21 April 2017

Express (Viking FSTR) interiors, 15 & 20 April 2017

The entry featuing exterior photos of the Express/Viking FSTR posted in the beginning of this month has been a surprise hit with the readers, skyrocketing to the list of Top 5 most popular entries of all time, and easily outperforming other recent new or radically rebuilt ships such as the Megastar and Silja Europa. Yesterday, I was at a press showing of the ship, so here are a bunch of interior images of the ship let's see if these will be as popular as the exteriors.

Express

IMO 9176046
Name history: Catalonia, Catalonia L, Portsmouth Express, Express
Built 1998, Incat Hobart, Australia
Tonnage 5 902 GT
Length 91,30 m
Width 26,00 m
Draught 3,73 m
836 passengers
120 cars
4 Caterpillar diesels, combined 28 800 kW
4 waterjets
Maximum speed 48 knots
Service speed 30 knots

For a recap of the history of the ship, please refer to the earlier entry on it.

The Express has two passenger decks, plus the car deck below them, so be warned that there isn't a huge amount of material to be discussed here.

Deck 3 features the navigation bridge forward, followed by a token outer deck (the entrance to which still displays P&O Ferries signage with access restrictions that are not in effect). The indoors areas are primarily just sitting lounges, with the Fork & Knife cafeteria midships.

The seating areas are... well, the usual. The seats are much larger than on a bus or airplane, but there still isn't enough leg room for someone of my height.
In the forward port corner of the deck there is what at least used to be a children's play area. Now it only has multicoloured seats and a TV screen, so there isn't much to amuse a child of any age.
The Fork & Knife cafeteria amidships has both nice outside views from the sides over the two-deck high foyers (which I could not photograph due to people hanging around in them) and gets natural light from the overhead skylights.
Deck 2 has the car deck's upper ramps forward, followed by a crew mess (this used to be a games room when the ship was sailing on the Irish Sea, but the ceiling height of the original crew mess did not fullfill Swedish regulations and thus a new one had to be built when it was moved under the Swedish flag), the embarkation foyers, First Bar and FSTR shop amidships, plus regular sitting areas and the Club Lounge aft.

Bar First has a tropical beach theme - somewhat unusual on the Baltic, but a nice touch never the less.
The foyer between the shop (entrance to which is just out of screen on the right) and the seating areas. Many of the walls are decorated with photomurals from Gotland, a relic from the ship's time with Gotlandsbåten. Maybe Viking could consider a special cruise to Visby during the summer season?
The Club Lounge is a surprisingly nice space (though the window isn't as impressive as it appears, as the car ramp blocks the view from the lower level). I'm not normally keen on extra cost lounges, but for the 30 euro price (25 for Viking Line Club members), the quality and amount of things on offer is very good – you essentially get the same things as you do in Tallink's Business Lounges, but at half the price.
Kships will return.

07 April 2017

Gudingen at Långnäs, 8 June 2014

At the end of the previous entry, I promised we would look at the new interiors of the Princess Anastasia, which has just returned from a three-month drydocking. Well, that was all well and good... except they had not changed the interiors at all. So while the onboard product is different, thanks to St. Peter Line's new partnership with Moby Lines, the interiors are exactly the same as before. So you can just look at my 2013 interior tour if you want to know what the ship (still) looks like.

Instead, today we will look at Gudingen, one of the Ålandstrafiken archipelago ferries, images of which I came across when researching photos for a book project.

Gudingen

IMO 7902609
Built 1980, Laivateollisuus Turku, Finland
Tonnage 961 GT
Length 48,50 m
Width 10,50 m
Draugth 3,70 m
Ice class 1A
195 passengers
25 cars and 4 trucks
2 Wärtsilä Vasa diesels, combined 1 606 kW
2 propellers (?)
Speed 14 knots

The Gudingen is an older near-sister of the Skiftet featured here previously. It  was completed by the Valmet-owned Laivateollisuus (literally "ship industry") yard in Turku in 1980, and placed on Ålandstrafiken's "southern line" linking Galtby (in Korppoo) to Långnäs via various intermediate ports. The ship remains on the same service to this day. The only major change that has happened over the years, as far as I can tell, is the painting of the blue stripe along the public room windows - originally the ship was all white (as the Skiftet still is).

The photos below show the Gudingen arriving at Långnäs on 8 June 2014. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

While I'm normally all for the use of colour in ship liveries, I must say that on a ship this small the blue stripe doesn't really improve the ship's looks - the all-white Skiftet is decidedly superior visually.
The lighting conditions were not ideal, but since these are my only photos of the ship, I guess these will do.
Kships will return.

03 April 2017

Express (Viking FSTR) in Helsinki, 3 April 2017

We are living exciting times in the Northern Baltic these days, with new or radicaly redone ships entering service left and right. The Express, aka Viking Line's "Viking FSTR" has been performing test runs in and out of Helsinki Eteläsatama (South Harbour) for the past two days, and today the weather was good enough to warrant heading out and photographing the latest newcomer.

Express

IMO 9176046
Name history: Catalonia, Catalonia L, Portsmouth Express, Express
Built 1998, Incat Hobart, Australia
Tonnage 5 902 GT
Length 91,30 m
Width 26,00 m
Draught 3,73 m
836 passengers
120 cars
4 Caterpillar diesels, combined 28 800 kW
4 waterjets
Maximum speed 48 knots
Service speed 30 knots

The Express (marketed by Viking Line as the "Viking FSTR", pronounced "Viking Faster", to avoid confusion with the Viking XPRS, pronounced "Viking Express") was completed in 1998 by Incat, the Tasmanian specialist fast catamaran builder, as the Catalonia for the Uruguyan fast ferry operator Buquebus. However, instead of Buquebus' home services linking Uruguay to Argentina, the Catalonia was, as the name suggests, meant for services in the Mediterranean. However, before entering service, the ship secured the Hales Trophy, awarded for the fastest Transatlantic crossing, on delivery voyage to Spain. (The Hales Trophy should not be confused with the Blue Riband of the Atlantic, which requires for a ship to carry passengers in regular liner service, whereas the Hales Trophy is awarded simply to the fastest ship). Less than two weeks later, however, the Catalonia lost the Hales Trophy to another Incat-built catamaran, the Cat-Link V.

Almost immediately after arriving in Spain, the ship's name was amended to Catalonia L, after which it entered service linking Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca. Subsequently it also sailed on the Ceuta-Malaga-Algericas -route. From the 2000 summer season onwards, the ship was chartered during summers to P&O European Ferries as the Portsmouth Express on the Portsmouth-Charbourg -route. During the winters it reverted to Catalonia (now again without the L), but spent at least some of the winters simply laid up. For the 2003 season the ship was no longer renamed for the summer service, instead being marketed as the "Express". In late 2003, this became the official name.

From 2005 onwards, the Express spent summer seasons sailing on the Cairnryan-Larne and Troon-Larne routes with P&O Irish Ferries, occasionally making night-time crossings from Larne to Douglas (on the Isle of Man) with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Winters were spent laid up.

The pattern was finally broken in 2015, when the ship was sold to Nordic HSC, a shipowner associated with Gotlandsbåten, the new Swedish shipping company wishing to challenge the existing state-subsidized operator Destination Gotland on the routes connecting the Swedish mainland to Gotland. During the 2016 summer season, Express sailed for Gotlandsbåten on the Visby-Västervik and Visby-Nynäshamn routes. While passenger numbers were good, Gotlandsbåten failed to make a profit and the company decided not to resume operations for the 2017 summer season. Instead, the Express was chartered to Viking Line, who will use her on the Helsinki-Tallinn line for the duration of the summer season, starting from 10 April 2017.

The photos below show the Express passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait both outbound and inbound during the operating trials she carried out during 3 April 2017. Photographed from Kustaanmiekka. As always, you can see the images in larger size by clicking on them.

Outbound for the first run of the afternoon. This was the first time I've ever heard a ship in the Kustaanmiekka strait before I saw it. The Express is loud.
Coming back after circling the Harmaja lighthouse.
Viking's latest marketing visuals (in Finland) use multicoloured balls, so these have also been painted on the ship alongside the FSTR marketing name.
Heading out again, this time from a slightly different vantage point.
I also photographed her return from this tip, but my last location was poorly chosen and the photos were nothing to write home about.
Next time: I will be attending a press conference onboard the Princess Anastasia on Wednesday, so in all likelihood the next entry will be new interior shots from that ship.

26 March 2017

Coruisk interiors, 5 June 2016

As an admittedly delayed follow-up to the last entry, here are the Coruisk interior photos promised. Since it is a small ship, there aren't that many photos in this entry.

Coruisk

IMO 9274836
Built 2003, Appledore Shipbuilders Bideford, United Kingdom
Tonnage 1 559 GT
Length 65,00 m
Width 14,00 m
Draught 3,05 m
249 passengers
40 cars
2 MaK diesels, combined 2 280 kW
2 azimuthing pods
Speed 14 knots

All photos are from 5 June 2016, taken during a crossing from Craignure to Oban.

Being essentially a glorifued road ferry, the Coruisk has just one public room, which houses a combined cafeteria/shop in one end....
...and rows of seating in the other end.
Embarkation and disembarkation is via the car deck, which is open to the elements.
The podded propulsion caused quite a lot of vibrations, which resulted the cars' burglar alarms going off all the time. Must be hell for the crew.
Kships will return.

13 March 2017

Coruisk at Craignure, 5 June 2016

Coruisk

IMO 9274836
Built 2003, Appledore Shipbuilders Bideford, United Kingdom
Tonnage 1 559 GT
Length 65,00 m
Width 14,00 m
Draught 3,05 m
249 passengers
40 cars
2 MaK diesels, combined 2 280 kW
2 azimuthing pods
Speed 14 knots

The Coruisk (or Coir' Uisg' in Scots Gaelic) was conceived as a "sheltered waters vessel" for Caledonian MacBrayne, for service on the Mallaig-Armadale route during the summer and as a relief vessel during the winters. It was conceived with an unusual construction, resembling a double-ended ferry but with a a dedicated bow and stern, as well as a side ramp. Built by Appledore in Bideford, England, the ship was delivered in August 2003 and entered service on the Mallaig-Armadale -route... where it suffered a series of mishaps, culminating in a computer error resulting in a serious grounding after just a week in service. The ship was repaired and partially rebuilt at Glasgow, then re-entered service on the Gourock-Dunoon -service, deputising for the ship normally in this service. This was another failure, as it was discovered the Coruisk could not berth at Dunoon at all states of tide. Subsequently modifications were carried out and after the initial mishaps, the ships appears to have performed admirably.

A big change for the ship came in 2016, when Caledonian MacBrayne decided to move it to the Oban-Craignure route for the summer season, sailing alongside the Isle of Mull. This resulted in some criticism, as the Coruisk's replacement on Mallaig-Armadale proved less than suitable (and certainly the Coruisk is a poor running mate for the Isle of Mull as far as passenger facilities are concerned). Even so, Caledonian MacBrayne apparently plan to retain the arrangement for the coming years, with the Coruisk thus sailing Oban-Craignure during the summers and as a relief ship on Wemyss Bay-Rothesay during the winters.

The photos below show the Coruisk arriving at Craignure on 5 June 2016. As per the usual, click on an image to see it in larger size.

The ship does look very odd.
Scotland did have a tendency to be quite photogenic during my visit.
Here you can quite nicely see the different ship of the bow and stern - while at first the ship looks like a double-ender, it isn't.
And then we got some nice foreground crap...
...which only got better!
Next time: I think I will finally fullfill my plan of pairing exterior and interior entries of CalMac ships, so next time we'll look at Coruisk interiors (the little that there is).