Funchal Review and Specifications
Specifications of Funchal
|Year built||1961 / Age : 59|
|Builder||Helsingor Skibsvaerft og Maskinbygger (Helsingor, Denmark)|
|Class||cruise ship hotel|
|Ferry route / homeports||Liverpool|
|Owner||Signature Living Hotels (Liverpool)|
|Speed||16 kn / 30 kph / 18 mph|
|Length (LOA)||153 m / 502 ft|
|Beam (width)||19 m / 62 ft|
|Gross Tonnage||9563 gt|
|Passengers||480 - 524|
|Decks with cabins||6|
Review of Funchal
MV Funchal was built in 1961 under the guidance of Rogério d'Oliveira (Portuguese naval engineer) and is currently operated by the Portuscale Cruises company. Previously, the cruise ship was owned by one of the richest families in the Azores.
History - construction and ownership
In 2013, Rui Alegre (Portuguese entrepreneur) bought from Classic International Cruises Funchal plus three other ships - Princess Danae (Lisboa), Athena (Azores) and Arion (Porto). With these liners, he established the company Portuscale Cruises (based in Lisbon, Portugal). MS Funchal was extensively drydock refurbished in Lisbon (at Naval Rocha shipyards) and upgraded to a 4-star passenger vessel at the cost of nearly EUR 10 million. The hull was repainted black (its original colour).
MS Funchal is a classic-design ocean liner, and sadly - among the last remaining cruise ships of the once great fleet of Portuguese passenger ships. The vessel has been operated by the Portuscale cruise line since the beginning of 2013. The ship was constructed in 1961, under the guidance of the naval engineer Rogerio d'Oliveira. Its features include air-conditioning, full stabilization, three lifts, piano bar, main show lounge, Lido bar, club room, library, card room, shops. The Funchal ship also served as a presidential yacht owned by one of the wealthiest families in the Azores.
In August 2013, MV Funchal left the drydock to arrive on August 27 in Gothenburg (Sweden), starting a new career. However, on August 28, the ship was not released from Goteborg's harbour due to security issues (officially denied by Portuscale Cruises). On September 2, 2013, the issues were resolved, certifications granted, and the ship left Port Goteborg heading to Scotland.
On December 5, 2018, via bank auction, the vessel was sold (for EUR 3,91 million / USD 4,45 million). This news also meant that the ship will not be scrapped. Soon was reported that the liner was acquired by the Liverpool hotel operator Signature Living to start a new life as a hotel ship in Central London. At the auction, Signature Living was represented by QPS Marine Ships (Florida USA-based cruise vessel purchase finance firm). In the auction were represented all 4 bidders. Signature Living via QPS Marine Ships negotiated for nearly 2 years with the bankruptcy administrator for purchasing the vessel. QPS Marine Ships also acted as a consultant in liner's repositioning and management during the conversion project (to a hotel ship).
In the period 2015-2018, both Portuscale Cruises ships (Funchal and Porto) were laid up at Port Lisbon. Company's only operational ship (Azores) was chartered to CMV (Cruise and Maritime Voyages) and renamed Astoria.
In 2019, the cruise liner received GBP 4 million drydock refit and refurbishment. New amenities following the refurb include concierge team (dedicated to timetable service at onboard parties) and exclusive entertainment - El Teatro’s (fiesta), Champagne Charlies Brunch At Sea (party), world-famous DJs, theatrical performances, Alma De Cuba (carnival-style dance performers), percussionists.
You can read the cruise ship's detailed history in the Wiki section below.
Cruise itinerary program
MV Funchal was an example of a classic ocean liner cruising around the world. Ship's routes and destinations included South America, Arctic Circle, Norwegian Fjords, Atlantic Islands, Mediterranean, Black Sea, Red Sea, Australia-New Zealand, Far East Asia.
In late-December 2018, the new shipowner Signature Living revealed an ambitious refurbishment project for converting the cruise liner into a luxury party hotel ship. The vessel will be homeported in Liverpool, from where will be operated roundtrip cruises to popular Spanish port destinations in the Mediterranean, including Ibiza Town, Palma (Mallorca Island), Malaga, Puerto Banus (Marbella). Ship's inaugural cruise will be in Spring 2020. The onboard experience features gourmet dining and superior bar service (via a partnership with Alma De Cuba), 5-star hotel rooms and amenities, live entertainment and beach-style deck parties (with guest BBQs and DJ performances).
The Funchal ship accommodates just 524 passengers and has updated Suites, Mini-Suites, Staterooms and Cabins. All accommodations are beautifully fitted out and contain the latest facilities.
Following drydock 2019, the liner has a max capacity of 632 berths. Room options include ocean views, double and single cabins, one Presidential Suite (capacity 4 passengers). The largest combo cabins accommodate 16 passengers and feature a private sundeck (with outdoor Jacuzzi) and butler-served breakfast.
Shipboard facilities and activities
MV Funchal offers her passengers two fine Dining Rooms located on Azores Deck. One of these is The Coimbra, an intimate restaurant located on the starboard side, aft of the Main Lobby. The spacious Lisboa stretches right across the liner and is accessible from the aft Lobby or amidships stairwell and lift.
What is significant in MS Funchal is its design - a combination of a beautiful ocean liner and fascinating interior. The beautiful shape of this classic cruise liner offers a yacht-like atmosphere to its passengers. Funchal's crew members are highly trained and dedicated to their work. Most of them are Portuguese and have been sailing with the ship for more than 20 years. Passengers are loyal and come back on board the ship again and again.
The features of Funchal include stabilisation, three lifts, air-conditioning, a Main Show Lounge called Ilha Verde, Porto Bar (piano bar), Lido Bar, Excursion Office, Medical Centre, Reception with exchange facilities, Club Room, Casino, Card Room, Library, Teen room, Internet Cafe, Gym, Wellness & Beauty Center, Sauna or Hammam, Photographer & PhotoShop, Shopping Arcade, Laundry and Internet Service.
Activities for young travellers on offer include a treasure hunt, painting, collage, and fun at the Teen Room, that was specifically intended for adult and teen interaction. Following a sophisticated dinner at Coimbra or Lisboa restaurant, passengers can have a fine coffee while listening to live piano music at Porto Bar or enjoy Havana Bar while watching the show performed by international casts of musicians, singers and dancers.
Cellar, tastings, workshops, and contests help passengers develop and further their knowledge of wine. The cruise line offers a wide choice of nectars in the cellar, produced in well-renowned wineries from recognized castes by popular winemakers.
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MS Funchal was designed in Portugal but originally it was hoped by the Portuguese that it would be constructed in Portugal. However, in due course, the shipbuilding contract was given to Elsinore Shipyards (Helsingor, Denmark) for the reason they offered to build the ship for about GBP 2 million - excellent value for the time and far better than the Portuguese were able to offer.
Vessel's keel was laid in July 1960. The entire project came under the guidance of Portuguese naval engineer Rogerio d'Oliveira. The vessel was launched (floated out from drydock) on February 10, 1961. The powerplant was based on two Parsons Steam Turbines, driving double reduction gear and two screws.
On October 10, 1961, during sea trials, the ship managed a top speed of 23 knots (43 kph / 27 mph), with a designed service speed of 20 knots (37 kph / 23 mph). However, later the boilers became a problem and the powerplant was re-engined to diesel engines. An interesting fact is that the vessel was the largest constructed in Helsingor, as well as the largest passenger ship built in Denmark since WW2 (1939-1945).
Just like most passenger liners of its time, the ship carried cargo in 3 holds (1 aft, 2 forward). Among the cargoes were cars, fruits, general cargo, also mail. The ship had all 4 refrigerated compartments. Because of the ship's long design, it always looked bigger than its actual size (153 m). The cruise ship was initially designed with max passenger capacity 400, accommodated in 3 classes - 80 (First-Class), 156 (Tourist-A) and 164 (Tourist-B). Tourist-A and First Class areas were on Promenade Deck, while Tourist-B lounge was aft on B-Deck. The liner featured a spiral staircase (of polished metal and glass) held up by a 4-deck high polished timber column.
The beautifully designed liner was delivered on October 19, 1961, in Lisbon, from where left off the inaugural cruise (maiden voyage) to St Michael’s Island (aka Fort Island / Isle of Man) and Madeira, departing from Lisbon on November 4, 1961. SS Funchal continued the Madeira service until 1966. Soon cruises were extended to Canary Islands (through 1969) operated with roundtrip Southampton departures to Tenerife in October-November.
On various occasions, the cruise ship was state-chartered as Presidential Yacht. In February 1968, Portugal's President cruised to the islands Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde, Guiney and Brazil on SS Funchal. In 1972, he cruised to Rio de Janeiro to participate in Brazil's 150th-anniversary celebrations. During the cruise, Funchal suffered boiler problems. Certain repairs were made at sea (during the Transatlantic crossing from Portugal) and further repairs were made in Rio. After several roundtrips from Lisbon, the vessel was drydocked in Amsterdam where the steam turbines were removed and replaced with two “Werkspoor” diesel engines (9-cylinder, combined power output 7,46 MW). During the 8-months long drydock refit, a new top-deck section was also added (forward of the funnel) and the aft decks were extended. Following the refi were scheduled sea trails (May 1973) and the ship managed a max speed 18 knots (33 kph) and service speed 16 knots (30 kph). The reconstructed liner was delivered in June, when did several cruises from homeports Zeebrugge (Belgium) and Dover (England) to Canaries (Tenerife), Madeira and Cape Verde Islands.
In December 1973, the cruise ship was repositioned to Rio de Janeiro for cruises along South America's coast. In 1976, the Greek shipping magnate George Potamianos (whose family founded Epirotiki Line) chartered Funchal for a series of private cruises. In 1985, he decided to buy the liner for his Arcalia Shipping Company Ltd. With this was founded Classic International Cruises (1985-2012 defunct) via “Great Warwick Inc” (a joint venture between two families - Potamianos (Lisbon-based) and Fritidskryss (Sweden). The vessel was purchased from its original Portuguese shipowner Cia Portuguesa de Transportes Maritimos (CPTM) liquidated in 1985.
Funchal was re-flagged from Madeira to Panama, and manned by Portuguese and Swedish crew. For Classic International Cruises, during summer the ship was homeported in Harwich, while the winter months was cruising in South America leaving from Brazilian ports.
The 1989-1990 drydock refit also added two fully enclosed tender boats. In 1993, Azores Deck (aft) was extended to a Lido Deck (with ample sunbathing area). Boat Deck (aft) was also extended. In 1997, the cruise ship was refitted to comply with IMO's SOLAS regulations, which also required the replacement of all timbers with fire retardant materials. The spiral staircase was partially enclosed, 4 lifeboats were removed (midship) and replaced by the new tenders. The ship was again re-flagged to Madeira.
In 2004, Funchal was repositioned from Europe to Australia (Harwich to Fremantle-Perth. During drydock 2010, the ship was extensively refurbished and new cabins were added. Several Promenade Deck staterooms were removed to making room for Club Lounge. In 2011 the ship returned to Lisbon for a massive refit (including internal rebuilding) to ensure at least 20+ more years of service. By April 2012, all works were stopped (with less than 10% completion) after George Petros Potamianos died. The company Classic International Cruises was liquidated in December 2012.
In early-2013, Portuguese hotel and resort entrepreneur Rui Alegre purchased MV Funchal together with 3 other ships, but only Funchal kept its name. The new company (Portuscale Cruises) invested USD 13 million in Funchal's rebuilding (in Lisbon) in order to pass the updated SOLAS regulations.
In late-October 2019, the vessel was towed to Liverpool. According to Signature Living's latest plans, the liner will not operate cruises but instead will be permanently docked/berthed in the UK and serving as "party hotel ship".
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