THE FIESTA STORY
PART TWO:
SEAFRANCE CÉZANNE
1996-
e-mail: matt@hhvferry.com
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In July 1995, SNAT gave notice to Stena Sealink that they intended to terminate the pool on the Calais-Dover route from 31 December that year. Although negotiations had been ongoing to extend the agreement, SNAT felt they had a better chance of going it alone, particularly as Stena continued to lobby for a joint service with P&O which it was felt may end up excluding the French. The Fiesta launched the new Seafrance operation and was subsequently renamed Seafrance Cézanne at her refit which commenced on 2 January 1996. At this stage the ship also received the new company on-board brands, such as Le Pub (the former Carnival Bar and the most heavily refitted space), the Parisien Cafe and La Brasserie. Initial operations were with the heavily refitted Côte d'Azur (as Seafrance Renoir somewhat surprisingly the new flagship) and the former train ferry Seafrance Nord Pas-de-Calais operating mostly as a freighter. This trio were later joined by the former Dieppe ships Seafrance Monet (ex-Versailles) and latterly Seafrance Manet (ex-Champs Elysees).

On 22 March 2000, the 'Cézanne' was holed on the port side at Dover in thick fog, later requiring attention at Dunkerque. Exactly one week later fleetmate
Seafrance Monet (the company's 'spare' ship) was holed beneath the waterline when entering Calais and permanently withdrawn. New investment was forthcoming however and the introductions of the newbuilds Seafrance Rodin (2001) and Seafrance Berlioz (2005) pushed the 'Cézanne' down the company's pecking order. For much of 2005, the former Fiesta was thus relegated to freight-only duties alongside the 'NPC', the two new ships and the smaller 'Manet' headlining the passenger operations with the 'Renoir' in reserve. 2006 however saw a revision of the sailing schedule and the Seafrance Cézanne was returned to front-line operations as part of a six-ship passenger service. She was however in increasingly poor condition - unacceptably so given she was one of the primary passenger units - and in late 2008 the arrival of the Seafrance Moliere saw her relegated to freight only duties permanently. With Seafrance continuing to perform poorly financially, the ship was permanently withdrawn in early 2009, her final sailing being on 12 February. She moved to Dunkerque to lay up two days later.
Above: The Seafrance Cézanne alongside Dover's Eastern Arm. (Picture courtesy Mark Leiper)
Below: The Seafrance Cézanne (right) and rival sister Stena Fantasia together at Calais after the breakup of the Sealink pool. (Picture courtesy Mark Leiper)
Below: The Seafrance Cézanne approaching the pierhead at Calais in dramatic light, August 1999.
Below: After the minor modification of the livery to include web address branding, the Seafrance Cézanne is seen at her Calais berth.
Below: Approaching her berth in Calais, the Seafrance Cézanne is seen in 2003.
Below: Powering across the channel in 2003, the Seafrance Cézanne's passengers make good use of the forward outside deck, although the upper level of this had by this stage been permanently roped off.
Below: Seafrance Cézanne and Seafrance Nord Pas-de-Calais, July 2002.
Above & below: The ship seen in freight-only service in April 2005 during a period when she was awaiting a very-delayed refit and was looking particularly battered. (Picture below courtesy Sebastiaan Toufekoulas - more of this series taken on 24 April 2005 can be found here).
Below: Seafrance Cézanne.
Above & below: The Seafrance Cézanne seen laid up at Dunkerque, seven months after being withdrawn from service. (Picture taken 25 October 2009, more pictures from this series can be found on the blog here).