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Everything posted by zuludelta

  1. Terrible...I was on her sister ship "Barcelona" in June. Nearly as bad as SNCM! These two ships look really nice from the exterior but inside everything just seems cheap and freighter-like. Not surprising really, seeing that most of the Grimaldi fleet are freight ships. Food is cr@p even in their waiter-service restaurant. Cheap-quality frozen food. The offerings in their self-service cafeteria are Soviet army style. The outside decks become paddling pools after a shower of rain - so pack those wellies. You might need to pack ear-plugs as well because the engines on these sisters are about as refined as a thirty year old Bendix washing machine. On the plus side, the outdoor cafe-bar on the top deck is quite pleasant as it the Grimaldi Lines terminal in Barcelona.
  2. Stena really did their homework job in designing the cabins on the Britannica and Hollandica. They took passengers most common complaints about cabins namely noise, vibration, too hot / too cold and uncomfortable beds and turned it into cabin perfection. You really would not know that you're on a ship at all. No creaking or sqeaking. No noisey climate control and those box spring mattresses would not be out of place in a 5* hotel. Well done Stena.
  3. That is a neat trick the Baltic operators have pulled off with the duty free! Maybe if the Pont pulled in at Ushant, it could go duty-free also...
  4. I agree. The Viking Grace with her huge choice of entertainment on board and standard of cabin definitely puts the Pont Aven in the "ferry" category rather than "cruise ferry". But as HF says, they are two different markets. We might have to wait a long time before anything similar to the Grace comes to the Biscay.
  5. Below is a voyage report of a sailing on last week's Viking Grace sailing from Turku to Stockholm. I really think voyage reports are like buses because two reports come in about Viking Line in the same week! (thanks to Ryan H.) The departure from Turku The train from Helsinki (1 hour 50 minutes) leaves you right in Turku harbour (but not actually in the harbour thankfully…but pretty close). The walk to the Viking Line terminal takes around 5 minutes. The terminal has two levels. Downstairs there is a small café-bar. Upstairs are the departure “gates” and self-service check-in kiosks and a small café. I had no online ticket purchased so I needed to buy one at the terminal. I looked for a Viking Line ticket sales desk in the ground floor section of the terminal and upper section but could not find one. There were around 3-4 self-service check-in kiosks, like what you would find at an airport, but no sign of a machine that sold actual tickets. So it was back downstairs again where I found a small office with a hatch where a pleasant Finnish lady offered me a one-way ticket to Stockholm for €79.99 with cabin. I inquired how much extra a porthole cabin would cost and it was only an extra €20. So for the neat sum of €100 I had a trip on board the Viking Grace and a night’s accommodation. Pretty good value. But I got the distinct impression that Viking Line don’t want people buying tickets at the terminal as the office where I bought them did not even have a sign for ticket-sales or anywhere in the terminal for that matter. Like a lot of companies these days, Viking Line want you do everything online. My ticket had a gate number in the same way that an airline ticket would. I was assigned “Gate 4” which was upstairs. In the terminal there was a mix of elderly Scandinavians and Chinese people. There was an impromptu stage setup just beside the boarding gates where two Viking Line staff members were doing an audience warm-up for the “vonderful evening’s entertainment” ahead. I’ve never seen a ferry company do this sort of pre-boarding warm-up before. Passenger boarding took place via 3 link-spans (one double-deck towards bow) and a further linkspan connected towards the stern of the ship. There was a hostess at the door helping people who might be unfamiliar with ferries and cabin numbering. I find my cabin on deck 5 quickly. It is bright, airy and spacious. My name is up on the cabin’s widescreen TV welcoming me onboard. What a nice touch! I found around half a dozen chocolates left on the dresser. (How comes BF never give any chocolates to their standard-class passengers?) Moreover, there is a hairdryer in the cabin and a telephone. All very cruise ship. But the cabin has one serious source of annoyance. The noise from the climate control system is the loudest I’ve ever heard on a ship. It’s sounds like a vacuum cleaner is embedded into the cabin’s ceiling. Luckily, I am quite good at filtering background noise out when sleeping. Apart, from that the bed is comfy the shower works and it’s all very clean. Largest "duty-free" at sea? So time to explore. The ship has a very elegant hotel / cruise ship feel to it. All the lighting on board is subdued. It’s now around 10:30 the main bar is knocking out Finnish folk music. There are least 4-5 bar staff behind the bar. They are expecting a busy night. The “duty-free” shop is heaving with what seem to be Chinese, Finnish and Swedish people. The duty-free shop is the type you would find in a medium-sized airport and certainly the largest duty free I’ve ever seen at sea. The usual suspects are on sale tobacco, booze, fragrances, cosmetics, regional specialities, Toblerone bars. And for those very thirsty Swedes and Finns they had crates of beer on mini-trollies. They also have a souvenir section selling pens, jigsaw puzzles and Viking Line branded ear plugs (very handy for those noisy cabins). I find a corridor bar, the "Rockmore". Unlike the main bar just across the atrium, they sell pints of Murphy's Stout (€6). The barman is friendly and efficient and tells me how it's not uncommon for the Viking Grace to be ploughing through ice in December or January. There is a British singer-guitarist who sings some good tunes including those from Thin Lizzy and Sting. It’s now midnight and the main bar is in full swing. The crowd is mostly elderly Scandinavians dancing with their partners to the live singer on stage. I go to the self-service restaurant. It’s practically empty. There seems to be still hot food available but is the type you have to weigh first. Never having studied Home Economics, I self-serve myself a chicken ciabatta and some water. The ciabatta is €6.90 and the bottle of water (not just any old water but Viking Line branded water) is €2.50. It was tasty and filling. An unusual growl from the engines...then we stop I retire to my cabin. Whilst brushing my teeth I hear an unusual growl from the engines. I look out the porthole and our speed has been significantly reduced. Looking at the sea beneath I can see that the bow-trusters are in full-power. Then we stop. Now I know how the Titanic passengers felt when their behemoth of a ship just stops in the middle of the ocean. I check the GPS on my Microsoft phone, we are at Mariehamn in the Aland islands. This is obviously some sort of scheduled stop. However, it lasts for around 15 minutes and we’re enroute again towards Stockholm. At 6am exactly there is an announcement “we will be arriving in Stockholm in half an hour”. There is no mention of restaurants or cafes being open. I am assuming Viking Line either don’t want to sacrifice operational efficiencies over any revenue earned through selling Americanos and croissants. At around 6:15am a crew member after giving no knock (or at least an extremely light one) opens my locked cabin door. A bit rude and not professional… At 6:20am announcement informing people to go down to their cars. Disembarkation and overall impression At 6:30am foot passengers are asked to disembark. At the same time, the first trucks and cars start rolling off the Viking Grace. All very efficient. The ship has a real modern cruise ship feel about her. But as I’ve said the climate control in the cabin was the loudest I’ve ever heard. Is this because of the harsh winters in the Baltic maybe? The beds were comfortable but definitely not on a par with the comfort levels of the Stena Brittannica & Hollandica twins. But overall a positive experience on the Viking Grace.
  6. Great report and pics Ryan. Viking Line do run a very sleek operation. I was on the the Turku-Stockholm route myself last week (Viking Grace). Very sedate sailing but probably because it was a weekday. Will post a voyage report.
  7. ​Sounds like a great solution. The Armorique is positioned great for this run and her size would be perfect for a mid-week sailing. As other posters have said, if BF don't infuse some flexibility into the Cork-Roscoff route they stand to loose passenger numbers.
  8. Maybe BF were put off by a second Ireland - France run by their experience with their Cork-St. Malo route? ​I think this was back in 1995 and was a mid-week service operated by the Duchess Anne . It only ran for one season. The exact reason they terminated the route I'm not sure.
  9. About 90 per cent of passengers on the Cork-Roscoff route seem to be Irish and Northern Irish, the rest being continental Europeans (French, German, etc). Of course BF have a niche in the Cork market. They are the only international ferry company in Ireland that actually have a walk-in office and a store front in Cork city centre (Grand Parade). This gives high-visibility to the brand and I guess BF's years of service to Cork had bred a group of core BF loyalists. Hence, you will sometimes see Cork-registered cars on BF’s Spanish services. But Cork city only has a population of 120K (300K for the whole county) which makes it a very small niche.
  10. Great suggestion CB but maybe IF might not want the hassle of a new port opening and all the sort of business risks which that entails. But, then again BF and Port de Bloscon (who I'm sure are closely allied) might not grant IF convenient "slots" in their port. So yeah I guess Brest could be a viable and fresh alternative. In addition, a city-to-city service would be a great attraction for the mini-cruise market (if that is a market IF have an interest in).
  11. I think Irish Ferries move could be very damaging to BF’s Cork to Roscoff operation. Dublin and it’s hinterlands is a major catchment area for self-drive holidays to France. Moreover, Dublin is closer to Northern Ireland than Cork. As the success of Portsmouth has shown, “port + proximity to catchment area + cruise ferry” area seems to be a winning formula for a viable route (certainly in the tourist market). Why should people drive to Cork for a “nicer ferry” when one leaves from their own backyard? The only problem with this Dublin-Cherbourg route is that a substantial number of Irish holiday makers head for Western France from which Cherbourg is a bit of a drive. Roscoff is still miles more convenient. This begs the question, is the next move from Irish Ferries going to be an announcement of a Dublin-Roscoff service?
  12. Had to be the first time on the Bretagne in 1992. She really was the epitome of modernity back then. It really was like stepping onto some futuristic floating spaceship instead of a ferry. It was like no ship I had ever seen or been on before - sleek exterior, art filled public atriums, phones in standard cabins - it was amazing.
  13. On the plus side, this incident will be great for BF presenting a business case for a new build's funding.
  14. This is a business-to-business service. So, who knows what sort of contracts BF have signed with customers agreeing to carry X amount of trailers a year. In fact, theoretically BF could not advertise this service at all and it would still be known about because logistics managers who work for "big fish" (not in the food sense btw...) companies / organisations who deal with the UK / Iberian market won't be long finding out about it. It is, after all, their job.
  15. Yeah, its really down to pot luck. Some winter crossings on the Biscay can be just like a crossing in the summer. Others can be a lot rougher. But the position of your cabin can really help. If on the PA, I would go for a mid-ship cabin on deck 8 or 7. If the weather is bad, deck 5 and 6 cabins on the Pont near the bow can suffer from an awful lot of metallic banging noises as she plys through the water. Not a nice sound to lull you to sleep.
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