Category: Blog posts

ANEK-Superfast

Olympic Champion

Olympic Champion

The recent news of the combination of the primary routes of Greek operators ANEK and Superfast marks a significant step towards consolidation in the Greek ferry industry. The agreement sees the operators co-ordinate schedules on the domestic battlefield between Piraeus and Heraklion (Crete) together with the main Greece-Italy link, Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona.

On the latter route, since the strategic withdrawal of Superfast’s sister company Blue Star in 2002, there has been a period of unprecedented stability. Three operators – ANEK, Minoan Lines and Superfast have been engaged in traffic, each with a fleet of fast, large and modern luxury passenger vessels with huge freight decks, each offering daily peak season departures from both Patras and Ancona. The changes have been upgrades in tonnage rather than in broad nature of operation – Superfast retained a four ship service (up to two daily departures each way) until the redeployment of the Superfast XII to Heraklion and the sale of the Superfast V in 2009. Minoan then replaced their Europa and Olympia Palaces with the new and huge, but not custom-designed, Cruise Europa and Cruise Olympia in 2009/10.

The deployment by Minoan of those vast new ships, allied to the economic downturn which has hit Greece harder than most countries, probably forced ANEK and Superfast to turn towards each other. ANEK’s Olympic Champion will therefore be re-deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion route where she will co-operate with Superfast XII, leaving a three ship service on the Adriatic – with the Hellenic Spirit running a supplementary service every other day against the ongoing daily departures of Superfast VI and XI.

Superfast XII

Superfast XII

At Heraklion, whilst ANEK have over the years established themselves as a big player in the freight market, Minoan’s two ‘Palaces’ still dominate passenger traffic to the port city in which the company was formed and is still based (albeit now as a subsidiary of the Neapolitan Grimaldi group). The provocative deployment of Superfast XII in 2009 was a strategic move designed to hit Minoan hard in their own back yard, but it does not seem to have been a complete success with much local loyalty to the home town operator remaining. The combination with ANEK can be expected to pack a harder punch.

Hellenic Spirit

Hellenic Spirit

From mid June, ANEK’s venerable Kriti I and Kriti II, now familiar features of the Piraeus and Heraklion portscapes, will be withdrawn in favour of an integrated ANEK-Superfast timetable involving daily return trips. The stage is therefore set for a two-route battle between the new combine, backed by two of Greece’s largest domestic players (all of whose other routes remain outside the agreement) and Minoan, backed by Grimaldi.

In anticipation of this new era, presented below are some images of and onboard the fine, fast, modern ships which in 2011 will operate on these, perhaps the most important ferry routes in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona

Hellenic Spirit

Hellenic Spirit

Superfast VI

Superfast VI

Superfast XI

Superfast XI

Hellenic Spirit

Hellenic Spirit

Hellenic Spirit

Hellenic Spirit

Hellenic Spirit

Hellenic Spirit

Superfast VI

Superfast VI

Superfast XI

Superfast XI

Superfast XI

Superfast XI

Cruise Europa

Cruise Europa

Cruise Olympia

Cruise Olympia

Cruise Europa

Cruise Europa

Cruise Europa

Cruise Europa

Cruise Europa

Cruise Europa

Piraeus-Heraklion

Olympic Champion

Olympic Champion

Superfast XII

Olympic Champion

Olympic Champion

Olympic Champion

Olympic Champion

Superfast XII

Superfast XII

Superfast XII

Superfast XII

Knossos Palace

Knossos Palace

Festos Palace

Festos Palace

Knossos Palace

Knossos Palace

Knossos Palace

Knossos Palace

Where next….?

Kriti I

Kriti I

Displaced from their Heraklion routings, the two 1979-built ‘Kritis’ are not obviously of use elsewhere within ANEK’s route network, so their future remains unclear; a direct sale for scrap is possible but still does not seem an obvious fate.

Kriti II

Kriti II

To Tunis on the Carthage

Between 1995 and 2001 the Fosen shipyard in Norway delivered a sequence of six large overnight ferries to Southern European operators, five of which were for Adriatic use by Minoan Lines and ANEK. The one other ship of the series was the 1999-built Carthage of COTUNAV (Tunisia Ferries) and, whilst there has been decent amounts of coverage of her Fosen half-sisters, this vessel has received scant attention, largely due to her less mainstream, by North European standards, area of operation.

The ship seen at Genoa in September 2004, still in her original livery.

The ship seen at Genoa in September 2004, still in her original livery.

The Carthage, alongside the veteran Habib and long-term Summer charter the El Venizelos, maintains COTUNAV’s services between Tunisia and Genoa and Marseille. The French operations are pooled with SNCM whose Danielle Casanova and Méditerranée are regular visitors to Tunis. In June 2010, before the revolution which led to the overthrow of President Ben Ali, I travelled with the Carthage from Marseille to Tunis on a sailing busy with migrant workers returning home for the Summer. The ship’s evening departure was delayed both by a late arrival of the incoming sailing from as well as some difficulties in embarking the full load.

A full load waiting to embark.

Vehicles waiting to embark in Marseille.

The late arrival of the Carthage.

The late arrival of the Carthage.

Going aboard as foot passengers.

Going aboard as foot passengers.

Time for a look around; this deckplan photograph shows the decks with the main passenger saloons: Decks 9, 8 and 7. Decks 6 and 5 are given over to cabins. Note that this plan shows the original use of the restaurant facilities on Deck 8.

Time for a look around; this deckplan photograph shows the decks with the main passenger saloons: Decks 9, 8 and 7. Decks 6 and 5 are given over to cabins. Note that this plan shows the original use of the restaurant facilities on Deck 8 with a buffet forward and self service to port; these have now been effectively switched roles.

Amidships on Deck 7 is the main lobby, with information desk and boutique shops.

Amidships on Deck 7 is the main lobby, with information desk and boutique shops.

Reception desk.

Reception desk.

Lobby art.

Lobby art.

Builder's plate.

Builder's plate.

Also on display in reception are the Shippax awards the Carthage won for Outstanding Ferry Exterior and Outstanding Ferry Saloons in 1999. As with the five other Fosen-built Mediterranean ro-paxes, the ship's interior and exterior were crafted by Falkum Hansen and on all of the ships there is a hint of Norwgian folksiness in some of the designs.

Also on display in reception are the Shippax awards the Carthage won for Outstanding Ferry Exterior and Outstanding Ferry Saloons in 1999. As with the five other Fosen-built Mediterranean ro-paxes, the ship's interior and exterior were crafted by Falkum Hansen and on all of the ships there is a hint of Norwegian folksiness in some of the designs.

Deck 7 midships stairwell

Deck 7 midships stairwell.

Astern of the lobby area on the port side is this cafe bar.

Astern of the lobby area on the starboard side is this cafe bar.

A view looking forward.

A view looking forward.

RIght aft on Deck 7: the Hannibal nightclub and bar.

Right aft on Deck 7: the Hannibal nightclub and bar. The round windows behind the stage area look directly into the swimming pool.

Port side of the Hannibal showlounge.

Port side of the Hannibal showlounge.

As with her earlier fleetmate the Habib, the Carthage features throughout examples of contemporary work from local artists.

As with her earlier fleetmate the Habib, the Carthage features throughout examples of contemporary work from local artists, such as this stylised elephant in the Hannibal bar.

Bar area.

Bar area.

Hannibal lounge - starboard side.

Hannibal lounge - starboard side.

Right aft on Deck 7 is this small area of outside deck whose staircases lead up to the lido area on the deck above.

Right aft on Deck 7 is this small area of outside deck whose staircases lead up to the lido area on the deck above.

The swimming pool, aft on Deck 8.

The swimming pool, aft on Deck 8.

Moving back inside, on the starboard side aft of Deck 8 is the Amilcar Bar.

Moving back inside, on the starboard side aft of Deck 8 is the Amilcar Bar.

Looking aft with the raised section of seating to the left.

Looking aft with the raised section of seating to the left.

One of the raised sections.

One of the raised sections.

Forward on this deck are the ship's restaurants, accessed via an arcade which cuts through from amidships to the starboard side. To the left in this view is another shop whilst to right is an annex to the Tanit restaurant. The entrance to the play area is just out of view.

Forward on this deck are the ship's restaurants, accessed via an arcade which cuts through from amidships to the starboard side. To the left in this view is another shop whilst to right is an annex to the Tanit restaurant. The entrance to the play area is just out of view.

The children's play area.

The children's play area.

Looking forward on the main port side arcade with the stairway leading up to the upper Bar Carthage and the waiter-service restaurants to the left.

Looking forward on the main starboard side arcade with the stairway leading up to the upper Bar Carthage and the waiter-service restaurants to the left.

The entrance to the restaurants.

The entrance to the restaurants.

The main Tanit restaurant on the port side - originally this area was a self service with the large space right forward a buffet restaurant, but the roles were subsequently effectively reversed. The old servery area can be seen in the background.

The main Tanit restaurant on the port side - originally this area was a self service with the large space right forward a buffet restaurant, but the roles were subsequently effectively reversed.

Another view of the Tanit Restaurant, showing the artwork on the aft bulkhead.

Another view of the Tanit Restaurant, showing the artwork on the aft bulkhead.

This side area was mostly out of use, occasionally being used for crew meals.

This side area was mostly out of use, occasionally being used for crew meals.

The forward self service Elyssa restaurant, looking aft on the port side.

The forward self service Elyssa restaurant, looking aft on the starboard side.

The forward area, with its excellent views over the ship's bow.

The forward area, with its excellent views over the ship's bow.

Moving up to Deck 9, amidships is the Carthage Bar.

Moving up to Deck 9, amidships is the Carthage Bar.

Bar Carthage.

Bar Carthage.

The port side of the Bar Carthage.

The port side of the Bar Carthage.

The separate private room forward of the Bar Carthage.

The separate private room, forward.

Deck 9 stairwell just aft of the Bar Carthage.

Deck 9 stairwell just aft of the Bar Carthage.

Accessed from the Deck 10 open deck are the ship's kennels.

Accessed from the Deck 10 open deck are the ship's kennels.

Deck 10, forward of the funnel.

Deck 10, forward of the funnel.

Standard four berth inside cabin.

Standard four berth inside cabin.

Cabin radio detailing.

Cabin radio detail.

Rules and regulations for cabin use.

Rules and regulations for cabin use.

Cabin corridor.

Cabin corridor.

Reclining seat lounge, forward on Deck 7.

Reclining seat lounge, forward on Deck 7.

The ship finally sailed a couple of hours later than the scheduled 1700 but no one seemed in the least bit concerned as the busy load of passengers prepared for a first meal at sea whilst the hundreds of children running around the ship leant the ship quite a happy holiday air. We bought the three-meal package (evening dinner, breakfast and lunch waiter served in the Tanit restaurant) for 28 Euros and this turned out to be excellent value with food of a good standard, certainly when compared to some of the other North African ships.

The Maghreb terminal at Marseille in the background and vehicle waiting lanes ahead; with the scheduled departure time having passed, loading continues to be slow.

The Maghreb terminal at Marseille; with the scheduled departure time having passed, loading continued to be slow.

A meal on the Carthage, all served on the ship's own crockery and with CTN monogrammed cutlery.

A meal on the Carthage, all served on the ship's own crockery and with CTN monogrammed cutlery.

On deck at dusk.

On deck at dusk.

Evening entertainment in the Bar Hannibal.

Evening entertainment in the Bar Hannibal.

An evening wander down to the vehicle decks showed just why we had been late leaving.

An evening wander down to the vehicle decks showed just why we had been late leaving.

The following day was a lazy one spent at sea; the ship seemed to lose more time on passage and we finally arrived in Tunis some five hours late, just after the departures of the northbound Sorrento and Daniele Casanova with the Splendid, MSC Splendida and the Habib all in port. Quayside, we were given a very warm reception, with TV crews, a band, flag wavers and assorted giant Disney characters waiting to celebrate our arrival.

Passing the Daniele Casanova off Tunis.

Passing the Daniele Casanova off Tunis.

Pilot boat.

Pilot boat.

The Splendid and the Habib alongside.

The Splendid and the Habib alongside.

The welcoming party.

The welcoming party.

The Carthage is a superb ship – certainly amongst the very finest sailing to North Africa, and this was a memorable and very happy crossing. The subsequent uprising and governmental overthrow has had a significant effect on both tourism and migrant traffic with SNCM recording as much as a 50% reduction in traffic compared to 2010. Nonetheless, all the ferries are still scheduled to resume their hectic Summer schedules even including the veteran Habib. The impact of the unrest on the financing and delivery of that ship’s intended 2012 replacement, the new Hannibal, has still to be clarified.

Spirit of Britain

P&O’s Spirit of Britain, now in service on the Dover-Calais route, is the first purpose-built passenger ship for this operator on this service since 1987 and the new ship’s vast scale makes her perhaps the most significant new Dover ship since that 1987 pair, the Pride of Calais and Pride of Dover.

On a technical level the ship dispenses with various Townsend/P&O short sea traditions – from the clam shell vehicle deck doors used on all local ships since 1979 to the triple-screw arrangement which had been a feature on passenger newbuilds from the Free Enterprise IV in 1969 to the 1987 Prides. The new ship instead has a more conventional twin-screw layout with a bulbous bow forward rather than the bow rudders of the 1980s-era ships; one consequence of this is that the Sprit of Britain will most often turn inside the harbour on departure from Calais whereas the Pride of Dover/Calais usually reversed right out of port and turned outside the harbour entrance.

Initial reviews of the vessel’s passenger spaces have been slightly mixed; P&O have always been rather traditional at heart and it seems to show in this ship. Whereas rival predecessors such as the Seafrance Rodin and the Maersk Dunkerque made expressive use of light and space in an effort to make a positive and attention-grabbing impact on the ferry zeitgeist, there is little, if anything, here which is revolutionary or untried in other ships from a variety of other operators. There is no doubting though that the Spirit of Britain has been built to an exceptional standard, and the ship is certainly head and shoulders above any of the other P&O ferries at Dover.

Spirit of Britain passenger decks general arrangement.

Spirit of Britain passenger decks general arrangement.

General Arrangement

The layout of the Spirit of Britain’s passenger decks is interesting; the lower of the two, Deck 8, is almost perfectly symmetrical. Right aft is an area of open deck with, just forward, ‘The Bar’, ahead of which are a pair of broad side arcades fronting onto the centrally located shop; the reception desk and bureau de change are situated on the starboard side. Right forward is the ‘Family Lounge’ where the internal focus of the circular central section can be seen as a scaled-up version of the forward saloons on Seafrance Rodin and Berlioz.

Spirit of Britain: 'The Bar'.

Spirit of Britain: 'The Bar'.

A corner of The Bar, overlooked by Tower Bridge.

A corner of The Bar, overlooked by Tower Bridge.

Spirit of Britain: the Bar.

Spirit of Britain: The Bar.

Spirit of Britain: The Family Lounge.

Spirit of Britain: The Family Lounge.

The centre section of the Family Lounge, whose inward focus is reminiscent of the forward saloons of the Seafrance Rodin and Seafrance Berlioz.

The centre section of the Family Lounge, whose inward focus is reminiscent of the forward saloons of the Seafrance Rodin and Seafrance Berlioz.

Seafrance Berlioz: Latitudes.

Seafrance Berlioz: Latitudes.

In contrast, up on Deck 9, where the Brasserie, self-service (the ‘Food Court’), Club Lounge and ro-ro drivers’ area can be found, the layout is anything but symmetrical or, indeed, easily navigable: each of these spaces is effectively reached by a dedicated staircase from the deck below (the ro-ro area is walk-through and can be reached from either the red (self service, forward) or yellow (Brasserie, just aft of amidships) staircases). The Club lounge and outside decks are accessed via the aft blue stairway. Unless one walks through the ro-ro drivers’ area there is no possibility of fore/aft passage on this deck.

Although the arrangement on Deck 8 in particular draws considerably from the ‘Darwin’ sisters (the current Prides of Canterbury/Kent), from an historical perspective a near-symmetrical plan for the lower deck incorporating this kind of perimeter circulation pattern, combined with a distinctly asymmetrical plan upstairs is actually intriguingly outside P&O/Townsend Dover practice going as far back as the Free Enterprise IV. It is, in fact, more in line with the traditions of the railway fleets, being similar in concept to the plans adopted by such ships as the Vortigern, Cote d’Azur or Fantasia; indeed the plan for Deck 8 is actually quite a close rendering of the basic concept of that of the Hengist and her sisters with bars forward and aft, side circulation via de-facto side lounges amidships inboard of which can be found a shopping centre. The execution, styling and scale, it should be pointed out, bears little in common with the railway vessels.

Spirit of Britain passenger orientation routes compared to some other notable Dover Strait car ferries.

Spirit of Britain main deck passenger orientation routes compared to some other notable Dover Strait car ferries.

The Deck 9 arrangement is perhaps best understood in terms of what I have an awful feeling P&O designers might call “destination venues” – places to eat or be pampered rather than ‘merely’ to sit or drink. Clearly, a decision was made at an early stage to repeat the formula of the two previous key reference generations – the Prides of Dover/Calais and the ‘Darwins’ – to locate these saloons upstairs. The solution does give the key benefit of allowing a single galley to service the Food Court, Brasserie, ro-ro restaurant, Club lounge (which also offers light snacks) and crew mess areas with no upstairs/downstairs movement of food. On the other hand it does leave the public restaurants in particular rather out of the way; P&O doubtless believe that anyone who wants to eat aboard will hunt out their preferred facility anyway, minimising any revenue loss.

Passenger orientation: the money motive?

With the latter point in mind, it is also worth noting that the majority of saloon-to-saloon movements a passenger is likely to make whilst aboard require them to walk past the large, brightly lit and inviting shopping centre. The inability to transit between the forward and aft parts of Deck 9, say from the self service to the Club lounge or outside decks, means that one has first to return down to Deck 8, walk past (and hopefully into) the shop, before heading up one of the aft staircases. This reliance on Deck 8 as the orientation deck further underscores the importance of its easily-understood general arrangement.

Spirit of Britain: port-side arcade with the shop inboard.

Spirit of Britain: port-side arcade with the shop inboard.

Pride of Kent: starboard-side arcade.

Pride of Kent: starboard-side arcade.

P&O have also adopted a simple colour-coding system aboard with, for example, the red colour of the forward staircase being echoed in the colour schemes of the self service, family lounge and entranceway to the ro-ro lounge. The two other primary colours of the P&O houseflag, blue and yellow, form the schemes for the after two stairwells. Generally, however, the staircases and especially the lobby spaces are disappointing, the latter repeating the featureless seen on the ‘Darwins’ where other STX newbuilds have made more of an effort.

Spirit of Britain: Red staircase.

Spirit of Britain: Red staircase.

Spirit of Britain: forward staircase at Deck 8 level.

Spirit of Britain: forward staircase at Deck 8 level.

Pride of Kent: aft lobby.

Pride of Kent: aft lobby.

Spirit of Britain: Club lounge entrance.

Spirit of Britain: Club lounge entrance.

Self service upstairs and forward

Previous ships to have given such a prime location to the self service restaurant include the Spirit of Free Enterprise and her sisters, the Pride of Burgundy of 1993 and, perhaps most relevantly, Norfolkline’s recent Maersk ‘D’ class. P&O/Townsend had a consistent self service aesthetic involving fixed moulded fibreglass seating on ships from the Spirit of Free Enterprise until as recently as the ‘Darwins’. This is comprehensively rejected in the new ship’s Food Court in favour of a more modern approach, which is actually rather understated and also owes something to other recent Aker/STX deliveries such as Tallink’s Star or Viking XPRS.

The adjacent Commercial Drivers’ area, complete with showers, sleeper seats, separate hot food servery, and outside deck is excellent and, again, takes some cues from the ‘D’ class.

Spirit of Britain: The Food Court.

Spirit of Britain: The Food Court.

Spirit of Britain: The Food Court.

Spirit of Britain: The Food Court.

Maersk Dover: Panorama Self Service.

Maersk Dover: Panorama Self Service.

Pride of Canterbury: in contrast, the old-school International Food Court.

Pride of Canterbury: in contrast, the old-school International Food Court.

The Spirit of Britain's Food Court offers seating for all sizes of passenger.

The Spirit of Britain's Food Court offers seating for all sizes of passenger.

Spirit of Britain: Commercial Drivers' lounge.

Spirit of Britain: Commercial Drivers' lounge.

Spirit of Britain: Commercial Drivers' lounge.

Spirit of Britain: Commercial Drivers' lounge.

Maersk Dover: Road Kings relaxation lounge.

Maersk Dover: Road Kings relaxation lounge.

Club Lounge and the Brasserie

The coolly luxurious Club Lounge on the Darwin sisters was perhaps their biggest success and the decor of the equivalent space on the new ships draws on this, to a degree at least. What is more surprising, however, is both the size and the location: unlike the ‘Darwins’ and the Prides of Dover and Calais, which gave over the entire forward part of the upper deck to the Club Lounge, on the Spirit of Britain this and the Brasserie restaurant are squeezed in aft on the starboard side, effectively swapping places with the self service when compared to the previous generations. This switch does give the benefit of being able to offer a dedicated outside deck for Club, but the vibration in this part of the ship does not particularly lend itself to such a premium space.

Perhaps most unexpected though is the Club Lounge’s size: the saloon, excluding the outside deck, offers less than half the area of its predecessors. A calculation was apparently made by reference to the numbers of people who actually used the lounge but this appears to entirely miss the point that not only do Club passengers pay a premium for the champagne and nibbles but also for the feeling of space that may be denied to them elsewhere on board during a busy crossing.

Spirit of Britain: Club lounge.

Spirit of Britain: Club lounge.

Pride of Kent: Club lounge.

Pride of Kent: Club lounge.

The Brasserie, stripped of the previous Langan’s name, has a fine entranceway with boutique “shopping opportunities” possibly influenced by that of the Romantiques restaurant on Brittany Ferries’ Mont St Michel. Beyond the entrance the Brasserie is, however, curiously bland and somehow missing a touch of luxury.

Spirit of Britain: The Brasserie.

Spirit of Britain: The Brasserie.

Spirit of Britain: entrance to the Brasserie.

Spirit of Britain: entrance to the Brasserie.

Mont St Michel: entrance to Les Romantiques.

Mont St Michel: entrance to Les Romantiques.

Signage

I struggle to think of another ferry where the company insignia is so prominently displayed throughout and there is no doubting this is a P&O ship through and through. The treatment of the stairwell entranceways on the vehicle decks is reminiscent of the ‘D’ Class but all general directional signage aboard is similar to recent Tallink ships, in the form of deckhead-mounted panels. The black-on-yellow scheme however takes a clear steer from that still found at many British airports and derived from concepts drawn up by the doyens of British signage, Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert.

Spirit of Britain: general signage.

Spirit of Britain: general signage.

Tallink's Star.

Tallink's Star.

Spirit of Britain: car deck stairwell treatment.

Spirit of Britain: car deck stairwell treatment.

Maersk Dunkerque.

Maersk Dunkerque.

P&O + recycling = the halo effect?

P&O + recycling = the halo effect?

The giant human figure pictograms on the doors leading to the lavatories are a nod to Warren Platner’s work on the Fantasia and Fiesta, as indeed is the raised centre section of the self-service – designed on Platner’s ships to provide a view of the sea over the heads of other diners, thus ensuring that “each table should be the best seat in the house”.

Spirit of Britain.

Spirit of Britain.

Fiesta.

Fiesta.

Throughout Deck 8, there are panels featuring images of well known British landmarks; from the Angel of the North and the ‘Gherkin’ to the Palace of Westminster and Stonehenge, this is a mixture of contemporary and historical Britain into which P&O doubtless consider their own story, up to and including their new ship, is interwoven. At the Red Staircase on Deck 8 is a large panel offering a history of P&O; this could be compared to the Viking XPRS whose stairwells feature photomurals of earlier ships but here it is much less extensive and there is a degree of picking and choosing history: North Sea Ferries’ Norland had a fine Falkland’s War pedigree but only later did she became a fully-fledged P&O ship. There is a nice image of the Lion entering Dover, but the more locally relevant name of Townsend Thoresen is nowhere to be found. The Norland also reappears in one of the photographs from the P&O archive displayed outside the Club Lounge whilst her bell is to be preserved inside the lounge itself.

North Sea Ferries' Norland features in this picture outside the Club lounge.

North Sea Ferries' Norland features in this picture outside the Club lounge.

Outside decks

By P&O standards the outside decks are, if not particularly extensive, quite appealing with sturdy deck furniture and free to use fixed telescopes available to view the passing seascape. An attempt has been made to segregate smoking from non-smoking deck areas but initial indications are that the distinction is not being observed in practice. A deck bar is also provided for Summer use – something not seen on Dover ships since the former Stena Fantasia and Stena Empereur. The Club lounge’s own dedicated area of outside deck meanwhile harks back not just to the Motorist Lounge “pens” on the aft decks of the St Anselm and St Christopher in Sealink British Ferries service, but also the more strictly segregated first and second class deck areas on railway steamers in the earlier part of the last century. One genuinely new innovation is a small section of dedicated deck space for freight drivers, amidships on the starboard side and accessed directly from the ro-ro lounge.

Spirit of Britain: aft on Deck 8.

Spirit of Britain: aft on Deck 8.

Club lounge - dedicated outside deck.

Club lounge - dedicated outside deck.

Who's watching who?

Who's watching who?

Vehicle decks

The vehicle decks follow trends set by the ‘D’ Class, and before that the Ulysses. The concepts on the Maersk ships in particular have clearly been studied, and the arrangement of two freight decks with a passenger car deck above, and nearest to the accommodation, is identical, albeit scaled up to reflect the larger ship. As on the ‘D’ Class the topmost car deck, whose height is rather greater than on the Maersk ships enabling use by smaller vans, is reached by ramps fore and aft from the upper freight deck so the potential traffic conflict between the two is also inherited – something unavoidable with the present linkspan arrangements at Dover and Calais. How the top car deck will be utilised on busy sailings remains to be seen, but the deck markings seem to suggest that a variant of the Maersk system whereby cars drive aboard in one quarter, execute a complete loop of the vehicle deck before lining up to disembark from the opposite quarter may be used. The P&O ships however have ramps in all four quarters and therefore much more flexibility exists.

Spirit of Britain: the forward end of the upper car deck.

Spirit of Britain: the forward end of the upper car deck.

Spirit of Britain: Deck 3 Freight Deck (STX image).

Spirit of Britain: Deck 3 Freight Deck (STX image).

Conclusions

There is almost no doubting that the Spirit of Britain will be a tremendous commercial success. P&O paid a premium to have the ship built at a European shipyard with the highest of reputations and that investment has been rewarded with a high quality of finish. And, if she fails to match the aesthetic highs of other recent day ferries such as Tallink’s Star or even, in places, the Maersk Dunkerque and her sisters, P&O will not be too concerned. Few passengers are won by aesthetics alone: the P&O brand almost gives them a pass in such respects as comfort and a certain quality of service are presumed to be a given. And, if the company has managed to remain clear ferry market leaders with its current Dover fleet – a combination of the grotty, the regrettable and the forgettable – this ship’s comfortable and modern saloons, decent food and dependable service will only cement that leadership. Besides which, it would be churlish to say the Spirit of Britain is not in her own right splendid; she is in almost every respect leagues ahead of the outdated Prides of Dover and Calais and is likely to be making money for P&O after most of her rivals and contemporaries have passed into memory.

La Suprema

Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV), originally a project of the well-known Grimaldi shipowning dynasty, first entered the competitive trade on Italy’s west coast in 1993 with the delivery of the Majestic, a modern, relatively speedy and stylish new ferry with substantial freight decks delivered from the Nuovi Cantieri Apuania shipyard in the Tuscan town of Marina di Carrara.

Deployed between Palermo and Genoa, the ship made an instant impact and, over the next decade, GNV would receive a sequence of ever-larger and more immodestly named ships, almost all from the same shipyard and all of which showed a clear progression in style and scale from the previous generations: in sequence these were the Splendid, Fantastic, Excellent, Excelsior, La Superba and La Suprema.

The final pair were delivered in 2002 and 2003 and there it ended – GNV would later take a step down in terms of luxury and charter a series of fairly generic ro-pax ships which, had they been named in line with the previous policy, might have assumed such names as the Mediocre, or the Average. There were suggestions that the company had over-stretched themselves, particularly with the expensively-built La Superba and La Suprema, which had vast passenger capacities. In early 2008, the company appeared to have disposed of the pair, somewhat implausibly, to Vietnamese interests.

That this sale fell through can be considered fortunate for, whatever GNV’s financial discomfit, they have left Italian travellers with the biggest and best cruise ferries operating in Southern Europe. For the past few years the sisters have in peak season been operating out of Genoa, the ‘Superba’ alongside the Excellent on the lengthy original route to Palermo where together they can offer daily departures in each direction. The ‘Suprema’ meanwhile maintains a tightly-packed summer schedule involving daily return trips to Olbia on Sardinia – a route which is abandoned in winter.

After an evening watching the comings and goings in Olbia, in early September I joined the ‘Suprema’ for an overnight crossing to Genoa. The ship was predictably busy heading in this direction at this time of year with all cabins sold out, although the hundreds of empty reclining seats showed that she was some way off capacity. Directly competing sailings from the Moby Wonder and Tirrenia’s diminutive Domiziana presented quite starkly contrasting styles – the only thing which might attract a neutral traveller (especially one without children) on board the Moby ship over La Suprema might be her cabins, which share some aspects of best practice, through common design, with the upscale rooms on new or refurbished Stena ships. One can only observe in defence of the slow Domiziana that you would have the potential for a more leisurely night’s sleep compared to the nine hours total sailing time with GNV. Indeed the key to La Suprema’s timetable is her fast service speed of up to 28 knots which enables one round trip to be carried out in a 24 hour period.

On board, La Suprema not unexpectedly bears a strong familial resemblance to earlier GNV ships, most notably the most recent predecessor class of Excellent and Excelsior. Foot passengers board over a ramp on the port side, adjacent to the huge vehicle deck ramps, from where an escalator whisks one to the instantly impressive main lobby on Deck 6.

Looking aft to the reception desk in the marble-clad main lobby.

Looking aft to the reception desk in the marble-clad main lobby.

A view looking across to starboard. The passageway to the right leads to the ship's small chapel.

A view looking across to starboard showing one of the bespoke mosaic panels installed in the lobby. The passageway to the right leads to the ship's small chapel.

The chapel.

The chapel.

The reminder of Deck 6 is given over to passenger cabins – the ship has 567 cabins in total, including 31 suites and 6 ‘Presidential suites’. None of which were within the budget for me on this occasion, as I was travelling with a reclining seat, of which there are no less than 940 spread across the ship, including on Deck 9 in the large auditorium ostensibly designed for conference use but also in lounges on the two decks below and aft of the main lobby. The latter area also includes some dedicated facilities for truck drivers.

One of the lower reclining seat lounges - not one of the ship's most impressive spaces.

One of the lower reclining seat lounges - not one of the ship's most impressive spaces.

Aft staircase.

Aft staircase.

Moving upwards, Deck 7 contains the main eating areas on the ship with, aft and accessed from the upper level of the reception lobby, ‘Le Chevalier’ restaurant and, just forward, the ‘Mistral’ self service. Passenger flow heading forward, past the self service, is via a narrow port-side alleyway which also fronts a ‘convertible’ area of restaurant seating, named ‘Spaghetti’, which could be used as a separate restaurant if required but in practice just tends to be treated as part of the self service seating area. The food in the self service looked fine and the menu in the main restaurant very appetising; however my preferred option when sailing out of Olbia – if time permits – is to take a meal in the pizzeria atop the passenger terminal with its views over the ferry berths.

Forward of the restaurants is the open-plan ‘Victoria Cafe’ piano bar area, with casino (out of use), video games and boutique shops including the photo shop, where passengers can purchase the photographs taken of them as they boarded. This windowless area is not untypical of more recent Italian ferries, providing a busy walk-through space where passengers can sit, drink coffee, talk (loudly), see and be seen.

'La Chevalier' restaurant, aft on Deck 7.

'La Chevalier' restaurant, aft on Deck 7.

The port-side alleyway leading forward - the 'Spaghetti' seating area is behind the partition to right.

The port-side alleyway leading forward - the 'Spaghetti' seating area is behind the partition to right.

'Spaghetti' seating area, looking aft with the main self service to the left.

'Spaghetti' seating area, looking aft with the main self service to the left.

The main self service seating area.

The main self service seating area.

Self service food.

Self service food.

Heading forward again and at the aft end of the 'Victoria Cafe' area is the photo shop.

Heading forward again and at the aft end of the Victoria Cafe area is the photo shop.

An overall view looking forward of the 'Victoria Cafe'.

An overall view, looking forward, of the Victoria Cafe.

Another view looking aft in the 'Victoria Cafe'.

Another view looking aft in the Victoria Cafe.

Forward of the Victoria Cafe is perhaps the ship’s single most impressive feature, the four-deck high forward hallway, complete with a panoramic glass elevator and curving staircases which connect all of the main passenger decks and provide an easy link up to Deck 8 where the ‘Suprema’ show lounge is located.

Looking down to Deck 7 from Deck 9 in the forward atrium - the windows at the top belong to the Copacabana Cafe whilst the doorway at the bottom leads through to the Victoria Cafe.

Looking down to Deck 7 from Deck 9 in the forward atrium - the windows at the top belong to the Copacabana Cafe whilst the doorway at the bottom leads through to the Victoria Cafe.

The top of the atrium at Deck 10 level.

The top of the atrium at Deck 10 level.

Back on Deck 8, the forward ‘Suprema’ showlounge is the main entertainment venue, although the acts on display on this crossing were decidedly risqué for the mostly-family audience. Slightly tiered to give better views, the lounge remains open until late but was curiously devoid of passengers – perhaps everyone on this end of holiday overnight crossing just wanted to get an early night?

The remainder of Deck 8 is given over to cabins but just above (Deck 9) is an area set aside for conference use, but seemingly little-used for this purpose. The main space, over the centreline and to port, is a large auditorium which effectively serves as a huge reclining seat lounge. On the starboard side are a couple of smaller conference rooms also filled with reclining seats, and the traditional card room and library whilst, right forward, is a little-used observation lounge (‘La Terrazza’) .

The Suprema show lounge.

The Suprema show lounge.

The Suprema Lounge's bar area.

The Suprema Lounge's bar area.

'La Terrazza' bar-lounge, right forward on Deck 9.

'La Terrazza' bar-lounge, right forward on Deck 9.

The small card room.

The small card room.

A smaller conference room on the starboard side of Deck 9.

A smaller conference room on the starboard side of Deck 9.

The main 'Europa' conference/reclining seat room.

The main 'Europa' conference/reclining seat room.

The little-used forward stage area for use in conference mode.

The little-used forward stage area for use in conference mode.

Aft of the forward lobby area at this level is the ‘Copacabana Cafe’ with a children’s play area and beauty salon on its port side. Aft again is a large lido deck with swimming pool; a further deck area with jacuzzis and views over the stern can be found aft of the funnel. The outside decks were not in great condition, particularly in the areas designated for the use of passengers with dogs, whilst the jacuzzis did not seem to have seen use for quite some time.

The final passenger space is directly above the Copacabana cafe, on Deck 10; ‘La Dolce Vita’ nightclub remained closed throughout, as it had been on my last crossing on this ship in 2007.

Looking aft into the Copacabana Cafe.

Looking aft into the Copacabana Cafe.

Another view; behind the screens in the background are the beauty salon and childrens' play area.

Another view; behind the screens in the background are the beauty salon and childrens play area.

'Re Leone' play area.

'Re Leone' play area.

An overall view of the outside decks with the swimming pool and lido forward of the funnel and the 'Bikini Bar' at its base.

An overall view of the outside decks with the swimming pool and lido forward of the funnel and the 'Bikini Bar' at its base.

The builder's plate, located just outside the Copacabana Cafe.

The builder's plate, located just outside the Copacabana Cafe.

Dogs aren't allowed in all areas on board...

Dogs aren't allowed in all areas on board...

... but where they are welcome, the results are somewhat unpleasant.

... but where they are welcome, the results are somewhat unpleasant.

The aft deck area with covered-over jacuzzis.

The aft deck area with covered-over jacuzzis.

Looking forward on Deck 10 with 'La Dolce Vita' disco & nightclub to the left.

Looking forward on Deck 10 with 'La Dolce Vita' disco & nightclub to the left.

Inside 'La Dolce Vita'.

Inside 'La Dolce Vita'.

It is to be hoped that GNV can make La Suprema and La Superba pay as they are wonderful, big and bright ships, even in the slightly bedraggled, end-of-season state of the ‘Suprema’ on this occasion. GNV certainly work their ships fairly hard but, even at the very peak of the summer season, the ship’s passenger capacity seems to be too large and some areas appear to be nearly permanently closed-off. GNV, now in private equity hands, may therefore still be interested in a sale and, just in case those Vietnamese come calling again, it may be worthwhile to line up a trip on one or both of this impressive pair of ferries sooner rather than later.

La Suprema at Olbia.

Apollon: the good, the bad and the ugly

Despite her regrettable demise, one cannot hide from the fact that the Apollon was in rather ropey condition in her final few years. However, if one overlooked the exploding toilets and scratched under the surface the former Senlac was, in fact, probably the best ‘preserved’, in terms of fixtures, fittings and artworks, remaining ex-Sealink ship operating in Southern Europe.

THE GOOD

Starting with the best bits - the ship retained to the end in her forward stairwell the two and-a-half deck high fibreglass mural by the Czech sculptor Franta Belsky.

Starting with the best bits - the ship retained to the end in her forward stairwell the two and-a-half deck high fibreglass mural by the Czech sculptor Franta Belsky.

Rabies warning.

Rabies warning.

The cafeteria with carved-out booth seating.

The cafeteria with carved-out booth seating.

The ship's restaurant, new chairs apart, was larely unchanged from built - the bas relief panel on the aft bulkhead featured stylised scenes of the Battle of Hastings from the Bayeux Tapestry whilst, beneath it, the waiter station is also original.

The ship's restaurant, new chairs apart, was largely unchanged from built - the bas relief panel on the aft bulkhead featured stylised scenes of the Battle of Hastings from the Bayeux Tapestry whilst, beneath it, the waiter station is also original.

One of those original chairs from the restaurant latterly migrated to this former officers cabin, forward, on sale for passenger use as a suite.

One of those original restaurant chairs had migrated to this former officers cabin, forward, latterly in passenger use as a suite.

THE BAD

In contrast, this chair, alas, was now at the end of its useful life.

In contrast, this chair, alas, was now at the end of its useful life.

The ship's bell, inscribed 'SENLAC 1973', disappeared after her Hellenic Seaways service ended in 2005. Seen on board the Apollon in her final years is the now empty mounting.

The ship's bell, inscribed 'SENLAC 1973', disappeared after her Hellenic Seaways service ended in 2005. Seen on board the Apollon is the now empty mounting.

Did I mention the ship had plumbing problems?

Did I mention the ship had plumbing problems?

My old chum Bruce was quicker than I to capture the ship's sewage overflow pipe fulfilling its titular duties. Picture courtesy Bruce Peter.

My old chum Bruce was quicker than I to capture this sewage overflow pipe fulfilling its titular duties. Picture courtesy Bruce Peter.

Courtesy Bruce Peter.

Courtesy Bruce Peter.

I don't know what they were feeding the Apollon in the end but she could, like many of her Albanian consorts, certainly belt out thick, fairly pungent smoke.

THE UGLY
Lastly, we cannot let the chance slip by to have a morbid look at the Senlac’s end in Aliaga, Turkey. The photographs by and copyright of Selim San require no real comment but note that the ship, originally next to the all-black F Diamond (ex-Tor Hollandia) is actually being broken up at a different location having been re-sold between breakers. In the process she has managed to have her port side bridge wing completely ripped off – it can be seen hanging over the forecastle.

Belsky before...

Belsky before...

... and after.

... and after.

This latter, most unfortunate, image did however ring a vague bell – compare and contrast the above with this slice through sister ship Horsa from an early Sealink poster…

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Mediterranean Massacre – Part Two

After the recent cull of Southern Europe’s elderly ferry fleet, which ships will be next? There remain plenty of veterans out there, and the list below is a bit of idle speculation. Quite a few vessels are now laid up mainly because they have recently finished seasonal service rather than anything more sinister. A couple, like the little Don Peppino in the Bay of Naples (ex-Malmø, 1964) and Jadrolinija’s Porozina (ex-Esefjord, 1971) have seen service this year after previous bouts of inactivity left them looking doomed, so nothing is certain. Particularly for the Croatian ships, domestic service under local, less strict, safety rules might be a solution once a vessel can no longer be used on international services – this may prove a valuable factor for Jadrolinija’s little Liburnija. Sadly however, it is likely that several of the ships listed below may be gone within the next twelve months.

The Ancona and Split 1700 at Split.

The Ancona and Split 1700 at Split.

Two ships which have been sold for scrap since the original instalment are the Ancona and the Split 1700. Between them they helped to make Blue Line the dominant operator from Split to Ancona, in the process seeing off the Italian state operator Adriatica whilst the Croatian equivalent, Jadrolinija, operating their Dubrovnik, are outclassed. However it was always clear that 2010 would be the end for the 1966-built pair – indeed, the Split 1700 had been laid up throughout the Summer since the company acquired better and larger tonnage. The only question was whether anyone would be able to preserve the Ancona but, perhaps not surprisingly, the answer was no and the pair have been sold to Indian breakers.

The Ancona.

The Ancona.

Boughaz and Banasa at Algeciras.

Boughaz and Banasa at Algeciras.

Starting in the West, on the routes to Morocco the situation is fairly critical in terms purely of age with a whole host of ships nearing or over 30 years in age – the Al Mansour (ex-Stena Nordica, Reine Astrid), Atlas (ex-Gelting Syd), Banasa (ex-Mette Mols), Berkane (ex-Napoleon), Biladi (ex-Liberté), Bni Nsar (ex-Ferry Akashi, Dame M), Boughaz (ex-Viking 5), Ibn Batouta (ex-St Christopher), Le Rif (ex-Galloway Princess), Mistral Express (ex-Esterel) and Wisteria (ex-Prinses Beatrix, Duc de Normandie). TransEuropa Ferries’ Eurovoyager is also presently in the area.

Quite what to expect here is difficult to say – other than the Eurovoyager most of the above named are in regular service. There have been a couple of casualties from the area in 2010 already in the Sara 1 and Euroferrys Atlantica but with a reportedly disappointing Summer perhaps there is scope for some further cutbacks. The most likely vessel perhaps, other than the Eurovoyager, might be the oldest – COMANAV’s Bni Nsar has created a notably negative public reputation but has, however, remained in service beyond 30 September.

The Habib.

The Habib.

Tunisia’s 1970s ship of state, the Habib, is a lovely 1970s veteran – sort of an Africanised, originally two-class-version of TT Lines’ Peter Pan and Nils Holgersson of 1974/75. With the new Hanibal due for delivery in 2012, if the Habib is compliant with the safety requirements of the so-called ‘Stockholm Agreement’ one would expect her to return for one final fling in 2011 – but crew members were adamant 2010 was her final season when we sailed on the ship in June.

Sardinia Regina and Moby Vincent at Bastia.

Sardinia Regina and Moby Vincent at Bastia.

Both Sardinia Ferries and Moby on their longer passenger routes have a collection of 1970s-built ships matched with vessels from the past decade – and not too much in between. Moby’s Drea, Otta, Vincent, Fantasy and Corse are all vital parts of the network and one cannot imagine them being replaced in the near future – the Fantasy continually punches above her weight on the Olbia-Civitavecchia route and is perhaps the weakest of the classic ferries. The Moby Vincent (ex-Stena Normandica, St Brendan) is the oldest but both Moby and their yellow-hulled rivals seem content to each employ one of these Rickmers-built ferries as their regular ships on the Livorno-Bastia route. If one or other was replaced with something new I can imagine the rival operator would respond pretty quickly – but who will blink first?

Both Moby and Corsica Ferries have been able to add capacity seemingly at will in recent years, and the latter’s elderly ladies seem equally secure – for now. The Sardinia Vera and sister Corsica Marina Seconda, the Sardinia Regina and sister Corsica Victoria plus the Corsica Serena Seconda all appear in the Summer 2011 timetables.

The Moby Baby at Portoferraio.

The Moby Baby at Portoferraio.

Moby’s five Babies on the Elban routes have an average age of 37 years and recently the company made statements about ordering six new ships to replace them, together with the Bastia on the Santa Teresa-Bonifacio run. Nothing firm has happened on that front yet – so these classics look set to continue for some time to come. The 1966-built Moby Baby (ex-Svea Drott, Earl Godwin) is the now surely the oldest ship operating for anything like a mainstream multi-route operator in the EU (save maybe for Balearia’s Arlequin Rojo) but the even smaller Moby Ale (ex-Mikkel Mols, 1969) would seem likely to be the first to go if Moby were to have a cull. For now that doesn’t seem likely as all five ships are hard-pressed on the busy Summer Saturdays.

The Primrose at Piombino.

The Primrose at Piombino.

Upstarts Blunavy made an entry onto the Piombino-Portoferraio route in 2010 and, after an apparently relatively successful season, claim they are looking for a different ship to the Primrose (ex-Princesse Marie Christine). Something with a better air conditioning system might be a good idea. The sweaty, beaten-up old Primrose has to be high on the list of likely ships to head straight for scrap from here.

The Don Peppino at Pozzuoli.

The Don Peppino at Pozzuoli.

One elderly ex-Moby ship which has thus far evaded the scrappers is the Don Peppino of Gestur. Originally the Malmø of 1964, she spent 24 years with Moby as the Citta di Piombino but was subsequently laid up for a period in Naples. Reactivated in 2008 she is a sweet little thing but can’t have too many years left now. There remain several other interesting ships laid up in Naples but the largest two – the Medmar overnight pair Donatella D’Abundo and Giulia D’Abundo – have now both gone for scrap.

The SNAV Sicilia at Palermo.

The SNAV Sicilia at Palermo.

The most disappointing departures from Italian domestic service after 30 September were SNAV’s ex-North Sea Ferries pair SNAV Campania and Sicilia (ex-Norland and Norstar). Originally rumoured to have been sold for scrap, they are now both at anchor off Jeddah awaiting use, presumably as pilgrim ships for the Hajj in November, after which their futures remain unclear.

The Iginia and Rosalia at Messina.

The Iginia and Rosalia at Messina.

After the Sibari (1970) went for scrap last year, question marks hung over the remaining two classic train ferries on BluVia’s Messina-Villa San Giovanni route, the Iginia (1969) and Rosalia (1973). I travelled with the Rosalia in early September and she has clearly had a little bit of cash spent on her recently (although still retaining the faded glory look of all the ships on this route). Meanwhile the Iginia was to be found having some attention in dry dock in Messina so on this basis they seem secure for now. However the Logudoro, half-sister to the route’s more modern pair, the Villa and Scilla, remains laid up in Naples – if BluVia ever get around to instating her in Sicilian traffic, the lovely Iginia could be doomed.

The Domiziana off Naples.

The Domiziana off Naples.

Just as the future of Tirrenia is unclear, so it is for their oldest ship, the Domiziana. A (relatively) unrebuilt member of the Strade Romana class she has been moved to the Southern Italian port of Crotone for disposal – scrap must be a real option although I would still bet on her being acquired by another operator looking for replacement tonnage.

To the East of Italy the number of elderly ships under threat grows exponentially, first but not least with Jadrolinija. The Croatian national operator has, since the disposal of the Ivan Zajc in 2009, been reduced to four ships capable of realistic use on the coastal and international services. This has meant the Zadar operating Zadar-Ancona, the Dubrovnik on Split-Ancona, the Marko Polo the coastal service, Rijaka-Split-Stari Grad-Korcula-Dubrovnik and on to Bari in Italy, with the little Liburnija operating Korcula-Dubrovnik-Bari.

The Marko Polo will be upgraded over the Winter to meet the new safety requirements but it seems inevitable that the Liburnija will henceforth be restricted to domestic use – if anything. She was Jadrolinija’s first car ferry of any real size and ever since her introduction in 1965 has been lovingly looked after. Now quite antiquated one can only wonder if she will return in 2011 and, if so, what route a ship with cabin accommodation would be suitable for if not the coastal/international lines.

The Liburnija at Korcula.

The Liburnija at Korcula.

The Vis leaving Vela Luca.

The Vis leaving Vela Luca.

Of the other Jadrolinija ships in service in 2010 the most interesting threatened vessel is the 1965-built Vis, originally the Sydfyn. She has been with Jadrolinija for 34 years now but the feeling amongst her crew was that this was her final year. Aliaga awaits.

Jadrolinija's reserve fleet - Cres 2008.

Jadrolinija's reserve fleet - Cres 2008.

Whereas a couple of Jadrolinija ships have headed for scrap the majority of the coastal fleet, once no longer wanted, appear to be sent to lay up in various parts of the country. For example the onetime Red Funnel pair Lovrjenac (ex-Norris Castle) and Nehaj (ex-Cowes Castle) have been mouldering in Cres and Mali Losinj respectively for several years now. The picture above shows Cres in August 2008 with the Nehaj, Porozina (ex-Esefjord) and Bozava visible and, beyond, the Ero, Ozalj and Zigljen. The Porozina has since seen further service but the future of the remainder looks bleak, with the Bozava reportedly already gone.

The Postira arriving at Dubrovnik, with the Thomson Spirit beyond.

The Postira arriving at Dubrovnik, with the Thomson Spirit beyond.

If the fate of many of Jadrolinija’s old car ferries is uncertain, what then of the four remaining classic passenger ships? The Postira, Premuda, Ozalj and Tijat all still had niche roles in various parts of the country in 2010 but there are grumblings in some areas about the service offered. Many of these ship’s sisters and contemporaries have found their way into static use so one would expect the same might apply when the service careers of these veterans finally come to an end.

The Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II at Bar.

The Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II at Bar.

The Montenegro Lines fleet is in varying states of disrepair. To all intents and purposes they are the only passenger sea line into the country so doubtless will carry on – but it would be nice if they could do something about the state of their ships, the Sveti Stefan II in particular. After seemingly disappearing for all of October, the latter ship returns to service at the start of November and is timetabled through to the end of the year. But what about her little red-hulled counterpart?

The Azzurra at Bari.

The Azzurra at Bari.

One doesn’t know what the Azzurra of Azzurra Line is up to at the best of times so perhaps the most recent AIS signal from the 1964-built ex-Grenaa shouldn’t be a surprise – she is not laid up near her normal Bari-based Adriatic home but is instead at Tasucu in Turkey, having previously paid a call into in Northern Cyprus. Has she entered service on the Tasucu-Gazimagusa route?!

The Arberia at Bari.

The Arberia at Bari.

With her fleetmates all gone for scrap, the Arberia (ex-Bore Star, Orient Express, Wasa Queen) of Halkydon Shipping, for now, ploughs on alone between Bari and Durres in Albania. If Halkydon do complete their withdrawal from the passenger shipping business, this ferry will have to find new owners – going for scrap seems unlikely but in the current climate anything is possible. Perhaps Mr Munk of Sunlink Ferries will finally get his ship?

The Santa Maria I and Rigel at Bari.

The Santa Maria I and Rigel at Bari.

G Lines’ Santa Maria I (ex-Sansovino) seems to have found little success since first being tried on the competitive Bari-Durres service in 2008. Beset by machinery problems in her inital seasons, she has now retired once again to Drapetsona – will she ever see proper service again?

Alongside her in the picture above is Ventouris Ferries’ Rigel (ex-Bore I). This ship and her three quite elderly Adriatic fleetmates (average age – 35) seem set to continue to operate – the Polaris is presently having a not insignificant refit with her place, for now, being taken by Agoudimos’ Ionian King.

The Veronica Line and Red Star I together at Brindisi.

The Veronica Line and Red Star I together at Brindisi.

Brindisi and the Southern Albanian port of Vlore have been the last operational ports of call for a number of notable ferries, from Thoresen’s Viking I, through SNCF’s Transcontainer I to Sessan’s 1965-built Prinsessan Desirée. The route has in recent years been home to three further veterans, the Viking I’s sister, the Viking III of 1965 (now Red Star I), her ex-Townsend Thoresen fleetmate Free Enterprise V (1970, now Veronica Line) and Agoudimos’s sprightly youngster the Ionian Spirit (ex-Viking 3, Roslagen (1972)).

The Veronica Line has again gone into hibernation for the Winter but the Red Star I and Ionian Spirit continue to sail. Whilst this route has a history of sudden disappearances the latter two seem quite secure for now. The Veronica Line may be a casualty of the Stockholm Agreement but there is every chance we won’t know about it until she fails to reappear for 2011.

The Penelope at Igoumenitsa.

The Penelope at Igoumenitsa.

Now laid up in Igoumenitsa the Penelope (ex-European Gateway) appears simply to be bedding down for the Winter rather than anything else and there seems every likelihood this unusual ship will return for 2011.

The Theofilos in white NEL livery at Piraeus, 2007.

The Theofilos in white NEL livery at Piraeus, 2007.

One of the most popular Greek ferries is the evergreen Theofilos of NEL Lines, which has sailed through the September SOLAS deadline and continues on an interesting Northern Aegean itinerary. The future is, however, cloudy for the former Nils Holgersson (1975) and one can only hope she will live to see another Greek Summer.

The Ierapetra L approaching Piraeus.

The Ierapetra L approaching Piraeus.

ANEK Lines have a series of ex-Japanese overnight ferries which are more than 30 years old deployed in domestic service: the Ierapetra L, Kriti I, Kriti II, Lissos, Lato and Prevelis. Although the Lissos is engaged in heavy competition with NEL on the route up to Chios and Mytilene, far from ANEK’s usual base, the remainder are in use on core or subsidised services and there is no imminent prospect of replacement. For now the elderly ANEKs seem safe.

The Rodanthi and Romilda laid up in Piraeus (with the Lissos visible beyond)

The Rodanthi and Romilda laid up in Piraeus (with the Lissos visible beyond)

Not such a happy future awaits the laid-up fleets of GA Ferries and SAOS. GA’s abandoned ships still dominate the Great Harbour in Piraeus whilst SAOS’s, including ex-British pair the Samothraki (Viking Voyager) and Panagia Soumela (Lady of Mann), are concentrated in Alexandropoulis in an increasingly decrepit state. It seems likely that the majority of these will head straight for scrap once the financial wrangling is finally concluded.

The Samothraki leaving Chios in 2007.

The Samothraki leaving Chios in 2007.

The Duchess M at Bari in August 2008.

The Duchess M at Bari in August 2008.

There are also dozens of ships laid up in the shipyards around Piraeus – many of which will never see service again. One such is the Duchess M of Marlines, originally the Wanaka and later Brittany Ferries’ Breizh-Izel. The final season of the final ship of the once glorious Marlines was 2008 and she has been laid up in Elefsis ever since. A one-way journey to the scrapyard is the only realistic result for this ship and so many of the others, including the Okeanis (ex-Free Enterprise) and the Alkyon (ex-Gotlandia).

The Express Santorini (ex-Chartres) and the Scotia Prince (ex-Stena Olympica, top picture) have also arrived in the area recently – they are both now at Drapetsona. The former ship is scheduled to carry out relief sailings through the Winter and a further Summer on charter in the Azores apparently awaits in 2011. For the Scotia Prince the future has to be less certain – she had a heavy refit before the 2010 season which she spent on charter to Marmara Lines for service between Italy and Turkey. It would be great news if this was repeated, but will Marmara Lines be back for 2011?

The Superferry II off Andros.

The Superferry II off Andros.

Although Blue Star Ferries have spent the money to repair her following her coming together with a pier in Tinos, the Superferry II is under threat from the new ships, Blue Star Delos and Blue Star Patmos, currently being built in Korea. The subsequent reshuffle of ships upon their delivery in will almost certainly see the end of the former Prince Laurent.

The Agios Georgios at Sifnos.

The Agios Georgios at Sifnos.

Lastly, are Ventouris Sea Lines’ Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) and Agoudimos Lines’ Penelope A (ex-Horsa) under threat? Not just yet it seems and both have a Winter of Greek domestic sailing ahead of them.

George Behrend

The railway author George Behrend died in July. Behrend was one of my heroes, one of the greatest of transport authors, whose obsession with noting every small detail on his daring and extensive travels was matched by a magical storytelling ability. Barely a week goes by when I don’t find myself dipping into one of his books to enjoy one of his wry evocations of travelling across Europe by train.

In a ferry context his most notable contribution was Night Ferry, the posthumous celebration of the London to Paris sleeper service which passed via the Dover-Dunkerque train ferry. The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (“The Company” in Behrend-speak), who provided the sleeping cars of the Night Ferry, was without doubt Behrend’s real passion, and the Company’s operations were historically intertwined with those of the short sea ferry services across Europe – Calais and Oostende were two of their largest bases and the latter home to the workshop which, ultimately, would restore Night Ferry sleeping car 3792 for the National Railway Museum in York, where it remains.

His greatest work? The historical Grand European Expresses is brilliant yet perhaps he had most fun when it was a self-centred travelogue. Yatakli-Vagon, the co-authored account of an intrepid rail journey across Europe to Turkey in the 1960s is enthralling and completely documents an entirely lost world – starting in London, taking the Night Ferry to Paris, the Orient Express to Vienna, then the Balkan Express and Istanbul Express to Turkey. Attempting to repeat even part of his journey today is a daunting task, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the free exchange of information through the internet notwithstanding.

Throughout his writing Behrend rejoices in and laments a past or passing age – his obituaries note his “tangled relationship with modernity”. Clearly a man of independent means, his parents had been patrons of the artist Stanley Spencer whilst he was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten. Behrend always travelled deluxe and there is little empathy to be found in his work about second class travel or travellers. Much of the time he appears to be enjoying the “mellowing effect” of various beverages and there is always a detailed description of the dining car, its menus, characters and peculiarities (“consternation on finding that the windows do not open! Sacrée voiture buffet! How deplorable!”.)

In Yatakli-Vagon five lengthy paragraphs are devoted to an extended description of buying ham from “a Bulgarian wench” in the “People’s State Supermarket” and all the time Behrend would observe the behaviour of his fellow travellers: “a large sleek middle-aged Belgian is gulping his coffee and unconcernedly rattling the cellophane of his biscotte. Farther down the car an English milord is tackling his eggs and bacon and tomatoes in that slightly aggressive and superior manner that English people unconsciously assume in strange surroundings. On the other side is a single Frenchman, to whom the surroundings are not strange at all. He scarcely notices the brown rocks or the gently lapping wavelets past which the train runs. He takes the Train Bleu for granted too, for this is where the Wagons-Lits belong. They may seem slightly out of place in London, or old fashioned and expensive to the commuter… but here they are at home”.

The same may be said about Behrend himself. Despite some entertainingly politically incorrect asides, his work was, broadly, optimistic though one senses he had an overarching feeling that the best days were past, even by the early 1960s. The demise of proper Wagons-Lits travel in Western Europe in the final quarter of the Twentieth Century must have saddened him. He retreated in his final years to Moray and leaves behind a library of outstanding books which capture and lament the passing of the golden age through which he lived.

Link: Yorkshire Post obituary.

The Great Ports: An evening in Olbia

Olbia, the primary port of Sardinia, features one of the greatest concentrations of large overnight ferries in Europe – alongside other Mediterranean megaports such as Piraeus, Genoa and, during rush hour, Igoumenitsa. Although Tirrenia continue to operate to both Civitavecchia (for Rome) and the longer overnight route to Genoa, it is the independent operators who are now the serious players: Moby use a fleet of (in the Summer) six passenger and two freight ships with schedules based on the port, offering departures to Civitavecchia, Livorno, Piombino and Genoa. Grandia Navi Veloci operate to Genoa and SNAV to Civitaecchia. Moby’s big rivals, Tourship, (Corsica-Sardinia Ferries) use the nearby port of Golfo Aranci for their own services to Civitavecchia and Livorno.

I spent an evening in Olbia on 2 September before a departure on GNV’s La Suprema to Genoa. The excellent restaurant in the terminal provides a great vantage point of the comings and goings but it is down on the quayside where the real buzz is. Whereas elsewhere in Italy little Mussolinis jump up and down ferociously citing spurious security concerns at the merest sight of a camera (the tragedy of the once-great port of Genoa being the worst example), in Olbia, where all traffic is domestic and mostly holidaymakers, things are much more relaxed and passenger-friendly. Pedestrians, with ticket or not, are permitted to come and go through an efficient security barrier which where bags are quickly scanned. Thus the principle of public access is retained and friends and family members can come onto the quayside to wave travellers off or welcome them home. And almost everyone is happily taking pictures, enjoying a uniquely nautical travel experience in a friendly atmosphere.

The veteran Costa Marina leaving Olbia - cruise ships berth at the main port amongst the ferries.

The veteran Costa Marina leaving Olbia - cruise ships berth at the main port amongst the ferries.

Moby Otta (ex-Tor Scandinavia) nears the port on her day sailing from Livorno.

Moby Otta (ex-Tor Scandinavia) nears the port on her day sailing from Livorno.

At the freight berths are the Strada Corsa (ex-Stena Transporter/Pride of Flanders) and the Massimo M (originally Fred. Olsen's Balduin and later Tor Neringa).

At the freight berths are the Strada Corsa (ex-Stena Transporter/Pride of Flanders) and the Massimo M (originally Fred. Olsen's Balduin and later Tor Neringa).

The lighthouse guarding the entrance to the port.

The lighthouse guarding the entrance to the port.

In port is the little Domiziana, still in Adriatica colours but now back operating for the parent company Tirrenia and offering a somewhat slow crossing to Genoa.

In port is the little Domiziana, still in Adriatica colours but now back operating for the parent company Tirrenia and offering a somewhat slow crossing to Genoa.

The Domiziana's funnel, still complete with the Venetian winged lion of Adriatica.

The Domiziana's funnel, still complete with the Venetian winged lion of Adriatica.

Strada Corsa - the ship now has Sardinia Ferries funnel colours after the acquisition of her operators by Tourship.

Strada Corsa - the ship now has Sardinia Ferries funnel colours after the acquisition of her operators by Tourship.

Massimo M - since being purchased by Moby in late 2009 she has been reuinted with her two sister ships which were already in the fleet.

Massimo M - since being purchased by Moby in late 2009 she has been reuinted with her two sister ships which were already in the fleet.

The Moby Otta turning in port.

The Moby Otta turning in port.

Three North Sea veterans - on the left is the SNAV Lazio, originally the Olau Britannia and newly arrived in port from Civitavecchia.

Three North Sea veterans - on the left is the SNAV Lazio, originally the Olau Britannia and newly arrived in port from Civitavecchia.

SNAV Lazio.

SNAV Lazio.

Moby Otta.

Moby Otta.

Seen arriving after a speedy day crossing from Genoa is La Suprema, one of Europe's largest and most impressive cruise ferries. W

Seen arriving after a speedy day crossing from Genoa is La Suprema, one of Europe's largest and most impressive cruise ferries.

We shall not linger too long with images of the Nuraghes, Tirrenia's Civitavecchia ship - suffice to say this modern (2004) ship was in predictably poor external condition.

We shall not linger too long with images of the Nuraghes, Tirrenia's Civitavecchia ship - suffice to say this modern (2004) ship was in predictably poor external condition.

La Suprema turning off the berth.

La Suprema turning off the berth.

There follow a series of remarkably unobstructed up-close images of La Suprema coming astern onto her berth. The number of Health & Safety violations the British authorities could come up with from these pictures doesn't bear thinking about.

There follow a series of remarkably unobstructed up-close images of La Suprema coming astern onto her berth. The number of Health & Safety violations the British authorities could come up with from these pictures doesn't bear thinking about.

SNAV Lazio (left) and La Suprema (right). Arriving in the background are the Moby pair Moby Aki (from Piombino) and the freighter Luigi Pa.

SNAV Lazio (left) and La Suprema (right). Arriving in the background are the Moby pair Moby Aki (from Piombino) and the freighter Luigi Pa.

The Moby Fantasy, loading for her overnight sailing to Civitavecchia - where she continues to fight above her weight despite being the smallest of all the competing passenger ferries operating to the port.

The Moby Fantasy, loading for her overnight sailing to Civitavecchia - where she continues to fight above her weight despite being the smallest of all the competing passenger ferries operating to the port.

Not an entirely full car deck for the market leader on this end of peak season crossing - her Civitavecchia rivals must have been even more empty.

Not an entirely full car deck for the market leader on this end of peak season crossing - her Civitavecchia rivals must have been even more empty.

The Moby Wonder, arriving from Civitavecchia, will later form the 2200 to Genoa. Along with her sister, the Moby Freedom, this ship has one of the most hectic schedules in Europe covering nightly Genoa-Olbia (or vice-versa) sailings with day time returns Genoa-Bastia-Genoa or Olbia-Civitavecchia-Olbia in between.

The Moby Wonder, arriving from Civitavecchia, will later form the 2200 to Genoa. Along with her sister, the Moby Freedom, this ship has one of the most hectic schedules in Europe covering nightly Genoa-Olbia (or vice-versa) sailings with day time returns Genoa-Bastia-Genoa or Olbia-Civitavecchia-Olbia in between.

SNAV Lazio, Domiziana and Moby Wonder.

SNAV Lazio, Domiziana and Moby Wonder.

The departure of the Domiziana - although the Strada Romana class have a certain appeal for the enthusiast, the ship's speed disadvantage compared to her rivals makes her operation on the Olbia-Genoa route difficult. Despite leaving an hour earlier than La Suprema and an hour and a half before the Moby Wonder she will not arrive in Genoa until 1000 (compared to the GNV ship's 0630 and Moby's 0730). Despite this, she was not entirely deserted - perhaps because her rivals were full.

The departure of the Domiziana - although the Strada Romana class have a certain appeal for the enthusiast, the ship's speed disadvantage compared to her rivals makes her operation on the Olbia-Genoa route difficult. Despite leaving an hour earlier than La Suprema and an hour and a half before the Moby Wonder she will not arrive in Genoa until 1000 (compared to the GNV ship's 0630 and Moby's 0730). Despite this, she was not entirely deserted - perhaps because her rivals were full.

Cars lining up to board La Suprema with the Nuraghes and the Moby Aki (waiting to leave for Livorno) in the background.

Cars lining up to board La Suprema with the Nuraghes and the Moby Aki (waiting to leave for Livorno) in the background.

Next – a voyage report on board La Suprema.

Moroccan Ferry Racing

The Contenders

The Atlas of IMTC. Built 1974 as Stella Scarlett, later Gelting Syd (1981-1999).

The Atlas of IMTC. Built 1974 as Stella Scarlett, later Gelting Syd (1981-1999).

The Al Mansour of COMANAV. Built in 1975 as Stena Nordica, later Hellas (1978-1979 & 1980, 1981), Stena Nautica (1982-1983), Reine Astrid (1983-1997), Moby Kiss (1997).

The Al Mansour of COMANAV. Built 1975 as Stena Nordica, later Hellas (1978-1979 & 1980, 1981), Stena Nautica (1982-1983), Reine Astrid (1983-1997), Moby Kiss (1997).

A crossing on a grey day out of Tangier Med provides a perfect opportunity for two vintage ferries to see who can be first beneath the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar, before completing their journey around the breakwater and into Algeciras harbour. There can be no real favourites in this one: the Atlas has never been particularly speedy whilst in her Belgian days as the Reine Astrid the Al Mansour was a notorious plodder.

We're underway, and from this distance it's difficult to see who has the edge - but perhaps the Al Mansour just has her nose in front.

We're underway, and from this distance it's difficult to see who has the edge - but perhaps the Al Mansour just has her nose in front.

But now the Atlas is fighting back...

But now the Danish-bred Atlas is fighting back...

... and she looks to have opened up a slight lead.

... and she looks to have opened up a slight lead.

Now it's Al Mansour clawing back.

Now it's Al Mansour clawing back.

This is going to be tight!

This is going to be tight!

Trying not to be distracted by the filly heading in the opposite direction, Al Mansour looks to be edging it!

Trying not to be distracted by the filly heading in the opposite direction, Al Mansour looks to be edging it!

And on the line the Al Mansour wins by half a length!

And on the line the Al Mansour wins by half a length!

Off to the Winner's Enclosure.

Off to the Winner's Enclosure.

No ferries were hurt in the making of this photofeature.

Pont l’Abbé => Moby Corse

In 2006 Brittany Ferries somewhat unexpectedly chartered the long-serving Duke of Scandinavia (ex-Dana Anglia) from DFDS with Brittany’s Val de Loire heading in the opposite direction. With minimal refurbishment, the ‘Duke’ was put into service as the Pont l’Abbé between Roscoff and Plymouth – she was later purchased but the 2009 arrival of the purpose-built Armorique saw her displaced on the Roscoff run. The economic downturn and a strategic rethink meant that plans for a significant refurbishment and long-term future for the ship with the company were aborted and, unwanted, she was despatched to Saint Nazaire where she laid up for over a year.

The Dana Anglia looking her smartest - in original DFDS livery.

The Dana Anglia looking her smartest - in original DFDS livery.

The Pont l'Abbé

The Pont L’Abbé

Down in the Mediterranean, the islands of Corsica and Sardinia are fiercely competitive ferry battlegrounds with legacy operators SNCM and Tirrenia to a great degree nowadays outmuscled by acquisitive and efficient companies such as Moby Lines, Grandi Navi Veloci and Corsica/Sardinia Ferries. The latter is the dominant force on the France-Corsica routes but Moby is stronger in operations to Sardinia – whilst it has long-standing routes from Italy to the Corsican port of Bastia the company has never been able to make its presence felt on services from France. Determined to break into this market, Moby announced in 2008 that they would be launching a new service from Nice in France to Bastia to begin the following year.

In the end, no service was forthcoming for 2009, but in November of that year, it was revealed that the Pont l’Abbé had been acquired to enable the operation to finally start in 2010 – although by this stage the mainland port had been switched to Toulon. Competing directly against Corsica Ferries’ established and popular operations, the Pont l’Abbé was brought round to Naples where she underwent a fairly thorough refit, emerging as the Moby Corse.

The Moby Corse.

The Moby Corse.

In addition to providing overnight sailings every other night from either end, the ship was scheduled, when in Bastia, to make a day time round trip from there to Livorno on the Italian mainland – essentially repeating some of the sailings made by the Maria Grazia On. in her Summer stint in 2009 and supplementing the core Livorno sailings of the Moby Vincent. Alas, the work on the ‘Corse’ was delayed and so the company’s newest build, the Moby Aki, was briefly deployed for a few weeks instead before the ‘Corse’ finally made it into service in mid May.

This Summer we joined the Moby Corse on a day sailing to Livorno. Almost all areas on board have seen some attention, although the Admiral Pub remains essentially untouched, now being a standard Moby feature ever since its arrival with the former Tor Line sisters Moby Drea and Moby Otta (ex-Prince and Princess of Scandinavia) – indeed other ships such as the Moby Tommy have been retrofitted with this facility. Presented below are a few ‘before and after’ shots, along with a couple of images from the Dana Anglia in her smart original guise, long since ripped out in a somewhat misguided DFDS 1990s refit.

Links:
Dana Anglia 1978 Main Deck GA Plan
Dana Anglia 1990 Deckplan
Pont l’Abbé 2007 Deckplan

Boarding the Moby Corse in Bastia.

Boarding the Moby Corse in Bastia.

Boarding for foot passengers is via the car deck.

Boarding for foot passengers is via the car deck.

Heading straight up to the main passenger deck, Deck 7, right aft in the ship's Brittany Ferries days was the somewhat unsatisfactory 'Le Cafe' - metal chairs, hardwearing flooring and a somewhat industrial feel made it an uninviting location for anything other than a brief snack. Originally this aft space was the Scandia Coffee Shop (to starboard) and the Compass Club discotheque (to port).

Heading straight up to the main passenger deck, Deck 7, right aft in the ship's Brittany Ferries days was the somewhat unsatisfactory 'Le Cafe', as pictured in 2007. Metal chairs, hardwearing flooring and a rather industrial feel made the port section in particular an uninviting location for anything other than a brief snack. Originally this space was the Scandia Coffee Shop (to starboard) and the Compass Club discotheque (to port).

Under Moby, although the port side still serves as a snack bar, to starboard an all-new waiter-service restaurant has been added; the 'A.O. Restaurant' (visible in the background) is named in honour of the company's founder Achille Onorato.

Under Moby, although the port side still serves as a snack bar, to starboard an all-new waiter-service restaurant has been added; the 'A.O. Restaurant' (visible in the background) is named in honour of the company's founder Achille Onorato.

'Le Cafe' servery on Pont L’Abbé in 2007.

'Le Cafe' servery on Pont l'Abbé in 2007.

The same area aboard the Moby Corse.

The same area aboard the Moby Corse.

Another 2008 image - the entrance to the reclining seat lounges and cinema can be seen to the left (astern). These have been left unchanged by Moby although the cinema is not generally in use.

Another 2008 image - the entrance to the reclining seat lounges and cinema can be seen to the left (astern). These have been left unchanged by Moby although the cinema is not generally in use.

The same area on Moby Corse.

The same area on Moby Corse.

The starboard side of 'Le Cafe' in 2008.

The starboard side of 'Le Cafe' in 2008.

The same area as part of the 'A.O. Restaurant on Moby Corse.

The same area as part of the 'A.O. Restaurant' on Moby Corse.

The same area from right aft.

'Le Cafe', seen from right aft with the children's play area on the left.

After the Moby refit - the play area has now disappeared.

After the Moby refit - the play area has now disappeared.

Moving forward, the ship's main circulation route is via the port-side arcade - seen from right aft with the old shopping centre to the right, this view is the on the Pont L’Abbé in 2007.

Moving forward, the ship's main circulation route is via the port-side arcade - seen from right aft with the old shopping centre to the right, this view is the on the Pont l'Abbé in 2007.

Moby have completely opened the arcade up - the shop has been demolished and a new pizzeria and seating area has been added together with a play area. A new, smaller, shop has been added forward.

Moby have completely opened the arcade up - the shop has been demolished and a pizzeria and seating area has been added together with a new, larger, play area. A new, smaller, shop has been added forward.

Looking aft from amidships in the arcade on the Pont L’Abbé.

Looking aft from amidships in the arcade on the Pont l'Abbé.

The new open-plan play area/pizzeria on the Moby Corse.

The new open-plan play area/pizzeria on the Moby Corse.

Wile E. Coyote at the ACME Pizzeria. Reviewing the Dana Anglia in 1978, the Naval Architect's reporter sourly commented that, 'Some of the 'murals' in the arcade give the impression that the possibility of graffiti has not been overlooked and replacement made cheap and simple'. One wonders what he would have made of the Moby Corse.

The compact new shop, just forward of the children's play area.

The compact new shop, just forward of the children's play area.

Towards the forward end of the arcade is the current Admiral Pub. Although the ship had a saloon with this name as built, that was a modern Danish space located amidships (where the forward part of the shop was as the Pont L’Abbé). When DFDS expanded the shopping facilities in the 1990s a new Admiral Pub was created in an area latterly occupied by a pair of small cinemas - but which had originally been a private dining room (to starboard) and a modernist children\'s play area (adjacent to the arcade). Depressingly kitsch, the new Admiral Pub survived through Brittany Ferries and into the Moby era - the entrance is seen here in 2007.

Towards the forward end of the arcade is the current Admiral Pub. Although the ship had a saloon with this name as built, that was a modern Danish space located amidships (where the forward part of the shop was as the Pont l'Abbé). When DFDS expanded the shopping facilities in the 1990s a new Admiral Pub was created in an area latterly occupied by a pair of small cinemas - but which had originally been a private dining room (to starboard) and a modernist children's play area (adjacent to the arcade). Depressingly kitsch, the new Admiral Pub survived through Brittany Ferries and into the Moby era - the entrance is seen here in 2007.

On the Moby Corse, Porky Pig guards the entrance but little else other than the carpet has changed.

On the Moby Corse, Porky Pig guards the entrance but little else other than the carpet has changed.

An overall view of the Admiral Pub on the Pont L’Abbé.

An overall view of the Admiral Pub on the Pont l'Abbé.

On the Moby Corse.

On the Moby Corse.

(Pont L’Abbé)

(Pont l'Abbé)

(Moby Corse)

(Moby Corse)

The original Admiral Pub on the Dana Anglia.

The original Admiral Pub on the Dana Anglia.

The Dana Anglia's original children's playroom - now the location of the current Admiral Pub.

The Dana Anglia's original children's playroom - now the location of the current Admiral Pub.

The arcade at its forward end, on the Pont L’Abbé in 2007.

The arcade at its forward end, on the Pont l'Abbé in 2007.

The same area on the Moby Corse.

The same area on the Moby Corse.

Throughout the ship's career the ship's main restaurant areas have been housed on the starboard side of the main passenger deck. As the Pont l'Abbé this became 'La Brasserie' serving a limited interpretation of the full Brittany Ferries menu - this image shows the lobby area adjacent to the entrance.

Throughout the ship's career the ship's main restaurant areas have been housed on the starboard side of the main passenger deck. As the Pont l'Abbé this became 'La Brasserie' serving a limited interpretation of the full Brittany Ferries menu - this image shows the lobby area adjacent to the entrance.

Moby have converted this into a large self-service restaurant and the lobby is seen here in its 2010 guise.

Moby have converted this into a large self-service restaurant and the lobby is seen here in its 2010 guise.

Just off the lobby is a further entranceway - a pay station on the Pont L’Abbé, as seen here.

Just off the lobby is a further entranceway - a pay station on the Pont l'Abbé, as seen here.

Today, passengers pay for food at the self service counter inside the restaurant, leaving the little entranceway in the care of Lola Bunny. Lola Bunny? Apparently she's been Bugs's "love interest" ever since the 1996 movie Space Jam.

Today, passengers pay for food at the self service counter inside the restaurant, leaving the little entranceway in the care of Lola Bunny. Lola Bunny? She's been Bugs's 'love interest' ever since the 1996 movie Space Jam. Is it indiscrete to note that Bugs Bunny is now 70 (human) years old whilst Lola looks around 16?

Looking forward in the restaurant on the Pont L’Abbé.

Looking forward in the restaurant on the Pont l'Abbé.

Moby's comprehensive refurbishment has seen the area modernised, with the dowdy DFDS-era decor completely replaced.

Moby's comprehensive refurbishment has seen the area modernised, with the dowdy DFDS-era decor completely replaced.

(Pont L’Abbé)

(Pont l'Abbé)

(Moby Corse)

(Moby Corse)

This inboard seating area on the Pont L’Abbé...

This inboard seating area on the Pont l'Abbé...

... is now the walk-through self-service servery.

... is now the walk-through self-service servery.

Looking forward on the Pont L’Abbé with the buffet counter to the left.

Looking forward on the Pont l'Abbé with the buffet counter to the left.

(Moby Corse)

A similar view on the Moby Corse.

Right forward was originally the earthily-decorated Bellevue Lounge (seen in as-built condition on the then-new Dana Anglia).

Right forward was originally the earthily-decorated Bellevue Lounge (seen in as-built condition on the then-new Dana Anglia).

Again the mid-life DFDS refit failed to do justice to this tricky space which has always somewhat suffered from a lack of headroom. It is seen here on the Pont L’Abbé, unchanged from her later Duke of Scandinavia days.

Again the mid-life DFDS refit failed to do justice to this tricky space which has always somewhat suffered from a lack of headroom. It is seen here on the Pont l'Abbé, unchanged from her later Duke of Scandinavia days.

The Moby refit has at least freshened things up a little; this remains a space best enjoyed during a night crossing.

The Moby refit has at least freshened things up a little; this remains a space best enjoyed during a night crossing.

Latterly with DFDS this became the Columbus Club and, as the Pont L’Abbé, retained its name whilst with Brittany Ferries.

Latterly with DFDS this became the Columbus Club and, as the Pont l'Abbé, retained its name whilst with Brittany Ferries.

(Moby Corse)

(Moby Corse)

As built the Dana Anglia had bar counters in three corners of the Bellevue Lounge - to ensure the swiftest table service for passengers. At-table service on the ship is now generally a thing of the past and the main bar area at the aft of the lounge suffices.

As built the Dana Anglia had bar counters in three corners of the Bellevue Lounge - to ensure the swiftest table service for passengers. At-table service on the ship is now generally a thing of the past and the main bar area at the aft of the lounge suffices.

Moving down a level, the current Deck 6 is the main cabin deck with the information desk and entrance hall amidships - seen here on the Pont L’Abbé.

Moving down a level, the current Deck 6 is the main cabin deck with the information desk and entrance hall amidships - seen here on the Pont l'Abbé.

On the Moby Corse, a gun-toting Yosemite Sam stands by as a wannabe bellboy.

On the Moby Corse, a gun-toting Yosemite Sam stands by as a wannabe bellboy.

The port-side seating area of the lobby on the Pont L’Abbé.

The port-side seating area of the lobby on the Pont l'Abbé.

This area has received a predictably Mobyesque makeover.

This area has received a predictably Mobyesque makeover.

The centreline alleyway on Deck 6 (Pont L’Abbé).

The centreline alleyway on Deck 6 (Pont l'Abbé).

(Moby Corse)

(Moby Corse)

Most of the ship's cabins have been thoroughly refurbished - such as this five berth (3+2) example.

Most of the ship's cabins have been thoroughly refurbished - such as this five berth (3+2) example.

The 'Sky Bar' on Deck 10, seen her on the Pont L’Abbé, was closed off on the Moby Corse.

Moving back upstairs, the 'Sky Bar' on Deck 10, seen here on the Pont l'Abbé, was closed off on the Moby Corse.

Outside deck - starboard side (Pont L’Abbé).

Outside deck - starboard side (Pont l'Abbé).

A coat of paint and a bit of sunshine makes all the difference (Moby Corse).

A coat of paint and a bit of sunshine makes all the difference (Moby Corse).

(Pont L’Abbé)

(Pont l'Abbé)

(Moby Corse)

(Moby Corse)

The area aft of the funnel on Deck 10...

The area aft of the funnel on Deck 10...

... now complete with kennels.

... now complete with kennels.

Aft on Deck 9, Pont L’Abbé - Le Drapeau Français.

Aft on Deck 9, Pont l'Abbé - Le Drapeau Français.

Moby Corse & Il Tricolore Italiano.

Moby Corse - Il Tricolore Italiano.

At some stage since she left Brittany Ferries service the Aalborg builders' plate, seen here on the Pont L’Abbé in 2008, has gone missing.

At some stage since she left Brittany Ferries service the Aalborg builders' plate, seen here on the Pont l'Abbé in 2008, has gone missing.

The Moby Corse at Livorno

After disembarkation, the Moby Corse at Livorno.

The Pont L’Abbé at Roscoff

The Pont l'Abbé at Roscoff.

What, then, to make of the Moby Corse? Although I was something of a fan of her retro virtues on the Roscoff route, to fully fit into any mainstream operator’s fleet the Pont l’Abbé was in need of a thorough refit. Moby Lines have given her just that and, whilst much of the decor is generic to other ships in the fleet, it is fair to say that the ship has been given a new lease of life. Whilst they have several modern ships, most of Moby’s ferries are older ships which are modernised and well maintained. As has been seen with the success of the Moby Fantasy on the Olbia-Civitavecchia route, the elderliness of Moby’s fleet is not necessarily the key factor by which passengers judge them. Instead, an astutely cultivated image together with a thoroughly modernised on board offering sees families flocking to the company throughout the intensive Summer months. The aggressive self-promotion, liveries and Looney Tunes might not appeal to everyone – but it has been key to Moby’s success. The new French venture meanwhile has opened up another front in the war with Corsica/Sardinia Ferries and, as the Moby Corse seems to have been a qualified success on her Toulon sailings, one wonders if there will be a second ship on the route for 2011, opening up the possibility of daily departures and a real foothold in the freight market.

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