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  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. It was certainly an amazing few days, and it was a privilege to have been onboard the maiden voyage of the Pont-Aven… Tuesday 23rd March The Val de Loire slipped her moorings for the final time a little after 9pm on Tuesday the 23rd March. She was making room for the Duc de Normandie, inbound from Roscoff, sailing empty to St Malo to position herself for her what is now her permanent route, running alongside the Bretagne to Portsmouth and also to Cherbourg. A grand total of 4 people watched her leave from Grand Parade for what might be the final time. The Duc de Normandie sailed past her in the Sound whilst the Pont-Aven was at anchor off Cawsand – 3 Brittany Ferries in Plymouth at once! The evening climaxed with drinks in ‘The Bank’ with fellow BFE members – which has effectively become our new base in the south west! Wednesday 24th March – The Big Day Following a very pleasant nights sleep at the Holiday Inn I awoke to a bright sunny morning, whilst the Pont-Aven was still lying at anchor. She began to make her way into the Sound at around 08:30, her paintwork gleaming in the morning sun. It was noticeable that a small patch of the blue and red stripe had been rubbed off towards the forward end of the starboard side, a badly positioned fender in Plymouth being responsible. Slowly but surely she berthed stern first in, awaiting her maiden voyage are first fare paying passengers. Checking in a little after 2pm, following pre-voyage drinks in ‘Sippers’ the terminal was already full of foot passengers eager to get onboard as early as possible. Not since the Bretagne has Plymouth seen so many mini-cruisers! Boarding card in hand it was time to board, boarding via deck 6 aft arriving right at the bottom of the atrium. Being one of the few passengers who actually knew their way around I quickly took the lift to deck 8 to check into my cabin, number 8412, one of 18 luxuriously appointed ‘Commodore Class’ cabins. The Commodore Cabins are individually named after famous artists from Pont-Aven and contain the standard features from the fleet. A mini bar, tea making facilities, plasma tv, dvd player, radio… and of course a balcony. A nice touch in the Commodore Cabins was that you got a bottle of wine which was same as the name as your cabin when you went to Spain. No wine in here… well not yet anyway. There was also no onboard guide folder as is usually found in the cabins. Instead there is ‘Pont-Aven TV’ which acts as the onboard guide. Having placed the order for tea and breakfast and a dinner reservation it was a race to who got to go out on the balcony first before inspecting what would be ‘home’ for the next 3 days. After a whistle stop tour around the ship we were called to the information desk where we were invited to visit the bridge for the departure out of Plymouth. Once on the bridge, which is furnished with antique maritime memorabilia, and after the obligatory pleasantries with the officers a surprise was in store for the Captain. On behalf of the site a painting was commissioned by myself depicting the Pont-Aven with the Kerisnel in Plymouth Sound. Prior to the departure this was presented to Captain Pascal Saludo to what can only be described as an emotional response. The painting attracted allot of attention with the crew, notably with the ships Chief Officer who’s father had been the Captain of the Kerisnel all those years ago! The painting is being placed on the bridge, described as a lucky charm for the ship! (see end of report). The departure out of Plymouth was delayed slightly due to the volume of traffic, not to mention this being the first time the ship had actually been loaded so extra care was being taken. A little after 1620 the Pont-Aven slipped her moorings and began to make her way out of the port. A large crowd lined the Hoe and Marine Parade with flags waving, and even a firework being let off as we slowly sailed out, the Captain making it look all too easy and ‘matter of fact’. Due to her length it is necessary for the bow thrusters to be used when negotiating the channel off Mount Batten. As we passed the breakwater I was invited to sound the ships whistle as a ‘goodbye’ to Plymouth… the Pont-Aven was underway!! Her ‘sticks’ were pushed forward and all eyes closely watched the ships speed increase to 25.8kts as we shot past the incoming HMS Somerset and the Eddystone Light. Following the departure it was back to look around this mighty vessel once more, taking in the ships shopping mall which was already selling out of ship postcards. Amazingly someone has felt the need to computer edit the image of her by reversing the flag logo on the funnel and logo – sometimes I wonder! In contrast to the rest of the fleet there is just one shop onboard, however it has been divided to make a kisoque, la cave and perfume shop. It works well. It wasn’t long before it was time for dinner. In keeping with the restaurants name every table had a fresh flowers, a nice touch. The buffet was as delicious as ever, all the better with a bottle of Muscadet. I do think far too many cakes were taken for desert though! During dinner the lights of NW France could be seen – in record time! The friendly service made the meal, despite a rather long delay in paying due to some teething problems which were experienced in operating the tills which delayed the second seating somewhat. Fully nourished it was time for the bar, being just in time to watch Illusion show with ‘Jason & Johanne’ – good entertainment which really did you wondering ‘just how did he do that?’, followed by live music with ‘True Flair’. There was a lively atmosphere in the bar which looks fantastic at night with blue neon and rope lighting plus great stage lighting which includes a laser which can write messages on the mezzanine deck! There were some quite ‘strange’ people on the dance floor (no, it wasn’t me!). A giant conga dance around the bar, all 2 decks of it, signalled the evening was coming to a close!...after ‘just a few’ drinks slow progress was made in returning to the cabin, conveniently also on deck 8, only to devour a bottle of champagne left to chill on our balcony. Quite where the cork went is now is anyone’s guess! At night even the outside decks look impressive with ‘rope lighting’ being set into the stairwells and of course string lights spanning from the radar mast, funnel to the stern. Thursday 25th March The day started off by taking breakfast on the balcony, despite it being cold it just had to be done. Most onboard had been early risers and by the time the coast of Spain could be seen the ship was bustling with people eager to have a look around Spain, or indeed start their holiday. The crew began to put up the ships ‘bunting’, keen to make a good first impression to Spain of their new ship. Rounding la Magdalena the city could be seen and the pilot boarded. Sometime later he finally appeared on the bridge ready to ‘watch’ the arrival. The weather was just holding for us, as launches surrounded the ship as she edged her way past the sand banks and fishermen in boats resembling bathtubs! A couple of helicopters took a few passes, no doubt for later TV coverage. People who were out for a morning walk stopped to take a look at their new regular as we neared the berth before turning around 180 degrees to come alongside bow first. The heavens then opened one we were berthed! After a few ‘tense’ moments the bow door was finally opened and discharge began. This being the ships first visit to Santander a large press function was held with the city welcoming the ship and presenting the Captain with the cities plaques and thanking the company for the faith shown in the city over the past 21 years. All of BF’s ‘top brass’ (as they became known) attended the event including Alex Gournevec. The ferry terminal is literally in the city centre, being only a stones throw from the shops and central park area. After visiting the animals in the mini zoo in the Magdalena palace it was time to head back for the afternoon departure back to Plymouth. The terminal was packed full, not helped by the coach loads of Spanish school children. The port has been refurbished including redesigning the interior of the terminal and the construction of a new linkspan capable of receiving the Pont-Aven. Departure was delayed as we awaited 5 cars which had not turned up in check-in, and a couple of mini cruise passengers. At 1730 the decision was taken to sail, and for the first time the ships whistle boomed over the city, echoing off the hills and buildings. Quickly building up speed, pilot having disembarked, we rounded the peninsular into a moderate swell as we sailed north back home. Looking aft from the outside decks at the wake you get a real feeling of the ships speed. The water ‘jets’ out of the back almost in the same way as on the Vitesse, as she steams along at an average sailing speed of 26kts. The decision was taken to sample the ships pool, looking so inviting. Unlike the Val de Loire its use is free, your passports or equivalent being used as a deposit for a towel (our towels were still all wrapped up!) and locker key. The locker rooms are smart but small, their being only one changing room and shower meaning delays if its busy! Today thankfully it wasn’t. The pool is very nice, even having underwater lighting, is at a good temperature and definitely the largest swimming pool I have seen on a ferry. Swimming against the large waves generated is quite a challenge though! The pool remains open until 9pm when it is netted off, the area becoming a pleasant bar area in the humid and pleasantly lit surrounding area.Dinner once again was of the usual high standard, with a few new items being placed on the buffet. Back in the bar the magician was doing his stuff with a different show followed by live music and disco. Friday 27th March The following morning breakfast was taken in ‘le Flora’ having a continental style buffet followed by a cooked English breakfast. Usually on BF the cooked breakfast is brought to your table, but here you served yourself. Not sure if that is a good thing or not? All too soon the Cornish coastline could be seen, as we passed the Eddystone lighthouse. The ship made its turn off Millbay before coming alongside, her maiden voyage complete. General Thoughts The Pont-Aven certainly impressed all onboard, her style being a contrast between the Bretagne and the Mont St Michel. Thankfully she is not as open plan as the Mont is, but in the areas which she is the effect works well. The atrium is impressive and a focal point, although I am not the only one who is not quite sure about the fake ice between the lifts. The bar in my opinion is the heart of the ship with its magnificent cascading staircase which frames the swimming pool area whilst opening up the bar to two levels with its own glass ceiling. The ship has, as expected, its own mobile phone network, however thoughtful signs restricting their use have been placed outside the restaurant and commodore lounge. Probably something that will only happen whilst she is new, but her carpets are so deep that when you touch anything metallic you get a shock. By the end of the trip I was quite tired of being electrocuted whenever I opened a door, although it did have its funny side! Oh yes, a top tip, don’t put your swim shorts out to dry on your balcony… they wont be there when you wake up!! The ‘early’ arrival of the Pont-Aven has certainly been a boost to Brittany Ferries who are clearly impressed with their new acquisition. The ship has already boosted Santander figures for the year by 25%, and I am sure that once word spreads both via the press and word and mouth she will be hard competition to beat. In fact, just about the only complaint anyone had about her is that there wasn’t enough time to do everything onboard. My thanks go to all who made the trip as enjoyable and memorable as it was, with special thanks to her officers and crew and Brittany Ferries at Plymouth.
  4. Hi, This forum really helped me with choosing cabins for our Pont Aven, Portsmouth-Santander, trip this May. Thanks. I’ve never really booked a long time in advance before, does anyone have any experience on the cheapest time of year to buy tickets for the following Summer (July)? Looking for the same journey, for 2 cabins. Is it worth booking now, or are there certain times of the year/months before travel when they are definitely cheaper? Any wisdom gratefully received! Thanks
  5. On the Pont Aven on Monday, the pilot attached itself to the ship as it left Santander. I didn't see them come on board, so trying to work out the reason for this. Does anyone in the know have an answer?
  6. Came across this on the interweb, dating form 2010. A great shot taken from Bretagne's helipad (Cantabrian mountains in background). https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/pic/?o=1fs&pic_id=822542&size=large&v=3
  7. 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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