29 April 2011

Princess Anastasia, 29 April 2011

Yesterday was the beginning of this summer's cruise season in Helsinki, with Hurtigruten's Fram once again as the year's first visitor. Unfortunately I missed the season opener this time around, as I was at the University at my thesis seminar all day. However, today saw the arrival of this summer's second "cruise guest", St. Peter Line's cruiseferry Princess Anastasia, that is making two four-night cruises from St. Petersburg this spring. So let us look a little at the history os that ship before getting to the pictures of her first visit to Helsinki under that name.

Princess Anastasia

IMO 8414582
Built 1986, Wärtsilä Turku New Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 37 583 GT
Length 176,82 m
Width 28,40 m
Draught 6,71 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
2 447 berths
580 cars
1 115 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 22 988 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

The Princess Anastasia was originally built as the Olympia for Rederi AB Slite for use on Viking Line's Helsinki-Stockholm service. Somewhat unusually Rederi AB Slite had purchased the plans of their fellow Viking Line member SF Line's Helsinki-Stockholm newbuilding Mariella instead of opting for a design of their own. The Olympia was delivered in April 1986 and replaced Rederi Ab Sally's Viking Saga on the Helsinki-Stockholm route (the Viking Saga survives today in drastically rebuilt form as Louis Cruise Lines' Cristal). The Mariella and Olympia served alongside on the capital cities service for seven years. Rederi AB Slite was going to take delivery of a new ship, Europa, in 1993, which was to replace the Olympia.

Rederi AB Slite planned on selling the Olympia to Euroway, a company operating between Malmö and Lübeck (which coincidentally was funded by the same Swedish bank as RAB Slite). This came to nothing and instead the Olympia was chartered to P&O Ferries in April 1993. However, just days later Rederi AB Slite was declared bankrupt (see this entry on Silja Europa for details on the bankruptcy). In May 1993 the ship was renamed Pride of Bilbao and placed on P&O Ferries' Portsmouth-Bilbao and Portmouth-Cherbourg services. Later during the year the ship was sold to Irish Ferries, who continued chartering her to P&O.

Pride of Bilbao remained on the Portsmouth-Bilbao -route until 2010, when P&O Ferries closed the service down. In September 2010 she was laid up at Falmouth and subsequently her name was shortened to Bilbao. In December of the same year she was then taken over by St. Peter Line on a sale/charter agreement. St. Peter Line are chartered her from Irish Ferries, but each payment contributes to SPL taking ownership of the ship and in 2016 she will be owned by St. Peter Line. Between January and March 2011 the ship was rebuilt at Klaipeda and renamed Princess Anastasia (though the name on her hull is in fact SPL Princess Anastasia). During the layup she had been repainted with an all-blue hull, but during the refit it was changed back to P&O-style half-blue half-white, but with SPL hull markings (making her livery completely dissimilar to that of her fleetmate Princess Maria).

At the end of March 2011 the Princess Anastasia entered service on St. Peter Line's St. Petersburg-Stockholm and St. Petersburg-Stockholm-Tallinn-St. Petersburg -routes. In late April/early May she also made two St. Petersburg-Helsinki-Stockholm-Tallinn-St. Petersburg cruises.

The photographs below show the Princess Anastasia departing Helsinki on 29 April 2011, her first visit to the city under that name. She was in port at the same time as her sister Mariella, but sadly I could not find a suitable location from which to take good photographs showing both sisters. The photographs below were taken, as per the usual, from Kustaanmiekka.

Click on the individual images to view larger size.

Who would have thought, 18 years ago, that the ex-Olympia would one day return to the Baltic, calling at Helsinki and sailing regularly to Stockholm?
It's interesting how much bulkier the more white-heavy livery makes the Princess Anastasia compared to the Mariella. I was oping the Anastasia would recieve a livery similar to that of the Princess Maria (which IMO would have looked very good) but SPL clearly decided otherwise.
Interestingly, the Olympia was built one meter longer than the Mariella, apparently to give her the title of the biggest ship on the Baltic. However, due to structural differences the Olympia was (and Princess Anastasia is) in fact smaller than her sister in terms of gross tonnage (volume).
Tricks of the light make the ground look exotically red in this pic. In reality it was brown, as grass hasn't really started growing yet after the long, cold winter.
Notice that the ship has an aft radar on the port side. This seems to be a P&O-era addition, and the Mariella doesn't have one.
Onwards through Kustaanmiekka to Stockholm, just like old times. Except this time around the ship was filled with russian tourists, definately something that wasn't around back in the 80s or early 90s.

20 April 2011

Finnstar, 3 April 2007


IMO 9319442
Built 2006, Fincantieri Castellammare di Stabia, Italy
Tonnage 45 923 GT
Length 218,80 m
Width 30,50 m
Draught 7,00 m
Ice class 1 A Super
500 passengers
500 berths
4 216 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 48 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 25 knots

There is little to say about the Finnstar that wouldn't have already been covered in the first entry on the ship. But since the current Finnstar is in fact the third ship with that name to sail in Finnlines' fleet, I thought it might be interesting to take a short look at the histories of the first two ships named Finnstar.

The first Finnstar was acquired by Finnlines' (then-)owner Merivienti Oy in 1959. She was a 2 914 GRT general cargo ship built in 1955 by a Dutch shipyard for the Finland-based Lovisa Rederi Ab. Originally named Raimo-Ragnar, she was renamed Finnstar when taken over by Finnlines. She was initially used on Finnlines' services from Finland to US East Coast, but changed to Finland-Mediterranean services in 1962. In 1973 she was sold to Maldives Shipping Ltd. and nine years sold for scrap.

The second Finnstar had been built in 1967 for Finland Steamship Company as their Finland-West Germany ferry Finlandia. When Finnlines took over the entire Finland-West Germany passenger services in 1975, they also bought the Finlandia. She continued sailing until 1977 and the delivery of the new Finnjet. Now Finnlines were faced with a problem: they needed a second ship to serve alongside the Finnjet during the busy summer season, but during the winters the Finnjet sailed half-empty and no second ship was needed. As a solution the decision was made to rebuild the Finlandia's facilities to meet cruise ship standards but retain half of her cardeck. To complete the transformation she was renamed Finnstar before re-entering service in early 1979.

The Finnstar (2) was envisioned to continue sailing for the next five years, maintaining a Helsinki-Copenhagen-Travemünde ferry service alongside short cruises to Leningrad during the summer months and cruising on the Mediterranean and west coast of Africa for the rest of the year. This was not the success Finnlines had hoped for and combined with raising labor costs Finnlines decided already in Autumn 1980 to give up the Finnstar. The ship was sold and converted to a full-time cruise ship, enjoying a long career mostly in Far Eastern waters (and even short stint with Costa Cruises in the mid-1990s). She was scrapped in 2009.

After the withdrawal of the second Finnstar in 1980 the name remained unused for over two decades, until the delivery of the current Finnstar in 2006. Sadly, the current ship is not a graceful as her predecessors.

The photographs below show the (current) Finnstar departing the Sompasaari freight harbour on 3 April 2007. Photographed from Katajanokka. Click on the individual images to view larger size.

Already at this point the paint in the bow is bluer than on the rest of the hull, as on the photographs I had taken a year later. Fellow shipping enthustiast would probably blame italian workmanship.
Departing stormy Helsinki for calmer Germany, perhance? On the background we have Hanasaari power plant on the left and (probably) Korkeasaari, the location of Helsinki Zoo, on the right. Alternatively it could also be Mustikkamaa, the larger island north of Korkeasaari.
And suddenly, the colours change completely with the sun obscured and the dark clouds gone. One minute had passed from the previous pic.
On Kruunuvuorenselkä bound for the Kustaanmiekka strait, the "final obstacle" before open sea.

18 April 2011

Silja Festival, 26 August 2007

Silja Festival

IMO 8306498
Built 1986, Wärtsilä Marine Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 34 417 GT
Length 168,00 m
Width 27,60 m
Draught 6,50 m
Ice class 1 A Super
1 886 passengers
1 937 berths
300 cars or 60 trailers
4 Wärtsilä-SEMT-Pielstick diesels, combined 26 200 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 22 knots

For a history of the Silja Festival (and some notes on her livery and exterior design), please refer to the previous entry about her. The photographs below show the Silja Festival in the Stockholm archipelago, inbound to Stockholm on 26 August 2007. With  less than a year left for her in Silja Line service, she is sailing into the twilight both figuratively and literally. Photographed from onboard Viking Line's Viking Cinderella. Click on the image(s) to view larger size.

The exterior stylings - both the livery and the shape of the ship - are very successful in my opinion. Although the first variant of this livery, that the ship carried in 1992-1993, was better... and today she looks worse still, with a white funnel does somehow doesn't work at all.
Sailing on Sunshine, to quote one of my favourite musicians.

17 April 2011

A political commentary

This is not a political blog, but I would like to comment on the results of today's Finnish parliamentary elections: 80% of the population did not vote for rightist nationalist populists. I sincerely hope the admittedly phenomenal rise of the True Finns party does not mean that for the next four years our politics will be dominated by the will of a minority that gathered only 20% by the votes, as now being propagated by the media. The vast majority of us still awant to remain a part of the international community.

I apologise for this incrusion of non-shipping related subject into this blog. Normal service will resume within the next new days.

15 April 2011

MSC Sinfonia interiors, May 2009

MSC Sinfonia

IMO 9210153
Built 2002, Chantiers de l'Atlantique St. Nazaire, France
Tonnage 58 625 GT
Length 251,20 m
Width 28,80 m
Draugth 6,80 m
2 223 passengers
2 223 berths
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 31 680 kW
2 azimuth pods
2 bow thrusters
Speed 20,8 knots

MSC Sinfonia was built in 2002 for Festival Cruises as European Stars, their third (and last) newbuilt ship. The European Stars and her sister European Vision were essentially enlargened versions of Festival Cruises' first newbuilt ship, the Mistral. Festival Cruises were one of the first companies attempting to offer a "pan-European" cruise experience, but the company was not wholly successful and in early 2004 they went bankrupt. When Festival Cruises' ships were placed for sale, the expanding Italy-based MSC Cruises purchased both sisters, renaming them MSC Armonia (ex-European Vision) and MSC Sinfonia (ex-European Stars). Since then the ships have remained in service with MSC Cruises.

I sailed on the MSC Sinfonia in May 2009 on a Western Mediterranean cruise, hoping for a European cruise experience as (supposedly) MSC Cruises has taken over the mantle of a pan-European cruise line following the demise of Festival Cruises. In this respect I was somewhat disappointed as the onboard product was heavily aimed at Italians and Spaniards, at the expense of us North Europeans. But enough of that.

According to Douglas Ward, the author of Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising, the MSC Sinfonia's interiors are "decidedly European Moderne" with "clean lines" and "minimalism in furniture design". I'm not sure if I agree on the decor being neither European, nor moderne, nor minimalist. There is clear moderne influence in places, but on the whole this is not, in my opinion, moderne. And while the decor is certainly less ostentatious than on many ships designed for the North American market, it's hardly minimalist. But as said, that is my opinion and you can draw your own conclusions from the photographs below.

Click on the individual images to view larger size.

The radar mast as seen from the forward sun deck on deck 13. The ship was dressed overall for the call at Naples, the location of MSC Cruises' head office. 29 May 2009.
The funnel lit by the setting sun while en-route from Valencia to Ibiza. 25 May 2009.
The ship's observation lounge cum discotheque, Club Pasha, on the aft of deck 12, below the funnel. For some unfathomable reason they didn't start playing music at the disco until way after midnight. This was particularly annoying as the entertainment in all other public rooms consisted of Italian popular music from the 1950s and 60s. 25 May 2009.
More of Club Pasha, 25 May 2009. There was a large number of teenagers and 20-somethings onboard who had no entertainment for them for most of the evening, ending up sitting up in the hallways and stairwells to escape the constant onslaught of "Volare". Personally I never managed to stay awake until the disco actually begun playing music, being too tired after a day of wondering around various ports of call.
The bustling sun deck on deck 11, photographed from 12, facing forward. 25 May 2009.
Capri Bar in the forward section of the sundeck on deck 11. The rock climbing wall above the bar was apparently purely decorational; all the handholds in the lower part of the wall had been removed and as far I could notice, the wall was not open for use once during the cruise. 25 May 2009.
More of the sundeck, facing aft. The evening crossing from Valencia to Ibiza had a tropically-themed deck party. It was quite cold and I certainly did not envy the entertainment crew in their shorts and see-though t-shirts when even the cold-accentuated and much warmer-dressed Finns had to escape indoors after a while. 25 May 2009.
Moving downwards a few decks, to Deck 7 and the Sinfonia Lounge with a very neat bar counter. The lounge was the only place onboard with a actual live band playing, making it a favourite haunt for us. The Volare-percentage was also slightly lower than in the other bars. 25 May 2009.
Another shot of the Sinfonia Lounge. Being located on deck 7, somewhat removed from the other public rooms (on deck 5 & 6) meant the lounge was always relatively empty. Sad, as this was probably the best spot on the ship in terms on entertainment. 25 May 2009.
Moving to deck 6 and the Galleria Mazzini jewellery shop, located forward from the Il Covo dining room (where we ate - I do not have photographs of the dining room as I've made my policy not to take photographs while dining). The dark-haired lady in a somewhat unladylike pose is Mrs. Id. 25 May 2009.
The policy on MSC Sinfonia seems to be to give silly names to public rooms: Buddha Bar on deck 6, forward of the Galleria Mazzini from the photo above. I actually liked this particular spot, as the decor really has some discernible moderne stylings. The name of the bar doesn't really match the decor though... 28 May 2009.
Another Buddha Bar shot. The baby grand piana was, as far as I could tell, decorational, as all the music "played" came from a tape (and more often than not, had no piano parts at all). 28 May 2009.
Le Baroque Café on deck 6 had, as the name implies, baroque decor. It's located on a sort of a terrace above the reception area, with a neat two-deck high fountainthat's just visible on the right. Despite (or perhaps because of) the central location, the café was largely deserted for the duration of the entire cruise. 25 May 2009.
The fountain on the reception area on deck 5, photographed down from deck 6. 25 May 2009.
Manhattan bar on deck 5. A pleasant enough space (except for "Volare"), but who on earth picked the 80s-esque colours for the furniture? 28 May 2009.
Finally, a bonus image: Tendering in Monaco on the morning of 24 May 2009.

14 April 2011

Romantika, 26 August 2007


IMO 9237589
Built 2002, Aker Finnyards Rauma, Finland
Tonnage 40 975 GT
Length 193,80 m
Width 29,00 m
Draught 6,50 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
2 172 berths
300 cars
1 030 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 26 240 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

The Romantika was the first-ever newbuilding delivered to Tallink (as I've probably already mentioned a thousand times in this blog under entries of other ships), her completion beginning Tallink's rise to being the dominant ferry operator in the northern Baltic. But this was still a distant dream in 2000, when the company operated with a group of second-hand ferries and placed an order for the Romantika.

According to what I have been told by fellow ferry enthustiast, Tallink got the chance to order the Romantika when Irish Ferries decided not to excercise their option for a sister ship of their Ulysses. I do not know if this is true, but it would help explain why the Romantika was so heavily based on Viking Line's Cinderella if Tallink had little time for the design process and therefore modelled their ship after a ship that had already proven itself to work well on the Helsinki-Tallinn short cruise service that the Romantika was built for.

Regardless of the factuality of the above (or the lack thereof), the Romantika was ordered by Tallink from Aker Finnyards in Rauma in August 2000, her keel was laid in May 2001, she was floated out of a drydock and launched in December 2001 and delivered to Tallink in May 2002. As said, she was placed on the Helsinki-Tallinn short cruise service, replacing the Fantaasia. In May 2006, when the new Galaxy (an enlarged version of the Romantika) was delivered, the Romantika was moved to the Tallinn-Mariehamn-Stockholm service, sailing parallel to her younger sister Victoria I. In May 2009 the arrival of another new ship, the Baltic Queen, on the Tallinn-Stockholm service meant the Romantika was moved to the Riga-Stockholm service.

The Romantika remains on the Riga-Stockholm service to this day, but reportedly the service is unprofitable. The Romantika's future in Tallink fleet is therefore uncertain - though it is likely that should the company start cutting down services, the first ship to go will be her older route-mate Silja Festival.

The photographs below show the Romantika arriving in Stockholm's Frihamnen from Tallinn on the morning of 26 August 2007. Photographed from onboard the same company's Regina Baltica that had previous arrived from Riga. Click on the individual images to view larger size.

Turning to back into quay. In the background is Lidingö, Stockholm's neighbouring city and the bridge linking the island city to Stockholm and the mainland.
As noted in the entry for Victoria I, the dark protective sidings below the funnel are the main external structural difference between the two ships: on the Victoria I they extend all the way to the aft and as you can see on the Romantika they do not.
Moving into quay. Since this photo was taken the Tallinn-Stockholm ships have moved to the (former) Silja Line terminal in Värtan, as the quay in Frihamnen's ferry terminal could not accommodate the longer Baltic Queen at the same time as the Romantika or Silja Festival.

12 April 2011

Merilin, 25 August 2007


IMO 9194256
Built 1999, Austal Shipyard Henderson, Australia
Tonnage 920 GT
Length 52,60 m
Width 13,30 m
Draught 1,50 m
411 passengers
4 MTU diesels, combined 9 280 kW
4 KaMeWa waterjets
Speed 40 knots

The Merilin and her operator Linda Line are probably not that well known, so perhaps it's prudent to cover the history of the company as well as the ship here.

Linda Line was established in 1997 when Inreko and ESCO (Estonian Shipping Company), the owners of Tallink, decided to part ways. Inreko withdrew the three Ukrainian-built hydrofoils Liisa, Laura and Jaanika from Tallink services and they begun sailing between Helsinki and Tallinn under the newly-established brand Linda Line (if I remember correctly, Linda Line was at least initially owned by Inreko. However, I could find no affirmation of this so take it with a pinch of salt). In 1998 Linda Line sold the Liisa and continued sailing with just two hydrofoils until 2002, when they took delivery of a new Russian-built fast catamaran Linda Express, capable of an impressive 55 knots. The Linda Express was however plagued with technical problems and in 2004 she was sold to a Chinese operator under the name Shi Ji Kuai Hang. For the next two years Linda Line continued operating with just the Laura and Jaanika, until the chance came to acquire the fast German-owned catamaran Cat No 1.

The Cat No 1 had been built in 1999 by Austal for Schiffahrtsgesellschaft AGRNF 'Supercat' & Co. (marketed more simply as Cat No 1) for services from Cuxhaven and Eemshaven to various islands on Germany's North Sea coast. In December 2006 the Cat No 1 was sold to Linda Line and in spring 2007 she entered service on the Helsinki-Tallinn route as the Merilin, replacing the Laura. In 2009 the Merilin was joined by the similar but slightly smaller katamaran Karolin and the Jaanika too was sold. Since then Linda Line has become the sole survising fast ferry operator between Helsinki and Tallinn, the other companies with their slower ships having fallen to the increased competition by the fast conventional ferries of Tallink and Viking Line.

The photographs below show the Merilin in Helsinki's Eteläsatama (South Harbour) early in the morning of 25 August 2007, on the day's first departure to Tallinn. Photographed from onboard either the SuperSeaCat Three or SuperSeaCat Four. Click on the individual images to view larger size.

Reversing away from the quay, with Helsinki's Market Square and the Helsinki Cathedral in the background.
The red-dominant colour scheme is largely the same as the ship carried as the Cat No 1; the black stripes along the windows were originally blue, as was the white crescent-like shape on the side. As Linda Line traditionally carried a red-white colour scheme, not larger changes were deemed nescessary.
A nimble turn and soon the ship was off to Tallinn, trailed by ships of SuperSeaCat and Nordic Jet Line. With her 40 knot speed, the Merilin unsurprisingly got there before the others.

02 April 2011

Amorella, 2 June 2007


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

Amorella was the first of the four near-identical ships built by Brodogradiliste Split in Yugoslavia/Croatia. Interestingly, while her sisters Isabella, Gabriella and Crown of Scandinavia (soon to be renamed, presumably, Crown Seaways) have led a varied existance, the Amorella has spent her entire career sailing for one company, on the same route, without major structural alterations.

SF Line ordered what was eventually be the Amorella (the project name was lillasyster, "little sister" [of the Mariella]) from the Split shipyard in December 1985. In fact, SF Line had initially signed an Memorandum of Agreement with Chantiers de l'Atlantique in France, but when the Bank of Finland (that had to approve all purchases from abroad by Finnish companies at the time) did not give their approval until the MoA had expired, Chantiers de l'Atlantique had taken a different order and could not give SF Line the construction slot originally agreed on. As a result SF Line decided to place their order in Yugoslavia - which came as something of a shock to the Finnish shipbuilder Wärtsilä who had been convinced they would get the order (this what, in part, led to Wärtsilä offering to build the Cinderella to SF Line in 1986).

The Amorella was meant to be delivered in the beginning of 1988, but her construction was severely delayed and she was not delivered until September 1988 (resultingly she got the nickname "Eventuella", from the Swedish word eventuell, "possible"). On delivery she was placed on the Turku-Mariehamn-Stockholm service, replacing the Rosella. Initially the Amorella sailed parallel to the Viking Sally (perhaps better known as the ill-fated Estonia), then from 1990 until the end of 1993 her route-mate was the Kalypso. When the Kalypso was sold following the bankruptcy of Rederi AB Slite, the Rosella returned to the Turku service as Amorella's running mate. During the summers 1995 and 1996 the Cinderella sailed in place of the Rosella. In 1997 the Isabella joined Amorella on the Turku route and since then, the that service has been operated by the two sisters.

During her career the Amorella has suffered two notable accidents: a grounding near Stockholm in February 1993 and a minor collision with Finnlines' Finnfellow while both ships were stuck in heavy ice in March 2010. Much of the ship's public spaces were rebuilt during a docking at Landskrona in September 2008.

The Amorella is likely to be replaced by a new ship sometime after 2013, following the replacement of the Isabella by the as-of-yet unnamed newbuilding, due for delivery from STX Europe's Turku shipyard in 2013.

The photographs below show the Amorella in the Stockholm archipelago, en-route to Stockholm from Turku and Mariehamn on the evening of 2 June 2007. Photographed from onboard the Mariella. Click on the image(s) view larger size.

I admit that probably every ship-buff in Finland or Sweden has taken this photo at some time. Doesn't make it any less good tho'.
I don't know about you, but I find the Amorella a very good-looking ship with her bridge placed so high.
It's impressive longevity that the ship looks almost exactly the same in this pic as she did back in 1988. Apart from some small changes she's exactly the same ship.
No blowing the horn when passing ships of the same company here - the people with summer cottages along the shores would be mad. Plus it kinda gets old when it happens every day.
On towards Stockholm and another pile of passengers.