The 11,724grt Renaissance in her original livery sailing for Compagnie Navigation Paquet, a subsidiary of Compagnie Française de Navigation. She is seen here anchored off Mykonos in October 1972. (Don Smith/photo-transport.com)

Whilst the great trans-ocean liners have inevitably garlanded the largest following and most lavish praise amongst enthusiasts, there is a sub-species of passenger ships that certainly deserves equal attention and merit. These served the world’s coastal and sea trades and amongst the last and finest of them all was the Renaissance.

Renaissance was ordered from the famous Chantiers de l’Atlantique yard at St. Nazaire in 1964. Her prospective owners were the Compagnie Française de Navigation (CFN), a subsidiary formed in 1960 of the long established Compagnie Navigation Paquet (CNP), for their Marseilles to Haifa service. The restructuring was essential to circumvent the Arab League’s boycott of companies trading with Israel, and thereby avoid any disruption to CNP’s core Morocco and West Africa service. This new subsidiary had initially utilised a pair of 8,800 grt Paquet veterans, first the 1931 built Koutoubia (renamed Phocée) and then her sister Djenné (renamed Césarée), which was built in the same year and sailed to Haifa until she was finally sent to the breakers in 1965. That year Paquet temporarily transferred it’s former flagship, the 9,931grt Lyautey to the Eastern Mediterranean route as Galilée, and she maintained the service until the advent of the new liner after which she would resort to her original name and route.

The design of the new ship, allocated shipyard number D23, was evidently influenced by Paquet’s Ancerville of 1962, and to a lesser degree the new Zim Lines flagship Shalom, both products of the same Penhoët yard. Like Ancerville it was anticipated from the start that CFN’s new vessel would operate luxury cruises in addition to her liner service. Unlike her older cousin however, Renaissance’s designers were not hampered by the need to provide three different sets of public rooms for three distinct classes of accommodation. CFN operated a single class structure which in the case of the new vessel was advertised as being all first class.

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Like so many French liners CFN’s new flagship had a unique, distinctive and eye-catching profile. The hull featured a svelte and elegantly accentuated clipper bow with a neatly rounded stern. Unlike the recessed arrangement of France, Ancerville and Shalom the anchors stood proud to the hull, lodged in conventional hawse pipes. Mirroring Ancerville the four deck high superstructure rose as a pyramid, with a stepped arrangement forward and aft. Surmounting it all was a relatively tall mast, a narrow, tapered funnel and a combined twin exhaust/mainmast structure. These vertical embellishments were all raked at the same angle and the mast’s swept back arms were replicated with two prongs on the funnel’s peak, which in silhouette gave the impression of a projecting soot shield. The all white livery homogenised the tropical cruising look of Renaissance and Ancerville, however it is a shame that the distinctive funnel colours used by the three earlier CFN ships, a sky blue main body with a thin white band topped by a broader black band, was not applied. Only the black anchors and red boot topping broke the monotone white.

There were seven passenger decks, linked by a solitary lift and two main stairwells (further supplementary stairwells were further forward and adjacent to the funnel casing), providing fully air-conditioned accommodation and facilities for a total capacity of 416 passengers. They were looked after by a crew of 191. All cabins featured ensuite facilities, individual climate control and two channel radios. The largest deluxe cabins included a separate sitting area, picture windows or two portholes and some had full bath tubs. Most decks were named after either their principal room or function, however Pont des sabords and Pont batterie interestingly or bizarrely depending on your perspective, referenced fighting ships from the age of sail.

After joining Epirotiki she was chartered to Costa as World Renaissance. (Shipspotting.com/Mr. Dot)

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