Farewell Viking Voyager, Pride of Cherbourg, Banaderos, Barlovento, Samothraki

The Samothraki leaving Mytilene in July 2007.

The recent arrival of the Samothraki (ex-Viking Voyager) at Aliagia in Turkey for scrapping was perhaps not in itself a surprise but her demise, together with that a couple of years ago of her stretched sisters (the former Vikings Valiant and Venturer) leaves only the present Vitsentzos Kornaros (ex-Viking Viscount) of the quartet of ferries delivered to Townsend Thoresen in 1975/76 by Aalborg Vaerft in Denmark.

Somewhat surprisingly, the class has actually been out-survived by the generation of ships they were designed to replace – Thoresen’s original Viking trio of which two remain, only the pioneer Viking I having been dismantled, in 2008 after a legendary 44 year career. Her sister, the Viking II, later Earl William, now somewhat battered, survives in static use at Chaguaramas in Trinidad. The Viking III of 1965 meanwhile remains in service on one of Southern Europe’s more notorious ferry backwaters – the route between Brindisi in Southern Italy and Vlore in Albania.

The careers of these seven Vikings show just how the destinies of individual ships are affected by acts, if not quite of luck then certainly by events outside which the performance of an individual vessel can have a substantial impact. I last sailed on the Samothraki in 2007 and she was in perfectly good order and one would have bet on her running on her operations in the North Aegean for many years to come. The sudden and spectacular demise of her owners, SAOS Ferries, and the laying up of essentially their entire fleet in late 2008 saw her decline through neglect from serviceable flagship to unwanted scrapper.

Through whatever channels SAOS had managed to build up their network of subsidised routes, things came crashing down around the company and the Samothraki ended her days in Greece virtually abandoned in Alexandroupoli. One found it hard to imagine that this well-built and reliable ship would never operate again but the decay which sets in quickly in such circumstances evidently overtook her. The dismal state of the Greek economy meant local buyers with cash to invest were few and far between and it eventually became apparent that the ship’s future lay only at the scrapyard.

The Viking Voyager and Viking Viscount were originally delivered for operation on Townsend Thoresen’s Felixtowe-Zeebrugge service and they remained there until 1986 when, replaced by a pair of converted Stena Searunner class freighters, they moved West to operate from Portsmouth alongside their recently-stretched sisterships, the latter pair covering primarily the Le Havre run with the unstretched sisters operating to Cherbourg. Renamed Pride of Cherbourg in 1989, the ship was sold to Lineas Fred. Olsen for Canaries service in 1994, with her sister going to LANE Lines of Greece.

Fred. Olsen looked after the ship well, but after bearing the names Banaderos and Barlovento, she was replaced in 2005 and acquired by SAOS and renamed Samothraki, effectively replacing the former Vortigern in their fleet. In her initial summer season, still with a white hull, the ship could be found regularly in the Port of Piraeus, not too far from the berth of her sister. Thereafter however the Samothraki was focused on operations in the far northern Aegean, and by 2007 one could island hop around these relatively remote islands on the SAOS local fleet including the Samothraki, the Express Limnos (ex-Prins Philippe) and the rather less agreeable Panagia Soumela (ex-Lady of Mann) – a ship whose own final voyage to the scrapyard is imminent.

It is in this busy time, not long before the sudden end, that I will remember the ship. I made three sailings on her in the Summer of 2007 as we explored the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samothraki and Limnos and the onboard pictures below were taken during this period. Although in the late 1980s P&O subjected the original, quite funky, interiors to an overlayering of light wood veneers, pastel seating and conservative decor, the ship’s basic layout changed little over the years. She retained the bulk of that P&O-era look until the end, with a few Fred. Olsen tweaks here and there. As the Vitsentzos Kornaros, the ship’s sister operates with some minimal subdivision as a two class vessel but SAOS never tried to implement this on the Samothraki and passengers were given a free run of the ship.

Seen from the departing Panagia Soumela, the Samothraki at Kavala on July 18, 2007.

Seen from the departing Panagia Soumela, the Samothraki at Kavala on July 18, 2007.

Looking aft in the forward section of the main passenger deck, with the bar and seating areas.

Looking aft in the forward section of the main passenger deck, with the bar and seating areas.

A little further aft and here is the reception desk area with the old shops, little used in SAOS service, to starboard.

A little further aft and here is the reception desk area with the old shops, little used in SAOS service, to starboard.

The self service seating area, amidships on Deck 6 (originally C Deck).

The self service seating area, amidships on Deck 6 (originally C Deck).

On the starboard side, with a playroom now installed in the former drivers' area.

On the starboard side, with a playroom now installed in the former drivers' area.

Food doesn't seem to be served here very often...

Food doesn't seem to be served here very often...

Right aft, the former restaurant with its associated cocktail bar - an arrangement which, as built, was similar in concept to the forward Smörgåsbord restaurants of other 1970s ferries such as the Gustav Vasa, Nils Dacke, Prince of Fundy and Prins Oberon.

Right aft, the former restaurant with its associated cocktail bar - an arrangement which, as built, was similar in concept to the forward Smörgåsbord restaurants of other 1970s ferries such as the Gustav Vasa, Nils Dacke, Prince of Fundy and Prins Oberon.

Right aft.

Right aft.

Moving upstairs to Deck 7, forward was the former Club lounge, installed by P&O in what had originally been an area of cabins.

Moving upstairs to Deck 7, forward was the former Club Lounge, installed by P&O in what had originally been an area of cabins.

Up on Deck 8 were a pair of lounges, the forward of which is seen here. This originally housed an open area of couchettes but latterly was a reclining seat lounge with P&O.

Up on Deck 8 were a pair of lounges, the forward of which is seen here. This originally housed an open area of couchettes but latterly was a reclining seat lounge with P&O.

Heading aft again, this lounge was added to the ship early in her career and previously served as a cinema.

Heading aft again, this space was added to the ship early in her career and previously served as a cinema.

Looking over the ship's prow in the mainland port of Kavala.

Looking over the ship's prow in the mainland port of Kavala.

The forward outside deck area.

The forward outside deck area.

Aalborg builder's plate.

Aalborg builder's plate.

Starboard side promenade deck.

Starboard side promenade deck.

The view forward on Deck 9.

Astern on Deck 7.

Astern on Deck 7.

Foot passengers disembarking by the stairs aft, accessed via the upper vehicle deck.

Foot passengers disembarking by the stairs aft, accessed via the upper vehicle deck.

The demise of the Samothraki, the impending scrapping of the Romilda (ex-Free Enterprise VIII) and the abandonment in Vlore of the Veronica Line (ex-Free Enterprise V) leaves just the Vitsentzos Kornaros from Townsend Thoresen’s early/mid 1970s newbuild programme within easy reach. These ships, whilst in some ways less stylish and built nearer to the margins than their Sealink rivals, were and are representative of the market-dominating private ferry company of the age and helped lay the foundations for the ongoing strength of P&O today – albeit now shorn of both the Western Channel and Belgian routes that the Super Vikings were designed to operate.

Although her demise was prolonged, the end of operations for the Samothraki was rather sudden. And, whilst the Vitsentzos Kornaros has now operated reliably for ANEK-controlled LANE Lines for nearly as long as she sailed from the UK, the state of the Greek economy means that nothing is certain anymore. Indeed, LANE’s current three-year subsidy agreement (agreed in 2009) supposedly requires at some stage the replacement of the ‘VK’ – therefore anyone who wants to experience one of these James Ayers-designed ships really should try to sail on her sooner rather than later.

The Vitsentzos Kornaros in dry dock in Piraeus, November 2010.

The Vitsentzos Kornaros in dry dock in Piraeus, November 2010.

The Samothraki departs.

No Comments

  • By Giloine, August 22, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

    Very very sad news 🙁 🙁 🙁
    I rember the two supervikings in Cherbourg in the 80’s (and 90’s). My favourite ships ! with there original lines……. Those ships make me a ferry lover when i was young (Townsend Thoresen)
    I really miss her 🙁

    I have a project to realise models of the super vikings on her original line, but deckplans detailed are missinf.

    PS SORRY FOR MY POORE ANGLISH :/

  • By slinkydave, July 30, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

    yes indeed very sad to see the three other sisters now gone, i had many trips on all Super Vikings from Portsmouth as a child & later as an adult, but its very good to see the last of the Super Vikings still going strong & i think 1 day soon i will have to take a trip on her before its too late but she lookslike she is being maitained to a good standard & hopefully it will be a long time before she ends her days with her sisters, great article thanks for posting

  • By Mark P, September 22, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

    RIP Viking Voyager, and thanks for the great pics which brought back so many memories! I travelled many times on Viking Voyager and Viking Viscount on the Felixstowe-Zeebrugge route on family holidays in the 70s and 80s- the first in July 1976 when both were brand new- out on Viscount back on Voyager. Voyager was my favourite of the 2 because of a beautiful crossing in late July/early Aug 1980 on the 17.00 ex Zeebrugge on a glorious summer evening. My sister and I sat on top of the stairwell on the front deck on the approach to Felixstowe in the evening sun. You could do that in those days because TT didn’t give a toss about safety, and the view was great! I think they banned that practice after the Herald disaster. The pics of the self service canteen took me right back- we’d always have chicken and chips and a good English cuppa to mark the return from holiday before going out on deck to watch the arrival into Felixstowe. In 1982 I spent a night on Viscount in Felixstowe harbour- everybody got on the boat, settled down in their cabins and then the crew went on strike! We had to wait until morning before they would let us off, and all the cars had to reverse off the car deck. We drove to Dover and crossed to Calais on the Herald.
    Can anybody help with a question? My first ever Felixstowe-Zeebrugge crossing (and my first ever trip abroad) was in spring 1975 on a night sailing. The boat was delayed by 2 hours inbound because it had broken down and we had to sit in a smoky lounge. This would have been before the Super Vikings. So which ships operated the route then?

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