to prosper. Arison arranged financing with a business contact to purchase and operate the former Canadian Pacific flagship Empress of Canada under the Carnival Cruise Lines name as the tss Mardi Gras.

She departed Miami on March 4, 1972 for her maiden voyage and promptly ran aground in the entrance channel. tss Mardi Gras The ship was refloated and proceeded successfully on her first 7-day cruise to San Juan, St. Thomas and Montego Bay, although Arison had to empty the cash registers and have advance deposits wired to San Juan to buy fuel for the return voyage.

tss Mardi Gras was over 50% larger than the competitors' ships. There were six verandah suites and a mix of inside and outside cabins with two lower beds, many with one or two upper berths and others with an upper and lower berth configuration. tss Mardi Gras Most cabins had private facilities, but many had only a wash basin. During the first year and a half, the staterooms were gradually upgraded from two-class transatlantic service to one-class cruising.

Public areas included The Tradewinds Lounge on Promenade Deck, the two-level Grand Ballroom, Carousel Lounge, tss Mardi Gras Point After Club and swimming pool on Empress Deck, cinema on Main Deck and the Hibiscus and Flamingo dining rooms on Restaurant Deck. An indoor pool was below.

Carnival targeted a young and fun-loving demographic. They began to market the "Fun Ship" experience, which was more about the ship than the destination. tss Mardi Gras The company turned profitable in 1975, bought the tss Mardi Gras' sister ship Empress of Britain and renamed her ss Carnivale in 1976. In 1977 they purchased the 32,000-ton Union-Castle liner S.A. Vaal and converted her to the cruise ship ss Festivale. In 1982, they built the first of many new cruise ships and have since grown to become the largest cruise company in the world.