By Cailey Rizzo
January 28, 2020
MV Astoria departing Portsmouth England UK. Came into service in 1946 and is the second oldest cruise ship in service.
| Credit: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The oldest cruise ship still operating on the open seas may be retiring this year.

The MV Astoria set sail for its maiden voyage from Gottenberg to New York on Feb. 21, 1948. And after more than 70 years in service, Cruise and Maritime Voyages announced that it will not renew the ship’s contract, according to Arizona Republic. The ship will finish this year with trips from England to Iceland, Scotland, Norway, and the Baltics. The last voyage is scheduled to take place in October.

The ship’s colorful history is guarded by an onboard historian who offers lectures during cruises.

Originally named the MS Stockholm, the ship is most famous for its collision with another ship, the Andrea Doria, which caused the deaths of 51 people. The MS Stockholm departed New York on July 25, 1956 and encountered thick fog off the coast of Nantucket. The Andrea Doria was nearby. Both ships attempted quick turns, but the Stockholm T-boned the Doria and almost sliced entirely through its hull. The Andrea Doria sank and the Stockholm was badly damaged, although it managed to rescue 500 passengers from the other ship.

The Astoria has had a colorful career under many different names. The ship was refurbished and sold to East Germany in the ‘60s as the Volkerfreundshaft. It was used by the communist party for leisure cruises (however it wasn’t uncommon for passengers to defect when the ship was in western waters). In the 1980s, the Swedish government bought the ship and used it to house asylum seekers from Pakistan, Iran, and Syria. It was renamed Fridtjof Nansen. As it changed owners, the ship switched named from Italia I to Italia Prima to Valtur Prima. In 1994, the ship underwent a €150-million renovation and became the MS Athena. In 2008, it was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. No one was injured and the ship escaped without damage.

And earlier this month, the MV Astoria became the first cruise ship to operate in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

Those who wish to partake in the ship’s history have just a few more months to visit and can cruise in Mexico or around England. Its last scheduled cruise departs from Hull, England on Oct. 18.

Although the Astoria is the oldest cruise ship still in service, it’s not the oldest ship still on the seas. That title belongs to the Sea Cloud, which set sail in 1931. Originally, it was a private yacht, but became a weather ship for the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy during World War II. It became a cruise ship only in 1979.