FerriesPast and PresentRegie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT)

MV Prinses Paola – Past and Present

IMO Number: 6608294

MV Tropicana

ex Saint Lucie, Sea Palace, Tropicana, Prinses Paola

© A G Jones

© A G Jones

Steel twin screw motor vessel, built and engined by Cockerill’s of Hoboken, Belgium in 1966 (Yard No 836) for the Belgian Marine Administration’s (R..M.T.) Ostend mail-passenger service. 

Technical Data

  • Length on deck: 117.13m (384.3 ft) (overall), 110.27m (361.8 ft) (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of hull: 15.88m (52.1 ft) (extreme)
  • Depth: 25.5 ft (moulded)
  • Draught: 3.80m (12.4 ft) (maximum)
  • Tonnage: 3,388 gross (1966), 4,548 (1988)/1,513 net, 1.794 (1993)/541 deadweight
  • Engines: Two RD44 12-cylinder Cockerill/Sulzer two-stroke single acting diesels
  • Power: 11034kW
  • Speed: 24 knots
  • Capacity: 1,700 passengers
  • Call Sign: ORAN, C6DQ5 
  • IMO Number: 6608294
  • Registry: Ostende/Belgium 🇧🇪, Nassau/Bahamas 🇧🇸, St Kitts/Nevis 🇰🇳




🆕 Courtesy of Frederik Janssens

February 12th 1966: Launched.

June 10th 1966: Delivered to Belgian Marine Administration’s (R.M.T.), being the last conventional passenger boat to be built for the Ostend service.

June 14th 1966: Made her inaugural trip to Dover. Nicknamed locally in Dover as the “Racing Greyhound”

© Ken Larwood © Ken Larwood  

© Ken Larwood

© Kamiel Loontiens

🆕 © Kamiel Loontiens

© Bob Scott © J K Byass 

© Bob Scott (Left) © J K Byass (Right)


© David Ingham (both)

November 1970: Belgian Marine joined the Sealink consortium. Trading as Sealink


© Urbain Ureel

© Ken Larwood  © Ken Larwood© Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood

November 1st 1971: Belgian Marine became the Belgian Maritime Transport Authority – Regie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT).

© Tony Garner

© Tony Garner

© Ronald Steenacker

© Ronald Steenacker

April 4th 1982: Suffered engine problems and collided with the Admiralty Pier in Dover. Taken out of service for repairs.

© Roland Vandenbussche

© Roland Vandenbussche

© Ken Larwood

 © Ken Larwood

July 1984: Sealink UK Ltd had been de-nationalised and purchased by the Bermuda-based Sea Containers the new owners immediately began a general reappraisal of all their services. (including its intention of taking on 50% of all the traffic on the Dover-Ostend route.

October 25th 1985: Belgians entered into negotiations with Townsend Thoresen and an agreement was concluded.

Courtesy of Julien Tahon

 Courtesy of Julien Tahon

© Brian Fisher  © Brian Fisher  

Courtesy of Brian Fisher

October 1987: The agreement with Townsend Thoresen (The European Ferries Group) was duly passed on to P & O European Ferries and was due to end in December 1990: The Ostend ships all received the Townsend Thoresen orange colours and carried their trading name.

© A G Jones © A G Jones  

© A G Jones

  © Pieter Inpyn

© Michael Woodland (Left)  © Pieter Inpyn (Right)

May 3rd 1987: Whilst entering Ostend, high winds caused her to collide with the pier. Rescued by tugs and was able to sail to Dover the following day.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (© Mike Louagie ?)

© David Ingham  © David Ingham  

© David Ingham (both)

September 25th 1987: Made her final crossings between Ostend and Dover


© Urbain Ureel

March 1988: Sold to Sea Venture Cruises (Registered as A.N.K. Marine Enterprise Inc., Lebannon).

March 20th 1988: Renamed TROPICANA.

April 1st 1988: Left Ostend for Perama where she would be rebuilt for cruising purposes.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (Left) © Urbain Ureel (Right)

© Fotoflite Ref 161878 © Fotoflite Ref  200937

🆕 © Fotoflite (06/06/1988)

1988: Converted to a cruising/casino ship at Perama, Piraeus. Greece.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection.

July 1988: Used for day cruising from Miami.

1989: Cruising from either Miami or Port Everglades.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

1990: Chartered to Seascape and introduced into day cruising from St Petersburg. From which she was then chartered to Freeport Cruise Lines and renamed SEA PALACE as a floating casino sailing from Freeport, Texas.

1990: Commenced service as a party/casino ship sailing from Freeport, Texas.

April 17th 1991: Arrested in Houston and laid – up.

October 1991: Sold to Winston Cruise Lines Ltd, Nassau. She was then renamed SAINT LUCIE.

November 1991: Continued day-cruising from Fort Pierce, Florida.

1992: The shipping magnate who owned her encountered financial hardships in most of his enterprises and was no longer able to meet his debt service requirements including those of this Ship. When the Ship’s loan was in default in 1992, the first lien-holder repossessed the Ship, took it out of service, and laid up in Florida where it remained until purchased by another company in May of 1994.
Immediately upon purchasing the Ship, the vessel went to dry-dock at South Carolina for extensive renovations, including installation of state of-the-art gaming equipment.
Having been out of service for more than two years, the Ship required extensive maintenance to bring it back into compliance with its Class Standards.

December 1994: Upon completion of the renovations, the ship returned to Florida.

January 1995: Sold to Jubilee, Bahamas Inc, Nassau (under the banner Tropic Sea) renamed TROPICANA.

© Frank Heine

© Frank Heine (Tropic Postcard)

February 14th 1995: Placed back in service when it re-initiated its cruise-to-nowhere operations.

April 1995: Used in day-cruising from Miami plus occasional trips between Miami and Freeport.

1996: Plans that she was to become a floating casino from New York fell through and she was laid – up in Brooklyn until 1999 when she was initially floated to Little Creek, South Carolina then Charleston , South Carolina for further lay – up.

December 2002: Laid up at Freeport, Bahamas.

Mikael "Foggy" Söderholm  Mikael "Foggy" Söderholm  

Mikael "Foggy" Söderholm

© Mikael “Foggy” Söderholm

2004: Reportedly went for sale

November 2nd 2006: Took on bunkers at Gibraltar following a crossing from Freeport en route for breaker at Alang.

© Daniel Ferro  © Daniel Ferro  

© Daniel Ferro

© Daniel Ferro (sad views of her at Gibraltar)

January 6th 2007: Reportedly at Alang in the process of being scrapped.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Daniel Ferro, Fotoflite, Tony Garner, Frank Heine, David Ingham, Pieter Inpyn, A G Jones, Ken Larwood, Kamiel Loontiens, Mikael “Foggy” Söderholm, Bob Scott, Ronald Steenacker, Michael Woodland and Andreas Wörteler.

Special thanks to Ted Ingham, Frederik Janssens, Roland Vandenbussche and Urbain Ureel

Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)


    1. So do I! Only mine says “Cockerill” with two Ls. But, I cannot seem to copy a picture of it here.

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