Posts tagged: patras

Remembering the Egnatia III

Hellenic Mediterranean Lines were probably the most famous Greek ferry company, well-known initially for fairly exotic liner service and latterly for decades of transporting backpackers on Inter-rail tickets from Italy to Greece. By the early 1990s, HML was operating a grand fleet of veteran car ferries, but their early entries into this market were more impressive, taking delivery of the brand-new Egnatia in 1960, the Adriatic’s first purpose-built overnight car ferry. Then, in the 1970s, they ordered two exceptional new ships, the car ferry Castalia and the pure cruise ship Aquarius. The future seemed secure but this was to be high water mark for the company and, although the fleet expanded through the 1980s, the market changed and they failed to follow it.

HML's 2003 brochure.

HML's 2003 brochure.

By 2003, the company was reduced to just two ferries – the Egnatia III and the veteran Poseidonia. The latter, once the Belfast Steamship Company’s (later P&O Ferries’) Ulster Queen was by then far too small, chronically outdated and much too slow. The Egnatia III, although built only six years later, in 1973, was another matter entirely. Originally the Stena Scandinavica she was one of Stena’s famous four from Yugoslavia, where Sten Olsson, by repute looking to build a pair of vessels, found he could get them built for half the price of a North European yard. So he ordered four instead – two for the Gothenburg-Frederikshavn route (ships which later became the Bluenose and the Versailles/Seafrance Monet) and two for Gothenburg-Kiel (later the Scotia Prince and Irish Continental Lines’ Saint Killian II). It was the Saint Killian II, lengthened by 30m in 1981, which finally found its way to HML, her Irish career drawing to a close after her owners rejuvenated their French operations with the acquisition of the Normandy in 1998. The ship spent almost five years laid up in a deteriorating state before HML revived her and introduced her on the classic backpacker route from Brindisi to Patras via Igoumenitsa, and, on some crossings, Corfu, Kefalonia, Paxos and Zakynthos.

Stena's 1970s Yugoslavian quartet.

Stena's 1970s Yugoslavian quartet.

The ICL years

The early ICL days

A view of the ship after her lengthening in 1981.

A view of the ship after her lengthening in 1981.

HML’s new, and final, flagship operated for the company for just one season, the summer of 2003, and I joined her for a sailing in July of that year which left Brindisi at 8pm and, after calls at Igoumenitsa and Kefalonia made it to Patras at 1.30pm the following day. We arrived in Brindisi on the high speed train from Ortona and, having wandered down the Corso Roma to the harbour, were faced across the harbour with the magnificent sight of the Derin Deniz, once B&I’s Innisfallen, which was in her final role sailing to Turkey.

The Derin Deniz.

The Derin Deniz.

The Derin Deniz was not alone in port: whilst in the summer of 2013, only a couple of operators could be found running from Brindisi, on the day of our sailing aboard the Egnatia III twelve ferries were scattered around the port – ten of which were in service, each representing a different ferry line. Only one of those ten operators exists any more, and even they, Agoudimos Lines, are nearing the end. All but one of the twelve ships has been scrapped, the sole exception being the fast passenger ferry Santa Eleonora, today the Ponza Jet. Just as depressing as that ferry roll of doom is the decline of the port of Brindisi – once one of the key hubs of the Adriatic ferry market it is today a peripheral, half-forgotten player.

The Santa Eleonora arriving from Greece.

The Santa Eleonora arriving from Greece.

HML finally succumbed just a year later – the superficial promise of the 2003 season was followed by a quite disastrous 2004. The Egnatia III was chartered out to Algeria Ferries but core operations back at home, which were to have been left in the hands of the Poseidonia, never properly materialised. The little ship stayed alongside in Keratsini through the summer, with a last-minute charter of the old Japanese ferry Arielle being organised instead, giving that vessel the somewhat unlikely honour of operating HML’s last sailings. The Poseidonia, sold to Saudi Arabian interests, soon found herself sunk near Sharm el-Sheikh. The Egnatia III lay at anchor in Elefsis bay for a couple of years but was finally scrapped in India in 2007, bringing to an ignominious close the story of Greece’s most famous coastal shipping operator. The company’s old website persisted for many years and a version still does, now appropriated by a ferry booking engine but still with images of the Egnatia III. So well known was the HML name that the company’s Italian agent later licensed its use on brochures of operators such as GA Ferries and Endeavor Lines. To this day, a giant builder’s model of the original Egnatia can be found in the window of their offices on the Corso Roma.

A decade after our sailing, I found myself flicking through the many pictures taken on that trip and share them below. They aren’t quite of the standard I’d expect to take today, but they capture the final, optimistic but ultimately damned flourish of the great Hellenic Mediterranean Lines and are witness to the closing days an entirely lost era of ferry travel.

HML ticket.

HML ticket.

Walking over to our ship at Brindisi's Costa Morena port, we passed by Fragline's Ouranos (ex-Tor Hollandia of 1967). She was finally scrapped in 2010.

Walking over to our ship at Brindisi's Costa Morena port, we passed by Fragline's Ouranos (ex-Tor Hollandia of 1967). She was finally scrapped in 2010.

Employed by Access Ferries in sailings to Turkey was the Hermes V. Originally TT Lines' second Nils Holgersson of 1967, she was sold for scrap just one month after this picture was taken.

Employed by Access Ferries in sailings to Turkey was the Hermes V. Originally TT Lines' second Nils Holgersson of 1967, she was sold for scrap just one month after this picture was taken.

The Egnatia II at Brindisi later on in July 2003 with the little Poseidonia beyond.

The Egnatia II at Brindisi later on in July 2003 with the little Poseidonia beyond.

Boarding the Egnatia III.

Boarding the Egnatia III.

Egnatia III deckplan

Egnatia III deckplan

The main lobby on Deck 5, the primary cabin deck. This outstanding space retained its original marble-fronted reception desk and ornate staircase balustrades.

The main lobby on Deck 5, the primary cabin deck. This outstanding space retained its original marble-fronted reception desk and ornate staircase balustrades.

Another view, from the starboard side, showing more of the main staircase.

Another view, from the starboard side, showing more of the main staircase.

The doors to the telephone booths in the lobby retained their embossed Stena 'S's.

The doors to the telephone booths in the lobby retained their embossed Stena 'S's.

Moving up to Deck 6, right aft we find a forgettable reclining seat lounge. This was originally an area of cabins.

Moving up to Deck 6, right aft we find a forgettable reclining seat lounge. This was originally an area of cabins.

Moving forward, this is the self-service restaurant, structurally little changed from its original incarnation.

Moving forward, this is the self-service restaurant, structurally little changed from its original incarnation.

Cafeteria servery.

Cafeteria servery.

Moving forward, seen here is the long port-side arcade which passed by the shop and the main restaurant areas.

Here is the long port-side arcade which passed by the shop and the main restaurant areas.

Shared entrance to the Aquarius Restaurant and The Ships Buffet - more theoretically than actually separate, these were installed in the area of the 1981 stretch.

The shared entrance to the Aquarius Restaurant and The Ships Buffet - more theoretically than actually separate, these were installed in the area of the 1981 stretch.

The Aquarius Restaurant was named in honour of the company's 1970s cruise ship and was complete with this magnificent builder's model of that vessel.

The Aquarius Restaurant was named in honour of the company's 1970s cruise ship and was complete with this magnificent builder's model of that vessel.

Overall view of The Ships Buffet.

Overall view of The Ships Buffet.

Casino area, just forward of the restaurants on the starboard side.

Casino area, just forward of the restaurants on the starboard side. This was nominally called 'The Lydia Casino' after the ex-Koningin Fabiola which operated for HML for a decade from 1985.

Moving forward again, inboard of the port arcade could be found the Corinthia Lounge. Before the ship was stretched, this area was the main restaurant but in its final guise it was named for the former Sealink Duke of Argyll which sailed as the Corinthia for HML in the 1980s and 1990s. The naming of this bar gave the company scope to re-use the bespoke bar menu covers bearing the Corinthia name which had presumably been in storage since her sale in 1994.

Moving forward again, inboard of the port arcade could be found the Corinthia Lounge. Before the ship was stretched, this area was the main restaurant but in its final guise it was named for the former Sealink Duke of Argyll which sailed as the Corinthia for HML in the 1980s and 1990s. The naming of this area gave the company scope to re-use the bespoke bar menu covers bearing the Corinthia name which had presumably been in storage since her sale in 1994.

Another view of the Corinthia Lounge.

Another view of the Corinthia Lounge.

Right forward was this rather gloomy cinema - the front windows still have their rough-weather plates in place to ensure complete darkness.

Right forward was this rather gloomy cinema - the front windows still have their metal rough-weather covers in place to ensure complete darkness.

The final main passenger saloon was up on Deck 7 - the main bar, the Ionia Bar, named in honour of the little liner which was owned by the company from 1946 to 1964.

The final main passenger saloon was up on Deck 7 - the main bar, the Ionia Bar, named in honour of the little Hartlepool-built liner which was owned by HML from 1946 to 1964.

Open until the last passenger leaves.

Open until the last passenger leaves.

The Ionia Bar had been converted, predictably, into an Irish Pub during the ship's ICL days.

The Ionia Bar had been converted, predictably, into an Irish Pub during the ship's ICL days.

The Ionia Bar, looking forward.

The Ionia Bar, looking forward.

The Ionia Bar.

The Ionia Bar.

The Ionia Bar.

The Ionia Bar.

Heading aft into the new Deck 7 cabins added during the lengthening, this is the top of the staircase leading from the main lobby two decks below.

Heading aft into the new Deck 7 cabins added during the lengthening, this is the top of the staircase leading from the main lobby two decks below.

The thirteen suites added by ICL on Deck 9 still bore the names of, occasionally obscure, figures in Irish history. Thomas Charles Wright was an Irish soldier who fought in Latin America with Simon Bolívar and, by repute, founded the Ecuadorian Navy.

The thirteen suites added by ICL on Deck 9 still bore the names of, occasionally obscure, figures in Irish history. Thomas Charles Wright was an Irish soldier who fought in Latin America with Simon Bolívar and, by repute, founded the Ecuadorian Navy.

View inside one of the suites.

View inside one of the suites.

Betraying her '70s roots, most of the other cabins retained their original doors complete with melamine panels featuring flower prints.

Betraying her '70s roots, most of the Egnatia III's other cabins retained their original doors complete with melamine panels featuring flower prints.

Heading out on deck, and this is the long, teak-planked promenade deck on the starboard side.

Heading out on deck, and this is the long, teak-planked promenade deck on the starboard side.

The Hermes V, with the Ouranos and Penelope A beyond.

The Hermes V, with the Ouranos and Penelope A beyond.

The Penelope A (ex-European Gateway). This ship was finally scrapped in 2013.

The Penelope A (ex-European Gateway). This ship was finally scrapped in 2013.

Our ship's funnel, still with the shamrock, painted over but clearly visible from her ICL days.

Our ship's funnel, still with the shamrock, painted over but clearly visible from her ICL days.

Arriving on her afternoon sailing from Vlore in Albania is the Gabrielle, originally Sessan Line's Prinsessan Désirée of 1965.

Arriving on her afternoon sailing from Vlore in Albania is the Gabrielle, originally Sessan Line's Prinsessan Désirée of 1965.

Leaving for Patras is Maritime Way's Erotokritos, a Japanese-built Greek veteran which saw many years of service with Minoan Lines. Between her stern and the bow of the Penelope A can be seen the distant shapes of the laid up Jupiter (ex-Surrey) and Tirana (ex-Linda Scarlett).

Leaving for Patras is Maritime Way's Erotokritos, a Japanese-built Greek veteran which saw many years of service with Minoan Lines. Between her stern and the bow of the Penelope A can be seen the distant shapes of the laid up Tirana (ex-Linda Scarlett) and Jupiter (ex-Surrey).

The late arrival of the Europa I (ex-Jens Kofoed), also from Vlore.

The late arrival of the Europa I (ex-Jens Kofoed), also from Vlore.

Exploring the dining options that evening, we paid a visit to the self service, where a bowl of HML spaghetti bolognese was served on a Castalia plate and with a fibreglass Aquarius ashtray sitting on the table.

Exploring the dining options that evening, we paid a visit to the self service, where a bowl of HML spaghetti bolognese was served on a Castalia plate and with a fibreglass Aquarius ashtray sitting on the table. The original Dampa ceiling panels are shown to good effect in this view.

The self-service was officially called the 'Egnatia Easy Food Cafeteria' and featured this prominent image of the original Egnatia of 1960. The second of the three ships to bear the name was the short-lived Egnatia II which served the company between 1998 and 2000 and was the Saint Killian II's former ICL fleetmate, the Saint Patrick II.

The self-service was officially called the 'Egnatia Easy Food Cafeteria' and featured this prominent image of the original Egnatia of 1960. The second of the three ships to bear the name was the short-lived Egnatia II which served the company between 1998 and 2000 and was the Saint Killian II's former ICL fleetmate, the Saint Patrick II.

The Ships Buffet at night. The pictured vessel on the central bulkhead is one of the ex-Swedish Lloyd pair, the Britannia and Suecia of 1929 which served HML as the Cynthia and  Isthmia in the late 1960s on long routes from Marseille to Port Said and Beirut.

The Ships Buffet at night. The pictured vessel on the central bulkhead is one of the ex-Swedish Lloyd pair, the Britannia and Suecia of 1929 which served HML as the Cynthia and Isthmia in the late 1960s on long routes from Marseille to Port Said and Beirut.

The following morning, having already called at Igoumenitsa, found us motoring south towards Kefalonia.

The following morning, having already called at Igoumenitsa, found us motoring south towards Kefalonia.

Arriving in Kefalonia.

Arriving in Kefalonia.

A stern view showing the tiered sun decks.

A stern view showing the tiered sun decks.

A first, distant, view of our final destination, Patras. Seven ships were already in port - unlike Brindisi, only one of these does not survive today.

A first, distant, view of our final destination, Patras. Seven ships were already in port - unlike in Brindisi, only one of these does not survive today.

The Superfast XII.

The Superfast XII.

Superfast XII, Ariadne Palace One (today the Mega Express Three), Erotokritos and Superfast I (today the Skania).

Superfast XII, Ariadne Palace One (today the Mega Express Three), Erotokritos and Superfast I (today the Skania).

Ariadne Palace One.

Ariadne Palace One.

The Erotokritos served out her career with Endeavor Lines, still sailing from Brindisi until being sold for scrap in 2010.

The Erotokritos served out her career with Endeavor Lines, still sailing from Brindisi until being sold for scrap in 2010.

ANEK's El Venizelos in Cosmote advertising livery.

ANEK's El Venizelos in Cosmote advertising livery.

The Superfast I with the Superfast XII in the background. The first and last of Superfast's twelve original ships served together for just fifteen months.

The Superfast I with the Superfast XII in the background. The first and last of Superfast's twelve original ships served together for just fifteen months.

The Ikarus Palace.

The Ikarus Palace.

Following us into port was the Europa Palace, which today operates for Tirrenia as the Amiscora.

Following us into port was the Europa Palace, which today operates for Tirrenia as the Amiscora.

Berthing adjacent to the Ikarus Palace.

Berthing adjacent to the Ikarus Palace.

After disembarkation.

After disembarkation.

A final view.

A final view.

That Was The Year That Was – 2012

2012 was an exciting year of travel with a first, but most definitely not last, ferry-centric trip to Japan where a whole new world of ships and shipping culture was revealed to us. The Japanese experience was, taken as a whole, the most memorable event of the year: after more than nine years of deliberation and 28 months of planning it went almost completely without a hitch and the Japanese were unfailingly helpful, polite and tolerant towards this small band of Europeans who had come to sail on their ships for no other reason than their being there.

Home waters were not neglected and plenty of European ferries were road tested this year; the ongoing economic gloom in Greek and Italian and Moroccan waters are perhaps the greatest concerns for the immediate future and one wonders just where things will end – with long-established operators withdrawing virtually overnight how many of 2012’s ships will make it to the starting line of the 2013 summer season?

In total, 84 ships were sailed on or visited this year, of which two were museum ships and one a floating bar. 27 nights were spent at sea and the average age of the 84 ships was 22 years old compared to 23 in 2011.

Based purely on subjective feelings on those 84 vessels, here are some bests and worsts of the year.

The Piana at Bastia.

The Piana at Bastia.


Best new ferry
Of recently-delivered ships sailed on for the first time this year, the Ishikari is a fine and modern Japanese coastal cruise liner, the Spirit of France solves a few of the issues identified with the Spirit of Britain and the Blue Star Patmos is a superb Aegean ferry, lavishly finished and, sadly, possibly the last purpose-built Greek ferry for a generation. The best new ship of the year, however, has to be the Piana of CMN. She endured a tortuously late delivery, is little to look at from the outside and even managed to lose the tip of her bulbous bow in January. Onboard, however, she is a wonder, the latest work of the specialist French interior designers, AIA. AIA’s recent output had been weaker, hamstrung by smaller budgets and less imaginative briefs than they had been accustomed to in the era of the Danielle Casanova, Mont St Michel, Pont-Aven and Seafrance Berlioz. The 2009-built Armorique failed to impress and the firm themselves virtually disowned the conversion of the Seafrance Moliere. On the Piana it is as if pent-up frustration has been unleashed and the ship is a beauty, and, in some respects, is possible to see where they might had gone with the Armorique had the money and corporate imagination been there.
Piana.

Piana.

Mercandia IV

Mercandia IV


Best conversion
The fifteen Sunderland-built Superflexes can be found across the globe, serving routes both mainstream and marginal, with all sorts of conversions having been made to better suit them to their current service. I can’t think of any which could ever be called even vaguely luxurious, however, until the Stena-owned Mercandia IV (ex-Superflex November) was refitted for her role as fourth ship on the joint operation with Scandlines between Helsingborg and Helsingør. The ship has been outfitted in the same style as the three larger purpose-built vessels, which itself is a derivation from the designs for Stena’s longer routes. The result is a ship which looks like no Superflex before.

In Italy, Moby-owned TOREMAR have made moves to improve the offering on their ships and the Oglasa for Elban service was changed beyond recognition. As with the Mercandia IV, the redesign has taken cues from the parent entity and where Moby have long been affiliated with Looney Tunes cartoon characters, on the Oglasa, Andy Capp makes an appearance in on-board signage. Crazy or genius?

Andy Capp on the Oglasa.

Andy Capp on the Oglasa.

Penelope A (ex-Horsa)

Penelope A (ex-Horsa)


Best classic ferry
28 of this year’s ships were more than a quarter of a century old, the most aged being the Italian train ferry the Iginia, still in regular operation between Messina and Villa San Giovanni. Whilst some classics were to be found in fairly poor condition, others such as the Agios Georgios, Stena Danica or the Kriti II were in pretty good shape all things considered.

Stena Scanrail: it's fairly safe to assume that a ship fitted with builder's ashtrays as well as a builder's plate hails from another era.

Stena Scanrail: it's fairly safe to assume that a ship fitted with builder's ashtrays as well as a builder's plate hails from another era.

All of the above and more were worthy of consideration but, in the year of their 40th birthdays, the former Hengist and Horsa win out as 2012’s best oldies. Sailings on the Agios Georgios and Penelope A in September reconfirmed that these veteran Channel ferries remained excellent performers in their second careers. The Penelope A’s four decades of service have now been equally split, save for the aberration of the 1990 summer at Holyhead, between the Folkestone period (1972 to 1991) and twenty years operating out of Rafina (1992 to 2012). The news in December that she had been withdrawn due to the financial woes of her owners Agoudimos Lines was, if not surprising, a warning of the fate which awaits many of the Greek coastal fleet in times when the Greek government cannot be relied upon to pay the subsidies shipowners rely upon to serve the islands.

Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) at Serifos.

Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) at Serifos.

Favourite crossing
Frederikshavn to Gothenburg sailings on the Stena Danica and the Stena Scanrail were real highlights, as was the day-long transit with the Ferry Azalia from Tsuruga to Niigata and overnight on the Kitakami from Tomakomai to Sendai. However, the two night sailing between Venice and Patras with ANEK Lines’ Kriti II in August was really special, on an elderly ferry which was subsequently withdrawn. Departure from Venice through the Canale della Giudecca was spectacular and the sail down the Croatian coast, to Igoumenitsa, Corfu and finally the old port of Patras was memorable. ANEK’s occasionally average service standards were not an issue on this sailing and even the food was pretty good. One cannot imagine quite the same experience will be enjoyed aboard the replacement Italian ro-paxes which have now been deployed on the route.

The Kriti II leaving Venice in August.

The Kriti II leaving Venice.

Best food
The lasagne on the Superspeed 2 and the buffet on the Hamlet were excellent, our ability to nearly cause a fire whilst self-cooking waffles on the latter notwithstanding. The Steam Packet’s Manannan amazingly conjured up an excellent plate of pasta. Best of all, however, was “Le Piana” restaurant aboard CMN’s new flagship. Locally-sourced and beautifully presented, this company consistently serves up the best food on any Mediterranean ferries.

Dinner on the Piana.

Dinner on the Piana in July.

Dover in June.

Dover in June.

The weather
2012 was supposedly the wettest summer in Britain for 100 years and yet almost every time I ventured to sea this year the sun was shining. When the weather did turn, however, it went wild with a vengeance. Heading out on a day trip in the worst typhoon Japan had seen in 53 years was perhaps ill-advised, leaving us stranded for the night on the island of Shodoshima. Happily the good people at Kokusai Ferry kindly took us under their wing and arranged a stay in a splendid local hotel and onward travel which got us back on track the next day.

2nd April - a perfect sunny day in Takamatsu.

2nd April - a perfect sunny day in Takamatsu.

3rd April - typhoon in Shodoshima.

3rd April - typhoon in Shodoshima.

Kokusai Maru No 32 trying and failing to berth at Shodoshima.

Kokusai Maru No 32 ('Giraffe Ferry') trying and failing to berth at Shodoshima.

Worst ferry
I can struggle to think of any redeeming features of the Isle of Man Steam Packet’s Ben-my-Chree. She may be a reliable freighter but the experience for the general passenger is woeful with poorly thought-out and dreary saloons. When Bornholmstraffiken ordered a subsequent pair of this off-the-shelf design they instructed the best in the business to try and bring some dignity to the passenger spaces but even Steen Friis Hansen could improve things only marginally. Absent any such guiding hand, the Ben-my-Chree remains a real stinker.

Worst crossing
Grandi Navi Veloci’s Splendid, sailing between Genoa and Olbia in June, was late, dirty and had the rudest crew members I’ve seen in years, with some in the cafeteria hurling abuse at passengers and another in one of the bars who took my money and then tried not to provide the paid-for drinks. The ship was a great advertisement for the competing services of Moby and Tirrenia.

Splendid?

Splendid?

Pride of Burgundy, January.

Pride of Burgundy, January.


Worst maintained ships
What is wrong with P&O?

Pride of York, June.

Pride of York, June.

Pride of Kent, October.

Pride of Kent, October.

Most decrepit ferries
A distinction can be made between poor general deck maintenance and the pits of on-board decrepitude that befalls some Southern European ferries when some passenger spaces fall into disuse. As with the Seatrade in 2011, venturing into certain areas of the Theofilos and Ile de Beaute made one wonder just how things had got into this state.

Theofilos's indoor swimming pool.

Theofilos's indoor swimming pool.

One of Ile de Beaute's abandoned toilet blocks.

Inside one of the Ile de Beaute's abandoned toilet blocks.

The Eurovoyager at Oostende, 2008.

The Eurovoyager at Oostende, 2008.


So. Farewell then.
Quite a few familiar ships have headed to the scrapyards in the past twelve months, including the Eurovoyager (ex-Prins Albert), the Scotia Prince (ex-Stena Olympica), the Manxman and the Rosalia. I will, however, perhaps most remember the passing of the two British ferry flagships from my childhood: Sealink’s St Nicholas (ex-Prinsessan Birgitta, later Normandy) and P&O’s ‘Chunnel Beater’ Pride of Dover. The latter headed for the scrap yard in the same year as representatives of the two previous generations of Townsend ferries: the former Free Enterprise V, and the Spirit of Free Enterprise.

To me, the 1979 Spirit class showed Townsend Thoresen at their very best, the sheer arrogant brutality and originality of their design in many ways epitomising TT in their peak years. Somehow the Pride of Dover and her sister lacked a similar dynamism but perhaps this was partly through choice: entering service under a post-Herald cloud, the flamboyance and aggressiveness that defined TT had now suddenly to switch to an era in which P&O European Ferries were a sober and reassuring cross-Channel choice. Externally, by adding length but not height to the Spirit class, they were always too squat to claim either conventional attractiveness or the eye-catching brutalism of their predecessors. The ‘Dover’ looked her best with a P&O full blue hull; she was not helped when P&O adopted the current “pants pulled down” livery.

On board, the pair really were scaled-up Spirits and whilst they expanded on the successes of that class and proved formidable freight movers over more than two decades, even when delivered their interiors were disappointing. In 1987 Shippax memorably published an image of one of the Pride of Dover’s old-fashioned seating lounges, contrasting it unfavourably with other recent ferries. To avoid embarrassing her owners in front of the industry they did not name the ship but the point was harshly reinforced within a couple of years when Sealink’s Fantasia and Fiesta were delivered, which prompted the first of a couple of significant refurbishments. Despite these modifications, few of the original passenger saloons ever really achieved coherence or attractiveness.

Nonetheless, with their scale and reliability and with the express operation P&O were able to subsequently pioneer, the two ships helped to show how the ferry industry could survive in a post-Tunnel era and the demise of the Pride of Dover without any chance of a second career is regrettable.

I will miss the Normandy rather more, even though by the time I got to know her she was well past her best (some would say the ship was in decay from the moment she was handed over to Sealink in 1983). There was nothing old-fashioned or miserly about Sessan’s final ferries; from the lavish dining saloons to the vast tiered show lounges, these beautifully-appointed jumbo ferries had a significant influence, even if the operator who ordered them had been subsumed into Stena before they fully entered service. Almost unthinkably the Kronprinsessan Victoria (now Stena Europe) has gone on to become Stena’s longest-serving passenger ship; but her sister passed from operator to operator over the years, never really being looked after by anyone, least of all her neglectful final owners who abandoned the ship to the ravages of the Singaporean climate, making her demise sadly inevitable.

Picture of the week: Superfast VI

Superfast VI off Ancona. Click for larger image.

Superfast VI off Ancona. Click for larger image.


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