30 November 2010

Saga Ruby, 9 July 2008

Saga Ruby

IMO 7214715
Built 1973, Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Wallsend, United Kingdom
Tonnage 24 492 GT
Length 191,09 m
Width 25,05 m
Draught 8,23 m
655 passengers
655 berths
2 Sulzer diesels, combined 17 650 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 20 knots

Saga Ruby originally started life as the Vistafjord of Den Norske Amerikalinje (Norwegian America Line, NAL). She was largely based on NAL's 1965-built Sagafjord. Although the Vistafjord was never used on transatlantic services, she was built with separate first class accommodation (the North Atlantic conference of passenger shipping demanded all transatlantic liners to have two accommodation classes). The Vistafjord's main use was to be cruising. During the 1970s Norwegian America Line was, alongside the Royal Viking Line, the most luxurious cruise line around. In rankings of the time the Vistafjord and her sister were always amongst the top five cruise ships of their time (the other three in the top five being Royal Viking Line's Royal Viking Star, Royal Viking Sea and Royal Viking Sky).

Despite their high prestige (or perhaps because of maintaining it) Norwegian America Line's cruise ships were not very profitable. In 1983 Trafalgar House purchased NAL's operations and their two ships. The Vistafjord and Sagafjord now came to be marketed under the brand Cunard Line, which was at the time owner by Trafalgar House. However, the two ex-NAL ships retained their original names and NAL's grey hull colour, the only visible change being Cunard's red funnel colours. (During 1983 Cunard's flagship QE2 had also been painted in a similar colour scheme with a grey hull, but by the time of the Cunard-NAL merger she had reverted to a black hull). At the same time the ships were also re-registered from Norwegian to Bahamian registry.

The Vistafjord continued sailing for Cunard for several years. During the 1990s she was rebuilt with additional structures on the top deck, though I could not find the exact date for this change. The Sagafjord was sold by Cunard to the new Saga Cruises in 1997, becoming the Saga Rose, but the Vistafjord stayed with Cunard into the Carnival era. In 1999 the Vistafjord was renamed Caronia, after Cunard's famous cruise ships of the 1940s-1960s era, repainted with a black hull and re-registred in Southampton, presumably as a part of the attempt by Cunard's new owners to emphasize the line's long history.

The Caronia's long Cunard career finally ended in 2004, after the delivery of the new Queen Mary 2. Like her elder sister Sagafjord/Saga Rose, the Caronia was sold to Saga Cruises and became their Saga Ruby. Initially she was registred in London, but in 2010 this was changed to Valletta, Malta. To this day the Saga Ruby remains in service with Saga Cruises. She has outlived her elder semi-sister Saga Rose, which was sold for scrap in 2009.

The photographs below show the Saga Ruby departing Helsinki on 9 July 2008, photographed from Kustaanmiekka. Click on the individual images to view full size.

Entering the Kustaanmiekka strait. Ships still in service don't get much more classic than this, even though the Saga Ruby is still far from the oldest ship in service.
In the strait displaying her fine sheer.
Still in the strait, camouflaged in part by vegetation.
...and passing on to the relatively open water of the gulf of Finland.

28 November 2010

Superfast VIII, 17 November 2008

Superfast VIII

IMO 9198953
Built 2001, HDW Kiel, Germany
Tonnage 30 285 GT
Length 203,30 m
Width 25,42 m
Draught 6,60 m
Ice class 1 A Super
626 passengers
626 berths
661 cars
1 920 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä-Sulzer diesels, combined 46 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 28,9 knots

Superfast VIII is one in a series of four ice-reinforced vessels (Superfast VII through X) built for Superfast Ferries at HDW Kiel in 2001-2002, planned for Superfast's conquest of the Baltic Sea, the company having previously operated in the Mediterranean. Superfast VII and VIII were placed in a service linking Hanko (the southernmost port in Finland) to Rostock in Germany, in indirect competition with Finnlines' Helsinki-Travemünde ships and Silja Line's Finnjet that sailed between Helsinki and Rostock. Superfast IX and X meanwhile started a Södertälje-Rostock service, but this was less than successful and the ships were soon moved to a new Rosyth-Zeebrugge service.

In 2006 Tallink, who had reportedly been planning to start a Finland-Estonia-Germany service of their own, acquired the Baltic Sea operations of Superfast Ferries, taking posession of the Superfast VII, VIII and IX (the latter having been transferred to the Finland-German yservice the previous year). The ships were re-registered in Paldiski, Estonia in place of their original home port Piraeus and soon afterwards their route was changed into Hanko-Paldiski-Rostock. Since Estonia was not yet at the time a member of the Schengen treaty, this nescessitated adding passport control on the service. Due to this and presumably other reasons the service change was unsuccessful and after lass than two months the intermediate call at Paldiski was removed. Around this time the ship's original Superfast hull markings were amended into "Superfast operated by Tallink".

From the beginning of 2007 the route of the Tallink Superfasts was again changed, now to Tallinn-Helsinki-Rostock. This route variant lasted until late 2008, when Helsinki's new freight harbour in Vuosaari was opened and all ships sailing from Helsinki to German ports were moved there. Now the Superfast VII and VIII (IX having been chartered to Marine Atlantic in Canada) begun sailing only between Helsinki and Rostock. This has remained the ship's route since then, but during the winter 2009-2010 and now again 2010-2011 both the Superfast VII and VIII have been laid up, the service not being profitable during the winter months at least in part due to increased competition from Finnlines.

The photograph below shows the Superfast VIII in Helsinki's Länsisatama on 17 November 2008. Click on the image to view full size.

Nocturnal Superfast. Apart from replacing the Superfast hull and funnel markings with their own, Tallink retained the ship in her original Superfast Ferries livery - including the red hull, which caused many people to confuse the ships with those of Viking Line.

25 November 2010

Finnmaid, 9 July 2008


IMO 9319466
Built 2006, Fincantieri Ancona, Italy
Tonnage 45 923 GT
Length 218,80 m
Width 30,50 m
Draught 7,00 m
Ice class 1 A Super
500 passengers
500 berths
4 216 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 48 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 25 knots

Finnmaid was the second of the five Star-class ships delivered to Finnlines in 2006-2007. Along with her sisters Finnstar and Finnlady, the Finnmaid was placed in the service between Helsinki and Travemünde, replacing the older Hansa-class ships. (The latter two sisters were originally said to go to the Naantali-Kapellskär route, but instead entered on the Malmö-Travemünde service and were eventually transferred to the Helsinki-Travemünde route).

In 2009 an intermediate call at Gdansk was added to the route. Later on the service from Finland to Germany was split in two, Helsinki-Travemünde and Helsinki-Gdansk-Rostock. I've no idea if the Star-class ships rotate between the routes or if different ships are attached to different services.

The photographs below show the Finnmaid passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait on 9 July 2008. Click on the images to view full size.

A sight you can't see anymore, as the freight harbour in Sompasaari has been closed down and resultingly Finnlines' ships no longer travel through the Kustaanmiekka strait.
Italian design, I guess.
Not only is seeing the ship here historial, so is the fact the ramparts were freely accessible. Those were the good old days...

24 November 2010

Finnhansa, 29 April 2008


IMO 9010151
Built 1994, Stocznia Gdanska S.A., Poland
Tonnage 32 534 GT
Length 183,00 m
Width 29,90 m
Draught 7,40 m
114 passengers
114 berths
3 380 lane metres
4 Zgoda-Sulzer diesels, combined 23 040 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 21,3 knots

Finnhansa was the first of the four Hansa-class ships built for the joint Finncarriers-Poseidon service between Helsinki and Lübeck in 1994-1995. This also made Finnhansa the first passenger-carrying Finnlines ship since the Finnjet was transferred to Finnjet Line in 1982. (The history of Finnlines/Finncarriers and their various owners is quite complex and I won't get further into it here).

In 1997 Finnlines acquired Poseidon and subsequently the Finncarrier-Poseidon marketing name was abandoned, initially simply by painting over the second half of the name from the ship's sides. In 2001 the Finncarriers marketing name was abandoned and "Finnlines" was now painted on the ship's sides. However, all the Hansa-class ships retained their original liveries; Finnhansa, Finnpartner and Finntrader the Finncarriers green (inherited from Effoa) and Transeuropa Poseidon's orange. During the same year the German terminus for the ship's route was changed from Lübeck to Travemünde.

The Finnhansa left Finnlines' fleet in 2009, having become large unnescessary following the delivery of the new Star-class ships to the Finland-Germany service in 2006-2007. The Finnhansa was transferred to the fleet of Finnlines' now-owner Grimaldi, who renamed her Euroferry Sicilia and placed her on Genoa-Catania service. Despite the change of ownership she retained her old livery, down to Finnlines-side texts, funnel marking and even the company's coat of arms in the bow.

Euroferry Sicilia proved to be a short detour for the ship. In 2010 Finnlines bought the ship back from Grimaldi, renamed her Transrussia and placed her on the Trans-Russia Express service between St. Petersburg and Travemünde. Her running mate on the service is her sister Transeuropa.

The photographs below show the Finnhansa on Kruunuvuorenselkä in Helsinki in the evening of 29 April 2009, having departed the now-defunct Sompasaari freight harbour. Click on the images to view full size.

On Kruunuvuorenselkä, with Korkeasaari (I believe) in the background.
Entering the Kustaanmiekka strait some minutes afterwards, with the setting sun illuminating spots of newer paint on the side.

22 November 2010

Birka Paradise, 13 December 2008

Birka Paradise

IMO 9273727
Built 2004, Aker Finnyards Rauma, Finland
Tonnage 34 728 GT
Length 177,00 m
Width 28,00 m
Draugth 6,50 m
1 800 passengers
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 23 400 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 21 knots

I think I said just about everything there is to say about the Birka Paradise in the previous entry about her. So, moving on to the picture:

Birka Paradise in Stockholm on 13 December 2008. Click on the image to view full size.

An exceedingly successfull "night-time" photograph is you ask me. Though in actual fact the time was 15:40... which gives you an impression of how early it gets dark here in the North.

19 November 2010

Isabella interiors, 6 October 2010


IMO 8700723
Built 1989, Brodogradiliste Split, Yugoslavia
Tonnage 35 154 GT
Length 169,40 m
Width 27,60 m
Draught 6,40 m
2 480 passengers
2 166 berths
364 cars
900 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä-Pielstick diesels, combined 23 760 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 21,5 knots

The Isabella's interiors were largely rebuilt in 2007, with the addition of new restaurants and rearranging and redecorating the existing public spaces.

A handful of interior photographs from the Isabella, taken during a Stockholm-Turku crossing on 6 October 2010. Click on the images to view full size.

The Tapas & Wine bar on Deck 8, off the Arcade that links the Buffer in the front of the ship to the Fun Club aft.
Ella's restaurant, located aft of the Tapas and Wine Bar.
Fun Club in the aft of deck 8.
Sea Side Café, the large cafeteria located in the forward part of deck 7.

17 November 2010

Armorique, 17 November 2008


IMO 9364980
Built 2009, STX Europe Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 29 468 GT
Length 165,00 m
Width 26,80 m
Draft 6,20 m
1 500 passengers
788 berths
470 cars
985 lanemeters
2 MaK diesels, combined 24 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 23 knots

Armorique was the second of two ro-pax ferries built in 2007-2009 by the Aker Finnyards/STX shipyard in Helsinki for Brittany Ferries. Originally the two ships were ordered as sister ships, but the Armorique was built with a notably larger superstructure than her older sister Cotentin, giving her a much larger passenger capability. The Armorique is to-date the last ship to be built at Helsinki's Hietalahti shipyard and at the moment it seems no further ships will be built at that yard. Instead, the yard specialises in maintainance and refitting of ships and it is likely to be closed down one the agreement to rent the land from the city of Helsinki ends.

Since her delivery to Brittany Ferries in January 2009 the Armorique has served mainly on the Plymouth-Roscoff -route, occasionally doubling on other services as well.

The photographs below were taken in Hietalahti, Helsinki on 17 November 2008 while the Armorique was still under construction. Click on the images to view full size.

A historical sight, no more can we see large ships being built in the heart of the city.
A slightly different point-of-view. Tallink's Superfast VIII is partially visible in the background on the right.

15 November 2010

Baltic Queen & Victoria I, 23 March 2009

Baltic Queen

IMO 9443255
Built 2009, STX Europe Rauma, Finland
Tonnage 48 915 GT
Length 212,10 m
Width 29,00 m
Draft 6,42 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 800 passengers
2 500 berths
600 cars
1 130 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 32 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 24,5 knots

Victoria I

IMO 9281281
Built 2004, Aker Finnyards Rauma, Finland
Tonnage 40 975 GT
Length 193,80 m
Width 29,00 m
Draft 6,50 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
2 252 berths
400 cars
1 000 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 26 240 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

Victoria I (referred to in Tallnk marketing material as "Victoria" without the number, but Victoria I is her registered name) was Tallink's second new-built ship, delivered in 2004 from the Aker Finnyards shipyard in Rauma. She is a sister ship of the Romantika delivered two years previously. Since her entry into service the Victoria I has sailed on the Tallinn-Stockholm route, but her running mates have changed several times. Originally she ran parallel to the Regina Baltica, but in 2006 following the delivery of the new Galaxy the Romantika moved on the Tallinn-Stockholm service replacing the Regina Baltica.

In 2009 the Baltic Queen, the third ship of the Galaxy-class (that one in itself an enlarged version of the Romantika/Victoria I design) was delivered from the Rauma shipyard, which meanwhile had passed under the ownership of STX Europe. The Baltic Queen was placed on the Tallinn-Stockholm service, replacing the Romantika and running parallel to the Victoria I. (The Romantika transferred to the Riga-Stockholm route, where she again replaced the Regina Baltica).

Photographs below were taken in Tallinn on 23 March 2009, the day before the Baltic Queen entered service. Resulting she was in port at the same time as her running mate Victoria I. Photos taken from onboard the Viking XPRS. Click on the individual images to view full size.

Brand new Baltic Queen in the afternoon sun.
Aft of the Baltic Queen, the Victoria I is preparing to leave for Stockholm.

13 November 2010

Fram, 3 May 2009


IMO 9370018
Built 2007, Fincantieri Trieste, Italy
Tonnage 11 647 GT
Length 114,00 m
Width 20,20 m
Draugth 5,10 m
Ice class 1 A
500 passengers
318 passenger berths
4 MaK diesels, combined 7 924 kW
2 azipods
2 bow thruster
Speed 16 knots

Fram (Norwegian for "Forward") is named after polar exporer Fridtjof Nansen's schooner that was used on Nansen's Arctic expedition, Otto Sverdrup's expedition to Canadian Arctic islands and on Roald Amundsen's famous expedition to the South Pole. The newer Fram is the first purpose-built cruise ship belonging to the Norwegian Hurtigruten company, designed specifically for cruising on the Arctic and Antarctic waters. She was also the first ship ever to have been delivered to the present-day Hurtigruten company that had been formed in 2006 when the last two surviving Hurtigruten partners, Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskab (TFDS) and Ofotens og Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab (OVDS) merged to form Hurtigruten Group.

Unlike other Hurtigruten ships, that have usually been ordered from Norwegian (or sometimes German) shipyards, the Fram was built at Italy's Fincantieri yards, possibly due to Fincantieri's large-scale experience in building cruise ships. However, despite her cruise ship status the Fram is certified to carry 182 deck passengers in addition to the 318 passenger she carries while cruising, making it possible to use her on the Bergen-Kirkenes coastal trade that Hurtigruten's other ships ply.

Photographs below are from the Fram'svisit to Helsinki on 3 May 2009. Click on the individual images to view full size.

The "pretty ugly" Fram shortly after departing from Helsinki.
Entering the Kustaanmiekka strait.
Sailing through the strait in a healthy southern breeze.
Past the narrowest point of the strait.
Forward to the open sea.

Public service announcement, vol. 2

You might have noticed (well, you probably haven't since no-one has reported this) that despite the fact all entries say "click on the images to view full size", in the last entries for September and all entries for last month nothing happened when you clicked on the images. For whatever fantastic reason of it's own Blogger had neglected to add the links to the images, even though it's supposed to do that automatically. I have just spend a large portion of my Saturday evening fixing the hmtl codes in those entries manually and they should work properly now. If there are any problems, please comment on the relevant entries and let me know.


12 November 2010

Princess Daphne, 17 May 2009

Princess Daphne

IMO 5282627
Name history: Port Sydney, Akirotiri Express, Daphne, Switzerland, Ocean Monarch, Princess Daphne
Built 1955, Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Newcastle, United Kingdom
Tonnage 15 833 GT
Length 162,37 m
Width 21,34 m
Draught 7,80 m
592 passengers
2 Doxford-Wallsend diesels, combined 9 709 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 16 knots

Princess Daphne is a classic-looking ship with a diverse history. She was originally built in 1955 as the refridgerated cargo ship Port Sydney for Port Line's UK-New Zealand-Australia service. A sister ship, Port Melbourne, followed later the same year.

In 1972 the Port Sydney and Port Melbourne were sold to the Greenk shipping tycoon John C. Carras (alternatively spelled as "Karras", but the former appears to be the preferred English translitteration) with the original intention of being converted into car/passenger ferries. With this in mind the Port Sydney was renamed Akirotiri Express while her sister became the Therisos Express. Plans changed however, and when the ships sailed to the Chalkis shipayrd in Greece it was with the intention of being rebuilt into luxurious cruise ships for approximately 400 passengers.

When the ships re-emerged from the shipyard in 1975-1976 they were completely transformed from their original unattractive freighter looks into sleek, well-rounded cruise ships. Only the shape of their hulls with the pronounced sheer betrayed their origins from 20 years past. The Akirotiri Express, now renamed Daphne was the first to be completed in 1975. Her sister followed as the Danae the following year. Under the banner of Carras Cruises the sisters sailed to varying destinations around the world, including the Mediterranean, South America, the Amazon River and East Asia. In the latter area the Danae became the first western cruise ship to call in the People's Republic of China in 1977. The Daphne meanwhile was to cruise from the United States to Cuba, but this plan had to be scrapped due to the difficult political situation and a bomb threat directed at the ship.

While Carras Cruises offered interesting iteneraries, they failed to make themselves known to the wider travelling public. An additional problem was the fierce competition from Royal Viking Line with their newer, purpose-built ships. In 1978 the Daphne was chartered to Lauro Lines (the predecessor of todays MSC Cruises) for year. Following the end of the charter to Lauro she was chartered to Costa Cruises for five year from 1979 onwards. Later in 1979, after just four year of operation, Carras Cruises closed down and the Danae was also chartered to Costa.

The sisters retained their names while sailing with Costa, and they stayed with the company for 11 years (Costa purchased the sisters at the end of the original charter agreements in 1984). In 1990 Costa founded a joint subsidiary, Prestige Cruises, with the Soviet Union's Sovcomflot and the Daphne and Danae were transferred to this company—still without a change in name. The Danae was badly damaged during a shipyard fire in 1991 and she was declared a total loss. Although sold for scrap she was eventually sold and repaired by her new owners.

Daphne meanwhile continued sailing for Prestige Cruises for the time being. Sometime between 1993 and 1996 Sovcomflot pulled out of the Prestige Cruises arrangement and the Daphne returned to Costa Cruises. In 1997 the Daphne was sold to Swiss owners and renamed Switzerland for service with Leisure Cruises. In 2001 the Switzerland was laid up at Marseille. In 2002 she was sold to Majestic International Cruises, renamed Ocean Monarch and chartered variously to Page & Moy, Hansa Kreuzfahrten and Golden Sun Cruises. In 2005 she was also used as a hospital ship in Sri Lanka following the Boxing Day Tsunami. In 2007 the Ocean Monarch cruised for Majestic International's subsidiary Monarch Classic Cruises.

In 2007 the Ocean Monarch was sold to the Portugal-based Classic International Cruises. Classic International had bought the ex-Danae (by that time known as Baltica) in 1996 and had renamed her Princess Danae. To match the name of her sister and again-fleetmate the Ocean Monarch was renamed Princess Daphne in 2008. Between 2008 and 2010 the Princess Daphne spent the winter seasons cruising with her owners in the Far East, while for the summers she was chartered to Hansa Kreuzfahrten for European cruising.

[The following segment was added on 3 June 2014:] Classic International Cruises ceased trading in late 2012 and the Princess Daphne, alongside the rest of the company fleet, was laid up. While the rest of the former CIC fleet was sold to Rui Alegre, who formed Portuscale Cruises to operate them, the Princess Daphne was returned to CIC's owners, the brothers Aleksandros and Emilios Potamianos. Probably the Potamianos brothers had ambitions to return the Princess Daphne to cruise service—possibly even using the CIC name. This did not come to pass, and in May 2014 the Princess Daphne left layup for one last voyage to the shipbreakers of Alang.

Photographs below are of the Princess Daphne in Helsinki on 17 May 2009 during one of her charters to Hansa Kreuzfahrten. Click on the individual images to view full size.

At the cruise quay in Katajanokka.
Another photo from the Katajanokka cruise quay.
In the Kustaanmiekka strait, following the train of her Hansa Kreuzfahrten fleetmate Delphin that was also in Helsinki on the same day.
Heading south to the Bay of Finland, with Harmaja lighthouse visible in the background.

11 November 2010

Delphin, 17 May 2009


IMO 7347536
Built 1975, Wärtsilä Turku, Finland
Tonnage 16 214 GT
Length 156,27 m
Width 21,90 m
Draugth 6,20 m
556 passengers
2 Pielstick-Wärtsilä diesels, combined 13 240 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 21 knots

Delphin was originally one in the series of five state-of-the-art cruiseferries built by Wärtislä in Finland for the Soviet Union. Most of her history is covered in the previous entry about her. However, in the two months since that entry was written Delphin Kreuzfahrten, the Delphin's owner, have gone bankrupt. The Delphin ended her to-date last cruise in Venice on 4 November 2010 and is to the best of my knowledge currently laid up.

Photographs below show the Delphin in Helsinki on 17 May 2009, during somewhat better times for her owners. Click on the individual images to view full size.

Moored at Kanavaterminaali (literally "Channel Terminal") on Katajanokka. Uspenski Cathedral (Alexey Gornostaev 1868) in the background.
Heading for the Kustaanmiekka strait.
In the Kustaanmiekka strait. The colours in this photo are a bit off - it was very difficult to get away the very blue hue of the side of the ship that's in the shadows.
In the Kustaanmiekka strait, with arty retro-like colours. Somehow this ship seems to cause those in photographs she's in.

10 November 2010

Silja Europa, 9 November 2010

Silja Europa

IMO 8919805
Built 1993, Meyer Werft, Germany
Tonnage 59 912 GT
Length 201,78 m
Width 32,60 m
Draught 6,80 m
Ice class 1 A Super
3 123 passengers
3 696 berths
350 cars
932 lane metres
4 MAN diesels, combined 31 800 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 22 knots

Silja Europa was originally ordered by Rederi AB Slite, one of the owners of Viking Line, in 1989. The Europa, as she was to be known in keeping with Slite's tradition of taking their names from Greek and Roman mythologies, was to be the jewel in the company's crown, outdoing both SF Line's (the other Viking Line partner) Cinderella and Silja Line's still-under-construction Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony. In terms of basic design the Europa is an enlarged version of Slite's Athena and Kalypso, built in 1989 and 1990 respectively (they in turn were based on the Mariella of 1985 and her sister Olympia of 1986).

While the Europa was under construction at Meyer Werft, a disaster stroke the Finnish shipyard Wärtsilä that was building both Slite's Kalypso and Silja's Serenade and Symphony. Wärtsilä's shipbuilding division went bankrupt and in the ensuing reorganisation the prices of the still under construction newbuildings rose radically, leaving both Slite and Silja Line in heavy debt.

Fast forward to January 1993. During the month the Swedish krona was devaluated by 25%, leaving Slite 200 million SEK short of the price of the Europa just two months before the shi pwas to be delivered. The situation was further compicated by the fact that the main funder of Slite, Nordbanken, was also the main funder of Silja Line. While Slite was better off financially of the two, the bank stood to lose more if Silja failed (as she was perhaps likely to do at the time). Regardless of what the actual reasons were, Nordbanken refused to grant Slite an additional loan to secure the ship. During the same month Silja Line signed an agreement with the shipyard to charter the Europa on completion of the ship. Slite's assests meanwhile were evaluated by Nordbanken as being much less valuable than they were. The final result was that Slite was forced to declare bankruptcy and their remaining assets (Olympia, Athena and Kalypso) were sold for trading outside the Baltic. The money from selling the ships easily covered the debts of RAB Slite. With large parts of Viking Line's fleet missing, Silja Line established itself as the dominant shipping company on the North Baltic and managed to somewhat improve it's financial position.

Returning to the Europa, she has been christened Silja Europa on 5 March 1993 and entered service on Silja Line's Helsinki-Stockholm route on 14 March 1993. She had been planned for that exact route, and placing her on the service allowed Silja to cash in on the large-scale marketing Viking Line had already carried out for their future ship. In 1994 the Silja Europa was the second ship to arrive on the scene of the Estonia disaster and the ship was appointed head of the rescue operation.

In practice Silja Line found the Silja Europa to be ill-suited as a running mate to the Silja Symphony and more importantly the Silja Serenade—which the Silja Europa had replaced on the Helsinki-Stockholm service—was found to be highly ill-suited for the Turku-Stockholm service she had been transferred to. Resultingly from January 1995 the Silja Europa moved to the Turku-Stockholm service, with the Silja Serenade returning to the Helsinki-Stockholm route.

Originally the Silja Europa had a partially white funnel, with the seal painted on on blue, which was for a time the distinctive feature of the company's ships sailing from Helsinki (the ships sailing from other ports has blue funnels with the seal painted on white—since then various transfers have made the colour-coding pointless). During a docking in 2000 the Silja Europa's funnel was painted blue with a white seal, but Silja marketing material continues to use pictures of the white-funneled version even today. In 2002 there the Swedish Stena Line were reportedly interested in chartering the Silja Europa to replace their Stena Saga (reportedly the staff of the Stena Saga even visited the Silja Europa to get to know her). Resultingly Silja Line's then-owner Sea Containers purchased 42% of the ship from Meyer Werft, which together with the previously Silja-owned 17% gave them a majority ownership and blocked the transfer to Stena. In 2004 Sea Containers purchased the remaining shares of the ship. In 2006, prior to Silja Line being sold to Tallink, the ownership of the ship was passed to Silja Line.

Photographs below show the Silja Europa arriving in Helsinki on 9 November 2010, during a two-week period she sailed on the Helsinki-Stockholm route to cover for the docking of Silja Serenade. The weather on the day was relatively bad and due to strong winds the Silja Europa had to be escorted in quay by two tugs.

Click on the individual images to view full size.

On Kruunuvuorenselkä, being escorted by the tug Atlas.
About to pass behind Klippan into the South Harbour pool. Laajasalo oil harbour once again in the background.
Turning in the South Harbour pool, with both tugs (Atlas and Helios) visible.
Backing (or perhaps more accurately, sliding sideways) into the quay.

Silja Europa interiors, 10 October 2010

Silja Europa

IMO 8919805
Built 1993, Meyer Werft, Germany
Tonnage 59 912 GT
Length 201,78 m
Width 32,60 m
Draught 6,80 m
Ice class 1 A Super
3 123 passengers
3 696 berths
350 cars
932 lane metres
4 MAN diesels, combined 31 800 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 22 knots

Silja Europa is, at least at the time of writing, the largest cruiseferry in the Northern Baltic (on completion she was the largest ferry in the world). She has originally been ordered by Rederi AB Slite for traffic with Viking Line with the name Europa, but when Slite met with financial difficulties in 1993 and was unable to secure further funding from their funders—the same bank that also funded Silja Line—the ship was chartered by the shipyard to Silja Line on completion and the ship became the Silja Europa.

Due to her being originally planned as an RAB Slite ship, the interior layout of the Silja Europa is rather different from that of purpose-built Silja ships. Like all Viking Line newbuildings built in 1988-1990, the basic interior layout of the Europa was derived from the 1985-1986 built Viking Line sisters Mariella and Olympia. As she was to be Slite's new flagship, the Europa was to be something special, and being simply huge, she is. But when you compare her with the preceeding "largest in the world" ferries, Silja Line's Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony from 1990-1991 and SF Line's Viking Line ferry Cinderella from 1989, apart from her size the Europa lacks any special features. The Serenade and Symphony have their impressive midship promenades, two-deck high nightclubs and observation lounges below the funnel. The Cinderella has her three-deck high night club (still my favourite public space onboard any ship I've visited) and a five-deck high panoramic glass wall. The Europa has nothing comparable; even her nigh club is a traditional single-deck high space that's quite pedestrian. Admittedly there's a nice double-height observation lounge on the rear of the ship... but that's not nearly as impressive as the spaces on the other ships mentioned.

This is not to say I wouldn't like the Silja Europa. In fact, my most recent trip on her was probably my favourite of the trevals I've done with Silja's current fleet. But that had more to do with the onboard atmosphere and the staff than the ship herself.

Photographs below were taken onboard the Silja Europa during a Stockholm-Turku crossing on 10 October 2010. Click on the images to view full size.

Outer deck on deck 13, with the funnel on view (obviously) and forward of it the windows of the upper level of the conference center.
Sun deck on deck 12, with the helicopter landing pad partially visible on the left. The windows are those of the sauna/spa area.
Helicopter landing pad and sun deck on deck 12 viewed from deck 13. Stockholm archipelago in the bakcground.
Staircase artwork. Unfortunately I neglected to write down which staircase and deck this is from. I vague remember this would be the aft staircase on deck 10 or 11, but I could easily be wrong.
A-class (exterior) cabin on deck 9. (For the record, the girl in the photo is a friend I was travelling with. I didn't burst into the cabin of other passengers or anything...).
More staircase artwork. I think this one was from the front staircase, possibly from deck 9, but it probably isn't...
Air seats for passenger without cabins on the rear of deck 9. The space below is the Windjammer Bar (see photo below).
Taurus restaurant on deck 8.
Ocean Club, the ship's night club, in the aft of deck 8.
Windjammer Bar on deck 8, just aft of the Ocean Club.

04 November 2010

Gabriella, 18 May 2009


IMO 8917601
Built 1992, Brodogradiliste Split, Croatia
Tonnage 35 492 GT
Length 171,50 m
Width 28,20 m
Draught 6,25 m
2 420 passengers
2 402 verths
400 cars
900 lane metres
4 Pielstick diesels, combined 23 760 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 21,5 knots

Gabriella passing Kustaanmiekka on 18 May 2009. Click on the individual images to view full size.

The spring sunshine hadn't yet managed to lure out the leaves from trees.
Heading out from one of the most dangerous commonly-trafficed straits in the world.

Silja Serenade, 18 May 2009

Silja Serenade

IMO 8715259
Built 1990, Masa-Yards Turku New Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 58 376 GT
Length 203,03 m
Width 31,93 m
Draugth 7,12 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 852 passengers
3 001 berths
410 cars
1 600 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä-Vasa diesels, combined 32 580 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 21 knots

Silja Serenade passing Kustaanmiekka on 18 May 2009. My main intention for that day was actually to photograph Phoenix Reisen's Alexander von Humboldt, but due to problems with the ship's then-owner Club Cruise she had in fact never arrived in Helsinki. As my secondary objective for the day was to check out the potential of a hill in Kustaanmiekka as photospot, I decided to go anyway. The photographs below (and similar ones of Viking Line's Gabriella that I will probably upload later on) were the result.

Click on the images to view full size.

Approaching the narrowest point of the strait. The yacht in the foreground was related to the filming of the second-season finale of Diili (Finnish version of The Apprentice).
Gliding out to the Bay of Finland to the visual enjoyment of the onlookers.