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  1. Brittany Ferries 'Mont St Michel' returning to Portsmouth International Port today after spending 3 weeks in Gdansk, Poland undergoing her refit.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Out on the 0815 Portsmouth to Ouistreham and back on the 2300 to Portsmouth. Quick day trip. First time on Normandie. She's a good ship and the cabin gangways are very reminiscent of Bretagne. (Have included a pic of Bretagne leaving Portsmouth the previous evening, taken at Southsea). Return on Mont St Michel. Great ship and very quiet considering peak summer holidays. Went as a foot passenger. Very well organised and actually disembarked both vessels well ahead of the vehicle drivers.
  5. It’s now possible to pre-order a continental breakfast on overnight sailings onboard the Mont St Michel. Orders are taking at the information desk and can be collected from the Salon du The the following morning. If the trial proves to be popular it will be rolled out onto the Normandie and the rest of the fleet.
  6. I just wanted to share some photos from my new vantage point in Gosport since I started working for the National Coastwatch (NCI) based in Fort Blockhouse. 'Pont-Aven' departing Portsmouth for Santander (21/03/17) 'Baie de Seine' departing Portsmouth for Le Havre (21/03/17) 'Mont St Michel' departing Portsmouth for Ouistreham (06/03/17) 'Amorique' arriving in Portsmouth from Ouistreham (05/02/17) More to follow as I get them....................!
  7. Just returned from a weekend trip in St Malo. Outbound Outbound, we travelled Friday overnight on the Mont St Michel to Caen, departing at 22:00. We wanted to try a new ship and dad was happy to drive down the following morning. We arrived in Portsmouth relatively early, and had to wait for check in. It was funny seeing the number of cars for the Pont-Aven to St Malo turning up last minute. By the time we had gone through security, Pont-Aven had departed. The crossing was as expected, rather busy being a Friday night and Etretat delayed from dry dock. Thus, there was a good number of Lorries waiting to board. We were parked on the mezzanine platform Deck 6. We had a bite to eat in the Self-Service, and had a quick explore before heading to bed. By the time we had booked the crossing, all 2 berths had been booked out so we had to book a 4 berth inside. However, this was better as we were on Deck 9 rather than Deck 7. We had a very comfortable quiet night sleep and at times, it didn’t feel like we were on a boat! Arrival was early, but this was a sacrifice we made. After a quick croissant (we didn’t use the new order night before service), we were soon off the boat and on the road. We contemplated having a look around locally, however it was dark and early, so we decided to hit the road. Return We enjoyed a nice day in St Malo on the Saturday having a walk around and a bite to eat in the Intra-Muros. Popped into E.Leclerc for some bits. We returned on the 10:30 day crossing on the Bretagne. We woke up early on Sunday morning to see her arrive. I thought the crossing was going to be quiet, but there was good number of cars waiting. In fact, Deck 5 was almost full. After some breakfast, we went for a sleep in our 2 berth inside cabin on Deck 8. Had a wander on the outside decks and sat in the bar. For dinner, I wanted the lasagne which was on the menu but unfortunately they didn’t have any left. However, the ‘plat du jour’ was Beef Bourguignon which I had enjoyed previously. I even treated myself to one of the desserts. Arriving in Portsmouth, the front deck was closed off, so we stood towards the front of the starboard side of Deck 9, just below the bridge. Disembarkation was swift, and we were soon off onto the M275 home. Thoughts We were very impressed with the Mont St Michel. The ship is modern, comfortable and as I said, it didn’t feel like we were on a boat. The cabin was quiet but then we were on deck 9! The ship is well laid out and nicely furnished. We would certainly travel on her again. I also really enjoyed the crossing on Bretagne, I always do, she never fails to disappoint! Noticed some new carpet in places and some new panelling around the ship including new panels to indicate what was on each deck. It was nice to see she is still being cared for.
  8. Hi All, I am currently working on a project for Vehicle Simulator. Creating the exterior and Interior of the MSM. It will cover most communal areas and some cabins. Project is going well however what I need now are sound files to add. I have most sound effects from a previous voyage a few years back. But what i need are announcements played on the crossing. Ideally any announcements recorded this year with the new tannoy chime to make it as realistic as possible. If anyone has any then I would really appreciate a copy or link. Many thanks.
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