29 December 2011

Viking XPRS in Helsinki, 4 September 2011

Viking XPRS

IMO 9375654
Built 2008, Aker Yards Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 35 778 GT
Length 186,71 m
Width 27,70 m
Draugth 6,75 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
732 berths
230 cars
1 000 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 40 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 25 knot

I noticed recently that I had only posted one entry featuring the Viking XPRS during entirety of 2011. This simply does not do for the stylish ship and hence, as what is (probably) the last entry for 2011, here are some images of the Viking XPRS arriving in, and moored at, Helsinki in the evening of 4 September 2011. The first bunch is taken from Kustaanmiekka, the second from onboard one of the ferries to Suomenlinna (probably Tor). Click on the images to see them in larger size (presuming that Picasa doesn't come up with something stupid again, that is).

Inbound to Kustaanmiekka. photographing the ship in acceptable lighting conditions was possible due the day being a Sunday, when the ship comes back from Tallinn earlier than on other days.
Kustaanmiekka in the foreground.
More Kustaanmiekkaing.
And on the... does this area between the Kustaanmiekka strait and Kruunuvuorenselkä actually have a name of it's own?
Dat ass.
At quay later, with the setting sun that always looks good.
Sunset XPRS from the other direction. God, I miss summer. And we haven't even had a proper winter yet.
The funnel symbol on the bow is painted on.  Previously the ship had a separe shield with the symbol, but it was torn away and seems to have been replaced with a cheaper solution. Then again, paint is more difficult to tear away.

Finally, an update on this display size problem: All entries for July and August 2010 have now been fixed, as have all entries featuring Viking XPRS. In other words, over half of the 114 affected entries have now been rectified. I will fix the remaining ones as time and energy permits.

27 December 2011

Public service announcement

Yesterday, when working on a bunch of very attractive photos I took of the Viking XPRS a few month ago, I noticed a problem with some of the older blog entries. As you may have observed, I have attempted to make all images in all entries such thatby clicking on the image displayed in the entry you can see a larger-size version, usually 800px on the long side. However, when looking at some of the older Viking XPRS entries I noticed the larger image now displays as only 512px on the long side.

After some looking around I discovered and in it's infinite wisdom Picasa has decided that all images I have posted on this blog prior to February 2011 now link to 512px versions of the images, instead of the 800px versions they originally did. Which means that to set things straight, I must edit every single image in all the 114 entries made before 1 February 2011 so that they'll link to the intended size.

So for the record: Picasa, I hate you and I wish I had had the good sense to use Photobucket or some other alternative for image hosting when I started this blog.

In any case, this problem will probably also mean there might not be a new entry any time soon as I will be concentrating on fixing the old ones.

20 December 2011

Astor in Helsinki, 4 September 2011


IMO 8506373
Former names: Astor, Feodor Dostoevskiy
Built 1987, HDW Kiel, West Germany
Tonnage 21 000 GT
Length 176,50 m
Width 22,61 m
Draugth 5,80 m
578 passengers (650 passengers maximum)
4 Sulzer-Wärtsilä diesels, combined 15 400 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thrusters
Speed 16,5 knots (18 knots maximum)

The Astor is currently the only ship belonging to Transocean Cruises (previously Transocean Tours), after the company was reorganized in 2009 following insolvency. The ship in itself is utterly fascinating: built in 1987 at Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in Kiel, she was the last purpose-built ocean liner to be completed before the Queen Mary 2, although she never sailed as such.

The Astor had been ordered by Safmarine in 1985 to replace an earlier ship (also named Astor, at the time of writing sailing as Saga Cruises' Saga Pearl II. For more details see the 1st entry on the Saga Pearl II). The second Astor was to be essentially identical to the first, but slightly larger and with more powerful engines to make her better suited for the Southampton-Cape Town -route. However, before the second Astor could ever be completed, in 1986 Safmarine decided to abandon the liner service and the under-construction Astor was sold to the Marlan Corporation.

The Astor was completed in early 1987 and placed on cruises around the Caribbean. In late 1988 she was sold to the Soviet Union's Black Sea Shipping Company and renamed Feodor Dostoevskiy. For a little over a year she was chartered to Transocean Tours, before being chartered for five years to Neckermann Seereisen. At the end of that charter in 1995 the ship reverted to her original name Astor as was chartered to Aquamarin. The next year she was (again) chartered to Transocean Tours. In 2002-2008 she was joined in the Transocean fleet by her elder semi-sister, which was now named Astoria.

Today the Astor remains in service with Transocean Cruises, making cruises aimed at the German market.

The photographs below show the Astor at Helsinki South Harbour and passing though the Kustaanmiekka strait departing Helsinki on 4 September 2011. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Transocean Tours used a lighter, turquise shade on the hull and funnel markings, but after the company became Transocean Cruises in 2009, these were changed to a darker, more nautical shade of blue seen here.
In 2010 the Astor has been given additional structures on the forwards superstructure (below the bridge), which make her less good-looking, but at least make it easier to tell her apart from her near-sister Saga Pearl II.
And then the usual set of photos showing the ship passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait.
They don't make ships as sleek as this anymore, do they? Now with funnels quite to big and phallic.
The ramparts and sunset reflections.
Does it really matter what I'm writing here? Does anyone read these captions anyway?
On a practical note, I seem to be getting royally busy around and after Christmas and hence it is possible that this will be the last update to this blog for this year. So if there are no further updates I'm not dead, just enjoying the company of relatives and friends.

14 December 2011

Baltic Princess in Helsinki, 25 August 2011

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

One more entry about the Baltic Princess (aka Plastic Princess aka Baltic Pride). This time with just one photo, but it is a rather good one if I may say so myself. I was actually walking home from Sisä-Hattu and photographing Mein Schiff 2 on this particular occasion - I think I had just put my shoes back on (getting to Sisä-Hattu requires some wading) when I noticed the BP departing and decided to climb on a rock and see what king of photos I could get this time.

So yes, Baltic Princess departing from Helsinki West Harbour on 25 August 2011, photographed from Vattuniemi. Click on the image to see it in larger size.

It's a tree! I mean a ship, of course.

11 December 2011

Mein Schiff 2 in Helsinki, 25 August 2011

Mein Schiff 2

IMO 9106302
Former names: Mercury, Celebrity Mercury
Built 1997, Meyer Werft Papenburg, Germany
Tonnage 77 713 GT
Length 259,70 m
Width 32,20 m
Draugth 7,70 m
1 870 passengers (lower beds), 2 681 passengers (all berths)
4 MAN diesels, combined 29 250 kW
2 propellers
3 bow thrusters
2 stern thruster
Speed 21,5 knots

Mein Schiff 2 is, as the name suggest, the second ship of TUI Cruises. She started life as the Mercury, and as such was the fifth newbuilt ship for Celebtiry Cruises. In 2008 Celebrity Cruises decided to adopt the common naming scheme of having the company name as a prefix to the name and hence the Mercury became Celebrity Mercury. With this small policy change Celebrity largely ruined their naming scheme that had been until that point - in my opinion anyway - the absolute coolest naming scheme of all time. How could you not like names like Meridian, Zenith, Mercury or Constellation? With the prefix the names suddenly become a lot less cool.

Anyways, the time as Celebrity Mercury proved to be a fairly short detour for the ship, as almost exactly three years after the name change she was transferred to the fleet of TUI Cruises, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean International and TUI aimed at the German market. TUI Cruises had begun operations in 2008 with the Mercury's sister ship Galaxy (not to be confused with the Tallink/Silja Line ship by the same name) which was named Mein Schiff. Corresponding with the arrival of the ex-Mercury the name of the first ship was maneded into Mein Schiff 1 and her sister now became the Mein Schiff 2.

The photographs below show the Mein Schiff 2 departing from Helsinki West Harbour on 25 August 2011 in somewhat windy weather. Photographed from Sisä-Hattu. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

The ship looks surprisingly good in the TUI Cruises livery. I was expecting the (original) Mein Schiff to look rubbish without the snazzy angular modernist Celebrity livery, but both Mein Schiffs look very good in these colours.
Windy day = sailboats. Also notice that you can still just see the outline of Celebrity Cruises' X funnel symbol behind TUI's smiley logo.
The day was generally overcast, but just as the Mein Schiff 2 was departing, a few rays of the evening sun broke through.
I admit this photo is nothing special, no sailboats or funky foreground objects... but I like it rather a lot never the less.
Oh, and speaking of TUI Cruises' livery working nicely with the exterior stylings of these ships, it remains to be seen what the newbuilding (I presume that she will be named Mein Schiff 3) to be delivered from STX Turku in 2014 will look like. The advance images show a lot less interesting-looking ship than the first two. Have a look for instance here.

06 December 2011

Viking model at Forum Marinum, 13 August 2011


IMO 5380302
Built 1924, William Denny & Bros Ltd. Dumbarton, Scotland, United Kingdom
Tonnage 1 761 GRT
Length 99,05 m
Width 12,44 m
Draugth 3,80 m
900 passengers
85 cars and three trucks
4 William Denny & Bros steam turbines, combined 3 935 horsepower
Speed 18 knots

In honour of the Finnish independence day today I decided it might be prudent to post something slightly different from the usual. "But what is this British-built Viking you're talking about?" you might ask. The Viking, originally Southern Railways' English Channel ferry Dinard was the first car-passenger ferry to sail between Southern Finland and Sweden. It was this little second-hand ferry that started the ferry phenomenon that eventually resulted in the giant cruise ship -like giants that sail between Finland and Sweden today.

The Dinard was built for Southern Railway in 1924, originally as a pure passenger steamer. She was placed on the Southampton-St. Malo service. During World War II she sailed as a hospital ship for the Royal Navy. After the war she was redelivered to her owners and converted to carry cars - but these had to be lifted on and off the ship with a crane. Following the nationalisation of Britain's railroads in 1948 her owners became the British Transport Commission. In 1952 the Dinard was fitted with a stern gate and hence became a proper car ferry. In 1958 she was withdrawn from regular service.

At the time the Dinard was withdrawn, the Finnish sea captain Gunnar Eklund was looking for a ro-ro ferry to use on services between Finland and Sweden. At the time the routes were a virtual monopoly of long-established players operating a joint service, and these companies had little interest in the new-fangled invention of the car ferry. Eklund saw a market opening and with the help of his friend and former crewmate Henning Rundberg acquired the Dinard for £ 30 000 (a third of what the owners were originally asking).

Eklund and Rundbergs' company was named Rederi Ab Vikinglinjen and the ship Viking. She recieved a blue hull and funnel symbols with a stylified viking ship on them, and in June 1959 entered service on the Korppoo-Mariehamn-Gräddö -route. For the 1960 season the Swedish port was changed to Kapellskär and for the 1962 season the Finnish mainland port to Parainen. In 1963 Eklund had a falling out with Rundberg and the majority of shereholders in Vikinglinjen. Resultingly Eklund left to form a competing ferry operator, Rederi Ab Ålandfärjan.

Three years later the rival companies reconciled and - together with Rederi AB Slite - formed a joint marketing company Viking Line. To avoid confusion Rederi Ab Vikinglinjen was now restyled as Rederi Ab Solstad. Now the Viking was repainted with a red hull that became the joint company's trademark, but her funnels (like those of all early Viking Line steamers) were painted light yellow, not red/white. In 1967 the Finnish mainland port of the Viking (and other Viking Line ships) changed again, with the route now becoming the "definite" Naantali-Mariehamn-Kapellskär.

In 1970 the Viking was replaced by the new purpose-built Viking 1 and laid up at Mariehamn. In 1973 she was scrapped at Katajanokka, Helsinki, not far from the present-day Viking Line terminal.

The photograph below shows a model of the Viking on display at the Forum Marinum maritime museum in Turku, Finland on 13 August 2011. It was displayed as a part of the exhibition Our Road is The Sea, produced in collaboration with the Åland maritime museum. The exhibition has since ended and the model returned to the Åland maritime museum. Please note that the model is somewhat inaccurate, particularly regarding the parts below the waterline.

Click on the image to see it in larger size.

Obviously the model is a tiny thing, but so was the original ship, at least when compared to the large cruiseferries of today. Yet at the time the small Viking was a brave step for her owners.

02 December 2011

Star in Helsinki, 25 August 2011


IMO 9364722
Built 2007, Aker Finnyards Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 36 250 GT
Length 186,00 m
Width 27,70 m
Draugth 6,50 m
Ice class 1A
1 900 passengers
520 berths
450 cars
1 981 lanemeters
4 MaK diesels, combined 48 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 27,7 knots

Some more photographs of the Star. She and the Superstar have so many daily departures it's near-impossible not to catch one or even both of them if you happen to be in the vicinity of the West Harbour. (Not taking photographs is of course not an option). As you can probably judge based on the previous images, this set shows the Star departing from the West Harbour, photographed from Sisä-Hattu. Taken on 25 August 2011. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

In our series of Plantlife and Other Stuff in the Foreground this week...
I might have remarked on this before, but the name of the ship and the livery don't really match, do they? Of course, the same can be said for the Galaxy too... Tallink haven't been too keen on consistency, at least not since the late 1990s when they briefly had a common livery and a consistent naming scheme. I'm not complaining mind you, just observing.
What is this upright photo devilry?

On a final note unrelated to the images here, Ulkomatala have a photo-oriented Christmas calendar that you can view by clicking here. The texts are in Finnish, but that doesn't stop you from enjoying the images.