Rosmorport to launch Crimea cruise venture

Russia’s Rosmorport is set to launch cruises to Crimea next month using a cruiseship purchased by its recently established subsidiary Black Sea Cruises.

Black Sea Cruises will operate the 9,200-gt Knyaz Vladimir (built 1971) between the ports of Sochi, Yalta, Sevastopol and Istanbul. The ship’s first cruise season lasts until October.

The vessel, which previously operated for Mano Maritime as Royal Iris, was recently acquired by the Russian operator and is at a Turkish shipyard being prepared for its new role. It has been placed under the Russian flag.

Rosmorport, a state entity under the control of Russia’s Ministry of Transport, first announced plans to start the cruise service to Crimea in January. The organisation said the service was started on orders from Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Russia has been keen to boost tourism to Crimea, which it annexed from the Ukraine in March 2014.

Heading the new cruise operation is SV Dadyka, former head of Rosmorport’s port and fleet management department.

The Knyaz Vladimir marks Russia’s return to the deepsea cruise sector. During the time of the Soviet Union, the country was the world’s largest individual owner of cruiseships. Many were deployed in the domestic tourism market, while others were chartered out to foreign tour operators.

The breakup of the Soviet Union saw the state-owned cruise fleet dwindle to nothing, while several attempts to launch cruise operations by private companies using foreign-owned or flagged ships failed to succeed.