Luxury ships for 2004 visitors

Up to 13,280 visitors to the 2004 Athens Olympics will be accommodated in 11 luxury cruise ships, including the biggest and most luxurious of all, Queen Mary II. According to Athens 2004, the Games’ organizers, it and six other cruise ships will be docked in the port of Piraeus for the duration of the Games. Four other ships, booked by sponsors, media, and national Olympic committees, will also be docked in Piraeus. The five-star Queen Mary II, which is being built in France, will be 345 meters (1,132 feet) long and 80 meters (262 feet) high. It will have 173 suites and 1,137 cabins on 15 decks. Its cost is put at $780 million. It will start its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on January 12, 2004. The other six cruise ships that will be booked by Athens 2004, after a tender, are Oosterdam, also a five-star cruiser and still under construction, the four-star liners Olympia Voyager, Olympia Explorer, AIDAVita and Rotterdam, and the three-star Olympia Countess. Two five-star cruise ships, Seaborne Pride and Silver Whisper, will host international Olympic sponsors; the four-star Splendor of the Seas will house delegations from various national Olympic committees, and the three-star Topaz will house French electronic media. The 11 ships have a total of 6,640 suites and cabins of all classes, and will house a maximum of 13,280 people plus about 5,000 crew members. Athens still faces an acute accommodation problem. After scrambling to find 20,000 luxury rooms for the extended Olympic family, which includes foreign dignitaries, guests and IOC officials, Games organizers are now in search of thousands of rooms to accommodate visitors. Sydney, which hosted the previous Summer Games in 2000, welcomed close to 250,000 visitors. Because of its more convenient location and the nearby islands, Athens is expected to draw even more, many combining attendance at the Games with their summer holidays. Today, a small delegation of International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials will inspect progress in the preparation of the Games. At a meeting of the committee of ministers overseeing preparations, Prime Minister Costas Simitis declared that the progress of the works was impressive and called upon ministers involved in project construction to avoid «disputes over small matters.» Simitis, who toured several venues under construction last week, told the ministers that a concerted campaign to convince citizens of the advantages of the Games will begin in November.