Festival Cruises

Festival Cruises (known as First European Cruises in North America) was a Greece-based cruise line that operated between 1994 and 2004. It was founded in 1992 by the Greek entrepreneur George Poulides using second-hand ships. The company acquired three new-built ships between 1999 and 2002, but was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2004.[1][2][3][4]

Festival Cruises
IndustryShip transport
Key people
George Poulides
Festival Cruises ship in Mallorca in 2003


George Poulides founded Festival Cruises in 1992. The company begun operations in 1994 after purchasing MS The Azur from Chandris Cruises.[2] The following year the company acquired MS Starward from Norwegian Cruise Line, renaming her MS Bolero.[5] A third second-hand ship followed in 1997, when MS Southern Cross was acquired from Premier Cruise Line and renamed MS Flamenco for service with Festival.[6]

Festival Cruises acquired their first newbuilt ship in 1999, when MS Mistral was delivered from Chantiers de l'Atlantique in France. In 2000 Festival Cruises announced that the company would be merged into Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), with the Festival Cruises brand being maintained under P&O ownership. The merger plan was abandoned later that year due to low value of cruise line shares at the time. Two additional newbuilt ships based on an enlarged version of the Mistral design were delivered in 2001 and 2002 as MS European Vision and MS European Stars, respectively.[2] Following delivery of the new ships the Bolero and Flamenco were chartered to other operators.[5][6] Festival Cruises had an option for two more ships of the enlarged Mistral design, but the company decided not to use the option. Two more Mistral class ships were however built for MSC Cruises as MSC Lirica and MSC Opera.[7]

Festival Cruises went bankrupt in early 2004, with all the company's ships were laid up and subsequently auctioned to other operators; European Stars and European Vision were sold to MSC Cruises,[2][4] Mistral to a French investor group who chartered her to Iberojet,[2][8] The Azur to Mano Maritime,[9] Bolero to Abou Merhi Lines and Flamenco to Cruise Elysia.[2]


ShipBuiltIn service
for Festival Cruises
TonnageStatus as of 2018Image
MS Azur19711994200411,609 GRTSince 2017 MS Knyaz Vladimir for Black Sea Cruises.
MS Bolero19681995200112,948 GRTSold for scrap in 2018.
MS Caribe19482002200415,614 GRTSince 2015 Astoria for Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
MS Flamenco19721997200317,370 GRTCapsized and partially sank on 27 February 2016 near Laem Chebang, Thailand.
MS Mistral19991999200447,276 GTSince 2019 MS AIDAmira for AIDA Cruises.
MS European Vision20012001200458,174 GTSince 2004 MSC Armonia for MSC Cruises.
MS European Stars20022002200458,625 GTSince 2004 MSC Sinfonia for MSC Cruises.


  1. Miller, William H. (2006). Greek Passenger Liners. Stroud: Tempus. pp. 40–41. ISBN 0-7524-3886-7.
  2. Boyle, Ian. "Festival Cruise Line". Simplon Postcards. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  3. "Festival Cruises Cruise Reviews". CruiseReviews.com. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  4. Ward, Douglas (2008). Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships. Singapore: Berlitz. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-981-268-240-6.
  5. Asklander, Micke. "M/S Starward (1968)". Fakta om Fartyg (in Swedish). Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  6. Asklander, Micke. "M/S Spirit of London (1972)". Fakta om Fartyg (in Swedish). Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  7. Boyle, Ian. "MSC Crociere Italiane > MSC Lirica (2003 )". Simplon Postcards. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
  8. Ward (2006). pp. 380381
  9. Asklander, Micke. "M/S Eagle (1971)". Fakta om Fartyg (in Swedish). Retrieved 2008-09-28.