|The Romilda was originally built as the Free Enterprise VIII of Townsend Thoresen in 1974, for their Dover routes to Calais and Zeebrugge. She can be seen as something of a turning point in the history of the Townsend company - as the last of the 'original' Free Enterprise ships she marked the end of one era. The next new passenger vessel was the radical and revolutionary Spirit of Free Enterprise of 1980 (later P&OSL Kent), which was perhaps the start of what can be seen as the 'modern' era on the English Channel.
After the arrival of the Spirit class trio, the Free Enterprise VIII saw service largely on the Zeebrugge route. In 1985, TT acquired P&O Normandy Ferries and their Dover-Boulogne route. This had no impact on the 'FE VIII' until 1987 when things were reversed and TT was actually taken over by the P&O Group. Renamed Pride of Canterbury, she ended up serving out her career with the Pride of Hythe (originally Free Enterprise V) on the former Normandy Ferries Boulogne service. Even with the removal of Sealink's competing Folkestone link, this route always looked doomed with the impending opening of the Channel Tunnel and P&O's massive investment in the prime Calais service. So it was that Dover closed to Boulogne traffic at the start of 1993, just 20 years since the French port had been the most important and popular cross-channel destination.
The P&O ships, no longer needed in UK service, both found willing buyers, the Canterbury becoming the Romilda of GA Ferries (replacing her erstwhile Boulogne competitor, Hengist, which had briefly operated with the same name) whilst the Pride of Hythe moved to Cyprus as the Laburnum.