Sunday, 19 May 2013

Ship Profiles 7: Lefort

Name: Lefort
Built: 1835
Lenght: 58,3m
Beam: 15,6m
Type: sailing ship

Lefort was a warship of the Imperial Russian Navy, named after admiral Franz Lefort. She was a part of the Baltic fleet, and participated in the Crimean war.

After serving successfully for over twenty years, on the 22nd of September, 1857, she was sailing from Revel, now known as Tallinn, to Kronstadt, carrying the crew and their families. The sea was rough, and a gust of wind caused her to heel over and sink in only minutes, killing all 826 people on board. It was the deadliest shipwreck in the Baltic Sea until the sinking of Estonia almost 140 years later.

There is several theories about why she sank so fast. The ship's structures may have been weakened from carrying heavy loads and lack of proper maintenance. The cargo she was carrying may have been distributed poorly. Another theory says that the gun ports were open, letting in water when the ship listed.

On the 4th of May 2013, while searching for WW2 submarines, a group of divers found her wreck. It was quite well preserved. Remains of the people on board were found inside and on the wreck, which means that people probably tried to survive by climbing on the side of the heeled ship. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Ship Profiles 6: Cristal

The ship I'm about to introduce you is special because she has been rebuilt entirely many times, the only thing that has stayed the same is the IMO number, which is used to identify a ship.

Name: MS Viking Saga
IMO number: 7827213
Built: 1980
Lenght: 145,2m
Beam: 25,4m
Draught: 5,5m

Tonnage: 14,330 GT
Type: Cruiseferry
Speed: 21,3 knots

Capacity: 2000 passengers, 426 cars
Sister: Viking Song, now known as Regina Baltica

The Viking Saga, along with her sister Viking Song was one of the first genuine cruiseferries to follow Finnjet. Her design was heavily influenced by Finnjet as well. In 1979 - 1981 the traffic on Turku-Stockholm and Helsinki-Stockholm routes was increased a lot when both Viking Line and Silja Line put several new cruiseferries on the routes. Viking Saga was one of them, entering the Helsinki - Stockholm route and serving there for 6 years, until she was replaced by Olympia.

In 1986 she was rebuilt into a cruise ship, although she still kept her cardeck. She was renamed Sally Albatross and she was used for cruises on the Baltic Sea under the brand Sally Cruises.
In 1988 she was rebuilt again, more rooms were added from the cardeck and her outer appearance was changed remarkably, to a more streamlined and round appearance.
After the 1986 and 1988 refits her stats had changed:

Name: Sally Albatross
Lenght: 145,18m
Tonnage: 15,179 GT
Type: Cruise ship
Capacity: 1016 passengers

She served as a cruise ship like that for two years.

In 1992, when she was docked in Sweden for a small interior reconstruction, a fire broke out. The sprinkler system was turned off for the docking, all water sources were dry and the watchman had just left for lunch. Since gas was used for the construction, extinction from inside the ship was very dangerous, and so the crew was evacuated and firefighting continued from outside the ship, which burned for three days. Luckily, no lives were lost. Here's a video about the fire.

And some photos of Sally Albatross after the fire. She was damaged beyond repair.

The remains were cut into pieces, and transported to Rauma, Finland, where the ship was rebuilt from the remains, leaving only the engines and the part of the hull below the waterline in tact. The new ship was longer and now a genuine cruise ship with no cardeck. Many sources count the result of this a new ship, but the IMO number and name remained the same. Most of the stats changed though:

Lenght: 158,9m
Beam: 25,2m
Draught: 5,6m
Tonnage: 25,076 GT
Type: Cruise ship
Speed: 19 knots
Decks: 9 passenger decks
Capacity: 1452 passengers

After the new ship was ready, in 1992, she started doing Baltic Sea cruises similar to what she did before. In July she was used as a hotel and conference ship for Barcelona Summer Olympics. After the charter, she joined Silja Line's fleet, although her name and livery were kept the same. 

In 1994 Sally Albatross ran aground near Porkkala. Her passengers were evacuated and she was left on the spot. Preparations to refloat her started immediately, but it proved to be difficult, taking over a month. It was once again a lucky accident, because no lives were lost. 

After she was refloated and repaired, she was chartered to Norwegian Cruise Line until 2000 and renamed Leeward. She started doing Caribbean cruises in 1995. 

In 2000 she was chartered to Star Cruises, renamed Superstar Taurus and used for cruises in Asia, until in 2001 the charter contract was broken, leaving her in Silja Line's fleet again. She sailed back to Europe and her interior was rebuilt for Baltic Sea cruises. She was then renamed Silja Opera and repainted to Silja Line's livery, and in 2002 she started cruising on Baltic Sea once again. 

She was already infamous for all the accidents, and it was made worse when she collided with three ships in St. Petersburg, and a couple of months later with a Russian icebreaker. Therefore the cruises on her turned out to be unpopular and she was put up for sale. 

In 2007, she was sold to Louis Cruise Lines and renamed Cristal. Ever since she has been doing Mediterranean cruises.

Finally,  here's a before-and-after view of the same ship as she was built and as she is now.


Monday, 6 May 2013

Isabelle update - new route!

Just a couple of minutes ago, Isabelle set sail for the first time on her new, Riga-Stockholm route. In the meanwhile she was in Tallinn for a couple of weeks for maintenance and repainting. Her funnel was painted white and a Tallink logo was added. The yellow Viking Line square was removed from the bow, and the Viking Line logo on the sides was replaced by a Tallink logo.

Nothing has been announced yet about the future of Silja Festival.

Farewell, Silja Festival. Hope to see you again soon!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Ship Profiles 5: Allure of the Seas

Name: MS Allure of the Seas
IMO number: 9383948
Built: 2010
Lenght: 362m
Beam: 65m
Draught: 9,3m

Tonnage: 225,282 GT
Type: Cruise ship
Speed: 22,6 knots

Decks: 16 passenger decks
Capacity: max. 6,296 passengers
Sister: Oasis of the Seas
Status: In service

Allure of the Seas, along with her sister Oasis of the seas, is mostly known for being the largest cruise ship in the world. Allure is actually some 5cm longer though, probably caused by temperature changes at the shipyard. There have not been any major events during her career, except several dangerous crossings during her voyage from Turku, where she was built, to her home at Port Everglades in Florida. The most notable of them was passing under the Storebaelt bridge. She had to pull in her funnels, and according to some sources, there was only 30cm of water under her at some point, which is not true though. There was actually several meters of it. Her operator, Royal Caribbean, recently announced a new class of cruise ships, first one to be finished next year, but they will not beat the size record. There have been several projects and discussions of possible new cruise ships larger than the Oasis and the Allure, but so far nothing very serious has been announced. A cruise ship as large as her obviously fits a lot, but I will not describe it all in text, because it will get too long and boring. Instead, here's some pictures for you to enjoy. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

The cruise season is on!

On Tuesday, the 30th of April, the cruise season opened in Tallinn. I've been looking forward to all the beautiful cruise ships for months now, I even printed out the schedule and chose the ships I definitely want to see. The first one to call in Tallinn this season was Astor.

Astor (not my photo)
I didn't go to meet her because I already unintentionally saw her in Helsinki. But the next day I did go to see the MSC Musica sitting at the cruise quay, and I found a very good spot for watching hardly 50 m away from the quay. A whole separate experience was her blowing the horn when she started to leave.

MSC Musica in Tallinn

Of the ships that are yet to come I'm looking forward to the Cunard Queens, Prinsendam and other Holland America Line ships, Mein Schiff, and most importantly, Aidabella and Aidamar. Now there's even more reasons to grab the camera and go to the seaside. ☺

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Experience: Viking XPRS

Last weekend, I had the honour to visit Helsinki and even stay for a night. The Tallinn-Helsinki route is the busiest in the Baltic Sea, and among passenger routes, one of the busiest in the world. As I've mentioned before, it's crossed by several ships every day, and I crossed it on Viking XPRS twice this weekend.

Viking XPRS
Shortly before boarding

I have also mentioned that I've been on Viking XPRS very many times (now 12), starting from July 2011. I always end up choosing her, because she's the only Viking Line ferry here, she's quite new, and Viking Line has the easiest rules for underage travelling, the best harbour spots in both Helsinki and Tallinn, and it's much more affordable than the market leader Tallink. I don't want to yell out that they have the best price-quality ratio, because I don't have any experience with Eckerö Line and I can't remember much from my last time with Tallink either.

For some reason I still have most of the tickets.
As soon as I got on the ship, I immediately rushed to the sun deck. It's very large on Viking XPRS - it has four levels, covering up large areas in the stern. For me, it serves as the perfect place to take photos while leaving the harbour.
Sun deck
At the time of my trip, Viking Line had some French Weeks campaign going on. Since I didn't stay overnight on the ship, I probably missed the best of it, but my general impression was good, as always. The ship is maintained very well. I usually spend my time sitting near the bow, in the Blue Deli restaurant, but this time I chose to go to the Dance Pavilion instead. There was less people there and music was playing quietly, making it a good environment to just sit and enjoy. Another favourite spot of mine is near the large window. When the weather is nice, I just stay on the sun deck, but this time it was a bit too cold and windy. During the return journey, since it was an evening departure, the Dance Pavilion was much more crowded and there was some really nice live music, and some old couples were dancing to it. Later on I was forced to leave the Dance Pavillion to see if I could charge my phone somewhere - and surprisingly, I didn't have to look for a socket for a long time. Some were in very bad locations, but since there was many, I could choose the best spot. While looking, I saw a clown roaming around freely on the ship. It made me think that it's impossible to be in a bad mood on that ship.
I felt very welcome.
Dance Pavilion
Dance Pavilion window
The big window
When we left, Silja Europa was in, and also Isabelle, who is here for maintenance before entering her new route. Star had just left 30 minutes before. I also noticed Linda Line's Karolin leaving at the same time as us, and already on her way back when we arrived to Helsinki.
Star leaving
The gorgeous Silja Europa at home
Isabelle having her livery changed, step by step, from Viking Line to Tallink...
Before I forget, a few more words about Isabelle: She's currently still sitting in Tallinn, her funnel was painted white and has the Tallink logo, and the Tallink logo is also on her sides, so she will stay red, it seems. Quite a pity, a red ship is a very Viking Line thing, so it's not a very good step by Tallink. Isabelle is entering the Riga - Stockholm route on 6. May. No news about Silja Festival yet.

Karolin in Tallinn
Karolin in Helsinki (and you can find Star if you look carefully)
On the sea I also saw Superstar returning from Helsinki and far ahead I noticed Gabriella, who had arrived to Helsinki shortly before we did. Silja Serenade was also there, and as we entered the harbor, we had a small ferry named Tor racing us for a few minutes. 

Superstar on sea
Silja Serenade
When I got off in Helsinki, I noticed a cruise ship there. When I looked at the name, it felt familiar. Then I remembered that I had seen it on the cruise ship schedule of the Tallinn harbour, and so it was - When the cruise season opened here a few days ago, she was the first ship to call. 

The best view of Astor

The next day Gabriella and Silja Serenade had left for Stockholm; Mariella and Serenade's sister Silja Symphony had come to Helsinki. When I left for Suomenlinna on board Suomenlinna II, I got great pictures of both of them. At Suomenlinna I also spotted Linda Line's Merilin arriving to Helsinki. 

Suomenlinna II
A closeup of Suomenlinna II
Merilin arriving
Silja Symphony from the sea
Silja Symphony from the shore
And a little bit closer