Special Feature | Brittany Ferries’ cancelled Honfleur as Baleària’s Rusadir

By: NI Ferry Team
RUSADIR. Image: © Shipadvisor (Instagram).
RUSADIR. Image: © Shipadvisor (Instagram).

In June 2017, Brittany Ferries confirmed the order for a long-awaited replacement of the NORMANDIE. Due to enter service in the summer of 2019, the HONFLEUR, as she was to be named, would offer accommodation for 1,680 passengers, and 2,600 lane metres of vehicle traffic. She was to be built at the FSG yard in Flensburg, which was building Irish Ferries new WB YEATS.  

Events took a different turn however. By early 2019, it was clear that the building process was months off track, and when the yard entered bankruptcy as a result of penalties for late delivery of Irish Ferries’ WB YEATS, the writing was on the wall. In June 2020, almost exactly 3 years after announcing the order, Brittany Ferries terminated the contract.  

Render of Brittany Ferries HONFLEUR wearing the new livery for the 2019 season. Brittany Ferries.
Render of Brittany Ferries HONFLEUR released before the order was cancelled. Image Brittany Ferries.

By this point, the wannabe HONFLEUR was partially built and her fate was unclear. As part of the restructuring of the troubled shipyard, the HONFLEUR was taken over by the yards former owners, Siem Industries, and eventually towed to the Fosen yard in Norway for completion and fitting out in November 2020. After sea trials, the all-white painted ship was taken to Gdynia in May 2022 where she awaited finding a buyer or charterer.  

Honfleur becomes Rusadir 

Fast forward to March 2023, and reports began to emerge in both Polish and Spanish sources, that Baleària were interested in the HONFLEUR. Events moved quickly and almost before any official communications were released, pictures emerged of HONFLEUR gaining a Baleària logo, and eventually the full company livery, together with a new name RUSADIR.  

That Baleària would be interested is perhaps not surprising. The company had already embraced LNG as a fuel for its fleet, and it was in the market for a vessel capable of operating its Melilla public service routes from southern Spain, with the main Malaga route having a crossing time of around 6hrs – very similar to Portsmouth to Caen.  

Balearia's HYPATIA DE ALEJANDRIA/. Balearia.
Balearia’s HYPATIA DE ALEJANDRIA was the first ferry in the Mediterranean to use LNG as fuel. Balearia.

The basics of RUSADIR’s design are relatively simple. She has two main, drive-through vehicle decks, with a full width mezzanine on the upper level. A tilting ramp allows access between the vehicle decks in ports with single level linkspans. RUSADIR’s external profile was dictated by 2 things. She had to be within the maximum length to turn in the turning circle in Ouistreham, and she had to have space for LNG tanks and fuelling. With a lack of LNG infrastructure in her intended ports, a bespoke fuelling system had been designed with a crane, tanks and LNG container storage all located at the aft end. 

Passenger facilities 

Deck 7 

The passenger accommodation of HONFLEUR was designed with a similar range of facilities to NORMANDIE and MONT ST MICHEL. On Deck 7, the lowest passenger deck, there are a series of reclining seat lounges forwards. These surround a small ‘Salon du Thé’ type refreshment venue. As delivered, the port side aft most lounge, now called Neptuno, has very limited seating but with vast legroom and small tables for each pair of seats. The seats are leather clad and recline, and there is within this lounge, a cupboard and counter which might indicate that this was to have been some sort of business class lounge. 

Further forwards across the bow is a more normal reclining lounge, with the port side lounge having greater legroom and more premium seating than the starboard 2 lounges.

In the centre of the forward area of Deck 7 are tables and chairs for those enjoying refreshments from the Salon du Thé. In the central casing part of the forward area is a cinema, and a prayer room in what would clearly have been a second cinema but which contains no seats.  

The cinema onboard RUSADIR. A second similar space, complete with sloping floor, is in use as a prayer room. Image: © Shipadvisor (Instagram).
The cinema onboard RUSADIR. A second similar space, complete with sloping floor, is in use as a prayer room. Image: © Shipadvisor (Instagram).

There are wide promenades both port and starboard, leading to an aft lobby which contains the reception desk and some further seating to port. To starboard is a lounge with red velvet, convivial seating on multiple levels and an area with a big screen and no seats.  

From looking at this space, it seems to have been intended to be a kind of family lounge, with space for children to watch children’s films on a couple of screens.

The reception lobby onboard RUSADIR. Image: Shipadvisor (Instagram).
The reception lobby onboard RUSADIR. Image: Shipadvisor (Instagram).

There are small outdoor deck areas both port and starboard, under the lifeboats where the foot passenger gangway would have landed, had she been delivered to Brittany Ferries, together with an outside deck area aft. Due to the proximity of the LNG equipment, this has been designated a no smoking area, and with there being a parallel area above, this is a rather darker area than regular outside deck.  Completing the facilities on Deck 7 is a luggage storage room.  

Outside deck space, Deck 7, RUSADIR. Image: Shipadvisor (Instagram).
Outside deck space, Deck 7, RUSADIR. Image: Shipadvisor (Instagram).

There is also one mystery space on this deck. Walking along either the port or starboard corridor, there is a pair of blank sliding doors inboard, which are faced on the opposite side of their corridor by some glass display cases. The discovery of an original Honfleur safety plan on the ship quickly reveals that behind those sliding partitions would have been a large shop, as befits a route where duty free sales are possible. On RUSADIR this space is closed off, and there is instead a small shop on the deck above. 

The port side arcade, Deck 7, RUSADIR. The sliding doors to the left lead to the space which would have been the duty free shop had the ship entered service with Brittany Ferries. Image: © Shipadvisor (Instagram).
The port side arcade, Deck 7, RUSADIR. The sliding doors to the left lead to the space which would have been the duty free shop had the ship entered service with Brittany Ferries. Image: © Shipadvisor (Instagram).

Deck 8  

Deck 8 is the eating and drinking deck on RUSADIR. The forward most space is a vast self-service restaurant, stretching the full width of the ship, and a little over 1/3rd of the way back. The designers have tried to break up this space with interesting angles and separate areas which have resulted in some unusually shaped diagonal tables as a result. In addition, this area contains a children’s area with play things and children’s TV.  

The kitchen space is to port, and a wide passenger arcade links the spaces to starboard. As one walks down this arcade, there are a series of small areas, with seating and a book shelf, each looking like a crossover between a modern coffee shop seating area, and the ‘Living Room’ found on some Stena ships, but without the reading material.  

There is a small shop off this arcade, in what had been intended to be a games room, before one reaches the main bar aft.

The small shop onboard RUSADIR. This was originally to have been a games room had the ship been completed for Brittany Ferries. Image: Shipadvisor.
The small shop onboard RUSADIR. This was originally to have been a games room had the ship been completed for Brittany Ferries. Image: Shipadvisor (Instagram).

Compared to the main bar on some other Brittany Ferries ships, this space feels relatively small, being only on the starboard aft part of the ship. However this is a little deceptive, since the seating stretches down the starboard arcade.  

To port is the à la carte restaurant. This is laid out as one might have expected Brittany Ferries to have specified it, with a pair of counters for the starter and dessert buffet options for which their restaurants are known. This space is not currently in use.  

Cabin Decks 

Decks 9 and 10 contain the passenger cabins. The cabin corridors are light and airy, with bright carpets and deckchair stripe cabin doors. There is a small section of ‘Suite’ cabins which one assumes were originally specified as Commodore Cabins for Brittany Ferries. On Baleària these come with enhanced amenities, a spacious seating area, and a free dinner or lunch in the self-service restaurant.  

The suite cabins themselves are in a separated area differentiated by dark grey carpet and a door to keep noise out. The regular cabins on the opposite side from the Commodore cabins, are 6 berth family cabins. The decks above are crew spaces including the crew dining and recreation facilities.  


Most of the public rooms were fitted out long after Brittany Ferries cancelled the order, but before Baleària agreed the charter. As such the ship has entered service devoid of artwork which might bring character to the comfortable but otherwise slightly cold interior. Despite this late notice, Baleària have had some success in branding the ship, and all internal signage is theirs, and some of the upholstery is in their colours.  

Whilst passenger flow is generally good through the ship, there are some interesting quirks in the layout. The wide staircases facilitate quick access to the vehicle decks which is needed for short turnarounds. But oddly, each staircase is reached only on one side on the public room decks, a result of the layout of adjacent public spaces. The outside deck space is similarly unusual in that it is in a series of stacked, almost glassed in squares at the aft ends of decks 8 and 9, together with some space on Deck 11 which adjoins the crew accommodation.  

Overall the ship is bright and spacious, albeit she lacks the atriums of her Caen route predecessors. A number of the facilities seem superfluous for her current operation, not least the à la carte restaurant space. Nevertheless, it is good to see the ship being use, and she is certainly an upgrade on some of the vessels previously used on her current route.  

With special thanks to Shipadvisor without whom this article would not have been possible.

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