ON BOARD FANTASIA & FIESTA AS BUILT:
4: OUTSIDE DECKS AND CAR DECKS
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OUTSIDE DECKS
THE VEHICLE DECKS
Above and below: The vast open deck space aft on Deck 4, seen on Fantasia in 1990. This was accessed from the main lobby outside the Rock Box and featured extensive wooden bench seating. Also visible is the skylight which flooded light into the centre section of the Samba Bar on the deck below. Note the figures carrying out maintenance on top of the dome in the picture above.

As early as 1991 several changes were made to this scene: the ship lost the sand-coloured decking, it becoming a more easily maintainable green; metal railings were placed around the skylight to prevent passengers from clambering on it (and looking down on passengers in the bar); and at the base of the functional but stylish main mast a deck bar was installed - an early example of Stena's influence over their new acquisition.

In their initial seasons, it was also possible to venture forward on this deck along the open side promenades beneath the lifeboats and alongside the crew cabins forward of the dome. On the
Fantasia this was fairly quickly closed off, and this later proved the case on Fiesta as well. (Picture above courtesy Ewan Wood)
Below: The aft deck on Fiesta in its very early days when the deck was grey in colour. Visible here are the stand-alone light fittings located at each corner of the skylight which illuminated the centre area of deck. Image courtesy Neil Tierney
Below: The small section of deck aft of the bar on deck 4, one level beneath the bulk of the outside deck space. This was the area the Dover gangway was positioned allowing foot passenger access to the ships at their UK base. It is clear from this view how inside of the windows the passenger space in the Carnival Bar terminated in a sharp corner on either side. The view is on board Fiesta in 1991.
Below: A picture taken from the same position as that above, but looking forward to the entrance of the Carnival Bar showing how both ships showed their names in large letters in the then Sealink corporate typeface. (Picture courtesy Richard Seville)
Below: The one other area of public outside deck space was located on two levels forward of the Motorists' Haven - outside the upper level on Deck 4 and also, through a small centreline staircase, on the deck above. At the latter Deck 5 location the ships origjnal builders plates could be found (as seen below on Fiesta). Although this forward deck space was built with passenger use clearly in mind, it rarely if ever appears to have seen use on the British Fantasia despite being usually available on her French sister. The area was reached only through the Motorists' Haven and was thus restricted by definition to use by motorists and their passengers. In this respect it repeated a concept first introduced on the earlier Dover 'Saint' class after their mid-1980s refits. In that case, the original aft deck shelter was converted into a Motorists' Lounge and, outside, the 'exclusive' deck space was little more than a fenced-off pen into which foot passengers could look, but never enter.
Below: Looking forward on the vast lower vehicle deck of the ex-Fantasia, seen during her brief period as the Greek Alkmini A in 2004.
In many ways the layout of the vehicle decks on these converted ro-ro ships dictated the nature and positioning of the passenger spaces on the decks above. As built, the sisters had two full freight decks accessed via a single stern ramp on the lower level only. Both decks had height enough to carry ISO containers on low-loaders - rather greater than the height required for the standard lorry traffic the ships would transport for Sealink. This factor dictated the most complex structural change of the rebuildings - cutting free and then lowering the entire upper vehicle deck, eliminating the unwanted excess height and allowing the 'building in' of the new Deck 3, the main passenger deck, in the space saved. Thus the height of the main vehicle deck was reduced from 6.3m to 4.5m with the cutting and lowering operation involving over 900 tonnes of steel.

Additional requirements saw a bow visor being cut into the original steelwork and mezzanine decks being fitted at the upper freight deck level only. As can be seen in the picture above the large ramp which originally provided the only access to the upper trailer deck was left in place - a cautious safeguard for the ships should they ever be redeployed to routes without provision for double-deck loading. In the event, this proved an especially useful feature for the ex-
Fantasia in her post-Dover career where as both Alkmini A and Wawel she has operated as a stern-only single-level loader.
Below: Looking aft on the upper vehicle deck of the ex-Fiesta with the large ramp leading up from the lower level visible. It can also be seen how at the stern the deck slopes upwards before resuming at a rather higher level. As shown in the deckplan (top of page) this simply reflects a similar feature on the deck below and was further mirrored in the sloping passageways running alongside the shopping centre on Deck 3 above. In this view the retractable mezzanine decks are stowed out of use, flush with the deckhead, leaving clear height for the carriage of lorries and coaches as required.
Below: The vehicle deck stairwells were fitted out in simple primary colours with hard-wearing rubber flooring and railings similar to those found on the staircase in the Motorists' Haven.
Below: The most significant influence on external appearance were the 126 metre long stability ponsons applied on either side during the conversion. Whereas on other ships, sponsons were attached as a necessary evil and not incorporated in any way into the overall look of the ship, Fantasia and Fiesta broke new ground. It was here where function, innovation and form met most starkly - the extra stability to be added by the sponsons was a key consideration from the start of the project (Sealink bore in mind both the hard-learned lessons from the loss of the Herald of Free Enterprise as well as the sinking of sister Zenobia). The naval architects were then able to uniquely utilise the flat tops of the exceptionally wide sponsons to act as effective loading platforms for the liferafts. Passengers would be brought down to the sponsons by internal and external staircases and from there load into the rafts via inflatable slides.
Sitting proudly atop the sponsons aft are the huge twin funnels - the size of these were to a large extent design-inspired additions. Locating the engine uptakes on either side of the main deck had cleared the car decks to become vast uncluttered spaces. However, the ships had been built with this feature - to replace the existing funnels with new ones was a bold design move which emphasised, more than anything else, size and modernity. In their original post-conversion guises it was these twin themes which came across most strongly. Platner himself wrote of the movement of an observer's eye as they looked at
Fantasia across the water: "the low sponsons near the water line give the hull strong horizontal lines which then join with the sloping verticals of the funnels. At the top, mid-ship, the disco dome provides a curving line against the sky as does the ship's banner [never actually fitted] forward of that. Sealink British Ferries' livery in white, gold and blue dresses these profiles in bold color".
Below: Looking forward from the vantage point of the Fiesta's funnel (actually from the staircase which lead down from this point to the sponsons below). (Picture courtesy Guy Blanchout))