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Remembering a Festive Night at Sea Aboard the Edinburgh Castle

By Theodore W. Scull

This article is adapted from one written for Travel Weekly, the travel industry newspaper shortly after the ship went into service. The one-night cruise took place on February 6-7, 1998 at the start of the second week of Manhattan Cruises daily New York sailings. The ship was then removed from service in the first week in March. In March, I will include a maiden voyage report on the Edinburgh Castle’s replacement, the SuperStar Capricorn, originally chartered for one year but sadly failed by May 2nd.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle arriving in New York, February 22, 1998.

It was a cruise ship welcome on Pier 88 on Manhattan’s West Side with friendly greetings at the gangway and from a steward on board who escorted us to our cabin on the bridge deck. The outside room was freshly refurbished, the bed queen-size with a pleasant seascape mural on the wall behind, and plenty of room to move about and hang our clothes. The bathroom was from an earlier age with deep blue mosaic tiles and older fixtures but it was clean and everything worked until the next morning when the lights would not go on.

Edinburgh

Another view of Edinburgh Castle.

The Edinburgh Castle can comfortably handle about 1000 passengers in lower berths, but limit will be held to a maximum of 900. We learned that there would be about 275 aboard tonight which meant that all the passengers would get outside rooms, most assigned as they arrived on the pier. For one group of men in their upper 20’s overheard at the next table in the dining room, that would not matter as they planned to stay up gambling, enjoying the disco and perhaps take in a film. The casino department controlled 146 top cabins in a separate inventory. Walking about the Edinburgh Castle, it was clear that the ship had not been entirely refurbished, especially the decks and areas around the two pools, but in February few were likely to be outside. "We wanted to beat the competition, so we searched the world and came up with an available vessel," - said G. Michael Brown, president and chief executive officer of Manhattan Cruises. Brown, an attorney, held the same positions with Foxwoods Resort Casino in southeastern Connecticut, now the largest employer in that state, and before that he was director of New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement as casinos were taking off in Atlantic City.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle turning into Berth 1 at the NYCPST.

Brown, along with three other investors, including two associated with Star Cruises, the largest operator of cruise ships in Asia, own the company. Star will be supplying a replacement vessel in early April, the 800-passenger SuperStar Capricorn, originally known here as the Royal Viking Star. The New York skyline was magical as we sailed down the Hudson, and once past the State of Liberty, we headed down to the restaurant where dinner was served from 6pm to 9pm, the approximate hour that the ship reached international waters. The buffet was nothing short of outstanding, and a word with the executive chef, Gerhard Wind, indicated that he has been given a generous budget with which to work. The entrees included superb beef tenderloin, carved to order, sliced pork, chicken breasts, and grilled fish in serving containers, plus delicate asparagus spears, smoked salmon, endive, lots of salad greens with not a shred of iceberg lettuce in sight. The dessert table had a vast array of cakes, pies, puddings and fancy candies. The card on the table indicated that tips were not included, and when we left our gratuity, the waiter reserved the same spot for our brunch the next morning. At 9:10 the casino opened, and the great majority of passengers chose the 35 gaming tables while the 175 newly installed slot machines were not much in use by this crowd that included young Wall Streeters, middle-aged couples, and ethnic Chinese. But gambling, the most visible activity, is not all that is offered, and more entertainment has been added since our initial cruise. Ben Vereen appeared in the show lounge in mid-February, and other name entertainers are scheduled for the weekend sailings.

Edinburgh

A closeup detail of the ship.

An aft bar lounge was the venue for a four-piece band playing listening and dancing music, and a disco came alive at midnight and continued to five in the morning. There is a two-level cinema, gymnasium and a shop with a limited selection of clothing and sundries but a range of Manhattan Cruises’ logo items is planned. We missed the midnight buffet and most of the late night happenings, and our bedtime coincided with the skyline of Asbury Park off to starboard and during the night the ship turned around just north of Atlantic City. With the ship scheduled to dock before noon the next day, gambling ceased at about 10 am, and restaurant opened for brunch at 9:30 lasting until 11:30. We had an inviting choice of omelets to order, eggs benedict, breakfast steaks, crispy bacon, sausage, lots of fresh fruit, smoked salmon, bagels, bread and pastries. We found only the baked goods disappointing, and the chef explained that the on board ovens are old, so he now buys ashore until the new ship arrives. In the warmer months the cruise may return at 3pm on weekends, but during the winter, surveyed passengers requested an the earlier arrival. A short cruise experience is there among all the gaming tables and slots, and the Edinburgh Castle provides a good value, a quick getaway and with a higher standard of ship in the offing by the beginning of April.

Edinburgh

The funnels.

The 32,000-ton Edinburgh Castle was built in Italy in 1966 as the 27-knot Eugenio C for Costa’s Linea "C", and she could take up to 1,600 passengers in three classes between the Mediterranean and the East Coast of South America. In 1987, she was modernized and renamed Eugenio Costa with a lower-berth capacity of 1,000 and used primarily for cruising in the Mediterranean and South America. When Costa was building the Costa Victoria, the ship served as part payment to the German yard, chartered back and then laid up. Bought by the British firm Lowline, she was refitted in Genoa in 1997 for a cruising program to begin from British ports in April 1998. In the meantime, Manhattan Cruises has taken her until the end of March when she will be replaced by the 800-passenger SuperStar Capricorn, the former Royal Viking Star (built 1973) and Golden Princess, owned by Star Cruises of Singapore. The 28,000-ton ship, now based in Hong Kong will be under charter for a minimum of a full year.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle Sailings: Daily at 7pm, returning at 8am on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and at noon on Saturdays and Sundays. In the warmer months, the weekend returns will be at 3pm. As an experiment to cater to the Wall Street crowd, the Thursday night departure will return at 6:30 am. About once a month, it is a requirement that the ship, flying a non-US flag, call at a foreign port. There will be a three-day cruise to New Brunswick, and perhaps a four-day cruise to Bermuda.

Thanks to Peter T. Eisele for information about the Manhattan Cruises’ dates in service from New York.

All photographs by the author.