|ON BOARD FANTASIA & FIESTA AS BUILT:
2: THE MAIN LOBBY, ROCK BOX DISCO & LAY-BY LOUNGE
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|DECKS 3 & 4 AMIDSHIPS - THE MAIN AND UPPER LOBBIES|
|Fantasia and Fiesta's main lobby, complete with information and bureau de change desks, was of a unique size, spaciousness and design. Located in the very centre of the main passenger deck, Deck 3, the designer's theme of attracting visitors using simple, appealing visual tools was critical here. In some of his most famous previous works, Platner had been able to create a simple sequence of successively impressive spaces leading into the final 'location' room. On these ferries, however, there would be no chance for such a logical sequence. Rather than heading for just the one place to which they could be guided, passengers would generally be stubbornly aware of exactly which of a variety of places they wished to head for - the bar, the duty free, the cafeteria etc. Instead therefore the challenge would be to offer people the choices of where to go, and then take the theme of what they experienced from there.
First impressions still counted for something however, and foot passengers boarding the ship in Calais would emerge into the lobby. This therefore took on the dual role of defining instantly the nature and style of the exciting new ship that the passenger was boarding, as well as being a central orientation point to direct people around.
With the former in mind, Platner took his lead from a somewhat romanticised impression of what an ocean liner lobby might have looked like were it created in the 1990s and interpreted in a distinctly modern way. Hence the space was dominated by a large 'grand staircase' which swept up centrally to a mid-point where it fed into the duty free complex before branching off on either side to curve upwards to the upper lobby. On the lower level itself, the unusually large information and change desks were grandly topped with ample, curved marble counters. As with the rest of the ship, floor-to-ceiling windows were provided on either beam, the effect being amplified by the whole space having a significantly greater ceiling height than the other passenger areas.
Taking up the importance of the lobby as an orientation centre, a pair of large full-profile deckplans were hung from the deckhead on either side of the centreline. A totally unique feature, these included the simple decorative images the Platner team had created to represent each of the spaces on board.
Completing the decor was the unique Belgium-made carpet. Inspired by the Disney cartoon Fantasia, this featured white and gold stars on a blue background and was continued throughout the shopping centre and side arcades leading back to the aft bar.
Ironically, after the rebuilding and standardising of Calais' Berth 5 not long after the ships entered service, foot passengers on both Fantasia and Fiesta would instead enter in the rather less impressive location of the starboard-side alleyway adjacent to the self-service cafeteria. Nevertheless, the lobby itself, which has stayed fundamentally unchanged throughout both ships' careers, remains an important orientation and rendezvous point as well as being an impressive space in its own right.
|"Such finishing features as the grand curved stairs sweeping down to the foyer hark back to the ocean liners of a bygone age, and all the comfort that implies. You might think all this would cost the earth... but the Fantasia and Fiesta cost exactly the same as our regular cross-Channel tariff" (SBF 1990 Ferry Guide)|
|Top: Seen in 1990 is the main lobby on Fiesta. This view is looking forward from the mid-level of the staircase, outside the Shopping Complex. Straight ahead is the central entrance to the seating area of the Relais Gourmet self-service (Speedy Gourmet on Fantasia), flanked by the change (left/port) and information desks (right/starboard). Upstairs, the entrance to the Rock Box disco is visible, Platner's unique deckhead-mounted logo for this making quite clear exactly what and where it is.|
|Above: The information desk on Fantasia, seen in the inaugural 1990 season. Essentially the same as that of Fiesta, Sealink British Ferries have seen fit to add a much larger 'Information' sign. Unfortunately this has been rather clumsily executed: the Dover workshop's handiwork has produced a non-standard, rather angular Sealink logo, whilst the original Platner 'purple blob' sign has been left in place, being inherent in the design of the shelving feature on the forward wall. This sign is now essentially concealed by the new addition, but the original targeted spotlights have been left in place.
Last seen in the children's playroom, Sammy Sealink makes another appearance on the front of the counter, this time encouraging children to join his Commodore Club. "Ahoy there me hearties" begins his rather predictable sales patter.
Looming from the deckhead on the upper right of the picture is the starboard-side version of the hanging deckplan. (Picture courtesy Ewan Wood)
|Above & below: Fantasia and Fiesta details. (Above) Stills from the animated movie Fantasia (© Disney) showing the sorcerer's hat which inspired the carpetting in the F-class lobby and shopping centre. (Below) One of Platner's 'purple blob' signs from the main lobby, this time from the Bureau de Change, and curving wall feature, still in place aboard Seafrance Cézanne.|
|Above: Fantasia's port-side hanging deckplan in its original guise, showing the complete array of facilities on board - this was the first effective use of standard on-board branding and imagery on a cross-channel ferry, years before the 'Brand World' of P&O Stena Line. For the deckplans, the Motorists' Haven has regressed somewhat in status, becoming merely a standard Sealink Motorists' Lounge. Even though the deckplans were subsequently removed on both ships, the dedicated lighting that illuminated them remained in place. (Picture courtesy Ewan Wood)|
|"In the centre of the ship is the vast reception hall: the Foyer will make you think, "which direction to go?" Geographical and nerve centre of the ship, it offers multiple services (information, bureau de change) and gives
access to all the other areas." (Sealink/SNAT 1990 Ferry Guide)
|Above: Section of an original Fiesta plan showing the main lobby, its extra deck height compared to the cafeteria forward and the sloping walkway leading aft, past the shopping centre. The increased height of the foyer was achieved partly at the expense of the upper lobby on the deck above, the latter requiring a small downward stairway to link into the small starboard side Lay By Lounge just forward which resumed the level of the ships' original freighter passenger accommodation.|
|Above & below: Pictures from later in the ships' careers (after significant decorative but not structural adjustments) show the main staircase at the aft of the lobbies on Fantasia (as P&OSL Canterbury, above) and Fiesta (as Seafrance Cézanne, below). This was perhaps the keynote of the modernised and deeply romanticised ocean liner concepts Warren Platner had in mind - a fascinating stab at recreating the era of the grand descent from the classic days of the premium ocean liners (albeit in somewhat miniaturised form) on a space-restricted modern ro-ro ferry.
When creating the dramatic spiral staircase linking the two levels of the iconic original Double Room on the Queen Elizabeth 2, designer Jon Banneberg commented, "I wanted... a vast staircase, something which women could sweep down, feeling elegant and regal. I wanted an epic staircase". Comparable in inspiration if not function, Platner's grand staircases for Fantasia and Fiesta, linking the main lobby, shopping centre and the upper lobby, are equally epic in their own right - neither before nor since has any cross-channel ferry featured such bold deviations from design norms.
|DECK 4 AMIDSHIPS - THE SKY DOME (Rock Box) & UPPER LOBBY|
|Prior to the Rock Box on board Fantasia and Fiesta, the last Sealink Dover Strait ships to feature a dedicated discotheque were the Hengist and Horsa of 1972. These had never been considered a particular success and were eventually converted into video lounges. The fundamental problem appears to have been that, whilst enterprising interior designers could come up with areas they felt would appeal immediately to the 'teenage market', in many cases the end result was at best vaguely patronising, regardless of the merit of the designs themselves. It could have been that the question no-one asked was: do these pigeon-holed adolescents really wish to spend the relatively short crossing to or from France in a disco, most likely in the middle of the day? Sealink clearly believed that they did, but the second attempt would ultimately fare little better than the previous version.
The story of the Dome however is much more than merely another attempt at the cross-channel disco. Those teenagers able to drag themselves away from the dance floor for even just a couple of minutes would have noticed something rather amiss in their dedicated corner of the ship. Sealink's publicity proclaimed "our unique sky dome disco", yet the dome itself was hidden from view behind a false mirrored ceiling. One might indeed wonder, "why go to the trouble of building a giant dome on a ship and then hide it away?". The real answer lay amidst the ruins of one of the most ambitious schemes ever conceived for the interior of a ferry.
The Platner team and Sealink had actually come up with the idea of installing a 360 degree cinema on board the new sister ships. With the design work completed and construction actually in hand, the project was scuppered. Special licenses had to be obtained from Disney who owned the copyright on the 360 concept. They were apparently happy to sell the licenses, but would not sell Sealink any of the films to show - so Sealink would have had to make their own films
especially for the Fantasia and Fiesta. The cost would have been exorbitant, so the project was pulled, the Rock Box being completed beneath the dome instead.
At no stage does consideration appear to have been given to the potentially doubly nauseating effects of watching a 360 degree movie during a rough crossing...
The Rock Box was fitted out with juke boxes, vending machines and arcade games whilst surrounding the circular dance floor were a combination of red semi-circular booth seating and large free standing chairs. The general colour scheme was a dark blue with large moon and star insignia (matching the carpet in the adjacent lobby areas).
The disco was entered, through heavy windowless doors, from the upper lobby which was itself accessed from the main lobby on the main passenger deck below via Platner's 'Grand Staircase', with the entrance to the shopping area on a mid-level between the two. Dominating the upper lobby was a giant upturned Rock Box logo on the deckhead outside the disco's entrance, surrounded by flashing naked light bulbs.
|Below: 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)|
|"Teenagers head for their own special area, with juke box and refreshments, and revel in the atmosphere of our unique new sky dome...already it's been dubbed 'the liveliest spot on the channel." (SBF 1990 Ferry Guide)|
|Above: Detail from the original Fantasia deckplans, this area shows the aft outside deck (left/aft), the upper lobby, disco, side lounge (below right) as well as the remaining original cabins forward. The latter were retained to provide flexibility should the ships ever make their way to other Sealink crossings, and were latterly employed as part of the Live on Board crewing arrangements.|
|"On the Fiesta, teenagers or the less young will be able to have a 'Saturday night fever' anytime of the week in the Rock Box Disco." (Sealink/SNAT 1991 On-board Guide)|
|DECK 4 STARBOARD AMIDSHIPS - THE LAY-BY LOUNGE & RO-RO RESTAURANT|
|Above & Below: Adjacent to the Rock Box on the starboard side was this small seating area, the Lay By Lounge. This was the closest the ships came to having anything like a quiet lounge especially for foot passengers, for whom the forward Mototist's Haven was out of bounds. The only decorative element of note was an over-sized no-smoking sign at the aft end, near the entrance.
This room's decor combined the same carpet as was found in the lobby areas with seating arrangements similar to those of the Motorists' Haven. The discreet, somewhat out-of-the-way location of this space counted against it and many passengers failed to find it at all - within just a couple of years, the lounge was appropriated for use on both ships as Business Class (finally becoming the Club Lounge on the P&OSL Canterbury (ex-Fantasia)).
(Both pictures taken on board the Fiesta by Neil Tierney)
|Above: An overall view of the lobby on board the Fiesta. (Picture courtesy Guy Blanchout)|
|Below: Forward of the side lounge was a separate restaurant area for freight drivers, utilising the same free-standing chairs also seen in the self-service restaurant on the deck below. (Picture on board Fiesta courtesy M Fournet)|
|Below: Above the entrance to the shopping centre was a giant 'SHOPS' sign, more than a deck in height. (Picture on board Fiesta courtesy M Fournet)|