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.

04 February 2017

Stena Saga in Oslo, 24 January 2017

Almost two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting YSA Design (perhaps better known under their old name Yran & Storbraaten) in Oslo and interviewing the company's owners and staff for an article that will be featured in the next issue of Cruise Business Review. I had hoped to take some ship photos during my time there, but for the most part the weather was atrocious with a thick fog that made taking any photos of quality impossible - that is, until my last few hours there.

Stena Saga

IMO 7911545
Name history: Silvia Regina, Stena Britannica, Stena Saga
Built 1981 Wärtsilä Turku, Finland
Tonnage 33 3967 GT
Length 166,10 m
Width 29,06 m
Draught 6,70 m
Ice class 1 A Super
2 000 passengers
1 601 passenger berths
510 cars
4 Wärtsilä-Pielstick diesels, combined 22 948 kW
2 controllable pitch propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 sterns thruster
Speed 22 knots

The Stena Saga started life as the Silvia Regina, the second of Silja Line's "Futurum" ferries for the Helsinki-Stockholm line. Although contracted by Rederi AB Svea and named by her namesake, Queen Silvia of Sweden, the ship was, in fact, delivered to Suomen Yritysrahoitus and registered under the Finnish flag. For the first six months of her life, the ship carried the black-and-white funnel colours of Rederi AB Svea; but from the beginning of 1982 Svea's shipping operations were taken over by their parent company Johnson Line, and the Silvia Regina's funnel received Johnson's blue-and-yellow on black funnel markings. Soon afterwards, in February of the same year, the ship sailed back to her builders for a radical reconstruction of her bow, the original bow lines having been found to perform poorly in rough seas.

In late 1986, Johnson Line bought the ship outright and she was re-registered under the Swedish flag. The Johnson ownership turned out to be a short interlude, as in spring 1988 she was resold to Stena Line, but chartered back to Johnson until the delivery of the Silja Symphony. The construction of the latter ship was radically delayed by the bankruptcy of Wärtsilä Marine in 1989, and thus the Silvia Regina could be taken over by her owners only in May 1991. During a refit at Bremerhaven, the ship was renamed Stena Britannica and in June she was placed on the Hoek van Holland-Harwich service, which Stena has taken over when they bought Stoomvaart Maatschappij Zeeland in 1989 - amusingly, one of the other bidders for SMZ had been Johnson Line.

Sailing parallel to the Koningin Beatrix, which had been purpose-built for the route, the Stena Britannica did not prove to be an unqualified success. On the other hand, Stena came to realise the Stena Britannica would be well-suited to their more cruise-oriented routes. Thus, in early 1994, the Stena Britannica was renamed Stena Saga and moved to Oslo-Frederikshavn(-Göteborg) route. Swapping routes with her was the previous Stena Saga, which was now renamed Stena Europe.

The Stena Saga proved a success on the 24-hour cruise route from Oslo and has remained there to this day. In 2008, her funnel was altered with the removal of the 'spoiler' aft (made nescessary by the installation of new, stability-altering equipment onboard). Another refit in 2011 saw the addition of a new spa area in the forward superstructure, further altering the ship's appearance.

The photos below show the Stena Saga in Oslo in the afternoon of 24 January 2017, photographed from the Oslo Opera House and Sørenga. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

The Stena Saga shares the quay with DFDS' Oslo-Copenhagen ships, which means there's some moving around as the ships are simultaneously in port.
Here, the Stena Saga rests at the cruise quay (there are, in fact, two quays at the shared terminal - I have no idea why only one is used).
And of course, at the time when the light would have been perfect, the ship shifted quays. So it was time for some arty long-exposure shots.
Resting at the terminal...
...with the little harbour sculpture in the foreground (again).
Notice that Oslo harbour had ice when Helsinki did not.
Kships will return at latest in about a week, when we'll look at photos from onboard Viking Line's refitted Viking XPRS.