NEW YORK -- Festival Cruises' newest ship, the 1,566-passenger
European Vision, is one of the youngest cruise ships at sea, but
the vessel already has hosted a distinguished group of
In July, the European Vision, which was launched a month earlier
at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France,
hosted world leaders attending the G8 summit of major industrial
democracies while docked in Genoa, Italy.
Because the historic port city lacks the five-star hotel
accommodations usually preferred by such dignitaries, the leaders
and their staffs stayed aboard the European Vision.
In all, the European Vision hosted Russia's President Vladimir
Putin, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, Germany's Chancellor
Gerhard Schroder, France's President Jacques Chirac, Canada's Prime
Minister Jean Chretien, Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
and Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi as well as a delegation
from the European Union.
Festival Cruises is a European-oriented operator that is
marketed in the U.S. under the name First European Cruises.
Another relatively new First European ship, Mistral (built in
1999), hosted the U.S. delegation, all except for President George
W. Bush, who stayed on land at the Jolly Marina Hotel.
Predictably, journalists covering the summit were at the bottom
rung of accommodations, staying aboard First European's 30-year-old
In fact, members of the White House press corps who stayed
aboard Azur were offered a free cruise by George Poulides, First
European's chief executive officer, after several complained about
the size (too small) and the cleanliness (not enough) of their
"I have been advised that your stay onboard the Azur has not
been as pleasant as I would've wished," wrote Poulides in a letter
placed in reporter's cabins during the last weekend of the
Blaming "circumstances beyond my control," Poulides offered the
disgruntled scribes certificates for a free cruise for two aboard
"any of our new generation ships at any time you choose over the
next year as my personal guest."
Other anecdotes and odd bits of information were gleaned by the
ship's staff, including:
• Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who couldn't sleep,
visited the ship's bridge late one evening. Francesco Bruzzone, the
ship's captain, was awakened and explained to Prodi "everything
about the bridge activities," according to a company official.
• The only spouse aboard was Doris Schroder, wife of the German
chancellor. She complained to John Hammond, the ship's hotel
manager, about the water in the ship's pool (too cold) and the
cable radio music (bad). Meanwhile, Chancellor Schroder requested
(and received) a meeting room to organize a press conference
reserved for German journalists.
Schroder was described as "dark, no smiles" while his wife spent
most of her time at the pool and the beauty center.
• Blair, Chretien and Putin shook hands with every staff
Putin ordered pasta and beefcakes at 2 a.m. one morning.
• Poulides personally purchased Italian food (pasta alle
vongole) and fresh fish at Koizumi's request.
• No evening entertainment was requested aboard European Vision,
so delegates (except for the heads of state) went to the Mistral,
where full evening entertainment was offered every night, and
guests reportedly partied until 5 a.m. on several occasions.