MS DELPHIN – exclusive visit on board before scrapping
It hurts when it is clear that the end is unavoidably near. This is also the case with MS Delphin. It has been apparent for a long time that the classic cruise ship from 1975 will not return to active cruise service. For six years, the proud liner has been laid up almost unused on the pier of the Viktor Lenac shipyard in Rijeka/Croatia. The ship was only briefly used as a hotel ship for navy personnel; a subsequent, planned cruise deployment in Argentina did not materialise.
During the Corona crisis, many active and much newer cruise ships have already been retired and scrapped. Therefore, I am not surprised to hear in March 2022 that it is now also time for MS Delphin. Nevertheless, it is sad: the mid-class ship has sailed successfully on the German market for decades and has won many lovers.
I therefore head off to Rijeka and gratefully accept the opportunity to visit the cruise ship one last time.
A wet farewell all the way
Saint Peter is obviously just as depressed: it rains without interruption. Doomsday weather. Exterior shots of the rusty cruiser can only be taken with difficulty: Rain from all sides and puddles – no: lakes – on the ground. On board, after my „boarding“, it looks no different: There is water everywhere on deck and it practically shoots down the drainage pipes. The Delphin is no longer able to cope with this everywhere: even on lower decks inside I observe this during my extensive tour in some cabins and in the “ Pazifik“ restaurant.
Machine ready? Not a chance.
Time is pressing: soon MS Delphin will leave the Croatian shipyard pier for ever and be towed to Turkey. It is no longer possible to think of sailing with the ship’s own engines – the ship has been out of service for too long. A look into the engine room shows that extensive maintenance work has obviously been started, but apparently the crew has suddenly left everything behind. There is no quick fix here, that is very obvious even after a brief inspection.
Ghost Ship Tour
Very friendly and helpful staff from the small Delphin crew accompany me through the sparsely lit ship. They open every door for SHIPS@SEA and I dive into the maritime labyrinth for the last time. And it really is such a labyrinth: ships of these years of construction are comparatively labyrinthine in design and you need a good sense of direction, especially in the crew areas – and even more so in low light.
On every deck from bow to stern and from the outside promenade to the engine room, one thing is present: silence. An almost eerie silence lies over the MS Delphin. The engines are silent, no one is cooking in the galley, no cash registers are ringing in the shops and bars and no commands are given on the bridge. This calm contrasts with the hustle and bustle on the neighbouring pier. Here, MS Ambience of the new British shipping company Ambassador Cruise-Line is being made ready for her first voyage. First and last voyage: Contrasts that could hardly be greater for a ship’s life lie moored here bow to bow.
Decay and cosiness – a contrasting programme
Back on the boat deck by the pool of the Delphin, it becomes clear what continues in many areas of the ship’s interior: the long years of laying up under the then Indian owners have done more than bad to the ship. The deterioration is advanced and obvious. Rotten wooden planks are as present as the main enemy of any ship is everywhere: rust. Some hull areas are barely more white than they are rusty brown.
Both the crew and passenger cabins present a different picture. The crew cabins surprise with their predominantly opulent size and the officers‘ cabins in particular still look cosy today. The guests‘ cabins are mixed: apart from the outdated furnishings, some look as if only the beds need to be made up and the next guests are about to arrive. Others, however, look rotten, have defective windows and are no longer homely. The rain penetrating through the ceilings has been doing the rest in some cabins for years. Thousands of dead insects are hanging around in the window frames and bathrooms – of course, no housekeeping has cleaned here for years.
The glory of yesteryear fades
The public areas are mainly located on the salon deck. In keeping with their age, one or two things are broken, such as the fountain in the Dolphin Lounge. In the restaurant or the shopping arcade, on the other hand, things look mostly tidy and almost „ready to go for the next cruise“. The photo shop is practically waiting to display the next embarkation pictures. Even the dolphin logo carpet in this area is carefully covered with protective foil. This is usually only done when things are about to „get going“ again. The temporary protection of yesteryear has remained permanent. But no one will stroll across this protected carpet to marvel at the boutiques‘ displays.
Lovely Delphin details from the past have been preserved in the charming liner to this day. At the pool, for example, I find the Delphin Lifebuoy, which shows the name-giving animals next to the ship’s name. The table lamps with the Delphin lettering are still at the reception. In the past, they provided cosy, warm light – today there is a lack of electricity to give off this feeling. And the Sky Club on the bridge deck looks almost the same as ever and the dance floor is waiting to be rocked again. It will soon be „rocked“ by the scrappers from Aliaga – presumably without music and only to the beat of the welding burners. One last time then. I experienced what this death tango sounds like first hand when MS ASTOR was scrapped in Turkey.
Why doesn’t the Delphin speak?
It’s hard to imagine it here on board today – a lot of history and maritime soul vibrates in every corridor, every cabin and every area. The air feels rich with it. „Rich“ after a full, long, lively ship’s life. But where there was laughter, talk, arguments, love, drink, food, song, cruising through wind and waves and romantic sunsets, today the ship keeps to itself and keeps all that it has experienced to itself. If only it could talk – I would love to listen.
A final bridge visit
A visit to the spA visit to the spacious bridge is a pleasure. The command area is intact and at the same time very nostalgic. Computers are only found in the offices behind the bridge – they were not used to control the ship. I let my eyes wander – the instruments are just as fascinating as the view over the extensive foreship. How many times might this ship have successfully drilled into the breakers of the Drake Passage on its way to Antarctica? I don’t know, but I can imagine the sea spray whipping up. In a leather sofa next to the bridge dock, I let the impressions and thoughts settle on me.
Looking over the shoulder
In the chart room, deck cadet Bojan gives me an insight into his daily work. He has been on board regularly for two months and is preparing MS Delphin for the final departure together with his colleagues. During various inspection rounds, he checks the moorings, the filling levels of the tanks and regularly inspects all cabins for their condition. All this is documented in daily reports – so there is still something going on at MS Delphin that is somewhat reminiscent of regular ship operations.
Hansa Kreuzfahrten, Passat, Etstur
I go in search of traces of former ship operators on board and find them in a few places. On the ship’s hull, the large „Etstur“ lettering is peeling off. This is so pale that it is only noticeable on second viewing, even though it was the last cruise charter of the Delphin. At the reception desk I find stacks of paper with the Passat Cruises logo and in the crew’s offices there are still boxes of catalogues and postcards from Hansa Cruises. The German tour operators have been bankrupt for years. Much lives on on board – you just have to look while it’s still there.
The end is set
The swimming dolphin no longer has a chance of being saved from the welding torch. The purchase price was paid by the scrapper on the day of my visit and the change of ownership was officially confirmed. This seals the fate of MS Delphin. The proud ocean liner embarks on its last voyage completely unmanned in the tow of an ocean-going tug. Leaderless and alone, it will travel at 4 knots in a planned seven days to the Turkish beach of the world-famous ship’s graveyard. As the last „real“ guest, I finally disembark from the Delphin – richly endowed with impressions of a ship that successfully cruised through her 47 years of shipping life without a single balcony cabin, but with a classic silhouette.
Farewell MS Delphin.
Photocredit: all pics by © SHIPS@SEA, except the two towing pics of MS Delphin are provided by © Courtesy of Viktor Lenac Shipyard
ADVERTISEMENT: SHIPS@SEA travelled on its own behalf, and with the helpful support of Viktor Lenac Shipyard, as well as Harmonytrade/Split and Split Ship Management (SSM).BACK