17 October 2016

Black Watch in Helsinki 15 September 2016

As most of you might have noticed, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines changed their livery for this year, with a new grey-hulled colour scheme, recalling the livery of their passenger liners of old (alas, with a darker shade of grey than the old one). This, of course, was a perfect excuse to photograph their ships again. Except, when the Black Watch's visit to Helsinki loomed, I realised I had never photographed the ship before (I have, on the other hand, photographed both sisters, the Boudicca and Albatros before). So, this is also an excuse to do another one of the terribly long history entries.

Black Watch

IMO 7108930
Former names: Royal Viking Star, Westward, Star Odyssey, Black Watch
Built 1972, Wärtsilä Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 28 221 GT
Length 205,47 m
Width 25,19 m
Draugth 7,30 m
820 passengers
4 MAN/B&W diesels, combined 14 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

The Black Watch was built for Det Bergenske Dampskibsselskab (BDS), the Norwegian shipowner that were a partner in Hurtigruten, operated a ferry service from Bergen to Newcastle, and ran the cruise ship Meteor. The latter, however, was becoming outdated in the late 1960s, and in 1969 the company ordered a replacement from Wärtsilä in Helsinki, who at the time were building the first trio of ships for Royal Caribbean, but had never actually completed a cruise ship yet. However, after BDS had ordered their ship (originally planned to be named Stella Polaris, after what was probably BDS' most famous cruise ship), they were approached by two other Norwegian shipowners, Det Nordenfjeldske Dampskipsselskap (who were BDS' partners in Hurtigruten) and A.F. Klaveness & Co., who wished to establish a joint subsidiary with BDS for worldwide cruising. This was agreed on, and Royal Viking Line was formed, with the BDS ship renamed Royal Viking Star. Originally, the plan was for each of the three ships to carry the funnel colours of their respective owners as was done with Hurtigruten – in BDS' case, three white stripes on a black background – but in the end all three ships were painted with Royal Viking Line's funnel colours.

The Royal Viking Star entered service in June 1972, as the first ship of Royal Viking Line. The line, with their world-wide itineraries, quickly proved a success, and in 1981 the Royal Viking Star was sent for lengthening at the Seebeckwerft shipyard in West Germany. However, financially the result was less satisfactory. A.F. Klaveness had withdrawn from the consortium already in 1977, and in 1984 Royal Viking Line became a part of the burgeoning Kloster Cruise empire. With the arrival of new tonnage in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kloster decided that the original Royal Viking trio was ill-suited for needs of modern luxury cruising, and in 1991 the Royal Viking Star was transferred to the fleet of the sister company Norwegian Cruise Line as the Westward. In the NCL fleet the ship was used for week-long party cruises for the US market, a use it was singularly unsuited for.

In 1994 the ship was again transferred within the Kloster group, now to Royal Cruise Line, a more upmarket subsidy, becoming the Star Odyssey. Royal Cruise Line already operated the Star Odyssey's sister Royal Odyssey, originally the Royal Viking Sea. However, our ship's stint as the Star Odyssey was to prove short, as Kloster were facing acute financial difficulties, as a result of which the Star Odyssey was sold to Fred. Olsen in late 1996.

Fred. Olsen were, at the time, running a single-ship cruise operation aimed at the UK market using the 1966-vintage Black Prince. The company, however, felt there was much growth potential and were eager to secure a second ship to run alongside the Black Prince. The Star Odyssey fit their needs perfectly, and upon learning she was for sale the Olsens quickly secured her, renaming the ship Black Watch, after the Black Prince's original sister ship and running mate. The Black Watch was given a refit to bring its interiors up to the style of its new owners, and following teething problems the ship set into service comfortably. Indeed, such was the success of the Black Prince and Black Watch that in 2001 a third ship, the Braemar, was added.

Between April and June 2005, the Black Watch was re-engined at Blohm & Voss in Germany, adding to the ship's lifespan. Already before the refit, it had been made public that Fred. Olsen had purchased the Black Watch's sister Grand Latino (originally the Royal Viking Sky), which eventually joined the fleet as the Boudicca in February 2006.

The Black Watch remains in the Fred. Olsen fleet to date. There have been numerous rumours that the Olsens are looking to acquire newer ships to their fleet, and as the Black Watch is their oldest vessel, turning 45 next year; even with the new engines, the Black Watch is the likeliest candidates to leave the fleet to make way for new tonnage (alongside the slightly younger Boudicca).

The photos below show the Black Watch at the cruise quay at Helsinki Eteläsatama, and afterwards passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait after departure, on 15 September 2016. First photo taken from onboard the Tor (one of the ferries to Suomenlinna) and the rest from the ramparts of Kustaanmiekka. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

The Black Watch back at home, with the city's two most famous landmarks in the background.
The roman berries nicely match the ship's funnel colours.
An exceedingly fine-looking design that. And the grey hull is starting to grow on me, though I still think they should have picked a slightly lighter shade.
Thought the narrow bit...
...and onwards to the open sea!
Kships will return.

09 October 2016

Viking Grace in Turku, 20 June 2016

Viking Grace

IMO 9606900
Built 2013, STX Europe Turku, Finland
Tonnage 57 700 GT
Length 218,60 m
Width 31,80 m
Draught 6,80 m
Ice class 1 A Super
2 800 passengers
2 876 berths
530 lane metres of cars
1 275 lane metres of cargo
4 Wärtsilä dual fuel (LNG/diesel) engines, combined 30 400 kW
2 fixed-pitch propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Service speed 21,8 knots
Maximum speed 25,6 knots

I haven't featured too many exterior photos of the Viking Grace here, so now is the time for a change.  This set was taken on the same trip as the shots of the Baltic Princess departing from Turku featured here about two months ago. So, as can be obvious from the previous sentence, the shots here show the Viking Grace departing from Turku on the afternoon of 20 June 2016, photographed from Ruissalo (albeit not the exact same location as on the Baltic Princess shots). As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

If I ever have the chance to write a book on the history of Viking Line, this could be a potential cover image.
Even after almost four years in service, the Viking Grace's exterior still looks nicely futuristic to my eyes.
The foreground reeds are a nice addition, as always.
She's really surprisingly sleek.
The colours radically changed with the light coming from the other direction.
LNG tanks prominently visible, as always. The soon-to-come Megastar, with the tanks hidden in a more conventional location, will be an interesting comparison.
Kships will return.

02 October 2016

Isle of Arran interiors, 2 June 2016

In hindsight, it would have been smart to group my Scotland entries so that an entry on a ship's interiors follows immediately after an entry on the same ship's exteriors. Well, I didn't do it with the Isle of Arran, but there's still quite a lot of material left, so I can do it with some of the other ships.

Isle of Arran

IMO 8219554
Built 1984, Ferguson Ailsa Glasgow, United Kingdom
Tonnage 3 269 GT
Length 84,92 m
Width 16,24 m
Draught 3,20 m
652 passengers
62 cars
2 diesels
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 15 knots

For a history (and exterior images) of the Isle of Arran, see the first entry on the ship. The ship itself is an old and small thing, with only three public rooms all located on the same deck, so this will be fairly brief.

Deck 6 houses the navigation bridge.

Deck 5 has outer decks accessible for passengers and (presumably) crew spaces.

The forward outer deck offers nice views... with the passengers having somewhat different thoughts on the suitable attire for the weather.
The aft sun deck is much more sheltered, with superstructure forward and funnels on the sides keeping the wind out. But, of course, this also keeps the wind out.
Deck 4 is the deck with all the public rooms, plus kitchens aft.

There are two public rooms forward: a sitting lounge on the port side...
...and the Coffee Cabin starboard, where the servery also soubles as the ship's small shop.
Midships if the ship's Mariners restaurant, photographed here towards the bow and the connecting corridor to the lounges forward. The cafeteria-style servery area is (somewhat impractically) in a separate room aft of the main eatery space. (Overall, while I did like Calmac's ships and services onboard, the cafeteria serveries were hopelessly impractical for my Nordic sensibilities).
Deck 3 is the entrace deck, with some seating areas flanking the car deck.

Deck 2, then, is the main level of the car deck.

Kships will return.