Category: Blog posts

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.

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

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.

Deckplans

The deckplans page has been updated:

http://www.hhvferry.com/deckplans

Boat Train to Elba

. . .

The Freccia dell’Elba (the ‘Elba Arrow’) leaves the Stazione di Santa Maria Novella in Florence every morning at 0535. The departure point is a railway masterpiece that ranks highly even amongst the many other fascist-era Italian stations and one could spend many hours just staring around in wonderment.

Firenze Santa Maria Novella

Firenze Santa Maria Novella

We have arrived at this early hour to be whisked to Piombino, from where ferries can be caught to the island of Elba. The Freccia dell’Elba is the one daily train which provides a direct service from here to the port station, avoiding the need to change at least once, usually at the little station of Campiglia on the Pisa-Livorno-Rome main line, a couple of hours into the journey. It is at Campiglia that the branch line to Piombino diverges, at first meandering through fields, then sailing through the tiny station which serves the site of the all-but-abandoned Etruscan city of Populonia. Suddenly, this calming vista is interrupted, like a scene from the end times, and the train is surrounded by aged and abandoned heavy industry. These are the industrial ruins of Piombino’s troubled metal industry which, where it survives, continues to belch smoke and dirt and provides a dramatic backdrop to the ferry port.

Aboard the Freccia dell'Elba

Aboard the Freccia dell'Elba

Soon, we are at Piombino station which appears to be a terminus and, as the conductor, driver and most of the remaining passengers disembark, it is easy to be fooled into thinking this really is the end of the line. The driver is just changing ends, however, and soon we are away again, trundling through the unkempt, weed-strewn branch that leads to Piombino Marittima. Whereas Piombino’s town station has the faded glory look of a village station which probably once had a proud station master, porter, dedicated signalman and a variety of ticket clerks, the port station is an altogether more modern, personnel-free affair. It was constructed in 1991 to replace the quayside tracks after an unfortunate incident in which a train rolled off the quay and into the sea.

Piombino town station

Piombino town station

Down to the port - a branch line off a branch line.

Down to the port - a branch line off a branch line.

Piombino Marittima

Piombino Marittima

Piombino ferry terminal

Piombino ferry terminal

The ferry terminal at Piombino stands parallel to the station, overlooking the car loading lanes. Inside, Moby and TOREMAR ticket desks glower at each other in a pretence of rivalry (they are now under common ownership). Tucked into a corner, the one ship service of Blu Navy try gamely to compete with their succession of poorly-chosen one ships. Most people just choose Moby, a carefully-crafted public image and buckets of bright paint more than compensating for a terrifically aged local fleet.

For this crossing we have the thrill of sailing on the oldest of them all, the Moby Baby. Her name is deceptive – completed in 1966 there is a fair chance she will last until her half century. Built for Rederi AB Svea as the Svea Drott, she sailed under the Trave Line name between Helsingborg, Copenhagen (Tuborg) and Travemünde. Derived from the design of the Thoresen Vikings, she proved a great success and was replaced in 1974, passing to Sealink for Channel Islands service, first on charter and later as the Earl Godwin. This lasted for 16 further years whereupon she was acquired by Moby for service to Elba – and there she has remained ever since.

The Svea Drott arriving at Helsingborg early in her career.

The Svea Drott arriving at Helsingborg early in her career.

The Earl Godwin passing half sister Earl William (ex-Viking II) in the 1980s.

The Earl Godwin passing half sister Earl William (ex-Viking II) in the 1980s.

The Moby Baby approaching her berth at Piombino.

The Moby Baby approaching her berth at Piombino.

Turning onto the berth.

Turning onto the berth.

Foot passengers board over the pair of gangways to the left - each of the local ships fits one or other.

Foot passengers board over the pair of gangways to the left - each of the local ships fits one or other.

Moby's theory of life: Love => Baby => Ale.

Arriving at Piombino is the Bastia of 1974, Moby's first purpose-built ship and now dedicated to the 'low cost' Piombino-Cavo route. The rest of the company's Elban fleet sails solely to the main port of Portoferraio.

Arriving nearby is the little Bastia. Delivered in 1974 she was Moby's first purpose-built ferry and is now dedicated to the 'low cost' Piombino-Cavo route. The rest of the company's Elban fleet sails solely to the main port of Portoferraio. In the background is the Moby Aki.


Moby’s peak season schedule provides for a departure every hour from either end; for some time now the ships providing this service alongside the ‘Baby’ have been the Moby Ale (ex-Mikkel Mols), Moby Lally (ex-Kalle II) and Moby Love (ex-Saint Eloi) with the Bastia and/or Giraglia in support. The crossing takes one hour, which provides just enough time to avail oneself of a slice of overpriced pizza, quickly explore the ship and watch the passing scenery.

Although never truly an overnight ferry as such, the Moby Baby was certainly designed for longer crossings than this and the cabins beneath the vehicle deck, as well as the restaurant on the upper passenger deck, have been effectively abandoned; the tea bar forward of the restaurant also sees very limited use. The scene is similar on the other ships – although they can all get very busy, passengers tend to head out on deck and hence, even with large saloon areas closed, the ships can generally cope with the loads.

Passengers board into the lobby, amidships on the main passenger deck.

Passengers coming aboard the Moby Baby enter into the lobby, amidships on the main passenger deck.

Beneath the lobby staircase is an arresting detail - for the sailing ships are three versions of the logo of the Svea Drott's builders, the Öresundsvarvet in Landskrona, the Swedish flag at the stern now painted as the Tricolore Italiano. This emblem still forms the logo of the current Oresund Heavy Industries.

Forward is a classic Sealink seating lounge.

Forward is a classic Sealink seating lounge.

Aft of the lobby is a shop...

Aft of the lobby is a shop...

... and a further large open-plan lounge.

... and a further large open-plan lounge.

Deck space aft.

Deck space aft.

A locked and abandoned seating lounge, just aft of the former restaurant.

A locked and abandoned seating lounge, just aft of the former restaurant.

The former restaurant area.

The former restaurant area.

Just forward of the restaurant entrance is this upper lobby, with the stairs leading down to reception and the closed doors to the forward saloon in the distance.

Forward of the restaurant entrance is this upper lobby, with the stairs leading down to reception and the closed doors to the forward saloon in the distance.

The forward lounge seen on one of the rare occasions it is open; with its view ahead it is probably the most pleasant saloon aboard.

The forward lounge seen on one of the rare occasions it is open; with its view ahead it is probably the most pleasant saloon aboard.

Re-starting engines...

Re-starting the engines.

Most passengers find a sunny spot on the outside decks.

Most passengers find a sunny spot on the outside decks.

Look carefully at some of the door portholes on the upper decks and it can be seen that they too bear the ship logo as well as the name of the Öresundsvarvet, Landskrona.

Look carefully at some of the portholes on the upper decks and it can be seen that they too bear the ship logo as well as the name of the Öresundsvarvet, Landskrona.

As we approach Portoferraio, the Marmorica of TOREMAR makes her departure.

As we approach Portoferraio, the Marmorica of TOREMAR makes her departure.

In port, the Moby Love is to be found laying over between sailings.

In port, the Moby Love is to be found laying over between sailings.

Disembarkation for foot passengers can be via the gangways, as at Piombino. Those more impatient however can make their exit via the vehicle deck.

Disembarkation for foot passengers can be via the gangways, as at Piombino. Those more impatient however can make their exit via the vehicle deck.

Before we get off, there is just time for a peak downstairs.

Before we get off, there is just time for a peak at the former cabin area, downstairs on Deck 2.

Down here things are largely derelict, a contrast to most of the Mobyfied saloons upstairs...

Down here things are largely derelict.

Back upstairs to exit via the crowded car deck.

Back upstairs to exit via the crowded car deck.

The Moby Baby is a fun little ship to cross in, although she offers few diversions other than the pleasure of being at sea. The acquisition of TOREMAR and the wider group’s involvement in Tirrenia may mean that investment in replacements for Moby’s own brand fleet might be lacking in the next few years. And so, mechanical failures aside, the Moby Baby and her aged fleetmates will have to sail on as part of the sea connection in the Elba Arrow for some time yet.

Recent cuts to the schedules of FS, the Italian state railways, have been quite savage in certain areas; mercifully the Piombino branch line has been preserved, enabling passengers to continue to take the boat train, just as one could to Weymouth in the Earl Godwin’s Sealink heyday.

Bretagne laid up at Dunkerque – 28 January 2012

Separated at Birth

The Superstar leaving Tallinn.

The Superstar leaving Tallinn.

The Moby Aki off Olbia.

The Moby Aki.

It is unusual in the ferry industry for sisterships to be ordered from the same shipyard by unrelated operators. Whilst there is often a degree of plagiarism in design and the same yard or naval architects may return to previously-used solutions or styles time and again, by and large new passenger ships are so expensive and relatively risky an investment that to buy a generic design is unusual. This did not, however, dissuade Tallink from picking out the successful Moby Lines speedy ro-pax design and ordering their own green-painted version, the 2008-delivered Superstar.

Moby Lines already had a trio of ships in the class, the Korean-built Moby Wonder and Moby Freedom of 2001 and the subsequent Moby Aki, derived from the same plans and built, like the Superstar, at the Ancona shipyard of Fincantieri. Whereas the Superstar was destined for the relatively brief two hour hop from Tallinn to Helsinki, the Moby ships operate on a variety of routes, from the 4.5 hour duration Olbia-Piombino or Genoa-Bastia links to 10 hour overnight sailings from Olbia to Genoa and back. The Moby vessels are therefore dual function day/night ships with plenty of cabin berths but also with enough public spaces to cope, just about, with a full load on a day sailing.

The Superstar under construction in Ancona  July 2007.

The Superstar under construction in Ancona, July 2007.

Superstar at Tallinn.

The Superstar at Tallinn.

The Moby Aki leaving Olbia on a day sailing to Piombino.

The Moby Aki leaving Olbia on a day sailing to Piombino.

A quick perusal of the General Arrangement plans for the ‘Aki’ compared to the ‘Wonder’ and ‘Freedom’ reveals almost identically laid-out passenger spaces – the only difference of note being approximately 15 additional cabins where the first pair had an extended lower level to the signature three-deck forward lounge; this change was subsequently incorporated into the earlier sisters. More significant differences can be found in the engine arrangements, where the ‘Aki’ and the Superstar have their Wartsila engines arranged four abreast whereas, whilst similarly-specified, the Korean sisters have theirs in pairs fore and aft of each other.

As built, the Moby Aki had a significantly greater incorporation of the Looney Tunes theme throughout the ship – again the ‘Wonder’ and ‘Freedom’ have had this overlaid in subsequent refits. The interior design of the original pair was prepared by Figura, best known as the house designers for Stena Line, and this formed the basis for the ‘Aki’ but the work on this ship was instead co-ordinated by Carlo Ciribi. Intriguingly, this architect was retained by Tallink to work on the Superstar but, although there is a general Italian theme in decor which one might expect to be somehow traceable to her Moby sisters, in fact this is a nod to the country of her build and the ship bears no resemblance in decor to her Moby sisters. The general arrangement has, however, largely been carried over intact save for Deck 6 where the bulk of what is primarily a cabin deck in the original design instead houses a large shopping centre and a Business Lounge.

 .

The Moby Wonder at Genoa in September 2004, in her original livery - inside and out there was at this stage still minimal reference to Looney Tunes.

The Superstar on her berth in Helsinki.

The Superstar on her berth in Helsinki.

The Moby Wonder in her current livery, on the berth in Civitavecchia.

The Moby Wonder in her current livery at Civitavecchia.

Moby Freedom leaving Bastia.

Moby Freedom leaving Bastia.

The images below show how Tallink have taken the bare bones of the original design, dispensed with anything cartoony, and created a pleasant if very slightly austere ship. Whilst she perhaps lacks the higher build quality and interior flourishes of her more bespoke Helsinki-built fleetmate, the Star, the Superstar is still an efficient and pleasant way to cross the Gulf of Finland. The Moby trio meanwhile are busy, hard working ships which overtly cater to a family market with all the positive and negative aspects that involves. On board, the ships are somewhat unsubtle in design but – at least when not totally full and on a sunny day – they are comfortable, speedy and popular.

Moby Wonder

Moby Wonder

Moby Aki

Moby Aki

Superstar

Superstar

Starting on Deck 10  the Moby ships feature a small whale-shaped swimming pool aft of the deck bar

Starting on Deck 10 the Moby ships feature a small whale-shaped swimming pool aft of the deck bar (seen on Moby Aki).

The same area on the Superstar shows painted steel deck only, the swimming pool being one of the more notable features not carried over from the Moby vessels; the arrangement of the outside decks is otherwise essentially identical.

This image of the same area on the Superstar shows painted steel deck only, the swimming pool being one of the more notable features not carried over from the Moby vessels; the arrangement of the outside decks is otherwise essentially identical.

Deck Bar (Moby Freedom)

Deck Bar (Moby Freedom)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

Outside deck - starboard side (Moby Aki).

Outside deck - starboard side (Moby Aki).

(Superstar)

Superstar - which sometimes has the look of a ship whose funnel was installed the wrong way around.

Moving inside, right aft on Deck 10 is the upper level of the aft bar. On the Moby ships this is a Sports Bar, as pictured on Moby Wonder.

Moving inside, right aft on Deck 10 is the upper level of the aft bar. On the Moby ships this is a Sports Bar, as pictured on Moby Wonder.

Aboard the Superstar this is the Leonardo da Vinci Bar.

Aboard the Superstar this is the Leonardo da Vinci Bar.

(Moby Wonder)

(Moby Wonder)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

The lower level of the Sports Bar on the Moby Aki.

The lower level of the Sports Bar on the Moby Aki.

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

(Moby Aki)

(Moby Aki)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

(Moby Freedom)

(Moby Freedom)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

(Moby Freedom)

(Moby Freedom)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

On the port side, just forward of the aft bar, is the self service restaurant, seen here on the Moby Aki.

On the port side, just forward of the aft bar, is the self service restaurant, seen here on the Moby Aki.

The same area on the Superstar is the Buffet Toscana and has slightly more sophisticated detailing.

The same area on the Superstar is the Buffet Toscana and has slightly more sophisticated detailing.

(Moby Aki)

(Moby Aki)

Superstar - which has enclosed booth seating inboard of the main space.

Superstar - which has enclosed booth seating inboard of the main open-plan space.

To starboard is a lengthy open-plan space stretching forward with a variety of facilities laid out along it. At the aft end of can be found the childrens' play area - seen here on the relatively Looney Tunes free Moby Freedom.

To starboard is a lengthy open-plan space stretching forward along which a variety of facilities are laid out. At the aft end of can be found the children's play area - seen here on the relatively Looney Tunes free Moby Freedom.

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

(Moby Aki)

(Moby Aki)

Adjacent to the play area, the Moby ships have a modest-sized shop, as seen on the Moby Freedom.

Adjacent to the play area, the Moby ships have a modest-sized shop, as seen on the Moby Freedom.

The Superstar has a much larger shopping complex down on Deck 6 leaving the equivalent space free for this Hamburger bar.

The Superstar has a much larger shopping complex down on Deck 6 leaving the equivalent space free for this Hamburger bar.

(Moby Aki)

(Moby Aki)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

Forward again is this coffee bar (Moby Aki).

Forward again is this coffee bar (Moby Aki).

The equivalent area on the Superstar.

The equivalent area on the Superstar.

The same area on the Moby Aki looking aft.

The same area on the Moby Aki looking aft.

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

Just aft of the forward bar, on the starboard side, is the 'ACME Pizzeria'.

Just aft of the forward bar, on the starboard side, is the 'ACME Pizzeria' (Moby Aki).

On the Superstar this space is 'Pizza Roma'; the pizza counter has been relocated out of shot to the left.

On the Superstar this space is 'Pizza Roma'; the pizza counter has been relocated out of shot to the left.

Amidships stairwell at Deck 8 level (Moby Aki).

Amidships stairwell at Deck 8 level (Moby Aki).

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

On the opposite side of the ship to the pizzeria is the small formal restaurant - what was the 'Time Out Restaurant' on the 'Wonder' and 'Freedom' (as pictured) became the 'Grand Prix Restaurant' on the Moby Aki but the decor was little changed.

On the opposite side of the ship to the pizzeria is the small formal restaurant - what was the 'Time Out Restaurant' on the 'Wonder' and 'Freedom' (as pictured) became the 'Grand Prix Restaurant' on the Moby Aki but the decor was little changed.

Superstar's equivalent, the Fellini a la carte.

Superstar's equivalent, the Fellini a la carte.

The signature facility aboard this class of ships is the three-tier forward lounge, seen here on the Moby Aki.

The signature facility aboard this class of ships is the three-tier forward lounge, seen here on the Moby Aki.

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

The bar area at the top level of the forward lounge (Moby Freedom).

The bar area at the top level of the forward lounge (Moby Freedom).

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

(Moby Aki)

(Moby Aki)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

(Moby Aki)

(Moby Aki)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

(Moby Aki)

(Moby Aki)

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

Accessed from the lower level of the Superstar's forward lounge is the somewhat remote information desk; the Moby ships have cabins in this area.

Accessed from the lower level (Deck 6) of the Superstar's forward lounge is the somewhat remote information desk; aft of this are a series of passenger spaces, which replace cabins and a small aft reclining seat lounge on Deck 6 of the Moby ships.

Aft of the reception area is the Business Lounge.

Aft of the reception area is the Business Lounge.

Business Lounge.

Business Lounge.

Deck 6 - adjacent to the lifeboat recess (Moby Freedom).

Deck 6 - adjacent to the lifeboat recess (Moby Freedom).

(Superstar)

(Superstar)

Aft of the Business Lounge on the Superstar are arcades port (seen here) and starboard inboard of which is part of the shopping complex.

Aft of the Business Lounge on the Superstar are arcades port (seen here) and starboard inboard of which is part of the shopping complex.

Superstar - starboard side arcade.

Superstar - starboard side arcade.

On the Moby ships the aft lobby on Deck 6 connects to the escalator used by foot passengers boarding over the stern and there a perfunctory reception desk can be found here.

On the Moby ships the aft lobby on Deck 6 connects to the escalator used by foot passengers boarding over the stern and a perfunctory reception desk can be found here.

The equivalent space on the Superstar, seen from the starboard side.

The equivalent space on the Superstar, seen from the starboard side.

Countering both the remoteness of the shopping centre's Deck 6 location and the low deck height of what was designed as a cabin deck, the Superstar features cut away sections in the deckhead to create these mini-atria.

Countering both the remoteness of the shopping centre's Deck 6 location and the low deck height of what was designed as a cabin deck, the Superstar features cut away sections in the deckhead to create these mini-atria.

Standard four-berth outside cabin on the Moby Freedom - designed by Figura, this shares recent Stena practice of having an oversized lower bed.

Standard four-berth outside cabin on the Moby Freedom - designed by Figura, this shares recent Stena practice of having an oversized lower bed.

A similar room on the Superstar.

A similar room on the Superstar.

Moby Freedom

Moby Freedom

To Tangier on the Marrakech

COMANAV, then the state-owned shipping company of Morocco, established operations between Sete in Southern France and Tangier in 1974 following the acquisition of the former Vikingfjord, later Prinz Hamlet II, which they refurbished in a suitably Moorish style and put into service as the Agadir. The ship therefore began the first truly long-haul car ferry service to Morocco and, despite sailings in each direction requiring two nights aboard, the operation soon proved to be a success and by the mid-1980s a decision was made to order a purpose-built ship.

COMANAV's Agadir, which served the company between 1974 and 1986.

COMANAV's Agadir, which served the company between 1974 and 1986.

The lobby aboard the Agadir.

The lobby aboard the Agadir.

The Marrakech on her berth at Tangier Med.

The Marrakech on her berth at Tangier Med.

The Chantiers d’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire was chosen and the new ship, to be named the Marrakech, slotted intriguingly into the passenger ship orderbook just before the cruise ship Star Princess, SNCM’s first Daniele Casanova (now the Méditerranée) and Brittany Ferries’ Bretagne. For two vessels built in reasonably close succession by the same yard for broadly similar length crossings, when one steps aboard the Marrakech and the Bretagne it is difficult to imagine two more divergent ships. Whilst the Bretagne firmly established the AIA-designed form of French modern as Brittany Ferries’ house style, in many respects the Marrakech could have been a product of the 1970s. She is unabashedly a ship of state with deluxe and distinctly indigenous-looking first class saloons – the ship being, along with the Koningin Beatrix (1986) and Kronprins Harald (1987), amongst the last clutch of major European-built ferries to be delivered with separate classes onboard. A sailing from Sete to Tangier in May 2011 provided the opportunity to enjoy this chunky-looking classic on the route for which she was designed.

The panel documenting the ship's role in taking King Hassan II to Algiers in 1988 where Arab leaders discussed how to respond to the First Intifada.

The panel in the main lobby documenting the ship's role in taking King Hassan II to Algiers in 1988 where Arab leaders discussed how to respond to the First Intifada.

The Marrakech was designed not only to be the national ferry flagship but also, when the occasion demanded, to become the de-facto royal yacht of King Hassan II. This is demonstrated on board today in the large panel in the main lobby which states that the ship transported Hassan to the June 1988 Arab League summit in Algiers. The King died in 1999 and the royal family has long since relinquished their use of the ship and, as we shall see, whilst the delicately detailed first class saloons created for their use have stood the test of time well, in other areas the ship has rather been allowed to fall into less than perfect repair.

The class division was evidently designed with a change to single class operation in mind and, after the simple expedient of opening two doors on Decks 5 and 6 there is little the general passenger might notice in terms of orientation save for the transition from puke-coloured lino to blue carpeting in the cabin areas and the observation that there are two shopping areas along the starboard-side arcade, one open plan, richly-lit and decorated with designer goods in display cases whilst the other is a small, fluorescent-lit box where cigarettes and chocolate are the staple commodities on offer.

On the berth at Sete.

On the berth at Sete, four hours before departure. Note the heavily-laden camper vans already lined up on the quayside waiting to board, a characteristic feature of the North African routes.

Sete's slightly run-down passenger terminal.

Sete's slightly run-down passenger terminal.

Boarding in Sete was via the vehicle deck which is a simple lorry-height affair split by a chunky centre casing peculiar to the extent that a small sliver of cabins are squeezed in on the upper level. Whilst plenty of ferries have cabins in side casings, this is a fairly unique arrangement, the only similar concept I can think of being the original incarnations of Viking Line’s Aurella as well as the 1960s Dieppe-Newhaven sisters Villandry and Valencay which had cabins and some small saloons inboard of the mezzanine vehicle deck.

The Marrakech's vehicle deck.

The Marrakech's vehicle deck.

Deckplan. Click for larger image.

Deckplan. Click for larger image.

Deck 5 is the main cabin deck, with the section aft of the amidships lobby being the former second class where things are very basic with bare off-white walls, no decorative touches and no en suite facilities. Forward, the first class cabins are of their time (if not a touch earlier) although no longer in pristine condition; in most convertible sofa-beds provide for the popular habit of spending the entire crossing cooped up in the cabin. A small range of luxury suites are provided on Deck 7, whilst on the deck above, just aft of the bridge, an old-school radio room can still be found where in previous times passengers could pass messages through the hatch to be wired ashore.

Our slightly spartan two-berth, former first class, cabin.

Our slightly spartan two-berth, former first class, cabin.

Complete with working radio...

Complete with working radio...

... and baby blue bathroom.

... and baby blue bathroom.

The former First Class reception area, amidships on Deck 5.

The former First Class reception area, amidships on Deck 5.

Lobby detail.

Lobby detail.

Just aft of the main lobby, the former second class cabin area has an altogether less luxurious feel.

Just aft of the main lobby, the former second class cabin area has an altogether less luxurious feel.

One of the basic cabins in the second class section of the ship.

One of the basic cabins in the second class section of the ship.

Deck 6 is the saloon deck where, forward, a quite outstanding pair of First Class rooms remain intact. Overlooking the forecastle is the ‘Mamounia’ Bar with central dance area and live music whilst the astonishing Moroccan Saloon is just aft of this on the port side. This is furnished in dark red with an intricate, hand-painted ceiling and wall and table lamps which at night-time diffuse their light into a kaleidoscope of patterns against the bulkheads.

The 'Mamounia' Lounge, forward.

The 'Mamounia' Lounge, forward.

'Mamounia' bar counter.

'Mamounia' bar counter.

Salon Marocain.

Salon Marocain.

Salon Marocain -  ceiling detail.

Salon Marocain - ceiling detail.

Salon Marocain at night.

Salon Marocain at night.

A starboard-side arcade is the main circulation route on board and, heading aft, next is the former first class ‘El Bahia’ restaurant followed by the open-plan shopping area.

Entrance to 'El Bahia' restaurant.

Entrance to 'El Bahia' restaurant.

'El Bahia' restaurant.

'El Bahia' restaurant.

'El Bahia' restaurant.

'El Bahia' restaurant.

'El Bahia' restaurant.

'El Bahia' restaurant.

The starboard-side arcade looking aft.

Leaving the restaurant and returning to the starboard-side arcade, this is the view looking aft.

One then moves into the former second class area where a pair of more simple shop areas can be found (one now in use for storage) whilst, aft again, is what was the only public room in this class, an open-plan space with cafeteria (‘El Bahja’) to port and lounge area (‘Salon Agdal’) to starboard. There remain some quite detailed touches, with the wooden carvings on the bar counter of particular note but the general décor is somewhat stripped back and could easily come from a ship built a decade earlier. Right aft is the former second class outside deck, furnished with wooden benches and interrupted on the centreline by the box enclosing the bottom of the swimming pool in the former first class area above (as if to really kick second class passengers in the teeth about the pleasures first class were enjoying, there are small windows on either side actually looking into the bottom of the pool).

Looking aft in the former second class 'Salon Agdal'.

Looking aft in the former second class 'Salon Agdal'.

'Salon Agdal'.

'Salon Agdal'.

'Salon Agdal' bar counter.

'Salon Agdal' bar counter.

'Salon Agdal' detail.

'Salon Agdal' detail.

The cafeteria area to port.

The cafeteria area to port.

The final major saloon is directly above the cafeteria/bar and this fulfilled the function of first class lido bar and, come the evening, nightclub. Just forward of this is the conference room/cinema which was out of use but appeared to have previously been used as an area of reclining seating. We were told that COMANAV no longer sell deck or seat passage on the ship as there is not enough money in it for them although with her passenger capacity of less than 650 one would have thought it would be profitable in the peak Summer migration season. That said, one of our tablemates in the restaurant advised that, even with her current capacity, the ship can be awful at these times when “the children running around make it a nightmare”; from what we were told it seems little short of a miracle that the intricate detailings of so many of the original saloons remain in such good condition. On this occasion, with probably no more than 100 passengers on board, such considerations were thankfully for another day.

The Lido bar/nightclub on Deck 7.

The Lido bar/nightclub on Deck 7.

Bar counter.

Bar counter.

DJ's booth for use in nightclub guise.

DJ's booth for use in nightclub guise.

Officers' mess, Deck 7.

Officers' mess, Deck 7.

Radio room, Deck 8.

Radio room, Deck 8.

Marrakech Miscellany.

Marrakech Miscellany.

Marrakech Miscellany.

Marrakech Miscellany.

The fairly extensive outside decks are in quite poor condition; the lido area is covered with rather dirty matting and the swimming pool looked filthy but in any event remained covered by its netting throughout. At some stage it has lost its surround which means its sheer edges are now flush with the deck which must be disconcerting on a rough crossing when passengers are struggling to find their feet. The rest of the outside decks are somewhat pitted and the wooden deck railings in severe need of varnishing. In contrast, one of the crew could be seen hard at work polishing the brass on the staircases and the desk in the reception area which, in line with the other saloons, was in pretty good condition.

Aft outside deck with swimming pool.

Aft outside deck with swimming pool.

Anyone fancy a swim?

Anyone fancy a swim?

The swimming pool area seen in better days.

The swimming pool area seen in better days.

Deck 9 abaft the funnel.

Deck 9 abaft the funnel.

Deck 9 forward, aft of and above the bridge.

Deck 9 forward, aft of and above the bridge.

Final moments before departure from Sete.

Loading the vans.

Tug assistance to move off the berth.

Tug assistance to move off the berth.

Leaving Sete.

Leaving Sete.

As with previous experiences aboard COMANAV, the food was average, although it seemed to improve as the crossing went by. All meals are included in the price and all passengers were served on this sailing in the former first class restaurant. On busier crossings the echo of the class distinction lives on as those in the old second class quarters use the self service cafeteria, whilst the rest make use of the restaurant where two or even three sittings are required. If previous experience stands true, the food served in both is the same forgettable fare. The first evening was particularly poor – the starter was a beige coloured lumpy gloop with no discernable taste which we were astounded to subsequently find out was billed as salmon soup. This was followed by meatballs of unknown provenance and a fruit tart for desert. The following morning it was difficult to go wrong with a continental breakfast of rolls, jam, coffee, tea and orange juice, whilst lunch on Day Two was tuna salad, followed by what may well have been Birds Eye breaded fish and potato balls with an apple on a plate for desert (as a point of etiquette it appeared to be frowned upon if one did not use a knife to carve the apple up first). The evening meal on the second night was probably the best of the bunch with a superb Mulligatawny-style soup, followed by lamb and a chocolate eclair.

Something the ship’s crew were able to rustle up was a decent gin and tonic, although the complete failure of the ship’s ice-making machine was a negative factor. For that, and other, reasons our fellow passengers had fairly negative views of the Marrakech as she is now – some could remember her during the glory days when she lived up to her billing as national flagship whilst others felt her operational partner on the route, COMARIT’s Biladi (ex- Liberté) was superior, especially since her 2010 modernisation. The Marrakech has recently received a ‘duck tail’ sponson aft but this has had a seemingly negative effect on seakeeping, with a somewhat jumpy motion being experienced even in relatively calm seas.

One thing on which all were agreed was that the ship was far too hot – the air conditioning was either underpowered or not working properly and this was particularly evident in the cabin areas. The technical troubles went deeper for, whilst the ship managed to run broadly to time, she appeared to have problems with her bow thrusters and tugs were required at both ends of the journey and one could imagine that the reverse dog-leg to move onto the berth in Sete proved a challenge on the previous arrival. Then, on the sailing subsequent to ours, the ship endured a fire in a machinery space which necessitated a retreat to La Spezia for repairs.

The entertainment in the forward bar was good with a keyboard player accompanied by a singing violinist who, together with their backing track, provided an appropriately Arabic vibe to the forward half of the ship. This extended to the deck below where there appears to have been little consideration of soundproofing even between cabins never mind from the saloon above; suffice to say light sleepers with quarters in these areas would be advised not to try and get an early night.

And so the 36-hour journey played out, with food followed by leisurely explorations of the ship and chats with fellow passengers, followed by food, followed by an afternoon siesta and an hour or so reading a book, followed by food, followed by after-dinner drinks and a game of cards in the first class saloons. Most passengers seemed to spend much of their time in the cabin areas smoking and chatting with the beds drawn down into their sofa positions. The crew meanwhile were unerringly friendly throughout, in particular the ship’s doctor who was justifiably proud of his ship’s glorious past but perhaps a little bashful at COMANAV’s inability to maintain her in the manner in which she had been conceived.

We arrived off the new port of Tangier Med just a fraction behind the scheduled time of 7am but with the prolonged pushing and pulling of the tug to move us onto the berth followed by the on board customs procedures it was past nine when we finally disembarked onto the port shuttle bus. The former Oostende trio of the Oleander (running for COMARIT/LME), Eurovoyager (FRS) and Al Mansour (COMANAV) came and went to Algeciras together with another former Ramsgate ship the Boughaz (COMARIT). The local scene of conventional ferries was completed by the two IMTC ships Atlas and Le Rif, Acciona’s Ciudad de Malaga and Balearia/Nautas’s Passio per Formentera. COMARIT’s Ibn Batouta (ex-St Christopher) lay somewhat forlornly out of use on the Algeciras breakwater.

The morning of day three and, just off Ceuta, our mini liner passed the pseudo-liner Queen Elizabeth.

Early in the morning of day three and our mini-liner passes the pseudo-liner Queen Elizabeth.

Sunrise & Queen Elizabeth.

Sunrise & Queen Elizabeth.

The pilot boat sweeps in to assist with our arrival.

The pilot boat sweeps in to assist with our arrival.

Seen leaving Tangier Med is Balearia/Nautas' little Passio Per Formentera, whose psychedelic onboard decor is themed around her namesake Balearic island's 1960s bohemian past when, appropriately enough, Formentera was considered a stop on the hippy trail to Morocco.

Seen leaving Tangier Med is Balearia/Nautas' little Passio Per Formentera, whose psychedelic onboard decor is themed around her namesake Balearic island's 1960s bohemian past when, appropriately enough, Formentera was considered a stop on the hippy trail to Morocco.

On the berths at Tangier Med - the short sea ships Boughaz (ex-Viking 5) and Oleander (ex-Pride of Free Enterprise).

On the short-sea berths at Tangier Med - the Boughaz (ex-Viking 5) and Oleander (ex-Pride of Free Enterprise).

FRS's chartered Eurovoyager arriving from Algeciras.

FRS's chartered Eurovoyager arriving from Algeciras.

The Oleander's morning departure.

The Oleander's morning departure.

Later, with the Eurovoyager (ex-Prins Albert) on the berth her former RMT fleetmate the current Al Mansour (ex-Reine Astrid) also arrived. In their Belgian days these ships were named in honour of the tragic Queen Astrid and her son.

Later, with the Eurovoyager (ex-Prins Albert) on the berth her former RMT fleetmate the current Al Mansour (ex-Reine Astrid) also arrived. In their Belgian days these ships were named in honour of the tragic Queen Astrid and her son.

Tangier Med, 25 miles to the east of Tangier itself, formed a somewhat depressing finale to the trip – whilst the new Gare Maritime itself is a not unappealing building, the wide and open lorry parks and acres of fencing are a poor substitute for the old days when arrivals at the old Tangier port landed one directly in the heart of things and an air of excitement combined with the slight perception of the dangerous unknown proved a heady mix for the intercontinental traveller. In contrast, the Med port is efficient, completely devoid of touts and altogether unexotic. Nonetheless, despite the romantic deficiencies of both her new home port and some aspects of her current condition, our voyage on the Marrakech had been a splendid one: a relaxing and enjoyable weekend spent sailing on a fascinating ship which had been overlooked for perhaps too long.

Deckplans

About six months late, and with thanks to all contributors, some more deckplans have been added to the collection:

http://www.hhvferry.com/deckplans

artevelde_cutaway

WordPress Themes