Her decks boast sun loungers and golf simulators rather than machine guns and torpedoes, while those on board are more likely to be sipping G&Ts than rehearsing military drills.
But today a British cruise ship is leading the charge in the latest stand-off over the Falklands, as it sails towards the harbour at Port Stanley in the first major test of Argentine resolve.
Last week the Argentine government, in response to a British company’s planned exploration of oilfields off the Falkland coast, decreed that all ships travelling between Argentina and the Falklands must be granted permission from the Argentine government.
Observers noted that the decree could potentially ensnare all boats travelling to and from the Falkland islands – including the cruise ships that bring over 60,000 tourists annually to the remote rocky outcrops in the South Atlantic.
Yet two days after the decree was issued, the Star Princess set sail for the Falklands from the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, with no demand for a permit from the Argentine authorities. It is due arrive in Port Stanley tomorrow, and then dock again in the Argentine port of Ushuaia, near Cape Horn, on Wednesday – and as of yet, there has still been no request to submit official paperwork.
“Everyone is very calm on board,” a spokesman from the Purser’s office of the Star Princess told The Sunday Telegraph. “Unless there is any hidden information that we’ve not been told of, it’s business as usual – and all of our guests seem very happy.
“No one is asking anything about whether we will visit the Falklands or not. It’s part of our itinerary and they expect it to go ahead.”
As it marks a course for the Falklands, the Star Princess, with its 2,600 guests on-board, strikes an odd parallel to the British naval task force that called the Argentian bluff in 1982.
A high proportion of the passengers are British, and see the chance to visit the scene of the historic victory over Argentina as one of the highlights on their tour of Latin America.
The presence of a number of Argentinian tourists on board as well, though, will doubtless be adding an edge to the atmosphere in the ship’s bars and restaurants.
“Many Argentinians like to see the islands for themselves, although they aren’t always very happy at getting their passports stamped,” said a member in the ship’s purser’s office.
“Once, when the weather was bad and the captain decided we couldn’t land there, the Argentinian passengers got upset because they suspected he was just deliberately preventing them going ashore.”
A spokeswoman for the Ushuaia ports authority confirmed that the Star Princess was set to dock in the port on Wednesday.
“We haven’t received any special instructions,” she said. “The boats come and they go – we don’t know where they are going. We just reserve the space in the port.”
President Cristina Kirschner’s government is now in a tricky position. It could enforce its own edict, banning ships from travelling to the Falklands and losing a lucrative slice of the cruise tourism pie. Or it could let the ships slip in and out of territorial waters unopposed, showing that their grandstanding and posturing is little more than empty rhetoric.
“They really do cut off their nose to spite their faces,” said Andy Williams, owner of Falkland Islands Tours and Travel, part of an island industry that now takes in almost 70,000 visitors. “When you think of the amount of financial trouble the Argentine government is in at the moment, and then they jeopardise this. There are massive logistics involved in cruise ships docking anywhere – flights, tourism, transport. It’s not the Argentinian people – it’s just the politicians. Hurting tourism won’t help anyone.”
Last week’s decree followed Argentine outrage as a British oil rig, the Ocean Guardian, arrived off the Falklands from Scottish water to begin oil exploration. Buenos Aires, which feels it is being denied a share of potential oil revenues, has also threatened to ban British companies with links to oil ventures from doing business on the Argentine mainland. Last week the authorities stopped a shipment of pipes bound for the island, although Britain’s officials believe it is unlikely they would try to detain cruise passengers in the same fashion.
Argentina’s deputy foreign minister, Victorio Taccetti, played down Argentina’s intentions, saying that the government was merely seeking renewed dialogue over the sovereignty of the Falklands.
“This is just something that we have to do in order to protect our rights,” he said. “We consider that this exploration and eventual exploitation of our natural resources is illegal.”
The heightened tensions were a subject of much discussion last week in the Victory Bar in Port Stanley, where islanders gather to drink imported Boddingtons, Fosters and Carlsberg (Argentina’s top-selling Cerveza Quilmes is not served here).
Since the early 1980s, the bar’s sea-rusted corrugated iron walls have been replaced by wood cladding, and the in-pub entertainment now includes Premier League Football broadcast as well as darts.
But when it comes to attitudes about Argentina, not that much has changed since the war.
“Whenever I talk about the Argies, I tend to swear a lot,” said landlord Alastair Jacobson. “Ever since ’82, they have always been trying to upset things.”
On topics other than Argentina, though, his customers have relatively little to complain about.
Some 27 years on from the conflict that killed almost 1,000 people, their South Atlantic home has been transformed from an isolated, shrinking community of sheep farmers into a thriving tourist destination that has doubled in size.
And the real boom times may be yet to come.
If the offshore drilling hits paydirt, the islands could become a South Atlantic answer to the Gulf States, making its population of 3,000 islanders among the richest people in the world.
The only kind of Argentine invasion they get these days, meanwhile, is of the tourist kind.
“We had one cruise ship in a while back that had 800 Argentinians on board,” said Mr Jacobson. “We don’t have a problem with the people themselves, just their government, and we were happy to serve them here in the pub.
“Most of them keep fairly quiet, to be honest. Although I did see one guy getting his partner to picture him holding up a little Argentine flag.”