Stena Horizon is one of many visually similar Italian built Cantiere Navale di Visentini ships operating in European waters today.
Being cheap to run, their large vehicle capacity and their simple general arrangement of their passenger accommodation, a large number of these (almost) identical ships are now operating around Europe, hence the title of this blog Stena Horizon-mirrored simplicity The mirrored element is also a nod to her interior décor, but I will come to that later
Stena Line, Brittany Ferries and Irish Ferries are just three very well known companies who have 'Visentinis' in their fleet. All pretty much identical externally, internally their general arrangement is easy to change to be adapted for the needs of the company they serve.
If you are willing let me take you aboard Stena Horizon as we travel from Liverpool (Birkenhead) to Belfast. Grab a cuppa, curl up and lets go.........
Usually deployed on the lengthy Cherbourg to Dublin route, recently she has been operating on various other routes on the Stena Line Irish Sea network. I caught up with her in Birkenhead whilst she was operating to Belfast.
Forgive me for being a little biased, but I am a major fan of this route. Birkenhead (Liverpool) is so easy to get too from my neck of the woods (London) by road and rail. Preferring to leave my car in the ferry terminal car park, the terminal building is only a few moments walk away.
The terminal building as seen here (car park immediately behind me) is clean and comfortable. Checking in was easy. If you are too early to proceed to the Departure Lounge there is a comfortable seating area to wait by the check-in reception. Once through to the Departure Lounge which is on the same level, there is a large seating area, café kiosk and outdoor smoking area.
Foot passenger embarkation is via a port shuttle bus which drives aboard Stena Horizon via her stern doors necessitating passengers to then ascend stairs or an escalator to her passenger deck.
On my journey the escalator was not operational therefore it was necessary to climb this mountain........! I had been in a car for many hours driving up from London so this was a good way to stretch my legs.
All passenger facilities, like the rest of the Visentini ships of this class, are located on one deck making navigation easy.
Lets start off at the aft end of this deck and work our way forward.
Having ascended the long and high (stationary) escalator we enter the ships' foyer at the stern. This area consists of a reception desk on the starboard side facing aft, with localised seating and a cinema.
The high gloss finish makes this area feel spacious and modern. It has a 'cool' ambience though the splashes of red 'warm' things up.
The cinema is free of charge to enter and shows four films per 24hr period. The forward facing seats recline and have adjustable arm rests. The temperature within the cinema was very warm, almost hot, making passengers within nod off - well, at least they didn't have to pay to get in here!
Cabins occupy the area on the port side as you can see from the above plan indicated by the blue dot. Plus, according to the same plan there is a reclining seat lounge on the aft port quarter, though all accessing doors were locked so I couldn't gain entry - believe me, I tried!
The picture below is of one of the cabin corridors. Note the lack of carpeting and the blank canvas of the décor.
On my journey from Birkenhead to Belfast I was accommodated in cabin 510 which was found to be very basic, rather chilly inside and to be honest not worth the £60 charge (fortunately for me I didn't have to pay as it was offered to me as a goodwill gesture by Stena Line as the final few minutes of the film in the cinema lost sound). Great customer service!
The cabin was however clean, had complimentary bottled water, two boiled sweets and an adequate bathroom. The prison cell looking hard flooring within the cabin took some getting used too! Though to be fair, it was just a place to sleep.
Lets walk forward along the main tiled starboard side corridor from the reception which gives access to the rest of the deck.
We pass the shop, two gaming arcades and a reclining seat lounge. The later, seen here, is located on the starboard side of the ship and offers forward facing seats and a luggage rack. Note the foot rests on the chairs.
The gaming arcades were small though adequate.
The shop appeared to be small and having very limited times of opening, I actually missed my opportunity of going inside. No presents for friends and family - sorry guys!
The tiled flooring continues as we walk forward. We walk pass mirrored and wood wall panels and arrive at the first of two bars.
Barista Coffee House and its neighbouring satellite counter which houses cakes and pastries face aft and along with a half height divide encapsulates the seating area from the adjacent corridor.
A TV screen and children's playroom can also be found within this area.
You can see the satellite counter with the cakes and pastries in the picture below.
The children's play room can be seen here
The seating consists of sofas along the port side by the windows whilst centrally there are predominantly tub chairs and .free standing seats.
The lack of carpeting , the abundance of hard tiled flooring and glossy fixtures and fittings gives the whiff of a 'cold', stark sole less area though in practice the Barrister Coffee House was an adequate area to spend a little while with friends and the overly warm temperature within did help to make it feel a little more homely.
Lets carry on forward.
The Met Bar and Grill are located amid ship, forward.
Facing to port they are separated from their respective seating areas by the aforementioned corridor which spans this deck.
The seating for the Met Bar is directly opposite has a very functional and simplistic décor with 'pops' of red and blue in the fabrics of the free standing chairs, sofas and curtains. Extensive areas of mirrored surfaces magnify the space making the whole interior bright and essentially double the size.
The the seating area for the Met Grill actually has some carpeting creating a totally different ambience to the rest of the ship. There are heavy duty curtains and blinds on the windows which overlook the bow - though I suspect this is due to the fact that internal lighting makes visual navigation for the officers on the bridge difficult at night and therefore, the curtains and blinds prevent light escaping.
The Commercial Drivers Restaurant is next door on the starboard side and is separated from the Met Grill seating area by an attractive partially transparent blue perspex wall. I have been reliably informed the décor had changed very little over the years.
Stena Horizon has a considerable amount of exterior deck space - port and starboard sides of this main passenger deck (which are accessed via some very heavy doors) and, if you can gather enough energy to climb the external stairs, the upper most helicopter deck offers magnificent 360' views of the passing vistas.
All decks were well lit, debris free and other than the helicopter deck, actual shelters were available for those who smoke - no more getting battered by cross winds and spray whilst trying to take a puff and have your cigarette getting blown out!
A smoking shelter can be seen in the picture below.
Upon leaving Birkenhead with the Liverpool skyline in the background.
In closing Stena Horizon is actually a good ship. I did enjoy my 8hr voyage aboard her (9hrs if you board early) despite her very simplistic décor, which differs very little since she was built.
She has a clean, bright and spacious air about her - probably owing to the copious amount of light weight seating, and vast amount of tiled and reflective surfaces.
Even her communal halls were bright and clutter free.
She has no Stena Plus Premium Lounge though you are advised of this upon booking.
Foot passenger disembarkation in Belfast is again via her stern stairs/escalator. Don't look down - the shaft is very steep!
Stena Horizon is a good, clean, no frills ferry which as I said in my opening introduction, has a large vehicle capacity and simplistic general arrangement for her passenger areas.