Irish Ferries has purchased a newer, more luxurious Passenger/Ro-Ro cruise ferry which will replace their present vessel ‘Normandy’ on the Ireland - France routes. Currently operating under the name m/s ‘Kronprins Harald’, the vessel was bought from Norwegian ferry operator Color Line. The total cost will be €45million, including modifications and delivery.

Under an arrangement reached, the ship will remain in operation with Color Line on charter until the end of Summer 2007. Irish Ferries expects to take delivery of the vessel in October ‘07 after which some modifications will be made to adapt it for use in the company’s area of operation and prior to her entering service out of Rosslare before the end of the year, operating under a new name which is yet to be decided.

Built in Turku, Finland in 1987, it has operated on the Oslo - Kiel route facilitating the overnight cruise market with which it has built a strong reputation.

Built to very high standards and maintained in excellent condition, the vessel represents what Irish Ferries describe as ‘outstanding value’ in terms of the quality and range of on-board facilities. Marketing Director, Tony Kelly said, “Bigger, better and faster than the vessel it will replace, with greater car and freight capacity, more berths and a wider choice of stylish cabin accommodation, our latest acquisition will bring new standards of comfort and luxury to our long established Ireland – France service”

At 31,914 gross registered tonnes, the ‘Kronprins Harald’ is substantially larger than the ‘Normandy’. With sleeker lines and excellent sea keeping qualities, it will have a faster speed of 21.5 knots delivered by four more powerful engines.

With eleven decks, it will carry up to 1,458 passengers and 580 cars - an increase of 160 cars / 40%. Its extra vehicle lane metres (1,220 versus 645) will be reflected in significantly greater freight vehicle capacity ( 62 units versus 43 ). Other good news for car and freight drivers alike is the fact that cars will have their own deck separate from the freight deck.

Comfort-wise, the ‘Kronprins Harald’ has a larger number of berths (1,376 versus 1,126) and a vastly greater number of 4-berth family cabins ( 252 versus 83 ). Cabins are significantly more spacious and include deluxe five-star suites and some specially adapted for the disabled.

All cabins are situated on the upper decks high above the water line. Each will come with en suite shower and toilet facilities and most have their own television and bureau – comfort features that Irish Ferries believe will be a major advantage in marketing the service. Other facilities on the vessel include waiter and self-service restaurants, cafés, lounge bars, top deck open-air bar, night club, children’s play areas, conference suites and meeting rooms, cinema and shopping area.

With France still ranked as one of Europe’s top holiday destinations - and with the increasing cost, delays and inconvenience being experienced by air travelers - Irish Ferries is anticipating a swing back to motoring holidays which this vessel is geared to accommodate.

Similarly, Irish Ferries believes that this vessel will also deliver an increased tourism dividend for Ireland, particularly from French, German and other Continental visitors. It will help deliver over €70 million of direct and indirect benefit, particularly in regions outside Dublin where own-car tourists are crucial to the local economies. This will be a significant element of the estimated €500 million in tourism-related benefit alone which the Irish Ferries’ route network brings to the Irish economy each year.

In their drive to increase carryings, Irish Ferries will compete with an attractive range of travel packages that will utilize the additional capacity, superior accommodation and cruise-style features of the vessel.

Underpinning this expected growth in passenger carryings will be the extra capacity which the vessel will provide for the Irish Roll On / Roll Off freight market to and from Europe.

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