Posts tagged: 2010

That Was The Year That Was – 2010

The Vis (ex-Sydfyn) at Ubli in July. The ship has since been withdrawn from service.

The Vis (ex-Sydfyn) at Ubli in July. The ship has since been withdrawn from service.

In ferry terms, 2010 will perhaps be remembered as a year in which dozens of classic ships from Southern Europe were despatched for scrap. Over twenty ships on which I had sailed headed to the breakers during the past twelve months including some of my absolute favourites such as the former Senlac (Apollon), Mette Mols (Istra) and Svea (Ancona).

On the other hand there were relatively few significant new ferries introduced in 2010, as delivery rates slowed and shipyard orderbooks thinned out – the new Stena Hollandica and her sister proved to be the real highlight of the year in this respect. 2011 promises a little more and the arrival of P&O’s Spirit of Britain this month offers a first chance to see if that company can finally offer anything innovative, followed (definitely maybe) by LD Lines’ Norman Leader.

On a personal level, 75 ships were sailed on and two visited in port, whilst 33 nights were spent at sea. In an effort to make a final farewell to some of those doomed classics, the average age of ships sampled in 2010 was 22 years old compared to 17 in 2009 – and indeed nine of the 2010 ships have subsequently been withdrawn.

Based purely on subjective feelings on those 77 vessels, here are some bests and worsts of the year.

The Stena Hollandica at Hoek in November.

The Stena Hollandica at Hoek van Holland in November.

Best new ferry
Looking at ships delivered in 2009 or 2010 and new to me this year only one vessel really stands out – the new Stena Hollandica on the Harwich-Hoek route. Her sheer size marks her out but she also gives a useful indication of where Stena see the future – a ferry version of “the vision thing” from one of the industry’s leading operators with the deepest pockets. Relatively luxurious and expensively-finished accommodation above huge and flexible freight decks seems to be the answer for an operation which, as with many of Stena’s legacy routes, still has a strong passenger element.

There was not really much competition on the new ferry front – other recently-delivered ships sailed on in the past twelve months were Norfolkline’s Humber Viking (an interesting and efficient ro-ro), Wight Ryder I and II (awful), Minoan’s Cruise Europa (dysfunctional), Nova Ferries’ Phedra (pleasant enough) and Jadrolinija’s Jadran (generic).

The Habib leaving Genoa.

The Habib leaving Genoa.


Best classic ferry and favourite crossing
Four of us travelled between Tunis and Genoa on Tunisia Ferries’ 1978-built Habib in July and, looking back on the year, all agreed that the sailing on this ship was the highlight. Although it still seems uncertain, it is to be hoped that this beautiful ship of state will continue sailing in future years – despite her age, she seems in reliable mechanical condition and her largely original 1970s interiors with dozens of pieces of bespoke artwork are quite remarkable. The Habib is one of the all-time classic car ferries.

The oldest ship sailed on in 2010 was the local Lisbon ferry the Eborense of Transtejo e Soflusa, built in 1954 – whilst she is not and has no need to be a Habib, she is certainly a delightful little ship and, happily, looks set to be retained despite the delivery of new vessels.

The cross-river Lisbon ferry Eborense.

The cross-river Lisbon ferry Eborense.

A rainy day in Gdynia.

A rainy day in Gdynia.


Worst crossing
There was something indescribably horrific about sailing on the Stena Baltica (ex-Koningin Beatrix) between Karlskrona and Gdynia on a wet day crossing in June. This ship received a major conversion to drive-through loading with twin freight decks and a complete refurbishment of the passenger lounges just before Stena’s new enlightenment with regard to interior design. The new freight arrangements seemed to work well enough, but ten hours staring at shiny plastic laminate flooring, wipe-down surfaces and jarring decor would be enough to drive anyone to distraction, never mind the forgettable food and the depressing weather. Wherever she ends up next, hopefully the Stena Baltica will get some urgent attention to revive her passenger spaces which, whilst originally slightly spartan in places, were at least previously coherent and pleasant.

The Sveti Stefan II at Bar in Montenegro.

The Sveti Stefan II at Bar in Montenegro.

Worst maintained ship
No doubting the winner of this one – Montenegro Lines’ Sveti Stefan II (ex-Prinz Hamlet, Nieborow). Bruce has written a bit more about what was a rather sad and run-down vessel in a piece in which the pictures speak for themselves.

Not far behind in this particular race were Blu Navy’s Primrose (ex-Princesse Marie-Christine), Le Rif (ex-Galloway Princess) of Moroccan operator IMTC and P&O’s soon to be withdrawn Pride of Calais. The most dismal single passenger space I saw on a ship operating for a mainstream operator however was another ship near the end of her P&O career: on the Pride of Bilbao what was once the Flash Disco, later a ro-ro lounge, was in use as a smokers’ area with giant ashtrays, ripped sofa seating and fag ash ground into the carpet. Not a pretty sight.

P&O's premier cruise ferry.

P&O's premier cruise ferry.

Best food
At the heart of any great ferry trip lies a decent meal and one operator stood out above all others in 2010 – Unity Line’s Polonia and Skania both provided memorable fare in the restaurants on their route between Swinoujscie and Ystad.

On the downside the Polonia also offered the most unpleasant crew member of the year – a ‘bouncer’ at the entrance to the forward lounge whose main aim in life was to bar entry to anyone who had any luggage with them – including small rucksacks and handbags. Since one cannot get access to the restaurant without passing through this lounge, it was no surprise to find that we were the only diners. As the forward bar stayed empty, all the other passengers could be found cooped up in the rather unluxurious self-service.

Unity Line food - fish soup (Skania)...

Unity Line food - fish soup (Skania)...

... the lamb (Skania)...

... the lamb (Skania)...

... and apple pie for dessert (Polonia).

... and apple pie for dessert (Polonia).

Elsewhere on the food front, the kitchens on Tunisia Ferries’ Carthage rustled up a superb couscous served with lamb, the lunchtime smörgÃ¥sbord on Scandlines’ Hamlet was low in cost and high in quality, SNCM’s Napoleon Bonaparte offered an unexpectedly good buffet whilst the excellent food in the restaurant of Fastnet Line’s Julia almost made up for the somewhat run-down nature of the rest of the ship.

Lunch on the Carthage.

Lunch on the Carthage.

Worst food
Alas, the Sveti Stefan II strikes again; in her restaurant all the main courses arrived still box-shaped.

The restaurant on the Sveti Stefan II.

The restaurant on the Sveti Stefan II.

Forward stairwell on the Eritokritos T.

Forward stairwell on the Eritokritos T.


Best Jap
Former Japanese ferries in Southern Europe continue to receive, perhaps not unsuprisingly, scant attention from north European enthusiasts, but there are some very interesting vessels worthy of attention. In the past couple of years I have mentioned two superbly-converted ships – the Ariadne and the Elyros – but in many respects even more engaging are those which retain elements of their original Japanese design. Japanese ferries have evolved a quite distinct look both inside and out compared to their European counterparts and the Eritokritos T (which has now sailed for scrap) and her sister the Lato showed how intriguing and attractive surviving elements of this can be in the passenger spaces.

That said, although both the Erotokritos T and the Lato had some interesting bits and pieces, probably the most impressive Japanese-built ferry of 2010 was Agoudimos Lines’ Ionian King. Whilst obviously very similar to her sister (Endeavor’s Ionian Queen), this ship has been slightly more impressively reconditioned. A trip on either vessel is to be recommended – they are probably the best ships sailing out of Southern Adriatic Italian ports today. If budgets permit, travelling in one of the super-luxury ‘Emperor’ suites would be the best way to travel.

The Lido deck on the Ionian King.

The Lido deck on the Ionian King.

Lastly, NEL Line’s chartered European Express (ex-Takachiho Maru) wins the award for most laudable onboard signage.

On board the European Express.

On board the European Express.

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