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The Seafrance Manet in Belfast before being renamed.
All 2009 & Stena Navigator images courtesy & Â© Scott Mackey
The Seafrance Manet at Calais, September 2002.
Less than twelve months ago the newly refurbished Stena Caledonia re-entered service on Stena Line’s Stranraer-Belfast service, operating in tandem with the HSS Stena Voyager. This appeared to be part of a move to re-establish the conventional ferry operation at the expense of the costly HSS, but the acquisition of the 1984-built Seafrance Manet in July to become the route’s second conventional ship was still slightly surprising. Since the sale of the Stena Galloway in 2002, the ‘Caledonia’ had soldiered on alone in support of the ‘Voyager’ which dominated passenger traffic. Whilst freight could and is carried to a degree on the fast craft, before her refit this seemed to be the main role of the former St David. That said, P&O up the coast at Cairnryan and Larne however had achieved a near two-to-one dominance in this market which would have been unthinkable twenty years ago.
The Seafrance Manet was duly repainted in full Stena colours in Dunkerque, sailed to Belfast and formally renamed Stena Navigator; a comprehensive internal refit followed. This is not however the ship’s first time operating for Stena – completed for SNCF-Sealink’s Dover Straits operations in 1984 as the Champs Ã‰lysÃ©es she was transferred to the Dieppe-Newhaven route in 1990 and, when SNCF’s successors SNAT finally ran out of patience and closed the operation in 1992, the ship passed under charter to Sealink Stena Line under whose guidance the Dieppe link saw a brief resurgence. As the Stena Parisien, latterly in full Stena Line livery, the ship stayed at Dieppe until the end of 1996 when she was returned to her owners, by now Seafrance. She received a complete refit, acquired the name Seafrance Manet and saw a further eleven years service, latterly in a freight only mode, before finally retiring from Seafrance’s active fleet in April 2008. Thereafter she was laid up at Calais and then Dunkerque.
The CÃ´te d'Azur (left) and the Champs Ã‰lysÃ©es in Dover harbour in the mid-1980s.
Stena’s interest in the ship is doubtless due to her size – the tight requirements of Stranraer limit the vessels which can berth there and, with the port’s future uncertain, ‘Stranraer-max’ newbuilds are out of the question. It does not therefore seem likely that this will be a truly long-term purchase, but the ship is still slightly more modern and more capacious from both a passenger and a freight perspective than the Stena Caledonia so she may yet outlast her Belfast-built partner.
Scott Mackey was on board the ‘Navigator’ during her maiden crossing from Belfast to Stranraer on 12 November and has sent a selection of on board photographs. Paired with equivalent images from the ship during her Seafrance Manet days, it is clear that the refurbishment has been comprehensive – although the change is perhaps not as overwhelming as was the case on the Stena Caledonia, it is still perhaps the largest interior upgrade the ship has had in her 25 year career, erasing almost all trace of the three previous thorough refits by SNCF (1990), Stena (1992) and Seafrance (1996).
The interior designers for the Stena Navigator refurbishment were, once again, Figura and the project was managed by MJM Marine.
The Stena Navigator in full Stena livery, late October 2009.
Click above for Champs Ã‰lysÃ©es (1986) and Seafrance Manet (2002) deckplans and below for a Stena Navigator plan.
The main vehicle deck on the Seafrance Manet (Seafrance image)
Looking forward on the upper vehicle deck (Seafrance Manet, December 2005)
The same area on the Stena Navigator. In this image the ramp connecting the two vehicle decks is visible - this was installed prior to the ship's transfer to the Dieppe service in 1990.
Looking aft on the upper vehicle deck.
As with her half sister (the former CÃ´te d'Azur, now Seafrance Renoir), the Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es had side lounges on either side at mezzanine level on the upper vehicle deck. This was filled with reclining seats for use on the Dieppe service but was closed off under Seafrance. The starboard lounge is seen here (through a locked door!) on the 'Manet' in May 2000.
On the 'Navigator' this area, pictured, is now a truckers' lounge. A similar space on the port side, aft, has become the truckers' restaurant.
Moving upstairs, on Deck 7 aft is the new 'Met Restaurant'. Although latterly and originally a self service, when the ship was with Stena the first time around, this area was the Monet Restaurant, with the self service on Deck 8.
Looking across to starboard in the aft section of the self service ('Le Relais') - Seafrance Manet, December 2005.
The same area today.
Looking aft on the starboard side (January 2003).
Looking aft on the starboard side (November 2009).
Moving forward this view is of the aft lobby, looking across to port, on the 'Manet' in August 2004.
The same area today, this time seen from the port side with the entrance to the new children's play area visible.
Running up the centre line of the ship on Deck 7 for the ship's entire English Channel career was the shopping centre (seen from astern in December 2004).
This has now been split into four, with a new children's play area (aft), a smaller shop (forward) and two cinemas in between. This is a view of the former, taken from the same angle as the shop picture above.
One of the two new cinemas.
The remaining shop area on the 'Navigator'.
On either side of the shop, amidships, were a pair of almost classic-style seating lounges. The starboard-side of the pair is seen here in April 2004.
The same area today.
The forward lobby on the Seafrance Manet, looking across to port, with reception desk (nearest), bureau de change (far side) and entrance to the shop in between.
The same area in November 2009, with a new 'Guest Services' counter. An internet station has replaced the bureau de change.
Forward on the ship, as built, was the Bar Ã‰toile. It's function as the primary bar on board was consistent through subsequent guises as Bar Saint-Michel (Sealink/Stena) and 'Le Pub' (Seafrance - photographed August 2004).
Another view of 'Le Pub', December 2005.
On the Stena Navigator this area has become the Barista Coffee House.
The forward part of 'Le Pub'.
Looking aft towards the bar counter, March 2001.
A similar view on the Stena Navigator.
The forward stairwell, seen from Deck 8 in December 2002. This originally featured one of a pair of Parisien scenes by the artist HervÃ© Loilier commissioned for the ship by SNCF but latterly was adorned by this copy of Manet's painting, 'Argenteuil'.
On the Stena Navigator this has been replaced by a sign promoting the Sports Bar (forward on Deck 8).
The Deck 8 forward lobby at the head of the stairwell, seen in April 2004. To the right (aft) the video games area retained the former Stena 'Video Warp' branding throughout the Seafrance era.
The video games space is now 'Teen Town'.
To port off the forward lobby under Seafrance was 'Playzone Le Cirque'. With a new play area downstairs, this has been closed off on the Navigator.
As built the forward saloon on Deck 8 was a 'Buffet Express' but this soon became a wine bar with a slightly clichÃ©d choice of decor (as pictured in the late 1980s - note the oddly out of place fixed seating from the area's original incarnation).
In the Dieppe days this space became the self service Cafe Champs-ElysÃ©es. With Seafrance (as pictured in April 2004), it was La Brasserie Bar with a waiter-service restaurant area at the forward end.
Stena have completely refurbished this area and it is now a Sports Bar.
The forward restaurant part of La Brasserie, December 2004.
The bar counter in the Sports Bar on the Stena Navigator.
The ship's builders' plate survived in one of the lobby areas into the Seafrance era - it is seen here in May 2000.
The aft stairwell on the Champs Ã‰lysÃ©es featured the second of the HervÃ© Loilier paintings, a street scene of the ship's namesake Parisien avenue. Unlike the matching painting in the forward stairwell, this survived throughout the ship's English Channel service.
The replacement on the Stena Navigator, outside what is now Stena Plus, is quite a contrast to its predecessor!
The Deck 8 aft lounge was originally the dark and subdued Bar Concorde. Under Sealink Stena this became the Bar Pigalle and with Seafrance the Parisien Cafe (as pictured, January 2003).
The same area is now Stena Plus.
Looking across to port in La Parisien.
An overall view of the new Stena Plus lounge.
Le Parisien, August 2004.
A corner of Stena Plus, November 2009.
Deck 8 aft, December 2005.
Thanks again to Scott Mackey for the Stena Navigator pictures, and to Richard Seville for some background details on the Stena Parisien’s Dieppe-era layout.