This blog follows a round trip journey aboard Stena Edda, a vessel which primarily operates on Stena Line's Birkenhead (Liverpool) / Belfast route which is where I caught up with her.
Why call this blog Stena Edda - Poetry in motion? Well, Stena Line prefix all their ships with the word Stena. Edda, according to Google, is an old Norse term that refers to a central medieval collection of poems and motion, well that's the ferry travel bit.
Stena Edda is one of seven vessels designed to be extremely flexible in terms of interior alterations to suit the needs of the route they serve.
Their diversity has not gone unnoticed and already several of this class of ship have been chartered to companies who's routes vary from short 90minute hops across the Straight of Dover; a route which dictates large passenger areas and no cabin accommodation, to lengthy 24hr voyages which requires a vast amount of cabins and a varied selection of facilities to keep passengers amused.
These E-Flexers, as they are called have the capabilities to suit everyone thanks to their clever design!
Two further enlarged versions of these 'E-Flexers' are currently in the building stage.
These ships have an impressive technical specification
(I understand) but to be honest this is just 'white noise' to me and having read my previous blogs you will know I am more interested in the décor, interior design and general arrangement of the ship - the bits passengers see and the facilities they use to make their journey more pleasurable.
Would you like to check-out this (relatively) 'new kid on the block'?
I will meet you in the reception of Deck 7 and I will take you around - just allow yourself extra time to get aboard as you will be taken from the terminal building to the ship in a double decker bus
(a port bus which operates a shuttle service but can result in a bit of a delay if there are many foot passengers travelling) so,
check-in early and you can be aboard up to two hours before we sail and with all facilities open we can start our mini break early!
Welcome aboard Stena Edda!
So, here we are on Deck 7 in the reception hall / foyer.
We are in the middle of the ship and you will notice behind you there is a door to the dedicated car deck which is on the same level as the passenger amenities on Deck 7. You can drive aboard and walk along a level surface straight into the passenger accommodation - no climbing stairs with heavy overnight bags or with young children in tow. How convenient is that?! Great idea!
As you enter the reception foyer from the dedicated car deck you are greeted by an illuminated sign projected onto the floor saying "Nice to see you!" and to make things doubly welcoming, there is a Stena Line crew member standing within the doorway to welcome you aboard and assist with any queries.
Only a small section of this dedicated car deck is open to the elements; the rest being undercover. This is the view of Birkenhead with the terminal building at the top of the picture in the centre. You can see why it is necessary to get a shuttle bus to the ship.
You will notice how spacious this reception foyer is.
The foyer is essentially the hub of the ship where the reception desk is located on the port side (a 24/7 facility) and a coffee bar next door........
.........access to Deck 8 above via a centralised staircase and a large open plan lounge on the starboard side.
The décor you see here is very much evident throughout the whole ship; natural colours with a note of a Scandinavian theme.
The lounge on the starboard side of the reception foyer is decorated with patterned grey carpeting, free standing chairs around localised tables and sofas around the walls.
Being deliberately open plan to the adjacent foyer allows this lounge to become essentially a 'meeting point' for friends and family - perhaps if travelling in different vehicles and you need to meet at a designated place, this lounge is ideal. Or, if you have a cabin on separate decks, again you could meet here and head on off after having a coffee.
You will also notice there is access to the exterior decks along the starboard and port sides from here (smoking permitted on the later), but we will come to those later.
Above the centralised stairs within the reception hall is a magnificent clear glass skylight which is actually three decks above us up on Deck 10 but not having any obstructions the natural light flows freely through the decks down to the reception; even the balustrades surrounding the stairs are made of glass and the steps themselves have no backing.
The picture below is taken from Deck 10 looking through the skylight down to Deck 8 and the reception foyer on Deck 7 beyond.
I do wonder however how such a relatively small and narrow staircase would be able to accommodate the passenger usage of a busy crossing.
There is a part of me that would have loved to have seen a magnificent
focal point / signature staircase such as that aboard the former Sealink Fantasia
(now PolFerries Wawel) or Brittany Ferries Pont Aven, especially as this is the hub of the ship.
The picture below shows the staircase aboard Stena Edda and that aboard Wawel and Pont Aven. See what I mean?
The décor within the foyer has a 'Scandinavian air' about it with its natural colour pallet, hard flooring, localised carpeting and simplistic though very comfortable furniture and as we walk around Stena Edda you will find the theme continues throughout.
Leading off the foyer in the direction of travel is a wide corridor along the ships' port side. Lets go for a wonder.
On our right we have the shop. It is a relatively small facility considering the size of the vessel however, it is perfectly suitable for the route she serves (Wales / northern Ireland).
A range of alcoholic beverages and fragrances can be purchased along with a limited range of Irish souvenirs but surprisingly no Stena Line souvenirs or anything celebrating these new 'E-Flexers'.
It should be noted that individual packets of cigarettes can only be purchased within this shop and not from the ships' bar as was historically the case.
If you have the opportunity to go to the shop please go in as after leaving Birkenhead the shop will close abruptly and will not reopen prior to arrival in Belfast, but on the return (daylight) crossing the shop is open throughout.
The same pine coloured hard flooring continues throughout this deck; tones of grey on internal fixtures and fittings were plentiful. The combination of these along with the large picture windows create an extraordinarily bright, airy and spacious interior.
Pockets of royal blue either on the carpeting or seating are an echo to the passing seascape and I found it immediately made me feel at home, relaxed and in the holiday spirit.
At the forward end of Deck 7 we come to the ships' main dining area - Taste Restaurant. Essentially a cafeteria, it is so much more!
Meals are obtained from a central forward facing counter which is open 24/7; a huge surprise as historically hot and cold beverages could only be obtained from the coffee shop during unsociable night time hours however, if one feels the need for a midnight snack or a drink this can be obtained from Taste; particularly handy if you wake up early and are in need of a coffee!
The seating is comfortable and the views from the huge windows are simply stunning.
The forward end benefits from having a carpeted section adjacent to the huge windows with high-backed low level seating which curves around you and with small low level coffee tables interspersed makes this area feel like a totally different facility to the adjacent open plan Taste Restaurant. Sitting here on a daylight crossing of the Irish Sea is so relaxing; watching the passing seascape, enjoying a coffee and snack and a chat with friends.
There is not a formal dining facility aboard but I think Stena have got the balance right having a single informal/relaxed dining room in wonderful surroundings..
How are you finding Stena Edda so far? She is bright, spacious and airy isn't she - plenty of space and light.
Lets return to the foyer and head on up to Deck 8.
So, as we climb the stairs up to Deck 8 you will see above us the large clear glass skylight - arguably one of the most impressive features aboard Stena Edda as to me it appears much larger than the artists impressions and publicity photographs depicted it to be.
This skylight gives splendid views of the sky above and allows copious amounts of natural light to flood into the Sky Bar.
The Sky Bar is the only bar aboard Stena Edda and it has a completely different décor and feel about it compared to the rest of the ship owing to the very dark fixtures, fittings and furnishings which are a sumptuous rich chocolate colour. I love it!
Tub chairs and sofas on dark carpeting adorn the port and starboard sides adjacent to the windows whilst the area directly beneath the skylight has hard flooring, hard backed chairs and stools; from this area one can see the large flat screen TV which is mounted above the bar - I would imagine this is a great place to watch sporting events.
The two areas separated by wide aisles giving access fore and aft.
Although a great area to socialise maybe a trick has been missed as I would have taken this to the extreme and offered really deep pile carpeting and much bigger, oversized tub chairs and sofas in the side lounges to envelop passengers in comfort.
You will notice throughout this bar there are sculptures which I think are great. Some are easy to spot where as others are hidden - did you spot the ones balancing on the light fittings within the skylight void?
You will notice the skylight its self is not in the ceiling recess of the Sky Bar, but within a void space between Decks 9 and 10 which gives a feeling of depth and allows for a large wall mounted TV screen to be positioned at the forward end........
.........and an internal window from the Deck 9 hall at the aft end.
The stern section of Deck 8 is the location for many passenger cabins.
The same light pine colour as found in the public areas of the ship can be found here, along with vivid splashes of red and orange to liven up what would have been very long and bland corridors.
Access to the exterior deck at the stern of Deck 8 can be obtained from here.
Between the Sky Bar and the cabins are two rather comfortable TV/movie lounges -more akin to a very sumptuous living room than a traditional cinema with rows of forward facing seats, the lounge chairs are 'dotted around' each lounge facing one of the numerous screens within.
These lounges are great; a completely carpeted facility, very comfortable angled chairs facing towards one of the numerous monitors - unlike a traditional cinema these lounges are not dimly lit and are more like a social area where groups of friends or family members can congregate to chat whilst occasionally peering up to watch a little more of the movie.
It feels like you are in someone's living room.
When not covered, the views of the sea through the large porthole shaped windows are superb.
Walking forward from the Sky Bar along the ships port side we pass a stairwell on our right, children's play room followed by a lounge on our left adjacent to the portside windows and finally the Hygge Lounge on our right side.
The later, accessed at a supplemental charge, is a quiet comfortable oasis and affords forward facing reclining seats and individual reading lights. There are no windows therefore, the interior is particularly dark both day and night.
The Living Room lounge affords magnificent views owing to the (almost) wall of glass. During my crossing any daily papers and magazines had been removed, probably owing to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
It is an open plan facility which does lack privacy being adjacent to the main thoroughfare and could be distracting to those within who are trying to work on their laptops or reading a book you brought with you.
Perhaps some frosted glass screens will be introduced at some point where the open shelving units currently stand?
The design of the chairs is very similar to those around the rest of the ship; they are not designed for the correct posture if you wish to work nor suitable to 'sink into'. However, you can never have enough lounges on a ship.
The pillars accommodating large TV screens effectively divide this large facility into smaller areas and the continuous live streaming of news channels is highly appreciated, especially in today's world of current events.
On the opposite side is a gaming arcade with the entrance to the Commercial Drivers Restaurant beyond.
Commanding a prominent position at the front of Deck 8 overlooking the ships' bow is the Stena Line signature lounge entitled Stena Plus.
Accessed via the port side corridor at a supplement of £22, one can relax in comfortable surroundings and enjoy the countless amounts of complimentary hot and cold beverages and light snacks - well worth the surcharge considering the lengthy crossing.
Meals can be ordered from a dedicated menu and brought to your seat within the lounge although they are at a higher cost then simply purchasing the same meal in Taste Restaurant downstairs and eating within its surroundings - by doing this however, does detract from the attentive and courteous service you will receive by staying in Stena Plus.
Stena Plus benefits from having its own washroom facilities (male to starboard and female to port) which are decorated very well.
Numerous seating alcoves with comfortable sofas can be found in various areas and are subdivided from the rest of the open plan lounge by way of large pillars housing flat screen TV monitors and floor to ceiling shelving units.
Actual loungers where one can lay almost horizontally are at the immediate front of the lounge overlooking the bow but these seats were understandably snapped up very quickly by those who arrived early.
I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with this facility and I would urge you to treat yourself and try it out.
A great feature about this prestigious lounge is that direct access to the exterior deck on the starboard side of Deck 7 can be obtained from here using the doors on the starboard side; you enter a shared hall with the Commercial Drivers Restaurant next door and go down a flight of stairs.
To re-enter, you enter a code onto the door key pad.
Stena Edda has a vast amount of exterior deck space - port/starboard sides of Deck 7, aft end of Decks 8 and 9 together with a large area around the sleek looking funnel up on Deck 10.
No significant seating, if any, was available for passengers though to be fair, at the time of writing the ship had only been in service for a short time and I am sure this will be addressed in time.
There was no exterior bar either - this is pretty much normal on Irish Sea ferries these days however, having a cold beer whilst sitting up on deck is just a personal pleasure of mine (I have been spoilt by the ferries in the Mediterranean) but believe me, if there was a bar up here I would be propping it up!
During my crossing of the Irish Sea there was a severe gale blowing.....
Stena Edda handled the high seas very well (beaufort wind scale Severe Gale 9 to Storm Force 10, with gusts of Violent Storm Force 11)
PLEASE do not worry about crossing the Irish Sea in bad weather as Stena Edda and her sisters (Estrid and Embla) are very large and powerful. The crew are great, they will put you at ease and ensure you arrive safely.
In closing I was very impressed with Stena Line's new ship.
She was exceptionally clean, bright and spacious. Even her halls and stairwells mirrored this.
The crew were great and I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with the fact Taste Restaurant was open 24/7; this was so convenient as if like me you get the odd bout of insomnia and need a bite to eat at 'silly o'clock' in the morning or even just a chat, the crew will be there for you.
Well done Stena Line.