The Night Boat to Kyushu

Ferry Fukuoka 2, April 2012

The Ferry Fukuoka 2 and the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, April 2012


As a teenager in the early-’90s, splashing out on a second-hand copy of Car Ferries of the World ’88 by Yoshiho Ikeda and Taiki Takeda seemed like a pretty big investment. I’d found the book mentioned in the listings of an antiquarian book seller and, intrigued, sent off a cheque for, I seem to recall, £20. Several days later the 186-page volume in both English and Japanese text arrived in the post.

Car Ferries of the World ’88

The authors’ task had been to provide technical details, a photograph and perfunctory commentary on every car ferry on the planet with a gross tonnage in excess of 5,000grt as at December 1987. It’s fair to say that the book isn’t entirely comprehensive and a few ships were missed here and there; but as with many of these ferry time capsules it provides a remarkable portrait of a moment in time.

Flicking through my purchase I was drawn originally to the familiar British and European ships and, I have to confess, found the 20% of the book containing black and white images of the ferry fleets of the authors’ home country easy to skip over. The colour pictures on the covers, however, were something else. In particular I lingered over the three on the back cover – sandwiching a fine view of Travemunde was one of a clutch of Tirrenia vessels of varying vintage lying at Genoa and another of a busy Japanese port with a large terminal building fronting a row of car ferries of different operators, all berthed with their bow visors open. A four-symbol Japanese caption identified the port.

Back cover

Car Ferries of the World ’88 – back cover. The picture of Osaka Nanko port features the New Orange (Shikoku Kaihatsu Ferry), Ferry Hakozaki (Meimon Taiyo Ferry), Hamayu (Nippon Car Ferry) and New Katsura (Osaka Kochi Tokkyu Ferry).

Twenty years later, I found myself on that very stretch of quayside, staring into the car deck of City Line’s Ferry Fukuoka 2 and struck by a tremendous sense of deja-vu. The port was, it turned out, Osaka’s Nanko ferry terminal and when I paid a visit there in 2012 to photograph the ships on their berths I was very quickly sure this was the same port I had admired all those years earlier. Later study of the original picture showed that, shoreside at least, remarkably little had changed – the Ferry Fukuoka 2 was berthed in the same place, at the very same ramp and in front of the same terminal building as the same company’s Ferry Hakozaki in the mid ’80s (the operator had yet to adopt the City Line name and were still known as Meimon Taiyo Ferry in those days). On the next berth I found the Orange 8, direct successor to the 1983-built New Orange seen on the same adjacent berth in the 1980s image and which operates between Osaka and Toyo.

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Orange 8 and Ferry Fukuoka 2

Orange 8 and Ferry Fukuoka 2

Alongside at Nanko ferry terminal, right to left - the Orange 8, Ferry Fukuoka 2 and her fleetmate, the Ferry Osaka.

Alongside at Nanko ferry terminal in 2012, right to left – the Orange 8, Ferry Fukuoka 2 and her fleetmate, the Ferry Osaka.

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Meimon Taiyo Ferry was the product of a 1980s merger between a pair of the ferry operators established in Japan’s 1970s ferry boom. Meimon Ferry and Taiyo Ferry both operated services across the Inland Sea but it is Meimon’s Osaka to Shin-Moji route, established in 1973, which has persisted in a market which is still fiercely competitive. Meimon’s first ship was lost in a collision with a tanker but the second, the Ferry Atsuta, would survive to become Minoan Line’ El Greco in 1979. Coincidentally Taiyo Ferry’s first ship would also end up with Minoan Lines – as their Daedalus.

The modern company operates two pairs of ships providing ‘early’ and ‘evening’ departures on its Shin-Moji route. The later departure is evidently the more prestigious, as successive generations of new ships are allocated to this with the elder vessels taking the earlier slots. The pattern of two pairs of vessels was established in the 1990s as the late ’80s sisters Ferry Kyoto and Ferry Fukuoka were paired with the Ferry Osaka and Ferry Kitakyushu (of 1992) before being replaced by the new Ferry Kyoto 2 and Ferry Fukuoka 2 in 2002. The first Ferry Fukuoka would, incidentally, end up with Stena’s brave but ill-fated South Korean venture, Stena Daea Line, as their New Blue Ocean.

The latest pair of newbuildings arrived in 2015 with the 1990s pair making way for a new Ferry Osaka 2 and Ferry Kitakyushu 2.

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Two years after that eventful first visit to Nanko port, we were back again – and this time it was to board the Ferry Fukuoka 2 and sail on the company’s sole route between Osaka and Shin-Moji on the island of Kyushu. Presented below are some images from that crossing in May 2014.

As with so many Japanese ferries, the Ferry Fukuoka 2 and her sister were built just up the coast from Shin-Moji at the Shimonoseki yard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – which also produced P&O’s European Causeway, Ambassador and Highlander. The ships are very much overnight vessels with a restaurant the only real diversion other than the open-plan central square and the attractive upper arcarde. The idea of a ferry bar, so familiar to European travellers, is almost unknown in Japan and alcohol is available only from one of the vending machines on board.

City Line Spring 2014 brochure

City Line Spring 2014 brochure

Most passengers are on board to sleep, but few miss the highlight of the crossing, which is the passage beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world and a source of much wonderment and pride in Japan. This comes early in the crossing when travelling westbound, albeit usually after dark for the later departure, but most passengers seemed to stay up to watch it. The crossing also passes beneath the Seto-Ohashi Bridge and the Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge although, despite approximate timings being provided by the on board guide, I doubt too many people were up to admire them.

City Line's route map, showing key points along the way - for many travellers the passage beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge is the highlight of the trip

City Line’s route map, showing key points along the way – for many travellers the passage beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge is the highlight of the trip

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Nanko ferry terminal, looking inland from the ferry berths. At some stage it has lost its northern wing but is otherwise intact still intact from its 1980s incarnation.

Nanko ferry terminal, looking inland from the ferry berths. At some stage it has lost its northern wing but is otherwise still intact from its 1980s incarnation.

Checking in

Checking in

Ferry Fukuoka 2 preparing for loading

Ferry Fukuoka 2 preparing for loading

Heading out along the foot passenger walkway

Heading out along the foot passenger walkway

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The sun sets as we head over the gangway

The sun sets as we head over the gangway

City Line on board guide

On board guide

Deck plan. The City Line ships are genuine overnight ships with few general seating areas apart from the arcade, lobby and restaurant

Deck plan.
The City Line vessels are genuine overnight ships with few general seating areas apart from the arcade, lobby and restaurant

The Osaka Express over at the nearby terminal shared by Miyazaki Car Ferry and Ferry Sunflower. The Osaka Express is a half-sister to Corsica Ferries' Mega Express Five.

The Osaka Express over at the nearby terminal shared by Miyazaki Car Ferry and Ferry Sunflower. The Osaka Express is a half-sister to Corsica Ferries’ Mega Express Five.

The central square on Deck 5, off which the shop, restaurant and information desk can be found

The central square on Deck 5, off which the shop, restaurant and information desk can be found

The shop

The shop

Vending machine corner with secure lockers for valuables (for passengers sleeping in the open lounges) to the right

Vending machine corner with secure lockers for valuables (for passengers sleeping in the open lounges) to the right

The central area, looking over to port

The central area, looking over to port

Looking aft towards the restaurant

Looking aft towards the restaurant

The buffet restaurant

The buffet restaurant

Another view of the buffet

Another view of the buffet

Heading up to Deck 6, this is the starboard-side arcade

Heading up to Deck 6, this is the starboard-side arcade

Looking aft along the arcade

Looking aft along the arcade

Deck 7's little 'rest corner'

Deck 7’s little ‘rest corner’

Our accommodation for the night - a rather tidy four berth cabin. There are no en-suite facilities in most cabins as most passengers prefer to use the communal baths.

Our accommodation for the night – a rather tidy four berth cabin. This is a ‘Western style’ version, with bunkbeds. There are also ‘Japanese style’ rooms of a similar size with fold-out futons or tatami mats. There are no en-suite facilities in the majority of cabins as most passengers prefer to use the communal baths.

Company images showing the Japanese-style rooms

Company images showing the Japanese-style rooms

Larger suites and deluxe cabins are available, as are capsule berths such as these

Larger suites and deluxe cabins are available, as are capsule berths

A corridor of capsule berths showing the upstairs/downstairs arrangement

A corridor of capsule berths showing the upstairs/downstairs arrangement

The cheapest option are the open sleeping saloons where passengers sleep on the carpeted floor alongside strangers, with blankets and pillows provided

The cheapest option are the open sleeping saloons where passengers sleep on the carpeted floor, with blankets and pillows provided

The ship has two 'Observation Bathrooms', one for women and one for men, where passengers can bathe whilst enjoying the view from large picture windows

The ship has two ‘Observation Bathrooms’, one for women and one for men, where passengers can bathe whilst enjoying the view from large picture windows

One of the bathrooms

One of the bathrooms

A quick look out on deck

A quick look out on deck before departure

Time for dinner...

Time for dinner…

The main buffet area

The main buffet area

Hot food selection

Hot food selection

Dessert and drink options

Dessert and drink options

Chocolate fountain

Chocolate fountain

Restaurant seating area

Restaurant seating area

Passengers watching baseball in the main hall area - local favourites the ORIX Buffaloes were in the process of beating the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

Passengers watching baseball in the main hall area – local favourites the ORIX Buffaloes were in the process of beating the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Passing beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Passing beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

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Up bright and early the next morning for our arrival in Shin-Moji

Up bright and early the next morning for our arrival in Shin-Moji

The rival Ferry Settsu of Hankyu Ferry is just ahead, having sailed overnight from Kobe

The rival Ferry Settsu of Hankyu Ferry is just ahead, having sailed overnight from Kobe

There is only one berth at the City Line terminal in Shin-Moji, so the 'early ship', the 1991-vintage Ferry Kitakyushu, has cleared the port and is at anchor

Only one of the berths at the City Line terminal in Shin-Moji links to the terminal, so the ‘early ship’, the 1991-vintage Ferry Kitakyushu, has cleared the port after her 0530 arrival and is at anchor

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Also in Shin-Moji is the Ocean West, one of two pairs of 1990s sisters used by Ocean Tokyu Ferry on their long, two night service from Tokyo. The company divided their fleet into 'Standard' and 'Casual' ferries - the latter having fewer passenger facilities. The Ocean West was one of the 'Standard' ships alongside her sister the Ocean East so, based on external appearances, it's hard to  imagine how basic the 'Casual' Oceans North and South were. The entire fleet has been replaced by four newbuilds since this picture was taken in 2014 - all of which are designated as 'Simple' ships - passengers can acquire food only from a vending machine, although a bank of microwaves is provided.

Also in Shin-Moji is the Ocean West, one of two pairs of 1990s sisters used by Ocean Tokyu Ferry on their long, two night service from Tokyo. The company divided their fleet into ‘Standard’ and ‘Casual’ ferries – the latter having fewer passenger facilities. The Ocean West and her sister the Ocean East were the ‘Standard’ ships; based on external appearances, it’s hard to imagine how basic the ‘Casual’ Oceans North and South were. The entire fleet has been replaced by four newbuilds since this picture was taken – all of which are designated as ‘Simple’ ships – passengers can acquire food only from a vending machine and heat it in a bank of microwaves.

The Ferry Settsu pulls into port alongside fleetmate Yamato from the Shin Moji-Osaka (Izumiotsu) route which competes with City Line even more directly. The 'Settsu' was replaced by a new build in 2015.

The Ferry Settsu pulls into port alongside fleetmate Yamato from the Shin Moji-Osaka (Izumiotsu) route which competes with City Line even more directly. The ‘Settsu’ was replaced by a new build in 2015.

City Line berth in Shin-Moji, complete with side-loading linkspan.

City Line berth in Shin-Moji, complete with side-loading linkspan.

Passenger terminal

Passenger terminal

Model of the Ferry Fukuoka 2's sister, the Ferry Kyoto 2, in the Shin-Moji terminal

Model of the Ferry Fukuoka 2’s sister, the Ferry Kyoto 2, in the Shin-Moji terminal

Osaka Nanko in the 1980s - the New Orange, Ferry Hakozaki, Hamayu and New Katsura

Osaka Nanko in the 1980s – the New Orange, Ferry Hakozaki, Hamayu and New Katsura

To conclude, let’s go back to our port of departure and that 1980s view of Nanko ferryport. Whilst the port and terminal remain, sadly the ships seen in that picture have all long since left Japan. The New Orange was sold to China in 1999 after the arrival of the aforementioned Orange 8 and it’s not entirely clear whether she remains in service or not. The other three went to the Philippines, where the Ferry Hakozaki somehow survives, laid up as the St Joan of Arc. The Hamayu was less fortunate, burning out in dry dock in 2000 as the Superferry 3. The New Katsura was an earlier half-sister to the ship which became DANE Line’s Diagoras – she, however, ended up with Sulpico Lines as their Princess of the South. Spared one of that company’s regular calamities she managed to survive until being scrapped in 2014.

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Twilight of the Hengist

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Panagia Tinou (most recently Agios Georgios, originally the Hengist of 1972).

Half sunk in Piraeus harbour, July 2016.

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The art of the Baie de Seine

Brittany Ferries introduced the Baie de Seine on their ‘économie’ services in Spring 2015; it was immediately clear that, although still a ro-pax rather than a cruise ferry, she featured an altogether more sophisticated passenger environment than the initial économie ship, the Etretat, which retained her essentially factory-fit Visentini interior design by Studio Ancora. For the Baie de Seine, however, BF went to some lengths to make the vessel feel more like one of their own.

Although ordered by Lloyd Sardegna back in 1999, delays at her Polish yard meant that the ship which became the Baie de Seine was never completed as intended and the order was cancelled. Instead, together with her earlier sister, she was acquired by DFDS and named Dana Sirena (the other vessel becoming Dana Gloria). For her intended role as the new Harwich-Esbjerg ship the ‘Sirena’ enjoyed quite substantial reconfiguring with the interior design being masterminded by Steen Friis, who was also behind the Maersk ‘D’ Class and Stena’s Killingholme quartet.

When the Dana Sirena, by then Sirena Seaways, passed to Brittany Ferries various pieces of DFDS artwork were removed, although some remain. To fill the gaps, the French operator delved into their warehouse and reintroduced pieces which had once featured on earlier ships – in particular the Duc de Normandie and Val de Loire.

Duc de Normandie

Duc de Normandie

The most represented artist on board is Serge Hanin, who in the early 1990s was commissioned to provide 25 pieces for the Normandie and then a further 20 for the Val de Loire. Appropriately enough, Hanin is from Lillebonne, just outside Le Havre, which port the Baie de Seine would be serving in her initial season.

Val de Loire

Val de Loire

In a further DFDS link, some of the pieces now aboard the Baie de Seine remained on the Val de Loire when that ship was sold to DFDS in 2006. For her first year as the King of Scandinavia, she retained much of her French artwork and several of the large ship models. These were subsequently replaced with items from DFDS’s own collection and returned to BF.

Forward on Deck 7 of the Baie de Seine is Le Cafe, which features a pair of paintings from Le Rabelais, the main bar of the old Val de Loire (the one on the right hung in the arcade leading to the bar on the starboard side).

Forward on Deck 7 of the Baie de Seine is Le Cafe, which features a pair of paintings from Le Rabelais, the main bar of the old Val de Loire (the one on the right hung in the arcade leading to the bar on the starboard side).

Le Rabelais, Val de Loire, January 2006.

Le Rabelais, Val de Loire (January 2006).

On Deck 8 forward is the Baie de Seine's main bar; this view looking over to port shows four different pieces.

On Deck 8 forward is the Baie de Seine’s main bar; this view looking over to port shows four different pieces.

The lady in the red dress is one of Serge Hanin's favourites and she appears in a variety of his pieces. The larger one on the left in this view was previously in Le Rabelais bar on the Val de Loire. The smaller portrait hung in the seating area adjacent to the shopping centre on the Val de Loire's Deck 9.

The lady in the red dress is one of Serge Hanin’s favourites and she appears in a variety of his pieces. The larger painting on the left in this view was previously in Le Rabelais on the Val de Loire. The smaller portrait hung in the seating area adjacent to the shopping centre on the Val’s Deck 9.

It can just about be seen here, behind the pillar, still in position on the King of Scandinavia in October 2006.

It can just about be seen here, behind the pillar, still in position on the King of Scandinavia in October 2006.

Another view of the Baie de Seine's bar, looking this time to starboard.

Another view of the Baie de Seine’s bar, looking this time to starboard.

This bored-looking waiter was once located on the starboard side of the main bar on the Val de Loire.

This bored-looking waiter was once located on the starboard side of the Le Rabelais.

Le Rabelais bar, Val de Loire, seen in January 2003.

Le Rabelais bar, Val de Loire (January 2003).

More of Hanin's grotesques from the Val de Loire this painting, now in the Baie de Seine's main bar, was previously located in the forward port corner of the bar/lounge of Le Rabelais.

More of Hanin’s grotesques from the Val de Loire – this painting, now in the Baie de Seine’s main bar, was previously located in the forward port corner of Le Rabelais.

Continuing aft on Deck 8 of the Baie de Seine, next is La Formule Self Service Restaurant. This predominantly features works that once hung aboard the Duc de Normandie but the view above also incorporates another Hanin from Le Rabelais (just visible to the left on the far bulkhead).

Continuing aft on Deck 8 of the Baie de Seine, next is La Formule Self Service Restaurant. This predominantly features works that once hung aboard the Duc de Normandie but the view above also incorporates another Hanin from Le Rabelais (just visible in the upper centre of this image).

The Columbus Club on the King of Scandinavia (ex-Val de Loire) in 2006, with the aforementioned picture still in place.

The Columbus Club on the King of Scandinavia (ex-Val de Loire) in 2006, with the aforementioned picture still in place.

The second of the pictures in the last-but-one image is a landscape scene from the Honfleur Restaurant on the Duc de Normandie, as pictured here in 2004.

The second of the pictures in the last-but-one image is a landscape scene from the Honfleur Restaurant on the Duc de Normandie, as pictured here in 2004.

The starboard side of the Baie de Seine's self-service. The artwork in this area is from the Duc de Normandie's L'Alembic bar.

The starboard side of the Baie de Seine’s self-service. The artwork in this area is from the Duc de Normandie’s L’Alembic bar.

L'Alembic bar, Duc de Normandie in 2003.

L’Alembic bar, Duc de Normandie in 2003.

La Formule self service, Baie de Seine (2015).

La Formule self service, Baie de Seine (2015).

La Formule self service, Baie de Seine (2015).

La Formule self service, Baie de Seine (2015).

L'Alembic Bar, Duc de Normandie, (2004).

L’Alembic Bar, Duc de Normandie (2004).

The Reading Lounge on the Baie de Seine, previously the Commodore Lounge in DFDS service.

The Reading Lounge on the Baie de Seine, previously the Commodore Lounge in DFDS service.

Hanging in the aft port corner is this work, by Jean Yves Blécon.

Hanging in the aft port corner is this work, by Jean Yves Blécon.

This previously could be found in the forward section of the Duc de Normandie's Honfleur restaurant (just about visible behind the partition in this image from 2004).

This previously could be found in the forward section of the Honfleur Restaurant on the Duc de Normandie (just about visible behind the partition in this image from 2004).

More art hangs in the Baie de Seine's stairwells and corridors. This painting shows a running of the bulls by the Catalan artist Lluis Busse.

More art hangs in the Baie de Seine’s stairwells and corridors. This painting shows a running of the bulls by the Catalan artist Lluis Busse.

Here it is alongside a matching painting on the starboard side of La Magdalena self service restaurant on the Val de Loire in 2006.

Here it is alongside a matching painting on the starboard side of La Magdalena self service restaurant on the Val de Loire in January 2006.

This Hanin, in the forward port side stairwell of the Baie de Seine, is another from Le Rabelais on the Val de Loire.

This Hanin, in the forward port side stairwell of the Baie de Seine, is another from Le Rabelais on the Val de Loire.

The port side of Le Rabelais, Val de Loire, in 2006. The chairs in the foreground, incidentally, were originally on the Pont-Aven.

The port side of Le Rabelais, Val de Loire, in 2006. The chairs in the foreground, incidentally, were originally on the Pont-Aven.

This scene of Spanish dancers is by Lluis Busse and was originally hung by the entrance to the self service restaurant on the Val de Loire.

This scene of Spanish dancers is by Lluis Busse and was originally hung by the entrance to the self service restaurant on the Val de Loire.

La Magdalena self service restaurant on the Val de Loire in January 2003 with the mentioned painting to the left.

La Magdalena self service restaurant on the Val de Loire in January 2003 with the mentioned painting to the left.

A final Hanin from Le Rabelais.

A final Hanin from Le Rabelais.

Here it is in its original location on the Val de Loire (2003).

Here it is in its original location on the Val de Loire (2003).

Also hanging in a stairwell on the Baie de Seine is this piece by Concepció Boncompte. It looks familiar and she definitely provided art for the Val de Loire but I haven't been able to place it on board that ship. It is dated 1989 which would be unusual - the 'Val' entered service with Brittany Ferries in 1993 and the company usually commissioned artworks rather than buying them off the shelf.

Also hanging in a stairwell on the Baie de Seine is this piece by Concepció Boncompte. It looks familiar and she definitely provided art for the Val de Loire but I haven’t been able to place it on board that ship. It is dated 1989 which would be unusual – the ‘Val’ entered service with Brittany Ferries in 1993 and the company usually commissioned artworks rather than buying them off the shelf.

Last but not least, something slightly different graces the bridge of the Baie de Seine - a splendid image of the Prinz Oberon of 1970 which served DFDS between 1981 and 1984.

Last but not least, something slightly different graces the bridge of the Baie de Seine – a splendid image of the Prinz Oberon of 1970 which served DFDS between 1981 and 1984.

Brochure Browsing – P&O Normandy Ferries, 1977

In 1976 Normandy Ferries expanded from their original operations in the western Channel based at Southampton and opened a new service between Dover and Boulogne – the latter approximately 90km from Normandy itself. The operator, established in 1967, had been a joint venture between the British P&O and French SAGA, SAGA having been a storied cross-channel operator in their own right in the inter-war period.

The Boulogne service used the Lion, late of P&O’s Ardrossan-Larne service (formerly Burns & Laird) and was something of a gamble. P&O’s presence at Dover was not welcomed by the establishment operators, and memoranda from meetings of the cartel that fixed rates and operations around this time express the view that Normandy Ferries were a “black leg” (sic) who would not be invited to “join the club” (P&O subsequently attended various meetings but were always resented by Sealink and Townsend Thoresen for adding further capacity to a market which already had too much and for driving down fares so that everyone struggled to make money).

This brochure shows the Normandy Ferries operation just after the commencement of the Boulogne service and before the second vessel, the nf Tiger, was brought into operation in 1978.

Whilst the Dragon and Leopard were superior, elegant overnight car ferries with comfortable interiors and harmonious lines, the Lion was a robust little ship with only a few concessions to real luxury.

Whilst the Dragon and Leopard were superior, elegant overnight car ferries with comfortable interiors and harmonious lines, the Lion was a robust little ship with only a few concessions to real luxury.

"We don't put our car ferries on any old route." In reality Normandy Ferries had spotted a gap in the market as BR/Sealink had focussed on the shorter Dover-Calais operation rather than Dover-Boulogne which, just a decade earlier, had been the centre of their short-sea car ferry services.

“We don’t put our car ferries on any old route.” In reality Normandy Ferries had spotted a gap in the market as BR/Sealink had focussed on the shorter Dover-Calais operation rather than Dover-Boulogne which, just a decade earlier, had been the centre of their short-sea car ferry services.

"Lion obligingly provides a comfortable sun deck!" Complete with deckchairs, perhaps the last to be seen on a short-sea ferry.

“Lion obligingly provides a comfortable sun deck!” Complete with deckchairs, perhaps the last to be seen on a short-sea ferry.

Our passengers have espied something interesting from the Lion's upper forward lounge.

Our passengers have espied something interesting from the Lion’s upper forward lounge.

"Lion gives you individual shops plus a shipboard supermarket - to give you one of the best shopping centres afloat". These facilities had certainly been beefed up compared to her Irish Sea days when a dual information desk/shop was supplemented in the summer by the conversion of a cabin into an additional retail outlet.

“Lion gives you individual shops plus a shipboard supermarket – to give you one of the best shopping centres afloat”. These facilities had certainly been beefed up compared to her Irish Sea days when a dual information desk/shop was supplemented in the summer by the conversion of a cabin into an additional retail outlet.

Enjoying a full English in the Lion's cafeteria.

Enjoying a full English in the Lion’s cafeteria.

Things look slightly more formal in this view of the restaurant on either Leopard or Dragon.

Things look slightly more formal in this view of the restaurant on either Leopard or Dragon.

The neatly-detailed main lobby on the Southampton pair, with its central lift shaft, oval mezzanine and sweeping open-tread staircase remains one of the most attractive spaces on any cross-channel ferry.

The neatly-detailed main lobby on the Southampton pair, with its central lift shaft, oval mezzanine and sweeping open-tread staircase remains one of the most attractive spaces on any cross-channel ferry.

The Dover-Boulogne service expanded to three ships in 1980 and, after SAGA’s exit, operated under the P&O Ferries name. Both routes were acquired by Townsend Thoresen in late 1984 and the five ships fairly quickly withdrawn from Channel service.

Scenes from a sailing on the Vitsentzos Kornaros (ex-Viking Viscount)

May 2016 will mark 40 years since Townsend Thoresen took delivery of the Viking Viscount, the last of their ‘Super Viking’ quartet for Southampton and Felixstowe service. We have looked in the past at two of her sisters, the Viking Venturer and Viking Voyager but today the ‘Viscount’ is the last survivor. After passing to TT’s successor P&O European Ferries in 1987 she ended her English Channel days more than two decades ago but continues operating in Greece as the Vitsentzos Kornaros for her only subsequent operator, Lane Lines.

Early days at Felixstowe where the operating company was technically still the Atlantic Steam Navigation Co with their Transport Ferry Service name still in use.

Early days at Felixstowe where the operating company was technically still the Atlantic Steam Navigation Co with their Transport Ferry Service name still in use.

The bar areas, forward and to port, on the Super Vikings were certainly the funkiest spots on any Townsend Thoresen ferry - if not quite the equal of contemporary ships like the St Edmund or Tor Britannia. The aft restaurant was also pleasant but the rest of the ships' accommodation including the Food Fayre self-service cafeteria was largely unremarkable. [/caption]

The bar areas, forward and to port, on the Super Vikings were certainly the funkiest spots on any Townsend Thoresen ferry – if not quite the equal of contemporary ships like the St Edmund or Tor Britannia. The aft restaurant was also pleasant but the rest of the ships’ accommodation including the Food Fayre self-service cafeteria was largely unremarkable.

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The Viking Viscount and Viking Voyager transferred to the western channel in 1986 and the 'Viscount' is seen here arriving at Portsmouth in P&O grey in July 1988. She is still showing her original port of Registry, Dover; this would change to Portsmouth when the ship was renamed Pride of Winchester in 1989.

The Viking Viscount and Viking Voyager transferred to the Western Channel in 1986 and the 'Viscount' is seen here arriving at Portsmouth in P&O blue in July 1988. She is still showing her original port of Registry, Dover; this would change to Portsmouth when the ship was renamed Pride of Winchester in 1989.


The images below are from a voyage in September 2013 on the ship’s regular operation between Kissamos on Crete to Piraeus via the islands of Kythira and its tiny neighbour Antikythera. The ship provides a direct link to the port of Athens for these half-forgotten corners of the Aegean, but it is a somewhat controversial one. The Vitsentzos Kornaros is heavily subsidised – in 2013 at a cost of almost Euro200 per passenger carried making this the most expensive ferry operation that the Greek government supports. The majority of travellers to these islands take the shorter ferry from Neapolis, over 4 hours driving to the south west of Athens, and in late 2013 government tried to withdraw the subsidy which would have seen the Piraeus link cease. An outcry followed and eventually agreement was reached which would see the Vitsentzos Kornaros continue (her scheduled retirement and replacement as outlined in the earlier 2009 contract between Lane and the government appears to have been brushed under the carpet).

It is not really expected that many passengers will sail direct from Kissamos to Piraeus (direct sailings from Chania, 30 minutes away from Kissamos, leave much later and tend to arrive earlier) so most are heading to or from Kythira and Anthikythera. But the salvation of the route was fortunate not just for islanders but also for travellers seeking a sail on a vintage ferry operating one of the most fascinating routes anywhere in Europe.

The Vitsentzos Kornaros at Kissamos.

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Boarding over the vehicle deck. As built the ship had retractable mezzanine decks covering the whole width of the this space but at some stage the sections between the engine casings have been removed.

Two berth cabin on present-day Deck 7 (originally B Deck). Although looking appropriately vintage, this room was installed by Lane when the ship came to Greece having latterly been part of the Club Class lounge with P&O.

Two berth cabin on present-day Deck 7 (originally B Deck). Although looking appropriately vintage this room was installed by Lane when the ship came to Greece having latterly been part of the Club Class lounge with P&O.

Time for a quick look around...

Time for a quick look around...

The amidships stairway on Deck 6, looking aft to the self-service.

The amidships stairway on Deck 6, looking aft to the self-service.

Just forward, the main reception desk is still retains its P&O-era light wood look.

Just forward, the main reception desk is still retains its P&O-era light wood look.

Little bits of original TT green signage have survived.

Little bits of original TT green signage have survived.

Starboard side, looking aft.

Starboard side, looking forward.

And looking forward.

Lounge area right forward, overlooking the bow.

Lounge area right forward, overlooking the bow.

Port side bar area.

Port side bar area.

Heading aft, the self service still bears more than a passing resemblance to its original 'Food Fayre' setup.

Heading aft, the self service still bears more than a passing resemblance to its original 'Food Fayre' setup.

 .

The forward bulkheads in this area retained their large prints showing scenes of Winchester cathedral by the Sussex artist Judy Strafford until around 2010 but these have now been removed.

The servery area is very P&O however.

The servery area remains very P&O.

On the port side of the self service, looking forward.

On the port side of the self service, looking forward.

At the stern is the former restaurant with the pictured section originally a cocktail bar.

Heading back upstairs, this is the midships lobby on Deck 7; Club Class was just forward of this.

Heading back upstairs, this is the midships lobby on Deck 7; Club Class was just forward of this but has now been reconverted into an area of cabins.

Up another level are a pair of reclining seat lounges of which this is the forward one.

Up another level are a pair of reclining seat lounges of which this is the forward one.

The aft lounge is the former cinema and was not an original feature of the design, being added to all four ships very early in their careers.

The aft lounge is the former cinema and was not an original feature of the design, being added to all four ships very early in their careers.

Officers' mess.

Crew mess.

Down to Deck 5, this is the midships lobby. This deck housed the bulk of the passenger cabins as built (with the upper garage aft). These are all now given over to crew.

Down to Deck 5, this is the midships lobby. This deck housed the bulk of the passenger cabins as built (with the upper garage aft). These are all now given over to crew.

Back on deck to watch departure.

Back on deck to watch departure.

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A few hours later, we approach Antikythera.

A few hours later, we approach Antikythera, which has a year-round population of less than 50 people (rather more stay there during the summer).

The ship has to execute a tight turn in the tiny bay to present her stern ramp to the quayside.

The ship has to execute a tight 180 degree turn in the tiny bay to present her stern ramp to the quayside.

After a call of no more than 10 minutes we are away again.

After a call of no more than 10 minutes we are away again.

Things are a lot busier downstairs after the first port of call, but the majority of the ship's passengers have still to board at the next island call, Kythira, which is another two hours sailing away.

Things are a lot busier downstairs after the first port of call, but the majority of the ship's passengers have still to board at the next island call, Kythira.

Kythira.

Kythira.

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Up early the following morning finds us slowly approaching Piraeus - we are running late so must wait off port as the morning departures make their exit.

An early start the following morning finds us slowly approaching Piraeus - we are running late so must wait off port as the morning departures make their exit.

The Pelagitis sweeps past en-route to the ro-ro terminal.

The Pelagitis sweeps past en-route to the ro-ro terminal.

Highspeed 4 leaving Piraeus.

Highspeed 4 leaving Piraeus.

Blue Star Delos.

Blue Star Delos.

Jetferry 1.

Jetferry 1.

Spongebob Squarepants (left), Agios Georgios (background) and Flying Dolphin Athina.

Spongebob Squarepants (left), Agios Georgios (background) and Flying Dolphin Athina.

Speedrunner III.

Disembarking via the upper garage ramp.

Disembarking via the upper garage ramp.

The present day Deck 5 was originally D Deck before the mandatory renumbering of decks on passenger ships was enforced.

The present day Deck 5 was originally D Deck before the mandatory renumbering of decks on passenger ships was enforced.

Patria Seaways on the Humber


It has been a fair few years since P&O/North Sea Ferries brought in really interesting charter ships – back in the ’70s and ’80s there were things like the Stena Normandica and even the Viking 6 but more recently refit cover has been provided merely by ro-ro ships. For 2016, however, things have been varied a little with the charter of DFDS’s Patria Seaways (ex-Stena Traveller). Whilst she is not taking tourist traffic during her spell on the Hull-Zeebrugge route, she can cater for more drivers than a conventional ro-ro. And, importantly, her dimensions make her a perfect fit for the lock entrance to the King George Dock in Kingston-upon-Hull.

The Stena Traveller was an early ro-pax – indeed the term hadn’t come into common usage when she was delivered in late 1991 and the Shippax Guide devoted to her earlier sister, the Stena Challenger, still refers to them as ‘combis’. The pair were part of a series of five ships whose hulls were built at the Bruce shipyard in Landskrona, Sweden but the vessels completed at Fosen in Rissa, Norway. Fosen’s had originally won the order for a pair of vessels from Turkish Cargo Line and, as they by then already specialised in ship fitout, subcontracted basic construction to Bruce’s. The price was very competitive and this did not go un-noticed by Stena RoRo who moved in to order a pair of heavily modified sister ships. A further vessel became the Bergen of Fjord Line.

The Stena Traveller in 1992.

The Stena Traveller in 1992.

The Stena Challenger was completed with full passenger accommodation and sent to Sealink but the second ship had no defined role and whilst she was being built Stena RoRo reportedly touted her to Brittany Ferries/Truckline as an option for its Poole-Cherbourg route before they settled on the purpose-build which became the Barfleur. Eventually the Stena Traveller did head for the UK after delivery in 1992, operating for Stena between Harwich and Hook and as summer freight support on the Southampton-Cherbourg route. She then spent three years on charter with TT Line as the TT Traveller before returning to the UK to launch Stena’s Holyhead-Dublin freight route in late 1995. A further five years with TT followed between 1997 and 2002 before another two back with Stena Line running between Karlskrona and Gdynia.

At Gdynia in 2004.

At Gdynia in 2004.

Stena sold her to DFDS in Spring 2004 for a reported SEK250m (which compared favourably to her build price 13 years earlier of approx. SEK325m). As the Lisco Patria and later the Patria Seaways the ship has done the rounds of DFDS’s Baltic freight routes before heading back to the North Sea on her P&O refit charter in early January this year.

On Sunday morning, I headed across to the East Riding to watch her lock in after arriving on an overnight sailing from Zeebrugge and some pictures follow. The ship had been very heavily delayed by rough weather on her previous northbound crossing but was essentially back on schedule by the time she approached the Humber – a scheduled 0900 arrival time was, however, delayed as Finnlines’ Finnkraft was the first to arrive at the lock entrance at the conclusion of one of her near week-long voyages from Helsinki. Rather than dawdle up the river waiting for the Finnkraft to clear, the Patria Seaways approached the mouth of the lock and parked herself alongside, just forward of the Pride of Hull on the river berth. After half an hour of waiting, the ship entered the lock and eventually passed through to the location of the original North Sea Ferries berths inside the dock.

The Patria Seaways is scheduled to operate with P&O on the Zeebrugge run until a final Hull-Zeebrugge sailing on 6 February.

Jadrolinija’s Ivan Zajc

Repost of a voyage report originally posted here in 2009 but subsequently lost.

In 2010 the Ivan Zajc was sold for service in Equatorial Guinea for service to the island of Malabo. She reportedly still survives (an AIS signal was last emitted in July 2015) but there is no definitive confirmation of her present location and condition.

The Ivan Zajc and the Vis at Vela Luka.

The Ivan Zajc and the Vis at Vela Luka.

A voyage report from July 2005 (Pictures from 2005 and 2007)

Having motored up the coast from Korcula on the little Liburnija, easily Jadrolinija’s most lovely ship, an overnight sailing from Split to Ancona on the Ivan Zajc awaited. Built for the Linee Marittime dell’Adriatico in 1970 as the Tiziano the Ivan Zajc has the distinction of having passed through three separate operators while all the time operating primarily from Italy to Split, in Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia). Originally operating from Pescara, she passed to Adriatica in 1980, with operations from both Ancona and Pescara as well as use elsewhere on the network on occasion.

A view from astern, showing the ship's distinctive silhouette.

A view from astern, showing the ship's distinctive silhouette.

Finally, in 1993 she was acquired by Jadrolinija, acquiring her present name and being deployed largely on the Ancona run, although certain domestic sailings have also been maintained (in recent years often a daytime return to Vela Luka on Korcula island in between overnights to Italy). In 2007 Jadrolinija introduced some Pescara-Split sailings, restoring the ship to her original route.
The starboard side outside deck upon arrival at Vela Luca in 2007. In the background is the Vis (ex-Sydfyn).

The starboard side outside deck upon arrival at Vela Luca in 2007. In the background is the Vis (ex-Sydfyn).


The ship’s interiors are certainly distinctively Italianate, and largely unchanged under Jadrolinija. She feels deceptively small and cramped and is perhaps best as an overnight ship, although at least on sunny day sailings passengers can spill out onto the open decks. The public rooms consist of a curious windowless bar area forward complete with Purser’s desk and, adjacent on the starboard side, a restaurant area. Other than that, this ship is a rabbit warren of narrow cabin alleyways, with a couple of reclining seat lounges off to port. Charming in its own way but, on a busy crossing and particularly upon boarding and arrival, full of bottlenecks with crowds of people trying to push past each other. Scattered around the ship are a series of large, framed Italian art prints.

The Tin Ujevic on her berth at Split, with the Ivan Zajc departing.

The Tin Ujevic on her berth at Split, with the Ivan Zajc departing.

The stern door.

The stern door.


The car deck

The car deck

The windowless bar, forward, looking aft on the starboard side.

The windowless bar, forward, looking aft on the starboard side.

Another view of the bar. The purser's office and a small shop are also located here.

Another view of the bar. The purser's office and a small shop are also located here.

The self service restaurant, aft of the bar on the starboard side. Right aft, an area is partitioned off for waiter-service.

The self service restaurant, aft of the bar on the starboard side. Right aft, an area is partitioned off for waiter-service.

Self-service servery area.

Self-service servery area.


The waiter service section

The waiter service section

The centreline corridor leading aft from the bar with the self-service to the right and recliner lounge to the left.

The centreline corridor leading aft from the bar with the self-service to the right and recliner lounge to the left.

Recliner lounge

Recliner lounge

The upper lobby, complete with four large Italian art prints.

The upper lobby, complete with four large Italian art prints.

Shoehorned onto the forecastle is a small swimming pool, empty on our night crossing and it was just aft of this, on the port-side promenade that we set up camp for the night on one of the lifejacket containers. Nabbing a decent place to sleep on the outside decks had been our first priority upon boarding: exploring the ship could wait for later although, as can be seen, there really isn’t much to explore. The Ivan Zajc pulled out of Split on time and after a long day we bedded down for the night and I soon nodded off to sleep.

The swimming pool

The swimming pool

Builder's plate

Builder's plate

I was awoken abruptly in the middle of the night to find a female face leering above screeching in an Australian accent. “You’ve stolen my shoes! My shoes! Where are my shoes?! I’m going to have to walk around Europe with no shoes!”. My first reaction was to zip my sleeping bag up over my head perhaps, in my half-comatose state, thinking that this was merely an unfortunate hallucinogenic reaction to the slightly tough and overcooked steak I’d had for lunch on the Liburnija. But, alas, no: this was all too real.
“I didn’t get this paid for you know. Not on Daddy’s credit card. DADDY’S CREDIT CARD! DADDY’S *****Y CREDIT CARD. You got it paid for by DADDY’S ****ING CREDIT CARD.”

This was altogether too bizarre a situation to comprehend in the middle of the night but in retrospect I should perhaps have advised her that if, by some good fortune, Daddy had left me in control of his credit card, I probably would have found better ways of spending money than travelling deck class on the Ivan Zajc, trying to sleep whilst lying on a hard plastic lifejacket container. Alas the opportunity was lost as our Aussie friend was soon led away by a concerned travelling companion and I resumed my slumber, slightly nonplussed.

We awoke the next day as the ship neared Ancona; the rival Split 1700 had sailed in convoy with us overnight and had arrived just before. With the early morning arrival we headed off to rouse ourselves with some coffee, cake and freshly-squeezed orange juice in a little café in the town, which has become something of a regular haunt after early morning Ancona arrivals. Suitably resuscitated we headed off towards the main railway station where a Eurostar Intercity train would speed us down the coast to Bari.

Looking forward on the Ivan Zajc.

Looking forward on the Ivan Zajc.

Right aft, the ship was built with a stern bridge. Today it is abandoned.

Right aft, the ship was built with a stern bridge. Today it is abandoned.

The Ivan Zajc at Split

The Ivan Zajc at Split

Up close: Banasa (ex-Mette Mols, to become Moby Kiss)

Built 1975 at Helsingor as Mette Mols for Mols Linien’s Ebeltoft-Odden route.
Sold 1996 to Comarit and renamed Banasa for Tangier-Algeciras service.
Re-engined and refitted in 2003/04.
Laid up in Algeciras, Spain, early 2012 following the bankruptcy of her owners.
Towed for scrapping at Aliaga, Turkey, August 2015.
Towed from Aliaga to Perama, Greece, October 2015 following acquisition by European Seaways.
Renamed Galaxy but subsequently re-sold to Moby Lines.
To become Moby Kiss for Livorno-Bastia service.

Photographed March 2014, abandoned on Algeciras breakwater.

Beyond Sealink: A final sailing on the Horsa

In August 1970, the British Treasury approved the construction of a pair of new multi-purpose passenger car ferries for operation by British Rail from a new Folkestone car ferry terminal. Approval was also given by the Bank of England for the ships, which became the Hengist and Horsa, to be built in France. British Rail executives celebrated clearance of “the complete caboodle”, for this had been a somewhat tortuous process, with much political hand wringing and redrafting of the proposals.

One area which had come under particular scrutiny was what the future would hold for these ships upon the completion of the Channel Tunnel, then expected to be in 1978. Attention was therefore paid to both the estimated useful life of the vessels and their resale value come the opening of the tunnel. This was of particular importance for the business plan, for the the ships had to make an adequate return by 1978 to cover the difference between their construction cost and, it was presumed, the amount the ships would be sold for in that year.

BR/Sealink consulted J S Daniels at the Board of Trade for an independent evaluation and the Daniels memo noted that “it is important that the ships are not so specialised to a particular route and service that they cannot be readily adapted for use elsewhere”. The final business plan assumed a twenty year useful life, with a resale value of each ship in 1978 of £2.415m (compared to the £3.6m build cost). Correspondence with the Ministry of Transport reassured the minister’s team that the ships would find willing buyers and that “there was a continuous demand for this style of ship for numerous Scandinavian, German and Mediterranean routes on which they can be used” although “a need for similar ships will arise on the Heysham/Belfast route by 1981 and it could be more advantageous to transfer them”.

As it turned out, the key assumption upon which this entire section of the business plan was based turned out to be flawed. The 1970s Channel Tunnel project was cancelled, and so the ships sailed on. More than a decade later, when the tunnel was eventually authorised, the ships were nearing the ends of their Channel careers and were sold two years before it opened to Greek owners for good prices (when the Hengist was sold by her first Greek owners Agapitos to Ventouris Sea Lines in 1993, the price achieved was approx £7.5m). The ships proved more adaptable than J S Daniels could have possibly imagined, almost perfectly suited to Greek inter-island ferry operation in the 1990s. So on they sailed, well past the 20 year lifespan Sealink’s calculations had given them, into their third decades and then their fourth decades and fifth decades.

The Horsa passed in 1992 to Agoudimos Lines who placed her in service from Rafina to islands in the northern Cyclades – Andros, Tinos and Mykonos. For four years from late 1999 she fell under Hellas Ferries control as the Express Penelope, but she remained based at Rafina. For more than two decades the port was her home, and she usually sailed through the winter when most of her competitors retired for seasonal lay up. Agoudimos Lines got their ship back in 2004 but by late 2012 the company was in severe financial difficulty and the Penelope A entered a period of uncertainty, out of service. She was in operation around Easter 2013 and then again in late June that year before her crew went on strike over unpaid wages. A settlement of sorts was reached and the ship re-entered service for the summer peak on 23rd July.

The Penelope A at Tinos

The Penelope A at Tinos

27th August 2013 marked 15,000 days since the ship had entered service at Folkestone back in August 1972. Seven days later came the end, both sudden yet expected – she was again taken out of service by her crew, still largely unpaid. In between times, on 31st August 2013, I made what I knew would, in all likelihood, be a final crossing on this proud old veteran.

For the Penelope A (named after Penelope Agoudimos and locally pronounced, Penelope Alpha), this time there were to be no second chances. The crew settled down for the long haul, occupying their ship where she lay – in the port of Rafina, prominently at the bottom of the cliffs from the residence of the former Prime Minister. The crew, seemingly abandoned by the operator, ran out of food and power, their plight featured in national and international media. In January 2014 the last crew members left the ship and, eventually, the Rafina port authority paid for a tug to tow the Penelope A, dead ship, over to lay up in Elefsis bay where she has remained ever since.

Set out below are some images from that final crossing, four days before the end of the ship’s long career. It’s fair to say she had seen better days and, although it is not immediately obvious here, a lack of maintenance and long-term care was apparent. But the ship had lasted in operational service far longer than anyone could have imagined back when she and her sister were ordered in 1970, and it was an honour to be given the chance to sail on her for one final time in her Indian Summer, and to say goodbye.

Early morning in Rafina: one of the ticket agencies representing Agoudimos Lines.

Early morning in Rafina: one of the ticket agencies representing Agoudimos Lines.

Boarding in Rafina: from left to right, the sterns of the Ekaterini P, Blue Star Ithaki, Penelope A and Theologos P, all engaged in service to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.

Boarding in Rafina: from left to right, the sterns of the Ekaterini P, Blue Star Ithaki, Penelope A and Theologos P, all engaged in service to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.

Theologos P of so-called 'Fast Ferries', whose crossing times are no speedier than the other conventional ships.

Theologos P of so-called 'Fast Ferries', whose crossing times are no speedier than the other conventional ships.

Penelope and Theologos.

Penelope and Theologos.

The Penelope A pulling away from Rafina, with the Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) on her berth awaiting departure.

The Penelope A pulling away from Rafina, with the Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) on her berth awaiting departure.

View from the bridge.

View from the bridge.

Plotting our way to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.

Plotting our way to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.

Penelope A bridge detail.

Penelope A bridge detail.

Time for a quick wander around before we arrive in Andros...

Time for a quick wander around before we arrive in Andros...

Port side promenade (aft section).

Port side promenade (aft section).

Starboard promenade.

Starboard promenade.

Forward end of the port promenade, part of the Distinguished/First class accommodation.

Forward end of the port promenade, part of the Distinguished/First Class accommodation.

Distinguished Class lounge, forward on what is now Deck 6. This was once the Mercia Bar with an adjacent coffee lounge.

Distinguished Class lounge, forward on what is now Deck 6. This was once the Mercia Bar with an adjacent coffee lounge.

Distinguished Class lounge.

Distinguished Class lounge.

The forward staircase, still decorated by the two-deck high work by Franta Belsky, albeit now missing its Horsa centrepiece.

The forward staircase, still decorated by the two-deck high work by Franta Belsky, albeit now missing its Horsa centrepiece.

The forward lounge on Deck 5. For many years in Greek service this retained most of the decor of its 1980s incarnation as the Venice Simplon Orient Express lounge, but was refitted during a refit in the mid-2000s.

The forward lounge on Deck 5. For many years in Greek service this retained most of the decor of its 1980s incarnation as the Venice Simplon Orient Express lounge, but was refitted in the mid-2000s.

Heading aft on either side are the two side lounges, still with their original seating which was manufactured by Burgess Furniture in Feltham, Middlesex.

Heading aft on either side are the two side lounges, still with their original seating which was manufactured by Burgess Furniture in Feltham, Middlesex.

What was originally called the tea bar, amidships between the two side lounges, was an original feature designed to be 'more modest in conception than the other bars in order to maintain a quiet atmosphere'.

Amidships between the two side lounges which it served was what was originally called the Tea Bar, intended by British Rail to be 'more modest in conception than the other bars in order to maintain a quiet atmosphere'.

Forward of the tea bar on the ship's centreline was once the Duty Free shop is now an additional, windowless, area of seating. This has inherited some of the generic chairs (from Primo in London) which were installed in the cafeteria upstairs during the late 1980s.

Forward of the Tea Bar on the ship's centreline what was once the Duty Free shop is now an additional, windowless, area of seating. This has inherited some of the generic chairs (made by Primo in London) which were installed in the cafeteria upstairs during the late 1980s.

The aft lobby with two different reception desks. In the foreground left behind the current mirrored panel was originally the passport office, to the right the bureau de change and far left the Purser's desk.

The aft lobby with two different reception desks. In the foreground left behind the current mirrored panel was originally the passport office, to the right the bureau de change and far left the Purser's desk.

Still retaining its original Burgess seating is the aft lounge, originally a non-smoking lounge. The area of the original discotheque, to the right of this image, has been absorbed into the lounge.

Still retaining its original Burgess seating is the aft lounge, originally a non-smoking saloon. The area of the original discotheque, to the right of this image, has been absorbed into the lounge.

Moving back upstairs, this is the cafeteria, rarely used as such during the ship's second stint in Agoudimos service when it was only generally opened up on busy sailings as an additional seating area.

Moving back upstairs, this is the cafeteria, rarely used as such during the ship's second stint in Agoudimos service when it was only generally opened up on busy sailings as an additional seating area.

This still retains its 1980s British Ferries Pantry branding...

This still retains its 1980s British Ferries Pantry branding...

...and still promes a 'full traditional breakfast'.

...and still promises a 'full traditional breakfast'.

Even Sammy Sealink has somehow managed to survive over 20 years in Greece.

Even Sammy Sealink has somehow managed to survive over 20 years in Greece.

A corner of the ship's galley.

A corner of the ship's galley.

Concluding our tour of the interior accommodation this secondary Distinguished Class lounge, forward of the galley, was originally the ship's 48-seat restaurant.

Back outside, the ship is now approaching Andros.

Back outside, the ship is now approaching Andros.

Captain Costas Velalopoulos, master of the Penelope A from 2004 until 2013.

Captain Costas Velalopoulos, master of the Penelope A from 2004 until 2013.

The cathedral-like innards of the ship's giant funnel.

The cathedral-like innards of the ship's giant funnel.

Most of the ship's lifeboat davits all retained their small installation plates detailing test date (in this case 3rd September 1971) and the ship's yard number, CF2 (Hengist being CF1 and later sister Senlac CF3).

Most of the ship's lifeboat davits retained their small installation plates detailing test date (in this case 3rd September 1971) and the ship's yard number, CF2 (Hengist being CF1 and later sister Senlac CF3).

Aft deck machinery - supplied by Clarke Chapman in Gateshead.

Aft deck machinery - supplied by Clarke Chapman in Gateshead.

As we approach Tinos, there's time for a quick look down on the car deck.

As we approach Tinos, there's time for a quick look down on the car deck.

One of the upper mezzanine sections of the vehicle deck - as built, this was designed to accommodate two cars side by side.

One of the upper mezzanine sections of the vehicle deck - as built, this was designed to accommodate two cars side by side.

The vehicle deck hatch, forward, often open during the ship's final years as the Penelope A.

The vehicle deck hatch, forward, was often open during the ship's final years as the Penelope A.

Welcome aboard sign from the Sealink days...

Welcome aboard sign from the Sealink days...

... just like this one (picture from 1987).

... just like this one (picture from 1987).

Lower decks miscellany.

Lower decks miscellany.

Lower decks miscellany.

Lower decks miscellany.

At Tinos.

At Tinos.

Between 1974 and 1985 the Prince Laurent was a Sealink fleetmate; since 1993 the two ships have operated in constant direct competition out of Rafina. The former 'Laurent', now the Superferry II, is seen approaching Tinos.

Between 1974 and 1985 the Prince Laurent was a Sealink fleetmate; for 20 years after 1993 the two ships operated in constant direct competition out of Rafina. The former 'Laurent', now the Superferry II, is seen approaching Tinos.

Superferry II backing onto her berth, the painted-over RMT monogram can still be seen, welded to her funnel.

Superferry II backing onto her berth, the painted-over RMT monogram can still be seen, welded to her funnel.

Velalopoulos surveys the scene.

Velalopoulos surveys the scene.

Leaving Tinos for Mykonos.

Leaving Tinos for Mykonos.

Arrival at Mykonos new port.

Arrival at Mykonos new port.

Is somebody missing a chicken?

Is somebody missing a chicken?

After holding up trafic for a few minutes, the chicken was last seen being strung up by one of the crew members, very possibly en-route to the galley.

After holding up trafic for a few minutes, the chicken was last seen being strung up by one of the crew members, very possibly en-route to the galley.

Secure on the berth at Mykonos. Just four days later the ship would make her final sailings.

Secure on the berth at Mykonos. Just four days later the ship would make her final sailings.

Remembering the Egnatia III

Hellenic Mediterranean Lines were probably the most famous Greek ferry company, well-known initially for fairly exotic liner service and latterly for decades of transporting backpackers on Inter-rail tickets from Italy to Greece. By the early 1990s, HML was operating a grand fleet of veteran car ferries, but their early entries into this market were more impressive, taking delivery of the brand-new Egnatia in 1960, the Adriatic’s first purpose-built overnight car ferry. Then, in the 1970s, they ordered two exceptional new ships, the car ferry Castalia and the pure cruise ship Aquarius. The future seemed secure but this was to be high water mark for the company and, although the fleet expanded through the 1980s, the market changed and they failed to follow it.

HML's 2003 brochure.

HML's 2003 brochure.

By 2003, the company was reduced to just two ferries – the Egnatia III and the veteran Poseidonia. The latter, once the Belfast Steamship Company’s (later P&O Ferries’) Ulster Queen was by then far too small, chronically outdated and much too slow. The Egnatia III, although built only six years later, in 1973, was another matter entirely. Originally the Stena Scandinavica she was one of Stena’s famous four from Yugoslavia, where Sten Olsson, by repute looking to build a pair of vessels, found he could get them built for half the price of a North European yard. So he ordered four instead – two for the Gothenburg-Frederikshavn route (ships which later became the Bluenose and the Versailles/Seafrance Monet) and two for Gothenburg-Kiel (later the Scotia Prince and Irish Continental Lines’ Saint Killian II). It was the Saint Killian II, lengthened by 30m in 1981, which finally found its way to HML, her Irish career drawing to a close after her owners rejuvenated their French operations with the acquisition of the Normandy in 1998. The ship spent almost five years laid up in a deteriorating state before HML revived her and introduced her on the classic backpacker route from Brindisi to Patras via Igoumenitsa, and, on some crossings, Corfu, Kefalonia, Paxos and Zakynthos.

Stena's 1970s Yugoslavian quartet.

Stena's 1970s Yugoslavian quartet.

The ICL years

The early ICL days

A view of the ship after her lengthening in 1981.

A view of the ship after her lengthening in 1981.

HML’s new, and final, flagship operated for the company for just one season, the summer of 2003, and I joined her for a sailing in July of that year which left Brindisi at 8pm and, after calls at Igoumenitsa and Kefalonia made it to Patras at 1.30pm the following day. We arrived in Brindisi on the high speed train from Ortona and, having wandered down the Corso Roma to the harbour, were faced across the harbour with the magnificent sight of the Derin Deniz, once B&I’s Innisfallen, which was in her final role sailing to Turkey.

The Derin Deniz.

The Derin Deniz.

The Derin Deniz was not alone in port: whilst in the summer of 2013, only a couple of operators could be found running from Brindisi, on the day of our sailing aboard the Egnatia III twelve ferries were scattered around the port – ten of which were in service, each representing a different ferry line. Only one of those ten operators exists any more, and even they, Agoudimos Lines, are nearing the end. All but one of the twelve ships has been scrapped, the sole exception being the fast passenger ferry Santa Eleonora, today the Ponza Jet. Just as depressing as that ferry roll of doom is the decline of the port of Brindisi – once one of the key hubs of the Adriatic ferry market it is today a peripheral, half-forgotten player.

The Santa Eleonora arriving from Greece.

The Santa Eleonora arriving from Greece.

HML finally succumbed just a year later – the superficial promise of the 2003 season was followed by a quite disastrous 2004. The Egnatia III was chartered out to Algeria Ferries but core operations back at home, which were to have been left in the hands of the Poseidonia, never properly materialised. The little ship stayed alongside in Keratsini through the summer, with a last-minute charter of the old Japanese ferry Arielle being organised instead, giving that vessel the somewhat unlikely honour of operating HML’s last sailings. The Poseidonia, sold to Saudi Arabian interests, soon found herself sunk near Sharm el-Sheikh. The Egnatia III lay at anchor in Elefsis bay for a couple of years but was finally scrapped in India in 2007, bringing to an ignominious close the story of Greece’s most famous coastal shipping operator. The company’s old website persisted for many years and a version still does, now appropriated by a ferry booking engine but still with images of the Egnatia III. So well known was the HML name that the company’s Italian agent later licensed its use on brochures of operators such as GA Ferries and Endeavor Lines. To this day, a giant builder’s model of the original Egnatia can be found in the window of their offices on the Corso Roma.

A decade after our sailing, I found myself flicking through the many pictures taken on that trip and share them below. They aren’t quite of the standard I’d expect to take today, but they capture the final, optimistic but ultimately damned flourish of the great Hellenic Mediterranean Lines and are witness to the closing days an entirely lost era of ferry travel.

HML ticket.

HML ticket.

Walking over to our ship at Brindisi's Costa Morena port, we passed by Fragline's Ouranos (ex-Tor Hollandia of 1967). She was finally scrapped in 2010.

Walking over to our ship at Brindisi's Costa Morena port, we passed by Fragline's Ouranos (ex-Tor Hollandia of 1967). She was finally scrapped in 2010.

Employed by Access Ferries in sailings to Turkey was the Hermes V. Originally TT Lines' second Nils Holgersson of 1967, she was sold for scrap just one month after this picture was taken.

Employed by Access Ferries in sailings to Turkey was the Hermes V. Originally TT Lines' second Nils Holgersson of 1967, she was sold for scrap just one month after this picture was taken.

The Egnatia II at Brindisi later on in July 2003 with the little Poseidonia beyond.

The Egnatia II at Brindisi later on in July 2003 with the little Poseidonia beyond.

Boarding the Egnatia III.

Boarding the Egnatia III.

Egnatia III deckplan

Egnatia III deckplan

The main lobby on Deck 5, the primary cabin deck. This outstanding space retained its original marble-fronted reception desk and ornate staircase balustrades.

The main lobby on Deck 5, the primary cabin deck. This outstanding space retained its original marble-fronted reception desk and ornate staircase balustrades.

Another view, from the starboard side, showing more of the main staircase.

Another view, from the starboard side, showing more of the main staircase.

The doors to the telephone booths in the lobby retained their embossed Stena 'S's.

The doors to the telephone booths in the lobby retained their embossed Stena 'S's.

Moving up to Deck 6, right aft we find a forgettable reclining seat lounge. This was originally an area of cabins.

Moving up to Deck 6, right aft we find a forgettable reclining seat lounge. This was originally an area of cabins.

Moving forward, this is the self-service restaurant, structurally little changed from its original incarnation.

Moving forward, this is the self-service restaurant, structurally little changed from its original incarnation.

Cafeteria servery.

Cafeteria servery.

Moving forward, seen here is the long port-side arcade which passed by the shop and the main restaurant areas.

Here is the long port-side arcade which passed by the shop and the main restaurant areas.

Shared entrance to the Aquarius Restaurant and The Ships Buffet - more theoretically than actually separate, these were installed in the area of the 1981 stretch.

The shared entrance to the Aquarius Restaurant and The Ships Buffet - more theoretically than actually separate, these were installed in the area of the 1981 stretch.

The Aquarius Restaurant was named in honour of the company's 1970s cruise ship and was complete with this magnificent builder's model of that vessel.

The Aquarius Restaurant was named in honour of the company's 1970s cruise ship and was complete with this magnificent builder's model of that vessel.

Overall view of The Ships Buffet.

Overall view of The Ships Buffet.

Casino area, just forward of the restaurants on the starboard side.

Casino area, just forward of the restaurants on the starboard side. This was nominally called 'The Lydia Casino' after the ex-Koningin Fabiola which operated for HML for a decade from 1985.

Moving forward again, inboard of the port arcade could be found the Corinthia Lounge. Before the ship was stretched, this area was the main restaurant but in its final guise it was named for the former Sealink Duke of Argyll which sailed as the Corinthia for HML in the 1980s and 1990s. The naming of this bar gave the company scope to re-use the bespoke bar menu covers bearing the Corinthia name which had presumably been in storage since her sale in 1994.

Moving forward again, inboard of the port arcade could be found the Corinthia Lounge. Before the ship was stretched, this area was the main restaurant but in its final guise it was named for the former Sealink Duke of Argyll which sailed as the Corinthia for HML in the 1980s and 1990s. The naming of this area gave the company scope to re-use the bespoke bar menu covers bearing the Corinthia name which had presumably been in storage since her sale in 1994.

Another view of the Corinthia Lounge.

Another view of the Corinthia Lounge.

Right forward was this rather gloomy cinema - the front windows still have their rough-weather plates in place to ensure complete darkness.

Right forward was this rather gloomy cinema - the front windows still have their metal rough-weather covers in place to ensure complete darkness.

The final main passenger saloon was up on Deck 7 - the main bar, the Ionia Bar, named in honour of the little liner which was owned by the company from 1946 to 1964.

The final main passenger saloon was up on Deck 7 - the main bar, the Ionia Bar, named in honour of the little Hartlepool-built liner which was owned by HML from 1946 to 1964.

Open until the last passenger leaves.

Open until the last passenger leaves.

The Ionia Bar had been converted, predictably, into an Irish Pub during the ship's ICL days.

The Ionia Bar had been converted, predictably, into an Irish Pub during the ship's ICL days.

The Ionia Bar, looking forward.

The Ionia Bar, looking forward.

The Ionia Bar.

The Ionia Bar.

The Ionia Bar.

The Ionia Bar.

Heading aft into the new Deck 7 cabins added during the lengthening, this is the top of the staircase leading from the main lobby two decks below.

Heading aft into the new Deck 7 cabins added during the lengthening, this is the top of the staircase leading from the main lobby two decks below.

The thirteen suites added by ICL on Deck 9 still bore the names of, occasionally obscure, figures in Irish history. Thomas Charles Wright was an Irish soldier who fought in Latin America with Simon Bolívar and, by repute, founded the Ecuadorian Navy.

The thirteen suites added by ICL on Deck 9 still bore the names of, occasionally obscure, figures in Irish history. Thomas Charles Wright was an Irish soldier who fought in Latin America with Simon Bolívar and, by repute, founded the Ecuadorian Navy.

View inside one of the suites.

View inside one of the suites.

Betraying her '70s roots, most of the other cabins retained their original doors complete with melamine panels featuring flower prints.

Betraying her '70s roots, most of the Egnatia III's other cabins retained their original doors complete with melamine panels featuring flower prints.

Heading out on deck, and this is the long, teak-planked promenade deck on the starboard side.

Heading out on deck, and this is the long, teak-planked promenade deck on the starboard side.

The Hermes V, with the Ouranos and Penelope A beyond.

The Hermes V, with the Ouranos and Penelope A beyond.

The Penelope A (ex-European Gateway). This ship was finally scrapped in 2013.

The Penelope A (ex-European Gateway). This ship was finally scrapped in 2013.

Our ship's funnel, still with the shamrock, painted over but clearly visible from her ICL days.

Our ship's funnel, still with the shamrock, painted over but clearly visible from her ICL days.

Arriving on her afternoon sailing from Vlore in Albania is the Gabrielle, originally Sessan Line's Prinsessan Désirée of 1965.

Arriving on her afternoon sailing from Vlore in Albania is the Gabrielle, originally Sessan Line's Prinsessan Désirée of 1965.

Leaving for Patras is Maritime Way's Erotokritos, a Japanese-built Greek veteran which saw many years of service with Minoan Lines. Between her stern and the bow of the Penelope A can be seen the distant shapes of the laid up Jupiter (ex-Surrey) and Tirana (ex-Linda Scarlett).

Leaving for Patras is Maritime Way's Erotokritos, a Japanese-built Greek veteran which saw many years of service with Minoan Lines. Between her stern and the bow of the Penelope A can be seen the distant shapes of the laid up Tirana (ex-Linda Scarlett) and Jupiter (ex-Surrey).

The late arrival of the Europa I (ex-Jens Kofoed), also from Vlore.

The late arrival of the Europa I (ex-Jens Kofoed), also from Vlore.

Exploring the dining options that evening, we paid a visit to the self service, where a bowl of HML spaghetti bolognese was served on a Castalia plate and with a fibreglass Aquarius ashtray sitting on the table.

Exploring the dining options that evening, we paid a visit to the self service, where a bowl of HML spaghetti bolognese was served on a Castalia plate and with a fibreglass Aquarius ashtray sitting on the table. The original Dampa ceiling panels are shown to good effect in this view.

The self-service was officially called the 'Egnatia Easy Food Cafeteria' and featured this prominent image of the original Egnatia of 1960. The second of the three ships to bear the name was the short-lived Egnatia II which served the company between 1998 and 2000 and was the Saint Killian II's former ICL fleetmate, the Saint Patrick II.

The self-service was officially called the 'Egnatia Easy Food Cafeteria' and featured this prominent image of the original Egnatia of 1960. The second of the three ships to bear the name was the short-lived Egnatia II which served the company between 1998 and 2000 and was the Saint Killian II's former ICL fleetmate, the Saint Patrick II.

The Ships Buffet at night. The pictured vessel on the central bulkhead is one of the ex-Swedish Lloyd pair, the Britannia and Suecia of 1929 which served HML as the Cynthia and  Isthmia in the late 1960s on long routes from Marseille to Port Said and Beirut.

The Ships Buffet at night. The pictured vessel on the central bulkhead is one of the ex-Swedish Lloyd pair, the Britannia and Suecia of 1929 which served HML as the Cynthia and Isthmia in the late 1960s on long routes from Marseille to Port Said and Beirut.

The following morning, having already called at Igoumenitsa, found us motoring south towards Kefalonia.

The following morning, having already called at Igoumenitsa, found us motoring south towards Kefalonia.

Arriving in Kefalonia.

Arriving in Kefalonia.

A stern view showing the tiered sun decks.

A stern view showing the tiered sun decks.

A first, distant, view of our final destination, Patras. Seven ships were already in port - unlike Brindisi, only one of these does not survive today.

A first, distant, view of our final destination, Patras. Seven ships were already in port - unlike in Brindisi, only one of these does not survive today.

The Superfast XII.

The Superfast XII.

Superfast XII, Ariadne Palace One (today the Mega Express Three), Erotokritos and Superfast I (today the Skania).

Superfast XII, Ariadne Palace One (today the Mega Express Three), Erotokritos and Superfast I (today the Skania).

Ariadne Palace One.

Ariadne Palace One.

The Erotokritos served out her career with Endeavor Lines, still sailing from Brindisi until being sold for scrap in 2010.

The Erotokritos served out her career with Endeavor Lines, still sailing from Brindisi until being sold for scrap in 2010.

ANEK's El Venizelos in Cosmote advertising livery.

ANEK's El Venizelos in Cosmote advertising livery.

The Superfast I with the Superfast XII in the background. The first and last of Superfast's twelve original ships served together for just fifteen months.

The Superfast I with the Superfast XII in the background. The first and last of Superfast's twelve original ships served together for just fifteen months.

The Ikarus Palace.

The Ikarus Palace.

Following us into port was the Europa Palace, which today operates for Tirrenia as the Amiscora.

Following us into port was the Europa Palace, which today operates for Tirrenia as the Amiscora.

Berthing adjacent to the Ikarus Palace.

Berthing adjacent to the Ikarus Palace.

After disembarkation.

After disembarkation.

A final view.

A final view.

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