Posts tagged: stena navigator

That Was The Year That Was – 2009

The Sorolla at Ibiza, May 2009.

The Sorolla at Ibiza, May 2009.


For the devotee of classic ferries, particularly classic British ferries, it has to be said 2009 has been a sad time with the scrappers claiming amongst others the Georgios Express (Roi Baudouin) and Sara 3 (St Edmund). The former was perhaps the most beautiful car ferry ever to sail from the UK whilst the latter hid her delights inside, representing the apex of the interior designs devised by Ward & Austin for Sealink in the 1960s and 1970s. Her interlocking QE2-style lobby spaces in particular were an inspired design solution. Also lost was the Kapetan Alexandros A (ex-Doric Ferry), a 47-year old veteran with which I had become very familiar in the past few years and which was the last survivor of a class of, originally, freight ships of advanced design introduced by ASN.
Farewell to the St Edmund.

Farewell to the St Edmund.


It has not all been sad however and in newly-introduced ships such as the Elyros, Martin I Soler and Cruise Roma/Barcelona, stylish new passenger ferries are carrying on the traditions of generations past. Whilst, inevitably, they struggle to achieve the sleek external looks of the Roi Baudouin, internally they achieve great things within the framework their basic design specification allows.

On a personal level in 2009, 59 ships were sailed on, 26 nights were spent at sea, and one camera died (later resuscitated). I was told to stop taking pictures on board just once, a record low for recent years. That ship was Baleària’s Martin I Soler. Pointing out the company’s “Un Mar de Foto” competition, which stipulates that “Photographs should be taken on board Baleària ships” was the ideal response.

Based purely on subjective feelings on those 59 ships, here are some bests and worsts of the year.

Best new ferry
Despite that one arsey crew member, the Martin I Soler, just about, was my favourite new ferry. All the 2008 or 2009 built ships which were new to me this year seemed to have some weaknesses. The Cruise Barcelona is perhaps a little too stark in places, the Baltic Princess rather over the top (although operating as primarily a minicruiser, this is perhaps considered appropriate). The interior and exterior of the ‘MIS’ are attractive within a modern framework and the ship has become a big success running from Majorca and Ibiza to Valencia. The forward saloon’s twin deck picture windows however make that lounge a sun trap and virtually uninhabitable when the ship is running directly into the sun – which she does on her daytime crossings to the mainland. Still, she was a ship I grew to like a lot during the five or six hours spent aboard.

Martin I Soler - lobby

Martin I Soler - lobby

Best classic ferry
Last year I placed the Ancona in this spot, and this year I was most enamoured with another ship sailing from Split, the Istra of Jadrolinija (ex-Mette Mols, 1966). Mostly unchanged from new, she has been sailing for Jadrolinija for 28 years now and, like the locals who have protested about her imminent withdrawal, I find this little ferry beautiful and adorable. A round trip on her from Split to Stari Grad was the perfect farewell; for now however she remains in service and I cling to the hope that she may survive for one more year.

The Istra, bound for Stari Grad. What's not to like?

The Istra, bound for Stari Grad. What's not to like?

Biggest disappointment
There has been plenty said about how she is perfectly suited to the demands of her route and how she will make Brittany Ferries money but the Armorique was still not quite what I had hoped for or expected. Does everything have to be wipe-downable? Was it really necessary to drive home that “this is a ship built to a budget” message by even dispensing with individually-tailored facility names? ‘Le Restaurant’, ‘Le Bar’? Please.
Whilst I respect their right to get an appropriate return on their investments, they also need to protect their brand. You’re Brittany Ferries, not P&O or Seafrance (at least not yet). Passengers expect certain things and whilst the Armorique delivers to a degree, as a whole she falls beneath the standards of ro-pax luxury set by earlier fleetmates. Not good.

It's Okay, but It's Not Right.

It's Okay, but It's Not Right.

Biggest surprise
Years spent tinkering to little acclaim on the interiors of Stena ferries had primed one to expect the worst from interior designers Figura. Their most recent work, on the Stenas Voyager, Adventurer, Nordica, Caledonia and Navigator therefore came as something of a bolt from the blue. It’s almost like they are over-compensating for a decade or more of Spike’s Sports Bar – parts of the Navigator are so Scando-trendy you half suspect she has been lined up for a later transfer to the Kattegat. Wall prints of the archipelago near Gothenburg; that stairwell-dominating tribute to famous Scandinavian chairs; and little vitrines full of expensively-acquired keynote Scandinavian designer trinketry sourced from the ‘Stena Plus Scandinavian Design collection’ – at least that’s what the museum-like explanatory labels said. And who wouldn’t be wowed by a Pinzke/Bergström designer cheese grater in a glass display case?

'Rocking Horse' by Playsam on the Stena Navigator. In case the kiddies get the wrong idea, it is placed out of reach and firmly glued down. This is art for goodness sake!

'Rocking Horse' by Playsam on the Stena Navigator. In case the kiddies get the wrong idea, it is placed out of reach and firmly glued down. This is art for goodness sake!

Best conversion
Last year it was the Ariadne, this year it is her rival-cum fleetmate-cum replacement, the Elyros of ANEK’s Piraeus-Chania route. One of my pet ferry enthusiast hates is people taking a random foreign ship and saying how good she would be for service on some local route with which the writer is familiar (usually something like the Silja Europa for the Isle of Man) but the Elyros instead of the Armorique out of Plymouth would really motivate one to make a series of day trips to Roscoff, regardless of what BF might say. She is, quite simply, a beauty.

Thalassa Lounge, aft on the Elyros.

Thalassa Lounge, aft on the Elyros.

Worst conversion
It took the best part of three years to rebuild her and finally the Mega Express Five entered service this April. She has all the relevant bits and pieces squeezed in, yet in design this is a cut ‘n’ paste job from previous Corsica Ferries ships and as a whole she just didn’t seem to have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ might be. She has a series of vast box shaped rooms with the same old furniture stuffed in any old how. Where the original Mega Express and her sister had some sort of creative hand holding things steady, and the ‘Three’, ‘Four’ and ‘Smega’ retained to a greater or lesser extent attractive facets of their original designs, the ‘Five’ is a disappointing mess. Tourship should take a trip to Chania and see how it can be done.

She's big but not beautiful: the Mega Express Five at Bastia.

She's big, but not beautiful: the Mega Express Five at Bastia.

Best food
Now onto the important stuff; after much pondering I narrowed it down to three ships – Pont Aven, Maersk Dover and Girolata. The ‘Dover’s Sunday lunch in the restaurant was superb indeed, but the French ships seemed to have something else. If only because Brittany Ferries’ Lamb Gargantua is almost passé now, I’ll plump for the Girolata. Was it a terrible social faux pas, when served fish soup in a tall glass, but with a spoon, to ‘drink’ rather than ‘eat’? Possibly so, but it was worth it. A triumph.

Worst food
The pasta on the Excellent might have been OK had it been hot. The pasta might have been hot had there been more than one person serving a queue of about 500 passengers. All might still have been saved had the reheating microwaves not all been broken. Alas, it was not to be. For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost.

An Excellent ship. Shame about the food.

An Excellent ship. Shame about the food.

Favourite crossing
Finnmaid – 27 hours from Helsinki to Travemünde in April. The crew might be able to give you a long list about why the ‘Star’ class are impractical in one minor way or another but there was something indefinably magical about this long crossing on a deluxe ro-pax.

Worst maintained ship
I was not in a particularly positive frame of mind when I boarded the Sharden in July – SNAV’s codeshare with Tirrenia meant I had been bumped off one of SNAV’s ex-Olau sisters and onto the state operator whose new ships I would normally choose to avoid. Inside she was OK but outside there was little evidence of any deck maintenance since she had been delivered in 2005. A poor performance, even by Tirrenia standards.

Sharden-freude? A little, perhaps.

Sharden-freude? A little, perhaps.

Worst crossing
Perhaps not the faults of the ships themselves as such, but making a round trip to Tinos, out on the Superferry II (ex-Prince Laurent) and back on the Penelope A (ex-Horsa) on a day when thousands of pilgrims were sailing to and from the island was a bad move. Although I ultimately found a peaceful haven on the Penelope’s always-open bridge wing, given it was raining things weren’t ideal. Just watching her load hundreds of foot passengers was a revelation – crowds gathered first at the two main staircases aft on the car deck, then hundreds decided to bypass this by moving forward to the stairwells in the centre casings usually used by motorists; the really experienced grannies then scrambled up the ramps to the car deck mezzanines to try and beat the crush at a higher level. Good to see the ships still earning their keep, but sometimes it can be just too busy.

Passenger pandemonium on the Penelope A.

Passenger pandemonium on the Penelope A.

Funnels: Stena Navigator (ex-Seafrance Manet, Stena Parisien, Champs Élysées)

Stena Navigator. Click for larger image.

Stena Navigator. Click for larger image.

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.

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