ON BOARD FANTASIA AS STENA FANTASIA
& AS P&OSL CANTERBURY
3: THE DOME, SIDE LOUNGE, UPPER LOBBY & OUTSIDE DECKS
e-mail: matt@hhvferry.com
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Above left: Fantasia in 1990 - looking up to the upper lobby from the main staircase, with the entrance to the Rock Box and the sign on the deckhead above. (Picture courtesy Ewan Wood)
Above right: The same area during a night crossing on the ship as P&OSL Canterbury. Advertising boards have at some stage been added to the exposed area of the upper deck, whilst the entrance to the video games Mega Drome is visible. A metallic 'spiders' web' pattern has replaced the Rock Box signage on the ceiling, but a semi-circle of lights remain.
Above: Within a couple of years of the Fantasia's introduction, the Rock Box disco on Deck 4 was closed. In the winter 1992/93 refit the space was divided with a video games area in the starboard portion whilst the port half came into use as a crew mess room. Stena builder's plans from this period indicate that the latter retained the orginal circular booth seating for crew use. The starboard side games area (later the 'Video Warp' in Stena Line terminology) made no use of the dome itself, which remained concealed from both of the new sections.

By the 1993/94 winter refit period, plans had been drawn up to convert the dome areas on both ships to observation lounges. Whilst this was in fact carried out on the
Fiesta (the area becoming the Galaxy Bar), on Stena Fantasia no work was ultimately done.

The plan above is an extract from a 1993
Stena Fantasia deckplan demonstrating how the Rock Box was divided up. At the same time, the small side lounge became a new Business Class lounge with associated conference room.
Above: After the P&O-Stena merger, the Video Warp became known as the Coca-Cola Mega Drome (above - complete with Stena-era neon), whilst the remainder of the space beneath the dome was in latter use as a crew changing area and crew gymnasium as well as for duty free storage. It was in this state that the area completed its service for P&O Ferries in May 2003.

The
Fantasia's dome was a missed opportunity in every respect. The general lack of quiet spaces on board, especially after the conversion of the adjacent side lounge to Business Class in 1992, was magnified by the self-consciously loud nature of the Stena Line experience. Had the 1994 conversion to an observation lounge gone ahead, as on Fiesta, then this could still have been improved. After the P&O Stena merger, when much money was spent on upgrading the fleet generally and the P&OSL Canterbury specifically, the opportunities for the dome remained unrealised - the potential as a larger Club Lounge than the rather small one located again in the side lounge does not appear to have been considered.

The end result was that, during a 13 year Channel career, at no stage was the dome itself ever revealed from within, being constantly hidden beyond what became a permanent false ceiling. For the ship's passengers, it may as well never have existed.
Above: Looking across to starboard in the upper lobby on P&OSL Canterbury. The entrance to the Mega Drome is to the left whilst the Channel Shopping Centre is accessed down the main staircase to the right. The main light fittings here are the original Platner-designed saucers, whilst the flooring is P&O Stena laminate.
A story regarding this space during construction was that, as part of a cost-cutting exercise, Sealink's then owners Sea Containers wished to leave the area enclosed without the large floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the outside deck. This would have undermined the desired "light and space" impression inherent throughout the ship's interiors, but would doubtless have saved substantial amounts of money. In the end, management was informed that the steel had already been cut, so the upper lobby was saved in the 'as visualised' state.
Above: Another view of the upper lobby from the P&O Stena days, this time across to port.
Below: A final view, this time taken from the mid-level of the staircase, looking to port. The semi-circular sweep of three different sets of lights can be seen: those to the left are spotlights onto the Shopping Centre signage. The white oval door in the background leads into one of a pair of adjacent telephone boxes, which were taken out of service in later years.
Above & below: Two rather earnestly posed views of purposeful-looking passengers making use of the Business Class Lounge as it appeared after the 1992/93 refit when it replaced the small quiet lounge. The old lounge was divided in two for its new purpose with a general lounge area (as pictured) aft of a small conferenc room (behind the retractable partition in the background of the picture above) (Picture above courtesy Guy Blanchout)
Above & below: After the merger with P&O, Business Class was speedily but attractively refitted to provide a Club Lounge in line with the ship's new fleetmates.
Above & below: Two views of the Deck 4 outside deck space during the ship's P&OSL Canterbury days - other than the addition of a deck bar at the base of the mast when the ship was Stena Fantasia (this happened as early as 1991 but was later removed) the scene here is largely unchanged from when the ship entered service as Fantasia.
Above: Looking down the shapely staircase from Deck 5 down to Deck 4 during a lay-over in Calais.
Below: A close-up of some Stena Fantasia detailing: the use of large floor-to-ceiling windows was an original Fantasia design element, with oval shapes used primarily for doorways. The wooden bench seating is also original, but the 'Sun Deck' window decoration was an early example of Stena's influence, appearing in the early 1990s and remaining into the Polferries era.
Below: Disembarking from the P&OSL Canterbury in Calais, March 2001.