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Blog Entries posted by Andy

  1. Andy
    Truckline was formed in 1972 as a freight-only operation between Poole and Cherbourg, with the first sailing on 29 June 1973. During 1985 Brittany Ferries purchased Truckline and a summer-only passenger service began the following year, still operated as Truckline Ferries. By 1989 two freight ships Coutances and Purbeck as well as the passenger ferries Trégastel and Corbière were on this route. As Poole-Cherbourg had substantially grown in popularity, it was decided to replace the ageing Trégastel (1971) and Corbière (1970) with a brand new superferry, the Barfleur.
    Barfleur, named after a fishing village near Cherbourg, took shape in Finland at the Kaverner Masa Yard, Helsinki. She was actually ordered by Senamanche, a subsidiary of Brittany Ferries with interests in the La Manche region of Normandy. Overseeing her design and construction were her Senior Master, Captain Claude Lenoir, who divided his time between the shipyard and Brittany Ferries' Roscoff headquarters, and ship's architect Michel Maraval.
    Barfleur was specifically designed for Poole's narrow shipping channel, even with a 5.8m draught at low tide there was only 2m of water under her hull (the channel has since been dredged). She is the largest ship to regularly use the port. As planned, the new ship would be 18,000 gross tonnes and cost £53million. However, partly due to the route's continued increase in traffic, it was decided during construction to increase her length by 19m to 158.7m overall, allowing more cabins to be installed as well as increasing her capacity. This brought her tonnage up to 20,133 and construction costs to around £58million.
    Barfleur is a multi-purpose ferry, designed to carry large amounts of freight, a significant number of passengers and their cars, or a combination of the two. She can carry 1,200 passengers (which is reduced to 850 on overnight crossings for passenger comfort) with 590 cars, or 304 cars & 66 lorries. There are normally 92 crew onboard although this goes up to 104 during the summer peak season. Onboard accommodation consists 268 cabin berths and 295 reclining seats.
    Maiden Voyage
    Brittany Ferries took delivery of Barfleur on 27 March 1992. During April she made her first appearance in Cherbourg before arriving in Poole on her maiden voyage on the 4th April. Here a new double-deck linkspan (which was opened the same day by Brittany Ferries' chairman Alexis Gourvennec) had been installed to enable a fast turnaround. At first, the new ship offered freight-only sailings until a year-round passenger service began on 15 April.
    The Barfleur settled into a pattern that would remain largely unaltered over the coming decade. From October to May she and Coutances provide three crossings daily from each port (except on Mondays when each ship misses one sailing for routine maintenance and crew training), increased to four daily departures during the peak season. The Poole-Cherbourg route is the shortest crossing on the Western Channel taking just 4 hours by conventional ferry (or only 2 hours 15 minutes by the seasonal fast craft 'Vitesse'). Barfleur berths stern first in Poole and bow first in Cherbourg.
    Because during the winter months each ferry is normally dry-docked for a short period, Barfleur used to cover the Portsmouth-Caen route for a few weeks when passenger demand to Cherbourg is less. She also visited Plymouth and Roscoff for 2 round crossings when covering for the Val de Loire in September 2000. In 1997, it was decided to operate Barfleur between Poole and Santander in Northern Spain, providing one weekly return sailing for the winter period only. She was placed on this 28-hour link to provide extra freight capacity, but this only lasted for two winters, the route only being experimental.
    Since she was new the Barfleur carried the yellow and grey Truckline Ferries livery, but during her 1999 refit this was changed to the standard Brittany Ferries colours. Only freight services continued to be marketed as Truckline although even this name was phased out during 2002 to be replaced as 'Brittany Ferries Freight'. Overall Barfleur has had a remarkably trouble-free career, with only a few sailings missed due to bad weather. However, during April 2001 the ship was damaged whilst berthing at Cherbourg in strong winds, necessitating repairs in Le Havre. Two years later, on 10 April 2003, a fault developed with the stern door mechanism whilst preparing to depart from Poole. The sailing was cancelled and although temporary repairs were carried out on site, the ship could only use the bow doors for loading and unloading until permanent repairs could be made.
    Barfleur is very popular with passengers and crew alike. With her relatively small size, she has a friendly atmosphere often lacking on much larger ferries. The crew work on board for one week at a time. Due to retirement, Captain Lenoir made his final crossing on Barfleur on 13 May 2003. His position as Senior Master has been taken by Captain Jean-Claude Kerdoncuf.
    Onboard the Barfleur
    Forward of the engine room on Decks 1 and 2 is the lower freight deck (known as the basement). This takes 14 lorries, accessed by a lift that takes two lorries at a time. The main freight deck occupies Decks 3 and 4, accessed by a clamshell type bow door and ramp and a combined stern door / ramp. The main car deck 5 has a bow garage-type door and stern gates. Also on Deck 5 are a reclining seat lounge, freight-drivers' cabins and port and starboard passenger gangway doors. Deck 6 contains a reclining seat lounge and passenger and crew cabins, as well as hoistable car decks with a capacity for 120 cars. With these car decks in the raised position, lorries can be carried on Deck 5.
    The main passenger deck is Deck 7. At the front are the ‘Turquoise' restaurant, which was awarded ‘Best Ferry Self-Service Restaurant' by the AA in 1993, and the ‘Drivers Club' freight driver's restaurant. There is also the former duty-free shop and ‘La Boutique' followed by the Information Desk, Bureau de Change and luggage room. Then come the ‘Les Dunes' restaurant and ‘Le Kiosque' shop, ‘L'Arc en Ciel' patisserie and seating area. Towards the stern are a children's playroom and ‘Les Alizes' bar, where there is often live entertainment. A children's entertainer is also provided during the summer months.
    On deck 8 are further passenger cabins. Leading towards the bridge are the Captain's and Officers' cabins. Of interest on the bridge is the ship's mascot, Jumbo the toy elephant! He guards the cork from the bottle of champagne used at the ship's launch. The Captain is usually on the bridge only when entering or leaving port. At other times the ship is on auto-pilot with an Officer keeping a sharp look-out for anything unexpected, after all the Barfleur crosses the world's busiest shipping lanes up to four times daily! Deck 9 is used as a sun deck, but the uppermost Deck 10 is off-limits to passengers.
    *cross section image reproduced with thanks to Kevin Mitchell and Ships Monthly
    The 2009 Re-fit
    In 2009 she underwent a further refit. This saw some of her public areas updated, including the self service restaurant, which now sports an orange and black theme but still retains it's name ‘Turquoise'. The re-fit also saw the removal of both the waiter service restaurant, and the truck drivers restaurant. A 'Games Planet' arcade has now replaced the main restaurant ‘Les Dunes', which is accessed from the main seating areas.
    The Uncertain Years
    The closure
    A tsunami of enthusiasm is growing in Poole to welcome the popular Barfleur ferry back to the town.
    After being ‘retired’ from the loss-making Cherbourg route a year ago, Brittany Ferries is returning the boat to service at the end of February. The welcome news which came just before Christmas, has delighted the ferries loyal customers who plan a right royal welcome for the grande dame. And there could also be a civic welcome for the ferry which will make a daily crossing from February 28, taking both passengers cars and freight.
    Brittany Ferries Enthusiasts, whose website members have been eagerly awaiting her return, aim to turn out at Sandbanks on February 27 when she arrives from Cherbourg. “There are going to be a group of members – not sure how many yet – that are going to be gathering at the Haven in Sandbanks to welcome her back,” said member Brigitte Barnes. Hopefully she’ll give us some toots of the horn.”
    The first sailing from Poole on February 28 will depart at 8.30am and leave Cherbourg at 6.30pm for her return. Cllr Ron Parker, Borough of Poole cabinet portfolio holder for transport is hoping to arrange for a civic and twinning party to sail on the first crossing from Poole.
    BFE member Seashore said: “I am glad that she is back and hope that people will use her and make it viable for BF. Reading between the lines, I would imagine that she will be plying the route for quite a few years more to come certainly as a freighter; in terms of passenger options, it surely must be a ‘use it or lose it’.”
    Brittany Ferries plans to operate the service through the summer and review its commercial viability towards the end of September. “Having listened to the concerns of the community, we now need to call upon everyone’s support of our decision to bring back Barfleur,” said Mike Bevens, the company’s group commercial passenger director.

  2. Andy
    It's been almost 32 years since the last purpose built ferry operated between the Breton port of Roscoff and the Devonshire port of Plymouth. It was on the 25th May 1977 the mv Cornouailles departed on her maiden voyage, having been built specifically for the Roscoff route.
    Since then the route has been served my many fine vessels, many of which have been built for Brittany Ferries, but not specifically for the Roscoff market. In addition the route has been served by the ‘Spanish’ vessel, providing additional weekend and more recently weekday sailings. This led to an imbalance of the services provided between the two ships, this most recently being between the Pont-Aven and the Pont l’Abbe. 
    It was the sale of the Val de Loire to DFDS Seaways in 2005 which directly resulted in Roscoff receiving a new ship. The capital raised from her sale was used towards the investment of a new ship specifically for the Plymouth/Roscoff route. This vessel was code named ‘Bretagne II’. Between the departure of the Val de Loire from the fleet and the completion of the new vessel Brittany Ferries chartered the ‘Duke of Scandinavia’ from DFDS Seaways. This charter formed part of the sale package of the Val de Loire. The ship was renamed ‘Pont l’Abbe’ for service with Brittany Ferries, and entered service in Spring 2006, following the delivery of the Val de Loire to her new owners. 
    On the 19th January 2006 a new light was shone on the route when Brittany Ferries signed the contract with STX Europe (then Aker Yards) for the construction of a 168.4m cruise ferry for the Plymouth to Roscoff line. The ship would be a near sister to the Cotentin, a freight ferry already under construction for the company at the same yard. Identical from the keel up to deck 5, she would share many of the characteristics of the former vessel.
    It was announced in December 2006 that the codenamed ‘Bretagne II’ was to be named ‘Armorique’ - the ancient name for coastal north-western France meaning "the country which faces the sea" as well as the name of a national park in Brittany. The name Armorique evokes the very roots of Brittany Ferries. This is not the first ferry in the Brittany Ferries fleet to bear this name. The previous Armorique operated between 1975 and 1992. This would be the first time Brittany Ferries was to name one of their ships after a previous vessel.
    The first sheet of steel was cut on the 30th July 2007, before her keel was laid on the 14th March 2008 in Helsinki, Finland. She was launched on the 7th August in the covered shipyard, and floated out of the yard on the 13th September 2007. The ship, starting off costing £81 million but eventually ended up costing £100 million, had been planned for arrival during the autumn of 2008.
    The Armorique underwent sea trials on the 17th January 2009, achieving a maximum speed of 26.2kts and meeting all of the design criteria. She was handed over to Brittany Ferries on the 26th January – almost three years to the day since the order was initially placed. On the 28th January Armorique departed the STX Europe shipyard bound for Brest via Plymouth where berthing trials were carried out on the 31st January. Her first arrival into Roscoff was on the 8th February ahead of her planned maiden voyage on the 10th February at 1500 from Roscoff to Plymouth.
    Maiden Voyage - 10 February 2009
    Due to severe gales being forecast the maiden voyage of the Armorique was delayed. Instead of the planned start time of 1500 from Roscoff on the 10th February, the Armorique sailed ‘light’ to Plymouth on the evening of the 9th February in order to shelter from the storm off Torbay. The maiden voyage was to in fact take place on the 10th February from Plymouth, with the 2200 departure to Roscoff. As this was a night crossing, there was not a massive amount of time to look at all aspects of the ship in detail, prior to bedding down for the night. We sailed only a few minutes late a quietly slipped out of the break water. Immediately it was evident that a swell was present, however the ship felt as flat as you would expect. A quick tour of the ship, and it was time to frequent the bar where we spent the evening before finally retiring to bed at about half one the morning. The cabins are reviewed in detail later on but suffice to say that they were incredibly comfortable, and it was very plesant to enjoy the crisp brand new sheets! About 3am in the morning the swell had got worse, however it was not at all uncomfortable, and due to the ship being new and built with a lot more ‘plastic’ there was hardly any of the usual clattering and banging associated with the older members of the fleet.
    Arriving at 8am in the morning, the music started to play at 6am, reasonably pleasant way to way up although it lasted only 10 seconds at a time, and not too loud. The only thing that was missing were any announcements in the cabins. The showers were excellent, with a good water pressure and the ability to go past the ‘recommended’ hot setting and increase the temperature more.
    We docked on time, with almost no vibration or noise, something that you come to expect over the years on the route. The day was spend shopping and eating in the St Pol area. Obviously time was made for a few photos to be taken, although a spot of mountaineering was involved due to the tide being out. We made our way back to the port, and boarded quickly, ready for a 3.30 departure. Everyone was given a voucher entitling them to a free glass of champagne (or orange jucie) to celebrate her first ex-Roscoff departure. Shortly after departure Captain Barboncon invited everyone to join him in the bar. 
    After about 30 minutes the Self Service was calling so down we went. The food was of a very high standard as usual, with a reasonable selection available to the time of year. It was, however, no different to that found on other BF ships.
    After that we had a short walk around, taking in the bar, and games room. By this time Plymouth was on the horizon, so we prepared to disembark. Docking was quick, as was exiting the ship, however the usual Plymouth Passport Control issue arose.... this time however due to the padlock on the gate getting stuck! Military timing was necessary at trains needed to be caught, so there was no time for any photos of leaving the ship.
    Onboard Review:
    The cabins of the Armorique are based upon the same design on the recent ‘Pont-Aven’ (2004), with standard 2 and 4 berth cabins, and ‘Club 4’s being available. In addition ‘Club 4 Plus’ cabins are also available, which offer the same facilities found in deluxe cabins but on a smaller scale.
    The standard and ‘Club 4’ cabins did feel slightly larger than those on the Pont-Aven, and also a little brighter, with a green, blue and cream colour scheme. Sadly the upper bunks do not retract into the ceiling as found on the Mont St Michel and Pont-Aven. Apparently this was due to cost. The cabins are also not equipped with a radio/alarm clock as per other members of the fleet (excluding the Barfleur). However, an alarm call was provided on the overnight sailing with music being played through the PA system. Club 4 cabins are provided with a flat screen TV and tea/coffee making facilities. Many will be pleased to learn 4 cups are provided now, however they are paper cups, and the milk is now powdered creamer. The bathrooms in the cabins were bright and spacious, and were based upon the standard design used on the rest of the fleet.
    ‘Club 4 Plus’ cabins offer good value for money, being only £7 more expensive than a ‘Club 4’ cabin. A widescreen TV, tea/coffee making facilities (now including some speciality teas), wardrobe, safe, complimentary chocolates and breakfast on overnight sailings. The cabin felt to be the same size as a deluxe cabin on the former Quiberon. The bathrooms in these cabins were the same as in standard class cabins, but ‘l’Occitaine’ toiletries are provided. I was advised that the cabins would also have a DVD player and a hairdryer, although these had yet to be installed.
    There are two reclining seat areas onboard. The first is beside reception on deck 6, which faces sideways and is brown in colour. The second, larger lounge is forward on deck 6, around the café. 
    The dining facilities see a change in Brittany Ferries usual concept, as no formal waiter service restaurant is provided. A large self service restaurant is located forward on deck 7, with a servery the same as that found on the Pont-Aven. The food on offer here was the same as that found in self-service restaurants on the rest of the fleet, and was of the usual high standard.
    Comments were made by the crew, who were receiving many comments from the passengers regarding the lack of a main restaurant, that an area on the starboard side of the self service restaurant could be turned into a bistro in the future if demand warranted it. However, as no such provision was included in the design of the Armorique it seems doubtful that such a service will be provided. 
    On deck 6 forward, within the reclining seat area, is ‘le Café’. This has a feel not too dissimilar to that of the café’s found onboard the Normandie Express, both in its layout and design but also in the style of food on offer (soups, pre-made salads etc). The area is a vibrant light green colour with informal seating provide, whilst reclining seats are located to either side and directly in front of the Café seating area. It was a nice fresh space, but it was clear that a compromise was being made between people trying to sleep in their reclining seats and those having a conversation in the Café, due to its open plan design.
    There are two shops located either side of the main corridor on deck 7, between reception and ‘les Arcades’ leading to the Café and cinemas. The port side shop is basically ‘le Kiosque’ selling newspapers, magazines, confectionary, souvenirs and toys. The shop on the starboard side offers alcohol, cigarettes, perfume and fashion products. Whilst the selection on offer is good, it’s clear to see how much onboard shopping has declined in recent years with the shops being smaller than that found on earlier vessels. 
    ‘Games Planet’ is located on deck 6 aft, providing a teenager area where video games and simulators are provided. ‘Chance Planet’ is located on deck 7 aft within the bar providing a large number of fruit machines. ‘Children’s Planet’ is located within the ‘restaurant’ on deck 7 forward, as well as a small cinema for children. These two areas, however, was still under construction at the time of the maiden voyage. No formal live entertainment is provided onboard, however a magician was onboard offering table magic shows. The ship is adorned with flat screen TV’s, particularly the bar and café showing music and news channels, as well as BF advertising videos. Two cinemas are located on deck 6 forward. 
    The ships bar is located on deck 7, aft of the restaurant. This is a large open plan space which also incorporates the top of the atrium and leads to the ‘Reading Lounge’ on the starboard side. The outside deck directly outside the bar has a glass canopy, providing an ‘all weather’ area for smokers. The bar has a large number of flat screen TV’s showing music channels, in place of the traditional DJ and a dance floor. The only criticism in the bar is that all the chairs were fixed meaning that if your group was larger than 4 you were a little stuck. There were, strangely, a number of tables without seats around them. One negative point was that most of the sofa’s in the bar’s were used as beds, even during the day crossing making the area feel a little less welcoming.
    General Comments
    One very interesting a nostalgic feature it that one of the main stairwells is almost a clone of the main stairwell aboard the ex Brittany Ferries vessel Val de Loire. Ironically the sale of this ship is what helped to finance the building of the Armorique, therefore it seems fitting that one of her ‘features’ lives on whether by design or accident.
    One unusual omission is the lack of a ‘Bureau de Change’ . Given the number of passengers using the route, a lot of which can be school parties at high season, it shows that most of them must purchase their currency prior to travelling or once at their destination thus removing the need for this dedicated facility. That said, a number of passengers were asking where it was. Instead a ATM is provided onboard which dispenses Euros.
    The reception is based upon the layout of the MSM and the Pont L’Abbe. There are large open seating areas which feel very open and ‘airy’, a far cry from the crowding with past members of the fleet like the Quiberon. Oddly there is no signage to advertise the fact that it is the reception, it seems to be left more to the open imagination. Signage is provided however for the cabins and the cinema listings, shown in the form of a large computer (Windows) based TV. On the maiden voyage as per Microsoft’s normal showcases, there was a lovely ‘Ok’ dialog box on the screen due to something failing. This shortly followed by the BIOS screen, before logging in and actually working as it should.
    There is a modern lounger located under the main staircase, which looks somewhat lost due to its size. A larger design sofa would have suited much better, once more a chance to reminisce about the round red sofa’s found on the same area aboard the old flag ship the Val-de-Loire.
    The PA system seems to have a very short intro sound, in the form of just a ‘bing’. What happened to the ‘bong’, well we shall probably never know, probably cut-backs! 
    Onboard Wi-Fi is available, but unlike the maiden voyage this is now chargeable. The Wi-Fi is accessible only on Decks 6 and 7, although unstated also sounds likely to be available in the Club 4 Plus cabins via a wired connection.
    Garage Decks
    The car decks are much the usual affair, not being able to be altered much due to their function. There is the usual main freight deck, with a very small basement deck below which can hold only three or four freight units. This area is mainly to be used for the stores. The upper deck is designed to be used in a double deck loading environment, however as this is not yet possible at either Plymouth or Roscoff, an internal tilt ramp has been installed. This then creates a situation similar to that on the Bretagne and the dreaded deck 5, where delays are possible. The only difference to this system is that the ramp tilts both ways thus removing the need for the circling of so many vehicles.
    Oddly the car deck strays away from the rest of the fleet (including her sister) in as much as rather than the usual blue paint on the floor, it is a somewhat drab grey colour. It does appear to have been coated with a much better anti slip protection, which is better for people walking as well as vehicles. Another noticeable difference is that the anchor points to chain down freight units are now flush with the deck (again, unlike her sister.
    Thankfully with the open car deck to the stern of the ship, there is very little impact on the outside deck space on board. Deck 6 aft is very much based on the same area as on board Norfolk line, with a two tier smoking / sitting area. This does leave plenty of room for a wander, with access to the top deck, which is actually quite big. BF seems to have learnt from other operators and have made the car deck staircase identification much easier, with simple numbering and the use of colours, so hopefully there will be less lost cars!
    Interior Design (Brittany Ferries Press Release)
    On the ARMORIQUE, The public spaces have been made as open as possible, both towards the outside world and to each other, creating a feeling of spaciousness and light, whilst a simple, flowing layout heightens the passengers’ feeling of freedom, and encourages movement from one space to another. 
    Certain public spaces reflect the coast of Brittany: the forward lounge, the gallery, the information lounge, the area for teenagers, the restaurant, and the main bar. Here, the carpet is blue, and an off-white ceiling with large ovals represents the cloudy sky, with breaks in the clouds allowing the sun to break through. The walls are white and grey, corresponding to the colours of the horizon, and enhancing the feeling of space. The sofas and other furniture in these areas are predominantly blue, with a touch of pink towards the aft, and turquoise and green forward. These are the colours of the sky early in the morning, and the colours of the water and the waves in the Iroise Sea. Translucent glass partitions provide intimacy, whilst giving the impression of the transparency of water and fog. 
    Other spaces relate to the ‘closed’, inland areas of Brittany: the reclining seat lounge adjacent to the information desk, the main staircase in the middle of the ship, the cinemas, reading lounge, the food court, the games rooms, public toilets and shops. The carpets here are earthier in tone, interspersed with pink and green to suggest flora and fauna. Where these two spaces meet, a granite floor represents the beach; the ever-present connection between sea and land. 
    The ‘art walls’ flowing from fore to aft are covered in photographs of typical Breton scenery. With its combination of small- and large-scale photography, it has been designed in order to be seen from afar as well as close-up, and invites the passenger to walk from one end of the ship to another. Yellow openings symbolise the coastal ‘land lights’; lighthouses and homes scattered along the rugged Breton coast.
    Three artists are featured on board Armorique: 
    • Philippe Plisson is a photographer, specialising in maritime photography. His works feature on the ‘art walls’ in the public spcaces, as well as in the passenger cabins. 
    • Alexander Goudie, (1933 – 2004). Ceramic art features in the club plus cabins. 
    • Matthieu Dorval’s paintings are on display in the public areas of decks 6 and 7 
    The Armorique is definitely a very modern ship, taken from a very modern image of shipping design. This does mean however, that form gives way to function far too much, in much the same way the UK does with America. All aspects of the ship represent a balance in the cost to produce and install verses the possible value it could add to the Brittany Ferries product. She is very much a product of design, designed for today’s flagging economy, with much forward thinking incorporated into her interior design.
    The important thing to note however, is that this does not make the ship any less of a competitor in the Brittany Ferries fleet pecking order. Where points are lost in the corners that have been cut, restraints that were not to be, and the funnel being offset giving an outside silhouette like no other, the stability of the ship seem unmatchable. During a 10m swell the only way you could feel that you were at sea was looking out of the window, where the horizon was going up and down. Looking back inwards, all was still. Even the Pont Aven doesn’t feel as sure footed as the Armorique. Only time will tell if the Armorique is as well designed for the Plymouth – Roscoff route as Brittany Ferries have hoped, but as is evident from above, she is a very capable ship, with plenty of options for the future, and this should easily see her through the next decade with very little trouble at all.
  3. Andy
    'Curiosity' led me to sample Brittany Ferries new économie service to le Havre, sailing onboard their latest acquisition, Etretat. Having been initially critical of the new concept I was keen to keep an open mind and see just what the new service would offer, particularly compared to her previous life as Norman Voyager.
    25th March 2014
    On arriving at Portsmouth International Port I saw that there was one car lane open for the new service in the usual BF car lanes, with the electronic display indicating 'économie Le Havre'. On subsequent visits to the port there are now dedicated 'écononmie' check-in lanes occupying the formerly empty booths beside Condor Ferries. The passenger terminal was very quiet, where I checked in. The only indication of the service differing from the norm was the boarding card which had the 'économie' logo on it. I was advised that boarding would commence at 11:00, with an announcement being made shortly afterwards. Once through security the low foot passenger numbers (approx 4) meant we were driven onboard in a BF van rather than the bus, which had the added advantage that we were taken straight up to deck 5. Now, the ramp up to deck 5 can only be described as a ski slope - and a real sense of achievement for the driver when you reach the top!
    Once onboard you immediately arrive the 'information hall' which is a bright open area compromising the information desk, access to a small video lounge and the small 'Waves Shop'. Crew members were on hand here to welcome us onboard. Walking on you pass the ships main stairwell, leading up to the cabins, and also doors giving access to the outside decks. Forward of here is the main passenger accommodation with the 'Seaside Lounge', 'le Bar', 'Horizon Lounge', a small children’s play area and then finally the 'Pit Stop Self Service Restaurant'. Aside from a few new chairs in the bar (taken from the Pont-Aven) the ship remains identical in terms of layout, decor and facilities as she was when sailing as 'Norman Voyager'. The majority of signage (aside from facilities names) has been replaced with BF écomomie - complete with the ribbon and bow motif currently being used throughout the fleet. Deck 6 comprises the cabins (excluding two disabled cabins on deck 5).
    From the outside deck on the stern of deck 7 (accessible via the 'doggy exercise deck' on the port side of deck 6) I watched loading take place, with approx 10 cars climbing the ramp onto deck 5. Departure was prompt, and without any fuss we set sail for Le Havre. Shortly after leaving the berth we were welcomed onboard 'Brittany Ferries Economie' - with no reference to the ship's name, nor the fact it was the first voyage. Our Captain for the day was Cmdt Raimbeaux (Rambo). Intermittent rain showers were avoided by heading to the enclosed outside decks on the sides of deck 5, although access to these is rather odd as the doors have emergency exit 'push bars' on them so it's not immediately apparent you can pass through. Sadly there were no well-wishers on the Round Tower! Once clear of the Channel we passed the inbound Normandie - and took a rather a large roll in the process!
    Lunchtime beckoned. The selection on offer was generally good. A small selection of what you'd find on the 'traditional' ferries, with a small desserts fridge and a selection of starters before the hot offering. I did feel that the hot dishes were a little poor, the quality not the selection. I opted for the Salmon but it had been sitting there for some time. The servery is also 'canteen style' with steel lids so you can't see what the food actually looks like - even the chef had difficulty locating some of the options! A selection of drinks is then followed by the cashiers desk. OK, its an économie service so I can't complain, but small improvements here could go along way - that said the food was of a far higher standard than in the LD/DFDS days!
    The tables are split into two zones (one formerly being primarily for drivers) and there is a large TV screen in both which were showing French and English news channels. Some tables overlook the bow which is always a bonus.
    As there were only a handful of passengers onboard everyone quickly settled into their routine of reading, watching their iPads etc or camping out in the reclining seat lounges. After lunch I didn't see anyone venture to the bar for a drink nor look around the shop. Everyone seemsd to know what to expect onboard and had accordingly come equipped! There is free wi-fi available onboard and 'On-Waves' provide mobile phone coverage too. The shop has a very basic offering (being smaller than that on the Normandie Express), whilst newspapers were available at the information desk.
    I did overhear one passenger chatting to a crew member, clearly a regular on the ship, and was comparing it to its former life, and generally praising the ship. He did make a point on departure of complimenting the fact shore cleaners came onboard on arrival in Le Havre! Incidentally a team of cleaners apparently spent two weeks deep cleaning the ship following its handover to BF.
    Soon enough Le Havre came into view, and with the pilot embarked, and the Seven Sisters sailing past, we made our approach to the berth, just as the heavens decided to open! We arrived on time, but due to her design, it took some time for the cars to be disembarked and approx 30mins for us foot passengers. This time we disembarked via deck 3, accessible by a long corridor and lift at the rear of deck 5. It's then a walk off the stern door to a waiting shuttle bus which then takes you, wait for it, all of 30m, to a stairwell to access the terminal via a overhead walkway. This procedure is nothing new, as since P&O departed no ferry serving the port has fitted the foot passenger gangway arrangement - nevertheless almost 10 years later a better solution has yet to be found!
    The passenger terminal in Le Havre, like Portsmouth, doesn't show any evidence of the économie brand (not even the boarding cards). Boarding for the return leg was advertised as starting at 21:00 but in the end it was closer to 21:30 before the gates were opened. One negative here. The two BF staff in the terminal were clearly enthusiastic and friendly, however their constant flirting with each other was rather unprofessional, with the foot passengers appearing to be an inconvenience on their night out! Once through passport control it was the usual process in reverse for getting onboard, being greeted by the purser on the car deck directing us to the lift or stairwell. 
    Something which wasn't advised of at check-in, nor mentioned with-in the ship's guide, is the Etretat's unique cabin entry system. The cabin numbering is somewhat bizarre but even stranger is that there are combination locks on the doors - similar to that found in a Forumula 1 hotel. The code to this isn't listed on your boarding card so you must go to the information desk to obtain the magic code. Code in hand it was straight up to deck 6 to bed, after a rather long day!
    The cabin's are larger than that found on the rest of the fleet and are simple but clean and functional. The bedding is brand new, and now feature the usual BF duvet (compared to her LD/DFDS days). The bathroom was sufficient, but felt rather tatty with holes in the walls where items had been removed and featured an old style fixed shower head. On the return journey I went to bed as soon as I got onboard and thanks to the usual 08:00 arrival time enjoyed a full nights sleep. A negative comment however, is that the lyno flooring within the cabin and outside corridor means that noise carries very easily and I was woken a couple of times as people went past.
    The sailing back was smooth, being woken an hour before arrival advertising breakfast was being served in the Self Service. This was repeated half and hour before arrival, but there wasn't the usual request to vacate your cabin, so another plus here. The Bretagne berthed ahead of us on No 2 berth, whilst we were on No 3 berth. The Normandie was preparing to set sail to Caen with what appeared to be a full load onboard. There was some friendly jeering between the two crews as we made our way alongside!
    As in Le Havre disembarkation did take some time, it being half an hour before we were invited to make our way to deck 3 to get onto the shuttle to the terminal. With the Bretagne still unloading the queue for immigration did take some time but soon enough we were through - completing the 'adventure'.
    So, what did I think? Well to be frank it does what it says on the tin. It's an économie service and BF clearly go to great lengths during the booking process to highlight this fact (you must tick to acknowledge that it's a basic service) so Brittany Ferries usual clientele will be unlikely to be shocked or complain. Essentially its the same service that DFDS are offering to Le Havre and LD to Santander so it will be very interesting to see how they compete against each other. I know some on here have suggested that the Barfleur or even Armorique should also now be branded under the économie banner. This is a crazy suggestion, as both ships are FAR superior to the offering onboard Etretat. If you want to get to France or Spain on a budget, without trekking to Dover, then this certainly is a great option. With BF's route network, and the ability to easily reserve your crossing with a small deposit and make booking ammendments it also wins over DFDS/LD.
  4. Andy
    11 May 2015
    The Baie de Seine entered service, in a freight only mode, with an overnight sailing from Cherbourg to Portsmouth on the 7th May. She then sailed to Bilbao and back ahead of her first passenger carrying crossing to Le Havre on Monday 11th May.
    The first sailing was to be a busy one, thanks to the transfer of Caen passengers due to industrial action. Once through check-in we were directed straight through security and onto the lanes beside berth 2, on which the Baie de Seine was moored, and after a short wait were directed onboard. Her vast stern door reveals her cavernous garage, and fixed internal ramp to the upper deck. We were then positioned on the mezzanine deck - where car’s were parked in a similar manner to that of the Bretagne’s deck 5. This is where the majority of passenger vehicles were positioned in here DFDS’ days, but on this sailing the majority of the upper deck was dedicated to passenger vehicles.
    Cabins are located on decks 6 – 10, and are considerably larger than those found on other members of the fleet. They had fresh new bed linen and towels, and there was a hairdryer located in the bathroom. More than adequate for an overnight sailing to Le Havre (or Bilbao).
    At the forward end of deck 7 is the Café. This is a nice cosy area overlooking the bow, and offered an alternative lounge to the bar. The Café was unfortuantely closed for the overnight sailing, so the majority of passengers favoured the bar located one deck above on deck 8. Opposite the Café is the Shop and Peitit Marche. The space has been divided into two (from her DFDS days), but the shop still stocks a good range of products and is certainly much larger than that found onboard the Etretat. The Petit Marche offered a slection of pre-packaged meals (as found on the Normandie Express and Cap Finistere), along with drinks and snacks. There is also small children’s play area located on the port side.
    Up on deck 8 is the information deck, in front of which is a small seating area. Forward of here you find the ‘la Forumle’ self service restaurant, which is divided in two with a walkway in between. A selection of hot dishes were available, along with a cold buffet option. Further forward is ‘le Bar’ which again overlooks the bow and was where the majority of passengers had settled.
    Going up, on deck 10 you can find the Economie Plus cabins and Reading Lounge. This area is furnished to a high standard, reflecting its former life as a Commodore Class area. The cabins are very spacious, and offer a tv in addition to tea and coffee making facilities. The reading lounge is an impressive space and offers panoramic views over the stern of the ship. It’s certainly not the something you would expect to find on an ‘economie’ service. There is a coffee vending machine here for refreshments.
    Baie de Seine offers lots of outside deck space, and it was from this overlooking the stern that we observed the loading operation in full swing, along with a nice glass of red! The departure was delayed due to the volume of traffic on this first sailing, but the arrival into Le Havre was ontime. It was a smooth crossing, with only minimal announcements made over the PA system, and the beds were very comfortable (and wider than the norm too). Disembarkation took a little time, particuarly as were on the mezzaine deck, but it was French passport control that were causing the cars to back up through the port.
    The Baie de Seine has certainly risen the bar for the economie brand, and would be by far my preferred choice over the Etretat. Whilst offering a high standard, the ship does still fit into the economie brand in comparison to the Caen service, with the former ‘full frills’ DFDS service having been removed. The Baie de Seine offers an attractive overnight option for sailing to France, and with her 08:00 or 08:30 arrival time, also allows a longer lay in at the other side!
  5. Andy
    Leading French ferry operator, Brittany Ferries, and shipbuilder, STX France, are embarking on a joint project to develop a new generation of environmentally-friendly passenger ferries. Powered by dual fuel engines, which will burn liquefied natural gas (LNG) combined with a high efficiency electric propulsion system, the new vessel will reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 15 - 20% compared to current ferries. Furthermore, pollution by nitrous and sulphurous oxides will be almost eliminated.
    But the quest for innovation does not end simply with the use of LNG, as the structure will make use of lighter compound materials and high strength glues, together with advanced hull design. The new ship will not only be clean but large and fast, being able to accommodate 2,400 passengers, 650 cars and 40 lorries and have a maximum speed of 25 knots.
    Announcing this joint venture Jean-Marc Roué, Brittany Ferries' Chairman said: "Our company has a history of innovation having built a fleet of luxury cruise-style ships that serve our passengers well on the Western Channel routes between the UK, France, Spain and Ireland. Also, as a company founded by farmers, largely owned by farmers and based in Brittany, an area with a rich maritime history, we have a profound respect for the environment and a deep understanding of the need to preserve scarce resources. We therefore are particularly proud to be a partner with STX, a shipyard based in St. Nazaire, on a project which will set new standards in environment-friendly ferry development."
  6. Andy
    Bretagne has been a familiar sight in Portsmouth for over 25 years, and this weekend she is celebrating her 30th birthday.
    She was the first fully commissioned cruise-ship for Brittany Ferries and a great achievement for a company that was relatively new. Since being launched from the Chantiers de L’Atlantique in St Nazaire, she has become a moving tribute to the hard work and determination of the Breton farming cooperative that started the company, bearing the same name as the region in which the company began and their headquarters still remain.
    Bretagne is one-of-a-kind, thanks to the work of a Scotsman named Alexander Goudie. Described as a floating art gallery, three hundred original pieces of art are displayed on-board in honour of Brittany. Ceramics, drawings and paintings were all passionately designed around a region he adored.
    Regular travellers on the Bretagne are well-versed on how to make the most of the crossing, beginning with a drink in the piano bar, followed by a meal in Les Abers restaurant, lovingly described as the place to eat on the English Channel. Happy and full, passengers retire to a comfortable cabin for a good night’s sleep ready for their arrival in St Malo.
    So, please join us to raise a glass to Bretagne, for she is a jolly good ferry which nobody can deny!
  7. Andy
    Brittany Ferries began their journey into the world of art in 1986 when they sought works for their new flagship, the Duc de Normandie. The Duc de Normandie was the first vessel that Brittany Ferries had sought to form its own identity, and with the help of Architectes Ingenierus Associes (AIA) they set the foundation for the design and decoration of all of their future ships.
    The mv Bretagne was, the first custom build. Alexander Goudie was entrusted with the daunting task of decorating the entire vessel with his own works. He rose to the occasion magnificently, creating what is still widely acknowledged the best ferry operating out of the UK.
    It was in January 2005 that Brittany Ferries carried out an inventory of the companies works of art, which are viewed by over one million passengers every year. A few weeks later a figure in excess of 1300 was recorded. 1300 original works of art, a true treasure trove, the result of commissions placed with artists both known an unknown during the previous 25 years. The works included paintings, sculptures, photographs and even articles of furniture - all of which, it could be said, create the body and soul of the ships on which they are displayed, and of the company itself.
    Displays have been put on at the National Marine Museum in Paris, in Caen, St Pol de Leon and Santander, allowing those ashore to enjoy the Brittany Ferries experience, ashore. Entitled "Art is a journey", a collection of contemporary works of were put on display, celebrating over 25 years of Brittany Ferries supports in artistic creation in the tradition of the shipping companies.
    Onboard the Pont-Aven Brittany Ferries have put together an art tour, describing the various works of art located throughout the vessel. Her interior designers worked closely with the artists commissioned to produce art for the ship to create surprise and emotion with the aim of showing Brittany as being a region both rich in legends and myths as well as being modern and dynamic which is the ship's theme. The name "Pont-Aven" is a desire to unite a Brittany rich in legends and myths to a modern dynamic Brittany. This is the ship's theme.
    The tour is achieved by the use of an audio tour. You can download the audio tour below, for use on your own personal mp3 player, or you may hire one (free of charge) onboard by visiting reception. Additionally you can download the tour information leaflet:
    Pont-Aven Art Tour Leaflet
    The Artists
    Over 50 artists have signed the decoration of the Brittany Ferries fleet: paintings, sculptures, photographs, furniture design, each vessel has its own collection, theme, his artistic universe. A heritage that now numbers more than 1,300 original works of art! 
    Artists like Goudie, Zoritchak, and Viollet Dilasser participated alongside the architects to design and decoration of vessels. The Company offers to passengers, the cabin living room, a space of wonder and escape as a new "Art of life" traveling.
    Artists who have participated in Brittany Ferries onboard design include:
    François Dilasser 
    Alexander Goudie
    Robert Micheau-Vernez
    Guy de Malherbe
    Gerard Venturelii
    Catherine Cailliau
    Yvon Le Corre
    Olivier Lapicque
    Sargadelos Earthware
    Alain Milan
    François Bihorel
    René Le Bihan
    Matthieu Dorval
    Philippe Dufour
    Bernard Galeron
    Yvonne Guégan
    Pierre Lasne
    Jean Pierre Le Bras
    Roland Lefranc
    Olivier Mériel
    Martine Perrin
    René Quéré
    Christophe Ronel
    Patrick Serc
    Catherine Viollet
    Yan Zoritchak
    Quimper Earthware
  8. Andy
    In June 2001 Brittany Ferries announced that they had placed an order with the Van der Giessen shipyard in Rotterdam for the construction of a new 36,000 GT super ferry to operate on the Portsmouth - Caen route from 2003. This new ferry would become the largest ferry in the fleet and would operate alongside the Normandie, which was introduced in 1992, increasing capacity on the route by almost 60%. Upon its introduction the Duc de Normandie would be transferred to the Plymouth - Roscoff route and the faithful Quiberon disposed of. This would address the imbalance on the Caen route which had existed.
    The order was officially placed and signed on the 6th September 2000, and construction began on the 22nd February 2001 with the cutting of the first sheet. The name for this new ferry was announced in June, to be called 'Mont St Michel'. This name was chosen for a shortlist which included Honfleur among others. The keel was laid during a ceremony at the yard on the 7th June 2001 - Yard Number 985 had begun to take shape.
    Van der Giessen
    The Van der Giessen shipyard was chosen by Brittany Ferries in late 2001 to construct their latest cruise ferry. Previous ferries built by the Dutch yard had been nowhere near as large or on as grand a scale but Van der Giessen rose to the challenge, and to show the world it was capable of building such a vessel. Ferries constructed included the Commodore Clipper, Ben-my-Chree and the Blue Star ferry twins. Van der Giessen-de Noord has a worldwide reputation as a leading designer and constructor of vessels.
    Van der Giessen-de Noord made a name for itself in the area of safety and comfort. In passenger ships this is displayed by, amongst other things, high hydrostatic stability, low sound and vibration levels and extensive safety provisions. In 1997 Van der Giessen became part of the IHC Calandl Group.
    Sadly it was announced in August 2004 that Van der Giessen was to close as IHC exited the shipbuilding sector. The yard was to close on completion of their final vessel in early 2004. In a statement IHC stated "It has become increasingly clear that the yard cannot survive in the current very weak market place, due to the uncompetitive price levels at which it is obliged to operate".
    The Mont St Michel was delivered to Brittany Ferries some six months behind schedule and it is speculated that the compensation paid was in excess of £25 million, which was one on the major factors in the decision to close they yard.
    The Launch
    On the Morning of the 16th March 2002 the Mont St Michel made her appearance to the world to much celebration. She was launched stern first down the slipway leaving the undercover construction yard and into the yard basin. She was immediately towed to the fitting out berth where internal components were installed apace. The launch went to schedule, on time and according to her build schedule.
    Interior Design
    The internal design of the Mont St Michel were themed on 'The Arts of the region of Normandie'. The public spaces were designed by AIA, which was also responsible for the interior designs of the Barfleur, Bretagne, Normandie and the Val de Loire. The theme for the Salon du The was 'The Art of Cinema' and based upon the film festivals at Deauville, Cabourg and Honfleur - covering the role Normandy played in the French Cinema.
    'The Art of Music' was the theme for the main bar, reflecting the variety of music which is found in Normandy - from Classical to Blues. The use of brass, for example, reflects the role of Jazz in Normandy's history. Stainless steel and wood was also used resulting in a relaxing contemporary atmosphere. The main restaurant reflects 'The Art of Literature' containing portraits of authors, bookcases and leather armchairs. Combined with the excellence of Brittany Ferries' chefs an authentic French relaxing atmosphere resulted.
    The 'Art of Painting' was chosen as the theme for the self service restaurant. The art of impressionism was born in Normandy, and as a result this is reflected here. Whilst easting French cuisine you are able to enjoy exhibits from notable Normandy artists. The passenger cabins were to be equipped with a new design of bunk bed which retracted into the ceiling when not in use giving maximum space in the cabin whilst the bunks are not require.
    Fitting Out
    As soon as the launch had been completed the fitting out of the Mont St Michel began. This was a mammoth task with all of the air conditioning systems, cabins, public spaces, safety equipment, machinery and electronics all having to be installed. Unfortunately fitting out did not go to schedule as problems were encountered with the air conditioning systems and delays with suppliers being experienced. As a result the service entry date began to slip back from July. Following many provisional entry dates the Mont did not depart the shipyard until 1700 on the 25th October, and even then she was still not complete. Another ferry under construction in the yard (for SNCM) was to be launched and the fitting out berth required. The Mont St Michel was relocated to the Verolme Botlek ship yard at Europort. Sea trials were planned for the 26th October but were postponed due to poor weather conditions and further fitting out delays.
    Sea Trials
    On Friday 8th November the Mont St Michel departed Holland for her sea trials. The poor weather conditions resulted in the Mont sailing off the south-east coast of England near Harwich in Essex. She reached her service speed of 21.4kts with no difficulty. She returned to Holland in the early hours of 11th November where fitting out continued.
    Wilma van Ryn, project manager said "We went over to the English coast because there was quieter weather there and the sea trails have gone very well. Machine-wise the ship is very good, and we maintained the speed we were aiming for. She will be a very nice ship when she is completed. She is quiet, noise and vibration are both low - so comfort should be high. The passengers should be very pleased."
    Following the success of her sea trials her insides continued to be finished, with carpentry being the major task. It was announced by the company that she was to be named in Caen by the French Prime Ministers wife on 9th December and enter passenger service on the 17th December. On the 26th November it was then announced that the naming ceremony had been cancelled and she would not enter service until the following week.
    Finally on the 11th November the Mont St Michel departed Rotterdam for the last time on her delivery voyage to Brittany Ferries at 1400. She immediately sailed to Caen where berthing trials took place on the morning of the Thursday 12th. The Normandie had been diverted, as planned, to Cherbourg, to accommodate this.
    On Friday 13th December At 0815 on the 13th December the Mont St Michel entered Portsmouth harbour for the first time. Despite poor weather conditions she was greeted by crowds lining the shore watching the new Brittany Ferries giant sail in whilst dressed overall. She entered the harbour after the Quiberon and Pride of Portsmouth had departed. Her tight time slot for trials was also restricted by the closing of the harbour from 1030 to allow the damaged HMS Manchester to be towed into port. Once in the habour she was greeted the harbour by the mighty Bretagne, who moved berth to allow her to carry out berthing trials.
    Following press and company events (which were poor in comparison to those in Caen) she set sail for Cherbourg at 1215. Again, in more favourable weather conditions, the shore was once again lined with crowds, eager to get a glimpse of their new Portsmouth family member. Sailing out into the mist she passed the inward bound Pride of Le Havre, which was also keen to view the new arrival. Finally fitting out and tests were completed in Cherbourg before she sailed to Caen on the evening of the 19th of December.
    Maiden Voyage
    The maiden voyage took place on the 20th December 2002 from Caen to Portsmouth. She departed on the 1630 departure (revised to 1545), slipping her moorings at 1615. Dressed overall for the occasion spirits onboard were high, not being dampened by the inclement weather conditions. Crowds lined the banks as the Mont St Michel blew her whistle as she headed out into the fog.
    There were no special passenger events onboard to mark the occasion but a large number of company representatives and members of the press were onboard including David Longden and Alex Gournevec, who all dined in 'les Romantiques' for dinner with the passengers. The maiden voyage of the Mont St Michel also heralded the end of an era for Brittany Ferries as the veteran ferry Quiberon stood down from service after over 20 years service to the company.
    The arrival into Portsmouth was not as grand an occasion as it might have been. Thick fog concealed the harbour and fog horns were in abundance! The outward bound Bretagne welcomed the Mont - one of the few ships able to see her arrival, apart from a lone person on the round tower, braving the elements. The Mont St Michel commenced regular departures from Portsmouth that evening with the 2230 departure.
    The Mont St Michel was officially named in Caen on the 20th January 2003 by the French Prime Ministers wife. The festivities complete, the Mont St Michel was able to begin to settle into her new role out of Portsmouth, and has proved to be a very popular ship with both the travelling public and freight operators alike.
  9. Andy
    The Val de Loire joined the Brittany Ferries fleet in June 1993 as the companies flagship, sailing between Plymouth, Santander, Roscoff and Cork. Her operations remained largely unchanged until the arrival of the Pont-Aven in March 2004 which saw her transferred to Portsmouth where she operated daily sailings to St Malo and Cherbourg. It was announced on the 25th November 2005 that Brittany Ferries had sold the Val de Loire to North Sea operator DFDS Seaways for operation between Newcastle and Amsterdam, where she will be renamed 'King of Scandinavia'. After almost 13 years sterling service the Val de Loire left the Brittany Ferries family in 2006. In this special feature we take a look back at her career as we celebrate '13 years of the Val de Loire'.
    The Val de Loire was built as the Nils Holgersson in 1987 for TT-Line as hull number 1059. She was built at the Schichau Seebeckswerft AG, Bremerhaven Shipyard, Tyskland, at the time being one of the largest ferries in the world, along with her sister ship, the Peter Pan (now sailing as the Fjord Norway). She entered service on 26th June 1987 between Trelleborg - Travemünde. In 1992 she was chartered to Rederi Ab, Gotland and later sold to SweFerry Ab, Trellborg. Following the her sale to Brittany Ferries and completion of service for TT-Line she was renamed Val de Loire on the 14th January 1993 and set sail for the Ankommer INMA Shipyard, Italy where she underwent a complete refurbishment and re-build.
    As well as being a sister to the Fjord Norway the Val de Loire also has 3 near sister ships. TT Line leased the plans of these two vessels to Olau Line who themselves built two sister ships of only slightly differing specification. These ships were the Olau Britannica and the Olau Hollandica. Following the demise of Olau in 1994 P&O Ferries chartered these two ships and renamed them Pride of Portsmouth and Pride of Le Havre respectively. They operated between Portsmouth and Le Havre until the route was closed in September 2005. Additionally, Stena Line built a smaller version - the Konginin Beatrix, at the Van der Giessen shipyard in Holland.
    Battle of the Bay
    Following Brittany Ferries introduction of their new flagship, the Bretagne, on their Spanish and Irish routes, passenger traffic increased significantly. This new cruise ferry, the first to be constructed for both Brittany Ferries and the English Channel, had captured much interest from the public and media alike with her now trend setting luxury interior and amenities. The success the company was experiencing on the route did not go un noticed with its rivals. P&O Portsmouth had long been rumoured to be investigating the possibility of operating their own route to the Iberian Peninsular, but the lack of suitable tonnage was hindering their progress. P&O had previously operated a route to Northern Spain but it was closed in 1981, it wasn't until Brittany Ferries started their own service, the first to offer just one night at sea, was a UK-Spain passenger service found to be a success.
    In April 1992 P&O Portsmouth announced that it had secured the long term charter of Viking Line's Olympia from Irish Continental Group (Irish Ferries), who had purchased her outright. The new ship was to operate a twice weekly service between Portsmouth and Bilbao and be renamed Pride of Bilbao. This was to go head to head with Brittany's established Santander service, despite the longer sailing time of 36 hours compared to their own 24. Brittany Ferries looked to Germany's TT-Line which was looking to redeploy its own fleet more into the freight sector. In May 1992 it was announced that they had purchased the Nils Holgersson for $60 million for the Santander service. The new ship was to undergo  a major £40million rebuild and refurbishment programme in Italy before emerging in June 1993 as the Val de Loire.
    The Italian Job
    The most noticeable change, apart from her new paint scheme, was the addition of a new bow and forward section. This addition made the ship look more pleasing to the eye, and also permitted the installation of an observation lounge and forward balcony on decks 7 and 8. This work did, however, result in a decrease in the ships sea keeping capabilities, making her 'ride' the waves more than before, despite a redesigned bow configuration. Commodore Class cabins were added on deck 10 ( a first for the company), and the majority of the aft passenger spaces on decks 7-9 were all completely transformed and given the full Brittany Ferries treatment. All of the public spaced were transformed, most notably on decks 9 and 7, and on deck 1 the leisure centre was refurbished and two cinemas installed.
    As well as Commodore Cabins the Val de Loire brought a number of other 'firsts' to the company. An alternative restaurant, le Café du Port on deck 8 was a French bistro restaurant which produced some of the finest meals on the channel. An observation lounge was located at the forward end of deck 8 allowing panoramic views across the bow as well as providing navigational instrumentation and charts for passengers to view. A Commodore Class lounge was also created on deck 9 within the exclusive Commodore Class section of the ship. A swimming pool, sauna and gym were available for use on deck 1 and a tourist office was located on deck 9 beside two conference rooms. A hair & beauty salon was also provided, although this was removed in 2004 once she left the Spanish route. These facilities set the Val de Loire apart from both her own fleet mates but also that of her competitors.
    The 'theme' used throughout the vessel was that of 'Maritime Tradition'. Numerous detailed models of various ocean going liners were positioned throughout the vessel's interior, along with items including sextants, search lights, compasses and telescopes. The ships restaurant 'le temps de vivre' was decorated with watercolours of the Loire Valley creating a calming atmosphere, whilst the 'Cafe du Port' and the salon du the (le Grand Large) were lined with fishing imagery from Roscoff including some unique stained glass murals. Commodore cabins were named after different wines within the Loire Valley, complete with a complimentary bottle of the name sake's cabin inside for Spanish sailings.
    Brittany Ferries Flagship
    Once work had been completed in Italy she set sail for Santander where she carried out berthing trials before heading to Roscoff. A number of press events were also held prior to her entry into service, during heavy weather conditions ion the Bay of Biscay. The Val de Loire arrived in Plymouth for the first time on 4th June 1993, and began operations to Santander on 9th June 1993, following her first passenger sailing from Roscoff-Plymouth the previous weekend. Upon her arrival the Bretagne was transferred to to Portsmouth - St.Malo route.
    The operations of the Val de Loire remained similar since her arrival. She continued to operate between Plymouth, Santander, Roscoff & Cork, and between Portsmouth & Caen during the winter months until March 2004. She also spent periods sailings between Portsmouth and St.Malo (with a weekend sailing to Plymouth and Roscoff) before permanently moving to the route, having been displaced by the Pont-Aven in Plymouth. During the 2004 season she operated alongside the Bretagne alternating between Portsmouth, St Malo and Cherbourg services until operating solo to St Malo in 2005. The Val de Loire has also undertaken a number of popular Christmas and New Year cruises to Santander and Rouen.
    Service Review
    It has been pretty much smooth sailing for the Val over the years, but as with all ships, she has had her moments. Her appearance has remained largely unaltered, apart from the addition of a fast rescue boat on the starboard side in 2001, and the re-colouring of the company colours from orange to red in the late nineties. The Val had the tightest turnarounds of all the ferries operating on the channel, in peak season never stopping for more than two and a half hours. Her 2 crews, under Captain Barbancon and Captain Saludo, work on a week on, week off rotation pattern, most having been onboard since the very beginning in 1993.
    During the winter of 1998 the Val de Loire, whilst vacating the berth in Plymouth to allow the Quiberon in during severe gales, was blown off course whilst reversing off the berth and landed against the outer pier at Millbay docks. This caused structural damage above the waterline and following a preliminary inspection at the DML naval dockyard (having sailed up the River Tamar) she sailed, with temporary repairs, for Brest where she was fully repaired. She had no passengers or cars onboard during this incident, and remained out of service for just over a week.
    The Val de Loire became a TV star when Channel 5 filmed 'Ferry Tales' (a 'fly on the wall' series) onboard. An episode followed the Val de Loire on one of her winter sailings to Santander covering the exploits of some of her more 'interesting' passengers, offering an insight into the behind the scenes operations of a cruise ferry. 
    In September 2000 the Val de Loire suffered severe problems with one of her propeller shafts overheating. When the problem was initially identified it was hoped that it could be repaired on site but it was soon realised that it was more serious than first thought, and as a result a sailing between Cork and Roscoff took some 30hrs and she was forced to sail to Brest for repairs that took over two weeks, having originally been estimated at only one weeks work at most. During this time the fleet undertook the largest shake up for over a decade. The Barfleur was initially transferred to cover for the Val de Loire at Roscoff but when her return was delayed the Bretagne came back to Plymouth. The Duc de Normandie covered for the Bretagne at St Malo and the Barfleur covered the Caen route in place of the Duc de Normandie. Services from Poole were suspended until her the Val de Loire returned.
    The Val de Loire made worldwide headlines on the 19th June 2001 when Spanish police uncovered a plot by the terror organization ETA to explode a bomb onboard in Santander in an attempt to sink her at the berth following evacuation of the passengers. Thankfully the suspects were arrested, and the Val de Loire sailed safely on. Security has been raised dramatically however both in Santander and Bilbao in light of the plot.
    In 2000 Geolink chose the Val de Loire as the first passenger ship to be fitted with a wireless mobile GSM network. No matter where you were, you can use your mobile phone onboard just as you would if you were on land. There is no longer any escape from a phone, something some consider to be a little excessive when on a 'holiday ferry' but never the less great modern feature in today's technological age. Such was the sucess of the trials this feature has now become common on most cruise ships and ferries.
    During 2003, her final year on the Santander service, the Val de Loire continued to hit the headlines, for different reasons. On the 8th May a young woman from Plymouth jumped overboard in the Bay of Biscay prompting a large search of the area, sadly proving unsuccessful. On the 17th September a 24 year old Vietnamese man jumped from the ship as it was arriving into Plymouth. He was recovered in minutes by a MOD launch, and following criminal damage and assault charges was retuned on the following ferry to Spain, along with several other men. During the summer of 2003 the Val undertook trials of a new radio link enabling the crew to access Brittany Ferries' reservation system whilst at sea.
    Upon the arrival of the Pont-Aven in March 2004 the Val de Loire bid farewell to Plymouth, following her final sailing to Santander on 21st March, transferring to her new Portsmouth base. Here she was to spend the year operating in tandem with the Bretagne on an enhanced St Malo service as well as on Brittany Ferries new Portsmouth to Cherbourg route which was opened in direct competition with that of P&O Ferries long established operation. Carryings on the new route were low, and combined with a lack of advertising and a regular sailing schedule the route looked set to close until it was announced that P&O Ferries were to axe their own route at the end of the year. During 2005 the Val de Loire operated alone to St Malo route, with occasional visits to Plymouth during the winter months. During her last few months of service the Val sailed initially between Portsmouth & Cherbourg, before switching to the Caen route to cover for refits. Her final sailing for the company was on the 20th February 2006 between Portsmouth & Cherbourg at 0745.
    Hall of Fame
    After almost 13 years service the Val de Loire left the Brittany Ferries fleet, joining the likes of the Amorique, Quiberon and Bretagne, as vessels to have sailed on the flagship Spanish services. The Val de Loire became the first super-ferry/cruise ferry to leave the fleet. She is also one of the companies most travelled ships, having operated on all but the Poole - Cherbourg route at some point during her career. The Val will be replaced on the St Malo route by the Bretagne which will be making a comeback to the route, which in turn is to be replaced by the chartered Pont L'Abbe which was later purchased outright by Brittany Ferries. This vessel was formerly the Duke of Scandinavia and is the vessel the Val de Loire replaced on the North Sea.
    The Future
    The Val de Loire is fondly missed, having become a favourite amongst Brittany Ferries passengers as well as a familiar and welcome sight at the ports she operated to over the years. She has given her owners sterling service over the past 13 years, and has generated much growth and income. Her new life as the King of Scandinavia wont see her go too far from home, and we wish her well with her new owners, DFDS Seaways.
    Merci Val de Loire, au revoir et bon voyage!
  10. Andy
    It was certainly an amazing few days, and it was a privilege to have been onboard the maiden voyage of the Pont-Aven…

    Tuesday 23rd March
    The Val de Loire slipped her moorings for the final time a little after 9pm on Tuesday the 23rd March. She was making room for the Duc de Normandie, inbound from Roscoff, sailing empty to St Malo to position herself for her what is now her permanent route, running alongside the Bretagne to Portsmouth and also to Cherbourg. A grand total of 4 people watched her leave from Grand Parade for what might be the final time. The Duc de Normandie sailed past her in the Sound whilst the Pont-Aven was at anchor off Cawsand – 3 Brittany Ferries in Plymouth at once! The evening climaxed with drinks in ‘The Bank’ with fellow BFE members – which has effectively become our new base in the south west!

    Wednesday 24th March – The Big Day
    Following a very pleasant nights sleep at the Holiday Inn I awoke to a bright sunny morning, whilst the Pont-Aven was still lying at anchor. She began to make her way into the Sound at around 08:30, her paintwork gleaming in the morning sun. It was noticeable that a small patch of the blue and red stripe had been rubbed off towards the forward end of the starboard side, a badly positioned fender in Plymouth being responsible. Slowly but surely she berthed stern first in, awaiting her maiden voyage are first fare paying passengers.
    Checking in a little after 2pm, following pre-voyage drinks in ‘Sippers’ the terminal was already full of foot passengers eager to get onboard as early as possible. Not since the Bretagne has Plymouth seen so many mini-cruisers! Boarding card in hand it was time to board, boarding via deck 6 aft arriving right at the bottom of the atrium. Being one of the few passengers who actually knew their way around I quickly took the lift to deck 8 to check into my cabin, number 8412, one of 18 luxuriously appointed ‘Commodore Class’ cabins. The Commodore Cabins are individually named after famous artists from Pont-Aven and contain the standard features from the fleet. A mini bar, tea making facilities, plasma tv, dvd player, radio… and of course a balcony. A nice touch in the Commodore Cabins was that you got a bottle of wine which was same as the name as your cabin when you went to Spain. No wine in here… well not yet anyway. There was also no onboard guide folder as is usually found in the cabins. Instead there is ‘Pont-Aven TV’ which acts as the onboard guide.
    Having placed the order for tea and breakfast and a dinner reservation it was a race to who got to go out on the balcony first before inspecting what would be ‘home’ for the next 3 days. After a whistle stop tour around the ship we were called to the information desk where we were invited to visit the bridge for the departure out of Plymouth. 
    Once on the bridge, which is furnished with antique maritime memorabilia, and after the obligatory pleasantries with the officers a surprise was in store for the Captain. On behalf of the site a painting was commissioned by myself depicting the Pont-Aven with the Kerisnel in Plymouth Sound. Prior to the departure this was presented to Captain Pascal Saludo to what can only be described as an emotional response. The painting attracted allot of attention with the crew, notably with the ships Chief Officer who’s father had been the Captain of the Kerisnel all those years ago! The painting is being placed on the bridge, described as a lucky charm for the ship! (see end of report).
    The departure out of Plymouth was delayed slightly due to the volume of traffic, not to mention this being the first time the ship had actually been loaded so extra care was being taken. A little after 1620 the Pont-Aven slipped her moorings and began to make her way out of the port. A large crowd lined the Hoe and Marine Parade with flags waving, and even a firework being let off as we slowly sailed out, the Captain making it look all too easy and ‘matter of fact’. Due to her length it is necessary for the bow thrusters to be used when negotiating the channel off Mount Batten. As we passed the breakwater I was invited to sound the ships whistle as a ‘goodbye’ to Plymouth… the Pont-Aven was underway!! Her ‘sticks’ were pushed forward and all  eyes closely watched the ships speed increase to 25.8kts as we shot past the incoming HMS Somerset and the Eddystone Light.
    Following the departure it was back to look around this mighty vessel once more, taking in the ships shopping mall which was already selling out of ship postcards. Amazingly someone has felt the need to computer edit the image of her by reversing the flag logo on the funnel and logo – sometimes I wonder! In contrast to the rest of the fleet there is just one shop onboard, however it has been divided to make a kisoque, la cave and perfume shop. It works well.
    It wasn’t long before it was time for dinner. In keeping with the restaurants name every table had a fresh flowers, a nice touch. The buffet was as delicious as ever, all the better with a bottle of Muscadet. I do think far too many cakes were taken for desert though! During dinner the lights of NW France could be seen – in record time! The friendly service made the meal, despite a rather long delay in paying due to some teething problems which were experienced in operating the tills which delayed the second seating somewhat.
    Fully nourished it was time for the bar, being just in time to watch Illusion show with ‘Jason & Johanne’ – good entertainment which really did you wondering ‘just how did he do that?’, followed by live music with ‘True Flair’. There was a lively atmosphere in the bar which looks fantastic at night with blue neon and rope lighting plus great stage lighting which includes a laser which can write messages on the mezzanine deck! There were some quite ‘strange’ people on the dance floor (no, it wasn’t me!). A giant conga dance around the bar, all 2 decks of it, signalled the evening was coming to a close!...after ‘just a few’ drinks slow progress was made in returning to the cabin, conveniently also on deck 8, only to devour a bottle of champagne left to chill on our balcony. Quite where the cork went is now is anyone’s guess!
    At night even the outside decks look impressive with ‘rope lighting’ being set into the stairwells and of course string lights spanning from the radar mast, funnel to the stern.

    Thursday 25th March
    The day started off by taking breakfast on the balcony, despite it being cold it just had to be done. Most onboard had been early risers and by the time the coast of Spain could be seen the ship was bustling with people eager to have a look around Spain, or indeed start their holiday. The crew began to put up the ships ‘bunting’, keen to make a good first impression to Spain of their new ship. Rounding la Magdalena the city could be seen and the pilot boarded. Sometime later he finally appeared on the bridge ready to ‘watch’ the arrival. The weather was just holding for us, as launches surrounded the ship as she edged her way past the sand banks and fishermen in boats resembling bathtubs! A couple of helicopters took a few passes, no doubt for later TV coverage. People who were out for a morning walk stopped to take a look at their new regular as we neared the berth before turning around 180 degrees to come alongside bow first. The heavens then opened one we were berthed! After a few ‘tense’ moments the bow door was finally opened and discharge began.
    This being the ships first visit to Santander a large press function was held with the city welcoming the ship and presenting the Captain with the cities plaques and thanking the company for the faith shown in the city over the past 21 years. All of BF’s ‘top brass’ (as they became known) attended the event including Alex Gournevec.
    The ferry terminal is literally in the city centre, being only a stones throw from the shops and central park area. After visiting the animals in the mini zoo in the Magdalena palace it was time to head back for the afternoon departure back to Plymouth. The terminal was packed full, not helped by the coach loads of Spanish school children. The port has been refurbished including redesigning the interior of the terminal and the construction of a new linkspan capable of receiving the Pont-Aven.
    Departure was delayed as we awaited 5 cars which had not turned up in check-in, and a couple of mini cruise passengers. At 1730 the decision was taken to sail, and for the first time the ships whistle boomed over the city, echoing off the hills and buildings. Quickly building up speed, pilot having disembarked, we rounded the peninsular into a moderate swell as we sailed north back home. Looking aft from the outside decks at the wake you get a real feeling of the ships speed. The water ‘jets’ out of the back almost in the same way as on the Vitesse, as she steams along at an average sailing speed of 26kts.
    The decision was taken to sample the ships pool, looking so inviting. Unlike the Val de Loire its use is free, your passports or equivalent being used as a deposit for a towel (our towels were still all wrapped up!) and locker key. The locker rooms are smart but small, their being only one changing room and shower meaning delays if its busy! Today thankfully it wasn’t. The pool is very nice, even having underwater lighting, is at a good temperature and definitely the largest swimming pool I have seen on a ferry. Swimming against the large waves generated is quite a challenge though! The pool remains open until 9pm when it is netted off, the area becoming a pleasant bar area in the humid and pleasantly lit surrounding area.Dinner once again was of the usual high standard, with a few new items being placed on the buffet. Back in the bar the magician was doing his stuff with a different show followed by live music and disco.

    Friday 27th March
    The following morning breakfast was taken in ‘le Flora’ having a continental style buffet followed by a cooked English breakfast. Usually on BF the cooked breakfast is brought to your table, but here you served yourself. Not sure if that is a good thing or not? All too soon the Cornish coastline could be seen, as we passed the Eddystone lighthouse. The ship made its turn off Millbay before coming alongside, her maiden voyage complete.
    General Thoughts
    The Pont-Aven certainly impressed all onboard, her style being a contrast between the Bretagne and the Mont St Michel. Thankfully she is not as open plan as the Mont is, but in the areas which she is the effect works well. The atrium is impressive and a focal point, although I am not the only one who is not  quite sure about the fake ice between the lifts. The bar in my opinion is the heart of the ship with its magnificent cascading staircase which frames the swimming pool area whilst opening up the bar to two levels with its own glass ceiling. The ship has, as expected, its own mobile phone network, however thoughtful signs restricting their use have been placed outside the restaurant and commodore lounge. Probably something that will only happen whilst she is new, but her carpets are so deep that when you touch anything metallic you get a shock. By the end of the trip I was quite tired of being electrocuted whenever I opened a door, although it did have its funny side! Oh yes, a top tip, don’t put your swim shorts out to dry on your balcony… they wont be there when you wake up!!
    The ‘early’ arrival of the Pont-Aven has certainly been a boost to Brittany Ferries who are clearly impressed with their new acquisition. The ship has already boosted Santander figures for the year by 25%, and I am sure that once word spreads both via the press and word and mouth she will be hard competition to beat. In fact, just about the only complaint anyone had about her is that there wasn’t enough time to do everything onboard.
    My thanks go to all who made the trip as enjoyable and memorable as it was, with special thanks to her officers and crew and Brittany Ferries at Plymouth.
  11. Andy
    20 December 2002
    After waiting for nearly six months the maiden voyage of the Mont ST Michel was upon us. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, before the Mont could enter service there was one final formality to be carried out - the final sailing of the Quiberon.
    After a very early start, by my standards anyway, I arrived at Portsmouth ferry-port at 0715 ready for check in for the Quiberon - that is if my traveling companion Will had been on time! The only evidence in the terminal of their being a new ship was the model of the Mont behind the desk. Once boarding had started it became apparent that the Quiberon was on the wrong berth. She was on Number 1 due to hydraulic problems on her regular berth. Foot passengers were being boarded via the car decks. There were a fair number of cars traveling onboard, many of which had joined the queue for the Le Havre sailing! When walking up to the information desk it was noticed that the carpets had been removed from deck 5 and below.  Once we had dropped our belongings in our de-Luxe cabin we set out on deck. The Commodore Clipper and Pride of Portsmouth were in the port too. Once loading had finished we set sail ahead of the Pride of Portsmouth, which seemed to have a very heavy freight load.
    On departure there were no announcements mentioning the fact that it was the Quiberon's final sailing, and none of the other ships in the harbour said their goodbyes. Very disappointing. However on rounding the Naval base the Bretagne was awaiting our departure. Her crew could be seen on the outside decks and in the windows waving their goodbyes to their old running mate. The Quiberon's crew responded accordingly with many a blast on the ships whistle, ensuring everyone knew she was going!
    The voyage was uneventful with no events or visible signs of her 'demise.' Only le Kiosque looked slightly under stocked and decks 5 and below had been roped off. After a light lunch in the self service restaurant (with a very limited choice) it was almost arrival time. It was then we realised we were running late and so began to become concerned as to if we were going to miss the Mont!
    As it turned out we were not the only passengers onboard solely for the final voyage and the maiden of the Mont. A group of about 8 fellow enthusiasts had turned out in force and were recording the arrival from above the bridge. Kindly we were invited to join them. From this vantage point we could clearly observe our arrival and the immense size of the Mont. As we arrived a 'ships whistle' competition began with both ships crews waving to one another. But something was missing! The starboard forward lifeboat was not on the Mont - why? We never found out! It is interesting that the official Mont photo (at sea) on the French site shows the totally enclosed boat in the center on the starboard side, as well as with the revised logo - very strange. Also strange, the Quiberon took on a pilot before arrival.
    After what seemed like an eternity the foot passenger ramp was installed and we bid the Quiberon a fond, if not rapid, farewell. Check in in Caen was smooth as they appeared to know of our whereabouts. A souvenir stall by French enthusiasts had been set up in the terminal, but unfortunately we were ushered through passport control before we got a good look.
    When on the bus to the Mont we could see that lifejackets were being stacked on the quayside from the Quiberon, and the newspapers were being rushed to the Mont!
    After a steep climb onto the Mont we boarded via deck 7. This is initially on an outside deck where a teak path had been laid between the footbridge and the automatic door leading to the information hall. A bright warm welcome was received as we were overwhelmed with what we saw. We maid our way, after being given directions in French (must have looked the part!) we went to Deck 9 where our Commodore Cabin was located. Before entering the cabin area on deck 9 (for all cabin types) you are issued with your key by a hostess. The keys onboard are the credit card style. We were warned that each cabin would only be issued one key and that when the cabin door closes it automatically shuts! The cabin corridor was beautiful. A navy blue carpet with words embroidered on it ran the length, navy cabin doors, and blue direction signs guided our way. 
    Our steward opened our cabin for us. What a nice sight! A standard design of Commodore Cabin like those found on the Val and Bretagne but with a cherry wood. White bed sheets, white leather chairs, DVD player etc all made this cabin look the business! 4 beds are located in the cabin, the two single, a convertible sofa and a fold down bunk from the deck head - an amazing new feature found throughout the vessel which saves so much space, yet is so simple.
    After dragging Will from our cabin we made our way to the outside decks. The lack of a single deck plan onboard did make this rather like a mystery tour. Their are multiple deck levels available to walk on, with a new blue non slip surface instead of painted steel. Very nice, but more drains would have been useful! Disappointingly there were two mounds of rubbish on the outside decks, and it became increasingly apparent that some small touches were still to be finished, including the removal of protective films on doors. Worryingly there were a couple of cans chemicals labeled 'highly toxic/corrosive' left out too!
    The ship was ready to sail after loading a few supplies from the Quiberon. A small crowd lined the beach, despite the rain, to wish us well. Also onboard were French TV crews and radio - myself and Will were interviewed! Just after 1510 (25mins late) we set sail into the increasingly dense fog. The ship maneuvered with ease off the berth and her power could be felt beneath. The Quiberon remained silent with only 5 crew members watching our departure.
    Once fully underway the flags were brought down and the rain drove us inside. The ship suffers almost zero vibration and engine noise - you really could not guess you were at sea. We thoroughly explored the vessel from top to bottom. A feature marketed was not onboard though, much to our disappointment. It appears second thoughts were had as the the viability of having an internet cafe onboard. 
    An interesting new feature found throughout the ship is the use of plasma screen TV's, found an almost every corner displaying special offers and useful information. Something we failed to see onboard was a route progress board which would be welcome. A Brittany Ferries 'tradition' is also missing from the Mont - no neon!
    There is also a forward viewing area, similar to that on the Val de Loire, which can be accessed from deck 5, although it is not yet signposted and is behind fire and weather tight doors.
    Soon enough it was time for dinner and many Brittany Ferries dignitaries could be observed, including Captain Prigent, David Longden and Alex Gornevec! A very pleasant meal, (on unused crockery!) in the company of fellow enthusiast Alex and his father (who visit BFE!) it was almost time for arrival. It was thick fog and the whole of the harbour was full of horns. The outward bound Bretagne welcomed the Mont to the port - one of the few people who could see her arriving. So with the chants of "Aren't we big!" to onlookers on the round tower, the maiden voyage was all but over.
    A sad and happy day. The end of one era but just the dawn of a new standard of ferry travel. The Mont St Michel is a beautiful vessel and her crew and BF should be very proud. Very positive comments could be heard from the passengers, most of whom were onboard by chance. It was surprising I through than no announcements were made on either vessel as to the importance of their crossings.

    So, with Christmas rapidly approaching ask for a ticket on the Mont!  I hope you have enjoyed this report. My thanks go to the crews of the Quiberon and Mont St Michel, Will for coming with me, and to Alex and his father for their company. 
  12. Andy
    16th March 2005
    And so the saga begins. We arrived at the port shortly before 7am. Freezing cold, we headed towards the terminal where we got some foreign currency and waited to meet the rest of our group. A very strange looking character kept wondering around looking at people and we wondered what we had let ourselves in for…! However the strange man was actually a press photographer and not our companions who turned out to be very nice indeed. 
    We had to modify our booking slightly inside the terminal, then headed outside to our cars. As we rolled up to the check in booths we realised that we really needed to have the other car containing behind us. I had a bit of a blonde moment and tried to talk to the clerk in French, because I couldn’t remember the English equivalent of the word I was trying say!  Anyway, booking sorted out, we were directed towards the waiting Normandie Express. All the cars were parked alongside, waiting for the press and various other people to clear the linkspan so that we could board. There were plenty of cameras around. She was looking a little dirty, but this isn’t surprising considering that she came all the way from Tasmania.
    After 15 minutes or so, we were back in the car driving onto the deck. I think we were all pleasantly surprised by the amount of garage space that the incat has. All of the French deck crew were extremely helpful if a little disorganised, it’s a shame that one of the English officers in particular was quite rude, ushering us to the steps a number of times!  We headed up on deck where we found none other than David Longden on his mobile phone. It soon transpired that pretty much most of the bow area was closed off and designated as VIP only. Most of the English side of BF management were on-board along with a large contingent of travel agents.
    We made our way to the stern to watch our departure. We were soon laughing ourselves silly over the very strange music that accompanies the safety announcement – a sort of drum and bass crossed with dance and rap music affair. The stern soon filled up with the school children on-board, who also it seemed, wished to watch departure. The weather was fantastic, I have never seen Portsmouth look so nice! Blue skies and blue sea. Frequent announcements were made later into the crossing to ask the said school children to sit down….
    Just after we left the berth, the Normandie who was on her berth tooted her whistle a couple of times. It is a shame that the captain on the NEX didn’t respond by tooting his. As we were leaving Portsmouth, the captain came over the tannoy (the first time we had ever heard a “BF” captain make the welcome announcement) and speaking rather bad French, then English, welcomed everyone aboard. I guess the poor man was quite nervous and I’m sure he will get the hang of things soon!
    The crossing over was a “little” rough, apparently because of the sudden change in direction of wind, which made the sea “un peu agite”. We’d estimate around 80% of the people on-board were sea-sick. A lot of people commented on the lack of a commodore lounge and that the shop is a little small. I would tend to agree with them, but have been reliably informed that there are plans to introduce a commodore lounge and expand some areas of the craft for next season.
    Most of us had some sort of Food on-board, the croissants were apparently very nice according to Mr K, I wish I could say the same for the bread rolls and jam I had! Luckily time passed quite quickly and we soon arrived at Cherbourg which was also looking quite nice in the sunshine. Debarkation was quick for us as we were on the lower deck, however Steve and co. had to wait a little longer. The thermometer in the car showed a very pleasing 23 degrees and we had to turn the air conditioning on! Two-Way radios also switched on, we headed out of the port (through passport control first) then out to the Auchan on the Peripheral of Cherbourg. 
    We then headed up the A road to Caen. The journey took little over an hour and a half and it was very relaxing! We approached Caen and drove straight to the ferry terminal to grab a bite to eat. 5 portions of chips and a croquet monsiuer later, we headed back to the car to await boarding. The Mont st Michel was looking very nice alongside. A very pleasant hostess (as pointed out over our two-ways!!) was directing cars up onto the decks. I made a bit of a faux pas about one of the ramps which gave us all a chuckle. We were fortunate to be placed on the lowest car deck, thus ensuring quick debarkation at Portsmouth. 
    Once on-board we headed up to reception to get a cabin and dumped our bags. We watched departure from the outside deck at the stern. Caen looked very nice in the afternoon sunshine. It was very reassuring and pleasant to be back on a traditional cruise ferry, crossing the channel at half the speed we did earlier! Our stomachs rumbling, we headed to Les Romantiques, the main restaurant for dinner. We sampled the Lamb and the Beef. We all agreed that it was delicious. Baked Alaska was on the menu for pudding, which was also nice. It came with a shot of Brandy, which on the Pont-Aven they pour over the Baked Alaska and set alight to (singed eyebrows all around!). Unfortunately, the Mont St Michel appeared to have run out of matches, leaving us to think that perhaps it’s a P-A thing?!!
    After dinner, we headed to the main bar, where the barman took the opportunity to teach me how to pronounce “Noir”, which was quite funny. During the crossing we all had a chuckle when the receptionist announced that “Meet The Fockers” would be broadcast in the cinema shortly. All too soon, Portsmouth loomed. There was heavy fog which made the journey onto the berth very interesting. The spinnaker tower looked quite strange and eerie. We passed Andy’s Val on her way out. Debarkation was swift and it was soon time to transfer into the various cars and head in our separate directions.
    Trip Summary: 
    All in all it was an excellent trip. I think its probably summed up best when describing the NEX  “It’s an Incat”. Which I would tend to agree with. Hopefully her crew will gel over the next couple of weeks and will soon master the ropes of what is in essence, quite a complicated piece of machinery. Some people have said that equipment was crashing around, however I didn’t see or hear any of this myself… Perhaps it was people crashing around instead!!If you want to get to France quickly and are willing to sacrifice a comfy cabin then go for it. Otherwise perhaps think about taking one of the traditional cruise ferries. 
    It will be very interesting next year to travel on her again after she has had modifications made to her. One wonders if a larger shop and commodore lounge were on the agenda for this season, but the delivery time and other pressures (e.g. the easter market) were just too great. Inside she is bright, modern and airy. Hopefully BF will build on this.
  13. Andy
    The King of Scandinavia entered service with DFDS Seaways on the 12th March 2006, operating between Newcastle and Amsterdam (Ijmuiden). The arrival of the King of Scandinavia increased the total capacity on the route from 2,758 passengers and 780 cars to 3,691 passengers and 960 cars, operating in tandem with the Queen of Scandinavia. Four months after her introduction as the King of Scandinavia bfenthusiasts.com took a behind the scenes look as to how the former Brittany Ferries flagship is faring at DFDS, as well as an exclusive interview with the ships Hotel Manager.
    It was announced on the 25th November 2005 that Brittany Ferries had sold the Val de Loire to DFDS Seaways, for an undisclosed sum, to operate between Newcastle and Amsterdam. As part of the sale, a medium term charter of the Duke of Scandinavia was arranged for operating between Plymouth and Roscoff. The two ships were to be renamed King of Scandinavia and Pont L'Abbe respectively for their new roles.
    The Val de Loire undertook her final voyage under Brittany Ferries on the 20th February 2006, departing Portsmouth at 0745, arriving into Cherbourg at 1440. Upon arrival she was de-stored and handed over to DFDS Seaways where refitting and repainting began apace. She was officially re-named and registered in Kobenhaven on the 8th March 2006, and departed for Ijmuiden on the 28th February, arriving the following day. During her layover much work was carried out onboard in order to bring her into line with the DFDS Seaways brand. Externally the Brittany Ferries logo and livery were painted out and DFDS Seaways own applied. The blue window stripes were extended further forward, and her forward superstructure on deck 10 was painted white.
    Internally, the order of the day was cleaning, bringing the ship up to her former glory following a number of years minimum investment from Brittany Ferries. The two major areas to receive attention were the aft sections of decks 7 & 9. On deck 7 the former 'la Magdalena' self-service restaurant was turned into the '7 Seas Buffet' restaurant. Deck 9 saw the removal of 'le Kiosque', in its place a giant slot machine area was installed, whilst the previous games area was turned into a casino sporting card tables and blackjack boards. The main bar 'le Rabelais' now becomes the 'Columbus Club', and now has a blue livery and a larger dance floor. Leading immediately off the 'Columbus Club' is the brand new 'Sports bar', where previously 2 reclining seat lounges were found. The meeting rooms have been converted into a computer games room. The former Commodore Class section has remained, however under DFDS it is now known as 'Commodore De-luxe'. Whilst the cabins remain the same (minus their toilet doors and individual French names) the Commodore De-luxe lounge has now come into its own. Here you can now find a plasma TV, free internet access, magazines and a complimentary selection of food and beverages.
    The Festivities
    The new giant of the North Sea was christened in a formal ceremony in the Dutch port of Amsterdam (IJmuiden) by its godmother Ragnhild Moberg, wife of DFDS A/S Board Director Anders Moberg, on the 8th March.
    She first arrived into Newcastle on the morning of the 12th March 2006 in preparation for her maiden voyage later that day. As part of the festivities local radio station Century FM, using satellite technology on a cruise ferry for the first time, broadcast their morning show live from the King of Scandinavia on both Monday and Tuesday morning. Upon her return into Newcastle on Tuesday 14th March 2006 further 'red carpet' festivities took place including a VIP onboard lunch.
    Down to Work
    Following the festivities and the fanfare surrounding her arrival, the King of Scandinavia settled into her overnight sailing schedule, departing Newcastle at 17:30 and Amsterdam at 18:00 every other day.
    During her first month in service the King of Scandinavia hit the local headlines for rather different reasons. An emergency medical evacuation took place on the 24th March 2006, in storm weather conditions off Flamborough after a passenger severed her finger in a closing watertight door on deck 2. Later that same month a number of small fires were started in the early hours of 30th March whilst en-route to Newcastle, which were found to be due to arson.
    Since her introduction the King of Scandinavia has been met with positive comment and has resulted in a significant increase in passenger numbers on the Newcastle to Ijmuiden line. Refurbishment continues to take place onboard, and the ship is due to undergo a dry dock period in early January between the 2nd and 17th 2007.
    In a surprise move, DFDS announced on the 6th September 2006 that they had purchased Fjord Lines' flagship Fjord Norway and that they would be taking over the company's route between Newcastle and Bergen, which also calls at Stavanger and Haugesund. She was handed over to DFDS Seaways on the 15th October 2006 in Hanstholm where she then sailed to Frederikshaven to be refitted and have the DFDS livery applied. She was renamed Princess of Norway and re-registered in Kobenhavn on the 16th October 2006, sailing under the Danish flag.
    The Princess of Norway was originally constructed in 1986 as the Peter Pan for TT-Line of Germany, operating between Travemunde and Trelleborg. A year later a sister ship, the Nils Holgersson was also introduced, which now sails as the King of Scandinavia. In 1990 the Peter Pan was sold to the Tasman Government, Australia, for introduction in 1993 as the Spirit of Tasmania where she operated between Devonport and Melbourne. She remained 'down under' until she was sold to Fjord Line at the end of 2002. She set sail for Frederikshaven as the Spir and entered service with Fjord Line as the Fjord Norway following a refit on the 8th April 2003.
    As a consequence of the acquisition of Fjord Line's route to England, DFDS Seaways' Gothenburg/Kristiansand - Newcastle route closed on the 1st November 2006 and the Princess of Scandinavia was sold to Moby Lines for operation as the Moby Otta in the Mediterranean, where her own sister ship, the Moby Drea (ex Prince of Scandinavia) also operates.
    The two sisters became running mates once more, when Princess of Norway was switched to the Newcastle-Ijmuiden route in 2007, with Queen of Scandinavia taking her place on the Newcastle - Bergen route.
  14. Andy
    The Duc de Normandie joined Brittany Ferries in 1986 to open a brand new route between Portsmouth and Caen. Upon her entry into service she became the largest vessel ever to sail into both Portsmouth and the newly constructed ferry terminal at Ouistreham (Caen). She remained operating on the Caen route until July 2002 when she transferred to the premier Plymouth - Roscoff route on which she operated until the end of her Brittany Ferries career.
    In The Beginning
    The Duc de Normandie was began life as the Prinses Beatrix for SMZ, having been constructed at the Verolme Shipyard in Holland. She was to sail between Harwich and the Hook of Holland under the 'Sealink' banner. She was launched by her namesake HRH Princes Beatrix on the 14th January 1978 and entered commercial service on the 29th June. She was to prove to be both a popular and reliable vessel for Sealink, but was soon to prove too small for the continually expanding route.
    During the Winter of 1984/5 Brittany Ferries began to investigate the possibility of operating a route from the already popular port of Portsmouth (from which they were the first ferry company to operate) to Normandy. Townsend Thoresen already operated to the Norman port of Le Havre from Southampton (later moving to Portsmouth) but had turned down an invitation to operate to the newly constructed ferry terminal at Ouistreham. Brittany Ferries were quick to accept the offer realising the potential the new port offered, as well as enabling them to finally rival Thownsend Thoresen's established routes to both Le Havre and Cherbourg. Now that Brittany Ferries had a new port and route they were now in need of new tonnage which would be both suitable for the 6 hour crossing but also capable of rivalling the existing services offered to Normandy.
    On the 1st October 1985 Brittany Ferries announced that they had purchased the Prinses Beatrix from SMZ to operate the new route which it was decided would open in June 1986 ready for the summer season. Following her purchase she was immediately chartered back to SMZ to continue operating between Harwich and the Hook until the arrival of their own new tonnage - the Koningin Beatrix. As part of the purchase deal the the Armorique was also chartered to SMZ to offer extra capacity during the winter months. In May 1986 the Prinses Beatrix sailed to Rotterdam for a major refit prior to entering service with Brittany Ferries which saw A.I.A. redesign her interior with a Norman feel to give passengers a taste of France from the moment they boarded the ship (a theme which was to continue with all future Brittany Ferries vessels). The main bar, l'Alambic', boasted a real Calvados Still whilst the wine bar had a Norman cider press. The main lounge was named 'Claude Monet' after the French artist who lived in Normandy, and opened out into a terraced garden. Additional facilities included the installation of a bakery capable of producing fresh patisseries, a coffee shop and two restaurants, all of which were to result in the new vessel becoming the flagship of the fleet and offer an attractive alternative to Townsend Thoresen's passengers.
    The flagship was re-named Duc de Normandie for her new role and was appropriately re-registered in Caen. Prior to the opening of the new route the Armorique made two goodwill sailings to Caen to celebrate the launch of the new route, where she sailed up the canal to berth the centre of the city of Caen to 'fly the flag'.
    The Duc de Normandie officially entered service on the 5th July 1986 with the 23:30 departure between Portsmouth and Caen (Ouistreham). Her interior and size set new standards of ferry travel on the channel and sent shockwaves to rival ferry operators. The route was an immediate success and exceeded all expectations, so much so that plans were considered to 'jumbo-size' her for the 1987 season. The Truckline vessels Purbeck and Coutances were brought in to provide much needed extra capacity on the route during summer weekends as well as the Prince of Brittany which allowed the company to provide an additional passenger sailing to Caen during peak weekends in addition to her own sailings to St Malo.
    More Capacity
    The following year, 1987, saw the Duc de Normandie and the Purbeck cover the route once again. However before the year was over it was no surprise when Brittany Ferries announced that a second vessel was to be introduced to Caen for the 1988 season. The Yugoslavian built Gotland was then duely chartered. The Gotland was not scheduled to enter service until May but due to strikes affecting both P&O and Sealink Ferries she entered service early along with the the Armorique due to the exceptionally high demand for channel crossings. In fact such was the demand the Duc de Normandie, Gotland, Prince of Brittany and Breizh-Izel all sailed to Caen until the industrial disputes resolved.
    For the 1989 season the Prince of Brittany joined the Duc de Normandie sailing to Caen having been replaced on the St Malo route by the newly bought Duchesse Anne. Before coming to Caen the Prince of Brittany was re-named Reine Mathilde after William the Conquerors Queen. The Truckline vessel Normandie Shipper was also to sail to Caen forthe season.
    In May 1990 plans were announced for the construction of two new cruise ferries in addition to the new Bretagne and to expand the continually expanding Caen and Cherbourg services. The Masa Yard at Helsinki was awarded the contract for the new Caen super-ferry which would enter service during May 1992. The Duc de Normandie was to undergo a £3 million refit prior to the new ship's arrival which was to be named Normandie. The ports of Portsmouth and Ouistreham were both to see a new double deck link span and major dredging work in preparation for the new ship's arrival.
    The newly constructed Normandie entered service on the 16th May 1992 increasing capacity on the Caen route by 40% overnight. She became the largest ship to operate out of the two ports, just as the Duc de Normandie had some years earlier. The two vessels were to operate together for the next 10 years which saw the route continue to grow and expand despite the opening of the Channel Tunnel.
    A New Challenge
    It had long been realised there there was a growing discrepancy between the mighty Normandie and the smaller Duc de Normandie both operating to Caen, and it had been Brittany Ferries intention for some time to build a sister ship to the Normandie but following financial difficulties, including the loss of duty free and increased competition, it would not be until 2002 that the Duc de Normandie would be replaced on the line. The Van der Giessen shipyard was awarded the order for the Mont St Michel in 2000 which was to become a larger sister to the Normandie. Upon her arrival the Duc de Normandie was to be transferred to the Plymouth-Roscoff route in July 2002 replacing the smaller Quiberon.
    The Mont St Michel's delivery date was severely delayed by the shipyard, however the Duc de Normandie moved to Plymouth as planned on the 10th July 2002 following sixteen years service to between Portsmouth and Caen. Portsmouth said a found farewell to the vessel which had opened their new continental ferry terminal all those years ago, which has since grown into Britain's second largest ferry port. The Duc de Normandie undertook a one off passenger carrying sailing between Portsmouth and Roscoff at 0700 - leaving Portsmouth for the last time. The Quiberon filled in the gap left by the Duc de Normandie on the Caen route until the arrival of the Mont St Michel which was anticipated to be in August. As it turned out it fell to the Quiberon to cover the entire summer season along with the Normandie, and following further delays the it was not until the 20th December that she could herself stand down from service following the Mont's arrival.
    For the 2003 season the Duc de Normandie continued to sail between Plymouth and Roscoff, operating alongside the Val de Loire. During the winter of 2003 she carried out a new weekend sailing between Plymouth and Cherbourg during the winter months.
    During 2004 the Duc de Normandie gained a new partner on the Roscoff route following the arrival of the mighty Pont-Aven. The summer season at Plymouth was, however, to experience difficulties following the breakdown of the Pont-Aven which led to the Duc being diverted to Poole on several occasions before a normal service was able to resume. In July it was officially announced that the Duc de Normandie was to be laid up during the winter season, and that the Bretagne would transfer from Portsmouth to operate between Plymouth - Roscoff.
    Her final sailing of 2004 was on Wednesday 29th September at 2300. The Duc de Normandie then departed Roscoff at 1400 bound for Caen. On 1st October 2004 she sailed up the canal towards Caen itself and was laid up at the 'Calix' berth to await her fate. On the 12th November 2004, she made her final visit to Portsmouth to take on fuel before sailing onwards to Gdansk, Poland awaiting sale. Whilst in Gdansk, she was briefly re-united with her fleetmate m/v Val de Loire, which was in the port for her planned dry-docking.
    The Next Chapter
    It was announced in March 2005 that she had been sold to Transeuropa Shipping Lines (TSL), the parent company of TransEuropa Ferries. She was renamed Wisteria and sailed to Ostende for a refit. Since then she has spent much of her time on charter in the Mediterranean, but did return to UK waters in the winter of 2005 when she operated for Trans Europa Ferries on their Ramsgate - Ostende route. The following spring she returned to the Med on charter, where she has remained since.
  15. Andy
    After over 20 years service to Brittany Ferries the Quiberon stood down from service on the 20th December 2002. She was sold 'Lauro Line' on February 20th, 2003 and was been renamed 'Guilia D'Abundo' during August 2003, sailing for Med Mar. Her new route is between Sete-Palma de Mallorca. She commenced sailing in June 2003 following a refit and repaint in Brest. During her 20 years of service she was based in Plymouth and will always be fondly remembered by all.
    Farewell Old Friend
    The Quiberon began life as the Nils Dake, built at the Rendsburg Werft Nobiskrug yard Germany in 1975. She was originally built for 'Lion Ferry', before being re-assigned before completion to 'Svenska Rederi Oresund' (trading name 'Svelast') which was a Swedish Railways subsidiary company. She was almost a smaller sister ship to the 1973 built 'Gustav Vasa', which we know today as the 'Norröna' which operates for 'Smyril Line'. She operated between Malmo-Travemunde offering twice daily departures from the two ports. In 1967 'Svelast' merged with 'Trave Line' following strong competition on the route, and the company began trading as 'Saga Line'. The 'Nils Dake', along with her partner ship 'Gustav Vasa', continued unaffected, although the former 'Trave Line' routes closed.
    Fierce competition continued to grip the surrounding routes, which finally led to 'Svelast' merging with rival operator 'TT Line'. Following the merger the Malmo-Travemunde route suffered from over-capacity and as a result the decision was taken to charter out the 'Nils Dake' in 1982, which was when she began operating for Brittany Ferries. At the end of 1982 the route closed completely.Prior to her entry into service for Brittany Ferries she underwent a major refit at the Jos L Meyer's Papenburg shipyard, Germany. The most noticeable change was the conversation of the aft end of deck 5 from an upper car deck to create extra cabins and two cinemas. The ship was re-named Quiberon for her new role for Brittany Ferries. She immediately became the companies flagship and was placed on the Plymouth/Santander/Roscoff/Cork route upon her entry into service. She replaced the smaller Amorique which had operated on the route since its opening on 17th April 1978. The Quiberons maiden voyage was in April 1982.
    Following a successful two years of service Brittany Ferries decided to purchase the Quiberon from TT-Line in 1983. She was appropriately re-registered in Morlaix. In 1984 the Quiberon received the new company livery which made her look even more impressive and suited her more than the former. The Santander route continued to experience rapid growth, and in the late 80's it was proposed to cut the Quiberon in two horizontally and add two new decks. Similar work was proposed for the Duc de Normandie which was operating between Portsmouth - Caen. It was finally decided that the preferred option was for a newbuild, to replace the Quiberon completely. This new 'superferry' was the Bretagne and she entered service in July 1989 following delivery delays. The Bretagne was over twice the size of the Quiberon and brought a new standard to ferries operating out of the UK.
    With the arrival of the new Bretagne the Quiberon was transferred to year round operation on the premier Plymouth-Roscoff service. The Tregastel was then transferred to Brittany Ferries Truckline operations out of Cherbourg before later being sold to P&O Scottish Ferries where she was re-named St.Clair. During her dry dock in 1990 the Quiberon was given a major refurbishment, ensuring her continuation on the route for another decade. In 1996 the she was sold to French banking interests for FFr100m as part of a re-structuring of the Breton company. She was immediately leased back to Brittany Ferries, with no disruption to operations - the Quiberon remaining very much a Brittany Ferries vessel.
    The Quiberon made international headlines in July 1992 when she suffered an engine room fire whilst en route with the 0800 Plymouth - Roscoff sailing. 1,034 passengers were onboard when the mayday was declared. British and French rescue services attended the scene, but the fire was extinguished by the ships fire teams before they arrived. Sadly the fire claimed the life of one crew member. All passengers were mustered on deck and the lifeboats prepared. Evacuation was not necessary and the Quiberon limped to Roscoff under her own power later that day with a tug in attendance. She was immediately withdrawn from service for major repairs, and did not return until late August, having missed the summer season. Passengers were diverted to other routes during her absence with no cover vessel available.
    Another embarrassing incident for the Quiberon occurred on the 17th March 1999 when she ran aground on Melamphus Shoal just outside Millbay Docks in Plymouth. She was only aground for a few hours before returning to port. Following a diver inspection she re-entered service later that day with no damage - apart from a slight dent in her reputation. Other notable incidents during her life included:
    She has been subjected to numerous fishing blockades on both sides of the channel. She was even 'stormed' by French farmers once in Roscoff who refused to let her disembark passengers on arrival. The Quiberon has also been used for numerous coastguard rescue exercises in Plymouth, simulating evacuation with volunteers following fire etc. She once suffered a power failure on arrival in Plymouth where she hit the link span at considerable speed. She has also been involved in countless bad storms, both whilst at sea and trapped in port - one time slipping her moorings in Plymouth during a storm by ripping off the shore bollards.
    Since 1989 the Quiberon has remained on the Roscoff run, with a winter transfer to the Caen and St.Malo routes. On the 10th July 2002 the Quiberon operated her final sailing from Plymouth, as she was transferred to the Portsmouth/Caen route until the arrival of the new Mont St Michel. The Plymouth/Roscoff service was immediately taken over by the Duc de Normandie. Following severe delays to the Mont St Michel the Quiberon was given an unexpected reprieve into service as the company were forced to operate her out of Portsmouth for the entire summer season, instead of standing down in early August as expected. As a result of her service being extended it was necessary to reduce her passenger certificate to 500 passengers to enable her to remain in service past the SOLAS deadline until the arrival of the delayed Mont St Michel. As a result a large number of passengers had to be rebooked onto alternative sailings and routes.
    The Final Months
    It was revealed in March 2002, by BFE, that the Quiberon had been purchased by 'Linie-Lauro' for services between Palma de Mallorca and Sete, France. She was to be renamed Guilia d'Abundo for her new role.
    The Mont St Michel was finally handed over to Brittany Ferries on the 12th December 2002, entering service on the 20th December with the 1630 (revised to 1545) departure from Caen-Portsmouth - in thick fog. The Quiberon's final sailing for Brittany Ferries was the 0800 Portsmouth-Caen on 20th December. The only indication that it was her final sailing was the farewell messages exchanged between the inward bound Bretagne upon departure. At approx 1500 the Quiberon passed the awaiting Mont St Michel in Caen, and following a final lively whistle salute between the two vessels she docked astern of the MSM. A quiet, and sad end to over 20 years sterling service with Brittany Ferries.
    Upon completion of service the Quiberon remained laid up in Caen, having sailed through the locks up river, and paid a day visit to Le Havre for supplies and stores to be loaded/unloaded. She finally departed the English Channel for what will probably be the final time on the 20th February sailing to Brest where she received a major refit and repaint into the Euro Mer livery. She departed the yard on 14th May and commenced operations out of Sete on 4th June 2003 whilst still named Quiberon.
    Although the Quiberon did not offer the facilities of the mighty Val de Loire she has a comfortable feel of her own. I can remember when she was 'the' big ship operating out of Plymouth alongside the Tregastel - how times change. She had a fond following of admirers and regular passengers - transporting hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers to France and Spain during her lifetime. She will be fondly missed.
    Life after Brittany Ferries
    On the 27th September 2003 I found myself in a hot and sunny Palma de Mallorca whilst working onboard the msy Wind Surf. The port was already playing host to a number of cruise ships and large ferries when we finally berthed alongside the outer harbour wall. It was unfortunately a Friday, and as a result any hope of catching a glimpse of the old Quiberon had long faded when I was informed of her sailing schedule. However, whilst making small talk with the pilot I was told that she was due in at around 10am!
    Just before 10 o'clock a familiar sight was on the horizon, it was the Quiberon, but somewhat darker looking in colour. She slowly made her way into the port passing the outer harbour walls before making her turn to bring her alongside what was the Euro-Mer terminal. Externally, aside from her imposing new colours, she was the same ship. She had only a few weeks earlier finally been re-named 'Guilia D'Abundo' and re-registered in Madeira much to the companies delight after 3 months in service. Whilst she was registered in France she was forced to carry a French master and Chief Officer, which had now been replaced by an entirely Italian bridge team. The familiar black smoke was still there, and I was later to learn one of her engines had been out of action for some weeks, resulting in sailing delays and hence her late arrival into Palma. Her engine room was apparently in a considerable amount of work. It can be remembered that in her last weeks in service for Brittany Ferries she experienced engine problems, something which had been rare during her career.
    Later in the afternoon I made my way over to the ferry terminal for a closer look. After finally finding the correct ferry terminal (which makes our UK efforts look poor) I was greeted by large check-in desks for every ferry operator under the sun, apart from Euro-Mer whose desk was the size of a phone booth! It was obvious this was a new company in its beginnings but this was ridiculous, the whole thing must have been 4m square. Never the less there was a charming young lady behind the desk who was most keen to help.
    It was quite a long walk through the glass covered walkway to the gangway, but as soon as I saw the door I knew it had been worth it. The reception area had not changed at all. Same carpet, same chairs, and same colours. The old 'Kiosque' was empty, with just boxes on the floor but all the fittings remaining, and the same went for the old perfumery on the starboard side. The old Beureau de Change has been turned into a small tourist office, which I imagine just consisted of the leaflets left on the counter! The deck plans were the same, with cheap stickers covering the name Quiberon, Brittany Ferries and even the funnel flag! Throughout the ship the large light up advert boards were empty, showing only their 'insides'. The cabins were still the same too, I popped my head in a few, including the cabin I had on her last sailing for Brittany Ferries on the 20th December 2002. The only difference was that Brittany Ferries had removed all of their artwork, so a dark patch was left on the wall! This was to be something I noticed throughout the ship.
    One deck up there were some changes. Most notably the main restaurant had been removed and the bar extended, the buffet bar and galley having disappeared and a poor attempt at a stage being constructed in its place where I was told 'live entertainment' took place. hmm! It certainly made the area look different, but it had clearly been constructed on a budget! The main duty free shop was closed and its glass now frosted, allowing for storage. The small boutique at the top of the stairs remained, being one of the last areas of the ship to be refitted by Brittany Ferries and still looking smart. The games machines remained, the slot machines had gone. The self service restaurant was identical, and the salon du the also remained, although the large wooded sculpture had gone. The children's playroom and reclining seats lounges also remained intact.
    The last place to visit was the bridge which again was the same aside from some new deck plans and emergency information. Her Italian crew was, a far cry from the days of Brittany Ferries! As I made my way back down to reception I heard that familiar 'ding dong' of the PA system. It was a brief look around but both myself and my guide (as if I needed one!) were pushed for time. Walking away from the Guilia you could clearly see her BF markings still showing through the black paint, failing to hind 20 years worth of BF paint! The bow looked slightly damaged too, I decided not to ask how though. After thanking my guide and leaving the terminal I took some close up photographs of her new profile. Unfortunately I had not been permitted to take any onboard photographs, being told that the Captain had to authorise this and he wasn't onboard. I was left wondering if all her passengers had to gain the same permission! However, their was relatively little new to take photographs of so I want too bothered. Her new name had been painted on both the bow and stern extremely poorly, all slanted, not very professional. That was something I am afraid I noticed throughout, it was obvious she was not being cared for in the same way that Brittany Ferries treated her, I just hope I am proved wrong. Unfortunately, as I watched her as we set sail from Palma later that evening this fear was confirmed as I saw her switch on her newly installed dress lights (one of the new additions from the days as the Quiberon but which all the Mediterranean ferries have) and I counted no less than 6 bulbs working!
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