The next-to-last of the purpose-built cruise ships from the 1960s that contributed to establish the current cruise industry was beached in Pakistan on 25th of January 2022, to be broken up and recycled. The elegant 18,500 gross-ton ship was built for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and debuted in 1972 as the Sun Viking. It was the last of the first generation of sophisticated cruise ships that helped to establish PortMiami and the cruise vacation industry.

She was the third ship built for Royal Caribbean, and she was ordered when Gotaas-Larsen joined the new cruise line as an investor alongside Wilhelmsen and I. M. Skaugen of Norway. Traditional Norwegian shipowners had been convinced to enter the cruise sector by Edwin Stephan, a young CEO with a vision for the modern cruise industry.

Sun Viking arriving in the Port of Miami
Sun Viking arriving in the Port of Miami

He was working on an idea for “propelled hotels,” in which cabins would be standardized for simpler sales and smaller to encourage visitors to spend more time on deck and in lounges and bars. Stephan imagined cruising as focusing on high passenger density to generate the “volume economy market.” He was also a pioneer in the fly-cruise sector, flying tourists from California to the Caribbean on chartered planes.

The Song of Norway debuted in 1970, offering seven-day cruises from Miami, and two more ships, the Nordic Prince and the Sun Viking, debuted in 1971 and 1972, sailing on alternating Saturdays from Miami on a 14-day Caribbean loop. The Sun Viking had a slightly improved design than the previous two sister ships, with more streamlining and an extra half deck to increase passenger capacity, but she was only 563 feet long.

Royal Caribbean enlarged the first two ships as the cruise industry grew, but skipped the reconstruction of the Sun Viking in favor of new ship development. As the smallest ship in the fleet and the only one with the original design, she became a pioneer for the firm, sailing to Mexico, Alaska, and Asia before repositioning to Asia in the mid-1990s.

The Sun Viking was the last of Royal Caribbean’s original cruise ships to leave the fleet, having been delivered to new owners, Star Cruises, a start-up Asian cruise line, in 1998. Star, on the other hand, accepted an offer from Hyundai Merchant Marine Company not long after. By the 2000s, she had been sold to a series of owners who utilized her as a floating casino ship around Asia, and she had begun the final chapter of her career. After the Hong Kong ship casino sector collapsed, she was sold again, renamed Oriental Dragon, and transported to Malaysia as a casino ship.

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