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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. I have to say that if a passenger's mobility is too limited to allow access to an upper bunk then that person should probably be in a handicapped cabin, not to stigmatise the person but so that the BF crew can provide the appropriate assistance in the event of an emergency or evacuation. Ed
  4. A new BF experience on Monday morning - Armorique instead of Mont (annuals and ???) My first time on board the fleet's most modern ship. First impressions: a different "look" from MSM and Normandie – but usual high standard of service. Morning sailing, so didn't see cabins, and didn't really explore much beyond the self-service restaurant and the bar. Seeing me juggle walking stick and breakfast tray, the cashier immediately offered to take my food to the table. A very welcome service, that I've had a few times before - one of the advantages of being on a lightly loaded crossing. On the subject of service, my impression – based on mobility assistance and reception, breakfast plus later coffee and a couple of drinks in the bar - is that the crew are all very helpful and cheerful. On several of last year's crossings on board Normandie and the Mont there seemed to be one or two "grumpies" – but no sign of that on Armorique. Smart, cheerful and helpful, even at 08:30. Just what you need on a damp and chilly morning. Speaking of which, I was impressed with what I glimpsed of the aft deck with ample seating – before being driven back inside by a cold gust of rain.
  5. €1.5 million is set to be invested into in the ferry terminal at Ouistreham as part of a wider plan to develop the port. The eastern pier will also be developed to accommodate maintenance activities for the future offshore wind facility at Courseulles-sur-Mer. The lock gates width will also be increased to allow larger cargo vessels to enter the canal. Source: http://www.maritimejournal.com/news101/marine-civils/port,-harbour-and-marine-construction/developments-for-renewables-and-larger-vessels-at-ouistreham
  6. 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.
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