EARLY YEARS
On board the 'Challenger' Class Ro-Ros
The ships which ultimately became Fantasia and Fiesta were two of a trio 'Challenger' class ro-ro ships built by Kockums in Malmö in the late 1970s. As, respectively, the Scandinavia, Ariadne and Zenobia the vessels were delivered over a six-month period straddling the new year of 1979/80 and were immediately put into service on routes to Syria. These were rather sophisticated ships and their expensive price tag reflected the aims of their owners, Rederi AB Nordö, to provide a flexible, high capacity, highly-automated, fuel-efficient design whilst minimising future maintenance, labour and operational costs. Nordö claimed at the time that the ships would operate with fuel costs some 40% lower than conventional ro-ro ships, and with an operational crew of just 14.

One of the notable features was the innovative cargo-handling arrangements, where a pair of semi-slewing MacGregor stern ramps meant that the main freight deck could be accessed when berthed either stern-on or alongside. This enabled the ships to operate successfully from any of the wide variety of port layouts they could expect to encounter in their planned Mediterranean traffic. The ships employed a twin-skeg hull form of the type first developed by Knud E. Hansen for Stena Line in the 1970s.

The accommodation was of a particularly high standard, with seventy, two-berth lorry driver cabins (about half of which also had a convertible sofa bed to provide a third berth) complete with en-suite bathrooms including baths.
e-mail: matt@hhvferry.com
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Above: Plan showing the layout of the twin freight decks.
Below: Arrangement of the single passenger deck complete with forward restaurant and port-side bar (this later formed the upper passenger deck on Fantasia and Fiesta with most of the cabins retained).
Above & below: The cavernous main freight deck on the Zenobia as it was when the ship was completed in 1979. Designed to carry ISO containers on low-loaders this was rather greater than the height required for the standard freight traffic the Sealink pair would transport after their conversion. Thus, as the picture below on the Alkmini A (ex-Fantasia) demonstrates, the height was reduced by cutting free and then lowering the entire upper vehicle deck, eliminating the unwanted excess height and allowing the construction of the new Deck 3, the main passenger deck, in the space saved. Although the ships became drive-through on both vehicle decks, the internal ramp was retained for the flexibility it offered for potential future use at ports without twin level loading facilities.
Above: The three ships featured an additional freight area at tank-top level, beneath the main deck. This was accessed via the pictured cargo lift, supplied by MacGregor. On both Fantasia and Fiesta the lift was retained and the covering hatch was readily identifiable, but the space beneath was not in use.
Above & below: The partially-enclosed upper freight deck seen (above) during the construction of the Zenobia and (below) on board the Trapezitza (later Fiesta/Seafrance Cézanne). (Picture below courtesy Roy Thornton Collection)
Above, below & bottom: The engine control room on the Zenobia (above). The equivalent space on the Ariadne had changed little by the time the ship became Trapezitza or, indeed, on the Scandinavia as Stena Fantasia (bottom) (Trapezitza picture courtesy Roy Thornton Collection)
Above: Looking forward in the Zenobia's distinctive A-Deck restaurant area.
Above & below: Two views of the Zenobia's captain's quarters which juxtaposed rather traditional decor with the  practicality of a coneniently-located radar unit.
Above & below: The bridge of the brand-new Zenobia in 1979 (above) compared to that of the Trapezitza a decade later (below). (Picture below courtesy Roy Thornton Collection)
Top: The incomplete Ariadne (later Seafrance Cézanne) and Zenobia together at the yard of their builders, Kockums in Malmö, Sweden.