Posts tagged: olbia

La Suprema

Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV), originally a project of the well-known Grimaldi shipowning dynasty, first entered the competitive trade on Italy’s west coast in 1993 with the delivery of the Majestic, a modern, relatively speedy and stylish new ferry with substantial freight decks delivered from the Nuovi Cantieri Apuania shipyard in the Tuscan town of Marina di Carrara.

Deployed between Palermo and Genoa, the ship made an instant impact and, over the next decade, GNV would receive a sequence of ever-larger and more immodestly named ships, almost all from the same shipyard and all of which showed a clear progression in style and scale from the previous generations: in sequence these were the Splendid, Fantastic, Excellent, Excelsior, La Superba and La Suprema.

The final pair were delivered in 2002 and 2003 and there it ended – GNV would later take a step down in terms of luxury and charter a series of fairly generic ro-pax ships which, had they been named in line with the previous policy, might have assumed such names as the Mediocre, or the Average. There were suggestions that the company had over-stretched themselves, particularly with the expensively-built La Superba and La Suprema, which had vast passenger capacities. In early 2008, the company appeared to have disposed of the pair, somewhat implausibly, to Vietnamese interests.

That this sale fell through can be considered fortunate for, whatever GNV’s financial discomfit, they have left Italian travellers with the biggest and best cruise ferries operating in Southern Europe. For the past few years the sisters have in peak season been operating out of Genoa, the ‘Superba’ alongside the Excellent on the lengthy original route to Palermo where together they can offer daily departures in each direction. The ‘Suprema’ meanwhile maintains a tightly-packed summer schedule involving daily return trips to Olbia on Sardinia – a route which is abandoned in winter.

After an evening watching the comings and goings in Olbia, in early September I joined the ‘Suprema’ for an overnight crossing to Genoa. The ship was predictably busy heading in this direction at this time of year with all cabins sold out, although the hundreds of empty reclining seats showed that she was some way off capacity. Directly competing sailings from the Moby Wonder and Tirrenia’s diminutive Domiziana presented quite starkly contrasting styles – the only thing which might attract a neutral traveller (especially one without children) on board the Moby ship over La Suprema might be her cabins, which share some aspects of best practice, through common design, with the upscale rooms on new or refurbished Stena ships. One can only observe in defence of the slow Domiziana that you would have the potential for a more leisurely night’s sleep compared to the nine hours total sailing time with GNV. Indeed the key to La Suprema’s timetable is her fast service speed of up to 28 knots which enables one round trip to be carried out in a 24 hour period.

On board, La Suprema not unexpectedly bears a strong familial resemblance to earlier GNV ships, most notably the most recent predecessor class of Excellent and Excelsior. Foot passengers board over a ramp on the port side, adjacent to the huge vehicle deck ramps, from where an escalator whisks one to the instantly impressive main lobby on Deck 6.

Looking aft to the reception desk in the marble-clad main lobby.

Looking aft to the reception desk in the marble-clad main lobby.

A view looking across to starboard. The passageway to the right leads to the ship's small chapel.

A view looking across to starboard showing one of the bespoke mosaic panels installed in the lobby. The passageway to the right leads to the ship's small chapel.

The chapel.

The chapel.

The reminder of Deck 6 is given over to passenger cabins – the ship has 567 cabins in total, including 31 suites and 6 ‘Presidential suites’. None of which were within the budget for me on this occasion, as I was travelling with a reclining seat, of which there are no less than 940 spread across the ship, including on Deck 9 in the large auditorium ostensibly designed for conference use but also in lounges on the two decks below and aft of the main lobby. The latter area also includes some dedicated facilities for truck drivers.

One of the lower reclining seat lounges - not one of the ship's most impressive spaces.

One of the lower reclining seat lounges - not one of the ship's most impressive spaces.

Aft staircase.

Aft staircase.

Moving upwards, Deck 7 contains the main eating areas on the ship with, aft and accessed from the upper level of the reception lobby, ‘Le Chevalier’ restaurant and, just forward, the ‘Mistral’ self service. Passenger flow heading forward, past the self service, is via a narrow port-side alleyway which also fronts a ‘convertible’ area of restaurant seating, named ‘Spaghetti’, which could be used as a separate restaurant if required but in practice just tends to be treated as part of the self service seating area. The food in the self service looked fine and the menu in the main restaurant very appetising; however my preferred option when sailing out of Olbia – if time permits – is to take a meal in the pizzeria atop the passenger terminal with its views over the ferry berths.

Forward of the restaurants is the open-plan ‘Victoria Cafe’ piano bar area, with casino (out of use), video games and boutique shops including the photo shop, where passengers can purchase the photographs taken of them as they boarded. This windowless area is not untypical of more recent Italian ferries, providing a busy walk-through space where passengers can sit, drink coffee, talk (loudly), see and be seen.

'La Chevalier' restaurant, aft on Deck 7.

'La Chevalier' restaurant, aft on Deck 7.

The port-side alleyway leading forward - the 'Spaghetti' seating area is behind the partition to right.

The port-side alleyway leading forward - the 'Spaghetti' seating area is behind the partition to right.

'Spaghetti' seating area, looking aft with the main self service to the left.

'Spaghetti' seating area, looking aft with the main self service to the left.

The main self service seating area.

The main self service seating area.

Self service food.

Self service food.

Heading forward again and at the aft end of the 'Victoria Cafe' area is the photo shop.

Heading forward again and at the aft end of the Victoria Cafe area is the photo shop.

An overall view looking forward of the 'Victoria Cafe'.

An overall view, looking forward, of the Victoria Cafe.

Another view looking aft in the 'Victoria Cafe'.

Another view looking aft in the Victoria Cafe.

Forward of the Victoria Cafe is perhaps the ship’s single most impressive feature, the four-deck high forward hallway, complete with a panoramic glass elevator and curving staircases which connect all of the main passenger decks and provide an easy link up to Deck 8 where the ‘Suprema’ show lounge is located.

Looking down to Deck 7 from Deck 9 in the forward atrium - the windows at the top belong to the Copacabana Cafe whilst the doorway at the bottom leads through to the Victoria Cafe.

Looking down to Deck 7 from Deck 9 in the forward atrium - the windows at the top belong to the Copacabana Cafe whilst the doorway at the bottom leads through to the Victoria Cafe.

The top of the atrium at Deck 10 level.

The top of the atrium at Deck 10 level.

Back on Deck 8, the forward ‘Suprema’ showlounge is the main entertainment venue, although the acts on display on this crossing were decidedly risqué for the mostly-family audience. Slightly tiered to give better views, the lounge remains open until late but was curiously devoid of passengers – perhaps everyone on this end of holiday overnight crossing just wanted to get an early night?

The remainder of Deck 8 is given over to cabins but just above (Deck 9) is an area set aside for conference use, but seemingly little-used for this purpose. The main space, over the centreline and to port, is a large auditorium which effectively serves as a huge reclining seat lounge. On the starboard side are a couple of smaller conference rooms also filled with reclining seats, and the traditional card room and library whilst, right forward, is a little-used observation lounge (‘La Terrazza’) .

The Suprema show lounge.

The Suprema show lounge.

The Suprema Lounge's bar area.

The Suprema Lounge's bar area.

'La Terrazza' bar-lounge, right forward on Deck 9.

'La Terrazza' bar-lounge, right forward on Deck 9.

The small card room.

The small card room.

A smaller conference room on the starboard side of Deck 9.

A smaller conference room on the starboard side of Deck 9.

The main 'Europa' conference/reclining seat room.

The main 'Europa' conference/reclining seat room.

The little-used forward stage area for use in conference mode.

The little-used forward stage area for use in conference mode.

Aft of the forward lobby area at this level is the ‘Copacabana Cafe’ with a children’s play area and beauty salon on its port side. Aft again is a large lido deck with swimming pool; a further deck area with jacuzzis and views over the stern can be found aft of the funnel. The outside decks were not in great condition, particularly in the areas designated for the use of passengers with dogs, whilst the jacuzzis did not seem to have seen use for quite some time.

The final passenger space is directly above the Copacabana cafe, on Deck 10; ‘La Dolce Vita’ nightclub remained closed throughout, as it had been on my last crossing on this ship in 2007.

Looking aft into the Copacabana Cafe.

Looking aft into the Copacabana Cafe.

Another view; behind the screens in the background are the beauty salon and childrens' play area.

Another view; behind the screens in the background are the beauty salon and childrens play area.

'Re Leone' play area.

'Re Leone' play area.

An overall view of the outside decks with the swimming pool and lido forward of the funnel and the 'Bikini Bar' at its base.

An overall view of the outside decks with the swimming pool and lido forward of the funnel and the 'Bikini Bar' at its base.

The builder's plate, located just outside the Copacabana Cafe.

The builder's plate, located just outside the Copacabana Cafe.

Dogs aren't allowed in all areas on board...

Dogs aren't allowed in all areas on board...

... but where they are welcome, the results are somewhat unpleasant.

... but where they are welcome, the results are somewhat unpleasant.

The aft deck area with covered-over jacuzzis.

The aft deck area with covered-over jacuzzis.

Looking forward on Deck 10 with 'La Dolce Vita' disco & nightclub to the left.

Looking forward on Deck 10 with 'La Dolce Vita' disco & nightclub to the left.

Inside 'La Dolce Vita'.

Inside 'La Dolce Vita'.

It is to be hoped that GNV can make La Suprema and La Superba pay as they are wonderful, big and bright ships, even in the slightly bedraggled, end-of-season state of the ‘Suprema’ on this occasion. GNV certainly work their ships fairly hard but, even at the very peak of the summer season, the ship’s passenger capacity seems to be too large and some areas appear to be nearly permanently closed-off. GNV, now in private equity hands, may therefore still be interested in a sale and, just in case those Vietnamese come calling again, it may be worthwhile to line up a trip on one or both of this impressive pair of ferries sooner rather than later.

La Suprema at Olbia.

The Great Ports: An evening in Olbia

Olbia, the primary port of Sardinia, features one of the greatest concentrations of large overnight ferries in Europe – alongside other Mediterranean megaports such as Piraeus, Genoa and, during rush hour, Igoumenitsa. Although Tirrenia continue to operate to both Civitavecchia (for Rome) and the longer overnight route to Genoa, it is the independent operators who are now the serious players: Moby use a fleet of (in the Summer) six passenger and two freight ships with schedules based on the port, offering departures to Civitavecchia, Livorno, Piombino and Genoa. Grandia Navi Veloci operate to Genoa and SNAV to Civitaecchia. Moby’s big rivals, Tourship, (Corsica-Sardinia Ferries) use the nearby port of Golfo Aranci for their own services to Civitavecchia and Livorno.

I spent an evening in Olbia on 2 September before a departure on GNV’s La Suprema to Genoa. The excellent restaurant in the terminal provides a great vantage point of the comings and goings but it is down on the quayside where the real buzz is. Whereas elsewhere in Italy little Mussolinis jump up and down ferociously citing spurious security concerns at the merest sight of a camera (the tragedy of the once-great port of Genoa being the worst example), in Olbia, where all traffic is domestic and mostly holidaymakers, things are much more relaxed and passenger-friendly. Pedestrians, with ticket or not, are permitted to come and go through an efficient security barrier which where bags are quickly scanned. Thus the principle of public access is retained and friends and family members can come onto the quayside to wave travellers off or welcome them home. And almost everyone is happily taking pictures, enjoying a uniquely nautical travel experience in a friendly atmosphere.

The veteran Costa Marina leaving Olbia - cruise ships berth at the main port amongst the ferries.

The veteran Costa Marina leaving Olbia - cruise ships berth at the main port amongst the ferries.

Moby Otta (ex-Tor Scandinavia) nears the port on her day sailing from Livorno.

Moby Otta (ex-Tor Scandinavia) nears the port on her day sailing from Livorno.

At the freight berths are the Strada Corsa (ex-Stena Transporter/Pride of Flanders) and the Massimo M (originally Fred. Olsen's Balduin and later Tor Neringa).

At the freight berths are the Strada Corsa (ex-Stena Transporter/Pride of Flanders) and the Massimo M (originally Fred. Olsen's Balduin and later Tor Neringa).

The lighthouse guarding the entrance to the port.

The lighthouse guarding the entrance to the port.

In port is the little Domiziana, still in Adriatica colours but now back operating for the parent company Tirrenia and offering a somewhat slow crossing to Genoa.

In port is the little Domiziana, still in Adriatica colours but now back operating for the parent company Tirrenia and offering a somewhat slow crossing to Genoa.

The Domiziana's funnel, still complete with the Venetian winged lion of Adriatica.

The Domiziana's funnel, still complete with the Venetian winged lion of Adriatica.

Strada Corsa - the ship now has Sardinia Ferries funnel colours after the acquisition of her operators by Tourship.

Strada Corsa - the ship now has Sardinia Ferries funnel colours after the acquisition of her operators by Tourship.

Massimo M - since being purchased by Moby in late 2009 she has been reuinted with her two sister ships which were already in the fleet.

Massimo M - since being purchased by Moby in late 2009 she has been reuinted with her two sister ships which were already in the fleet.

The Moby Otta turning in port.

The Moby Otta turning in port.

Three North Sea veterans - on the left is the SNAV Lazio, originally the Olau Britannia and newly arrived in port from Civitavecchia.

Three North Sea veterans - on the left is the SNAV Lazio, originally the Olau Britannia and newly arrived in port from Civitavecchia.

SNAV Lazio.

SNAV Lazio.

Moby Otta.

Moby Otta.

Seen arriving after a speedy day crossing from Genoa is La Suprema, one of Europe's largest and most impressive cruise ferries. W

Seen arriving after a speedy day crossing from Genoa is La Suprema, one of Europe's largest and most impressive cruise ferries.

We shall not linger too long with images of the Nuraghes, Tirrenia's Civitavecchia ship - suffice to say this modern (2004) ship was in predictably poor external condition.

We shall not linger too long with images of the Nuraghes, Tirrenia's Civitavecchia ship - suffice to say this modern (2004) ship was in predictably poor external condition.

La Suprema turning off the berth.

La Suprema turning off the berth.

There follow a series of remarkably unobstructed up-close images of La Suprema coming astern onto her berth. The number of Health & Safety violations the British authorities could come up with from these pictures doesn't bear thinking about.

There follow a series of remarkably unobstructed up-close images of La Suprema coming astern onto her berth. The number of Health & Safety violations the British authorities could come up with from these pictures doesn't bear thinking about.

SNAV Lazio (left) and La Suprema (right). Arriving in the background are the Moby pair Moby Aki (from Piombino) and the freighter Luigi Pa.

SNAV Lazio (left) and La Suprema (right). Arriving in the background are the Moby pair Moby Aki (from Piombino) and the freighter Luigi Pa.

The Moby Fantasy, loading for her overnight sailing to Civitavecchia - where she continues to fight above her weight despite being the smallest of all the competing passenger ferries operating to the port.

The Moby Fantasy, loading for her overnight sailing to Civitavecchia - where she continues to fight above her weight despite being the smallest of all the competing passenger ferries operating to the port.

Not an entirely full car deck for the market leader on this end of peak season crossing - her Civitavecchia rivals must have been even more empty.

Not an entirely full car deck for the market leader on this end of peak season crossing - her Civitavecchia rivals must have been even more empty.

The Moby Wonder, arriving from Civitavecchia, will later form the 2200 to Genoa. Along with her sister, the Moby Freedom, this ship has one of the most hectic schedules in Europe covering nightly Genoa-Olbia (or vice-versa) sailings with day time returns Genoa-Bastia-Genoa or Olbia-Civitavecchia-Olbia in between.

The Moby Wonder, arriving from Civitavecchia, will later form the 2200 to Genoa. Along with her sister, the Moby Freedom, this ship has one of the most hectic schedules in Europe covering nightly Genoa-Olbia (or vice-versa) sailings with day time returns Genoa-Bastia-Genoa or Olbia-Civitavecchia-Olbia in between.

SNAV Lazio, Domiziana and Moby Wonder.

SNAV Lazio, Domiziana and Moby Wonder.

The departure of the Domiziana - although the Strada Romana class have a certain appeal for the enthusiast, the ship's speed disadvantage compared to her rivals makes her operation on the Olbia-Genoa route difficult. Despite leaving an hour earlier than La Suprema and an hour and a half before the Moby Wonder she will not arrive in Genoa until 1000 (compared to the GNV ship's 0630 and Moby's 0730). Despite this, she was not entirely deserted - perhaps because her rivals were full.

The departure of the Domiziana - although the Strada Romana class have a certain appeal for the enthusiast, the ship's speed disadvantage compared to her rivals makes her operation on the Olbia-Genoa route difficult. Despite leaving an hour earlier than La Suprema and an hour and a half before the Moby Wonder she will not arrive in Genoa until 1000 (compared to the GNV ship's 0630 and Moby's 0730). Despite this, she was not entirely deserted - perhaps because her rivals were full.

Cars lining up to board La Suprema with the Nuraghes and the Moby Aki (waiting to leave for Livorno) in the background.

Cars lining up to board La Suprema with the Nuraghes and the Moby Aki (waiting to leave for Livorno) in the background.

Next – a voyage report on board La Suprema.

Picture of the week 21 April 2009 – Moby Otta & Bithia

Moby Otta (ex-Tor Scandinavia) passes Tirrenia's Bithia outside the port of Olbia. Click for larger image.

Moby Otta (ex-Tor Scandinavia) passes Tirrenia's Bithia outside the port of Olbia. Click for larger image.

Last week's picture

Last week's picture

Picture of the week – 24 February 2009

The SNAV Sardegna (ex-Pride of Le Havre, Olau Hollandia) arriving at Olbia, 12 September 2007 (click for larger image)

The SNAV Sardegna (ex-Pride of Le Havre, Olau Hollandia) arriving at Olbia, 12 September 2007 (click for larger image)


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Last week's picture

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