05 January 2017

Viking Grace and Amorella in Mariehamn, 8 June 2014

Today's entry is brought to you by my discovering a previously unposted set of shots of the Viking Grace and Amorella in Mariehamn a few years back while working on today's issue of Ulkomatala (which, if you speak Finnish, you should totally check out). Featuring these two ships will also handily give me a chance to write about Viking Line's memorandum of agreement for the Amorella's replacement. But first, few words about this blog.

In the past month or so, inaddition to learning quite a lot about how to care for a newborn baby, I've also discovered how to maximise the number of blog views. Contrary to what I previously thought, the key is not regular updates. The key is making one entry a month about the interiors of the Silja Europa. December 2016's visitor numbers smashed the previous record by more than 50 percent, and while the Silja Europa interior entries have been the newest on the blog, daily visitor numbers have regularly been double or triple the normal numbers. It will be interesting to see what will happen after this entry is posted. Which brings us nicely back to the point.

Viking Grace

IMO 9606900
Built 2013, STX Europe Turku, Finland
Tonnage 57 700 GT
Length 218,60 m
Width 31,80 m
Draught 6,80 m
Ice class 1 A Super
2 800 passengers
2 876 berths
530 lane metres of cars
1 275 lane metres of cargo
4 Wärtsilä dual fuel (LNG/diesel) engines, combined 30 400 kW
2 fixed-pitch propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Service speed 21,8 knots
Maximum speed 25,6 knots


IMO 8601915
Built 1988, Brodogradiliste Split, Yugoslavia
Tonnage 35 384 GT
Length 169,40 m
Width 27,60 m
Draught 6,35 m
2 480 passengers
2 046 berths
350 cars
900 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä-Pielstick diesels, combined 23 760 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 21,5 knots

The Amorella and Viking Grace have both enjoyed fairly uneventful careers, by the virtue of having both sailed (near-)exclusively on the Turku-Stockholm route (the Amorella has also had short stints on the Helsinki-Stockholm line). An end is in sight for the Amorella's time on the service, however, as Viking Line signed a memorandum of agreement to build a new ship for the Turku route - previously reported to be the Amorella's replacement - in November with the Xiamen Shipbuilding Industry Co. Ltd. in China. If the new ship is realised, she will be the largest on the Northern Baltic, with a projected gross tonnage of circa 63 000; this will be achieved by making the ship circa three metres wider than the Viking Grace, allowing the addition of one more lane of cargo on a ship with the same length.

The newbuilding is slated for delivery in 2020, and according to an interview with Viking's CEO Jan Hanses, on being replaced the Amorella will move to the Helsinki-Tallinn line as a running mate for the Viking XPRS. Also according to Hanses, Viking have been scouting the second-hand market for a suitable Helsinki-Tallinn ship for some time, without success. (This does, however, beg the question if it was smart to sell the Isabella back in 2013, if less than four years later Viking are in dire need of an additional ship).

The to-be-confirmed contract for the Chinese newbuilding also includes the option of a sister ship. If Viking are pleased with the new ship, surely the sensible thing would be to use the option and operate the Turku route with two identical sisters. This would also free the Viking Grace for use on other routes - rumours about transferring her to Helsinki-Stockholm have occasionally circulated. Of course, anything related to the optional sister is pure speculation.

The photos below, meanwhile, show the Viking Grace and Amorella arriving at Mariehamn for their simultaneous afternoon call, allowing for passengers to and from the Åland islands to disembark/embark, but - more importantly - allowing people making a 'picnic cruise' from Turku or Stockholm to change ships. Photographed from Västra Ytternäs, if I remember correctly. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

The weather and lighting were far from perfect - I fiddled with these quite a lot to make them less grey - but the synchronised arrival and turning is rather neat.
Interesting to compare the ship's looks; the same company, designed for the same route, but 25 years between them.
The dance of the (not so) little ferries.
Kships will return at latest at the end of this month with photos of the brand-new Megastar.

13 December 2016

Onboard the new Silja Europa, 12 December 2016

Yesterday, the Silja Europa returned to service on the Helsinki-Tallinn 22-hour cruise route, following a 16-million euro refit and after an absence of over two years. Tallink Silja (Tallink Grupp's Finnish subsidiary) arranged a press trip, which I had the pleasure of attending. So again, this blog returns from child-induced hibernation thanks to the Silja Europa.

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
3 013 passengers
3 696 berths (as of 2013, may have been changed)
340 cars
932 lane metres
4 MAN diesels, combined 31 800 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 22 knots

So, all passenger spaces (with the exception of the C-class cabins below the car deck) have been redone, with the exception of the spaces that were redone last spring. For the most part, I did not revisit those spaces this time, but you can see them in this previous entry. It might also be of interest to look at my first Silja Europa interiors entry from 2010. As noted already in the previous entry, all new interiors are the work of the Finnish interior design firm Aprocos. And now on to the photos!

Deck 12 hosts the conference suite, sauna and spa areas, plus outer decks. All public rooms here have been given a light refurbishment, mostly changing the surface materials.

The seating area in the lobby of the conference area.
The conference lobby, with the new service counter and wall art above it.
The arcade connecting the conference suite to the sauna area is one of the few areas which largely retains the original look.
The sauna bar; the "beach house" wall decor is original, otherwise the fursnishings are new.
The original paintings of the stairwells have been replaced by hptomurals of cities that Tallink sail to. Alas, here the realisation doesn't deliver the full potential of the idea, with the use of too bright and low-resolution images; closer up, they're quite pixellated.
Deck 11 is a cabin deck, housing the suites and deluxe cabins, as well as standard interior cabins.

In addition to the new stair decor, the elevator lobbies have also been refurbished...
...as have the cabin corridors, which now have a clean, modern look. Different decks have different-coloured cabins doors to help with orientation.
Forward on deck 11 are the suites; here is the living room of one...
...and here is the bedroom. Different suites have different-coloured furnishings.
The De Luxe -cabins also have neat new look. Here, the decorative colour is orange, but other cabins use lime green instead.
All passenger toilets, both in the cabins and public, have been redone. This is the toilet and shower of the De Luxe cabin.
Standard cabins use either turquise, as seen in a B2-cabin here, or red as the decorative colours.
Deck 10 has the navigation bridge forward, while the rest of the deck is dedicated to cabins.

A two-berths A-class cabin. Alas, still no double beds.
Deck 9 is another cabin deck.

Deck 8 is the upper of the main public room decks, with restaurants forward and amidships, followed by bars and entertainment venues aft.

The decor of the new Grande Buffet is identical to the same venues onboard the Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony, although here original lighting fixtures have been retained forward (alas, getting a good photo of that part was not possible).
A lot of people seem to dislike the simplified Grande Buffet decor - I rather like it myself.
The atrium, seen from Deck 8 down to Deck 7. In places where it was in good enough condition to be salvaged, the original wooden floors have been retained and restored.
Another view of the atrium lobby, looking forward with the entrace to the Grande Buffet in the background.
The arcade connecting the public rooms.
The Tavolata Italian restaurant (familiar from the Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony) was added already last sping, but finished while the ship was in service, hance I had not photographed it before.
The Corner Bar amidships has been a new look, tying in with the adjacent Grill House restaurant. The effect would be better if the curtains seen here open...
I really like the look of the Grill House, especially the original 1993 ceiling finish and columns which were retained as instrumental parts of the new decor.
Another view of the Grill House.
The former Drottningholm cabinet/Russian restaurant was also redecorated in the Grill House theme. Alas, the plan of converting the space into a new speciality restaurant was abandoned.
Unfortunately the ship was too full to get a decent photo of the entirely rebuilt Sea Pub or the Ocean Club night club on this deck. You can see my photos of the latter space in current appearance here. The Sea Pub, alas, has to wait.

Deck 7 is the lower public room deck, with cafeterias forward, the bulk of the deck given over to shops, and a disco aft.

The Fast Lane casual eatery was added already in the spring, but thus was the first time I saw it with the final green carpeting.
In the spring, the space was otherwise complete, but retained old red carpeting. Not the best of combinations.
Coffee & Co is more of a cafe-type venue aft of Fast Lane.
For the shops, please (again) take a look at the entry for my spring visit.

Deck 6 has even more cabins, with the theatre aft.

Deck 5 hosts even more cabins. Even though the actual entrance lobby is up on Deck 7, the gangways in both Helsinki and Tallinn only connect here, so - at least for the time being - the Deck 5 lobby doubles as the main entrance.

Decks 3 & 4 have crew cabins on the side and the car deck in the middle.

Deck 2's only passenger areas are the C-class cabins, which are currently undergoing a refit to bring them up to the same standards as the cabins on the upper decks.

Kships will return.

18 November 2016

Silja Europa in mid-transformation, 17 November 2016

Kships returns from the child-induced hibernation to bring you this reportage.

Yesterday, I had the chance to visit the Silja Europa in Muuga, where she is undergoing a 16-million euro refit to thoroughly modernise her passenger facilities - including all the cabins. Not only is this the largest individual refit in the history of Tallink, but combined with the refit done last spring it means that nearly all of her passenger facilities will have been modernised - resulting essentially in a brand-new ship as far as the passenger is concerned.

Updated 18.11.2016 at 15:54 with an artist's impression of the Grill House .

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

Heikki Mattila of Aprocos explains the refit onboard the Star.
We sailed to Tallinn on the Star, and whilst en-route Marika Nöjd of Tallink Silja Oy (Tallink Grupp's Finnish subsidiary) and Heikki Mattila of Tallink's trusted interior designers Aprocos explained the refit in detail. I was especially impressed not only by Mattila's designs, which will transform the ship into an attractive contemporary one, but also his enthusiasm about retaining parts of the original decor in his new designs, which makes sense not only from a purely economic point of view but is important from an environmental point of view.

We started our tour from the bridge - which, unlike the public spaces, isn't getting a refit.
The flag collection on the bridge illustrates the ship's varied career. On the top row are Silja Line, Estonia, Denmark and Spain; on the bottom row the Silja Europa's own pennant, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Australia.
From the bridge, we proceeded up to Deck 12, to the conference rooms and sauna & pool areas. Here, the spaces aren't receiving quite as extensive renovation as elsewhere, being primarily restructed to new upholstery, carpeting and the like.

The conference lobby, where new carpeting are being put in in the background.
The sauna bar area has already received new carpeting...
...while new glazed tiles were being put in in the pool area.
In the aft stair lobby (which will also reveive a new look), new upholstery awaits being put in place.
The public toilets will also get a new, less dark look. Many of these were originally faced in red granite and this will be retained in locations where the stone remains in good enough condition.
An impressive part of the Silja Europa's transformation is that ALL cabins will receive a complete makeover, from the suites to the C-class cabins below the car deck (although the latter will receive theirs only in January, to be done while the ship is in service). New bathrooms, storage spaces and in general a lighter, more contemporary look is the word of the day.

A pile of new carpeting awaits installation in the stair lobby of Deck 10.
The cabin corridors will also get an all-new look, replacing the somewhat musty original 1993 design.
Everything must go!
Heikki Mattila shows Sami Koski of Valkeat Laivat one of the cabins that's in a more advanced stage. The sofa here is still to be redone in the new colour scheme. In addition to the black and turquise seen here, other cabins will receive a black and red colour palette instead.
Down on the public room decks, it's not only the public rooms that get a "new look", but here too the corridors, lobbies and staircases will be redone; including the removal of the original staircase artworks in favour of new black-and-white photomurals of the destinations that Tallink and Silja Line sail to.

The bank of elevators on Deck 8 has already been refaced with the new dark stone wall covering.
The atrium, meanwhile, receives a new wall of lights similar to the one found on the aft promenade of the Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony.
An impression of what the main lobby on Deck 7 will look like once the refit is done. Image copyright Aprocos.
The main buffet restaurant forward on Deck 8 is getting a full-scale renovation, with a new look similar to the Grande Buffet onboard the post-refit Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony.
The forward part of the buffet will retain the original custom-made copper light fixtures from 1993, incorporated into the new look.
For comparisons, here is the Silja Serenade's Grande Buffet. The decor of the Silja Europa's buffet will be similar once complete. (For a full tour of the Silja Serenade after her winter 2014 refit, see here)
The Tavolata restaurant, the entrace of which is here on the right, was added in the spring and no changes will be done there. The arcade here will receive a new look - the original hardwood floor will be retained, but restored to original appearance. On the deck below the original floor was in such a poor condition that it has to be replaced.
The pub isn't exactly inviting right now...
...but it will be very nice once the refit is complete. Image copyright Aprocos.
The former Maxim à la carte restaurant transforms to the new Grill House.
Which will look like this in the final form, with the original ceiling finished and columns retained, but a more contemporary look that even has a hint of luxury to it. Image copyright Aprocos.
 Down of Deck 7, much of the public rooms were already redone in the spring (see this earlier reportage). Here, the primary changes will thus be done to the corridors and lobbies, alongside which the cafe will be completely redone, in a similar appearance as the Coffee & Co café onboard the Silja Serenade.

In the Fashion Shop added last spring, the displays are covered to keep the soot away.
The former Seaside Café today...
...and in a month's time. Image copyright Aprocos.
A public room that will not be redone, and thus retains the original 1993 decor, is Theatre Europa down on Deck 6. Once the Silja Europa returns to service on the 22-hour cruise circuit, it will see some use as an entertaintment venue. Marko Makke, Tallink Grupp's head of Finland-Sweden operations, suggested during our tour that this may not be the final solution for the space, suggesting that it could instead be converted to an entertainment venue similar to the Iskelmä bars aimed at an older demographic found onboard the Baltic Princess and Baltic Queen.

For now, however, the theatre is a storage for the cabin matresses.
Kships will return... eventually.