31 March 2016

Baltic Princess in Mariehamn, 30 October 2015

Baltic Princess

IMO 9354284
Built 2008, Aker Yards, France / Aker Yards, Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 48 915 GT
Length 212,10 m
Width 29,00 m
Draugth 6,42 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 800 passengers
2 484 berths
600 cars
1 130 lanemetres
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 32 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 24,5 knots

When looking at photos I had taken during last year, I realised that I had not posted a single image of the Baltic Princess with the Silja Line hull markings where you could actually see her livery properly (the only Silja-coloured images are night time-shots). And I haven't put up an updated version of her history since she transferred under the Silja brand. So here goes:

The Baltic Princess is, of course, the second ship in Tallink's Galaxy-class (the name always makes me think about Star Trek; the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation was a Galaxy-class ship). Her sisters are the Galaxy and the Baltic Queen. While the other two ships were built at Aker Yards' Rauma shipyard, the Baltic Princess was built in Helsinki, during the brief time in the mid-00s when the yard specialized in ferries (though a part of the ship's hull was built in France and towed to Helsinki and the rest of the ship was built around the French-built part in here).

While the Galaxy had been built for a 22-knot top speed, the Baltic Princess was given slightly more powerful engines, yielding 24,5 knots. This lended cause to much speculation about the ship's eventual route while she was under construction: the higher speed was said to make the ship suitable for a Stockholm-St. Petersburg cruiseferry service, or (after Tallink took over Silja Line in 2006) for the Turku-Stockholm service where harbour turnaround times are short and catching up delays is often difficult. I recently learned the change was simply because the older engine variant used in the Galaxy was no longer manufactured. In the end the Baltic Princess was placed on the Helsinki-Tallinn 22-hour cruise service when she was completed in summer 2008 (a service where her high speed is of absolutely no use). She replaced the Galaxy, which in turn transferred to the Silja Line fleet and was placed on the Turku-Stockholm route.

During her carreer with Tallink, Baltic Princess remained on the same service almost without deviation. In July 2009 she made a charter cruise from Helsinki to Pori (via Mariehamn), coinciding with a music festival in Pori, and as well as occasional summer cruises from Helsinki via Tallinn to Visby during the summer months of 2011 and 2012.

In early 2013, the Baltic Princess moved to Silja Line's Turku-Stockholm -route, swapping services with the Silja Europa. The reasons were twofold: one, the Baltic Princess, as a newer ship, could better compete with Viking Line's new Viking Grace, and two, the Silja Europa suffered from persistent engine problems. Thus, the Baltic Princess was repainted with Silja Line hull markings (but otherwise retained her Tallink-era livery, complete with a www.tallink.com text on her hull) and joined the Galaxy on the Turku route. It is perhaps of interest to note that this was the first time since 1993 that Silja Line had a pair of identical sisters on that service.

Since 2013, the Baltic Princess has remained on the same service. Ironically, she seems to be suffering fairly often from engine trouble, even though she was brought in to replace the Silja Europa to get rid of the engine trouble.

The photographs below show the Baltic Princess departing Mariehamn on the afternoon of 30 October 2015, photographed from onboard the Viking Grace. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

Rush hour in Mariehamn: the Baltic Princess and Galaxy depart to make space for the Amorella and Viking Grace.
I kind of get the Tallink funnel symbol (though wouldn't she look cool with a backlit Silja seal in the funnel, à la Silja Serenade?) but they could have painted over the www.tallink.com-text on the hull. Who puts urls on ship sides in 2016 anyway?
No, of course I didn't spend a stupidly long time fiddling with the layers to get the lighting just right.
Next time: Galaxy.

24 March 2016

Viking Cinderella in the Stockholm Archipelago, 30 October 2015

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

Ah, the Viking Cinderella. While it will sound like hyperbole, she is, in my opinion, the perfect ferry from the passenger's point of view. There is a delightful combination of pleasant public rooms, multi-deck spanningwow factor spaces, and fenestration that offers outside views from essentially all public spaces.No other ship pulls it off quite like the Cinderella. Alas, since her 2003 move to Stockholm-Mariehamn 22-hour cruises, her livery hasn't quite matched the interior - a white hull simply does not suit the ship as well as the traditional Viking Line red in my opinion.

But enough my personal opinions. Those interested in the history of the ship can catch up here. The photos below, meanwhile, show the Viking Cinderella on the outskirts of the Stockholm archipelago (outside Kapellskär to be precise) inbound towards Stockholm on the morning of 30 October 2015, photographed from onboard the passing fleetmate Viking Grace. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

The overcast weather wasn't too nice, but the dark clouds created an impressive backdrop.
I had to fiddle with the colour levels a bit, but it doesn't show too much.
One thing I would have done if I had participated in the design of the ship is add a faux three-deck window to this side of the ship, so it would look more like the 'parade side' (which you can see for example in this set).
Next time: Baltic Princess

14 March 2016

Silja Europa interiors, 14 March 2016

Silja Europa

IMO 8919805
Name history: Europa, Silja Europa
Built 1993, Meyer Werft, Germany
Tonnage 59 912 GT
Length 201,78 m
Width 32,60 m
Draught 6,80 m
Ice class 1 A Super
3 123 passengers
3 696 berths (as of 2013, may have been changed)
350 cars
932 lane metres
4 MAN diesels, combined 31 800 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 22 knots

The Silja Europa returned to commercial service on the Helsinki-Tallinn route yesterday, with the first departure from Helsinki being today in the morning. There was also a cruise for the press arranged for today, and I was able to participate thanks to Cruise Business Review. For once, this blog is right on the pulse of things, as these are literally brand new photos.

For those interested, this previous entry includes an essentially up-to-date history of the ship. It might also be of interest to compare the new interior shots below with these older photos of the ship from the Silja era (come to think of it, there's also a second batch of Silja-era photos that have not been featured here [yet] but some of which were used in Silja Line from De Samseglande to Tallink). Now, onwards to the photos!

The confusion with names from the ship's previous stint on the Helsinki-Tallinn route continues: the ship sails under the Tallink brand, and in Finland she's marketed simply as the 'Europa'. However, all onboard signage, announcements etc. refer to the ship as the Silja Europa (which, of course, remains the ship's official name, which is naturally the one I use in this blog).
Deck 13: The topmost deck only has outer decks and a VIP conference room (only accessible through the main conference suite on deck 12).

For the trip to Australia the decks were painted white to keep the ship cooler in tropical climates; this has been retained for the moment. Interestingly, the new plastic deck covering on lower decks is gray, instead of the original green.
The Kapellskär VIP conference room. Supposedly the table alone cost more than a single-family house back in the day.
Deck 12: Is divided between the conference suite, a sauna and pool complex, as well as beauty salon and spa services (the latter are, I believe, in former conference rooms).

Central lobby of the conference suite. The conference rooms remain essentially in original appearance, with no notable updates carried out in the most recent refit.
The auditorium in the conference rooms. As the Silja Europa has a large theatre on lower decks that can also be used as an auditorium (photos of this below), the auditorium in the conference suite is relatively small.
When she entered service, the Silja Europa was decorated with artworks featuring ships of Silja Line's former owners (and predecessors to today's Tallink Silja Oy), Effoa and Johnson Line. These two paintings of Johnson Line ships remain in the conference suite.
The bar area outside the sauna and pool area is also unchanged, at least as far as I remember its previous appearance.
The pool area - naturally it's indoors on a ship designed for around-the-year service on the Baltic Sea.
Decks 9-11 are dedicated solely to cabins (plus the navigation bridge on deck 10).

Deck 8 is the upper public rooms deck, with the buffet at the bow, followed by the still-under-construction Tavolata Italian restaurant, the main à la carte restaurant Maxim, Corner Bar, Joe's Place pub, a Casino, the Ocean Club night club and Windjammer bar at the stern.

The main buffet restaurant is another space that remains largely unchanged from the ship's previous incarnation, apart from the new signage you see above the service counters.
Tavolata is still under construction, with 'facade' of the space decorated with an image of the Tavolata restaurant from either the Silja Serenade or Silja Symphony.
Inside Tavolata, there was still a lot of work to be done. If I remember correctly, it should be complete by 28th of March.
The current look of the Corner Bar dates from the Silja era. Originally this space was a waiter-service restaurant (if I remember correctly, in the original Viking Line plans this space was to be named Taurus, but Silja moved Taurus to an adjacent space and this became the Bon Vivant fine dining restaurant - alas, I seem to have misplaced my Viking Line brochure for the ship so I cannot verify the information).
Maxim à la carte is a wonderful piece of shipboard archeology: apart from the upholstery, the space retains its original appearance. And actually, after 23 years it still looks quite current. Notice another old ship painting behind the columns, this time featuring the Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget (Finland Steamship Company) steamer Ilmatar of 1929. The facing wall has two other FÅA oldies, the Oberon of 1925 and the Ariadne of 1914.
This cabinet adjacent to Maxim was originally named Drottningholm and it was an exact copy of a room in the Drottningholm Castle in Sweden. When the Silja Europa moved to the Helsinki-Tallinn route in 2013, the space was redecorated to become a Russian speciality restaurant (albeit the old Gustavian style furniture was retained). Today, the space has reverted to a part of the main Maxim restaurant.
Joe's Place Pub has been at least partially redone, as there used to be a smoking room on the aft end of the room (the far wall in this photo).
The Ocean Palace night club was given a well-deserved update, doing away with the (frankly horrible) original 1990s decor. I really fancy the new carpets here.
This doesn't really describe the space that well as a photo, but it's a nice atmospheric shot so why not?
A view from the entrance to Windjammer Bar, facing forward towards the Ocean Club. I didn't include any photos of Windjammer here, as it was virtually unaltered from my 2010 visit to the ship.
Deck 7 has plenty of more public rooms, with the current configuration giving well over half of the deck over to shops of various kinds. From the bow, the spaces are the Fast Line cafeteria, Seaside Café, Perfume & Fashion, Gifts, Electronic, and Kids & Toys shops (the last three are all along a single arcade and are really a single store from the customer's point of view), Lotteland children's playroom, the main supermarket (named Tax Free Superstore, despite the fact there are no tax-free sales on the Helsinki-Tallinn line), and a discotheque right aft - this was still being rebuilt.

The servery areas of the Fast Lane cafeteria. These are completely altered since ship was last on the Baltic.
Fast Lane seating areas. Sami Koski of Valkeat Laivat noted that while everything else in the space has been redecorated, with nicely matching hue of lime, grey and white, the carpet remains the old one from the days when this space was still the Food Market - and it clashes horribly with the new decor.
Perfumes & Fashion are a slightly strange shop, with common signage on the outside but separate signages on the inside - seems a bit superfluous, we all surely can tell clothes apart from perfume bottles?
The Fashion shop section. Back in 1993, this area housed what was billed as "the World's first floating McDonald's" (it wasn't) and a children's playroom.
Entrance to the Tax Free Superstore - where all items sold include Estonian tax.
While it's a Tallink ship, there were only Silja Line merchandise for sale onboard - including this selection of seal plushies. I bought one with a blue sailor's cap.
Sweets, alongside booze, form the main merchandise onboard Baltic Sea ferries, at least as far as ships in the Finland-Sweden-Estonia triangle are concerned.
Deck 6 is primarily another cabin deck (remember that in original configuration, the ship had over 3 700 cabin berths, to the best of my knowledge still a record on a ferry), but with Theatre Europa aft. The theatre was originally envisioned as the ship's pièce de résistance, allowing the ship to be the first ferry to introduce cruise ship -style nightly shows. In practice is has been underutilised for the ship's entire career; it's quite telling that while this was my seventh time onboard, I saw the theatre for the first time in person - and even now only because we specifically asked for the press tour to include a sojourn to the theatre.

The bar at the entrace looks pretty much identical to the design scethes from the ship's pre-publicity brochure.
There are plans to bring the theatre back into use. As it well deserves, it's a fine space.
Deck 5 is given entirely over to cabins.

Decks 3 and 4 have crew cabins (I presume) on the sides, with a car deck in the middle. As the ship has been designed with central funnel uptakes and elevator shafts, this arrangement means the car deck is unusually constricted for a ship of this size.

Due to a problem with grangways, we had to board the ship through the aft car ramp. There wasn't much cargo on this crossing, as you can see (although to be fair, we didn't see what was on the starboard side, there might have been several cars hiding there).
Deck 2 has economy cabins forward, with machinery spaces aft. Deck 1 below is, naturally, entirely non-passenger spaces.

Kships will return.

09 March 2016

A look ahead

As the regular readers may have noticed, this blog hasn't been updated too frequently of the late. The simple reason for this is that I have been rather busy. Since January, I have started working as a regular contributor to Cruise Business Review, and a few weeks ago I received a research grant that will allow me to write a book on the history of Finnish shipbuilding that we have been planning together with my friend, the maritime historian Bruce Peter for some time. With these and my pre-existing commitments, there simply hasn't been time to maintain the one-per-week update schedule I have been aiming for (not always successfully).

And, as you maybe already figured out, this state of affairs is likely to continue. I have no intention of abandoning this blog, and there has been some talk with potential guest contributors, but at least for the time being you can expect the update schedule to remain sporadic at best. Thank you for understanding.