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The very sleek MAYAN EMPRESS on the beach, shortly after her arrival at Alang. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2004.


The 8,657 gt 1967 built MV MAYAN EMPRESS was constructed at Cantieri Navali's Riva Trigoso yard near Genoa as DFDS' WINSTON CHURCHILL. Her designers were Gio Melodia, a prominent Italian naval architect, and Kay Kørbing, the celebrated Danish architect/designer. A larger, more well-appointed version of the hugely popular ENGLAND of 1964, she bore some distinctly Italian trademarks, such as her "swans neck" bow and more concave hull lines for maximum efficiency in cutting through the seas.

Ship historian and author Bruce Peter was able to interview the late Kørbing for his remarkable book, DANISH SHIP DESIGN 1936 -- 1991, THE WORK OF KAY FISKER AND KAY KØRBING. In it, Kørbing remarks, "I think the blend of Italian naval architecture and Danish interior design was a great combination and the new ship had immense style...".

According to Peter, "...the WINSTON CHURCHILL was richer, more colourful and even more luxuriously appointed than her elder sister with greater use made of carpeting, curtains and contrasting dark veneers. The lounges and restaurants, for example, were panelled in palisander, rosewood and African wengé..." The 450 passenger 21 knot WINSTON CHURCHILL sailed on the Harwich to Ejsberg and later Esbjerg, Newcastle, Faroe Islands and Gothenberg service until 1987. In 1987, she undertook a series of cruises to Norway and remained with DFDS until 1996 when she was damaged by an engine room fire at Esbjerg.

She was then sold to a Florida-based shipowner who renamed her MAYAN EMPRESS for proposed service in the Gulf of Mexico. Her engines were repaired at great cost and her owner defaulted on payment, forcing the ship to be seized by the shipyard, Westcon (near Stavanger, Norway). She sat until 2003, when finally bought by Alang shipbreakers and was delivered in early 2004.


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