FLYING THE FLAG

Fantasia and Fiesta in marketing and advertising

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The Fantasia and Fiesta provided Sealink with marketing potential quite unlike anything they had dealt with before. In their very nature, the two new ships did not conform either with previous cross-Channel ferries or, perhaps more importantly, with people's expectations of cross-Channel ferries. They managed to operate outside the scope of what had gone before, adding an element of excitement and change perhaps not seen since the arrival of the Spirit class a decade earlier, and possibly before. 

Clearly this phenomenon was a triumph in part of some fairly astute marketing, but it additionally reflected the particularly strange look of the ships: they visually demanded attention and were genuinely intriguing to observe with new liveries individually tailored to the form of each ship and strange shapes and forms (particularly the funnels and the dome). They were criticised in some places for being "ugly" and whilst in a traditional maritime sense it is true that they were not attractive, their unique nonconformity was also a massive selling point. Anything this
strange just had to be investigated at closer quarters, and many prospective passengers did just that, finding on board that the new ships really were something out of the ordinary.

By the end of that first season,
Fantasia and Fiesta were brand names in their own right, something reflected in the decision by Stena to rename their ship, Stena Fantasia at a time when several other vessels lost any hint of their previous identity.

It can thus be argued that the
Fantasia and Fiesta were their own mobile advertising units, but it was of course backed up by a very strong promotional push. As the new flagships of their respective fleets, the ships also got much additional general exposure, by appearing on the covers of numerous brochures, adverts and flyers. For the Stena Fantasia much of this came to an end with the build-up to the arrival of the new HSS in 1995 and beyond, but she remained fleet flagship and her image was widely used to represent the remaining fleet of conventional ships. In fact Stena continued to on occasion use her themselves well into the new decade.

For the
Fiesta, the story is less clear. Although nominally she was SNAT flagship in the years before the start of the Seafrance era in 1996, this often seemed to mean little other than that the ship would instantly become the strike headquarters when SNAT crew members walked out, as they did all too frequently. There was always a strange feeling that the French didn't truly love their American-designed, Swedish-built, British-inspired flagship. This was underlined somewhat when the much smaller Côte d'Azur (as Seafrance Renoir) was described as the 'pride of the fleet' after the start of Seafrance service. The newly-renamed Seafrance Cézanne continued to be well represented in brochures, but with a fleet of initially just two passenger ships, there really weren't many alternatives! The arrival of newbuild Seafrance Rodin in 2001 largely put an end to the ex-Fiesta's leading role in company publicity.
Top: A new era has begun (Fantasia, 1990).
This formed the cover of a Sealink British Ferries introductory brochure which outlined the facilities of the new ships and Sealink's ambitions for them.
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Above: SBF Ferry Guide edition 3 (Fantasia, 1990).
There followed inside a three-page detailed description of the new ships with artist's impressions and much more talk of the 'New Era'. (
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Above: SBF Ferry Guide edition 4 (Fantasia, 1990).
When the ships finally arrived from the shipyard, SBF went back and updated the previous edition of the guide, replacing all the artist's impressions with photographs of the finished product, inside and out. (
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Above and below: SBF Dover-Calais Guide (1990).
The gushing excitement above was backed-up by the detail in the timetable
(below) which highlighted exactly which sailings the new ships would be operating and noted severely "please check before travel to avoid disappointment". Sealink might as well have asterisked the sailings run by the St Christopher, Côte d'Azur and Chartres and apologised in advance for the fact that they were experiencing something less than the 'ultimate' in ferry travel. In the event, the planned schedule was for an extended period thrown completely out of the window as the Fiesta sat strikebound in Calais. (Click the image above for a larger version)
Above: More Quality. More Value. More Sealink. (Fantasia, 1990).
One of the first adverts to feature the new ships the illustration of the
Fantasia focusses on her aft decks with the dome in the foreground. Artistic licence takes care of the more unsightly but functional elements of the ship's design. The tag line at this stage was (briefly) "We'll help you arrive shipshape".
Above and below: Fiesta pen and sticker (1990).
Accompanying the promotional push was a small range of
Fantasia and Fiesta merchandise which included items such as pens, stickers, mugs and jigsaws. (Sticker image courtesy Guy Blanchout)
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Above: SNAT Ferry Guide (1991).
The strike which saw the two French ships lying at Calais for all of June 1990 provided a splendid photo opportunity and the result was included on the front and back covers of the 1991 Ferry guide. The strikebound
Côte d'Azur and Fiesta are complemented by their in-service and hard-pressed British counterparts St Christopher and Fantasia. A large framed version of this picture was on display for many years in the cafeteria on the top level of Calais terminal and can also be seen by clicking here. (Click on the image above for a larger version of the brochure)
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Above: Sealink Stena Ferry Guide (Stena Fantasia, 1991).
A quick adjustment to replace the 'British Ferries' legend with 'Stena Line' alongside the word Sealink on the
Fantasia's hull is the only change from the later versions of the 1990 brochure (see above). (Click on the image for a larger version)
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Above: Via Calais (Fiesta, 1994).
The ships also featured in promotional material from other organisations, such as this advert for Calais port. The tone is set by the
Fiesta's sweeping Deck 8 to Deck 7 external staircase leading down to the expanse of her sand-coloured aft deck. (Click on the image for a larger version)
Above and below: Stena Sealink Line Up (Stena Fantasia, 1995) & Stena Line Ferry Guide (Stena Fantasia, 1996).
By the mid-1990s the impending arrival of the revolutionary fast ferry HSS craft was beginning to dominate Stena Sealink publicity. Care was taken however to ensure the remaining conventional ferries were not downplayed and the 'Fantasia' was chosen to symbolically represent them all in these two 'Fleet Options' mock ups showing the Dover ship alongside the
Stena Lynx I and an HSS (Click on the image below for a larger version)
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Below: The Stena-SNAT split at the end of 1995 caused a flurry of activity in the respective publicity departments. Firstly we can trace Stena Line's attempts to remove traces of their former identity:
1.
1995 Ferry Guide.
A pleasant picture of a gentleman checking-in with the funnels of the
Stena Fantasia visible in the background.
3. 1997 Ferry Guide.
Clearly Stena thought that they could improve on the previous year's efforts so...

...Voila! A perfectly formed version of Stena's new livery.


Shame about the P&O funnel clearly visible in the background...
2. 1996 Ferry Guide.
(After the Sealink brand has been abandoned in favour of Stena Line). A quick photoshop effort has removed those pesky 'maggot' logos from the funnel and the old name on the ticket.
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Above and below: Early Booking & Great Savings (Both Stena Fantasia, 1997).
(Above) A typical Stena advert from 1996/97 showing the company's standard layout of the period. Where routes were served by both superferry and Lynx (as in this case) images of the 'Fantasia' (generically representing all superferries) and the 'Lynx I' would top the page.

'Full House' adverts with all three craft (ferry, Lynx and HSS) at the top are considered real collectors items
(below). (Click on the images for larger versions)
Above: We've made our rivals cross (Stena Fantasia, 1996).
So soon after the divorce, Stena clearly still couldn't bring themselves to even mention Seafrance. The cut-throat fares war is in full swing.
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Above: King of the Channel (Stena Fantasia, 1996).
'Best prices guaranteed', but Stena were by this stage already clinging on until the merger.
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Above: Doubletake (Stena Fantasia, 1996).
A unique variation on the theme.
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Above: Seafrance Ferry Guide (Seafrance Cézanne, 1998).
(Click on the image for a larger version)
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Above: Seafrance Ferry Guide (Seafrance Cézanne, 2000).
A nice variation on the previous theme, although quite which Seafrance ship still had portholes of the kind seen here is unknown.
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Above: Seafrance Ferry Guide (Seafrance Cézanne, 2001).
The difficulty of balancing a tray of drinks whilst performing the Can-Can on the aft deck of a ferry is exposed for the first time.
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Above: Time to let go (1).
This picture taken on the old
P&OSL Canterbury was still appearing in P&O brochures in 2005. Surely it's time to let the old girl rest in peace and embrace those lovely Darwins.
Above: Time to let go (2).
Poor old Stena have clearly never got over the loss of their flagship and here the
Stena Fantasia is seen sailing into Dublin Port in one of their 2005 brochures.
Below: Finally, one of the Alkmini A's few ticket agencies in Brindisi. History suggests that this sign will still be around for many years despite the ship's sale to Poland after the unsuccesful 2004 Summer season.
Above: The New Stena Fantasia (1994).
Cover of the
Stena Fantasia's on-board guide in 1994, celebrating her substantially refitted passenger spaces. (Image courtesy Guy Blanchout; the contents of the guide can be seen on the Stena Fantasia deckplan page)
Above and below: Seafrance were rather more sure-footed in their transformation of a side-on Fiesta image (dating from before the construction of the Galaxy Bar in 1994) into the Seafrance Cézanne. (Pictures courtesy Guy Blanchout)
Above: Seafrance Cézanne model.
This model of the 'Cézanne' remains on display in the Calais Car Ferry terminal next to the Seafrance desk.