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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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).

06 March 2017

Megastar in Helsinki, 4 March 2017

As promised, today we shall be looking at the Megastar. For those interested in not only looking at my photos but also reading more about the ship, the article I wrote about her for Cruise Business Review's most recent issue can be read online (as can the entire magazine) for free behind this link. (the Megastar article is on pages 53-60).


IMO 9773064
Built 2017, Meyer Turku, Finland
Tonnage 49 134 GT
Length 212,10 metres
Width 30,60 metres
Draught 7,00 metres
2 824 passengers
188 cabin berths
800 cars (if no freight units carried) or
320 cars and 110 freight units
1 970 lane metres
5 Wärtsilä LNG/diesel hybrid engines, combined 45 600 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
2 stern thrusters
Service speed 27 knots
Ice class 1A

As there's very little to say about the Megastar's history, I think it best we go straight to the images. These show the Megastar departing Helsinki Länsisatama (West Harbour) on the afternoon of 4 March 2017, photographed from Vattuniemi. As always, you can see the photos in larger size by clicking on them.

The Megastar looks quite okay when viewed from the front... but as we discussed with my friend and collaborator Bruce Peter, she does look like the wasn't given the final designer touch that would make for a truly beautiful ship.
The sun refused to shine on the ship, but it made for good photos never the less.
And the few remnants of the near-nonexistant sea ice of this winter made for a decent foreground.
Alas, seen from the rear the ship isn't particularly attractive - a situation made worse by the sloppy design of the livery in that part.
Dramatic background.
Sisä-Hattu, my usual favourite photo location, was turned into a foreground object this time around.
Kships will return.

25 February 2017

Isle of Lewis in the Sound of Mull, 4 June 2016

Today, we return to the misty shores of Scotland and look at yet another fascinating local ferry.

Isle of Lewis

IMO 9085974
Built 1984, Ferguson Shipbuilders Glasgow, United Kingdom
Tonnage 6 753 GT
Length 101,25 m
Width 18,52 m
Draught 4,19 m
970 passengers
114 cars
170 lane metres
2 Mirrlees Blackstone diesels, combined 6 442 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 18 knots

As the name perhaps suggests, the Isle of Lewis (or Eilean Leòdhais in Gaelic) was originally built for Caledonian MacBrayne's prestigious run linking Ullapool on the Scottish mainland with Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh) on the titular Isle of Lewis. The ship sharing its name with the island was built by Ferguson Shipbuilders in 1995; it was named by Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra in April 1995. On completion in July of the same year, the Isle of Lewis was not only the largest ship in the CalMac fleet by some margin, but also the fastest, with a top speed of 18,92 knots reached during the sea trials.

From 1995 until the entry into service of the new Loch Seaforth in 2015, the Isle of Lewis sailed on the Ullapool-Stornoway -run. Interestingly, until 2009 there was no service on Sundays, as the Isle of Lewis was the last place in Britain where Sabbath was strictly observed.

Following the arrival of the Loch Seaforth, the Isle of Lewis was moved to sail out of CalMac's hub in Oban to Acha (Coll) and Scarinish (Tiree) in the Inner Hebrides where, as far as I could gather from CalMac's website, the ship remains at the time of writing,

The photos below show the Isle of Lewis in the Sound of Mull (if I have identified the loction correctly) on 4 june 2016, photographed from onboard the paddle steamer Waverley. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

Proper Scottish weather we had.
I like the large windows in the forward superstructure, but I do wonder if CalMac had anyone with even a basic understanding of aesthetics look at the drawings before they went and approved the design.
Maybe I'm being too negative here, but... yeah. Not my favourite of the CalMac fleet as far as looks go.
The background does look very Scottish here.
One thing I also wonder about are the narrow aft ramps on most CalMac ships... surely a wider ramp would be a much more modern solution?
The landscape looks great, though!

Kships will return. Next week, I should be able to finally get some good exterior shots of the Megastar, so that will probably be the subject of the next update.

18 February 2017

Further variations on the Viking FSTR

My vision for the Viking FSTR from yesterday (well, technically today, as it was posted after midnight) spawned some feedback... which got my creative juices flowing, thinking about how my first design could be improved, and different ways in which it could be made work. This time around, I've also done some changes to the dark stripes around the windows; they were not too pretty in the original form, so I thought Viking could maybe invest in a small amount of black paint and make the ship look a tad better.

For Version 2, I altered the red paint at the bow for a 'faster' look, changed the ship's name slightly, and as said fiddled with the dark window stripes a bit.
One of the big criticisms of the original design was that there's too much red at the bow... so for Version 3, instead of the red colour rising up at the bow, it slopes down in the same angle as the top of the bow. In addition to that, the only change to V2 is moving the ship's name to a slightly different location at the bow.
Unless I get another bout of inspiration to work further on this, the next entry will really be about the promised images of the Isle of Lewis. Honestly.

Viking FSTR - what it should look like

So, as many readers will probably know by now, Viking Line announced yesterday that they will be chartering a second ship for the Helsinki-Tallinn line between April and October this year. The ship they have chosen is the Express, the catamaran fast ferry that was most recently used by the short-lived Gotlandsbåten on their service linking the island of Gotland to the Swedish mainland. Viking Line are calling her Viking FSTR in their marketing (pronounced 'Viking Faster'), but it remains to be seen whether the ship will really be renamed or if Viking FSTR is just a marketing name.

In addition to the other details, Viking Line have released an artist's impression of what the ship will look like, and I must admit I'm not too keen on the livery they are proposing. Since I had some time - and felt like doing some relaxing fiddling with an image-editing software. I had never photographed the ship in question, but the fellow Swedish ship photographer Kim Viktor (who runs a very neat blog at Sjöfartsbloggarna) had, and he was kind enough to lend me his photo of the Express to work on. So, without further ado, here is my take on how they should paint the new Viking FSTR:

Proper Viking Line red, the shape of the livery matches the shape of the ship... I admit it's not particularly imaginative, but it look a lot more Viking Line than Viking's own impression.
In comparison, here's Kim's original shot:

While I'm at it, I must say I'm not a huge fan of Gotlandsbåten's livery either.
And here is what Viking Line have publicised for the new ship:

Obviously, this image is copyright Viking Line
Kships will return... probably with some real photos of the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry Isle of Lewis.

12 February 2017

Viking XPRS interiors, 11 February 2017

Yesterday saw the completion of the most recent set of rebuilding onboard Viking Line's sole Helsinki-Tallinn ferry Viking XPRS with the opening of the new, larger Club X night club aft, replacing the older and smaller Dance Pavillion. Since the newest onboard pictures from the ship are from 2009, when the Dance Pavillion was brand new, I think it's high time we had a second tour of the ship. It might be of interest to the reader to compare the images in this set to the 2009 set, as well as the entry showing the aft decks in the original 2008 configuration.

Viking XPRS

IMO 9375654
Built 2008, Aker Yards Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 35 778 GT
Length 186,71 m
Width 27,70 m
Draugth 6,75 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
732 berths
230 cars
1 000 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 40 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 25 knots

The Viking XPRS' original interiors were by Tillberg Design, working together with the Finnish architect Lasse Heikkinen. The most recent changes were, in turn, by Viking Line's in-house architect Johan Nordberg. All photos in this entry were taken on 11 Fabruary 2017, whuke the ship was moored in Tallinn.

Deck 10 has a large, sheltered sundeck area (which, to be honest, I've been expecting them to convert to a skybar for more indoors seating for years).

Deck 9 has the bridge forward, with the rest of the indoor spaces devoted to crew areas, and open decks for passengers.

Deck 8 is the upper of the two decks dedicated to public rooms. Forward, there is the Red Rose cafeteria (which I did not get to photograph this time around, as it was booked for a group during the time in port and packed during the times at sea), followed by the Blue Deli cafeteria starboard and the galley port. Aft of these is the Robert's Coffee café starboard, followed by the Wine & Dine restaurant, and the Bistro Bella buffet restaurant port.

Blue Deli seating areas. Originally, there was a couch behind the window, but this was replaced by more eating-friendly seating later on.
The staircases are attractively decorated with photos of old Viking Line vessels from the 1970s.
What was originally the Xpresso Street café has been rebranded as a part of the popular Finnish coffee house chair Robert's Coffee. The decor, however, remains largely unaltered.
More Robert's Coffee.
In the most recent refit, the servery counter was completely rebuilt (you can see the outline of the original in the ceiling details); at the same time, café servery counter and buffet bookings counter were separated (having originally been combined in a less than successful arrangement).
The Wine & Dine à la carte restaurant was added in 2015, replacing an earlier area originally envisioned as a cabinet for groups but more often used for regular seating or as an overspill area for the buffet. Apart from the furniture (which in my opinion is somewhat inferior to the original in terms of style), the decor is original.
The servery areas of the Bistro Bella buffet are located in a semi-separate room forward of the main restaurant area in an arrangement that is perhaps not as practical as envisioned. The servery counters were rebuilt in the most recent refit to create space for additional courses.
For the most part, Bistro Bella's seating areas retain the original 2008 appearance...
...except for four tables aft, which for some reason have completely differerent chairs, which don't match the rest of the decor at all.
Aft of the restaurants, there is an enlarged sundeck area (thanks to the addition of Club X below). For the summer season, additional sofas and chairs will be brought to the elevated area. Due to the indoors areas on Deck 8 terminating in resturants, the outer area can be accessed only by going down to Dekck 7 or up to Deck 9.
Deck 7 is the lower public room deck, with conference rooms and a fashion shop forward, followed by the main Shopping World, followed by the Viking's Inn pub and, right aft, the new Club X night club.

The conference lobby. The placement of the conference rooms forward, with the best views, is somewhat odd as slideshows and such are generally dependant on not too much light entering the room for them to be properly visible.
The forward staircase is red, in order to differentiate from the blue midships one.
The Shopping World was given an entirely new decor in the most recent refits, in style similar to contemporary airport tax free shops (and, it must be said, very similar to the most recent main shops onboard Tallink's ships).
From the 1980s until the 2000s, a Baltic Sea ferry simply had to have a stereotypical British-style pub onboard. Viking's Inn is the last representative of this trend; since then the style has finally (and fortunately) gone out of fashion.
Viking's Inn has a somewhat unusual H-shaped floor plan, with the bar counter in the middle.
Aft of Viking's Inn, we come to the new Club X night club. The back wall, with the impressive fenestration (sadly giving a view of the outer deck, rather than the ship's wake) was moved back in the most recent refit, giving space for additional seating for 150.
While the earlier furniture of the Dance Pavillion has been retained here, the - in my opinion very attractive - original fuchsia and teal upholstery has given way to more sombre hues of black, grey and copper.
Club X's bar counter has also been enlarged from it's previous incarnation.
Deck 6 is dedicated to cabins, most of them for passengers but also crew cabins right aft.

Apart from the floor material, this B4R allergy cabin is representative of the standard cabins onboard.
Deck 5 is, in turn, entirely dedicated to passenger cars, accessible both via internal ramps and doors on the sides of the ship.

Decks 3 and 4 host a twin-height deck for cargo.

Decks 1 & 2 are inaccessible to passengers housing engineering spaces, galleys and the like.

Kships will return.