Cunard puts a little English on its former Vistafjord liner

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PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. -- After a $5 million refit in Europe last December, the newly renamed Caronia arrived in the U.S. sporting Cunard's traditional "livery," shared with the Queen Elizabeth 2.

As a symbol of its new British bearing, the line's former Vistafjord had its hull repainted the traditional matte black of the QE2, along with that ship's white for the Caronia's superstructure and red for its funnel.

Cunard proudly showed off the reincarnated ship to travel agents and media here. In transforming the Scandinavian-flavored Vistafjord into a ship of "British essence," Cunard said, the vessel was registered in the U.K. and now flies the British "Red Ensign."

The new Caronia, the third Cunard liner to carry that name, also received new British crew members, making it "a ship of British character worthy of her distinguished new name," the line said.

The transformation is part of a marketing plan to give Cunard a more pronounced British identity, with the QE2 and Caronia within one grouping.

At the same time, Cunard's previous Royal Viking Sun was assigned a more emphatic "Scandinavian character" last December and turned over to Seabourn Cruise Line as the Seabourn Sun.

Explaining the rationale for rebranding the Vistafjord with a British stamp, Larry Pimentel, president and chief executive officer of Cunard Line, said, "As Vistafjord, she was unfamiliar to many guests in America. Thus, we undertook the refit to better identify the classic character of this grand liner and marry her with the proud, 160-year heritage of Cunard."

Also reflecting a new British patina, the appearance and names of some of the public rooms have been changed. The line pointed to these alterations:

  • The single-seating main dining room has been renamed the Franconia Dining Room, after a notable past Cunard vessel.
  • Dining in the Tivoli Restaurant, an alternative eatery serving Italian cuisine, has been enhanced by the addition of outdoor seating, shaded by awnings.
  • On the Verandah Deck, the Ballroom has received a major face-lift.
  • A new Book Shop has been built beside the Library, featuring floor-to-ceiling cherrywood shelves.
  • A new shopping area, named Regency Shops, has been built on Verandah Deck and offers the ambience of London's fashionable shopping.
  • The White Star Bar features nautical memorabilia of the company's history.
  • On the Main Deck, a new Computer Learning Centre offers classes as well as business and e-mail communications.
  • The former Club Viking nightclub has assumed a new personality as the Piccadilly Club.
  • Two split-level Grand Suites have been renamed the Carmania Suite and the Saxonia Suite, reflecting two more names from illustrious Cunard ships of the past, the cruise line said.
  • Cunard also stressed the Caronia's programs, including unusual itineraries and "elevated on-board enrichment."

    The ship's 12- to 21-day itineraries include Caribbean, South America, Europe and Mediterranean cruises. In addition, the Caronia will offer transatlantic liner service and revive Cunard's historical voyages between Southampton, England, and Cape Town, South Africa.

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