Cruise ShipsPast and PresentSaga Cruises

MV Saga Pearl II – Past and Present

IMO Number: 8000214

MV Pearl 

ex Pearl II, Saga Pearl II, Quest for Adventure, Saga Pearl II, Astoria, Arkona, Astor

© Brian Fisher

Astor – © Brian Fisher

Steel twin screw motor vessel built by Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft ,Germany (Yard no 165) in 1981 for Hadag Cruise Line, Hamburg, Germany.

Technical Data

  • Original Cost: $55 million
  • Length: 164.34 m (539.2 ft)(overall)
  • Breadth of hull: 22.89m (74.1 ft)(extreme)
  • Depth: 16.06m
  • Draught: 6.10m (20.0 ft) (maximum)
  • Tonnage: 18,591 (1992), 18,853 gross/6,719 net (1992)/3,245 (1992), 2,500 deadweight
  • Engines: Four x 6-cylinder MAN diesels
  • Power: 9,700kw
  • Speed: 18 knots
  • Capacity: 633 passengers (1981), 540 (1984), 446
  • MMSI Number: 256878000
  • Call Sign: Y5CC , C6SI2, 9HA2950
  • IMO Number: 8000214
  • Registry: Cape Town/South Africa 🇿🇦, Rostock/Germany 🇩🇪, Monrovia/Liberia 🇱🇷, Nassau/The Bahamas 🇧🇸, Valletta/Malta 🇲🇹



February 29th 1980: Laid down

December 16th 1980: Launched as ASTOR for Hadag Cruise Line. Intended name HAMMONIA

December 1981: Completed.

December 14th 1981: Delivered.

May 21st 1981: Small fire caused so much smoke and water damage that maiden voyage planned for August 22nd had to be cancelled.

© Frank Heine

Astor – © Frank Heine (Hamburg October 1981)

November 24th 1981: First sea trials.

December 14th 1981: Delivered to Hadag Cruise Line, Hamburg, Germany.

December 14th 1981: Shake down cruise from Hamburg – Le Havre – Genoa.

December 23rd 1981: Maiden cruise Genoa-North Africa-Tenerife. In American waters during the winter.

© Wolfgang Fricke

Astor – © Wolfgang Fricke (Hamburg, 01/01/1983)

October 14th 1983: Sold to South African Marine Corp Ltd, Cape Town.

October 21st 1983: First time in New York.

© Wolfgang Fricke © Wolfgang Fricke

Astor – © Wolfgang Fricke (Hamburg, 01/01/1984)

February 7th 1984: Taken over by her new owners and rebuilt with HDW, Hamburg. Intended for Durban-Port Elizabeth-Cape Town-Las Palmas-Southampton service. Then cruising.

© Brian Fisher

Astor – © Brian Fisher (Southampton April 1984)

April 1984: First trip Southampton – Cape Town.

July 1st 1984: Re-flagged to Bahamas at Nassau.

August 29th 1985: Sold to Deutsche West-Afrika Linie, Hamburg, Germany. Then sold to Deutfracht Seereederei, Rostock. Renamed ARKONA.

© Ken Smith © Brian Fisher  

Arkona – © Ken Smith (Left) and © Brian Fisher (Right)

October 25th 1985: First cruise Rostock-Leningrad-Riga. During the summer employed on West German market.

1990: Transferred to Deutsche Seereederei, Rostock.

1994: Handed over to Deutsche Seetouristik Rostock.

December 1995: New funnel markings.

January 1st 1998: Sold to Arkona Touristik, Rostock, Germany (Registered in Liberia, home port Monrovia).

© Brian Fisher

Arkona – © Brian Fisher

February 2001: Sold to Transocean Tours, Nassau, Bahamas.

February 20th 2002: Renamed ASTORIA. Maiden cruise from Nice to Canary Islands.


Astoria – © Aleksi Lindström

© Nigel Thornton © Nigel Thornton  

Astoria – © Nigel Thornton

April 14th 2008: Recorded owner: Cruise Ship Holdings Four Ltd

July 2008: Announced that she would be sold to Saga Shipping and renamed “QUEST FOR ADVENTURE”

October 2008: Announcement made that her new name would be SAGA PEARL II.

November 13th 2008: Arrived in Barcelona.

“Kiel, Nov 22nd 2008 — (Barcelona)

During a routine overhaul on passenger (cruise) Astoria (18591 gt, built 1981), severe machinery damage was found, which forced Transocean Tours to cancel a scheduled 124-day round-the-world cruise.

The Astoria would not have been able to sail with the necessary speed. The exchange of the machine parts will take four weeks, but the production of new parts will take another 3 weeks.  Around 111 passengers had booked the whole tour. During her visit Transocean went into liquidation leaving debts unpaid and she was duly arrested. No repairs were carried out and she remained in the port.”

This item from Lloyd’s List of Tuesday 25th November 2008

© Gary Davies


Astoria – © Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic), Barcelona

May 25th 2009: “Equasis” records the vessels manager as being Saga Cruises Ltd.

June 27th 2009: Having been arrested in Barcelona the vessel arrived, under tow by the tug MED FOS, in Gibraltar. She was immediately arrested by the Admiralty Marshal for unpaid debts. The ships representatives were given 14 days to pay or auction proceedings would be put be put into motion.

© Daniel Ferro

Astoria – © Daniel Ferro (Gibraltar)

August 4th 2009: Sold at auction to Saga Shipping.

September 6th 2009: Left Gibraltar.

September 11th 2009: Arrived in Swansea for refit.

© Saga Shipping © Saga Shipping © Saga Shipping

Saga Pearl II – © Saga Shipping

February 1st 2010: Renamed SAGA PEARL II

March 2010: Registered Owner; Enbrook Cruises Ltd, Folkestone. Registered Manager; Saga Cruises Ltd, Folkestone.

March 8th 2010: Refit completed and arrived in Southampton for continuation of refurbishment


Saga Pearl II – © Aleksi Lindström

March 15th 2010: Planned inaugural cruise, “Norwegian Fjords”


© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

Saga Pearl II – © Nigel Thornton (all)

May 6th/7th 2012: Renamed QUEST FOR ADVENTURE

© John Mavin © John Mavin  

Quest for Adventure – © John Mavin

December 2012: Underwent a refit, where she received her new Saga Funnel livery.

© Mike Barker

Quest for Adventure – © Mike Barker (01/04/2013)


Quest for Adventure – ©  Aleksi Lindström

November 21st 2013: Renamed SAGA PEARL II at Southampton.

© Carsten Dettmer

Saga Pearl II – © Carsten Dettmer

© Cees Bustraan © Cees Bustraan © Cees Bustraan

Saga Pearl II – © Cees Bustraan

April 12th 21017: Arrived at Damen Shipyard, Vlissingen for major refit.

April 30th 2017: Due at Dover after refit.

June 2nd 2017: Saga Cruises announce that the Saga Pearl II will leave the fleet in 2019.

“Saga Cruises today confirmed the Saga Pearl II will embark on its final Saga Cruises voyage in 2019, with the Spirit of Discovery joining the fleet as the line’s first new build in summer 2019.

The 1981-built Saga Pearl II originally launched into service as the Astor, and her final voyage, according to Saga, will take passengers to South Africa, Gambia, Namibia and Mozambique.

The Spirit of Discovery will sail alongside the Saga Sapphire for the brand.”

Source: Cruise Industry News

© Nigel Scutt © Nigel Scutt  

Saga Pearl II – © Nigel Scutt (Dover Strait Shipping & Fotoflite) (Dover 05/06/2018)

April 1st 2019: Noted as being renamed PEARL II with a registered owner (from 16/04/2019); Aqua Explorer Holdings Ltd, British Virgin Islands

© Dennis Mortimer

Pearl II – © Dennis Mortimer (Perama, 02/05/2019)

September 19th 2019: Arrived Paloukia, Greece

©Philippe Brébant

Pearl II – ©Philippe Brébant (19/09/2019)

“Initial rumours about the ship’s future ran the complete range from further cruising under Greek ownership to the inevitable suggestions that it would be used as a floating hotel………….

Whomever was behind Aqua Explorer has never commented on their plans, but it quickly became known in the cruise and yachting sectors that the company was controlled by wealthy Saudi Arabian interests, via Greek intermediaries, who intended to convert the Pearl II into an ultra-large private yacht………..

While several high-net-worth Middle Eastern individuals have purchased cruise ships in the past to convert into their yachts, these have generally been small ships. None would match the Pearl II in size…….

The super-yacht project does not appear to have progressed beyond the drawing board stage………

The Pearl II was put back on the sales market just when Covid-19 struck.”


July 23rd 2022: Renamed PEARL and left Paloukia, under tow from tug CHRISTOS XLII (IMO: 9080895), destination shown as Aliaga (eta: 25/07/2022).

© Ben Ayre © Ben Ayre © Ben Ayre

Pearl – 🆕 © Ben Ayre (ShipBreaking) (Paloukia, 23/07/2022)

July 25th 2022: Arrived Aliaga Anchorage.

We would like to thank: Mike Barker, Philippe Brébant, Cees Bustraan , Carsten Dettmer, Daniel, Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic), Daniel Ferro, Brian Fisher, Wolfgang Fricke, Aleksi Lindström, John Mavin, Dennis Mortimer, Nigel Scutt (Dover Strait Shipping & Fotoflite) Ken Smith and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature. All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for errors and omissions.

Special thanks go to Saga Shipping.

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

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