Fantasia / Stena Fantasia /
P. & O. S. L. Canterbury / P. O. Canterbury

Stena Fantasia is seen in full Stena Line livery, probably the best suiting colour scheme she ever carried.

The arrival of the superb Pride of Calais and Pride of Dover in 1987 gave Sealink more headaches in the Cross-Channel competition stakes. Yet again their arch rivals had seized the initiative by building larger, faster, more profitable ships. Instead of retaliating with its own new vessels, Sealink economised by purchasing and converting two large second hand freight ferries to 'multi-purpose' operation. The first of the vessels involved was originally built as Scandinavia. After a history of changing hands several times she was sent to dry dock at Bremerhaven, Germany. It was here where she underwent her dramatic transformation to 'superferry'. A substantial amount of new additional decking was constructed behind her existing superstructure. Enormous twin funnels were positioned on stability tanks affixed to both sides of her hull. A dome shaped feature was created amidships. She became a most interesting looking ferry indeed.

She emerged in March 1990 as Fantasia, a name which conjured great expectations of what she would offer. The press release hyperbole issued by Sealink certainly led the travelling public to believe they would enjoy their experience of 'Fantastic' Fantasia. She was carpeted throughout with star shaped patterns, and seating was plentiful in her brightly lit bar, cafeteria and lounge. Her interior image was very plastic; Formica prevailed in every direction. Compared with St. Anselm, which she replaced, Fantasia was certainly an enormous improvement for Sealink. She did however suffer teething problems. Her manoeuvrability was hampered by inadequate bow and stern thrusters and she required expensive modifications soon after her conversion.

With Sealink British Ferries' acquisition by Stena Line, Fantasia became Stena Fantasia in 1991, reflecting the change in her ownership. Seven years later she was inherited by P. & O. Stena Line and her port of registry was changed from exotic Nassau (in the Bahamas) to Dover. In 1999 she was renamed P. & O. S. L. Canterbury in a nomenclature scheme shared with other vessels operated by the joint venture. Subsequent refurbishment saw her garish on board decor toned down to conform to the more sobre style influenced by P. & O. She was still somewhat mismatched against her new fleetmates though.

P. & O. S. L. Canterbury was renamed P. O. Canterbury the moment Stena's share in the joint venture was sold to P. & O. in 2002. She wasn’t registered as Pride of Canterbury as this name was reserved for the converted Dover/Zeebrugge freighter that was due to take her place in May 2003. She was withdrawn from service and laid up at Dunkerque for sale. She was acquired by Greek interests who quickly passed her on to Polferries for service in the Baltic.

It was noteworthy that in the battle for Cross-Channel supremacy, P. & O.'s original 'Chunnel Beaters' of 1987 went on to see off the former Fantasia after thirteen years. They, themselves, lasted into their twenty-fourth year before replacement by new builds.

M. S. Scandinavia
Builder: Kockums Varv A. B., Malmö, Sweden.
Yard number: 569.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 163.51 x 23.04 x 6.5 metres. After conversion: 163.51 x 27.63 x 7.9 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 8,919, 3,801, 10,500. After conversion: 25,122, 11,331, 3,837.
Engines: Two Sultzer diesel.
Power: 13,020 kW.
Speed (knots): 19.5.
Passenger certificate: 175. After conversion: 1,800.
Car capacity: 640.
Lane metres (for vehicles): 2,100.

1.12.1979: Launched.
17.3.1980: Delivered to Rederi A. B. Nordö, Malmö.
1981: Sold to Navigation Maritime Bulgare, Varna, Bulgaria.
4.1982: Sold to So Mejdunaroden Automobile Transport (S. O. M. A. T.), Bourgas, Bulgaria. Renamed Tzarevetz.
11.1988: Sold to Sea Containers Limited, Hamilton, Nassau. Renamed Fiesta. Chartered to O. T.-Africa Line.
29.6.1989: Sent to Lloyd Werft G. M. B. H., Bremerhaven for conversion to multi-purpose ferry.
2.1990: Renamed Fantasia.
1.3.1990: Set sail for Dover.
8.3.1990: First commercial sailing between Dover/Calais.
31.5.1990: Registered for Stena Equipment Limited.
3.6.1990: Returned to Lloyd Werft, Bremerhaven for attention to propeller fault.
12.1990: Renamed Stena Fantasia.
12.1998: Renamed P. & O. S. L. Canterbury.
15.10.2002: Registered for P. & O. Ferries. Renamed P. O. Canterbury.
16.5.2003: Laid up at Dunkerque.
22.10.2003: Sold to G. A. Ferries, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Alkmini A.

'Newsroom South East' goes across the Channel on board Fantasia in this video clip from 1990.
Video: © B. B. C. Television.

Channel Seaway / Fiesta /
Seafrance Cézanne / Western Light

Fiesta reveals her massive bow visor as she edges towards her berth at Calais on a June afternoon in 1993.

An identical sister to Fantasia was created using a sister vessel originally named Ariadne. Her first stint on the Channel was in 1989 when she was used by Sealink on freight only sailings between Dover and Calais as Channel Seaway. Whilst she could swallow up large amounts of freight, she was slow and was stern-only loading. This inauspicious stint preceded her transformation to the French flagged superferry, Fiesta.

Ownership of Fiesta was transferred to newly formed S. N. A. T., and her smart tricolour livery reflected this when she entered service in 1990. The French Sealink colours were far more flattering to the post conversion profile of Fiesta, than the vulgar scheme carried by Fantasia. When S. N. A. T. (French Railways' shipping subsidiary) dissolved their pooling agreement with Stena Line in 1996, Fiesta was renamed Seafrance Cézanne. She had never featured the same livery as her sister, but now she was sailing in competition with her too.

Towards the end of her career, Seafrance Cézanne was a shadow of her former self. She was operated on a part-time roster, sailing from late afternoon to the early hours. The interior razzmatazz of her Sealink days had been subdued by partial refurbishments implemented over the years. There were still some reminders of her 1990 reincarnation visible to passengers such as the kitsch overhead signage in her public corridors. After the delayed entry into service of Seafrance Moliere, she was finally retired from service. Time had finally run out for this icon of the Channel crossing. She spent some two years gently decaying at lay up in Dunkerque. Her chances of future service dwindled as her structural condition deteriorated. Many anticipated that she would end up being sold for scrap, a sad ending for this extraordinary ferry. Mysterious developments occurred in August 2011 when, having been reported sold, her port of registry was changed to Belize City (the capital city of Belize, formerly British Honduras in Central America) and she was renamed Western Light. Her Seafrance markings were painted over, whilst her future use remained undisclosed. In late October she was prepared for her last voyage. This took her down to the Mediterranean and through the Suez Canal en route for Alang in India, infamous graveyard of many life-expired ferries in recent years. Within weeks she was beached and set upon by the torches of the breakers. A most undignified end.

M. S. Ariadne
Builder: Kockums Varv A. B., Malmö, Sweden.
Yard number: 568.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 163.51 x 23.04 x 6.5 metres. After conversion: 163.51 x 27.63 x 7.9 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 8,919, 3,801, 10,500. After conversion: 25,122, 11,331, 3,837.
Engines: Two Sultzer diesel.
Power: 13,020 kW.
Speed (knots): 19.5.
Passenger certificate: 175. After conversion: 1,800.
Car capacity: 640.
Lane metres (for vehicles): 2,100.

13.10.1979: Launched.
1.1980: Delivered to Rederi A. B. Nordö, Malmö.
2.1980: Renamed Soca.
1981: Sold to So Mejdunaroden Automobile Transport, Bourgas, Bulgaria. (S. O. M. A. T.). Renamed Trapezitza.
10.1988: Sold to Sealink U. K. Limited, under Bahamas flag. Renamed Fantasia.
7.5.1989: Renamed Channel Seaway. Entered service Dover/Calais freight only.
17.10.1989: Sent to Lloyd Werft G. M. B. H., Bremerhaven, Germany for conversion to multi-purpose capability.
2.1990: Renamed Fiesta.
29.5.1990: Registered for Société Propietaires des Navaires, Paris, France. 49% share held by Stena Line A. B.
9.7.1990: Entered full commercial service Dover/Calais.
1.1996: Renamed Seafrance Cézanne.
1999: Stena Line disposed of its interest in S. N. A. T.

A technical drawing of Fiesta from her year of conversion to multi-purpose ferry.

Seafrance Cézanne heads out of Dover Harbour by dawn's early light on a May morning in 2001. Her twin sister and rival, P. & O. S. L. Canterbury meanwhile has slipped her moorings at the Eastern Arm and is preparing to proceed to a berth to load for her first sailing of the day.

A fascinating computer generated simulation of Seafrance Cézanne, almost convincing if it weren't for the reversed Seafrance symbol on her starboard side.

Now named Western Light and flying the flag of Belize as she awaits her final destination in August 2011.