MS Pride of Bilbao

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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".

On 15 January 2010, P&O ferries announced that the Portsmouth - Bilbao route would be closing, with the last crossing from Bilbao 27 September 2010, when the lease for MS Pride of Bilbao expires. P&O announced that the route was loss-making and could not fund a new-build replacement for the Pride. Equally, no other existing ships are available for purchase/charter.

P&O states that for the past three years they have tried to do 'all they can' to make the route profitable. As of June 2010 there is another party said to be interested in taking the route on; they would look at an array of cost-cutting measures to continue the service. As yet no formal continuation notice has been announced.



  • 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
  • The Smoking Room (Previously the Commercial Driver's Lounge for 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's charter of the Pride of Bilbao is due to end in September 2010, at which point it is expected the loss making Portsmouth - Bilbao route will be closed. [1]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 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. "P&O man arrested over Ouzo deaths". BBC News. 21 September 2006. Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  5. "P&O man in court over Ouzo deaths". BBC News. 8 February 2007. Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  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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