31 July 2012

Birger Jarl in Mariehamn, 24 June 2012

Birger Jarl

IMO 5044893
Name history: Birger Jarl, Bore Nord, Minisea, Baltic Star, Birger Jarl
Built 1953, Finnboda Varv Nacka, Sweden
Tonnage 3 564 GT
Length 92,50 m
Width 14,28 m
Draught 5,50 m
Ice class 1C
369 passengers
369 berths
1 MAN-B&W diesel, 2 795 kW
1 propeller
1 bow thruster
Speed 15,50 knots

Birger Jarl was named in honour of Birger Magnusson, the jarl (earl) of Sweden in the 13th century who is credited with consolidating the Swedish state and also expanding the Swedish rule into Finland. For a complete history of the ship, see this entry. For those interested in the person the ship is named after, start with Wikipedia.

The photographs below show the Birger Jarl departing Mariehamn on the morning of 24 June 2012. Click on the images to see in larger size.

Photographed from a slightly different vantage point than the preceeding images of the Viking Cinderella and Birka Paradise from the same morning. The relocation was suggetsed by my travelling companion Bruce Peter, though to be fair we would perhaps have gotten better photographs from the same place were photographed the other ships from.
The darker spots on the hull are presumably discoloration from the quayside or something.
Foreground vegetation and the Jarl showing her not that attractive added bits aft.
A bit of panoramica was needed.
Notice that there are no apertures for exhausts in the funnel - all exhausts are in fact routed through the pipe you see between the "funnel" and the aft mast.
Outbound, visible in the background on the left is Kobba Klintar, a former pilot station outside Mariehamn. It is relevant as the next photographs in the publishing pipeline were taken from there.

27 July 2012

Birka Paradise in Mariehamn, 24 June 2012

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

For a history of the Birka Paradise, see this entry. The photographs below show the Birka Paradise departing Mariehamn on the morning of 24 June 2012, returning to Stockholm on a 22-hour mini-cruise. Click on the images to see in larger size.

The trees were just too photogenic to pass.
In fact, they were so photogenic I decided to include a second similar photograph.
Okay, so maybe that was also because getting a forward-angle photo of the ship without any trees in the way was quite difficult. ;)
Maybe I should have adjusted the horizon in this shot a bit more.
I love the lighter cloud above the superstructure.
If you look closely, you can see the steel letters reading "Mariehamn" (the original home port) between the ship's name and the current homeport Stockholm on the aft-

23 July 2012

Nordlandia interiors, 4 March 2012


IMO 7928811
Name history: Olau Hollandia, Nord Gotlandia, Nordlandia
Built 1981, AG Weser Seebeckswerft, Bremerhaven, West Germany
Tonnage 21 473 GT
Length 153,40 m
Width 24,70 m
Draugth 8,80 m
Ice class 1A
2 048 passengers
938 berths
450 cars or 42 trucks
4 Pielstick diesels, combined 15 300 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 20 knots

While looking through old photographs I realised there was a bunch of interior shots from onboard Eckerö Line's Nordlandia that I had never put up. As the Nordlandia will be withdrawn from service later this year upon the arrival of the new Finlandia (ex-Moby Freedom), now would be an opportune moment to look at the Nordlandia's interiors.

As built, the Olau Hollandia's interior layout strongly resembled that of Silja Line's "second-generation French sisters" Svea Corona, Wellamo and Bore Star with cabins forward and public spaces after. The Olau Hollandia's interior design was subdued, with brown as the dominant colour - but at the same time the interiors drew their names and decor from fairytales, perhaps reflecting Olau Line owner TT-Line's tradition of naming their ships after fictional characters. Little to nothing of the original interiors remains today, Eckerö Line having given the interiors a gradual but thorough refit over the years. One thing that surprised me when I was onboard was how clean and well-kept the ship was on the inside - particularly considering the fact she's sailed for 14 years on the rather punishing Helsinki-Tallinn run.

In the current guide there are three decks with passenger facilities, each with a different purpose: Deck 5 houses a large supermarket, Deck 6 the restaurants and cafeteria and deck 7 the entertainment venues (such as they are). Further up, there is an array of conference rooms on deck 9. Unfortuantely I did not venture up to photograph these - a mistake, as I later learned from Eckerö's 50th anniversary book that the conference rooms are rather superb indeed.

Deck 7 is the topmost passenger deck, housing Pub Compass and Dancebar Horisont - plus additional conference rooms in the forward section, converted from original cabins.

Port cabin corridor, facing forward.
My tribute to the great Peter Knego: a random carpet shot.
The port forward staircase - although forward is a relative term, the aft staircase is across from the vestibule.
Pub Compass on the starbord side, facing port and forward.
Dancebar Horisont, facing aft and starboard.
Maria (my wife, that is) liked the upholstery - probably because it's blue.
The Finnish Tango King from the year 2009 (or something) performing in Horisont. (And yes, we crazy Finns elect a Tango King anda Tango Queen every year. Finnish tango has little to nothing to do with the better-known Argentinian variant however).
Aft decks, probably actually taken from deck 8 facing downwards. This is shortly after departing Tallinn, in the distance in the harbour you can see (from left to right): Translandia, Victoria I, Star, Viking XPRS and Princess Anastasia. A perfectly ordinary day in Tallinn as far as ships are concerned.
Deck 6 is the restaurant deck, housing the self-service Eckerö Buffet (the food was some of the best I've ever eaten on a ship), the waiter service Eckerö Bistro and cafeteria Café Arkad.

Eckerö Buffet on the starboard side of the ship, facing aft. Mrs Id makes a cameo appearance on the foreground.
Since I complimented the food, here is a "taster" from the buffet's main courses. The mushroom sauce, if I remember correctly, was particularly good.
On the port side of the ship is Café Arkad - this photo is taken facing starboard and aft. On the right side of the photo you can just see the service area of the cafeteria, located right aft and presumably served byu the same kitchen as the buffet.
Deck 5 is the entrance and exit deck. The aft half of the deck is given exclusively over to a large supermarket, neatly displaying the ship's main raison d'etre. Of course, it should be remembered that there are no tax-free sales on the Helsinki-Tallinn route.

Neon sign above the entrance.
Candy-filled teddy bears for sale, with the shop's real purpose visible on the left: cases of beer cans. I didn't take any other photographs inside the shop, alas, as usually onboard staff are not too keen on photography in the shopping areas.
So, that was my short tour of the Nordlandia. Her future after the arrival of the Finlandia remains to be seen. She will probably leave the Eckerö fleet as there simply isn't a need for her on Eckerö's routes: the Finlandia will take over the Helsinki-Tallinn run (and there isn't enough demand for two ships), and there is no need for a ship of the Nordlandia's size on the Eckerö-Grisslehamn route. Unless Eckerö plan on opening an entirely new passenger line (which I strongly doubt), the Nordlandia will be sold. "To where" is a very good question.

20 July 2012

Kships two years

It is 20. July again, which means that Kships has been around for two years. It all started with this entry about the Princess Maria. Now of course, the tradition in situations like this is to say something like "oh, I can't believe it's been so long already" but to be fair I feel more like "I don't believe it's been only two years. Felt longer." It certainly feels more than a year ago that I wrote the Kships one year entry.

The original Kships header, with Peace Boat's Oceanic (currently bound for scrappers, sadly) departing Helsinki in the evening. Full photoset here.
Now what can I really say about the past year? More photographs have been put up (and occasionally there have been requests to use them elsewhere). In the spring there was a break in the updates (caused by the fact I was terribly busy writing my master's thesis), which also resulted in a drop in the visitor numbers - although these seem to be recovering now.

What else is there to say, really? There hasn't been anything worty of special notice going on during the past year. Most of the entries have been "regular ones" from Helsinki (although there were a few from Turku last autumn and now we're moving to Mariehamn for the next series of entries). There have been more article-style text-based entries than before, though apart from the sinking of the Costa Concordia -entry these do not seem to have attracted any particular notice.

For the next year... well, presumably things will continue much as before.

Header variant two, with the Viking XPRS arriving in Helsinki. Photoset (several, in fact) here.

During its total  history, Kships has been viewed 66 979 times - 39 040 times during the past twelve months (and 27 939 times in the first year), so there is a definite upwards trend, even with the drop in this spring. The busiest month of all time was July 2011 with a whopping 4 633 visitors, followed by January 2012 by 4 047 visitors. The least busy month of all times was September 2012 (670 views), the least busy month during the last year was April 2012 (2 332 views).

During the whole history of the blog (blogger doesn't give me per-year statistics) the single largest source of visitors has been Finland (unsurprisingly) with 35% of all visitors coming from my hope country. This has decreased notably, as last year Finns consisted of 46% of all visitors. Actually, here is a list of the top six visitor countries:

1. Finland - 35%
2. United States - 7% (up one place from 2011)
3. Sweden - 7% (down one place from 2011)
4. United Kingdom - 6%
5. Estonia - 4%
6. Germany - 4%

These are the countries which, interms of raw numbers, have managed more than 2 000 visitors. Estonia and Germany are (and were also last year) very close, hence the top six rather than top five.

The most popular browser remains Mozilla Firefox with a 37% share (down 5%), followed by Internet Explorer with 35% (down 2%) and Google Chrome with 17% (up 5%). Chrome's popularity seems to be on the rise, during the past few months it has rivalled Firefox and IE (since this is again the full two-years statistic I'm comparing to the first year's statistics, there is no accurate comparison as such).

This one you of course see every time you visit this place these days: the current Kships header, featuring the Marco Polo departing Helsinki in her Transocean Tours days. Full set here.
As for the sources of traffic, thanks to Blogger listing all the different national variants of Google as different websites (and giving me only the top ten) it is impossible to say much about the traffic sources. Google definately dominates, but the only other domain to make it into the top ten list is (unsurprisingly) the Finnish ship enthustiasts' forum maritimeforum.fi.

The most popular entry of all time remains Silja Symphony interiors, December 2009-February 2010, although steadily gaining on it is the entry on Gabriella's interiors from September-October 2010. Entries about interiors seem to be the most popular ones by a margin, with MSC Sinfonia and Silja Europa making up the top four.

Following the example of last year's anniversary day, there will probably be some kind of a special entry later today - presuming that I will have the time.

18 July 2012

Viking Cinderella in Mariehamn, 24. June 2012

Viking Cinderella

IMO 8719188
Name history: Cinderella, Viking Cinderella
Built 1989, Wärtsilä Marine Turku, Finland
Tonnage 46 398 GT
Length 191,00 m
Width 29,00 m
Draught 6,74 m
2560 passengers
2500 berths
480 cars or 60 trucks (in cruise service parking space for 100 cars)
760 lanemeters
4 Sulzer diesels, combined 28 800 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

For a surprisingly thorough history of the Viking Cinderella, see this previous entry. Viking Line CEO Mikael Backman has recently stated that the Cinderella will be "gracefied" in the future, with her at least her interiors freshened up. What the refit will actually hold remains to be seen - speculations are already having her top decks rebuilt to be similar to those of the upcoming Viking Grace and moving her to the Turku-Stockholm line in place of the Amorella. If we're lucky, the Viking Cinderella will be restored back to the red hull colour...

The photographs below show the Viking Cinderella departing from Mariehamn on the morning of 24. June 2012, taken during my midsummer visit to the city with Bruce Peter. More photos from this trip will be forthcoming. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Peeking from behind the trees. Birch trees would have been more midsummery, but I guess pines will do, too.
Why is it that whenever you're in a good position to photograph the Cinderella it's always the port side and never the more imposing starboard side with the large panoramic window?
More trees (including dead ones). The white specks are swans, in case you were wondering.
Reflecting from the calm morning sea.
The same dead tree as above, but with a different point-of-view.

16 July 2012

Kristina Katarina in Helsinki, 20 June 2012

Kristina Katarina

IMO 7625811
Name history: Konstantin Simonov, Francesca, The Iris, Kristina Katarina
Built 1982, Stocznia Szczecinska im A. Warskiego Szczecin, Poland
Tonnage 12 688 GT
Length 138,00 m
Width 21,01 m
Draugth 5,60 m
450 passengers
4 Sulzer diesels, combined 12 779 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 18 knot

 For a history of the Kristina Katarina, see this entry. The photographs below show the Kristina Katarina passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait on the evening of 20 June 2012, after departing Helsinki on a four-night midsummer cruise. Click on the images to see in larger size.

The tree was more photogenic earlier in the day in different lighting. But it's not bad. Plus, it's a birch tree and it's (almost) midsummer in the pic so...
Bulky Polish steel.
Interestingly, this is the fourth entry about the Kristina Katarina, but the first where I had photographed her from the "traditional" spot in Kustaanmiekka. Worth the wait, no?
Photogenic sailboat passing in the evening sun.
It looked so good, I had to do a panoramic one too. This one has the added advantage of the little lighthouse-thingy in the background.

15 July 2012

Costa Voyager in Helsinki, 15 June 2012

Costa Voyager

IMO 9183506
Name history: Olympic Voyager, Olympia Voyager, Voyager, Grand Voyager, Costa Voyager
Built 2000, Blohm & Voss Hamburg, Germany
Tonnage 24 391 GT
Length 180,40 m
Width 25,50 m
Draugth 7,30 m
840 passengers (lower berths), 920 passengers (maximum)
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 37 800 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 28 knots

The Costa Voyager made her maiden visit to Helsinki a month ago. She was not originally slated to visit the area this year, but following the fire of the Costa Allegra, the Costa Voayger was moved to take over the Allgera's itineraries. The Costa Voyager was built in 2000 as the Olympic Voyager, the first newbuilt ship for Royal Olympic Cruises (formed in 1997 in a merger of Epirotiki Lines and Sun Line). The Olympic Committee objected to the use of the term "olympic" in the name and the company was rebranded as Royal Olympia Cruises in 2002. In 2004 the Olympic Voyager became the Olympia Voyager to match the rebranding.

However, Royal Olympia Cruises went bankrupt already in 2004. The Olympia Voyager passed on to V-Ships and was chartered to Iberojet Cruceros of Spain as the Voyager (although marketed as the Grand Voyager). In the end of 2005 the ship was renamed Grand Voyager. In 2007 Iberojet Cruceros became Iberocruceros, a joint venture between Carnival Corporation & plc and Orizonia Corporation. In 2011 the Grand Voyager was tranferred within the Carnival group to Costa Cruises, becoming the Costa Voyager.

The photographs below show the Costa Voyager passing through the Kustaanmiekka Strait in Helsinki on the afternoon of 15 June 2012. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

According to my friend Bruce Peter, this is another one of those Knud E. Hansen -designed things. Quite sleek, but then again it is designed to run at 28 knots.
Based on the markings on the superstructure, the ship seemed to be doing this cruise under charter to Taaj Cruises - whoever they are.
In the strait, with JT Line's local ferry Amiraali in the foreground.
Outbound, following in the wake of the Azamara Journey.

11 July 2012

The R Week - Colour My Ship

As those following the blog undoubtedly observed, last week's entries were dedicated to ships of the R-class. Since the R ships are operated by numerous different companies, the photographs of R-class ships give a good opportunity to look at how different liveries look on ships of the same design.

Before we go further, here are links to all R-class ships featured on this blog:

Columbus 2 (ex-R One)
Regatta (ex-R Two)
Ocean Princess (ex-R Four)
Nautica (ex-R Five)
Azamara Journey (ex-R Six)
Blue Moon (ex-R Seven)

Originally all the R-class ships were, of course, painted in Renaissance Cruises' livery with a dark hull and a white funnel (which, looking at it now, looked very 80s). Alas, I do not have any photos of the original livery, but when Pullmantur Cruises used three of the R ships in the mid-00s they only did basic modifications to the livery, so our example here will be the Blue Moon.

Now just mentally block out the Pullmantur Cruises hull text and replace the globe logo on the funnel with the letter R and you essentially have the original livery. Blue Moon in Helsinki, 29 July 2007.
Now I must admit that I'm not a huge fan of the original livery. The black comes very high on the hull and makes the ship look quite unbalanced. For their subsequent owners all the R ships have been repainted with white hulls, but with subtle differences to the exact liveries. Let us start from the ship with the most basic livery, the Ocean Princess.

Admittedly this photo does not nescessarily do the ship justice due to the poor lighting, but it will have to do. Ocean Princess in Helsinki, 12 June 1012.
Princess Cruises' ships are traditionally all-white. This worked (relatively) well back in the days of the ships like the Island Princess (present-day Discovery) which had shape and detail on themselves. But on ships like the Ocean Princess... well, let us compare her with her sister ships and you can judge for yourselves. Or more to the point, read my judgement.

Nautica in Helsinki, 20 June 1012.
Oceania Cruises' Nautica is not all that different from the Ocean Princess. Both ships are predominantly white and both have white funnels with blue logos. The major difference is the simple addition of a blue stripe along the top of the hull (and the ship's name painted in a different location on the bow). A small change, but a large improvement in the ship's appearance.

Azamara Journey in Helsinki, 15 June 2012.
Azamara Cruises was originally extablished in essence to compete with Oceania Cruises and originally the company livery was almost indistinguishable from that of Oceania. However, in 2010 Azamara Cruises was rebranded as Azamara Club Cruises and given a new, more colourful logo as seen in the photo above. Again, the changes from the Nautica to Azamara Journey are not extensive. The hull stripe is a lighter shade, but more importantly the Azamara logo is more colourful, which improves the appearance of the funnel immensely. Furthermore the company name and logo are also painted on the hull, giving a further, refreshing splash of colour. As a final improved touch, the frames of the bridge windows have been painted black, making the ship look more modern and linking the bridge structure betetr to the decks above it. Certainly of the trio Ocean Princess, Nautica and Azamara Journey the latter is (in my opinion) by far the best-looking one. But there is still one more ship to look at: the Columbus 2.

Again, the lighting is not perhaps entirely fair in comparison with the other ships. Columbus 2 in Helsinki, 27 June 2012.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises took the Columbus 2 under charter earlier this year from Oceania Cruises (the ship was previously Oceania's Insignia). Hapag-Lloyd's traditional blue and orange hull stripes were archieved by simply painting an orange stripe below the existing Oceania Cruises blue one. That in itself is, in my opinion already an improvement over the Oceania livery. But where the Hapag-Lloyd livery really comes on it's own and tremendously improves the ship is the funnel. White funnels are a fetish to modern ship owners, but (in my opinion anyway) they almost always look bad. White is the colour you use if you're an unskilled graphic designer afraid of filling out the white paper in front of you. On the other hand, the Columbus 2 does lack the Azamara Journey's sleekening bridge windows paint.

So, what is the best livery of the ships featured here? My vote goes to either the Azamara Journey or the Columbus 2 - both are good but in slightly different ways. The former has more vibrant logos (plus a logo on the hull, an improvement in my opinion) and the painted window frames on the bridge, while the latter has a coloured funnel and more colour on the hull stripes. Add the dark bridge window frames to the Columbus 2 however, and you would have a definite winner.

08 July 2012

Blue Moon in Helsinki, 29 July 2007

As the final image entry of The R Week (there will be a further more text-heavy entry next week), I give to you my earliest images of an R-class ship, the Blue Moon. Previously featured in this series were the Ocean Princess, Azamara Journey, Nautica and Columbus 2.

Blue Moon

IMO 9210218
Name history: R Seven, Delphin Renaissance, Blue Moon, Azamara Quest
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
702 passengers (lower berths), 777 passengers (maximum)
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 13 500 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 18 knots

Originally this ship was Renaissance Cruises' R Seven, penultimate ship of the R class. According to Fakta om Fartyg, the R Seven was arrested in Tilbury in September 2001, a month before the rest of the Renaissance fleet was arrested and the company declared bankrupt. In December of the same year the ship was sold to Cruiseinvest Eight and moved to lay-up in Marseilles, alongside her sisters R One, R Two, R Five, R Six and R Eight. The R Seven was reactivated in May 2003 when she was chartered to Germany's Delphin Seereisen as the Delphin Renaissance. I do not know if she sailed alongside or in place of Delphin Seereisen's older Delphin.

After three years the Delphin Renaissance left the Delphin Seereisen fleet in May 2006 when she was sold to Pullmantur Cruises of Spain. Pullmantur had of course by this time a tradition of featuring R-class ships, having used the R Five/Nautica under the marketing name "Blue Dream" in 2002-2005 and still used the ex-R Six (that had previously been marketed as the "Blue Star") under the name Blue Dream. The Delphin Renaissance was renamed Blue Moon and repainted in the black-hulled livery used by Pullmantur on their R-class ships (essentially the same livery as the ships had had with Renaissance Cruises), having been white-hulled as the Delphin Renaissance. Of course, the rest of the Pullmantur fleet were white-hulled...

In 2007 Pullmantur Cruises' new owner Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. transferred the Blue Dream and Blue Moon to the new Azamara Cruises brand (originally they had been slated to transfer to Celebrity Cruises instead). The Blue Dream became the Azamara Journey in May 2007, while the Blue Moon followed six months later as the Azamara Quest. Since then the Azamara Quest has remained in service with Azamara Cruises. The company was rebranded Azamara Club Cruises in 2010 (and, if I may add, seem to have a very appealing onboard product).

The photographs below show the Blue Moon in Helsinki South Harbour, departing the port in the evening og 29 July 2007. There were taken with my old Olympus μ760 pocket camera. It's a sign that my current Canon EOS 350D is about to break down that the photos taken with the μ760 (which I thought took irritatingly unsharp images) are actually sharper than the ones taken with the 350D (before editing). Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Not very informative on how the ship looks, but just look at that lighting!
Back in the mid-00s Pullmantur Cruises had delightfully mismatched liveries: most of the ships had a white hull and blue funnel, but the Pacific (ex-Pacific Princess) had a white hull and white funnel and the R-class ships were all painted as seen here, with Renaissance Cruises' black hull and white funnel, but with Pullmantur logos.