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Visit to MV Arion on 20th August 2005

Words and photos by Martin Grant




Previous ship visits

Van Gogh


Ocean Majesty


Hebridean Princess

Black Watch








On a grey overcast Saturday in August, 26 members of the Ocean Liner Society assembled in the drab ‘London International Cruise Terminal’ at Tilbury for a visit to MV Arion of Classic International Cruises.  In the brief window between completing a 12 night North Cape cruise and starting on a 9 day circumnavigation of the British Isles, we were invited on board to learn more about the Arion and to see her for ourselves.    

The Arion is a small cruise ship, just under 6,000 tons and with a capacity for 340 passengers, which was originally built in 1965 at Pula (now in Croatia) for Jugolinija’s weekly service between Venice and Egypt (indeed, her sister ship, the Dalmatia, is still doing Adriatic cruises).  Having passed through Ukrainian and Panamanian registrations, she became part of Classic International Cruise’s fleet in May 2000, where her three fleet mates are also classic cruise ships: the Athena (originally the 1948 Stockholm, the ship which collided with the Andrea Doria), the Princess Danae (built as the Port Melbourne in 1955) and the Funchal (still bearing the name she was launched with in 1961).

After coffee, biscuits and a briefing in the Main Lounge, where a former cruise director told us about the history of the Arion and the various itineraries she now offers, we were escorted in groups of about eight around the ship by enthusiastic members of the entertainment staff.  As she was a small ship, touring the public rooms didn’t take long – indeed, other than the restaurant, all the rooms are on the Promenade Deck – although our progress was repeatedly delayed by ‘snap-happy’ society members taking photographs of everywhere we went!  Three attractive features of an old ship were immediately apparent and much appreciated, namely the delightful presence of sheer and camber and the even more delightful absence of an atrium.   

The Lido Lounge, which opens on to the aft open deck and a small swimming pool, had a decidedly rustic air as it was furnished with chunky wooden furniture and simple, check tablecloths.  Only the low hanging disco ball – which had clearly been in collision with more than one passenger - struck a jarring note.  The main restaurant, on the deck below, occupied the entire aft portion of the ship and was very light and bright due to the many, tall windows. 

The promenades on either side of the Promenade Deck were pleasantly reminiscent of past ocean liners in that not only were they enclosed with large windows but they also featured Winter Gardens with wicker furniture and potted plants.  Not exactly up to the standards of the Garden Lounges on the Aquitania but a welcome change from the inwardly focused bars, coffee lounges, speciality restaurants, spas and brasseries of newer ships. 

However, these echoes of earlier ocean liner days disappeared abruptly further aft where white plastic garden furniture and sun loungers were present in abundance and some of the decks were covered in blue plastic matting in an attempt to conceal the distinctly ‘rippled’ surface of the deck. 


After about two hours, we all thanked the ship’s staff for their hospitality and disembarked.  A few of us decided to take advantage of the Gravesend ferry and use it as a floating vantage point from which to

photograph the Arion.  Before getting on, we had to let a number of luggage-laden obvious cruise passengers get off and we all thought ‘that is a such a good way to start a cruise!'.