Scientologists Seek a Port for Boheme

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: January 12, 1987

The cruise ship Boheme has received an engine overhaul since being purchased by a group of Scientologists, and the vessel soon will get a stem-to-stern refurbishing at a cost of more than $1-million.

But it still has no home port.

The 500-passenger ship sailed out of the Port of St. Petersburg for 19 months while it was owned by Commodore Cruise Lines. But the vessel was purchased this past September by the International Association of Scientologists for use as a sailing religious retreat.

So far, no retreats have been held on the ship, according to Rev. Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International and a founding member of the association.

Instead, the Boheme is undergoing sea trials. A 120-member crew - all members of the Church of Scientology - is aboard, being trained to operate and maintain the ship.

The engine has been modified "to bring it up to our own standards in terms of sailing capability," Jentzsch said last week in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles office.

While the Boheme is the largest ship ever utilized by members of the Church of Scientology, it is not the only one. The church previously used a smaller ship, the Apollo, for retreats at sea, and the church has a history of sailing and training seamen, Jentzsch said. The late founder of the church, L. Ron Hubbard, administered the church from aboard ship for long periods and a publicity photo of him showed him wearing a naval officer's hat.

Portions of the Boheme's interior have been gutted since the ship that took passengers on festive cruises to Key West, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel left St. Petersburg for the last time.

Now there are no gambling or bar facilities on board, Jentzsch said. Those were removed immediately. Within the next few months, the ship's cabins will be stripped, remodeled and redecorated.

"We plan to upgrade the quality of the interiors," Jentzsch said. "It doesn't quite meet our standards."

Jentzsch declined to say exactly how much the renovations will cost, but said it is more than $1-million.

The Association of Scientologists is searching for a home port for the ship. Because the ship's hull has ice-breaking capabilities, he said, the association has been looking at ports throughout the Scandinavian countries. Warmer climes, including the Mediterranean and Hong Kong, also are being considered.

Jentzsch would not even rule out the possibility that the ship might one day sail into St. Petersburg again. But, by then, it probably will not be called the Boheme. The association intends to change the name of the vessel and is checking now to determine what names have been taken by other ships.

While the Boheme has been sailing in foreign waters, St. Petersburg has been seeking a cruise ship to replace it.

The firm of Post, Buckley, Schuh and Jernigan Inc. is preparing a slick marketing plan that Port of St. Petersburg officials will parade before cruise lines in an effort to woo them to place a ship there.

"The St. Petersburg port continues to be a viable marketplace," said Timothy Travis, port director. "The success of the Boheme here was not lost on the other cruise lines."

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