18 November 2018

Gennadiy Nevelskoy & Stepan Makarov in Helsinki, 27 November 2016

And now for something completely different – namely, Russian icebreakers. As some of you might already know, the Arctech Helsinki Shipyard (previously belonging to Wärtsilä, Masa-Yards, Aker and STX) in my home town is for sale by its Russian owners OSK (Объединенная судостроительная корпорация, the state-owned shipbuilding company), with the likely buyers being a group of Russian investors. While buyers from other countries have also shown interest, according to Russian sources the yard has been deemed by the state too important to let fall into non-Russian hands (ironically, the Finnish state never had any qualms about this). Right now, the yard has just one ship in its order books, the arctic gas condensate tanker Yuriy Kuchiev, which was due for delivery this year but looks likely to be delayed until next year. So I thought that today we would look back at somewhat happier times two years ago, when the Helsinki yard was building a series of four icebreaking supply vessels for Sovcomflot (Совкомфлот), or (in English) SCF for short.

Gennadiy Nevelskoy (Геннадий Невельской)

IMO 9742120
Built 2017, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 8 362 GT
Length 104,40 m
Width 21,02 m
Draft 7,90 m
42 passengers
6 diesels, combined 21 000 kW
2 azimuthing propellers
2 bow thrusters
Service speed 16 knots

Stepan Makarov (Степан Макаров)

IMO 9753727
Built 2017, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 8 365 GT
Length 104,40 m
Width 21,02 m
Draft 7,90 m
70 passengers
6 diesels, combined 21 000 kW
2 azimuthing propellers
2 bow thrusters
Service speed 15,50 knots

The Gennadiy Nevelskoy (Геннадий Невельской – note that since this is an English-language blog, I am using the English transliteration of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. For my native Finnish or, for example, German the transliteration can be different) is an icebreaking supply vessel ordered by SFC for use in the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas fields. Originally contracted in April 2014 for a summer 2016 delivery, the ship's construction was seriously delayed until March 2017.

Although externally near-identical and of similar dimensions to Gennadiy Nevelskoy, the Stepan Makarov (Степан Макаров) is not a full sister ship but a modified design, a multifunctional icebreaking standby vessel, again designed for the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas field. Both the Gennadiy Nevelskoy and Stepan Makarov are based on the icebreaking supply vessels Vitus Bering (Витус Беринг) and Aleksey Chirikov (Алексе́й Чириков) that Arctech delivered to SFC in 2012-2013. However, whereas the Vitus Bering and Aleksey Chirikov were based on design by the Finnish icebreaker designers Aker Arctic, the Gennadiy Nevelskoy, Stepan Makarov and the latter's two sister ships were designed entirely in-house by Arctech. Originally, the Stepan Makarov was slated for a September 2016 delivery, but in the end this was delayed to June 2017.

The photos below show the Gennadiy Nevelskoy and Stepan Makarov at the outfitting quays of the Arctech Helsinki Shipyard on the afternoon of 27 November 2016 (it gets dark stupidly early in Finland during this time of the year, so "afternoon" is not a mistake on my part), photographed from the quayside next to the Clarion Hotel Helsinki in Jätkäsaari. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

The Gennadiy Nevelskoy looking near-complete on the outside, but far less so on the inside, judging from the fact it was four months before the ship was actually delivered.
This wide-angle shot has been used in quite a few articles. In addition to the Gennadiy Nevelskoy, you can see the bow of the Stepan Makarov on the left. The box-shaped buiding on the right is the shed covering the Helsinki yard's building dock, which allows work to be completed in a controlled environment, despite the occasionally harsh weather.
A view showing the Stepan Makarov a bit better. Unfortunately the ship was parked in such a way that you couldn't get decent side views of it.
Kships, as always, will return.

10 November 2018

Isabelle in Stockholm, 30 October 2018

Last week, we made a two-night ferry cruise to Stockholm with my wife and son onboard the Silja Symphony (thanks to its sushi bar, this ship is now our family's favourite of the two Silja Helsinki-Stockholm ships). While ship photography wasn't the point of the trip, and for most of it the weather was too atrocious for any good ones anyway, I ended up in the right place at the right time by accident and got my first photos of the Isabelle in her newish white-hulled livery.


IMO 8700723
Name history: Isabella, Isabelle
Built 1989, Brodogradiliste Split, Yugoslavia
Tonnage 35 154 GT
Length 169,40 m
Width 27,60 m
Draft 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

Since it's been a few years since the Isabelle was featured here, I guess it's also time to take an updated look at the ship's history.

The Isabelle started life as the Isabella, the second of two ships ordered in the mid-80s by SF Line from the Brodogradiliste Split shipyard in the (then-)Yugoslavia. The older sister Amorella was completed for the Turku-Stockholm service in 1988. On delivery in 1989, the Isabella was planned to be placed on the Naantali-Kapellskär -route. However, the port authorities of Kapellskär were less than thrilled about the thought of expanding their harbour to accommodate the Isabella (and her envisioned running mate, Rederi AB Slite's Athena, today the Pearl Seaways). In the end Naantali did expand their harbour to accommodate the new ships, while Kapellskär did not. To make the best of the situation, SF Line decided to place the Isabella on a new service linking Naantali to Stockholm when the ship was delivered in June 1989.

Initially, the plan was for the Isabella to stay on the Naantali-Stockholm service around the year, but this proved unprofitable and instead the ship was moved to a service of 25-hour cruises to nowhere (actually Tallinn roads) from Helsinki for the 1989-1990 winter season. For the summers of 1990 and 1991 Isabella returned to Naantali, but the Naantali-Stockholm service was deemed a failure and from autumn 1991 the ship sailed exclusively on the 25-hour (later changed to 24-hour) cruise service from Helsinki. In spring 1992, the Isabella was rebuilt with the addition of an observation lounge on deck 11, converting the garage on deck 5 into cabins and on the exterior the addition of a red stripe running along the windows of deck 6. During the summers of 1993 and 1994 the ship also made occasional cruises from Helsinki to Visby.

In the aftermath of the bankruptcy of Rederi AB Slite (the other partner of Viking Line) in 1993, the Isabella swapped routes with the Cinderella after the 1994 summer season, moving to the Helsinki-Stockholm service. During the 1996 summer season the Isabella's (and her running mate Mariella's) route was briefly extanded to Tallinn-Helsinki-Stockholm. This was not a success at the time and the excercise was not repeated (although it was revived in 2014 and has been a regular feature since). When the Gabriella was acquired in 1997, it took over the Isabella's place on the Helsinki-Stockholm service. Isabella in turn moved to the Turku-Stockholm service (replacing the Rosella), pairing for the first time in its career with the sister ship Amorella.

Following the delivery of the new Viking Grace, the Isabella was laid up and placed for sale. Although Corsica Ferries were rumoured to be interested, no buyer emerged and Viking Line produced plans to reactivate the ship for the Helsinki-Tallinn line for the summer season, sailing as a running mate to the Viking XPRS. At this point Viking's main competitors Tallink did a little math and came to the conclusion that they would lose less money by buying the Isabella than they would if Viking could bring an extra ship in for the summer season. In April 2013 the ship was sold to Tallink; a few days before the sale was finalized, its name was amended to Isabelle and Tallink retained the name, as well as the red-hulled livery, only replacing Viking Line logos with their own (see my first entry on the Isabelle).

In May 2013 the Isabelle entered service on Tallink's Stockholm-Riga route, replacing the Silja Festival as the Romantika's running mate. Between August 2014 and December 2016, the Isabelle sailed as the sole ship on the route, due to route changes resulting from the Silja Europa being chartered to Australia (and the period after its return when Tallink pondered on what to do with their fleet). In February 2017, the Isabelle was docked at the Turku Ship Repair Yard in Naantali, Finland, where the ship was repainted in a similar style to its running mate Romantika, all-white with black stripes along the passenger deck windows.

The photos below show the Isabelle at the new Värtaterminalen in Stockholm on the afternoon of 30 October 2018. Photographed from onboard the Silja Symphony. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

For once, I'm rather pleased with a shot of a ship at quay and taken from the side of the quay (although I rather think one could also get great shots from the Lidingö side).
These shots also turned out surprisingly sharp considering the fact I didn't have a tripod with me – as you can see from the "warp speed" trucks, the exposure time wasn't exactly short.
Kships will return.

02 November 2018

Spirit of British Columbia in Gdansk, 11 January 2018

Finally, the grande finale of photos from my trip onboard the Baltic Princess to the Remontowa shipyard in Gdansk last January, the ferry that had travelled the longest distance to be there and also the one undergoing the biggest renovation: BC Ferries' Spirit of British Columbia.

Spirit of British Columbia

IMO 9015668
Built 1993, Integrated Ferry Construction Victoria & Allied Shipbuilders Vancouver, Canada
Tonnage 21 939 GT
Length 167,50 metres
Width 27,21 metres
Draft 5,00 metres
2 048 passengers
358 cars (if no freight units carried)
4 Wärtsilä LNG/diesel hybrid engines, combined 15 990 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Service speed 19,50 knots

The Spirit of British Columbia was the first of BC Ferries' two Spirit (or S) class ferries, built in 1993 for the Tsawwassen (Vancouver)–Swartz Bay (Victoria) route (the sister ship, Spirit of Vancouver Island, followed in 1994). Somewhat unconventionally, the ship was built in two parts: the forward bit at Allied Shipbuilders in Vancouver and the rear by IFC (Inregrated Ferry Construction) in Victoria. The two halves were then joined together at the Esquimalt drydock, before construction was finished at IFC.

The Spirit of British Columbia entered service in April 1993 and proceeded to give what appears to have been uneventful, regular service on the Tsawwassen–Swartz Bay route for the next 25 years. In October 2017, the ship arrived at the Remontowa shipyard in Gdansk for a radical conversion from a conventional diesel-powered ferry to one using liquidized natural gas (LNG). The ship's original engines, two MAN units, were replaced by four Wärtsilä 8L34DF engines, without an effect on the ship's speed. In spring 2018, the ship returned to service. (The sister ship Spirit of Vancouver Island is slated for a similar conversion during the current winter season).

I must say it is quite fascinating that BC Ferries would choose to give such a radical refit to a 25-year-old ship. In contrast, Viking Line studied the possibility of converting their existing ships to run on LNG soon after the Viking Grace entered service – but for them, not even their second-newest ship, Viking XPRS, at the time just five years old, was deemed worthy of conversion.

Anyway, onwards to the photos, which I admit are less than great quality, but do show the Spirit of British Columbia at an absolutely fascinating point of its life, taken in the middle of the LNG conversion at the Remontowa shipyard (from onboard the arriving Baltic Princess). As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

A foggy day in Gdansk Town.
Unfortunately, as the ship was deep in the yard, this was about the only view that was possible to get...
...unless one wanted to have all kinds of other crap in the foreground.
Next time: Tallink's Isabelle and finally my first proper photos of the ship in the no-longer-so-new white livery.

21 October 2018

Megastar in Tallinn and on the Gulf of Finland, 5 March 2017

I am deviating from the advertised programming again to give a somewhat more newsworthy entry. As people will probably be aware, Tallink Grupp and Rauma Marine Constructions signed a letter of intent to build a new fast ropax ferry for the Helsinki-Tallinn route last Thursday. Although not said outright in the press release, the ship looks likely to be based on the Megastar, albeit with improvements – an artist's impression that was originally included with the press release (but pulled after a few hours) showed a version of the Megastar with additional cabins up on Deck 11 (a nescessary change, as the Megastar has insufficient cabins for the crew and they actually have to accommodate crew in cabins originally meant for passengers). According to Shippax, the public room decks will also be rearranged compared to the Megastar, so it remains to be seen how much of a sister ship the new one will really be.

Anyway, since the new ship will at least be related to the Megastar, I thought we'd look at her again.


IMO 9773064
Built 2017, Meyer Turku, Finland
Tonnage 49 200 GT
Length 212,20 metres
Width 30,60 metres
Draught 7,10 metres
2 824 passengers
186 cabin berths
800 cars (if no freight units carried) or
320 cars and 110 freight units
3 653 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

For interior views of the Megastar, see here.

The photos below show the Megastar arriving at Tallinn (first three) and on the Gulf of Finland approaching Helsinki (the last three) on 5 March 2017, all taken from onboard the Silja Europa. As per the normal procedure, click on the images to see them in larger size.

No idea what the little cargo ship there was, but it made for a nice background.
I'm still not 100% sure about the relatively extensive use of the colour red in the Megastar – it's a very Viking Line-y shade.
The Megastar and Tallink's Helsinki-Tallinn cargo ferry Sea Wind. Since this photo was taken, the Sea Wind's harbour in Estonia has been moved to Muuga, Tallinn's outer cargo harbour, so you can't take a photo like this anymore.
Later, that same day, the Megastar passed us en-route to Helsinki.
Passing the Helsingin kasuuni (Helsinki Caisson) lighthouse.
Next time: Spirit of British Columbia (this time for real)

15 October 2018

Stena Scandinavica in Gdansk, 11 January 2018

I haven't been too successful at keeping up the planned update schedule of putting up a new entry every weekend. But at least we're back to weekly updates, even if the update day seems to be Monday. And on this particular Monday, we are looking back to last January, when I was arriving at Gdansk onboard the Baltic Princess (a trip on which you can read more here) and encountered some slightly rarer ferries for me, even if they were in rubbish weather.

Stena Scandinavica

IMO 9235517
Built 2003, Hyundai Heavy Industries Ulsan, South Korea
Tonnage 55 050 GT
Length 241,06 m
Width 29,90 m
Draught 6,30 m
1 300 passengers
1 040 berths
300 cars
4 220 lane metres
4 MAN diesels, combined 25 920 kW
2 propellers
3 bow thrusters
Speed 22,5 knots

Unlike the other ferries seen at Gdansk (Mont St Michel, Pride of Rotterdam and Spirit of British Columbia), the Stena Scandinavica is a ship I have encountered before, and you can read the brief history of the ship, as well as look at some additional photos, in the first entry on her. What makes out current photos particularly interesting is the fact the ship was still carrying the special funnel colours celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Gothenburg-Kiel route.

So, the photos below show the Stena Scandinavica at the Remontowa shipyard in Gdansk on 11 January 2018, photographed from onboard the Baltic Princess as she was arriving at the same shipyard for a refit. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

I wouldn't have minded if the weather was better (although had the sun been shining, the side of the ship facing the camera would have been in the shade, so I'm not sure if the photos would have been good anyway).
The Stena Scandinavia has arrived that same morning, but work on her was already much more advanced. Also notice the Mont St Michel in the background.
A bit of a tight squeeze to the get the entire ship into one frame, but it was doable.
Kships will return. Unless something else comes up, I think next time we'll round up the Gdansk visit with some photos of the Spirit of British Columbia.

08 October 2018

Book news: Ferries 2019

Nick Widdows (ed): Ferries 2019. Ferry Publications: Ramsey 2018. 224 pages.

There is once again a new book out with a contribution from me: the 2019 edition of Ferry Publications' now-annual Ferries. And like with the entry on last year's Ferries, I have to start by apologising for the somewhat belated entry on this. We recently moved to a new apartment, and trying to find the time to do everything that needs doing normally plus slowly but surely putting everything in its right place in the new apartment is taking surprisingly long.

For those who are not familar with the series, Ferries 2019 is a database of all Northern European car/passenger ferries in international service, plus all ferries sailing in intra-British or Irish services, and roro cargo ferries sailing to/from Great Britain and Ireland. In addition to the extremely useful database, there are four articles in this year's edition: "A Short History of Polferries" and "Unity Line – A Baltic Success Story", both by Matthew Punter, "DFDS in 2018 – Masters of the European Seas" by Kai Ortel, and my own offering "Viking Line Today and Tomorrow."

As the name suggests, my "Viking Line Today and Tomorrow" is an overview of Viking Line's operations as they are today, plus a look into the newbuilding currently under construction in China and some thoughts on how the new ship is likely to effect the company's future. With the international readers in mind, I have tried my best to explain the different business models of the different services, and the varying products offered.

Matthew Punter's twin articles on Polferries and Unity Line are both wonderful explanations of the histories of these two big Polish, state-owned ferry companies. Not that much has been written in English on either company, so I think Matthew's articles here are highly welcome.

Finally, Kai Ortel's "DFDS in 2018 – Masters of the European Seas" recaps the eventful years 2017 and 2018 for DFDS. Also handily precursoring Kai's upcoming DFDS – Linking Europe, due for publication later this year.

Ferries 2019 is available in well-stocked booksellers. If you happen to live somewhere (like Finland) where no such sellers exist, my prime recommendation is order the book directly from the publishers.

16 September 2018

Finlandia in Helsinki, 14 September 2018

So, I finally managed to go out to take photos of the Finlandia in the current livery this past Friday. So, today we are looking at the Finlandia again, after her being featured here two weeks ago.


IMO 9214379
Name history: Moby Freedom, Freedom, Finlandia
Built 2001 Daewoo Shipbuilding & Heavy Machinery Okpo, South Korea
Tonnage 36 093 GT
Length 175 m
Width 27,60 m
Draft 7 m
Ice class 1B
2 080 passengers
1 190 passenger berths*
610 cars
1 808 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 50 400 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 27 knots

* = The berths figure is for the ship as originally built. In 2015, a number of cabins were converted into public rooms, so this figure is no longer correct, but none of the sources at my disposal were able to provide an up-to-date figure.

For a history of the Finlandia, see the previous entry on her.

The photos below show the Finlandia at, and departing from, Helsinki Länsisatama (West Harbour) in the afternoon of 14 September 2018. Photographed from Vattuniemi. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

The two faces of Helsinki: industry and nature. And ferries and (just visible behind the ship) modernist architecture. So... four faces?
Notice the window frames of the big forward window are now painted blue, instead of the original white.
The lighting on the ship was not ideal, but the foreground certainly was. Sapphire Princess peeking from behind the bushes there, but she was due to depart three hours after the Finlandia – even if I had had the time to stay, I wouldn't have wanted to do so in the nippy weather.
I haven't done too many direct side views in this blog. But here's one.
Note the seagulls and the ship's name aft, added some time during this summer.
Slightly different point of view from the usual, with Sisä-Hattu there in front, rather than under, the camera.
As always, Kships will return. Probably not next weekend (I don't know if anyone's actually noticed my attempts at weekend updates) as we will be moving to a new apartment then. But the week after that probably.

09 September 2018

Le Soléal in Tallinn, 13 June 2018

My recent attempts of heading out for ship photography have not been too successful – on days when the weather has been good, I haven't had the time to out for photography, and on days when I would have had the time, the weather has been rubbish. Thus, this week we will go back a bit, to last June, and look at what is one of my favourite ships in terms of the exterior design: Ponant's Le Soléal.

Le Soléal

IMO 9641675
Built 2013, Fincantieri Ancona, Italy
Tonnage 10 992 GT
Length 142,00 m
Width 18,00 m
Draft 4,70 m
Ice class 1C
264 passengers
264 passenger berths
Diesels, combined 6 400 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Service speed 16 knots

There's not much to say about the history of Le Soléal. It is the third ship of Ponant's four-strong Le Boreal -class, the previous installments in the series being Le Boréal and L'Austral, with Le Lyrial following after Le Soléal.

The photos below show Le Soléal in the Vanasadam (Old Harbour) in Tallinn on the afternoon of 13 June 2018, photographed from onboard the inbound Finlandia. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

I'm not a huge fan of pictures of ships at the quay, but this time the views were rather impressive.
In case you were wondering, that's Brilliance of the Seas in the background.
I'm still not a huge fan of the lighter grey hull instroduced on the Le Soléal, the darker hue in the first two sisters looked better to my eye.
But having said that, this livery is still miles better than what most cruise lines have these days.
The preferved scrane makes for a nice detail in addition to the ship.
Kships, as always, will return.

01 September 2018

Finlandia in Helsinki, 4 April 2014

As is obvious from the title, today's entry is a bit of a blast from the past. When going through the blog recently, I noticed a surprising lack of photos featuring Eckerö Line's Finlandia; despite the fact I've photographed her many times, there are just two entries on her with exterior photos. So, in order to rectify this, we're going back to 2014 for an additional set.


IMO 9214379
Name history: Moby Freedom, Freedom, Finlandia
Built 2001 Daewoo Shipbuilding & Heavy Machinery Okpo, South Korea
Tonnage 36 093 GT
Length 175 m
Width 27,60 m
Draft 7 m
Ice class 1B
2 080 passengers
1 190 passenger berths*
610 cars
1 808 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 50 400 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 27 knots

* = The berths figure is for the ship as originally built. In 2015, a number of cabins were converted into public rooms, so this figure is no longer correct, but none of the sources at my disposal were able to provide an up-to-date figure.

The Finlandia begun her life as as Moby Lines' Moby Freedom. The ship was built in 2001 by Daewoo in South Korea as a sister ship to Moby Wonder, completed some months previously. The ship's conceptual design was by Knud E. Hansen and, as said, they were built by Daewoo, but it seems that ownership of the plans lays with Fincantieri, who later built two slightly refined examples of the same class, Moby Aki to Moby and Superstar to Tallink, and are known to have offered further examples of the type to other operators.

But returning to the ship in question, the Moby Freedom entered service with Moby in July 2001, sailing on their routes conencting Olbia to Genoa, Civitavcchia and Livorno. The ship was designed for flexible operations, sailing in cruiseferry mode during weekends and the summer high season, and in ropax mode with less passenger services during weekdays. Originally, the Moby Freedom was painted in a fairly traditional livery: all-white with the Moby name painted in large blue letters and a light blue funnel. However, soon Moby entered an agreement with Warner Bros. to use their Looney Tunes characters on the Moby ships and the Moby Freedom was repainted with Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, Tasmanian Devil, Tweety, Sylvester and Daddy Duck on her sides.

After serving with Moby for a little over a decade, in February 2012 the Moby Freedom was sold, with delivery in March, to Rederi Ab Eckerö in Finland, for use by their Eckerö Line subsidiary between Helsinki and Tallinn. Once sold the ship's name was shortened to Freedom and it sailed to the Öresundsvarved in Landskrona, Sweden. The ship lay at the shipyard for two months while negotiations for her refit were carried out and eventually the refit started in May. In June Eckerö Line announced that as a result of a naming competition the ship would be renamed Finlandia.

After the lengthy refit at Öresundsvarvet, Tallinn and Helsinki, the Finlandia entered service on New Year's Eve in 2012. I visited the ship shortly before the refit was completed on 20 December, of which visit photos here, and the following January when it was in service, of which photos here. After that, the ship settled into routine service between Helsinki and Tallinn. However, the public rooms were found to be somewhat insufficient on the popular route, and in early 2015 the interiors were rebuilt, with a large block of cabins turned into a new conference center, the former Extra Class lounge converted into an extension of the main shop, and the former conference rooms turned into an additional bar. Recently (I presume in a docking during the past winter, though I'm not certain), the ship's livery has also been slightly amended; I plan to of course photograph it at some point, but finding a suitable time has proven surprisingly hard.

Anyway, the photos below show the Finlandia arriving at Helsinki Länsisatama (South Harbour) on the afternoon of 4 April 2014. Photographed from Vattuniemi. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

Pine trees providing suitable foreground crap.
You could think the notes on the sides of the bow are from Sibelius' Finlandia (or just random), but they are actually the first notes of the Finnish and Estonian national anthems (which share the same melody, although naturally different words).
Lo and behold, entirely different lighting!
Linda Line's Karolin in the background. Linda have since sold both their ships and it seems unlikely the company will restart operations. Eckerö and the Finlandia are going strong, however.
Kships will return.

19 August 2018

Azamara Journey interiors, 17 August 2018

As some of you are perhaps aware, I have been a long-time admirer of the R-Class ships, eight of which were delivered between 1998 and 2001 to the long-defunct Renaissance Cruises. But shockingly, I had never been onboard one until Friday when, thanks to the fine people at the Finnish cruise retailer Risteilykeskus, I had a chance to go onboard the Azamara Journey when she was in Helsinki. So, now I invite all of you to go on a little journey through the Azamara Journey with me, complete with some thoughts on what the ships I have long waited to actually go onboard were actually like.

Azamara Journey

IMO 9200940
Name history: R Six, Blue Dream, Azamara Journey
Built 2000, Chantiers de l'Atlantique St. Nazaire, France
Tonnage 30 277 GT
Length 181,00 m
Width 25,46 m
Draugth 5,80 m
690 passengers (lower berths)
826 passengers (maximum)
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 13 500 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 18 knots

For a brief history of the ship, feel free to take a look at my earlier entry on it. And now to the tour:

Deck 11 has sun decks forward, around the radar mast. The outer deck areas aft, around the funnel, are not passenger accessible, somewhat to my surprise.

Deck 10 has The Living Room observation lounge and the Card Room forward, followed by open decks, then aft there's The Drawing Room (actually a library) and the two extra-cost dining options, Aqualina and Prime C.

The Living Room has nice forward views thanks to the location.
The decor isn't bad either. I like the fact that Azamara have not been afraid to use some colour, of wood, in their interiors, whereas many lines towards the luxury end tend to go with grey with grey on grey these days.
In the aft bit around the funnel, we first have The Drawing Room, a library with views overlooking the pool.
Which also retains a lot of the Titanic-inspired original decor of the ship (bear in mid that these ships arrived just after James Cameron's film had made the famous ship very hip again).
Touches of the Titanic can also be seen in the stairwells.
Next, we have the italian-style Aqualina speciality restaurant on the port side.
For some reason, the aftmost bit of Aqualina had entirely different kind of seats.
Mirroring Aqualina on the starboard side is the other extra-cost restaurant, Prime C, which served steaks and seafood.
In both restaurants the layout was slightly strange, feeling almost like a corridor with some tables put in. It maximises the outside views, but the overall effect was not as pleasant as it could, and maybe should, have been.
Deck 9 has the very traditional pool deck layout, with the spa and gym forward, followed by the pool and an al fresco restaurant amidships, and the buffet aft around the funnel casing. There is also another open-air bar right aft.

Forward, there is an extra-cost spa terrace...
...followed by The Sanctum Spa. Here is one of the treatment rooms.
If you're showing Finns a cruise ship, you'd better also show them the sauna. And be prepared for complaints if it isn't a proper (i.e. Finnish) one. This one was Turkish. Okay, this is a actually the dressing room, since I figured you're not interested in pictures of mist.
I wouldn't mind having a chance to just lay there on the deck chairs reading a book for a day or two to be honest.
The pool looked mighty inviting, too!
Sheltered sitting area on the port side. The grey is mighty strong with this one!
The Patio outdoors restaurant on the starboard side.
The buffet restaurant Windows Café is next aft. Here, the layout and table placements again gave a bit of a corridor-like feeling to me for some reason.
Aft, accessible only though the buffet, is the Sunset Bar.
Decks 8, 7 and 6 are all given exclusively over to cabins, and as the ship was fully booked we didn't get to see any, alas.

Deck 5 is another public room deck, with the Cabaret Lounge forward, Casino, Spirits sports bar and shops amidships, Mosaic Café at the atrium, and the Discoveries main dining room, with its own aperitive bar, aft.

The Cabaret Lounge is obviously not a full-blown theatre like you find on many larger ships...
...not that this would be nescessarily a bad thing.
More Titanic-esque edwardiana: the access corridor to the Cabaret Lounge.
Spirits sports bar. I didn't photograph the Casino - if you've seen one Las Vegasian cruise ship casino, you've seen all of them (the same also goes for the ones drawing from Monaco).
The Atrium takes the Titanic theme quite far. Mosaic Café in the background.
Discoveries Bar. As the ship operates open seating, this place obviously has the function of giving a nice place to wait for a table to free is you come in on a busy time.
Discoveries restaurant, with the captain's table on the right.
As a wee bit of criticism, I must say that "Discoveries" isn't the most original name for a restaurant. In this bit the decor is also quite boring luxury grey again.
Deck 4 is the lowest passenger-accessible deck, with guest relations, excursions, etc desks grouped around the lower level of the atrium.

The Atrium as seen from the lower level.
From the setting you'd think this is a nice café, but it's actually just the shore excursions desk and some nice seating.
Closing remarks

So, what was the long-awaited first encounter with the R-Class like? In some ways, it was exactly as I expected, especially the Titanic-inspired Edwardian details – though I must say I really like the way they've added contemporary decor around the edwardiana, which makes the ship look like it's doing its own thing, rather than being the pastiche I understand it originally was.

The thing that I didn't expect was how small the ship feels. Sure, it is small by today's cruise ship standards, but in terms of gross tonnage the Azamara Journey is just a tad smaller than, say, Viking Line's Gabriella. Yet the Gabriella, despite carrying four times the number of passengers, doesn't feel as small. The constricted dimentions of the stairwells, the layouts of some of the public spaces etc make the Azamara Journey feel smaller than she is. Maybe this was intended is order to give her a more intimate feel, but I can't help thinking the people who designed the original interior layout should maybe have consulted someone on how to make the spaces feel less constricted.

One thing that I also maybe found slightly disappointing was the nomenclature of the public rooms. A lot of the names came across as being very uninspired and run-of-the-mill: Discoveries, Journey Shop, The Sanctum, The Patio, Windows Café, Prime C... these are not adventurous, expressive names that would fit the destination-intensive product Azamara offers, they are just bland. And while I would like to love The Living Room as a name, Stena Line also use the exact same name for a lounge on their ships, so the association isn't the refined informality Azamara were looking for. Also, calling the library The Drawing Room is nearly as bad as Crystal Cruises calling a café The Bistro.

But the big question of course is, would I sail on the Azamara Journey? Yes. In fact, I'm quite eagerly awaiting the special offer Risteilykeskus promised me on cruises with Azamara...