It was confirmed today that Brittany Ferries have acquired the Superfast V from Attica – for what purpose remains to be seen but the speculation is that the ship will be used to consolidate the company’s Spanish routes, particularly after the success of the Cotentin’s freight sailings to Santander.
It is undeniable that Brittany Ferries have acquired a splendid ship; for speedy freight sailings she will most likely be a success. On the passenger side, however, they need to be careful to use her specific capabilities to best effect. She is not, and should not be sold as, another Pont Aven. The ship has a notional passenger capacity of 1,600 of which 842 are berthed in cabins. The remainder in Superfast days have been accommodated partly in a pair of modestly-sized windowless reclining seat lounges, partly through staying in their caravans via ‘camping on board’ but mostly on deck. Given that, for Spanish service to all intents and purposes the capacity will have to be limited to not much more than 900. Even with that many aboard, the ship might feel busy when the weather isn’t good. The two outside bars, huge sheltered seating areas, lido area and promenades on two levels which effectively soak up the passenger loads in her current operations will prove of modest value in a Winter gale.
That said, and depending on what refit work BF carry out, the ship and her sister, with a light passenger load, can be delightful vessels. The layout is slightly eccentric at times – with servicing routed along the centreline, main deck circulation is via parallel alleyways which cut through the otherwise attractive Ã la carte and self service restaurants giving them something of a corridor feel. The forward bar is compromised by a large centrally located casino area. The piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance, the twin level aft bar, is not as impressive structurally as it might appear from outside – the decks are carried right aft so there is no actual mezzanine fronting the double-deck glass window. However there is a double height area with spiral staircase adjacent to the bar counter and in the evenings this bar becomes the focus of on board life. It is not, however, a show lounge in any sense.
What next for Superfast? The introduction of the two new ro-paxes Superfast I and Superfast II on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari run this year had released the Blue Horizon and Superfast XII. Whilst the future for the former is uncertain, the latter traded, with seemingly moderate success, between Piraeus and Heraklion this Summer, bringing Adriatic-style competition to the home island of ANEK and, moreover, the home port of Minoan. To maintain frequencies, the ‘XII’ could be brought back to the Adriatic as a direct replacement for the ‘V’. Conceding so soon on the Cretan route seems unlikely to me however. Instead my best bet is that the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona service will drop back to just two ships and the duplicate sailing three times a week is abandoned – it had always seemed a little lavish, more so now that Minoan have upped capacity with their new vessels. Unless there are further redeployments, those two Superfast ships will be the slightly mis-matched Superfast XI and ‘VI’. Maybe to even things up the ‘VI’ could be sent to Heraklion and the ‘XII’ back to the Adriatic alongside her sister?
Whatever happens, it is seems that the very best days of Superfast’s “cruise-paxes” are over. The new Bari ships, reliable freighters as they may be, lack the ambience even of the Blue Horizon. Whilst it is unlikely that the more tourist-oriented Ancona route would be well served by such vessels, the future for the whole operation must seem a little uncertain right now.
This Summer, I sailed on the Superfast V out of Ancona and the pictures which follow were taken on board. The ship was relatively quiet as it was ‘against the season’ as it were – in late August the traffic is predominantly northbound as North Europeans return home from their holidays. Watching her arrive and discharge however, it was clear that, inbound, she had a heavy load of freight, camper vans, cars and foot passengers.
The interior design of the Superfast V was by AMK.