The newest ferry on the Irish Sea, STENA EDDA, will make her maiden commercial voyage later today. The brand new vessel will leave Birkenhead for Belfast at 21:30 this evening, arriving in Belfast around 6am tomorrow. The crossing will be the first time an E-Flexer class ferry has operated a true overnight service. Sister-ship and the only other E-Flexer in service to date, STENA ESTRID, sails on the much shorter Dublin – Holyhead route. The new ship increases passenger capacity on the route as well as significantly boosting freight capacity.
STENA EDDA has an identical layout to STENA ESTRID. While some small cosmetic differences exist inside, passenger facilities and are the same. Like on STENA ESTRID, passengers with cars on STENA EDDA will be able to park in a serperate car deck garage from freight. The dedicated car garage is at the same level as guest services and the first of three passenger decks, allowing passengers to simply walk (or wheel) straight into the passenger facilities.
Deck 7 on the new ship contains the aforementioned car deck and Guest Services, as well as a ‘Barista’ coffee shop, ‘Outlet’ onboard shop, and a large ‘Taste’ branded self-service restaurant. The first of STENA EDDA‘s two enclosed ‘Happy’ Children’s play areas is also located on this deck, as are toilet facilities for male, female, and disabled passengers and a baby changing area.
On Deck 8 STENA EDDA has a large ‘Stena Plus’ Premium Lounge forward overlooking the bow, with a ‘Hygge’ premium recline lounge behind. Passengers who have not pre-booked access to either lounge can purchase this from a kiosk at the entrance to each lounge. Behind ‘Plus’ and ‘Hygge’ is the ‘Living Room’ lounge to starboard and ‘Truckers’ to port. Truckers is a large dedicated facility for HGV drivers and incorporates its own self-service restaurant. Midships is the ‘Sky Bar’, dominated by its atrium which floods the area with natural light during daylight hours.
The second ‘Happy’ children’s play area is located to port while there are video and gaming machines on the starboard side. Just aft of the ‘Sky Bar’ are two free movie lounges, one on each side of the ship. Toilet facilities are also provided on this level, while Stena Plus also has its own.
The first of two cabin areas is located aft on Deck 8. A total of 175 cabins are located onboard giving a total of over 600 berths. This is far more than on the ship STENA EDDA replaces, STENA LAGAN. STENA EDDA has both inside and outside cabins, as well as two cabins specifically designed for disabled people. All cabins have ensuite bathrooms. There are also six ‘Deluxe’ cabins, three on each of deck’s 8 and 9, which have balcony access. In total there are 88 cabins on Deck 8 and a further 87 located on Deck 9, also aft. Forward of the passenger cabins on Deck 9 are the crew areas and navigation bridge.
By modern standards, STENA LAGAN and her sister STENA MERSEY have quite a good amount of open deck space for passengers to enjoy. This is taken to a different level on STENA EDDA with no less than five separate outside deck areas. The first of these are located on deck 7 and run alongside the side of the ship. Aft of the cabins on deck’s 8 and 9, and overlooking part of the dedicated car deck, are two further open decks facing the rear of the vessel. Finally, the fifth open deck area is located right at the top of the ship on deck 10 and surrounds the ships funnel.
STENA EDDA is expected to be joined by a sister-ship next January. Named STENA EMBLA, she will sail opposite STENA EDDA on the schedule currently operated by STENA MERSEY. Stena Line have not said exactly how much they have invested in their Irish Sea fleet renewal, but it is understood total hundreds of millions of pounds. Peel Ports and Belfast Harbour have also invested tens of millions in the terminals at Birkenhead and Belfast respectively.
STENA EDDA‘s maiden voyage follows STENA LAGAN‘s final crossing on the Belfast – Liverpool route last night. She has sailed on the route since she was delivered new to Norse Merchant Ferries back in 2005.
Once she has de-stored and final preparations have been completed, it is expected that STENA LAGAN will sail to the SEDEF Shipyard in Turkey. With her usual crew transferred to STENA EDDA, Stena RoRo will provide a replacement crew for the journey. While there she will be rebuilt into a twin-level-drive-through vessel and extended under the supervision of Stena RoRo. Once completed she will have similar capacity to the E-Flexer class. It is understood she will not return to the Irish Sea, though Stena have not yet confirmed on which route they plan to deploy her.
STENA MERSEY is expected to follow STENA LAGAN to Turkey after the summer season for the same work. It is understood that until STENA EMBLA arrives a ship from elsewhere in the Stena Line fleet will provide cover. This will possibly be a similar Visentini-class ship such as STENA HORIZON, STENA FLAVIA, SCOTTISH VIKING, or even STENA NORDICA if she is available.