In 2006 Brittany Ferries somewhat unexpectedly chartered the long-serving Duke of Scandinavia (ex-Dana Anglia) from DFDS with Brittany’s Val de Loire heading in the opposite direction. With minimal refurbishment, the ‘Duke’ was put into service as the Pont l’AbbÃ© between Roscoff and Plymouth – she was later purchased but the 2009 arrival of the purpose-built Armorique saw her displaced on the Roscoff run. The economic downturn and a strategic rethink meant that plans for a significant refurbishment and long-term future for the ship with the company were aborted and, unwanted, she was despatched to Saint Nazaire where she laid up for over a year.
The Dana Anglia looking her smartest - in original DFDS livery.
The Pont Lâ€™AbbÃ©
Down in the Mediterranean, the islands of Corsica and Sardinia are fiercely competitive ferry battlegrounds with legacy operators SNCM and Tirrenia to a great degree nowadays outmuscled by acquisitive and efficient companies such as Moby Lines, Grandi Navi Veloci and Corsica/Sardinia Ferries. The latter is the dominant force on the France-Corsica routes but Moby is stronger in operations to Sardinia – whilst it has long-standing routes from Italy to the Corsican port of Bastia the company has never been able to make its presence felt on services from France. Determined to break into this market, Moby announced in 2008 that they would be launching a new service from Nice in France to Bastia to begin the following year.
In the end, no service was forthcoming for 2009, but in November of that year, it was revealed that the Pont l’AbbÃ© had been acquired to enable the operation to finally start in 2010 â€“ although by this stage the mainland port had been switched to Toulon. Competing directly against Corsica Ferriesâ€™ established and popular operations, the Pont l’AbbÃ© was brought round to Naples where she underwent a fairly thorough refit, emerging as the Moby Corse.
The Moby Corse.
In addition to providing overnight sailings every other night from either end, the ship was scheduled, when in Bastia, to make a day time round trip from there to Livorno on the Italian mainland â€“ essentially repeating some of the sailings made by the Maria Grazia On. in her Summer stint in 2009 and supplementing the core Livorno sailings of the Moby Vincent. Alas, the work on the â€˜Corseâ€™ was delayed and so the companyâ€™s newest build, the Moby Aki, was briefly deployed for a few weeks instead before the â€˜Corseâ€™ finally made it into service in mid May.
This Summer we joined the Moby Corse on a day sailing to Livorno. Almost all areas on board have seen some attention, although the Admiral Pub remains essentially untouched, now being a standard Moby feature ever since its arrival with the former Tor Line sisters Moby Drea and Moby Otta (ex-Prince and Princess of Scandinavia) â€“ indeed other ships such as the Moby Tommy have been retrofitted with this facility. Presented below are a few â€˜before and afterâ€™ shots, along with a couple of images from the Dana Anglia in her smart original guise, long since ripped out in a somewhat misguided DFDS 1990s refit.
Dana Anglia 1978 Main Deck GA Plan
Dana Anglia 1990 Deckplan
Pont l’AbbÃ© 2007 Deckplan
Boarding the Moby Corse in Bastia.
Boarding for foot passengers is via the car deck.
Heading straight up to the main passenger deck, Deck 7, right aft in the ship's Brittany Ferries days was the somewhat unsatisfactory 'Le Cafe', as pictured in 2007. Metal chairs, hardwearing flooring and a rather industrial feel made the port section in particular an uninviting location for anything other than a brief snack. Originally this space was the Scandia Coffee Shop (to starboard) and the Compass Club discotheque (to port).
Under Moby, although the port side still serves as a snack bar, to starboard an all-new waiter-service restaurant has been added; the 'A.O. Restaurant' (visible in the background) is named in honour of the company's founder Achille Onorato.
'Le Cafe' servery on Pont l'AbbÃ© in 2007.
The same area aboard the Moby Corse.
Another 2008 image - the entrance to the reclining seat lounges and cinema can be seen to the left (astern). These have been left unchanged by Moby although the cinema is not generally in use.
The same area on Moby Corse.
The starboard side of 'Le Cafe' in 2008.
The same area as part of the 'A.O. Restaurant' on Moby Corse.
'Le Cafe', seen from right aft with the children's play area on the left.
After the Moby refit - the play area has now disappeared.
Moving forward, the ship's main circulation route is via the port-side arcade - seen from right aft with the old shopping centre to the right, this view is the on the Pont l'AbbÃ© in 2007.
Moby have completely opened the arcade up - the shop has been demolished and a pizzeria and seating area has been added together with a new, larger, play area. A new, smaller, shop has been added forward.
Looking aft from amidships in the arcade on the Pont l'AbbÃ©.
The new open-plan play area/pizzeria on the Moby Corse.
Wile E. Coyote at the ACME Pizzeria. Reviewing the Dana Anglia in 1978, the Naval Architect's reporter sourly commented that, 'Some of the 'murals' in the arcade give the impression that the possibility of graffiti has not been overlooked and replacement made cheap and simple'. One wonders what he would have made of the Moby Corse.
The compact new shop, just forward of the children's play area.
Towards the forward end of the arcade is the current Admiral Pub. Although the ship had a saloon with this name as built, that was a modern Danish space located amidships (where the forward part of the shop was as the Pont l'AbbÃ©). When DFDS expanded the shopping facilities in the 1990s a new Admiral Pub was created in an area latterly occupied by a pair of small cinemas - but which had originally been a private dining room (to starboard) and a modernist children's play area (adjacent to the arcade). Depressingly kitsch, the new Admiral Pub survived through Brittany Ferries and into the Moby era - the entrance is seen here in 2007.
On the Moby Corse, Porky Pig guards the entrance but little else other than the carpet has changed.
An overall view of the Admiral Pub on the Pont l'AbbÃ©.
On the Moby Corse.
The original Admiral Pub on the Dana Anglia.
The Dana Anglia's original children's playroom - now the location of the current Admiral Pub.
The arcade at its forward end, on the Pont l'AbbÃ© in 2007.
The same area on the Moby Corse.
Throughout the ship's career the ship's main restaurant areas have been housed on the starboard side of the main passenger deck. As the Pont l'AbbÃ© this became 'La Brasserie' serving a limited interpretation of the full Brittany Ferries menu - this image shows the lobby area adjacent to the entrance.
Moby have converted this into a large self-service restaurant and the lobby is seen here in its 2010 guise.
Just off the lobby is a further entranceway - a pay station on the Pont l'AbbÃ©, as seen here.
Today, passengers pay for food at the self service counter inside the restaurant, leaving the little entranceway in the care of Lola Bunny. Lola Bunny? She's been Bugs's 'love interest' ever since the 1996 movie Space Jam. Is it indiscrete to note that Bugs Bunny is now 70 (human) years old whilst Lola looks around 16?
Looking forward in the restaurant on the Pont l'AbbÃ©.
Moby's comprehensive refurbishment has seen the area modernised, with the dowdy DFDS-era decor completely replaced.
This inboard seating area on the Pont l'AbbÃ©...
... is now the walk-through self-service servery.
Looking forward on the Pont l'AbbÃ© with the buffet counter to the left.
A similar view on the Moby Corse.
Right forward was originally the earthily-decorated Bellevue Lounge (seen in as-built condition on the then-new Dana Anglia).
Again the mid-life DFDS refit failed to do justice to this tricky space which has always somewhat suffered from a lack of headroom. It is seen here on the Pont l'AbbÃ©, unchanged from her later Duke of Scandinavia days.
The Moby refit has at least freshened things up a little; this remains a space best enjoyed during a night crossing.
Latterly with DFDS this became the Columbus Club and, as the Pont l'AbbÃ©, retained its name whilst with Brittany Ferries.
As built the Dana Anglia had bar counters in three corners of the Bellevue Lounge - to ensure the swiftest table service for passengers. At-table service on the ship is now generally a thing of the past and the main bar area at the aft of the lounge suffices.
Moving down a level, the current Deck 6 is the main cabin deck with the information desk and entrance hall amidships - seen here on the Pont l'AbbÃ©.
On the Moby Corse, a gun-toting Yosemite Sam stands by as a wannabe bellboy.
The port-side seating area of the lobby on the Pont l'AbbÃ©.
This area has received a predictably Mobyesque makeover.
The centreline alleyway on Deck 6 (Pont l'AbbÃ©).
Most of the ship's cabins have been thoroughly refurbished - such as this five berth (3+2) example.
Moving back upstairs, the 'Sky Bar' on Deck 10, seen here on the Pont l'AbbÃ©, was closed off on the Moby Corse.
Outside deck - starboard side (Pont l'AbbÃ©).
A coat of paint and a bit of sunshine makes all the difference (Moby Corse).
The area aft of the funnel on Deck 10...
... now complete with kennels.
Aft on Deck 9, Pont l'AbbÃ© - Le Drapeau FranÃ§ais.
Moby Corse - Il Tricolore Italiano.
At some stage since she left Brittany Ferries service the Aalborg builders' plate, seen here on the Pont l'AbbÃ© in 2008, has gone missing.
After disembarkation, the Moby Corse at Livorno.
The Pont l'AbbÃ© at Roscoff.
What, then, to make of the Moby Corse? Although I was something of a fan of her retro virtues on the Roscoff route, to fully fit into any mainstream operator’s fleet the Pont l’AbbÃ© was in need of a thorough refit. Moby Lines have given her just that and, whilst much of the decor is generic to other ships in the fleet, it is fair to say that the ship has been given a new lease of life. Whilst they have several modern ships, most of Moby’s ferries are older ships which are modernised and well maintained. As has been seen with the success of the Moby Fantasy on the Olbia-Civitavecchia route, the elderliness of Moby’s fleet is not necessarily the key factor by which passengers judge them. Instead, an astutely cultivated image together with a thoroughly modernised on board offering sees families flocking to the company throughout the intensive Summer months. The aggressive self-promotion, liveries and Looney Tunes might not appeal to everyone – but it has been key to Moby’s success. The new French venture meanwhile has opened up another front in the war with Corsica/Sardinia Ferries and, as the Moby Corse seems to have been a qualified success on her Toulon sailings, one wonders if there will be a second ship on the route for 2011, opening up the possibility of daily departures and a real foothold in the freight market.