The information from the voyage data recorder (black box) recovered from the Sea Diamond is currently being investigated by a Greek prosecutor from Naxos, Cruise Industry News has learned.

After first being sent to L3 Communications Aviation Recorders in Florida, on April 30, where the information was "evaluated, tested, and downloaded, DVDs were then created and given to a Greek prosecutor," an L3 spokesperson said, stressing that "L3 did not interpret the information."

The prosecutor received the information two days later, and is expected to either interpret it himself or with the assistance of the black box's manufacturer, Consilium Navigation in Stockholm, the spokesperson said, noting that "a typical accident investigation usually occurs over many weeks."

A Louis spokesperson said that he is "expecting it will provide information regarding all discussions that took place from the grounding onward, and will clarify the cause for the accident."

The 33,390-ton, 1,600-passenger Diamond hit a reef on April 5, and sank 15 hours later. Reasons for the accident range from the captain's claim of strong currents, to the Greek authorities attributing the cause to human error.

New Ships

After chartering two replacement ships for the Diamond - the 1966-built, 28,891 ton, 790-passenger Oceanic II (ex-Sea Princess, Victoria, and Mona Lisa) from April 30 through May 28, and the 884-passenger Ruby, (ex-Ocean Countess), both sailing three- and four-day cruises from Piraeus to the Greek Islands and Turkey - the line will be replacing the Diamond for the summer season (starting in July) with the 1992-built (though refurbished in 2002), 25,611-ton, 1,278- passenger ship, (ex-Leward) which Louis will acquire for $49 million.

The Ruby, which will sail Greek Islands and Turkey cruises until July, will be chartered until October 2007, and operate other cruises when the Opera commences her cruise program, Louis said.

The Opera, according to a statement from Louis, "features an array of amenities, and is a luxury cruise ship of modem design (with) all the comforts of an upscale vessel (including) comfortable public spaces."

The new ship does not need any refurbishment, the Louis spokesperson said. "What we plan to do is proceed with a re-arrangement of the public areas," he
added.

He also said that the ship will be renamed, and options are currently being examined. "It will be along the lines of our other ships - named after precious and semi-precious stones."

Outlook
George Stathopoulus, managing director for Louis Hellenic Cruises, and head of sales and marketing, said that in 2008, things for the company look "promising," adding that he expects an increase in the flow from North America.

"Additional flights by Continental and US Air will add to the link between the U.S. and Greece and will most certainly contribute to that increase," Stathopoulus explained.

As for year-round cruising, "We have already started this past winter with the Sapphire sailing in the Red Sea," he pointed out. "And given the success, we will continue this corning year as well."

Stathopoulus also noted that the Opera "is a vessel suitable for winter cruising."