The first of the mould-breaking Spirit class (the trio of ships taking their class name from the lead vessel), the Spirit of Free Enterprise was completed for Townsend Thoresen in 1980. Like her sisters Herald of Free Enterprise and Pride of Free Enterprise, the 'Spirit' boasted sufficient speed to reduce crossing times on the 'Blue Riband' Dover-Calais route to just 75 minutes - which left the competitor Sealink ships at a competetive disadvantage with one less round trip possible each day at peak times. The ship also saw service on the Zeebrugge route from Dover, usually only during the winter season.

Despite the arrival of
Pride of Dover and Pride of Calais and the takeover of Townsend Thoresen by P&O in 1987, little really changed for the ship, apart from a late 1987 name change to Pride of Kent. The loss of sister Herald of Free Enterprise in March 1987 brought close scrutiny on the class, but the ship had mostly a quiet operating life, with few incidents of note. Then, in late 1991, she was sent to Italy for a lengthening and refurbishment to bring the 'Kent' into line with her more modern fleetmates. Passenger capacity increased to 1,825 from 1,326 and lorry space up to 60 15m units, compared to the original 48.

The creation of P&O Stena Line in 1998 saw the ship maintain her place on the premier route, despite the eventual replacement of her unlengthened sister
P&OSL Picardy (ex-Pride of Free Enterprise). Renaming as P&OSL Kent followed in 1998, but with the company planning replacement tonnage, her future on the route for which she was built was always uncertain. A series of announcements in 2002 saw P&O buy out the Stena 40% share in the joint service, and then the closure of the Dover-Zeebrugge freight service. Whilst the former led to a further renaming as P O Kent, the latter was the more significant for the future of the ship, as two of the displaced Zeebrugge Freighters, European Highway and European Pathway, were converted into full passenger ships to replace the 'Kent' and P&OSL Canterbury (ex-Fantasia) from the Spring of 2003. After a brief period laid up in Dunkerque, the ship was purchased by GA Ferries of Greece and renamed Anthi Marina. After a relatively minor overhaul and refurbishment (mostly concerned with the addition of reclining seat lounges and expanding the ship's outside deck space at the stern, as well as rebuilding the bow), the Anthi Marina entered service on GA's core route out of Piraeus, right through the island chains down to Rhodes - a journey that can take as long as 18 hours, depending on which islands are called at en-route.
Above: Spirit of Free Enterprise as she first appeared.
Below: P&OSL Kent arrives stern-first at her Dover berth in early 2001.
e-mail: matt@hhvferry.com
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Below: P&OSL Kent attracts the seagulls as she turns outside Calais harbour on departure for Dover in early August 2002. The ship is seen with the short-lived POSL.com branding on the forward superstructure, which was removed after the Stena buy-out by P&O.
Below: P&OSL Kent at Calais in August 2002, wearing an intermediate livery shortly after Stena had been bought out. The Stena name has been painted out on the hull, as has the Stena 'S' flag part of the twin-flag funnel logo. The Stena red pinstripe remains however.
Below: In November 1991, the now stretched Pride of Kent is seen at Dover awaiting the departure of Pride of Calais, which will free the berth for her use.
THE SPIRIT OF FREE ENTERPRISE STORY
matt@hhvferry.com
Below: As Pride of Kent, the ship is seen in 1990 approaching Calais in P&O European Ferries livery.
Below: P&OSL Kent entering Calais in full P&O Stena Line livery.
Below: For 2003, P&O introduced a new, mostly white, livery. As the 'Kent' (and the P&OSL Canterbury) were due to be replaced in the Spring of that year by the pair of 'Darwin' conversions of the former Zeebrugge freighters they were not repainted in this scheme - the only amendment that was made was the painting of the red stripe, white. The ship had been renamed P O Kent in the previous year, with the welded-on '&' and 'SL' simply painted out on the hull. The P O Kent is seen at Dover in May 2003.
Below: At her berth in the outer harbour of Piraeus, July 2004, the Anthi Marina sits next to Blue Star's Blue Star 2.
Below: Another view of the Anthi Marina in Piraeus, highlighting the ship's new bow.
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Below: Boarding the Anthi Marina in Mykonos, 24 July 2005.
Below: The ship seen arriving at Piraeus, 26 July 2005.