Irish Ferries new Ireland/France cruise ferry 'Oscar Wilde' has commenced scheduled sailings between Rosslare and Cherbourg. The vessel departed the Wexford port on on Friday 30th November last - exactly 107 years to the day since the death of Oscar Wilde in Paris on 30th November 1900.

By another coincidence, the sailing took place one day after Irish Ferries had won the prestigious Irish Exporters Association Annual Shipping Company of the Year 2007 Award presented to them by Irish Minister for Enterprise & Employment, Michael Martin TD.

Considered to be one of the most luxurious vessels of its type, the 'Oscar Wilde' was purchased by Irish Ferries last January at a cost of 45million. Since then, it has spent some weeks in a shipyard in Denmark where a number of new facilities, interior styling improvements and technical modifications were carried out in preparation for its introduction on Ireland/France routes. These improvements bring total investment in the new vessel to over 50 million.

Work carried out included the construction of two new state of the art 55-seat cinemas, the restyling of restaurants, bistros, lounge bars, children's play areas and other passenger facilities in themes that will reflect the link with 'Oscar Wilde'. This included a major upgrade to the main restaurant - the Left Bank Brasserie. Other items included the creation of a new hair and beauty salon, revamping of the main reception area, the provision of 130 new reclining seats, the fitting of new passenger information signs, the re-branding of the vessel in Irish Ferries livery and the installation of an extra bow thruster.

A formal renaming ceremony will take place in Dublin in the New Year.

Previously owned by Norwegian ferry operator Color Line, for whom it serviced the Baltic Sea route between Oslo and Kiel under the name 'Kronprins Harald', the 31,914 tonnes 'Oscar Wilde' was built in Turku, Finland in 1987. Substantially larger and significantly more luxurious than the vessel it replaces, it is the third vessel in the Irish Ferries fleet whose name has been inspired by a leading figure from the world of Irish literature.

With sleeker lines and excellent sea going qualities, it will have a faster speed of 21.5 knots (delivered by four more powerful engines) delivering a saving of one hour on current crossing times. 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.

On board, passengers will be impressed with the range and quality of cabins. They include 2, 3, 4 and 5-star cabins, all located above the waterline and all with their own en-suite facilities. Accommodation in 2 and 3-star cabins includes two and four bed units, available with/without window. Overnights are made even more comfortable thanks to fewer bunk beds and more beds positioned at floor level.

In the more luxurious 4-star cabins, where two and four bed options are available, passengers will enjoy the added luxury of a television, mini bar, fruit basket, trouser press and hairdryer. These features are replicated in top-of-the-range 5-star suites equipped with double beds. Personalized cabin service and inclusive waiter service breakfast also forms part of the 5-star service. Good news for parents is that baby cots can be accommodated in all 3, 4 and 5-star cabins.

Commenting, Irish Ferries Marketing Director, Tony Kelly said 'With its new name and modern on-board facilities, the ''Oscar Wilde'' presents us with wide-ranging opportunities to re-brand and revitalize our Ireland/France service in a manner that will have very positive benefits in the future'.

'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, the ''Oscar Wilde'' will bring new standards of comfort and luxury to our long established Ireland - France service', Mr. Kelly said.

30th November 2007

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