Posts tagged: carthage

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.

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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