|MV Regal Empress History
The Regal Empress , with her sleek bowed hull, tiered aft decks and traditional charm, recalls a bygone era in sea travel updated with modern services and amenities.
In service for more than 50 years, this classic vessel was built in Glasgow, Scotland, as the Olympia, the flagship for the now-defunct Greek Line. The 612-foot-long vessel was the first newly built ship for the 14-year-old line. Previously, all Greek ships were secondhand and this was the first major passenger vessel to be built for a Greek-owned shipping company. The Olympia was launched April 16, 1953, an historic day shared by Britain's Royal Yacht Britannia which was also launched in Scotland that day.
The Olympia's owners, the Goulandris Group, had a long-standing wish to operate a well-constructed ship that offered travelers a luxurious onboard environment at acceptable prices. Only 10 percent of her original passenger capacity was first class. The remainder traveled tourist class, a category that became popular after World War II.
For her first trip from the shipyard, the Olympia sailed down to Belfast and Dublin then across the Irish Sea to Liverpool, and ending the voyage in Southampton. During this voyage, the royal fashion designer Normal Hartnel debuted his “Olympia Collection” of ball gowns and summer dresses. All proceeds from the sale of his collection were donated to the Greek Earthquake Fund
On October 20, 1953, the Olympia made her official maiden voyage. Fully booked with 1,200 passengers, the ship set sail for New York, a voyage that featured stops in Cherbourg, Cobh and Halifax. Following this voyage the port of Bremerhaven in Germany, rather than Southampton, became the ship's European terminus.
During the first year of service, the Olympia carried almost 23,000 passengers across the North Atlantic. In that same year, she also made three cruises from New York to the West Indies. The fact that the ship was built with two outdoor pools, ample outdoor deck space and was fully air conditioned indicated that her owners intended her for cruising in warmer locations. This is what happened in 1955, when the Olympia was switched to the longer sun route from New York or Boston to Halifax, Lisbon, Naples, Messina and terminating in Piraeus, Greece. The ports of Limassol on the island of Cyprus, and Haifa, Israel, were added in 1961. The crossing usually took 10 days