31 January 2012

Silja Serenade in Helsinki, 21 October 2011

Silja Serenade

IMO 8715259
Built 1990, Masa-Yards Turku New Shipyard, Finland
Tonnage 58 376 GT
Length 203,03 m
Width 31,93 m
Draugth 7,12 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 852 passengers
3 001 berths
410 cars
1 600 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä-Vasa diesels, combined 32 580 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 21 knots

These are the very last ship photos I took in 2011 that are worthy of publishing. I admit the rather glorious setting of the photos was completely accidental, I was on my way home from photographing the Princess Anastasia and by sheer change I happened to be on the ferry (Suomenlinna II in this case) that was inbound to Kauppatori just as the Silja Serenade was outbound. The autumn sunset and foliage conspired with the setting to make for rather excellent photographs (if I may say so myself).

Click on the individual images to see them in larger size.

Reversing from the quay at Olympiaterminaali, with Valkosaari in the foreground.
So close... the image is slightly blurry as I completely forgot that the autofocus in the camera is still broken. Taking that into account I think this turned out pretty damn well.
Passing through the channel between Katajanokka and Valkosaari.
And into Kruunuvuorenselkä. Valkosaari and Klippan in the background on the right.

27 January 2012

Nordic Travel Fair Thoughts: Brochures, Impressions and Itineraries

Last Sunday I visited the Nordic Travel Fair in Helsinki (held in the Helsinki Fair Center, which is literally next door to my apartment) and as usual came home with a big pile of brochures, many of them for cruise lines and/or ferry operators. Although I must say this year's haul was not as big as on some prevous occasions, most notably Carnival Corporation & plc's brands were conspicuously absent and the only material for them was from Finnish travel agencies that sell their cruises. (I guess I should apologise here is this entry is ramblish - I fear i'm coming down with a flu which might have an effect on the clarity of my writing).

Viking Line's upcoming ship has a brilliant website, but no marketing material at the travel fair. As a side note, I proposed Laurella as a name for the ship - the most popular suggestion in the naming competition was Daniella, so it seems we might be getting another traditional -Ella name. Image copyright Viking Line.
Now, several days after the fair I've finally waded through all the material. One clear disappointment when it comes to printed material was Viking Line. Their brocure for this spring was just eight pages and most importantly next to no information about their as-of-yet-unnamed LNG-powered Turku-Stockholm ferry due for delivery in almost exactly 12 months. Of course paper brochures are almost completely superfluous in this digital day and age - except if you want to archive them. A website will change and information be lost forever, but a printed brochure will remain. Also, all Viking's competitors had notably more substantial brochures, even Eckerö Line had dozens of pages despite the fact they were in essence advertizing just one ship.

What really stroke me as interesting when reading through my haul was how the way a brochure is written and how it represents a company effects the reader. This is of course not a surprise as such - the brochures are meant as promotional material after all. But what is interesting is that a brochure can have the exact opposite effect from what was intended. I've experienced this before when I first laid my eyes on a Royal Caribbean International brochure. I did not have any particular preconceptions about the company (I liked the fact their major ships were built in Finland, but I'm not fond of the horizontal atrium arrangement), but what the brochure did was make me not want to sail on them.

The Celebrity Constellation seemed far more appealing before I read Celebrity Cruises' brochure. More images of the ship here.
This time the same thing happened to me with a Celebrity Cruises brochure. Now with Celebrity I did have preconceptions - strongly positive ones. From what I have read and heard from other people, they seem like a cruise line defiantely worth checking out, and I was in fact strongly considering taking my next cruise on them. But the brochure painted the company in a completely different light from what my preconceptions were - it was all hyperbole and brashness in place of the sophistication I've come to expect. The overall impression was repugnant rather than appealing.

Kristina Cruises - interesting itineraries for a relatively cheap price. But is the onboard product appealing for someone like me? Based on my impressions from various sources the ansver is "no".
On the other side of things, what majorly surprised me was how appealing the Finnish cruise line Kristina Cruises managed to make their product in their brochures. From all that I have heard the company is aimed for elderly Finns and in all probability it will absolutely not be my kind of a thing. Yet in the brochure they managed to make their onboard product rather appealing. But perhaps the most important thing were the itineraries. When I look at the itineraries of most cruise lines (particularly their european itineraries) I find myself thinking "boring, boring, boring, maybe, boring". With Kristina Cruises it was more like "Ooo, an interesting Black Sea cruise! Ooo, an interesting West Africa cruise! Ooo, an interesting Scottish Isles cruise!" and even "Ooo, an interesting Baltic Sea cruise!".

I guess with Kristina Cruises I'll do the thing I planned on earlier already: take a short (three- or four-night) Baltic Sea cruise during the summer to check out the onboard product. If it's good I'll definately think about trying one of the more interesting cruises outside the Baltic. Celebrity poses an more difficult problem: is my previous conception correct, or was I just hoping for it to be "my kind of cruise line" like I did with MSC Cruises? Since what I'm primarily planning on doing with Celebrity is a two-week Caribbean cruise, I'd hate to find out the company was really exactly like their brochure indicated.

26 January 2012

Princess Anastasia in Helsinki, 21 October 2011

Princess Anastasia

IMO 8414582
Former names: Olympia, Pride of Bilbao, Bilbao
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

For a history of the Princess Anastasia (or SPL Princess Anastasia, as her registered name goes), see this entry. For once I've decided to go with the marketing name over the official one as SPL Princess Anastasia just sounds stupid), see the first entry on the ship.

The photographs here were a part of my attempts last autumn to photographs ships and the autumn foliage - though here I was already a bit too late as many of the trees at least in Suomenlinna were leafless. Anyway, the photographs show the Princess Anastasia passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait (you know the drill), photographed from Kustaanmiekka. Click on the images to view them in larger size.

Shy Anastasia, hiding behind the island.
You know how much I like panoramic photos. ;)
This photo illustrates particularly well the problem with the Princess Anastasia's current livery (which is of course the same as her latter P&O Ferries livey, except with a white funnel in place of a blue one): the overall shape of the ship is very boxlike and the vast expanse of white on the side accentuates this further. The ship would really benifit from a racing stripes -livery similar to that of the Princess Maria. Or at least having the hull colour extend higher, a la her sister Mariella.
Autumnal Suomenlinna and departing Anastasia. Nowadays the sPL ships have moved to sail from the West Harbour, hence no more chances of photographing the Anastasia at Kustaanmiekka. On the other hand she will probably be around a lot when I try to photographs cruise ships in the West Harbour next summer...
Look at that magnificient shade of blue on the hull the setting sun and my camera produced. We need more ships with hues as nautical as that.
It was already getting a bit nippy in October, though the latter part of the year was much warmer than usual.

22 January 2012

Merilin in Helsinki, 24 September 2011

Before we start I would to remind all my Finnish readers that today is the day of our presidential elections and I would urge everyone to use their right to vote. As long as you don't vote for Timo Soini.

And now on to normal programming.


IMO 9194256
Former name: Cat No 1
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

For a short history of the Merilin and her operator Linda Line, see the first entry on this vessel. Fast craft don't get much coverage in this blog and usually if I post images of them it's during the wintertime. The reason is that I find them somewhat boring and during the summertime, when there are loads of new and interesting images to post about cruise ships, it's easy to just skip the duller fast craft. So if you're into fast ferries, the winter is the season for you, at least as far as this blog is concerned.

The photographs below show the Merilin departing Helsinki South Harbour on 24 September 2011. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Unfortunately this southerly shipping lane is too shallow and narrow for most ships sailing from the South Harbour, otherwise it would offer rather fantastic photo opportunities. And also did back in the 90's when ships sailing to Tallinn were old and small and the passenger terminal in the West Harbour was still to be built. Of course, I was too young to realise my good fortune at the time.
Suomenlinna in the background on the right, for once my photos feature it from a different direction.

19 January 2012

Bremen in Helsinki, 24 September 2011


IMO 8907424
Former name: Frontier Spirit
Built 1990, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Kobe, Japan
Tonnage 6 752 GT
Length 111,51 m
Width 17,05 m
Draugth 4,80 m
Ice class: 1A Super
164 passengers
184 berths
2 Daihatsu diesels, combined 4 855 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 15 knots

The header for this entry sounds strange when reading it out (a bit like saying Stockholm in New York, it makes no sense unless you know the first city name is actually a ship), but I'm a sucker for consistency so no deviating from the pattern.

So, the Bremen. Like so many other Hapag-Lloyd ships, it carries a traditional name from the fleet of Norddeutsche Lloyd, being in actual fact the sixth Bremen in the fleets of NDL/HL. This Bremen started out as the Frontier Spirit, built for Frontier Cruises in 1990 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. After three years of service for Frontier Cruises (who do not appear to have had any other ships), the Frontier Spirit was chartered to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises in late 1993. The ship was rebuilt at Werft Nobiskrug in Rendsburg, Germany, and renamed Bremen after the refit. Instead of being repainted in normal Hapag-Lloyd colours she retained the mostly blue hull from the Frontier Cruises days, with the stripe above the hull (originally red) was painted orange.

In early 1995 Hapag-Lloyd purchased the ship outright. In 2001 the ship lost her previous unique (and quite stylish) livery in favour of the standard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises livery of a white hull with narrow white and orange decorative lines. The funnel was also modified by adding blue top and aft. At the same time (or possibly earlier) the aft superstructure was somewhat extended, which probably contributed to the ship's slight aft-heaviness (evident in the images below).

The photographs below show the Bremen in Helsinki South Harbour, departing from the Pakkahuoneenlaituri used only by smallest cruise ships (and yachts) on 24 September 2011. Because my camera was misbehaving, only these few images turned out alright from the day. Click on the photos to see them in larger size.

The Bremen is really a tiny little thing, fitting into the quay previously normally used by the Kristina Regina (and not looking much bigger). Also notice how huge a single standard-sized container looks like compared to the rest of the ship.
In the harbour pool, with the Helsinki Cathedral in the background. The design of the bridge look really out-of-date for a ship built in 1990 in my opinion.
On Kruunuvuorenselkä, with the aft-heaviness quite evident.

16 January 2012

From Titanic to Costa Concordia: a Century of Improved Maritime Safety

I previously decided I would not comment on the subject of the Costa Concordia sinking. Other blogs and websites have done an excellent job in conveying information about the disaster and I have felt it is unnescessary for me to waste my time in writing about the subject. But there is something about how people are interpretating this disaster I cannot ignore.

No more than 22 of the 4 211 people on the Costa Concordia perished in the accident. Photo of the Costa Concordia leaving La Goulette on 27 May 2009. More from the same day here.
Many have compared the Costa Concordia sinking into the Titanic disaster. Which is perhaps natural, as the Titanic is hugely well-known and we are in the year of the ship's 100th anniversary. But the Concordia sinking is not "just like the Titanic". Both were ships, both sank. That's about where the similarities end. People are also voicing the opinion that we have learned nothing about the Titanic. But let's look at the numbers of both disasters:

The sinking of the Titanic started the process of ever-improving safety regulations and we see the fruits of those in the Costa Concordia accident. Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons, author unknown.
When the Titanic sank, she was carrying 2 224 passengers and crew, of whom 1 514 perished. In other words, the fatality rate of the accident was 68,1%. (Numbers from Wikipedia).

The current figures for the Costa Concordia are that she was carrying 4 211 people, of whom six are known to have died and 16 are missing. With the confirmed deaths this gives a fatality rate of 0,1%. If all the missing people are found dead, the fatality rate rises to 0,5%.

From 68 % dead to 0,5% dead in a hundred years is not "learning nothing". That's one hell of an improvement. Now I admit that the conditions on the icy North Atlantic in 1912 were quite different from the sunny Mediterranean in 2012. I'm also not saying that 0,5% is an acceptable rate of loss. Even one death is too much. Never the less, to say that we have learned nothing is hardly fair. That said, there is room for improvement, and the Costa Concordia's crew could have done better.

A very similar accident happened in 2007 to the Sea Diamond (ex-Birka Princess) near Santorini, Greece (and incident almost everyone seems to have forgotten in just five years). The Sea Diamond hit an uncharted reef and sank. There were 1195 passengers and circa 400 crew onboard (sadly I could not find the exact crew figures). Two people perished. By the earlier math, that gives a fatality rate of 0,1%. In other words, no improvement from the Sea Diamond to the Costa Concordia. And bear in mind that the Sea Diamond was built in 1986, 21 years old at the time of the accident, contra the five years of Costa Concordia. The Concordia should have done better and there is clearly still room for improvement in SOLAS regulations. Not to mention in the common sense of Italian ship captains.

I apologise for the poor quality of the image, this is my only photo of the Birka Princess, to-be-Sea Diamond (that doesn't feature my fingers), taken in Stockholm in the mid-90s. The ships forward and aft superstructure were later quite radically rebuilt.
But getting back to the point of this text: maritime safety has improved by leaps and bound in the last century. We still have accidents (mostly due to human error) and we will probably always have accidents. But in 1912 over half of the passengers perished. In 2012 one in two hundred perished. That is progress.

[Edit 17. 1. 2012:] Number of people missing from the Costa Concordia is now given as 29 as opposed to the 16 at the time of writing. With the confirmed deaths plus 29 missing, the current highest possible fatality rate is now 0,8%. Which is still low, but notably worse than on the Sea Diamond.

12 January 2012

The Oceanic in Helsinki, 11 September 2011

The Oceanic

IMO 5260679
Former names: Oceanic, StarShip Oceanic, Big Red Boat I, Oceanic
Built 1965, Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico Monfalcone, Italy
Tonnage 37 772 GT
Length 238,44 m
Width 29,42 m
Draft 8,60 m
1 550 passengers
2 CRDA-Del Laval steam turbines, combined 39 279 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 26,5 knots

Ah, The Oceanic, a classic if there ever was one! For a history of the ship, see the first entry on her. Since that entry was written, the ship has been re-registered into Panama (in place of Valletta) and at the same time the "The" was added in front of the name. Which is perhaps a bit silly.

Anyway, the photographs below show The Oceanic arriving into Helsinki West Harbour in the morning of 11 September 2011, photographed from Hernesaari. I apologise for the fact there are so many images - the ship simply looks so good it was too hard to cut down the number of shots to feature in this entry. Additional images from this date (and from my previous rendez-vous with the Oceanic on 8 June 2009) can be seen at Simplon Postcards' page for the ship.

Click on the images to see in larger size.

Annoyingly I had forgotten the ISO settings on my camera to 800 after the previous photo session and did not realise it at first when taking these photos. Hence the first images here are a bit grainier than normally.
The tugs assisting The Oceanic were Atlas (forward) and Artemis (aft). Fortunately it was a fairly calm morning.
Preparing to turn around to back into quay.
Fortunately in the current livery the too forward placement of the Peace Boat -text is balanced with the End Poverty 2015 logo.
I decided to skip the rest of the process of turning, as the ship was in the shade most of the time and didn't really look that good (there is one at Simplon Postcards though).
As usual, panoramic framing makes everything better.
So much better, in fact, that I had to use it twice in a row.
The ship looks particularly awesome from this point of view, IMO.
It's a good cause.
To be fair, I think the funnel is a bit boring compared to the awesome design of the rest of the ship (and the funnel designs on other Italian-designed ships of the time, like the brilliant Michelangelo and Raffaello, or the Guglielmo Marconi and Galileo Galilei).
A not-so-subliminal Russian flag on the bow. Timo Soini disapproves of this.

08 January 2012

Saga Ruby in Helsinki, 9 September 2011

Saga Ruby

IMO 7214715
Former names: Vistafjord, Caronia
Built 1973, Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Wallsend, United Kingdom
Tonnage 24 492 GT
Length 191,09 m
Width 25,05 m
Draugth 8,23 m
655 passengers
655 berths
2 Sulzer diesels, combined 17 650 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 20 knots

For a history of the classic Saga Ruby, alongside some very attractive images (if I may say so myself) from 2008, see the first entry on the ship. The photographs below show the Saga Ruby departing Helsinki West Harbour (Länsisatama) on 9 September 2011. Normally a ship her size would use the south Harbour, but it seems the Port of Helsinki routinely routes all cruise ships to the West Harbour during the low season. Photographed from Hernesaari. Click on the individual images to see in larger size.

Reversing from the quay, noticably without the help of a tug. It was lucky for me she had berthed bow towards the city, giving good view of the bow even from Hernesaari.
Dynamic panoramic.
The enchanced colours were made with some help from the computer, but it really was quite beautiful in real life as well.
Look at that bow, and the way the shadows - play, almost - on it.
Going bow first and heavily backlit.
Last call in Helsinki for 2011 (if I remember correctly). 2012 will see her calling at Helsinki twice, and there will be several visits by her upcoming fleetmate Saga Sapphire.

06 January 2012

Star in Helsinki, 11 September 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

What would be the new year without one of the most commonly featured ship on this blog? Possibly better, but never the less, here are some more images of the Star. In my defence, these are for once taken from a slightly different time and place as the usual, as on 11 September last year I was up unusually early to photograph the arrival of Peace Boat's The Oceanic in the West Harbour from Hernesaari. And since Star happened to arrive and depart during the timegframe I was there for The Oceanic, I also photographed the Star.

Click on the images to see in larger size.

A distant Star coming into view from behind Pihlajasaari.
Star in the morning sun doesn't quite make sense in a sentence - unless you know we're talking about a ship that is.
Starting to turn in order to reverse into the quay.
Moment later we got to see the ship's rear.
Aft thrusters are useful things.
Star reversing, with the tug Atlas heading out to sea to escort The Oceanic.
An hour later from the previous image, the Atlas has safely escorted The Oceanic into quay while the Star is already departing.
Going to Tallinn, BRB.

03 January 2012

Victoria I in Helsinki, 3 January 2012

Victoria I

IMO 9281281
Built 2004, Aker Finnyards Rauma, Finland
Tonnage 40 975 GT
Length 193,80 m
Width 29,00 m
Draugth 6,50 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
2 252 berths
400 cars
1 000 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 26 240 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

 As I have noted before, Helsinki has in effect two cruise seasons: the self-explanatory summer cruise season and a more unusual winter cruise season around new year, when Russian travel agencies charter ships for Baltic Sea cruising out of St. Petersburg (Russians also form the majority of passengers on regular cruiseferry services around this time of the year - even on those that don't actually call in Russian ports). Since the time of the year can require ships with icebreaking capability, the ships used are usually normal ferries.

This year, three ships are making four to five nights long cruises out of St. Petersburg: St. Peter Line's Princess Maria and Princess Anastasia, as well as Tallink's Victoria I. Since the first two commonly visit Helsinki anyway I did not bother photographing them, but the Victoria I is a rarer visitor and hence I went out to get some night-time (actually around 6 PM) photographs of her.

Victoria I at Kanavaterminaali in Helsinki, photographed from various locations around the South Harbour. Click on the images to see in larger size.

It was a bit too dark for really good photographs, but these will have to do. ;)
Victoria I and the two cathedrals of Helsinki: the Helsinki Cathedral on the left and Uspenski Cathedral on the right, behind the Victoria I's radar mast.
A different point of view showing the the various quays at Katajanokka.
The car deck was in use, as you can see, and apparently tour buses started directly from inside the ship.
Lastly, as a hopefully final update on the too small diplayed images problem I wrote about here, I have now gone through all the affected entries and all images in this blog should display normally. If there are any problems, please let me know.