17 October 2016

Black Watch in Helsinki 15 September 2016

As most of you might have noticed, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines changed their livery for this year, with a new grey-hulled colour scheme, recalling the livery of their passenger liners of old (alas, with a darker shade of grey than the old one). This, of course, was a perfect excuse to photograph their ships again. Except, when the Black Watch's visit to Helsinki loomed, I realised I had never photographed the ship before (I have, on the other hand, photographed both sisters, the Boudicca and Albatros) before. So, this is also an excuse to do another one of the terribly long history entries.

Black Watch

IMO 7108930
Former names: Royal Viking Star, Westward, Star Odyssey, Black Watch
Built 1972, Wärtsilä Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 28 221 GT
Length 205,47 m
Width 25,19 m
Draugth 7,30 m
820 passengers
4 MAN/B&W diesels, combined 14 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

The Black Watch was built for Det Bergenske Dampskibsselskab (BDS), the Norwegian shipowner that were a partner in Hurtigruten, operated a ferry service from Bergen to Newcastle, and ran the cruise ship Meteor. The latter, however, was becoming outdated in the late 1960s, and in 1969 the company ordered a replacement from Wärtsilä in Helsinki, who at the time were building the first trio of ships for Royal Caribbean, but had never actually completed a cruise ship yet. However, after BDS had ordered their ship (originally planned to be named Stella Polaris, after what was probably BDS' most famous cruise ship), they were approached by two other Norwegian shipowners, Det Nordenfjeldske Dampskipsselskap (who were BDS' partners in Hurtigruten) and A.F. Klaveness & Co., who wished to establish a joint subsidiary with BDS for worldwide cruising. This was agreed on, and Royal Viking Line was formed, with the BDS ship renamed Royal Viking Star. Originally, the plan was for each of the three ships to carry the funnel colours of their respective owners as was done with Hurtigruten – in BDS' case, three white stripes on a black background – but in the end all three ships were painted with Royal Viking Line's funnel colours.

The Royal Viking Star entered service in June 1972, as the first ship of Royal Viking Line. The line, with their world-wide itineraries, quickly proved a success, and in 1981 the Royal Viking Star was sent for lengthening at the Seebeckwerft shipyard in West Germany. However, financially the result was less satisfactory. A.F. Klaveness had withdrawn from the consortium already in 1977, and in 1984 Royal Viking Line became a part of the burgeoning Kloster Cruise empire. With the arrival of new tonnage in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kloster decided that the original Royal Viking trio was ill-suited for needs of modern luxury cruising, and in 1991 the Royal Viking Star was transferred to the fleet of the sister company Norwegian Cruise Line as the Westward. In the NCL fleet the ship was used for week-long party cruises for the US market, a use it was singularly unsuited for.

In 1994 the ship was again transferred within the Kloster group, now to Royal Cruise Line, a more upmarket subsidy, becoming the Star Odyssey. Royal Cruise Line already operated the Star Odyssey's sister Royal Odyssey, originally the Royal Viking Sea. However, our ship's stint as the Star Odyssey was to prove short, as Kloster were facing acute financial difficulties, as a result of which the Star Odyssey was sold to Fred. Olsen in late 1996.

Fred. Olsen were, at the time, running a single-ship cruise operation aimed at the UK market using the 1966-vintage Black Prince. The company, however, felt there was much growth potential and were eager to secure a second ship to run alongside the Black Prince. The Star Odyssey fit their needs perfectly, and upon learning she was for sale the Olsens quickly secured her, renaming the ship Black Watch, after the Black Prince's original sister ship and running mate. The Black Watch was given a refit to bring its interiors up to the style of its new owners, and following teething problems the ship set into service comfortably. Indeed, such was the success of the Black Prince and Black Watch that in 2001 a third ship, the Braemar, was added.

Between April and June 2005, the Black Watch was re-engined at Blohm & Voss in Germany, adding to the ship's lifespan. Already before the refit, it had been made public that Fred. Olsen had purchased the Black Watch's sister Grand Latino (originally the Royal Viking Sky), which eventually joined the fleet as the Boudicca in February 2006.

The Black Watch remains in the Fred. Olsen fleet to date. There have been numerous rumours that the Olsens are looking to acquire newer ships to their fleet, and as the Black Watch is their oldest vessel, turning 45 next year; even with the new engines, the Black Watch is the likeliest candidates to leave the fleet to make way for new tonnage (alongside the slightly younger Boudicca).

The photos below show the Black Watch at the cruise quay at Helsinki Eteläsatama, and afterwards passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait after departure, on 15 September 2016. First photo taken from onboard the Tor (one of the ferries to Suomenlinna) and the rest from the ramparts of Kustaanmiekka. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

The Black Watch back at home, with the city's two most famous landmarks in the background.
The roman berries nicely match the ship's funnel colours.
An exceedingly fine-looking design that. And the grey hull is starting to grow on me, though I still think they should have picked a slightly lighter shade.
Thought the narrow bit...
...and onwards to the open sea!
Kships will return.

09 October 2016

Viking Grace in Turku, 20 June 2016

Viking Grace

IMO 9606900
Built 2013, STX Europe Turku, Finland
Tonnage 57 700 GT
Length 218,60 m
Width 31,80 m
Draught 6,80 m
Ice class 1 A Super
2 800 passengers
2 876 berths
530 lane metres of cars
1 275 lane metres of cargo
4 Wärtsilä dual fuel (LNG/diesel) engines, combined 30 400 kW
2 fixed-pitch propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Service speed 21,8 knots
Maximum speed 25,6 knots

I haven't featured too many exterior photos of the Viking Grace here, so now is the time for a change.  This set was taken on the same trip as the shots of the Baltic Princess departing from Turku featured here about two months ago. So, as can be obvious from the previous sentence, the shots here show the Viking Grace departing from Turku on the afternoon of 20 June 2016, photographed from Ruissalo (albeit not the exact same location as on the Baltic Princess shots). As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

If I ever have the chance to write a book on the history of Viking Line, this could be a potential cover image.
Even after almost four years in service, the Viking Grace's exterior still looks nicely futuristic to my eyes.
The foreground reeds are a nice addition, as always.
She's really surprisingly sleek.
The colours radically changed with the light coming from the other direction.
LNG tanks prominently visible, as always. The soon-to-come Megastar, with the tanks hidden in a more conventional location, will be an interesting comparison.
Kships will return.

02 October 2016

Isle of Arran interiors, 2 June 2016

In hindsight, it would have been smart to group my Scotland entries so that an entry on a ship's interiors follows immediately after an entry on the same ship's exteriors. Well, I didn't do it with the Isle of Arran, but there's still quite a lot of material left, so I can do it with some of the other ships.

Isle of Arran

IMO 8219554
Built 1984, Ferguson Ailsa Glasgow, United Kingdom
Tonnage 3 269 GT
Length 84,92 m
Width 16,24 m
Draught 3,20 m
652 passengers
62 cars
2 diesels
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 15 knots

For a history (and exterior images) of the Isle of Arran, see the first entry on the ship. The ship itself is an old and small thing, with only three public rooms all located on the same deck, so this will be fairly brief.

Deck 6 houses the navigation bridge.

Deck 5 has outer decks accessible for passengers and (presumably) crew spaces.

The forward outer deck offers nice views... with the passengers having somewhat different thoughts on the suitable attire for the weather.
The aft sun deck is much more sheltered, with superstructure forward and funnels on the sides keeping the wind out. But, of course, this also keeps the wind out.
Deck 4 is the deck with all the public rooms, plus kitchens aft.

There are two public rooms forward: a sitting lounge on the port side...
...and the Coffee Cabin starboard, where the servery also soubles as the ship's small shop.
Midships if the ship's Mariners restaurant, photographed here towards the bow and the connecting corridor to the lounges forward. The cafeteria-style servery area is (somewhat impractically) in a separate room aft of the main eatery space. (Overall, while I did like Calmac's ships and services onboard, the cafeteria serveries were hopelessly impractical for my Nordic sensibilities).
Deck 3 is the entrace deck, with some seating areas flanking the car deck.

Deck 2, then, is the main level of the car deck.

Kships will return.

24 September 2016

SNAV Andromeda in Sorrento, 11 May 2016

I was going through photos from earlier this year, and discovered there is a set taken during the Crystal Symphony cruise that I had not yet put up. So, since it's September, the night are getting dark and the weather is getting cold, let's take a look back to Italy in May.

SNAV Andromeda

IMO 8708402
Name history: Vindile, Pilen 3, SNAV Andromeda
Built 1988, Oskarshamn Nya Varv, Sweden (hull); Westmarin Mandal, Norway (outfitting)
Tonnage 332 GT
Length 37,01 m
Width 9,50 m
Draught 3,69 m
322 passengers
2 MTU diesels, combined 2 038 kW
2 waterjets
Speed 40,5 knots

The SNAV Andromeda started life in somewhat colder waters than the Mediterranean: it was built for the Swedish shipping company Nordström & Thulin in 1988 for their Gotlandslinjen subsidiary which, as the name suggests, operated between the Swedish mainland and Gotland. The ship's original name, Vindile, comes from the Gutasagan, a saga that records the history of Gotland before christianisation. According to the saga, the fastest viking ship possible - naturally owned by a man living on Gotland - was named Vindile, and thus the name was highly suitable for what was to my understanding the first fast ferry to serve Gotland.

After being officially named by Queen Silvia of Sweden, the Vindile entered service on routes from Visby to Nynäshamn and Västervik. Alas, the ship proved unreliable in windy weather, resulting in numerous cancelled departures. Thus, after just one summer season, the ship was sold to Konö maskinuthyrning in Stockholm, who chartered it out to Bornholmerpilen, a Danish company who placed the ship on a service linking Rønne (on the island of Bornholm) to Kastrup airport during the summer of 1989. The following spring, Bornholmerpilen bought the ship outright and renamed it Pilen 3. In 1991, the company moved their base of operations from Rønne to Malmö in Sweden, and the Pilen 3 was thus moved to a Malmö-Kastrup route. At this time the company was renamed simply Pilen Already within the same year, the Danish port was moved to central Copenhagen.

The opening of the Öresund Bridge in July 2000, bringing down Pilen's business model overnight. The Pilen 3 was laid up at Malmö until June 2001, when it was sold to the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), for service with their subsidiary SNAV (Società Navigazione Alta Velocità, freely translating as "High-Speed Shipping Company"). The Pilen 3 was thus renamed SNAV Andromeda, in keeping with SNAV's celestial naming tradition. I couldn't find a record of which routes the SNAV Andromeda has sailed on with SNAV, but when I photographed it the ship was sailing on the route linking Sorrento to Capri.

The photos below show the SNAV Andromeda on the Gulf of Naples shortly after departing Sorrento, photographed from onboard the Crystal Symphony. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Sorrento was impressive, to say at least, when viewed from onboard. I only got a quick glimpse of the town when traversing it by bus, so I'm not sure how great it was to visit. (I had just rejoined the Crystal Symphony from what Ralph Grizzle described as "the longest shore excursion ever" and was too exhausted to return on shore).
From its days as the Vindile until the early SNAV era, the ship had dark stripes painted along the windows. That was probably a preferred look, as the current livery somehow makes the ship look very old (though I do like the dark hull).
Alas, the ship kelp roughly the same distance from us while it was in my field of view, so you're getting pretty much the same view of the ship on all photos - but I think the different background make up for it.
Kships will return.

19 September 2016

Mercandia IV in Helsingborg, 13 April 2016

Mercandia IV

IMO 8611685
Name history: Superflex November, Mercandia IV
Built 1989, North East Shipbuilders Ltd. Southwick, United Kingdom
Tonnage 2 296 GT
Length 95,80 m
Width 17,00 m
Draught 3,61 m
400 passengers
170 cars or 16 lorries and 85 cars
10 Cummins diesels, combined 2 750 kW
2 azimuthing pods at both ends
Speed 14 knots

The Mercandia IV is a member of the ubiquitous superflex class, a total of 15 examples of which were delivered by the North East Shipbuilders of Southwick and Appledore Ferguson of Appledore for the Danish company PZ Trading between 1987 and 1990. Our ship was laid down as the Superflex November in May 1988, launch the followed December and completed in February 1989. However, there was no need for additional tonnage of the superflex type at this time, and the ship was laid up at the builders. In May the ship was sold to Mercandia, and in July it was moved to Fredericia, Denmark, for further layup. Around the same time the ship was renamed Mercandia IV.

Eventually, the Mercandia IV was activated in November 1990 for service with Kattegatbroen (a Mercandia subsidiary) on the Danish internal service between Juelsminde and Kalundborg. The ship remained on that service until the end of May 1996, when it was transferred to a different Mercandia subsidiary, Sundsbroen (literally "The Sound Bridge") for service between Helsingborg and Helsingør, extering service from the beginning of June.

In April 1997, Sundsbroen was taken over by a newly-formed Danish-Swedish company and renamed HH-Ferries. As the only competitor to the state-owned Scandlines consortium, HH-Ferries marketed themselves as "the monopoly breakers". The new operator took the Mercandia IV, and its sister Mercandia VIII sailing on the same route, under charter. In March 1999, HH-Ferries purchased both ships, only to be bought out themselves by Stena Line in autumn 2001. Stena had also taken over as the Swedish partner of Scandlines in 2000. Never the less, it was not until 2009 that an official collaboration between Scandlines and HH-Ferries was came to be.

The Mercandia IV appears to have remained on the Helsingborg-Helsingør -route since 1996, albeit not without incident: in September 2006 it collided with the Sundbuss Pernille. The Mercandia IV suffered only minor damage to its bow visor, but three people on the Sundbuss Pernille were injured. In January-February 2012, meanwhile, the Mercandia IV was rebuilt with a new cafeteria. In April 2015, both the Scandlines and HH-Ferries ships sailing on the Helsingborg-Helsingør -route were taken over by the Australian investment company First State. For the time being, this has not had an effect on the ships' day-to-day operations, and the dual brands of Scandlines and HH-Ferries still remain in use.

The photos below show the Mercandia IV arriving at Helsingborg's Knutpunkten terminal on the evening of 13 April 2016, photographed from the breakwater outside the port. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Arriving at the terminal, with the Tycho Brahe visible in the background on the left.
Noticethe windows of the 2012-added cafeteria on the right. I also got a fairly neat shot of the Mercandia IV and Tycho Brahe together soon after this one - but a big drop of water had landed on the lens soon after taking this shot without my noticing it, rendering the subsequent shots largely unusable.
Kships will return.