For the past few years the sister ships Normandy and Stena Europe have been thrust into face-to-face competition against each other as the former operates on overhaul cover for the Isle of Inishmore on the Pembroke Dock – Rosslare route, right up against the 'Europe's regular Fishguard-Rosslare run. This offers the opportunity to enjoy back-to-back sailings on these classic early jumbo ferries, and last weekend for the second time in three years myself and Richard Seville journeyed out to Wales for a couple of days sailing on these ships, starting with the 'Europe's early Saturday morning 0245 departure.

It has now been nearly five years since the ship was introduced to replace the
Koningin Beatrix, receiving a major refit to all the main passenger lounges and to her vehicle decks, returning the latter to something like their original state nearly twenty years after large numbers of additional cabins were built onto the upper level to make her suitable as an overnight ship for the Gothenburg-Kiel run. With freight capacity fully restored the 'Europe' is once again very much a day ferry, running on a similar length of crossing to the Gothenburg- Frederikshavn route she was principally intended for when built. The ship and her sister are notable in being the last ordered by the Rederi AB Göteborg-Frederikshavns Linjen (Sessan Linjen), the first (Kronprinsessan Victoria/Stena Europe) being the last delivered for that distinguished company before Sessan were finally absorbed by their younger but hungrier rivals, Stena Line. The amalgamated concern incidentally became Stena Sessan, and this company remains an active part of the Stena group and is still involved in the ferry business through its ownership of HH Ferries where it quietly competes against the joint operation between Helsingborg and Helsingřr of Scandlines AB, one of the better-known Stena companies.

Our first sailing for the weekend was mostly spent asleep: despite the elimination of the vehicle deck cabins and the removal of those down on deck 2 from passenger use, the
Stena Europe still has around 400 berths in two levels of en-suite cabins forward on decks 7 and 8. In this area of the passenger accommodation (and pretty much this area alone) she is still gloriously original, with decor that might have seemed regrettable even when the ship was delivered: pink wall panels in the cabin corridors to starboard, cream to port with the point where the two meet in the cross-corridors marked by rather funky flowery printed panels. On the Normandy the joining panels are the same, but the pink passageways are a slightly more subdued green. [Report continues on next page]
January 2007
All 2007 pictures ©
Above and below: The forward cabin areas on Decks 7 and 8 are virtually unchanged from original on both ships today: the Stena Europe features pink wall panelling (above) in areas where the Normandy (below) has green. This almost mirrored the colour schemes of the ship's showlounges, which were respectively red and green.
Top: The Stena Europe on her berth in Rosslare with the Normandy approaching at the end of a crossing from Pembroke Dock.
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Above: The Kronprinsessan Victoria in Stena Line livery in the mid-1980s when the ship was operating on the Gothenburg-Kiel route in lieu of the much-delayed pair of new ferries ordered for the route from Poland.
Above: a variety of deckplans - click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Clockwise from top left:
Stena Saga (1988), Stena Normandy (1994), Stena Europe (1994), Stena Europe (2002), Normandy (2006).
The second
Stena Europe plan was produced in advance of the ship's transfer to Fishguard and, although largely accurate, makes reference to the "Sound & Vision Bar" which was ultimately to become C-View.
Above: The second of the sisters (originally Prinsessan Birgitta) lay unwanted and incomplete for a period after the takeover before a brief 1982 season on the Gothenburg-Frederikshavn route. In 1983 she was sent on charter to Sealink UK as the St Nicholas, becoming their flagship on the Harwich-Hook of Holland run. In March 1984 she was present at Dover to launch the company's new livery and featured prominently in company publicity of the period.
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Above: After the 1990 take-over of Sealink by Stena, the St Nicholas was renamed Stena Normandy and transferred to a new Southampton-Cherbourg run. The Kronprinsessan Victoria meanwhile spent the late 1980s and early '90s operating the Frederikshavn-Oslo route as the second Stena Saga before being called to the UK in 1994 for, ironically, the Harwich-Hook duties previously undertaken by her sister. Renamed Stena Europe, this ended in 1997 and the ship moved to the expanding Karlskrona - Gdynia operation of Stena subsidiary Lion Ferry, becoming Lion Europe prior to the Lion brand being absorbed into the main Stena fold in 1998 whereupon the name Stena Europe returned. In 2002 she moved to Fishguard.

These two pictures show the ships wearing distinctively different applications of the post-1996 Stena Line livery, the
Stena Normandy (left) in 1996 towards the end of the Southampton route's life (it closed at the end of the year) and the Stena Europe in 2007 with web address branding. Click on the pictures for larger images.
Above: After a brief and apparently unsuccesful period running for Tallink as the Normandy the former St Nicholas attracted the attention of Irish Ferries who put her into service, without further renaming, on their Ireland-France operations. She is seen here approaching Rosslare on January 14 2007.
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Above: The distinctive funnels of the Stena Europe (left) and the Normandy in January 2007.
Above: Both ships also feature these distinctive decorative panels in the cabin areas.
Above and below: Starting our tour of the main passenger spaces, the aft lounges on Deck 7 (astern of the show lounge) are on both ships now quiet areas - the Stena Europe (above) has seen the former Disco Bar fitted with aft-facing recling seats; the bar counter remains in place but permanantly closed.

On the
Normandy (below) the same space had become the First Class bar in the Harwich-Hook days and then initially saw Irish Ferries service as 'Molly's Dublin Bar' but was fairly soon split into two with the port side section (pictured) becoming the 'Beckett Reading Room'.
Above and below: Another view (above) of the Stena Europe's aft lounge, looking across from the starboard side.

Normandy picture (below) is taken from a very similar position on that ship and shows what is now the 'Monet Lounge'. The new dividing wall has cut the old bar servery in two, and its remains can still be found on either side, but most notably in the Monet Lounge.
Above and below: The cabins themselves were comfortable by the standards of their day and these pictures on the Kronprinsessan Victoria show (above) one of the four corner deluxe cabins and (below) a standard two berth inside room, complete with Sessan Linjen mermaid logo blanket.
Above: Beneath the vehicle deck, the Kronprinsessan Victoria entered service with a pair of saunas , as pictured; these were later taken out of passenger use. The remainder of the accomodation on this level comprised four-berth cabins without facilities - in later Stena Line service, shower units were added to the Stena Europe, but no equivalent modifications were ever carried out to the ship's sister.