19 May 2017

Regal Princess in Helsinki, 19 May 2017

Today, I finally managed to get this summer's cruise visitor season started. It did require some help from my friends, as Miles Cowsill and Matthew Punter were visiting Helsinki and I promised to show them around. Good fun was had by all, and I managed to (finally) photograph a ship I had never photographed before: the Regal Princess (which I did visit when she called in Helsinki for the first time in 2015, interior tour here, but I hadn't done the exteriors before now. A bit of a shame, as on the past two summers she was running with a plain white hull, whereas now she has the Princess' "Sea Witch" logo painted on sides of the bow).

Regal Princess

IMO 9584724
Built 2014, Fincantieri Monfalcone, Italy
Tonnage 142 714 GT
Length 330 m
Width 38,40 m
Draft 8,60 m
4 380 passengers
6 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 62 400 kW
2 propellers
3 bow thrusters
3 (?) stern thrusters
Speed 23 knots

Photos below show the Regal Princess departing Helsinki Länsisatama on the afternoon of 19 May 2017. Photographed from Vattuniemi. As usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

No chance of mistaking the company these days, with the huge logo at the bow and the company name in large letters towards the stern. funnily, cruise ships are continuously nearing ferries when it comes to displaying company names on logos on the topsides.
The water levels were extremely low, but unfortunately not low enough to get to Sisä-Hattu without the need to get your feet wet. And the water is cold this time of year.
I'm not sure I like the exterior design of this class, to be honest. The front and back bits look like they're from a different ship, with curves at the rear up to and including the funnel, but straight lines forward of that.
Kships will return.

30 April 2017

Mariella in Helsinki, 19 July 2016

I realised today that I had uploaded only one set of images from my & ship photographer extraordinnaire Marko Stampehl's visit to Vallisaari last summer. It's high time to put up a second one.

Mariella

IMO 8320573
Built 1985, Wärtsilä Turku (Perno), Finland
Tonnage 37 860 GT
Length 175,70 m
Width 28,40 m
Draugth 6,78 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
2 500 berths
430 cars
980 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä SEMT-Pielstick diesels, combined 23 008 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

Since 2014, the Mariella's route has been extended to Stockholm-Helsinki-Tallinn during the summer seasons, with a return trip to Tallinn during the time the ship normally spends in port in Helsinki (the same of course applied to the running mate Gabriella). This of course gives additional photo opportunities, as you can photograph the ship arriving and departing in the space of a few hours, both in the morning and afternoon. It's quite unusual for me to be up to photographs the morning call, though...

The photos below show the Mariella passing though the Kustaanmiekka strait, both arriving and departing, in the morning of 19 July 2016. Photographed from the little cape in Vallisaari next to the Kustaanmiekka strait (I have not been able to discover the name of the place; if someone does, let me know). As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

Morning rush hour; in addition to the Mariella, you can see the inbound Star and Silja Symphony in the horizon.
Rush hour part two, the Mariella with the outbound Finlandia in the background.
A slightly more unusual view of the ramparts at Kustaanmiekka.
I'm still not sure if I like the "Grace stripes" and the new, larger hull texts on her. Especially not with the slightly misaligned G in Viking.
About two hours later, the same ship was outbound. The ramparts in background would make for fine photo locations, were they not part of a low-security prison and therefore inaccessible to the general public.
Dynamic old lady.
Kships will return.

21 April 2017

Express (Viking FSTR) interiors, 15 & 20 April 2017

The entry featuing exterior photos of the Express/Viking FSTR posted in the beginning of this month has been a surprise hit with the readers, skyrocketing to the list of Top 5 most popular entries of all time, and easily outperforming other recent new or radically rebuilt ships such as the Megastar and Silja Europa. Yesterday, I was at a press showing of the ship, so here are a bunch of interior images of the ship let's see if these will be as popular as the exteriors.

Express

IMO 9176046
Name history: Catalonia, Catalonia L, Portsmouth Express, Express
Built 1998, Incat Hobart, Australia
Tonnage 5 902 GT
Length 91,30 m
Width 26,00 m
Draught 3,73 m
836 passengers
120 cars
4 Caterpillar diesels, combined 28 800 kW
4 waterjets
Maximum speed 48 knots
Service speed 30 knots

For a recap of the history of the ship, please refer to the earlier entry on it.

The Express has two passenger decks, plus the car deck below them, so be warned that there isn't a huge amount of material to be discussed here.

Deck 3 features the navigation bridge forward, followed by a token outer deck (the entrance to which still displays P&O Ferries signage with access restrictions that are not in effect). The indoors areas are primarily just sitting lounges, with the Fork & Knife cafeteria midships.

The seating areas are... well, the usual. The seats are much larger than on a bus or airplane, but there still isn't enough leg room for someone of my height.
In the forward port corner of the deck there is what at least used to be a children's play area. Now it only has multicoloured seats and a TV screen, so there isn't much to amuse a child of any age.
The Fork & Knife cafeteria amidships has both nice outside views from the sides over the two-deck high foyers (which I could not photograph due to people hanging around in them) and gets natural light from the overhead skylights.
Deck 2 has the car deck's upper ramps forward, followed by a crew mess (this used to be a games room when the ship was sailing on the Irish Sea, but the ceiling height of the original crew mess did not fullfill Swedish regulations and thus a new one had to be built when it was moved under the Swedish flag), the embarkation foyers, First Bar and FSTR shop amidships, plus regular sitting areas and the Club Lounge aft.

Bar First has a tropical beach theme - somewhat unusual on the Baltic, but a nice touch never the less.
The foyer between the shop (entrance to which is just out of screen on the right) and the seating areas. Many of the walls are decorated with photomurals from Gotland, a relic from the ship's time with Gotlandsbåten. Maybe Viking could consider a special cruise to Visby during the summer season?
The Club Lounge is a surprisingly nice space (though the window isn't as impressive as it appears, as the car ramp blocks the view from the lower level). I'm not normally keen on extra cost lounges, but for the 30 euro price (25 for Viking Line Club members), the quality and amount of things on offer is very good – you essentially get the same things as you do in Tallink's Business Lounges, but at half the price.
Kships will return.

07 April 2017

Gudingen at Långnäs, 8 June 2014

At the end of the previous entry, I promised we would look at the new interiors of the Princess Anastasia, which has just returned from a three-month drydocking. Well, that was all well and good... except they had not changed the interiors at all. So while the onboard product is different, thanks to St. Peter Line's new partnership with Moby Lines, the interiors are exactly the same as before. So you can just look at my 2013 interior tour if you want to know what the ship (still) looks like.

Instead, today we will look at Gudingen, one of the Ålandstrafiken archipelago ferries, images of which I came across when researching photos for a book project.

Gudingen

IMO 7902609
Built 1980, Laivateollisuus Turku, Finland
Tonnage 961 GT
Length 48,50 m
Width 10,50 m
Draugth 3,70 m
Ice class 1A
195 passengers
25 cars and 4 trucks
2 Wärtsilä Vasa diesels, combined 1 606 kW
2 propellers (?)
Speed 14 knots

The Gudingen is an older near-sister of the Skiftet featured here previously. It  was completed by the Valmet-owned Laivateollisuus (literally "ship industry") yard in Turku in 1980, and placed on Ålandstrafiken's "southern line" linking Galtby (in Korppoo) to Långnäs via various intermediate ports. The ship remains on the same service to this day. The only major change that has happened over the years, as far as I can tell, is the painting of the blue stripe along the public room windows - originally the ship was all white (as the Skiftet still is).

The photos below show the Gudingen arriving at Långnäs on 8 June 2014. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

While I'm normally all for the use of colour in ship liveries, I must say that on a ship this small the blue stripe doesn't really improve the ship's looks - the all-white Skiftet is decidedly superior visually.
The lighting conditions were not ideal, but since these are my only photos of the ship, I guess these will do.
Kships will return.

03 April 2017

Express (Viking FSTR) in Helsinki, 3 April 2017

We are living exciting times in the Northern Baltic these days, with new or radicaly redone ships entering service left and right. The Express, aka Viking Line's "Viking FSTR" has been performing test runs in and out of Helsinki Eteläsatama (South Harbour) for the past two days, and today the weather was good enough to warrant heading out and photographing the latest newcomer.

Express

IMO 9176046
Name history: Catalonia, Catalonia L, Portsmouth Express, Express
Built 1998, Incat Hobart, Australia
Tonnage 5 902 GT
Length 91,30 m
Width 26,00 m
Draught 3,73 m
836 passengers
120 cars
4 Caterpillar diesels, combined 28 800 kW
4 waterjets
Maximum speed 48 knots
Service speed 30 knots

The Express (marketed by Viking Line as the "Viking FSTR", pronounced "Viking Faster", to avoid confusion with the Viking XPRS, pronounced "Viking Express") was completed in 1998 by Incat, the Tasmanian specialist fast catamaran builder, as the Catalonia for the Uruguyan fast ferry operator Buquebus. However, instead of Buquebus' home services linking Uruguay to Argentina, the Catalonia was, as the name suggests, meant for services in the Mediterranean. However, before entering service, the ship secured the Hales Trophy, awarded for the fastest Transatlantic crossing, on delivery voyage to Spain. (The Hales Trophy should not be confused with the Blue Riband of the Atlantic, which requires for a ship to carry passengers in regular liner service, whereas the Hales Trophy is awarded simply to the fastest ship). Less than two weeks later, however, the Catalonia lost the Hales Trophy to another Incat-built catamaran, the Cat-Link V.

Almost immediately after arriving in Spain, the ship's name was amended to Catalonia L, after which it entered service linking Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca. Subsequently it also sailed on the Ceuta-Malaga-Algericas -route. From the 2000 summer season onwards, the ship was chartered during summers to P&O European Ferries as the Portsmouth Express on the Portsmouth-Charbourg -route. During the winters it reverted to Catalonia (now again without the L), but spent at least some of the winters simply laid up. For the 2003 season the ship was no longer renamed for the summer service, instead being marketed as the "Express". In late 2003, this became the official name.

From 2005 onwards, the Express spent summer seasons sailing on the Cairnryan-Larne and Troon-Larne routes with P&O Irish Ferries, occasionally making night-time crossings from Larne to Douglas (on the Isle of Man) with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Winters were spent laid up.

The pattern was finally broken in 2015, when the ship was sold to Nordic HSC, a shipowner associated with Gotlandsbåten, the new Swedish shipping company wishing to challenge the existing state-subsidized operator Destination Gotland on the routes connecting the Swedish mainland to Gotland. During the 2016 summer season, Express sailed for Gotlandsbåten on the Visby-Västervik and Visby-Nynäshamn routes. While passenger numbers were good, Gotlandsbåten failed to make a profit and the company decided not to resume operations for the 2017 summer season. Instead, the Express was chartered to Viking Line, who will use her on the Helsinki-Tallinn line for the duration of the summer season, starting from 10 April 2017.

The photos below show the Express passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait both outbound and inbound during the operating trials she carried out during 3 April 2017. Photographed from Kustaanmiekka. As always, you can see the images in larger size by clicking on them.

Outbound for the first run of the afternoon. This was the first time I've ever heard a ship in the Kustaanmiekka strait before I saw it. The Express is loud.
Coming back after circling the Harmaja lighthouse.
Viking's latest marketing visuals (in Finland) use multicoloured balls, so these have also been painted on the ship alongside the FSTR marketing name.
Heading out again, this time from a slightly different vantage point.
I also photographed her return from this tip, but my last location was poorly chosen and the photos were nothing to write home about.
Next time: I will be attending a press conference onboard the Princess Anastasia on Wednesday, so in all likelihood the next entry will be new interior shots from that ship.