Wonderful profile of the ship with Sun Line logo and home port on fabric. Rob O'Brien collection, Copyright 2010
A classic liner in most every way, the STELLA SOLARIS is one of history's most celebrated example of an ocean liner transformed into modern day cruise ship. Very few passenger liners have attained the kind of stature she earned as her great architectural features were meet by equally grand interiors adorned with fine works of art. The result was an atmosphere, service, and character that very few cruise ship's have ever attained. Over the course of her career, she would prove extremely popular and loved by both her passenger and crew to a level that most cruise lines strive to this very day.
Originally, known as the CAMBODGE this French built ship, with the hull number 208, was launched on June 28, 1949 at the Societe des Aterliers and Chantiers shipyard and completed in the summer of 1953. She entered service in July of that year with a registered gross tonnage of 13,520. Measuring 545 feet in length the CAMBODGE was also paired up with two sisterships, VIETNAM and LAOS, were specially designed for the services to the far east. Each of these intermediate liners carried a compliment of 117 first class, 110 Tourist class, and 120 Third class. As originally built, she also made available 52 migrant passengers in cabins and 260 dormitories, making the total number of passengers 539. Her Parsons geared turbines drove twin screws which operated at 19,500 horsepower and allowed for a 21 knot service speed. Within her 72 foot beam lay a predominately French style decor with a hint of Asian decoration blended in.
The interior decoration of the vessel was carried out by M. Jean Leleu influencing the light paneling of the main lounge with depicted figures of "Comedie Italienne." The details of the ample quality of the CAMBODGE continued to the Card Room, featured in sycamore and bearing inlaid motifs, the Writing room sported gentle tones of yellow and green and featuring the Gardens and Chateaux of Ile de France by Camille Hillaire(who also had works of La Fontaine in the Children's Playroom). It was in the First Class Dining Saloon that featured not just Naides reliefs by artist Grau Sala but also paintings by the same artist, recalling the romance of Paris, France. In the Drawing Room were Italian Comedy Figures, a series of murals by artist Jean Souverbie. The Tourist Class public rooms also had a touch of class with two interpretive paintings by Arthur Fages as well as Pentecote de Honfleur by Hambourg.
The STELLA SOLARIS, originally the CAMBODGE as seen here in early days. Rob O'Brien collection
The 1st Class Salon of the French liner. Rob O'Brien collection
Passenger space for the 1st class was located in the central portion of the CAMBODGE. Second or Tourist class took occupancy in the stern, while the third class had cabins in the bow portion of the vessel. Beginning on F Deck, the 2nd highest level of the superstructure one could find the start of passenger space. It was here that it most consisted of the officers berth, but the Childrens Playroom could be found in the aft corner on the starboard side. One deck above on E Deck consisted of entirely of 1st class space. The most enriching feature was the Drawing Room which had a row of windows said to 'rival those of the Atlantic liner of the time.' Aft of this room, the Promendade could be found in addition to the Bar, Smoking Room, and Writing Room. E Deck terminated with the only pool and lido on board for the 1st class. The next level was D deck, comprising of the fo'c'sle at the stem which housed the navigation, and anchoring equipment for the CAMBODGE. Amidships was the start of 1stclass accomodation, including 'cabine de luxe' #5 said to be the most luxurious cabin onboard which comprised of a seperate bedroom, and sitting room situated on the starboard side. D Deck cabins even had private balaconies, while some larger cabins did not. The Tourist class promendade was located aft of these cabins.
Both C and D decks consisted of accomdation for the Tourist class in the bow and on the starboard side was their simple dining room on the port side. 1st class cabins could also be found on C Deck, as well as Tourist class which mostly lacked private baths. B Deck also consisted of the 3rd class entrance to the ship, position aft. The 1st class Dining Saloon was located amidship and positioned to minimize roll. One could also come across the Tourist class Dining Saloon located aft of the galley, although not as lavish as its counterpart. The CAMBODGE and her sisterships VIETNAM and LAOS operated successfully through the 1950s until 1967 with the closure of the Suez Canal. In turn they were forced to alter their course routes around the Cape in Africa. It was in 1962 that the CAMBODGE helped repartriate the French people from Algeria to their home country. In addition, with the jet age rearing it ever increasing popularity again, the liner cruising on intenaries from Australia to the Indian Ocean. In 1968, VIETNAM saw new life as PACIFIQUE and two years later was sold for pilgram service in the Far East with the Compania Navegacian, albiet with a new capacity of 1,600 passengers. This did not last very long as both her and the LAOS were destroyed by fire and scapped in the mid 1970s. The CAMBODGE however was much more forunate, serving on as one of the most influencial and popular liners of her time. Before becoming this already mentioned success story and as fate would have it, Greek interests saved the ship from suffering the same demise as her two sister ships. In fact, her new owners would partake in completely transforming in what would become one of the best known Greek ships of modern cruising. Under the flag of the Sun Line, the Greek operators would pair up the former CAMBODGE with the smaller 4,000 ton STELLA MARIS and the 6,000 ton STELLA OCEANIS. Sun Line was a family-owned company established in 1958 by Charalambos and wife Isabella Keusseoglou. The family orientation of this luxury cruise operator on the Aegean Sea showed remarkably well in the day to day operations of the line for many years to follow. While laid up and partially gutted in La Spezia, the new liner was renamed STELLA V, as final plans for her rebuilding were finalized. In February of 1971, she sailed to Perma, Greece for final conversion into her last incarnation and more befitting name, the STELLA SOLARIS. The name actually derives from the Greek world for “Solar Star.” It was while at the Mariotti Shipyard that much of her transformation was carried out, all in the span of two years. Under the direction of Nino Zancada, the new liner would receive one of the most renowned internal face lifts that would again give the ship enormous detail and quality of art and style the world has ever come to know. That stylish as well as comfortably built furniture was by Cassina. Artwork was at that hand of Italian masters Emanuele Luzzati and Enrico Paulucci. When work had been completed in June 1973, what emerged was a totally sleek and transformed liner with a streamlined finned funnel, expanded superstructure, twin pooled lido, air conditioning throughout, larger public spaces, and modernized cabins with private baths. While she boasted a more expanded and yet pleasing profile, it was under new standards of tonnage class that the size of the ship was reduced to 10,595 tons.
The 1st Class Smoking Room on E deck. Rob O'Brien collection
The 1st Class Children's Room on F Deck
Rob O'Brien collection
The 1st Class Writing Room on E Deck Rob O'Brien collection
This was the ships 1st Class Bar, facing aft. Rob O'Brien collection
Within reach of her newly revised capacity of 765 one-class passengers lay artwork and décor of enormous quality and detail consisting of ancient Greek themes. This highly acclaimed décor with which she became known for included ceramic, metal and velor elements. Indeed the very same elements that were so unique to her own that nothing like it could be found in any other liner sailing at the time- nor has the world seen anything of the like since then(this feat been repeated since then.) For the next several years she spent summers in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean and wintered in the Caribbean and along the coast of South America. She would prove at this time very popular and was said to possess a repeat passenger ratio that became the envy of her competitors. At the peak of the 9 deck STELLA SOLARIS begins the Sports Deck. We start at the forward end from atop the wheelhouse continuing with the funnel and from here it splits into two seperate walkway wings that surround the lido below, providing a spacious and uncluttered look over the pool area. On the next level down we find the Lido Deck and much like the Sports Deck, starts off with the wheelhosue, the interiors of which houses the chartoom and all equipment necessary to navigate the ship to her destinations. Following aft of this we come across a narrow outside walkway inboard of the lifeboats, sheltering the Lido on either side of the vessel, glass paned windbreaks were found just aft of the lifeboats. The inside portions of the Lido deck following the bridge were officer accomodations and the radio station. In the aft enclosure, the 100 capacity Lido Bar offered up buffett style portions of Greek and Contential cuisene as supplied by Sun Line. The Bar in fact had a direct view to the pool area via a large glass screen. Golden Deck as part of the lowest in the superstructure consisted of passenger accommodation- Category 4 primarily. The Infirmary (hospital), and Gymnasium could be found at the bow, as could the crew only forecastle which housed the anchor equipment. 16 of the cabins on this deck were the Deluxe variety and were positioned amidships. In the Aft portions of the Golden Deck nested the Gymnasium and Spa and beyond that was the fantail. Ruby Deck contained additional passenger cabins, along with 16 Deluxe accommodations much like its counterpart above. Emerald Deck consisted of Category 6 passenger revenue producing spaces as well as the main entrance foyer to the STELLA SOLARIS. Most important on this deck was the circular recessed lighting of the entrance lobby said to be inspired by 1950s Italian ocean liners which by then were few and far between as the Jet era and old age would send many to the history books. Sapphire was the lowest deck for passenger cabins divided into two portions, Category 8 aft, Category 11 midships. Also of importance on this deck was the Cinema and the last passenger accessible level, Main Deck, containing the Discotheque directly below the Cinema. Boat Deck largely contained 34 of the 'upper crust' cabins, with 10 of the largest located in the forward section. Secondary to the aft of Boat Deck were two inviting spaces, the Card Room and Reading Room. On the Solaris Deck one could find the majority of the public spaces onboard. The Main dining room ran the full width of the ship and although forward, was just aft of the Galley. Amidships, one came across the Bar Grill Room, Pursers Office and Gallery nested near the primary entrance foyer to the ship. Continuing aft, was the ships largest room, the full width Solaris Lounge and
tucked at the stern lay the Piano Bar.
The adventure and career of the ship that is the STELLA SOLARIS all began in the latter part of 1973. More specifically it was on December 22nd of that year that she set out from Port Everglades and made her very first voyage as a cruise ship. A vessel that in more ways than one, would set a few known standards for cruise travel. While not as critical to paving the way for the modern cruise era as the MARDI GRAS or NORWAY, where she lacked in sheer size as compared to her competition and contemporaries, the SOLARIS made it up in overall charm, crew hospitality, art and decor. Her maiden calls included the ports of St. Thomas, San Juan, St Maarten, Martinique, Barbados, and Trinidad. Then continuing west to Isla Margarita, Curacao and north through the Caribbean Sea to Port Antonio, Port-Au-Prince and back to Port Everglades by the 5th of January 1974.
1974 The First Full Year
The initial cruises for this elegant trendsetter was, for the known part, a repeat of her maiden voyage revisiting the same ports. The first of the year was made on January 5th, then again on January 19th, and in the "High Season" on February 2, and 16th and lastly on March 2, 1974. The first port was St Thomas, at one point called "a paradise of supermarkets" and ideal for sightseer who likes to shop. San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, and St Maarten a place for beaches and green hills and valleys were the next two ports. Martinique was fourth, a port where passengers could enjoy Fort-de-France for a day and the charm of this French Island. The island ports of Barbados, and Trinidad were further south, with the former easily called a West Indian version of England. Isla Margarita was a call that was dependant on the weather, nevertheless a place of white beaches and colonial architecture. Curacao, Port Antonio and lastly the capital of Haiti, Port-Au-Prince was seen last on the voyage before her return way-point to Florida.
19747 day "Odyssey Cruises"
The first day of April in 1974, set off the start of her most frequented cruises out of her registered home port of Piraeus. Every Monday until October 21 it was a late evening departure at 10.00 pm from that port, first stopping on Tuesday at Delos with a scheduled 730 arrival and after noon would make way for nearby Mykonos on the very same day. She was overnight at Mykonos until 1 am on Wednesday. 6 hours later she was at Santorini until 11.30, depending on the weather and was at Heraklion by 3 pm. Otherwise, it must be assumed she was at Heraklion all day on Wednesday if weather was not favorable for the cruise. By 8.00 am on Day 3 it was the call for Rhodes until nightfall at 10.30 where she made the stop at Ephessos for a brief 5 hour stay. For the weekend, Istandbul was the choice port from the set time of 7.30 am Saturday and staying overnight until the afternoon of the next day. By Monday 8 am she was tied back up in her Greece ready for the next Odyssey Cruise in which she would enjoy during her first year of service, and repeat for many years to come.
Beginning in December 1974 the "incomparable" STELLA set out on a half a dozen 14-day ' Mayaland' cruises. The departure point had her back stateside in Port Everglades on each Saturday, taking a day at sea to arrive at Cap Haitien at 7 am and departing from there at 1.00 pm. St. Thomas was the next stop on Tuesdays at 2.00 PM. 24 hours later she was slated to arrive at Guadeloupe until 10.00 pm for day 4 of the cruise. The next port on Thursday was St. Lucia visiting there for around 5 hours. La Guaira on Day 6 had seen a longer stay from 11.00 am until 10 pm. The weekend saw Curacao and Santo Domingo, with the later port of call arriving in the afternoon- instead of the morning from the previous day- with a scheduled departure planned for Midnight. Monday saw sea time until Tuesday's arrival at Montego Bay for the better part of 10 hours. The 11th day of the cruise was Grand Caymen day from 7 am until a set time of high noon. Thursday saw a longer stay at Playa del Carmen from 8 am until Midnight. Day 13 was spent navigating in order for a Saturday arrival sometime at 6 am berthed at Port Everglades. The sailing dates comprised of December 21st, January 4, January 18, February 1, 15 and March 1st. Placing the ship between the expected port of Guadeloupe for Christmas Day and also placing her at the ports of Montego Bay and Grand Caymen as she ushered in the year 1975.
1975 3-4-7 Odyssey Cruises
The Sun Line fleet in this year partaked on 3, 4 and 7 day cruises. The STELLA OCEANIS and STELLA MARIS covered the 3 and 4 day cruises. The SOLARIS, being the flagship in the fleet, was placed on the 7 day itinerary covering the same ports that she saw in the later part of 1974, except in a different order. She again departed Mondays and was scheduled to leave at 7.00 pm.
The itinerary was planned as follows:
Tuesday: Heraklion Arrive 07.30am Depart 12.00pm Tuesday: Santorini Arrive 05.00am Depart 08.30pm Wednesday: Rhodes Arrive 07.00am Depart 08.00pm Thursday: Ephessos Arrive 07.00am Depart 11.30am Friday: Istanbul Arrive 0830 Saturday: Istanbul Depart 11.00 am Sunday: Mykonos Arrive 1.00pm Depart 12.00 am
Relations between Turkey and Greece (not to mention the United States that same year) were severely strained as the Greek country claimed the rights to the seabed to many Greek Islands in the Aegean, some just miles off the Turkish coast. Due to these claims and the resulted differences between the Greek and Turkey nations, there was a notice that while the cruise line felt confident that they should resume the traditional calls at Turkish ports, there was an alternative itinerary that ran as follows:
Monday Piraeus Depart 09.00pm Tuesday at Sea Wednesday Alexandria Arrive 0700am Thursday Alexandria Depart Noon Friday Rhodes Arrive 10.00 am Depart 08.00pm Saturday Heraklion Arrive 7.00 am Depart Noon Saturday Santorini Arrive 4.00pm Depart Midnight Sunday Delos Arrive 7.00am Depart Noon Sunday Mykonos Arrive 1.00pm Monday Mykonos Depart 01.00am Monday Piraeus Arrive 7.00am
The sailing dates for these 7 day voyages included:
April: 7, 14, 21, 28
May: 5, 12, 19, 26
June: 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
July: 7, 14, 21
This totals 17 known cruises that the ship sailed with in the better part of 1975.
From April until October the ship embarked on 7 day cruises every Monday at 8 pm first visiting Heraklion, the capital of Crete and the largest of the Greek Islands from 7 am until Noon. From the months of April to September, she would spend day 2 at Santorini for four hours, depending on the weather. If the weather did not corporate, all day the ship would be tied up at Heraklion. From there it was onto the port of Rhodes on Wednesday, a legendary place that was once dominated by one of the Seven Wonders of the World- the Colossus of Rhodes. Day 4 was spent at Ephessos, home of the Temple of Artemis(Diana) then onwards for two days Istanbul, on Friday and Saturday until Noon. Sunday was split between the ports of Delos and Mykonos until Midnight were the short trek back to home port was made by 7 am on Monday.
1978 Christmas 1977/New Years 1978 Cruise
At the end of 1977 the STELLA SOLARIS made a switch to sailing out of Galveston, Texas towards the last month of 1977 as she would be preparing for the upcoming new year and season. December 20th at 5pm she set out on this first of these cruises with two days at sea as she arrived at San Juan, the first port of call. Spending nearly two days -Saturday and Sunday Christmas Eve, with a 2 am departure and arrived at St. Maarten for Christmas Day for Day 6 for this 14 day venture. Monday the 26th she was in Guadeloupe from 8 am until 6pm and mad her way for St Croix on the next port of call. By 8 am on Day 9 it was two days in Santo Domingo and a 2 am scheduled departure on the 29th On Thursday the ship spent the day navigating for Montego Bay arriving at 7 am on the 30th. Grand Cayman was seen 12 hours later and New Years Eve she was making her way for the last port of the cruise, Playa Del Carmen- also her first port of call of 1978. By 4pm on the first, she was making a few sea days towards Galveston and landfall was completed sometime at 9 am on the 3rd of January.
1978 Jamacian/Mayan Cruise
The first official cruise of 1978 included many maiden calls when she left Galveston on the 3rd making steam for Montego Bay preceded by two sea travel days. A Grand Cayman visit was seen on Day 5 for six hours, with the stop at the port of Playa Del Carmen on Sunday the 8th from 8 am until 4 pm. From Sunday at 5pm until almost 24 hours later on Monday, it was the first of many Cozumel visits. Upon the departure there, it was back to sea time for a January 11th arrival at the temporary home port of Galveston.
1978First known Charter Cruise
On January 11th of 1978 the ship underwent a 11 day charter cruise beginning with the usual 5pm departure from Texas and spending the next two days at sea. The SOLARIS arrived at Ocho Rios, site of the famous Dunn River Falls. It was a maiden call that did require a departure until midnight. On Saturday the 16th it was a usual 8 hour stay in the port of Cartagena that was preceded by sailing Caribbean waters all day on Sunday. Then it was onto for the maiden calls at Christobal on Day 6, and San Andres on the 18th. Thursday was Day 8 for the unusual five and a half hour visit at Grand Cayman, and the last port of Cozumel the next day, departing at 4pm for another sea travel day for the arrival back in Galveston. 1978Discovery Cruise
Her next voyage was a 7 day Discovery Cruise from the 22nd to the 29th of 1978. This followed nearly the same itinerary as the 8 day that took place starting on January 3rd, minus the Playa Del Carmen port of call, and one day at Cozumel instead of two dwelling from the cruise at the start of the season.
1978Best of the W. Caribbean
A 12 day Best of the Western Caribbean Cruise began on January 29th and continued until Febuary 10th. Again leaving from Galveston at 5pm she made her way to Montego Bay predated by the typical two days at sea. Another day of steaming in warm weather waters followed before arriving at Aruba on Day 6 the 3rd of February. Then it was onto the fortified city of Caregena, Columbia on Saturday the 4th, followed by the port of Cristobal- the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal, and by Monday the 6th she was tied up at San Andres until Noon. Day 10 and 11 were Grand Caymen and Playa Del Carmen visits and allowing for a Friday return back to the U.S.- the ship was out to sea on Thursday.
197816 Day Grand Caribbean
Her longest cruise of the year was a 16 day itinerary that started with a February 10th departure making her first stop at San Juan for almost two days, preceded by three days of leisure cruising on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Docking at St Thomas and Guadeloupe was made on Day 6 and Day 7. A maiden call at Grenada was short, leaving by 1 pm and arriving at Aruba the next day on the 18th. Cartagena and Cristobal was seen on Sunday and Monday with the latter leaving early at 1pm in order to make the transit through the Panama Canal on the 20th tendering her passengers at Balboa until the next day at 6 am. After making her back east on that Tuesday, the ship visited the port of San Andres, Grand Caymen, Playa Del Carman lastly before another the day at sea, which had her disembarking her passengers in the Lone Star State on Sunday the 26th.
1978Best of the Western Caribbean
Picking up where the 16 day cruise left off and continueing until the 10th of March, a voyage that was indeed a repeat of the cruise made from January 29th to the 10th of Febuary. All at the same scheduled times and the same ports. 1979
From April 9th until October 22nd, the SOLARIS followed in the wake of her 1977 internary, the ship visiting the same ports at exactly the same days, making at total of 30 known cruises during her normal season of that year.
1980/1981 Cruises out of Galveston, in the Lone-Star State
Three views of the Solaris Lounge. Above, a 2002 view of the Lounge while laid up. Photo: Bart de Boer Copyright 2002, www.shipparade.com. Left, The same room in early years, to remain largely unchanged in years to come, Rob O'Brien collection. Below, a foyer on Solars Deck. Photo: Peter Knego Copyright 2001. The Solaris Lounge was seperated from the Piano Bar by an interesting large metal screen that spans the width of the ship (72 ft.) In this view facing starboard from the Solaris Lounge, Peter Knego Copyright 2001. http://www.maritimematters.com/stella-solaris4.html The Gallery, both facing forward, with shop inboard and large windows providing great views of the sea. Left, Sun Line image. Right, Bart de Boer Copyright 2002, www.shipparade.com
The Dining Room, both facing forward, was an elegant place to enjoy the inequaled cuisine that Sun Line offered. Above, the original look of this room. Right, the same room almost thirty years later. Photo:Bart de Boer Copyright 2002, www.shipparade.com
Right, the Cinema facing aft on Sapphire Deck. Above & Left, a series of suites from Sun Line. Rob O'Brien collection
A color view of "Compagnie Des Messageries Maritimes", CAMBODGE. Rob O'Brien collection
Color deck plans of the STELLA in her original colors/configuration. Rob O'Brien collection
This cruise was set to began on April 2nd, sailing from Piraeus to the port of Dikili on a brief 5 hour stay, Istanbul was seen for twelve hours on Sunday, and on the 6th of April a day of sea travel was made before arriving at Port Said allowing visitors to enjoy from 7 am until 10pm. Ashdod, and Haifa, were the next two ports, with the later staying overnight from Thursday after the three hour Ashdod port of call. A stop was made at Rhodes on Saturday the 10th, and Santorini from 7 am to 12 pm the next day - if weather permitted, and lastly moored up at Mykonos from 4 pm until Midnight also on the 11th, before arriving back at Piraeus by 7.00 am on Monday.
Available to the discerning traveler after that April 12th arrival in Greece were up to three different varieties of cruises. The first type was a 7 day which focused on the Greek Islands and Turkey, visiting ports of similar fashion the Easter voyage but with a few exceptions: Tuesday was Day 1- made at Dikili, Day 2 at Istanbul on Wednesday, Thursday at Izmir on the third day, Friday it was Rhodes for the fourth, Heraklion, and Santorini on Saturday for Day 5, Delos and Mykonos where the choice ports on Sunday. Of course as seen in most cases and most crusies, Santorini and Delos were effected by weather allowing passengers to enjoy the last two ports for the duration of twelve hours on Saturday and Sunday.
Also available to the Sun Line traveler in 1982 were those 7 day adventures that visited not just the Greek Islands, but Egypt, Turkey and Israel as well. Much like the other 7 day counterpart mentioned above, the departure time at the Port of Athens was by 7 pm. The first full day was made at sea, with Port Said on Wednesday from 7am until 10 that night. Ashdod and Haifa was seen on Thursday and Friday, Day 3 and 4 respectively. Both calls arrived in the morning, although the earlier was a longer stay until Midnight, while the later made a dash for the next port just after noon. Rhodes, Kusadasi, Samos were the ports on the weekend, with the later two sharing the last day on Sunday: Kusadasi in the morning until just after high Noon and Samos two hours later until 7 pm. As almost always the case, Monday morning she was back in her home port.
Combining the two itineraries above Sun Line offered a 14-Day Grand Tour cruise that visited the same ports in two 7 day cruises, Throughout the year starting from April 12th until October of that year passengers could opt for two of the available 7 day cruise to visit the Greek Islands and Turkey or 7 days to the Greek Islands, Egypt, Turkey and Israel. Sailing dates for these cruises included:
April 12 and 26,
May 10 and 24,
June 7 and 21,
July 5 and 19,
August 2nd 16th 30th
September 13 and 27
with the last made on October 11
It was sometime in April/May of 1982 that the producers took the cameras for the popular Love Boat series over to the Mediterranean to film a unknown number of episodes on location and on-board the STELLA SOLARIS. The episodes featuring the Greek ship aired that year sometime in the Fall, most likely in a two part episode as noted on www.imdb.com. This leaves the season opener(a two part) airing on the date of October 2nd, 1982 with the episode "Venetian Love Song/The Arrangement/Arrividerci, Gopher/The Gigolo: Part 1" and Part 2 or the other two part episode "Spoonmaker Diamond, The/Papa Doc/The Role Model/Julie's Tycoon: Part 1" and Part 2 that originally aired on November 13, 1982 as the other
'Starship' STELLA SOLARIS, embarked Galveston, Texas on December 19, 1980 for a 16 Day Christmas/New Years Double-Transit Panama Canal Cruise. This would be the start of a port she would spend as much time in as say Fort Lauderdale, or New York as seen in the years to come. The cruise was scheduled for a 1.00 am departure that would have her sailing for the next day arriving at Grand Cayman at 8 am on the 21st, and departing at 3.00 pm for another day at sea where she made landfall at Santo Domingo at 8 am. Again departing at 3.00 pm her next port was St Thomas and spending Christmas Eve there until Midnight where Christmas was spent at sea in order to arrive at Aruba in the morning for a short five hour stay on the 26th of December leaving an hour after noon. The port of Cartagena was seen exactly 24 hours later. A Sunday service call to Cristobal from 11.30 am-1.00 pm was made for those passengers wishing to make a overland shore excursion to Balboa and meet up with the ship there on the 28th as she made the Transit through the Panama Canal on that Sunday afternoon. Balboa's arrival was made at around 9.00 pm and it was overnight there until Monday bright and early at 6.00 am as she transited back through the canal and sea travel time was spent on the 30th. Cozumel, Mexico saw the ship on New Years Eve at 2.00 pm and she stayed overnight celebrating the first of the year until sometime at 6.30 am where she made her way for Playa del Carmen just a few hours later until later that afternoon. By January 3rd she returned to Galveston from the previous sailing day at sea. It was from this point (Jan 3) that she would spend the next two months on 8 Day "Party Boat" cruises. Leaving on each occasion at 5 pm, as a two day sea travel transition was made to arrive at Montego Bay on Day 3 for a noon arrival and leaving for Grand Cayman by 6.00 pm. She stayed in that port for six and a half hours, and continued on for Cozumel, arriving there at 9.30 in the am. It was Day 5 and Day 6 that made for an overnight stay in this Mexican port and by 6.30 am she was leaving for Playa del Carmen for a 8.00 am to 4.00 pm visit. Day 7 was at sea and Galveston finished the cruise at 9.00 am. Three of these "Party Boat" cruises were made, the first ending on the 11th of January, and the next beginning on that same day and ending on the 19th. A twelve day interruption was made (see below) between the last which by the 31st had begun and on the 8th of February closed out these cruises.
Not overlapping but seen between the second and third Party Boat cruises was the first from a series of four 12-Day 'Best of the Western Caribbean/Double Transit Panama Canal Cruise.' Most of the same ports was seen from the previous three months. It was on the 19th in the late afternoon that the cruise liner set out for once again two days at sea on the 20th and 21st. Also placing the SOLARIS on that same sea trek on February 9 and the day after, February 21st and 22nd and lastly on March 5- 6th. January 22, February 11th, February 23 and March 7 was the Grand Cayman port of call from 7 am to 1 pm. Kingston was new to the itinerary list and she was there from the same time as the previous port and leaving just a few hours later on the dates of January 23, February 12th, 24th and March 8th. From 2.30-7.30 in the afternoon the ship was docked at Cartagena on the following day from the dates just mentioned. Cristobal was the next day's short hour and a half visit so that willing passengers could meet up with the ship in the next port of Balboa and witness their vessel trek through the locks on the dates of January 25, Valentines Day, February 25th and March 9th. She was in Balboa for those dates as well as the next calendar day and like the Christmas/New Years Cruise left by 6 am. Placing her through the Panama Canal-eastbound on the day after. Also like that 16 Day cruise and similar to the 8 day Part Boat voyages, she visited the same ports on Day 8 through Day 12 at nearly the same times. With sea travel time being on the January 27 and 30ththe first cruise, February 16 and 19th for the 2nd cruise, the third on February 28 and March 3 and the last on March 12th and March 15th. Therefore, the overnight at Cozumel and the Playa del Carmen port of call was in between these respective dates.
The ship was scheduled to return in home waters for the next voyage as an unusual 18-day Trans-atlantic Miami/Piraeus cruise was offered. It should be noted of further interest that Galveston and the nearly two day sea time to Miami was offered for those passengers wishing to make it a 20-day 'cruise of a lifetime' as named by Sun Line literature. A total of 9 ports of call was made in seven countries. Sun Line most likely had the aptly named "Starship" STELLA SOLARIS- named presumably and befittingly so in honor of her many occasions departing from the 'Lone Star' state of Texas- set sail at 5 pm on both ports.
The steam driven ship made speed for the North Atlantic crossing, first stopping at the Bahamas, Madeira then arriving at Morocco, Spain, Monaco, Italy and by April 5 arrived back in Greece.
Left, a fine view of the STELLA SOLARIS, and above, making her way through the Gatun Locks and the modern Wonder of the World that is the Panama Canal. Sun Line
1973 The Inaugural Seasonext.
Two great views of the ship off the San Blas islands in 1982. Images courtesy of Steven Wymore.
Departing at around 5 pm in Galveston, Texas on December 21st, the voyage commenced with two days at sea and stopping at Georgetown in the Grand Caymen Islands, and spending Christmas Day at Jamaica (Ocho Rios). It was then onto St. Thomas, Philipsburg in St Maarten on the 28th, the next day in Iles des Saintes, Wednesday the 29th in Guadeloupe, New Years eve in Oranjestad, in Aruba preceded by a day of sea travel. New Years day the ship tied up at Cartagena in Columbia until 1 pm. She made transit to the Panama Canal on the 2nd arriving in Balboa at around 3 pm. With 2 days spent at sea the vessel made an arrival at Playa del Carmen in Mexico. Another day at sea was made before finally arriving at Galveston Texas in the morning hours of 7th of January in 1983. Beginning on that very same day, and then again on January 27th, and February 16th, she embarked on three 10 day Panama Canal cruises from Galveston to Curacao visiting nearly the same ports as the Christmas/New Years cruise but also including Cozumel, Montego Bay they making her way through the Panama Canal on day 6 and 7 before a day at sea. It was among the fist of many visits that she would make to the San Blas Islands, before this voyage ended in Curacao. Until March of that year the STELLA SOLARIS would embark on a total of six 10 day panama canal cruises. There were three southbound one way cruises from her semi permanent home of Galveston, Texas to Curacao and the first one taking place on the January 7th, leaving at the usual planned time of 5PM out of her semi permanent home of Galveston, Texas. From there it was visiting the ports of Cozumel, Mexico, George Town, Montego Bay, the transit through the panama canal, San Blas Islands, Cartegena, Oranjestad and arriving on the 17th at Willemstad, Curacao.
1983 Sun Line 25th 1958-1983
A special 11 day Easter Cruise visiting the all familiar territories of the Greek Islands, Egypt, Israel and Turkey launched the season on March 31st, 1983. It was business as usual for the rest of the year beginning on Monday April 11th. Comprising a total of twenty 7 day "Greek Islands and Turkey" cruises Day 1 was a five hours stay at Dikili, and Istanbul on Wednesday and the port of Izmir on Thursday from 1pm - 9pm. Rhodes was the fourth port on Day 4 and Heraklion the next from 7 until noon. If weather permitted Saturday also meant that tendering at Santorini for the rest of Saturday was possible. Sundays port of call was Delos, also dependent on the weather. Otherwise, Sundays normal stop was Mykonos from just after noon until just before midnight. A 7 am arrival at Piraeus allowed passengers to disembark before the next cruise, all which virtually every case departed twelve hours later. Sailing dates for the first variety of cruises: The second type of cruise offered during the year was one encompassing "Greek Islands, Egypt, Turkey and Israel." Again, every Monday the ship set sail from the port of Athens with a day at sea following that and arriving at Port Said by 7 in the morning on Day 2. Also in Egypt, Ashdod was seen the next day at almost the same time, and casting off just a few hours later. Friday was another sea day and if weather cooperated on Saturday, the ship tendered passengers for Simi from 7 am until 11 that same morning. If not, the call at Rhodes was perhaps longer instead of the 9 and a half normally scheduled for this port. Samos, and Kusadasi rounded out the final two ports over the rest of the weekend before back home to begin her next cruise first taking place on April 25th then again on May 16th, followed by June 6th, 27th, and on July 18th, August 8th and 29th and September 19th and October 10 finished off the year.
For those wishing to extend their stay on board to soak up the hospitality of the crew and the fine cuisine offered, could opt for the 14-day "Grand Tour Cruises." This schedule combined the first 7 days of the "Greek Islands & Turkey" and joined the Egyptian ports, the two days at sea and the three Turkish ports. Also made available was the option to sail three Egyptian and Israel ports first, followed by the Greek and Turkish ports last. In both cases, this was written in Sun Line brochures for nine dates throughout the year. 1983Helios and Trans-Atlantic 23-day Thanksgiving Cruise 1983/1984Amazon River Christmas/New Year's Cruise
On the launchway
1984Amazon River Cruise
On the launchway
198410 day Trans-Panama Canal Cruise
1984Trans-Panama Canal Valentine Cruise
Once again, the ship working her thru the Panama Canal is always a highlight of the cruise. Sun Line
The final voyage for the year would become the second annual 27 day "Helios Cruise." This adventure would follow, Helios, the ancient Greek God of the Sun, and in the process visit three continents along the way. As usual the departure port was Piraeus casting off on Tuesday November 26th at 7 pm and spending two days at sea where on Thursday the ship docked at Messina at 7 am and setting sail for Civitavecchia later in the afternoon. Thanksgiving was spent at sea and the call for the port of Rome was for 14 hours allowing the passengers to take in the sites for that city. Our third port in the cruise was Livorno(for Pisa) on Saturday from 7 am and leaving for Villefrance at 10 pm. December 1st called for an 8 am arrival in Villefrance staying overnight and leaving at sometime by 2 am on Monday for two travel sea days. It was on the 4th that the ship made a visit to Cadiz, Spain arriving at 7 am and leaving at the same time as her previous Italian port of call. Thursday the 5th saw Tangier in Morocco, Africa repeating the same early arrival as her previous ports and departing later in the afternoon for Lisbon Portugal on Friday where she stayed from 8 am until 9 pm. The weekend saw additional sea time before arriving at Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands tieing up just after noon and leaving by night fall. A westbound trek across the Atlantic was made that Sunday night and the following Sunday the ship was welcomed by the Bridgetown in Barbados on the 15th of December. The first port of the West Indies was made from 7 am until 5 pm where on the next day Pointe a Pirtre in Guadeloupe repeated nearly the same duration visit. Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands was the last port of call lasting from 8 am until 5 pm on the 17th. A northerly route towards Florida was made fro the next two days before disembarking her passengers once she made landfall on the 20th of December.
A wonderful image of the ship in June of 1984. Rob OBrien collection
A very interesting close-up of the screen artwork, looking towards the Lounge. Photo: Bart de Boer Copyright 2002 www.shipparade.com
The STELLA S. at Tilbury. Photo: Ron Baker, portholeproductions
An early artist rendering of the ship. Rob O'Brien collection
Please note: Data is not guaranteed. The dates and ports here were complied from various brochures and do not reflect actual time, dates and port of calls as they were subject to change due to unforseen conditions such as: weather, mechanical issues and political stability in the regions.
Sun Line images of the pools and face of the wheelhouse, left and above.
1983 17 day Christmas/New Year Panama Canal cruise
1984Helios Cruise 27 days to Europe, Africa and North America This series of cruises saw from the months of April to October an embarkation on 9 and 15 day voyages to various of ports of call such as Dikili, Istanbul, Izmir, Simis, Samos, and Kusadasi.