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What was the last major innovation for Ro-Ro ferry industry in Western Europe?


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Compared to other industries shipping seems to have very few major innovations.

 

Since 2000, what was the last major innovation for Ro-Ro ferry industry in Western Europe? Was it increased service speed due to more efficient hull design?

 

Was it online booking?

 

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It probably depends on your definition of innovation - online book and hull design are two completely distinct entities - there has probably been a lot of innovations in the shipping industry, things coming up are things like twisted rudders, new paints - but outside of the industry, these innovations are not exactly well known - a new paint saving a couple of percent in efficiency isn;t the most exciting thing...

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Ok so apart from the uber-comfortable cabins of the Stena Hollandica, where is the innovation?

 

 

In what context? Ferryman, Skipcool and myself have illustrated design, comfort, safety & cleaner more environmentally friendly fuels.

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I'm not so sure whether the "average passenger" knows what fuel the ship uses or whether the vessel is safer. It just seems that sometimes the Ro-Ro industry is a little bit staid. For example, you have the cruise ship industry launching all these innovations like iMax cinemas, observation pods, smart card payment systems and even robotic bar tenders on board. The airline industry has introduced state-of-the art entertainment systems on board their aircraft along with ambient lighting and innovative on board accommodation. All of these innovations add novelty and a wow factor to the travel experience.

 

In the context of BF, in the first few years of Bretagne's service, people used to describe her with superlatives maybe because the cruise-ferry concept was fresh and new to them. A classic example of innovation that gets people talking. But it just seems a while since the industry has had another "Bretagne" moment.

Edited by zuludelta
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I'm not so sure whether the "average passenger" knows what fuel the ship uses or whether the vessel is safer. It just seems that sometimes the Ro-Ro industry is a little bit staid. For example, you have the cruise ship industry launching all these innovations like iMax cinemas, observation pods, smart card payment systems and even robotic bar tenders on board. The airline industry has introduced state-of-the art entertainment systems on board their aircraft along with ambient lighting and innovative on board accommodation. All of these innovations add novelty and a wow factor to the travel experience.

 

In the context of BF, in the first few years of Bretagne's service, people used to describe her with superlatives maybe because the cruise-ferry concept was fresh and new to them. A classic example of innovation that gets people talking. But it just seems a while since the industry has had another "Bretagne" moment.

 

Well if you are looking at that angle then the last "big" innovation would probably be WiFi at Sea.

 

Some of the big cruise ferries like the Color Magic probably are quite innotive, but the market for that route isn't quite the same as BF market

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Stena Line have its cyber zone for teenagers - video and other electronic games. There is also their living room concept - a room with a large video wall showing the news, free magazines and wi fi. Brittany Ferries has its new dog walking areas and new kennels! Plus take a look at Viking Grace and her onboard spec....plenty of brght open twin leven spaces, innovative lighting and new themed restaurant concepts. Northlink Ferries also have their new sleeping pod/ reclining chair concept

Edited by Nick Hyde
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If you are looking for something simple that has made the experience better for passengers then maybe the little cards given out to drivers to remind them on which deck and by which stairwell they parked would be a candidate. I don't recall my father being given such cards in the 80s and 90s so assume it must be a response the the growing size and complexity of vessels. Plus, Zuludelta, you specifically referenced the RO-RO industry so it needs to be an innovation that foot passengers (on either passenger-only services or travelling without a car) would not be aware of or benefit from (so that eliminates online booking for example). Ed

Edited by Cabin-boy
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I am over 6ft tall and a large bloke and one area I would like to see improved is the amount of space they allow each car to be able to get out/in safely/comfortably on busy crossings. You often see parents with young children really struggling trying to get their children and associated "junk" out of their cars.

 

Perhaps dedicated parking areas for "Parent & Child" and "Blue Badge" holders.

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If we were to widen the discussion to include innovation for foot passengers I would say "not much recently" – but am still hoping to see some kind of baggage handling service. On Eurostar, I can trundle the bags round to the registered baggage office (on a trolley) at SPI and collect them at GdN or Midi (admittedly 10min to/from the platform exit, but on wheels all the way) and don't need to manhandle them on/off the train. Why not offer something similar on a cruise ferry service – thus also promoting green (no car required) aspects of the service.

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Electronic cabin keys? (Or were they around prior to 2000?)

 

From new both Normandie and Bretagne were fitted with the plastic Ving key system, and from memory I'm pretty sure MSM was too. So electronic cabin keys are a recent "innovation", doubling up as a boarding card, and basically rendering the Club Voyage loyalty card obsolete as you used to have to present it at the till to get the 10% restaurant discount. Yes that's progress, but get them too close to your mobile device and it's back down to information for a new one......😳

 

Chris

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I don't want robot bar tenders. I do like quiet comfortable cabins that don't rattle and creak..... hence the mentioning of the Stena and Fjord line ships.

Stena have a catered /plated way of serving food a bit like on an aircraft.... doesn't excite me at all.....

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I guess there is a limit to what new exciting options one can offer. 27 years ago Silja and Viking Line have already brought us different themed Restaurants and even an indoor theme park on the car deck of Athena, Color Line waterparks and professional show cabaret in the mid noughties and Birka Line some sort of artificial sun beach in their 2nd newbuild (if memory serves me rightly).

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I do like quiet comfortable cabins that don't rattle and creak.....

 

And so from a BF point of view, Armorique is definitely a step in the right direction, with the quietest, least rattly cabins in the whole fleet although MSM's are pretty good too. If you happen to be in cabins at the stern of both Bretagne and Normandie then you may find your sleep interrupted, and going back even further in time both the Duc de Normandie and Quiberon were fine ships for their era, but again if you were unlucky enough to be in a cabin anywhere remotely near the engine room, then you may as well have been in the engine room.......

 

Chris

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...get them too close to your mobile device and it's back down to information for a new one......😳

 

Chris

 

Indeed - I have discovered that on several occasions! There needs to be a warning on them about that.

 

I thought they might have been relatively recent because my previous overnight ferry crossing to one in Pont Aven in 2013 was from Felixstowe to Zeebrugge aboard Nordic Ferry in the early 90s. Back then we had to collect proper keys from reception (and give them back in in the morning)!

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Indeed - I have discovered that on several occasions! There needs to be a warning on them about that.

 

I thought they might have been relatively recent because my previous overnight ferry crossing to one in Pont Aven in 2013 was from Felixstowe to Zeebrugge aboard Nordic Ferry in the early 90s. Back then we had to collect proper keys from reception (and give them back in in the morning)!

 

 

The first time I travelled on North Sea Ferries I was issued a proper key. Norstar, I think? It was the same to Esbjerg from Newcastle before they built the terminal building and we walked through a big blue shed type structure.

 

I remember the grey plastic cabin keys on Bretagne, the Val and PoB also on the Newcastle-Bergen & Gothenburg runs. They could snap easily in your back pocket.

 

The system used now will be phased out on new builds. Assa Abloy now produce a proximity swipe system which is being introduced, the "VingCard Essence" no less! The electronics are in the door rather than the handle and can be operated by a smart phone. Ideal for those who carry their ticket on their device rather than physically print off a booking confirmation.

 

I'm sure Tallink's new girl has them.

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This isn't an innovation, but worthy of mention nonetheless.

 

We travelled St Malo - Portsmouth & return in November, outbound by day in a Commodore cabin (Bretagne), return by night in a 2 berth outside cabin (Pont Aven). The cost was around £325.

 

I've just had a look at the 1977 BF brochure. The closest comparable booking would have cost £114, but when you apply an inflation calculator, you get £741 (x 6.5).

 

So, my point is that value-for-money wise, you get a pretty good deal these days. OK, the same is true for airline travel, but the BF product is so much more attractive than it was 40 years ago.

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