Cambodge started her maiden voyage in July 1953. Her route connected Marseilles with various ports along the Suez Canal, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and western Pacific Ocean. From Marseilles, she sailed across the Mediterranean Sea and through the Suez Canal and Red Sea to Port Said and Suez in Egypt, Aden in Yemen; Djibouti; across the Indian Ocean to Bombay, India; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and the island of Singapore; through the South China Sea to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Manila, Philippines; Hong Kong, and along the Pacific coast of Asia to finally reach Kobe and Yokohama in Japan. Along with Viet Nam and Laos, she sailed without major incident on this route until 1967, when the Six-Day War closed the Suez Canal.
Following the war, Cambodge helped to ferry French troops from the North African nation of Algeria back to their home country, served as a hospital ship during the Vietnam War, and with the ever-increasing popularity of air travel, she withdrew from regular passenger service and began to run cruises from Australian ports to destinations in the Indian Ocean. In 1968, Messageries Maritimes renamed the Viet Nam the Pacifique, and put all three ships up for sale in 1970. Cambodge's sister ships were purchased by Compania Navegacion Abeto to carry Muslim pilgrims, and remodeled to hold over 1,600 passengers. Both were destroyed by a fire in the mid-1970s. Cambodge, however, had a different fate. She was purchased by Sun Lines, a Greek cruise line, for conversion into a cruise ship.
In 1970, Cambodge sailed to the city of La Spezia in northern Italy, where she was renamed Stella V and her interiors were partially gutted for a massive planned remodeling. When plans were completed, Stella V sailed to Perama, Piraeus, in southern Greece, for conversion into Stella Solaris. Her passenger accommodations were revised to 765—all first class—and nearly twice the original capacity. Her weight, however, was reduced to 10,595 GRT. Her funnel was replaced with a more finned and streamlined version, her superstructure was terraced, lengthened and expanded, her rooms were fitted with air conditioning and private baths, and her pool and lido section was expanded and moved. Many of the French and Italian decorations were replaced with Greek-themed artwork, including ceramic, metal and velour features. Upon incorporation into Sun Lines' fleet, she was the largest vessel.
From then, Stella Solaris sailed the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean Sea during the summer, and operated cruise excursions in the Caribbean Sea and the South American Atlantic coast in the winter. Stella Solaris soon became one of the most popular cruise ships of the time. She was featured on Cruise Travel magazine in July 1989 as "Ship of the Month", and was said to have a "repeat passenger ratio that was the envy of her competitors". In 1995, Sun and the rival Epirotiki Lines merged to form the Royal Olympic Cruise Lines (ROC). Soon after, in 1998, Louis Cruise Lines, the final owner, bought most of the shares in Royal Olympic. Due to the Kosovo War the following year, Stella Solaris was temporarily laid up at Piraeus. In 2001, an accident damaged one of her propeller shafts, which was repaired soon after, but continued to cause problems.
Read more about this topic: SS Stella Solaris
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