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  1. 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. Construction 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: Cabins 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. Dining 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. Shopping 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. Entertainment ‘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. Bars 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 Summary 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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'. Introduction 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!
  4. Although its not #TBT... I Just found this vintage pic of the Roscoff terminal, dating from the early years. i think there are still a few features visible in Roscoff today (the building on the left used by the Roscoff cleaners) i
  5. 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.
  6. 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. Plymouth-Roscoff 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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