e-mail: matt@hhvferry.com

Text and all 2005 pictures matt@hhvferry.com except where stated
Myself and Richard Seville spent Easter up in the North East, having a look at and around the various ships in static use, lay-up and local traffic, as well as enjoying a mini-cruise to Bergen on the JUPITER.

An early departure from sunny Yorkshire on Good Friday was required for a 0900 appointment in Middlesborough at the TUXEDO ROYALE. This nightclub, adjacent to the Riverside Stadium but now closed for more than twelve months was built in 1965 as British Rail's DOVER, enjoying a modest career on the English Channel and Irish Sea before being retired after just sixteen years in 1981. This was despite a rather extensive rebuild in 1977 (the ship gaining the name EARL SIWARD) which converted what was originally a stern-only loader to drive-through operations as BR/Sealink tried desperately to compete against the rather more advanced Townsend newbuilds. A sale to Southern Europe followed, but after just a couple of seasons operating for Sol Lines as SOL EXPRESS, followed by a couple more of lay-up, the ship made a return to the UK in 1986 for conversion to the nightclub TUXEDO ROYALE. After rebuild she appeared on the Tyne in the prime Gateshead location previously enjoyed by former Sealink fleetmate CALEDONIAN PRINCESS/TUXEDO PRINCESS, of which more later...
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Top: The Tuxedo Royale at her berth near the Riverside Stadium in Middlesborough.
The PRINCESS returned to Gateshead in the late 1990s after having spent the interim period in Glasgow and the ROYALE was moved over to her current Middlesborough location. Some thought was also apparently given to taking her to Salford Quays where, possibly, she might have met with more success. As it is now she sits some distance away from the town centre and last saw customers only when there was a game on at the Riverside. The frayed posters around the ship's car park betrayed the seemingly slightly seedy nature of her most recent use. Looking at the post-industrial wasteland around the stadium it seems that there were originally big plans for one of those council-led "regenerations" which seems to have gone badly awry with the ROYALE, the impressive stadium and a centrepiece footbridge standing virtually alone amongst the weeds. A new hotel/office building was under construction however so perhaps all is not lost.

On board, the ship is intact in the main passenger areas only in as much as the spaces are clearly recognisable - boarding into the main aft lobby area on the promenade deck, aft can be found a large restaurant area in the location of the old cafeteria. Forward of the lobby was once the amidships tea bar and lounge. This now houses Trader Jack's, complete with a large dance floor. Forward, once the smoke room, is now Stowaway's Bar with good views overlooking the forecastle. The final of the public rooms from the Sealink era was the Verandah Bar, portside on the upper (boat deck) level. This is another bar area now, offering the opportunity to wander outside onto the well maintained encircling promenade deck. With the majority of the lifeboats still in place, this is perhaps best place one can really recapture the vague feeling of being on a real Sealink ship - even looking up to the funnel, beneath the white paint, the outline of the BR double arrow logo can be seen. At the forward end, PONT-AVEN style, the promenade is under cover with large windows looking out over the forecastle whilst the portholes of the accommodation itself (actually crew cabins) looks into the enclosed promenade. The main feature of the ship as a nightclub however was always located down below - on the old car deck. In the aft section is the Bondi Beach Bar which features the famous revolving dance floor on the old car deck turntable. Forward of this a pair of function rooms have been created, each complete with private bar area and dance floor.
Below: The brand new Dover in 1965.
Below: Looking across to starboard in the aft lobby, now the main reception area. On the far side, a large main staircase has been added leading down to the dance floor and function rooms created in the former car decks.
Below: This restaurant, astern on Promenade deck, was once the ship's cafeteria.
Below: The original amidships tea bar is now Trader Jack's. This is the view looking forward in the port-side section.
Above & below: Two views of the forward bar area on the Promenade Deck, originally the location of the smoke room.
Below: The Verandah Bar, to port on the Boat deck, was added by Sealink during the ship's conversion to drive-through operations in 1977. This is now the relaxed Sunset Bar.
Below: One of the bar counters in the Bondi Beach bar, created in the stern section of the former car deck.
Below: Forward of this are a pair of function rooms - this is a corner of the one located on the starboard side.
Below: The same area nearly 40 years previously - when it was still the Dover's main vehicle deck.