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Star Breezes In With Return to Ferryports Past And Present

23rd September 2018
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Star Breeze which made a recent return cruise call to Dun Laoghaire Harbour. This visit took place during the hosting of the Laser Masters World Championships which was a contributory factor in the ship berthing at St. Micheal's Pier instead of the customary use of Carlisle Pier. Star Breeze which made a recent return cruise call to Dun Laoghaire Harbour. This visit took place during the hosting of the Laser Masters World Championships which was a contributory factor in the ship berthing at St. Micheal's Pier instead of the customary use of Carlisle Pier. Photo: Tim Ryan

#Cruiseliners - Star Breeze concluded the cruise season to the former ferryport of Dun Laoghaire Harbour last weekend, having already made a second call earlier this month, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Star Breeze arrived on 15 September following an overnight passage from Belfast Harbour, where the port is only served by a single operator, Stena Line, but serving to three ports. These ports involve two in England, Heysham and Birkenhead (Liverpool) and the third port located in Scotland is at Cairnryan.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, this year Dun Laoghaire Harbour's cruise season was only to consist of three callers with the arrival of Star Breeze comfirming the completion of scheduled calls. The other visitor was made up by sister Star Pride that in June launched the season. Compared to the 2017 season that saw 8 callers arrive in the attractive harbour.

The pair of mega-yacht boutique cruiseships operated by US based Windstar Cruises, serve at the higher-end of the market. In addition there is a third sister, Star Legend which too made a visit to the south Dublin Bay harbour during last year's busier season.

This season also marked another year without a considerably larger cruiseship at anchorage offshore. So no tenders were to be seen back and forth to the Carlisle Pier which lies adjacent to the East Pier, a place particularly popular for its public amentity values as it juts out into Dublin Bay. 

As for the Star Breeze which pampers up to 212 guests in luxurious facilities among them in lounges, a club-bar, casino, screening room, computer room and a library. Leisure facilities include a spa, two whirlpools, a swimming pool and a fitness centre. Accommodation comprises suites and located on the outside to take advantage of ocean views and ports of call.

On this most port recent call to Dun Laoghaire, Afloat noted the Star Breeze did not take the customary cruise-berth at Carlisle Pier. According to Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, Star Breeze was making a transit port of call as distinct to a turnaround call. This would otherwise take place along Carlisle Pier, where there is more spacious surroundings and easier direct access for coaches making quayside arrivals and departures.

In addition at Carlisle Pier also known to older generations as the 'mail-boat' pier (for Holyhead) the pier was in use to accommodate the Laser Masters World Championships. Instead, Star Breeze was allocated a berth at St. Michaels Pier located more centrally on the harbour's waterfront. 

The two-berth facility was custom built in the 1960's to handle the ferry service to north Wales. Use of this new terminal did not entirely replace Carlisle Pier until it was finally made redundant with the introduction of the revolutionary Stena HSS (Highspeed Sea-Service) craft Stena Explorer in 1996. 

The car, coach and HGV vehicle capable carrying catamaran HSS Stena Explorer served the Holyhead route for almost two decades. The HSS used a specialist custom built docking system in addition Dun Laoghaire Harbour was given a purpose built terminal replacing an ageing structure from the original terminal.

Since the closure of the Irish Sea route which took place with Stena Explorer making a final crossing just over four years ago, on 14 September 2014, the harbour's sole anchor tenant was lost to neighbouring Dublin Port.

The capital's port is where however Stena Line had already in existance operations to Holyhead that began in 1995 with the launch of a freight-service with limited passenger capacity. The Dublin route is currently maintained by Stena Adventurer and Stena Superfast X. This ship replaced a smaller fleetmate, Stena Nordica, in part to compensate for the withdrawn HSS Stena Explorer.

It is from Dun Laoghaire Harbour's St. Michaels Pier's terminal where the HSS exclusively served from its speciliast berth, but the purpose of its terminal is now to change by housing the Harbour Innovation Campus. A fit-out of new office space is due to be completed this winter in readiness for these new businesses to occupy this prime location in the harbour. 

Further changes are underway, see recent story on the harbour's transfer which follows 'common concerns' by stakeholders on the future roles? of the harbour. As back in 2011, there were plans for a regenerated harbour with new facities, notably plans for a cruise berth jetty, an urban beach and a 'flotel'.

Since Stena officially announced in early 2015 not to continue HSS service to Holyhead, the terminal became occupied for several years with the Shackleton Endurance Exhibition. This was to highlight the achievements of Irish born Sir Ernest Shackleton, who led the four-year long Imperial Trans-Antarctic polar expedition that concluded more than a century ago in 1917.

The exhibition located in the terminal's front entrance was subsequently used as an art space which included works by the renowned historian and artist, Peter Pearson whose paintings focused on Dun Laoghaire's maritime history. Scenes depicted the Holyhead 'mail-boats' and replacment conventional roll-on roll-off car ferries.

Among these car ferries was Sealink/British Rails St. Columba, that would become part of Sealink British Ferries and ultimately into the realm of Stena Line.

The Danish custom-built ferry dating to 1977 served the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route loyaly until replaced by the Stena HSS in 1996. However in that timeframe, the ferry was renamed Stena Hibernia while a fleetmate, St. Anselm dating from 1981 was renamed Stena Cambria and served in the early to mid 1990's. The renamings were a homage to the last mail-boats, the sisters Hibernia and Cambria, representing the Welsh counterpart. It is somewhat full circle, as Stena Hibernia was renamed again as Stena Adventurer, the same name given to one of the two ships currently operating the Dublin-Holyhead service as previously mentioned. 

The mail-boats, car ferries and the Stena HSS, each represent historic chapters that make up Dun Laoghaire Harbour's rich maritime heritage and follows the bicentenary celebrations of 2017. 

The year 2018 will be remembered as a particularly quiet year in terms of cruiseships, however Afloat awaits with keen interest as to what the harbour beckons for the 2019 cruise season.

Published in Cruise Liners
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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