Posts tagged: stena line

Cool Hollandica conquers Stena Blandica

Despite being one of the world’s most successful ferry companies, the mundanity of Stena Line’s modern on board offering has always been puzzling, almost as if the company were determined to portray a ferry crossing as something everyday, nothing to get excited about. The food has never been too much to write home about and the decor from ship to ship was broadly consistent – there were the myriad different ‘Globetrotter’s, dear old Spike’s Sports Bar, Rudi’s Diner or, latterly, the dreaded Food City. Perhaps this familiarity was meant to be reassuring. For a company with such a wide variety of operations I have always found it rather constraining and the chosen decor somewhat depressing – descriptions of floating motorway service stations have not been far from the mark.

Food City - Stena Baltica

Food City - Stena Baltica

I will not, cannot, argue though against Stena’s success. There was once a memorable, possibly apocriphal, quote from Gothenburg that the company just couldn’t find enough things to do with its money. In the ferry part of the Stena sphere, in addition to operating ships, that money was made from building and rebuilding, buying and selling, predicting how the market was going to grow and ordering the right ships at just the right time – when prices were cheap, yards were desperate or demand about to explode.

Yet I had wondered if no one in Gothenburg in more recent times has ever really understood anything other than the freight market, that to many passengers even the shortest ferry crossing IS extraordinary and perhaps the experience deserves to be a little exceptional.

Stena Danica (1969)

Stena Danica (1969)

Despite being founded on a philosophy little short of ‘pile em high and sell em cheap’ earlier Stena ships were in many ways very beautiful indeed: the Stena Danica of 1969 ranks as perhaps the most beautiful ever Swedish ferry, inside and out. The Yugoslav quartet of the early 1970s were rather striking when one got past the flower power touches; the ‘Danica’ and ‘Jutlandica’ of 1983 as built actually were rather lovely and even the potentially soul-lessly huge Kiel ships of 1987/88 had endearing touches.

Stena Olympica (1972)

Stena Olympica (1972)

Stena Germanica (1987)

Stena Germanica (1987)

In the 1990s however what we can call the ‘Stena Blandica’ look took over. Wipe clean surfaces and slightly cheap looking shiny laminate flooring predominated. Worst of all, the desire to apply this look to every ship, regardless of service, took over and so, for example, one found on the overnight ships ‘Germanica’ and ‘Scandinavica’ where once there had been a series of delightful inter-connected à la carte restaurants a dreary Food City was installed instead. Passenger numbers have fallen dramatically from their peak: social and economic factors outside Stena’s control doubtless accounts for much of this yet one still wonders if Stena needlessly abandoned some of the non-transport market it once had.

Food City has now been discarded – the standardisation of onboard names and styles remains however. Yet, in recent times, there has been a marked uptick: starting with the Irish Sea fleet, suddenly Stena has endeavoured to decorate its ships in a most Scando-trendy and sympathetic style. The 2008 and 2009 refits of the Stenas Voyager, Caledonia and Nordica were perhaps the first hints of this movement, whilst the rebuild of the newly acquired Stena Navigator was the first really coherent evidence.

Stena Voyager (in 2008)

Stena Voyager (in 2008)

Stena Nordica (in 2009)

Stena Nordica (in 2009)

Stena Nordica (in 2009)

Stena Nordica (in 2009)

Stena Caledonia (in 2009)

Stena Caledonia (in 2009)

Stena Navigator

Stena Navigator

Which brings us, at last, to the Stena Hollandica, newly built for the Harwich-Hook of Holland route. Here, for once cast free from the constraints of converting existing tonnage, Stena’s house designers, Figura, had the chance to show just what they could achieve. A first glance of the ship’s guide is all too familiar: here is your C-View Bar, there your ‘Taste’ Buffet and over there a Riva Bar. Yet despite the familiarity somehow the whole coheres in a quite striking way. Carpets, seating, some bulkhead finishes and even layouts are replicated from other recent ships yet now it all makes sense and is often quite beautiful. Some unpleasant finishes remain such as a couple of the once uniform shiny metallic ceilings; the outside decks have, with more work still to do, thus far failed to remotely replicate the progressiveness of those on the ‘Navigator’. Yet these are quibbles, for in the ‘Hollandica’ Stena have introduced probably the newbuild ferry of 2010. One thing which is striking is the choice of a wood-effect laminate for many of the bulkheads in the corridors and arcades. This is all a mirage of course – doubtless there is not a single grain of wood in any of the wall panelling – and one could choose to take them to task for choosing effect over reality. However the effect is to make the ship feel distinctly warm in a quite endearingly old-fashioned way, perfect for an overnight ship.

The new Stena Hollandica: Metropolitan Restaurant

The new Stena Hollandica: Metropolitan Restaurant

Taste

Taste

Taste Restaurant

Taste Restaurant

Taste Restaurant

Taste Restaurant

Riva Bar

Riva Bar

Stena Plus

Stena Plus

Freight drivers' lounge

Freight drivers' lounge

Freight drivers' lounge

Freight drivers' lounge

Conference room

Conference room

Aft lounge

Aft lounge

Suite

Suite

Stena Line has since the loss of Duty Free focussed on freight – and the ‘Hollandica’s vast vehicle decks show that for good reason this will continue to be the case. But the passenger side did seem to have become a little neglected: the agonised debate on LandgÃ¥ngen as to why the Stena-dominated Swedish West Coast can no longer support “cruise ferries” whereas on the East Coast ex-Stockholm mini cruises continue to thrive offers a few pointers in what could be perceived to have gone wrong. “Sterile” and “easy to clean” are two descriptions from that discussion which apply certainly to the current state of the Stena Danica, rebuilt in 2003 along much the same lines as Fishguard’s Stena Europe. The ‘Danica’, on the company’s premier route, deserves more than any other ship to be rescued from its sad ‘Blandica’ era and given just a little hint of the ‘Hollandica’ treatment. And maybe, just maybe, Stena will discover that people in the company’s home town will once more feel the urge to head out to sea – and that beautiful ships and profitable services are not as mutually exclusive as they perhaps had come to believe.

The ‘new’ Stena Navigator

. . .

The Seafrance Manet in Belfast before being renamed.

The Seafrance Manet in Belfast before being renamed.


The Seafrance Manet at Calais, September 2002.

The Seafrance Manet at Calais, September 2002.


All 2009 & Stena Navigator images courtesy & © Scott Mackey

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 Élysées 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 Côte d'Azur (left) and the Champs Élysées in Dover harbour in the mid-1980s.

The Côte d'Azur (left) and the Champs Élysées 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.

The Stena Navigator in full Stena livery, late October 2009.

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Click above for Champs Élysées (1986) and Seafrance Manet (2002) deckplans and below for a Stena Navigator plan.

The main vehicle deck on the Seafrance Manet (Seafrance image)

The main vehicle deck on the Seafrance Manet (Seafrance image)


Looking forward on the upper vehicle deck (Seafrance Manet, December 2005)

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.

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.

Looking aft on the upper vehicle deck.

As with her half sister (the former Côte d'Azur, now Seafrance Renoir), the Champs-Élysées 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.

As with her half sister (the former Côte d'Azur, now Seafrance Renoir), the Champs-Élysées 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.

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' in the location of what was previously the self service on the Seafrance Manet. 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.

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.

Looking across to starboard in the aft section of the self service ('Le Relais') - Seafrance Manet, December 2005.


The same area today.

The same area today.


Looking aft on the starboard side (January 2003).

Looking aft on the starboard side (January 2003).


Looking aft on the starboard side (November 2009).

Looking aft on the starboard side (November 2009).


Moving forward, this view is of the aft lobby, looking across to port, on the 'Manet', August 2004.

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 childrens' play area visible.

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).

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 childrens' 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.

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.

One of the two new cinemas.


The remaining shop area on the 'Navigator'.

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.

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 same area today.


The forward lobby, looking across to port, with reception desk (nearest) and bureau de change (background).

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.

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 Étoile. 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).

Forward on the ship, as built, was the Bar Étoile. 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.

Another view of 'Le Pub', December 2005.


On the Stena Navigator this area has become the Barista Coffee House.

On the Stena Navigator this area has become the Barista Coffee House.


The forward part of 'Le Pub'.

The forward part of 'Le Pub'.


Looking aft towards the bar counter, March 2001.

Looking aft towards the bar counter, March 2001.


A similar view on the Stena Navigator.

A similar view on the Stena Navigator.


The forward stairwell, seen from Deck 8 in December 2002. This originally featured one of the pair of Parisien scenes by the artist Hervé Loilier but latterly was adorned by this copy of Manet's painting, 'Argenteuil'.

The forward stairwell, seen from Deck 8 in December 2002. This originally featured one of a pair of Parisien scenes by the artist Hervé 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).

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 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'.

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.

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 an interesting choice of decor (as pictured in the late 1980s - note the oddly out of place fixed seating from its original incarnation).

As built the forward saloon on Deck 8 was a 'Buffet Express' but this soon became a wine bar with a slightly clichéd 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-Elysées. With Seafrance (as pictured in April 2004), it was La Brasserie Bar with a waiter-service restaurant area at the forward end.

In the Dieppe days this space became the self service Cafe Champs-Elysées. 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.

Stena have completely refurbished this area and it is now a Sports Bar.


The forward restaurant part of La Brasserie, December 2004.

The forward restaurant part of La Brasserie, December 2004.


The bar counter in the Sports Bar on the Stena Navigator.

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 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 Élysées featured the second of the Hervé 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 aft stairwell on the Champs Élysées featured the second of the Hervé 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 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 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.

The same area is now Stena Plus.


Looking across to port in La Parisien.

Looking across to port in La Parisien.


An overall view of the new Stena Plus lounge.

An overall view of the new Stena Plus lounge.


Le Parisien, August 2004.

Le Parisien, August 2004.


A corner of Stena Plus, November 2009.

A corner of Stena Plus, November 2009.

Deck 8 aft, December 2005.

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.

Picture of the week: Moby Vincent (ex-Stena Normandica) & Corsica Marina Seconda (ex-Stena Nautica)

Sister ships at Livorno - two of the quartet of Rickmers-built Stena ships from 1974/75 together at Livorno, the mainland port from which the two vessels compete on daily sailings to Bastia - the Moby Vincent for Moby Lines and the Corsica Marina Seconda for Corsica Ferries.

Sister ships at Livorno - two of the quartet of Rickmers-built Stena ships from 1974/75 together at Livorno, the mainland port from which the two vessels compete on daily sailings to Bastia - the Moby Vincent for Moby Lines and the Corsica Marina Seconda for Corsica Ferries.



Previous picture

Previous picture

A visit to the Masarrah (ex-St Columba, Stena Hibernia, Express Aphrodite)

Completed in 1977, the St Columba/Stena Hibernia became something of a legend on Irish Sea services through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Finally ousted by the arrival of the first of Stena’s HSS fast ferries, she was sold for further service exactly twenty years after she had arrived, heading for Greece as the Express Aphrodite. There the vessel seemed set to become a Greek institution, perhaps lasting as long as her former Sealink cousins, the famed Milos Express (Vortigern) or Apollo Express (Senlac).

The Express Aphrodite in 2005.

The Express Aphrodite in 2005.

Alas her triumphant reign on the Piraeus – Syros – Tinos – Mykonos schedule was to end earlier than many could have imagined. She latterly operated other routes for her subsequent Greek owners, Hellas Ferries/Hellenic Seaways, but was withdrawn at the end of the 2005 season, much earlier than her age and condition merited. Technical problems with the Express Santorini saw her unexpectedly return to service as cover in the Summer of 2006 but she was finally sold to Namma Lines of Saudi Arabia later that year. The ship had the bad luck to end up in the hands of HSW when they felt they no longer needed ships of this kind and, following the embarrassing bad experience of selling the Panagia Ekatontapiliani and Express Penelope to rival Greek operators who promptly put them into service against their former owners, were unwilling to sell to the many willing local buyers.

Earlier this year Richard Seville tracked the ship down in Safaga and here recounts his reunion with a ship which many believe should still be operating in Southern Europe.

The Masarrah at Perama in April 2007 undergoing refit prior to departure for her new career. Picture courtesy Nikos Thrylos.

The Masarrah at Perama in April 2007 undergoing refit prior to departure for her new career. Picture courtesy Nikos Thrylos.

As the Masarrah of Namma Lines, the former St Columba and Stena Hibernia is following several of her Sealink predecessors, and a number of her Irish Sea competitors, in spending her twilight years serving the pilgrim trade across the Red Sea. After essentially three incarnations under Sealink and later Stena, she was sold to Greek interests in 1997 and went on to spend a decade as a mainstay of Aegean island services. Somewhat prematurely withdrawn in 2006, she passed to the then rapidly expanding Namma Lines and after refit at Perama, entered service from both Suez and Safaga in Egypt to the Saudi port of Dhiba.

In April 2009, I was able to pay a visit to the Masarrah during a turnaround period in Safaga, and her extremely welcoming Egyptian crew showed me around from top to bottom. On board, given the unfavourable reputation of these routes, maintenance standards were surprisingly good and although rather worn in places, the interior was also relatively clean and tidy. In essence, little has changed since her final Irish Sea days although her new owners have gone to the trouble of renaming all the facilities with locally relevant names as well as removing most of the references to Stena Line which had continued to remain throughout her Greek service.

Key changes include the conversion of the Irish Bar into a Reception Lounge, the fitting of reclining seats in the former Pantry and duty-free shop, and the creation of a crew restaurant in the former pizzeria. I was treated with great hospitality throughout my time on board, given drinks and introduced to almost all the numerous crew as well as visiting officials. Preparations were underway for a midnight departure to Dhiba, and that evening I watched as conservatively dressed passengers loaded onto both the Masarrah and her fleetmate the, the former Superferry, which was lying alongside her. Lasting memories of the visit include a tide of blood running across the galley floor as lunch was being prepared, animatedly chatting with Egyptian officials with a faded promotional poster of Ireland as a backdrop and the tremendous hospitality shown by her crew who were astonishingly tolerant of an eccentric English enthusiast! Here we present a selection of on-board views of this much loved favourite.

The car deck.

The car deck.

Reception in the Irish Bar...

Reception in the Irish Bar...

...which is otherwise unchanged.

...which is otherwise unchanged.

The former pizzeria is now a new crew mess.

The former pizzeria is now a new crew mess.

Forward on Deck 5, this area was the Show Bar as the Stena Hibernia and First Class on the Express Aphrodite.

Forward on Deck 5, this area was the Show Bar as the Stena Hibernia and First Class on the Express Aphrodite.

Moving up to Deck 6, the former self-service restaurant, The Pantry, has now become a reclining seat lounge.

Moving up to Deck 6, the former self-service restaurant, The Pantry, has now become a reclining seat lounge.

Aft of the former Pantry, the shop has also had seating installed. This area originally housed the ship's rather avant-guarde discotheque.

Aft of the former Pantry, the shop has also had seating installed. This area originally housed the ship's rather avant-guarde discotheque.

The old crew mess is virtually unchanged since the ship was built.

The old crew mess is virtually unchanged since the ship was built.

The aft lobby on Deck 7 still retains Hellas Ferries branding...

The aft lobby on Deck 7 still retains Hellas Ferries branding...

...whilst elsewhere reminders remain of even earlier times in the ship's career.

...whilst elsewhere reminders remain of even earlier times in the ship's career.

Masarrah pictures © and courtesy Richard Seville.

Picture of the week: Stena Saga (ex-Silvia Regina)

The Stena Saga, seen from the passing Stena Jutlandica off Gothenburg, making her one weekly round trip to the latter port. April 2004.

The Stena Saga, seen from the passing Stena Jutlandica off Gothenburg, making her one weekly round trip to the latter port. April 2004.

Last week's picture

Last week's picture

The ‘new’ Stena Caledonia

. . .

In January 2009, Stena Line confirmed they were continuing their recession-busting modernisation programme by investing £1.8m in a thorough upgrade of the Stranraer-Belfast route’s single conventional vessel, the Stena Caledonia (ex-St David of 1981). This followed on from a not dissimilar amount spent on the route’s HSS Stena Voyager in 2008. The plan appears to have been to move the ‘Caledonia’ back into primary use for passengers, rather than the reserve/freight/night ship she had tended to become by default with the Voyager taking most passengers. Falling oil prices since the decision to invest was made however seem to have changed things – the refit went ahead, but in the event the HSS has remained in full use and so the Caledonia’s new facilities have, in the brief period since she returned from refit, been largely underused.

For anyone who has sailed on the ship before, upon boarding it is quite hard to orientate yourself as the entire centre section of the ship has been swept away – of all of the four ‘Saint’ class ships, the main deck of the former St David perhaps most lived down to billing with a predomination of fairly uninspired fixed seating. Save for the cinema and shop at the stern (largely unchanged) and the cafeteria forward, this has now all gone, replaced with a very open plan Barista Coffee House with a small Stena Plus lounge to starboard in the area formerly housing part of the Motorists’ Lounge.

The effect is a little overwhelming but certainly, given the ship is destined to remain on the North Channel for a few more years yet, she was overdue a refurbishment. Stena, and their house interior designers Figura, have been stung by criticism in the trade press recently concerning some of their more recent refurbishments and, as in parts of the refitted Stena Nordica, a determined effort has been made on the ‘Caledonia’ to allow quiet spaces where one can simply sit and read, snooze or work on a laptop. Although the open-plan nature of the Barista Lounge mitigates this to an extent, areas have been notionally designated for families and as a quiet lounge although this may take some policing if it is to be effective on a busy sailing.

In summary however, it was great to see the Stena Caledonia revitalised. Even if the ship is going to have only a relatively short future in her present operation, it is clear that Stena don’t intend to let the ship be run down before retirement. The refurbishment is certainly fairly dramatic and doubtless not to everyone’s taste – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions and below are some recent images from on board the ship, with a few pictures of the same spaces interspersed as a reminder of what used to be. Click on the pictures for larger versions.

Click here for a main deck plan photograph of the ‘new’ Stena Caledonia. Fakta om Fartyg has a mid-90s deckplan here (the ship was essentially unchanged up to the recent refit. A plan of the ship as St David can be found here.

Starting forward, the former Pantry self-service has become Food City, although the layout is essentially unchanged.

Starting forward, the former Pantry self-service has become Food City, although the layout is essentially unchanged.


Before....

Before....

... and after.

... and after.

Looking across from the starboard side, pre-refit.

Looking across from the starboard side, pre-refit.


The same scene today.

The same scene today.


The small Ro-Ro drivers' lounge adjacent to the self-service has so far not been refurbished.

The small Ro-Ro drivers' lounge adjacent to the self-service has so far not been refurbished.

The location of the previous information desk...

The location of the previous information desk...

... now a seating area.

... now a seating area.

The forward section of the old Motorists' Lounge, amidships to starboard.

The forward section of the old Motorists' Lounge, amidships to starboard.

The scene now is virtually unrecognisible as the partitions have been stripped away and the space completely opened up.

The scene now is virtually unrecognisible as the partitions have been stripped away and the space completely opened up.

Another view of the pre-refit Motorists' Lounge.

Another view of the pre-refit Motorists' Lounge.

The same area today.

The same area today.

The amidships/forward port side lounge, pre-refit.

The amidships/forward port side lounge, pre-refit.

This is now the Barista Lounge Quiet Area.

This is now the Barista Lounge Quiet Area.

The new, centrally located, Barista Coffee servery - this only seems to be used on busier sailings.

The new, centrally located, Barista Coffee servery - this only seems to be used on busier sailings.

The Barista 'black' area, formerly part of the Motorists' Lounge.

The Barista 'black' area, formerly part of the Motorists' Lounge.

An overall view, looking forward (on the starboard side).

An overall view, looking forward (on the starboard side).

An overall view, looking forward (on the port side).

An overall view, looking forward (on the port side).


The aft section of the old Motorists' Lounge...

The aft section of the old Motorists' Lounge...

... is now Stena Plus.

... is now Stena Plus.

Another view of the new Stena Plus Lounge.

Another view of the new Stena Plus Lounge.


Adjacent to what is now Stena Plus was previously further fixed seating.

Adjacent to what is now Stena Plus was previously further fixed seating.

This is now home to the new Information desk and the Barista Lounge 'family area'.

This is now home to the new Information desk and the Barista Lounge 'family area'.

Before...

Before...

... and after.

... and after.

An overall view looking forward before the refit.

An overall view looking forward before the refit.

A view from a similar location now.

A view from a similar location now.

The old tea bar.

The old tea bar.

This is now the location of the compact Childrens' play area.

This is now the location of the compact Childrens' play area.

Another view aft.

Another view aft.

Right aft, the video games area has also been somewhat refitted - here it is before refurbishment.

Right aft, the video games area has also been somewhat refitted - here it is before refurbishment.

The same area after refit.

The same area after refit.

Looking across to the small shop on the port side, pre-refit.

Looking across to the small shop on the port side, pre-refit.

The same space now.

The same space now.

At the stern, the cinema area is largely untouched.

At the stern, the cinema area is largely untouched.

Upstairs, the two promenade deck lounges have been slightly tidied up but there has not yet been significant refurbishment. This image shows the aft lounge.

Upstairs, the two promenade deck lounges have been slightly tidied up but there has not yet been significant refurbishment. This image shows the aft lounge.

The smaller forward Promenade Deck saloon.

The smaller forward Promenade Deck saloon.

The outside decks were not significantly attended to during the refit.

The outside decks were not significantly attended to during the refit.

However, new doors leading to the main passenger deck have been installed througout.

However, new doors leading to the main passenger deck have been installed througout.

At the top of one of the cardeck stairwells.

At the top of one of the cardeck stairwells.

On Deck C, these couchettes are still available for use by freight drivers.

On Deck C, these couchettes are still available for use by freight drivers.

Lastly, an overall view of the upper vehicle deck.

Lastly, an overall view of the upper vehicle deck.

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