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.

11 November 2016

Book news: Uusikaupunki Maritime Historical Society yearbook 2015-2016

So, I've been in a book yet again. This time, it's the 2015-2016 yearbook of Uudenkaupungin merihistoriallinen yhdistys (Uusikaupunki Maritime Historical Society). This is a wonderful hardcover article collection in full colour, which has just one problem for many of my readers: it's available only in Finnish.

My own article - which apparently was good enough to be the one opening the book - is on the history of the Lindblad Explorer, the world's first purpose-built expedition cruise ship, which happened to be built at Uusikaupunki. As such, the article naturally concentrates primarily on the design and construction of the ship, but also charts its entire history. The whole thing is lavaishly illustrated, mostly with wonderful images (including interiors in the original guise) provided by the Uusikaupunki museum. For those wanting all this in English, fear not: much of the material will appear in that language in 2017, when my and Bruce Peter's first joint offering, Innovation and Specialisation: A History of Finnish Shipbuilding, is published.

Many thanks are in order to the Uusikaupunki museum for the wonderful photos that grace my article here.

Apart from my article, the Uusikaupunki yearbook includes a host of wonderful articles on subjects as varied as sea transports in ancient Rome, the voyage of Finnish missionaries to Namibia on one of the last commercial liners voyages under sail, and marine paintings. My personal favourites, however, were Pirita Frigren's text on the lives of seamen's wives in the age of sail, and Jukka Huotari's history of the Juliana-class cargo ships.

The book is mailed to the members of the Uusikaupunki Maritime Historical Society automatically; I presume you can ask to buy a copy by contacting the society via their website.

In other news, you may have noticed a distinct lack of updates to this blog of late. The reason for this is simple: the Id Fleet grew by one member in October. As the new addition consumes a sizeable amount of my time, I've decided to use what remains on writing and photo work I'm actually paid to do. Which means that, for the time being, this blog will be on a hiatus. For how long, I cannot say. So, as the wizard said: expect me when you see me.

17 October 2016

Black Watch in Helsinki 15 September 2016

As most of you might have noticed, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines changed their livery for this year, with a new grey-hulled colour scheme, recalling the livery of their passenger liners of old (alas, with a darker shade of grey than the old one). This, of course, was a perfect excuse to photograph their ships again. Except, when the Black Watch's visit to Helsinki loomed, I realised I had never photographed the ship before (I have, on the other hand, photographed both sisters, the Boudicca and Albatros before). So, this is also an excuse to do another one of the terribly long history entries.

Black Watch

IMO 7108930
Former names: Royal Viking Star, Westward, Star Odyssey, Black Watch
Built 1972, Wärtsilä Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 28 221 GT
Length 205,47 m
Width 25,19 m
Draugth 7,30 m
820 passengers
4 MAN/B&W diesels, combined 14 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

The Black Watch was built for Det Bergenske Dampskibsselskab (BDS), the Norwegian shipowner that were a partner in Hurtigruten, operated a ferry service from Bergen to Newcastle, and ran the cruise ship Meteor. The latter, however, was becoming outdated in the late 1960s, and in 1969 the company ordered a replacement from Wärtsilä in Helsinki, who at the time were building the first trio of ships for Royal Caribbean, but had never actually completed a cruise ship yet. However, after BDS had ordered their ship (originally planned to be named Stella Polaris, after what was probably BDS' most famous cruise ship), they were approached by two other Norwegian shipowners, Det Nordenfjeldske Dampskipsselskap (who were BDS' partners in Hurtigruten) and A.F. Klaveness & Co., who wished to establish a joint subsidiary with BDS for worldwide cruising. This was agreed on, and Royal Viking Line was formed, with the BDS ship renamed Royal Viking Star. Originally, the plan was for each of the three ships to carry the funnel colours of their respective owners as was done with Hurtigruten – in BDS' case, three white stripes on a black background – but in the end all three ships were painted with Royal Viking Line's funnel colours.

The Royal Viking Star entered service in June 1972, as the first ship of Royal Viking Line. The line, with their world-wide itineraries, quickly proved a success, and in 1981 the Royal Viking Star was sent for lengthening at the Seebeckwerft shipyard in West Germany. However, financially the result was less satisfactory. A.F. Klaveness had withdrawn from the consortium already in 1977, and in 1984 Royal Viking Line became a part of the burgeoning Kloster Cruise empire. With the arrival of new tonnage in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kloster decided that the original Royal Viking trio was ill-suited for needs of modern luxury cruising, and in 1991 the Royal Viking Star was transferred to the fleet of the sister company Norwegian Cruise Line as the Westward. In the NCL fleet the ship was used for week-long party cruises for the US market, a use it was singularly unsuited for.

In 1994 the ship was again transferred within the Kloster group, now to Royal Cruise Line, a more upmarket subsidy, becoming the Star Odyssey. Royal Cruise Line already operated the Star Odyssey's sister Royal Odyssey, originally the Royal Viking Sea. However, our ship's stint as the Star Odyssey was to prove short, as Kloster were facing acute financial difficulties, as a result of which the Star Odyssey was sold to Fred. Olsen in late 1996.

Fred. Olsen were, at the time, running a single-ship cruise operation aimed at the UK market using the 1966-vintage Black Prince. The company, however, felt there was much growth potential and were eager to secure a second ship to run alongside the Black Prince. The Star Odyssey fit their needs perfectly, and upon learning she was for sale the Olsens quickly secured her, renaming the ship Black Watch, after the Black Prince's original sister ship and running mate. The Black Watch was given a refit to bring its interiors up to the style of its new owners, and following teething problems the ship set into service comfortably. Indeed, such was the success of the Black Prince and Black Watch that in 2001 a third ship, the Braemar, was added.

Between April and June 2005, the Black Watch was re-engined at Blohm & Voss in Germany, adding to the ship's lifespan. Already before the refit, it had been made public that Fred. Olsen had purchased the Black Watch's sister Grand Latino (originally the Royal Viking Sky), which eventually joined the fleet as the Boudicca in February 2006.

The Black Watch remains in the Fred. Olsen fleet to date. There have been numerous rumours that the Olsens are looking to acquire newer ships to their fleet, and as the Black Watch is their oldest vessel, turning 45 next year; even with the new engines, the Black Watch is the likeliest candidates to leave the fleet to make way for new tonnage (alongside the slightly younger Boudicca).

The photos below show the Black Watch at the cruise quay at Helsinki Eteläsatama, and afterwards passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait after departure, on 15 September 2016. First photo taken from onboard the Tor (one of the ferries to Suomenlinna) and the rest from the ramparts of Kustaanmiekka. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

The Black Watch back at home, with the city's two most famous landmarks in the background.
The roman berries nicely match the ship's funnel colours.
An exceedingly fine-looking design that. And the grey hull is starting to grow on me, though I still think they should have picked a slightly lighter shade.
Thought the narrow bit...
...and onwards to the open sea!
Kships will return.

09 October 2016

Viking Grace in Turku, 20 June 2016

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

I haven't featured too many exterior photos of the Viking Grace here, so now is the time for a change.  This set was taken on the same trip as the shots of the Baltic Princess departing from Turku featured here about two months ago. So, as can be obvious from the previous sentence, the shots here show the Viking Grace departing from Turku on the afternoon of 20 June 2016, photographed from Ruissalo (albeit not the exact same location as on the Baltic Princess shots). As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

If I ever have the chance to write a book on the history of Viking Line, this could be a potential cover image.
Even after almost four years in service, the Viking Grace's exterior still looks nicely futuristic to my eyes.
The foreground reeds are a nice addition, as always.
She's really surprisingly sleek.
The colours radically changed with the light coming from the other direction.
LNG tanks prominently visible, as always. The soon-to-come Megastar, with the tanks hidden in a more conventional location, will be an interesting comparison.
Kships will return.

02 October 2016

Isle of Arran interiors, 2 June 2016

In hindsight, it would have been smart to group my Scotland entries so that an entry on a ship's interiors follows immediately after an entry on the same ship's exteriors. Well, I didn't do it with the Isle of Arran, but there's still quite a lot of material left, so I can do it with some of the other ships.

Isle of Arran

IMO 8219554
Built 1984, Ferguson Ailsa Glasgow, United Kingdom
Tonnage 3 269 GT
Length 84,92 m
Width 16,24 m
Draught 3,20 m
652 passengers
62 cars
2 diesels
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 15 knots

For a history (and exterior images) of the Isle of Arran, see the first entry on the ship. The ship itself is an old and small thing, with only three public rooms all located on the same deck, so this will be fairly brief.

Deck 6 houses the navigation bridge.

Deck 5 has outer decks accessible for passengers and (presumably) crew spaces.

The forward outer deck offers nice views... with the passengers having somewhat different thoughts on the suitable attire for the weather.
The aft sun deck is much more sheltered, with superstructure forward and funnels on the sides keeping the wind out. But, of course, this also keeps the wind out.
Deck 4 is the deck with all the public rooms, plus kitchens aft.

There are two public rooms forward: a sitting lounge on the port side...
...and the Coffee Cabin starboard, where the servery also soubles as the ship's small shop.
Midships if the ship's Mariners restaurant, photographed here towards the bow and the connecting corridor to the lounges forward. The cafeteria-style servery area is (somewhat impractically) in a separate room aft of the main eatery space. (Overall, while I did like Calmac's ships and services onboard, the cafeteria serveries were hopelessly impractical for my Nordic sensibilities).
Deck 3 is the entrace deck, with some seating areas flanking the car deck.

Deck 2, then, is the main level of the car deck.

Kships will return.