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Pride of Bilbao leaving Portsmouth harbour in July 2003
MS Pride of Bilbao leaving Portsmouth harbour in July 2003
Name: 1986—1993: MS Olympia
1993 onwards: MS Pride of Bilbao[1]
Owner: 1986—1993: Rederi AB Slite
1993 onwards: Irish Ferries[1]
Operator: 1986–1993: Rederi AB Slite (in Viking Line traffic)
1993 onwards: P&O Ferries[1]
Port of registry: 1986–1993: Slite,  Sweden
1993—1994: Nassau,  Bahamas
1994-2008: Portsmouth,  United Kingdom[1]
2008 onwards: Nassau,  Bahamas[2]
Route: Portsmouth—Bilbao (as of 2009)
Builder: Wärtsilä Turku, Finland[1]
Yard number: 1290[1]
Launched: 31 August 1985[1]
Acquired: 26 April 1986[1]
In service: 29 April 1986[1]
Identification: IMO number 8414582[1]
Status: In service
General characteristics (as built)[1]
Class and type: Mariella-class cruiseferry
Tonnage: 37,799 GRT
3,420 metric tons deadweight (DWT)
Length: 177.10 m (581 ft 0 in)
Beam: 28.40 m (93 ft 2 in)
Draught: 6.51 m (21 ft 4 in)
Decks: 11[3]
Installed power: 4 × Wärtsilä-SEMT Pielstick 12PC2-6V diesels
combined 23,000 kW
Speed: 22 knots (40.74 km/h; 25.32 mph)
Capacity: 2500 passengers
2447 berths
580 cars
1115 lanemeters

MS Pride of Bilbao is a cruiseferry owned by Irish Ferries and operated by P&O Ferries on their PortsmouthBilbao service. She was built in 1986 as MS Olympia by the Wärtsilä shipyard in Turku, Finland for Rederi AB Slite, Sweden for use in Viking Line traffic.[1]


Brief history

Olympia was built by the Wärtsilä Shipyard in Turku, Finland, for Rederi AB Slite. The ship was launched on 26 April, 1986 under the name Olympia, and operated between Stockholm and Helsinki for Viking Line. Olympia was built as a sister ship to MS Mariella.

A model of MS Olympia as she appeared during her service with Viking Line.

In 1993 Rederi AB Slite suffered financial problems and was forced to declare bankruptcy. Olympia was sold to Irish Continental Group and chartered to P&O European Ferries who renamed her the Pride of Bilbao.

As of 1994, Pride of Bilbao has been registered in Portsmouth,since November 2008 she has been registered in Nassau, Bahamas.

In 2002 she received a major refurbishment, during which the vast majority of public spaces were updated and brought in line with P&O Ferries' new corporate branding of onboard facilities, as well as updating her livery. In addition to this, all Club Cabins and Suites received new carpets and textiles as well as having their en-suites remodelled and refurbished.

The vessel currently (as of 2007) operates between Portsmouth and Bilbao, completing one return sailing every three days.
She has also been previously used to provide a weekly service between Portsmouth and Cherbourg - the "Party Cruise".



  • Silverstones Show Bar (3 bars) - Deck 7
  • Felix Pub - Deck 7
  • POSH Bar - Deck 8
  • Sauna Bar - Deck 2
  • Terrace Bar (outside) - Deck 8

Restaurants and Cafes:

  • International Food Court - Deck 7
  • Four Seasons Carvery and Buffet - Deck 7
  • Langan's Brasserie - Deck 7
  • Cafe Oliveto's - Deck 6


  • Offshore Shopping - Deck 6


  • Whale and Dolphin Watching Observatory - Deck 8
  • Observation Lounge - Deck 8
  • Peninsular and Oriental lounges (quiet areas) - Deck 8
  • Arcade and Atrium areas - Decks 6, 7 and 8
  • Massage chairs - Deck 7
  • Commercial Driver's Lounge (freight drivers only) - Deck 8


  • Steiner's Hairdressing Salon - Deck 6
  • Steiner's Treatment Rooms - Deck 6
  • Swimming pool - Deck 2
  • Jacuzzi - Deck 2
  • Children's splash pool - Deck 2
  • 4x saunas - Deck 2
  • Gym and workout room - Deck 2
  • 2x cinemas - Deck 8
  • Casino and fruit machine rooms - Deck 7
  • Megadrome video games machine room - Deck 8
  • Children's playrooms and Dolphin Club - Deck 6


  • 24-hour Guest Services - Deck 6
  • Bureau de Change - Deck 6
  • 3x Satellite telephones - Deck 6

Cabins: (all en-suite)

  • Club Suites (sleeps 2)
  • Large Club Cabins (sleeps 2)
  • Family Club Cabins (sleeps 3 adults, or 2 adults 2 children)
  • Club Cabins (sleeps 2)
  • Outside 4 berth Cabins (sleeps 4)
  • Outside 2 berth Cabins (sleeps 2)
  • Inside 4 berth Cabins (sleeps 4)
  • Inside 3 berth Cabins (sleeps 3)
  • Inside 2 berth Cabins (sleeps 2)
  • Inside 2 bunk Cabins (sleeps 2)

Wildlife research

Volunteers from the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme regularly use the facilities and bridge of the Pride of Bilbao for research into dolphins and many other rare cetacean species in the Bay of Biscay. The charity also organises watches and talks aboard the ferry for interested passengers.

Possible connection to deaths of yachtsmen

Detectives and officers from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) and Hampshire Constabulary investigating the deaths of three yachtsmen examined the ship when it arrived in Portsmouth on 29 August 2006. The ship is one of at least 5 that the MAIB will inspect as part of their investigation. It is thought the ferry or one of the other ships in the area may have collided, or had a near-miss, with the 25-foot (8 m) yacht Ouzo off the Isle of Wight on 20 August, leading to the deaths. All of the men died from drowning. The MAIB and Police inspected the hull for damage and studied paperwork. P&O Ferries had previously handed over information from a data recorder on board the ferry which led to the follow up inspection of the ship. The ship was inspected again on arrival in Portsmouth on 7 September 2006. After offloading passengers and vehicles from Bilbao the vessel was turned to allow the MAIB to inspect the port side and stern.

On 20 September 2006 a P&O Ferries employee from the Pride of Bilbao was arrested by police on suspicion of causing manslaughter through gross negligence. He was released on bail pending further inquiries,[4] and then re-arrested and charged in February 2007.[5]

The MAIB report into the sinking of the Ouzo was released on 12 April 2007. It concluded that the sinking of the yacht was due to the Pride of Bilbao colliding with her, or passing so close that she had been swamped or capsized by the vessel's wash.[6]

On 28 October 2007 the trial of Michael Hubble, second mate of the Pride of Bilbao started at Winchester Crown Court in Hampshire. The prosecution alleged that Hubble, in sole charge of the ferry at the time of the alleged incident, failed to act properly in charge of a vessel. For example, he failed to inform the captain of the incident, failed to stop the ferry and failed to launch a search vessel - all actions it is claimed could have saved the lives of the crew of the Ouzo. All crewmembers had life-vests, and at least one of the crew survived for 12 hours after the incident. The defence contended that lights were visible astern of the ferry, encounters with yachts were common, and the Ouzo was not the vessel involved in the near miss. Hubble was cleared of manslaughter on 12 December 2007, with the jury accepting the defence case that the Ouzo was not the vessel involved.[7] The following day he was also cleared of all charges of misconduct under the Merchant Shipping Act.[8]

Proposed Withdrawal from Service

P&O Ferries has given notice that it is proposing to withdraw from the Portsmouth - Bilbao route at the end of September 2010, when the charter of the ship it uses for the service, the Pride of Bilbao, comes to an end.

In the meantime, the service will operate normally and bookings up to and including 27 September are unaffected. P&O Ferries will be contacting passengers with bookings beyond that date in order to make alternative arrangements or offer refunds.

The company says that despite a concerted effort to improve the financial performance of its 15-year-old service, losses continue and are unsustainable. Staff are being advised today (Friday) as the company begins consultations with representatives of its workforce in order to mitigate potential job losses. The months ahead will be used to try to offer alternative positions elsewhere in the company’s route network. A total of 252 people work on the Pride of Bilbao including 130 agency staff. A further 12 staff work in the company’s shore operation in Bilbao.

Chief executive Helen Deeble said: “We have examined every option very carefully and have been trying for more than three years to find a suitable replacement ship in order to continue the service profitably. The Pride of Bilbao has served us well but is now an old ship nearing the end of her commercial life and needs to be replaced.

“However, we have reached the sad conclusion that such a replacement vessel is not currently available and as this loss-making route is unable to fund the cost of a new purpose-built ship we have no alternative other than to close it.”[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Asklander, Micke. "M/S Olympia (1986)" (in Swedish). Fakta om Fartyg. Retrieved 12 January 2009.  
  2. ^ ""Pride of Bilbao" Vessel Status - 8414582" (in English). Class Direct Live. Lloyds Register. Retrieved 12 January 2009.  
  3. ^ "Översiktsritning på M/S Olympia" (in Swedish). Fakta om Fartyg. Retrieved 12 January 2009.  
  4. ^ BBC NEWS | England | Hampshire | P&O man arrested over Ouzo deaths
  5. ^ BBC NEWS | England | P&O man in court over Ouzo deaths
  6. ^ Ouzo.indd
  7. ^ "Seaman cleared of yacht killings", BBC News, 12 December 2007
  8. ^ "Officer cleared over Ouzo charges", BBC News, 13 December 2007




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