Cruise ships in Skagway in the 1990s

Seeing the megaships that visit Skagway now, it’s interesting to look back at what the ships looked like 20-30 years ago. I started taking pictures of them in 1990 when I started picking up their passengers for bus tours. To many ship enthusiasts, the 1990s were nearing the end of the time when cruise ships looked liked ships.

First, let’s have a look at the docks at Skagway. The basic configuration now is the same as it was 30 years ago, though the Railroad Dock is now 2,000 feet long, almost 3 times what it was in 1990. The photo below, from Google Earth, was shot on June 21, 2019 – Carnival Legend was at the RRF docking position (the Railroad Dock Fore, closest to town), Viking Orion was at RRA (Railroad Dock Aft, to the south), and Norwegian Jewel was at BRD (Broadway Dock). Google Earth actually has this image dated as June 20, 2019 – my wife, Cathy, thinks it’s quite amusing that I even noticed that the ships were wrong for that date 🙂

Aerial view of Skagway docks in June 2019
On September 12, 1990, Regent Sun was at the Railroad Dock (background) and Island Princess was at the Broadway Dock.

Regent Sun and Island Princess in Skagway on September 12, 1990

Regent Sun was built in 1964 for ZIM Lines of Israel. Named SS Shalom. She ran between Haifa and New York until 1967 when she was sold to German Atlantic Line and became Hanseatic, used for cruises in Europe and North America. In 1973, Hanseatic was sold to Home Lines and was renamed Doric. Homes Lines rebuilt her with a larger after superstructure, and she was then used for cruises to Bermuda and the Caribbean. In 1981 she was sold to Royal Cruise Line, and renamed Royal Odyssey – she was again rebuilt, including her funnel, an expanded topmost deck expanded, and a bulbous bow added below the waterline. She then cruised all over the world. In 1988, Royal Odyssey was sold to Regency Cruises and was renamed Regent Sun. In 1995, Regency Cruises collapsed and all of their ships were seized – Regent Sun was laid up in the Bahamas. Although she was sold and renamed a few more times, she never sailed again. In 2001, as Sun 11, she was sold to Indian shipbreakers, but sank off South Africa while en route to India to be scrapped.

Island Princess began life in 1972 as Island Venture, sailing for Flagship Cruises. In 1974 they sold her to P&O’s Princess Cruises and she was renamed Island Princess. She sailed for them until 1999, when she was sold to Hyundai Merchant Marine of South Korea. They renamed her Hyundai Pungak, and she was used to transport South Korean pilgrims to religious sites in North Korea. For a brief period in 2001–2002 she sailed as Platinum for Fiducia Shipping. She was then sold to Voyages of Discovery, who renamed her Discovery. In 2014 she was taken out of service, and was scrapped in India the following year. In 2003, Princess Cruises launched a new ship named Island Princess.

In July 1991, Regent Sea (foreground) and Costa Daphne were at the Broadway Dock.

In July 1991, Regent Sea and Costa Daphne were at the Broadway Dock at Skagway.

Regent Sea was built in 1957 for the Swedish American Line, and was christened MS Gripsholm. She sailed from Gothenburg to New York as well as being used for some cruises. In 1971, she was rebuilt as a pure cruise ship. In 1975 she was sold to the Karageorgis Lines, who renamed her MS Navarino she sailed Mediterranean routes for them until 1981, when she was damaged in a grounding in Greece. It took nearly 3 years to repair her, then in 1984 she was sold to newly-formed Regency Cruises, who renamed her MS Regent Sea. In 1995, Regency went bankrupt, and Regent Sea was auctioned off to United States American Cruise Line. They began to convert her to a casino ship, but went bankrupt before completion. In early 2001 the ship was sold for scrap, but after being looted by pirates, she sank off South Africa.

Costa Daphne was built in 1955 as a freighter for the Port Line, who named her Port Sydney. In 1972-1974, she was rebuilt as a cruise ship, and had a short life as Akrotiri Express before joining Costa and being renamed Daphne in 1975. She sailed for Costa until 1997. She was subsequently sold and renamed several times – Switzerland (1997–2003); Ocean Monarch (2003–2008), with a brief spell as Hellenic Aid, a hospital ship in Sri Lanka in 2005; and finally Princess Daphne (2008–2014). In 2014, she was scrapped in India.

Also in July 1991, Executive Explorer was at the Ferry Dock.

Cruise ship Executive Explorer at Skagway in 1991

Executive Explorer was built in Washington in 1985 for Glacier Bay Yacht Tours, as an overnight excursion boat. She was taken out of service in 2002, and in 2006 the company went bankrupt. In 2011, the ship was bought by Alaskan Dream Cruises, refurbished for week-long cruises, and relaunched as Alaskan Dream.
On August 27, 1991, Pacific Princess and one of White Pass’ container ships, either the Frank H. Brown or M.V. Klondike were at the Railroad Dock.

Pacific Princess at Skagway in 1991

Pacific Princess was built in 1971 for Flagship Cruises, who named her Sea Venture and operated her for cruises from the United States to Bermuda. In 1975 she was sold to Princess Cruises, who renamed her Pacific Princess. She is often said to be the original “Love Boat” on the very successful TV series of that name. However, although Pacific Princess and Island Princess were the original floating stars of the show which began in 1977, The Love Boat was filmed aboard many Princess ships in destinations around the globe. Princess operated her until 2002, when she was sold to Pullmantur Cruises of Spain, who renamed her Pacific. In 2008 she was seized for an unpaid repair bill, and she was eventually scrapped in 2013-2014.
In September 1991, Royal Viking Sky was at the Broadway Dock.

In September 1991, Royal Viking Sky was at the Broadway Dock in Skagway.

Royal Viking Sky was built for Royal Viking Line in 1972. In 1982 she was lengthened from 177.70 meters to 205.47 meters. In 1991 she joined Norwegian Cruise Line and was renamed Sunward, but was only with them for about a year. Under many owners, she has had 10 different names, but is currently (2019) being operated by Fred Olsen Lines as MV Boudicca.
Also in September 1991, Yorktown Clipper was at the Ferry Dock, and Pacific Princess was at the Railroad Dock.

Yorktown Clipper and Pacific Princess in Skagway in 1991

Yorktown Clipper was built in 1988 for Clipper Cruise Line. In January 2006 she was sold to Cruise West, who renamed her Spirit of Yorktown. Cruise West ceased operations in 2010. Spirit of Yorktown was purchased in 2011 by Travel Dynamics, but in 2014 she was seized for unpaid bills. She is currently (2019) operating on the east coast of the US as Americana.
On September 10, 1991, I caught Dawn Princess approaching the Railroad Dock.

Dawn Princess approaching the Railroad Dock at Skagway in 1991

Dawn Princess had been built for Cunard in 1957 as RMS Sylvania, deigned to carry both cargo and passengers. The last of their 4 Saxonia class ships built for the Trans-Atlantic route, their dimensions (608 feet 3 inches long, 80 feet 4 inches wide) were defined by the Saint Lawrence Seaway, as the ships had to pass through that system of locks and canals to reach Montreal. Cunard sold her in 1968 to Sitmar Line, who re-named her Fairwind. Following a year-long refit, she began sailing Alaska cruises in 1971, with a capacity of 925 passengers and a crew of 330. For a brief period she operated as Sitmar Fairwind, but in 1988, Sitmar was sold to P&O, who re-named her Dawn Princess and transferred her to their Princess Cruises division. She only operated for Princess for 5 years – in 1993 she was sold to V-Ships, who re-named her Albatros. By late 2003 her machinery was worn out, and she was sold so a ship breaker in India, where she was broken up in 2004.
Using the same name for different ships can be confusing. When I posted the photos in this post on my Yukon History & Abandoned Places group, a couple of people said they sailed on the Dawn Princess long after 1993. The next photo, though, shot in 2006, shows the Dawn Princess that was built in 1997 and operated under that name until 2017.

Dawn Princess, 2006
By 2001, ships were getting much larger. Some time that year, Carnival’s Jubilee was at the Railroad Dock.

Jubilee was built for Carnival Cruise Lines in 1993. In 2004, she was sold to P&O Cruises Australia and renamed Pacific Sun, sailing Australia and the South Pacific. In 2012 she was sold to Chinese cruise company HNA Cruises, who renamed her Henna. In 2015 HNA ceased their cruise ship operations, and in 2017, Henna> was scrapped.
One last photo follows, just because Empress of the North was so unique. On September 4, 2006, she and Celebrity Summit were at the Ore Dock.

Cruise ships Empress of the North and Celebrity Summit were at the Ore Dock in Skagway in 2006.

Empress of the North was built in Washington for Majestic America Line in 2002, and sailed Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and Columbia River for them starting in 2003. Majestic America Line ceased operations after the 2008 cruise season, and the Empress of the North was turned over to the government (U.S. Maritime Administration). In 2013, the American Queen Steamboat Company purchased the ship and renamed her American Empress. She is now (2019) sailing the Columbia and Snake Rivers between Astoria, Oregon, and Clarkston, Washington.


Cruise ships in Skagway in the 1990s — 1 Comment

  1. good stuff… fascinating to see the quick progression in size and the retreat from the beautiful and classic look of a ocean liner to a floating and ungainly floating palace.

    Too bad there is not some way for the visiting vessels to somehow run on shore power while in port…the emissions of several boats in one harbor must be staggering. (and realizing their individual vessel generating capacity certainly exceeds what an entire town of that size uses or can provide).