The Rise & Fall of: Royal Olympic Cruises

Continuing our popular series ‘The Rise & Fall of’ we are looking at Royal Olympic Cruises, whose collapse is a prime example of the dangers in the cruise industry. If you used to work for Royal Olympic Cruises or had been on a Royal Olympic Cruise please comment below, send us an email ( or contact us on Twitter & Facebook.Royal Olympic was founded in 1995 when Sun Lines and Epirotiki Line’s passenger operations merged, However it was not until 1997, when a listing on  the NASDAQ was announced the two lines united under the Royal Olympic Cruises branding. The main point of operation was the East Mediterranean with an interesting fleet of vessels. Royal Olympic was a destination intensive cruise line, targeting older guests where the main reason to cruise was to see the sights rather than the ‘wow’ factor of the ship.

The fleet was made up of Stella Solaris, Stella Oceanis, Stella Maris, Apollon, Triton, Odysseus, Olympic/Topaz, Olympia Countess, Triton, World Renaissance, later joined by Olympic/Olympia Explorer & Olympic/Olympia Voyager. A real mixture of ships which is represented in the lack of ‘corporate naming’ so popular now.

Royal Olympic listed on the NASDAQ in 1998, raising $91 Million, The founding families however retained a controlling interest in the business. Following the capital raising Royal Olympic announced that it was to build two new cruise ships, which will travel at high speeds, capable of 33 knots. Designed for a ‘three continents’ cruise where high-speed is required. These two ships would carry around 800 passengers.

However in 1999 Royal Olympic was in trouble, political instability in the region was causing problems and booking fell significantly. The share price of the company dropped from $15 to $2. By the end of the year Louis Cruise Lines, the Cyprus based tourism company, has agreed to buy a stake in the company and invested significantly in turning around its fortunes.

Taking delivery of its first new build, Olympic Voyager, in 2000, Royal Olympic now had a four star ship in the Med. However the sister ship Olympic Explorer was due for delivery in 2001, was delayed due to objections by Royal Olympic about the build quality and vibration problems, finally delivered almost a year later the ship. The ships appeared to successfully operate a summer season in the Eastern med and a Winter season in the Caribbean and West Coast of America. These new ships had a significant lack of balconies, which can only have played a part in the demise of the line.

The International Olympic Committee forced Royal Olympic Cruises to change its name to Royal Olympia Cruises in 2003, and the prefix of the Olympic vessels was changed to Olympia.

Following September 11th Royal Olympic was hit significantly by the global tourism downturn, like all cruise lines. However during the war on Iraq; the business suffered as customers saw the area as a risky destination. With a 55% market share in the eastern Med, and a 9% overall in the Mediterranean, Royal Olympic tried to bolster its fortunes by a rapid change of itineraries but the changing brochures just confused passengers further and at the end of 2003 its two flagships were seized by the creditors.

The line struggled on for a  few months, before finally collapsing in March 2004. Attempts to restart also failed and the line disappeared, with Louis moving into the region with Louis Hellenic Cruises. Most of the fleet was scrapped following the collapse, however Olympic Voyager is currently operating as Costa Voyager and Olympic Explorer is operating as Explorer, a floating university, of which Maritime Matters covers in a great article:

Olympia Countess, the former Cunard Countess, was sold on for further service and now operates as Ocean Countess operating a variety of cruises out of the UK, including Liverpool. Triton continued service as Coral for Louis Cruises Lines but is currently out of service.

It was an overextension of funds, poor planning, as well as outside factors which lead to the collapse of the line. With a larger more stable partner, perhaps P&O Princess or Royal Caribbean, I think Olympic Voyager & Explorer could have had an interesting future on the routes they were designed for.

Poor decisions such as the lack of balconies on cruise ships built in the 21st century, as well as the reluctance to move from the Eastern Med when it was clear that the region was struggling, was two of the core reasons, the inability to finance the debt on these new ships was the straw which broke the camels back.

Did you used to work at Royal Olympic Cruises, do you have any memories of being on Royal Olympic? Please get in touch; You can comment below, Use Facebook, Twitter or Email us.

If you liked this article you may like:
The Rise & Fall of: Festival Cruises
The Rise & Fall of : Premier Cruise Line
The Rise & Fall of : Regency Cruises

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21 thoughts on “The Rise & Fall of: Royal Olympic Cruises

  1. I sailed on the Olympic Voyager in November 2000. It was an incredible trip. Loved the ship and want to sail her again. I don’t like the huge ships you get lost on going from your room to dinner! OV is small, compact, and fast. I remember passing a large ship in the middle of the ocean and it was like that ship was standing still. We went 2700 nautical miles in 7 days, visiting 3 continents. You just get more bang for your buck on a small fast cruise ship. Now it is the only cruise ship I want to sail! I have been trying to find intineraries for her but to no avail. Then I saw this article. At least I see she is still cruising.

  2. In June 1998 we took a 4-night cruise on the MTS Odysseus, which was not the ship we originally booked because that one had been overbooked and we were transferred to the Odysseus. Not too happy about that at the start, but turned out to be great. Admittedly the cabins were small and there were not many amenities, but the crew and cabin stewards and everyone on the staff were friendly and very helpful. Food was okay, service was super, other passengers were nice and we sort of came together as a group in a very short time. The biggest problem was the dock strike that awaited us back in Athens, but the captain practically ‘flew’ us back to port and we were among the first at the pier (had to carry our own luggage) where our travel agency had someone meet us to get us to the airport. It all worked out.

  3. Sailed on the Triton and loved that old “Continental” feel to the ship (It still looked like a ship – not a floating city prevalent on all the new ships). It had a beautiful dining room and gorgeous outdoor spaces. If I had a few million dollars, I’d find her and refurbish her and sail her in the Mediterranean once again. She was a gem. Royal Olympic was a great company – still sad they are gone. We are on our way to Athens in a week and then a sail with Holland America.

  4. I worked for royal olympic for a year as a profesional dancer cruising,the med,scandanavia and russia and south america,had a great time but found the officers very rude and sexist to my fellow dancers i also think photo’s of one of there officers being air lifted from a burning ship before the passangers did’nt help there cause.

  5. I worked on the Olympia Voyager in 2001 -2002 we sailed the med but also did a circumnavigation 58 day cruise around Caribbean and South American sailing through the panama cannal in our time across the water as we then called it. It was a beautiful ship small so everyone knew each other and the passengers could recognise each other too. At the time it was the fastest cruise ship sailing we could get between Islands very quickly meaning the passengers had more time to visit our destinations. I would love to sail on this ship again I believe it’s owned by another company now.

  6. I was a sales manager for Royal Olympic from 1996-1998 in the Midwest. I sailed on both the Triton and Odysseus, and had events on Stella Solaris and Maris. It was a fun time….

  7. I worked on the Olypmpic Explorer as a photographer. I hated it!! It was like an oversized Ferry, arrogant officers and the captain was a absolute pig.They all cheated on their wives back home . I felt like I had joined the army. Actually alot of the male officers were sexist pigs.

  8. My friend and I sailed on the Olympic Voyager in September 2000. What a delightful experience ! Amazing facilities for a small ship and great service from crew. I have a photo of my friend and I taken on board and it is in a place on my wall at home where I often think back to that cruise. So Sorry to hear of fate of controlling company but glad to hear the “Voyager is still on the high seas doing what she knows best.

  9. The first time I sailed on a Royal Olympic Cruise (I don’t remember the name of the ship) was in Greece in 1995. We visited 4 islands and the trip was truly amazing! In 1999, I sailed on the Stella Solaris from Manaus to Rio! I had the time of my life! At the end of the cruise, Royal Olympic gave us complimentary tickets to see the Carnival Samba competitions at the Sambodrome in Rio! This was a first class gesture given the fact that the tickets for the show were about $250. I had the time of my life! The staff on both ships were very professional and I remember enjoying the food. I also remember seeing some of the same staff on board who served me during the Greek cruise. Sorry to hear that the cruise line went bankrupt.

  10. I have worked in World Renaissance as Messman (the position describing an assistant cabin steward) from April to November of 1998. Had a great experience working overseas. I enjoyed my job, had fun working with, and working for multi-race environment. The experience gave me the opportunity to see the world for free. On the other hand, had the worst paying job that I have ever experienced. I accepted the contract here in the Philippines with just $50 a month for the basic salary. What fascinated me more, was the centralized tipping system that was stipulated in the contract that I have signed before joining World Renaissance. We were paid bi-monthly. The first pay day, it was just fine because we were accorded with what was stipulated in the contract. Share from the mandatory tips was given to us, it really was inspiring. The second pay day was extremely far from what I have expected, knowing that I have already worked a full 15 day job that time. We were made to sign a payslip that says we owe the company due to over payment during the previous pay day! The hell did it happen? Centralized tips that was mandatory in the cruise’s program intended for the crew of the entire hotel department was made exclusive for “greeks only”. The mandatory centralized tips was divided among the crew of greek origin “only”.
    Greed and greek sounds similar, that perhaps was a part of what brought the fall of Royal Olympic Cruises. The vessel was governed by corrupt and greedy people.
    On the same hand, the accomodation that we had, was comparable to a pig pen. The worst and the dirtiest that I have experienced ever. Without discounting the food that we were served every day for seven months never had any variation.
    Greek people are great navigators. Show them the money, they are the most corrupt people I have ever worked with.
    The fall of Royal Olympic Cruises was caused by the corrupt people I have known to be greek!

  11. Our family (mom, dad, three kids, and two grandparents) was booked for a cruise on the Stella Solaris through the Panama Canal for December of 2000. The cruise was cancelled a week before we were to sail. We were told it was cancelled for maintenance issues. We were able to quickly book a similar cruise with Holland America, but we could only get interior rooms that were not near each other. ROC gave us 50% off vouchers for another cruise with them during the next 20 months, which we did not use.

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  13. I worked for royal olympia cruises on mv olympia voyager from 2001 to 2004 jan and faced two major ship accidents, I worked as a pizza and barbeacue chef by the pool side my first cruise job, i had a really great experience with the guest I really miss my voyager.I was totally heart broken when the day came to finally leave the ship as it was bankrupt i really love that ship, all my memories in there. I really wish to work atleast once on the voyager, I MISS U R.O.C.

  14. We sailed on the Odysseus in Oct. of 97. The ship was a bit old then, but the crew worked hard to keep it very clean. We were impressed with the crew’s evening shows of Greek music and dancing. Food was fine. We were close to the bow and in slightly rough water the sea splashed against the portholes we had for windows. Sorry to hear the company went belly up

  15. I was working for ROC onboard M/V “Olympic Voyager” and M/V “Olympic Explorer” as bar tender from 2002-2004 and those were some of the best days of my maritime life!

  16. I was a Dance Host for about 6 years (off and on) for Several Cruise Lines Sailing all around the World. What a Great Time.
    I met my Beautiful Keeper, Elsie, in Bedford Texas, my Home Town. She put my anchor down on that – but we Sailed and Sailed Together over 30 different cruises some where I had been and added so many more that we enjoyed Dancing and Seeing new places. We will probably add a few more if our investment in Oil will bounce back up a little more.

    OLYMPIC VOYAGER – Now that was something else – We left to see the Amazon, Late shoving off and then a Dead Stop in St. Thomas. As the Local paper said “Anchored in Paradise”. How could anyone ask for more – Food, Service, and Tendered Ashore. Austin, who hosted with me previously and His wife, Iva Mae made this an experience of a life time. Austin and I went ashore most days and found a local Pool Hall while the girls Shopped and shared the leisure’s of the Voyager. We celebrated New Years on the ship coming back and a full refund on our cruise tickets.

    To any friends we met along the way, touch base

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