July 16, 2015 - Digby Courier
DIGBY – A crowd of close to 400 people lined up at the Digby ferry terminal to tour the new-to-us Digby Saint John ferry.
The Fundy Rose pulled into the Digby terminal about 5:45 p.m. July 15, just after the Princess Acadia headed out on her regular run to Saint John.
This was only Rosey’s second visit to Digby and her first since the application of 2,500 litres of new interior and exterior paint.
West Nova MP Greg Kerr and CEO of Bay Ferries Mark MacDonald gave very brief speeches and cut a ribbon with former chair of the Bay of Fundy Marine Transportation Association Jim Thurber before leading the crowd down the ferry ramps and into the new-to-us ship.
Transport Canada purchased the 14-year-old Blue Star Ithaki from Greece last fall for $44.6 million, and renamed it the Fundy Rose, to replace the 41 year-old Princess of Acadia on the Digby Saint John run.
The Fundy Rose has been undergoing refit and renovations in Halifax since last December.
Staff directed visitors through the ship, answered questions and explained some of the improvements and additions to the ferry.
While the lower deck looks spacious enough, it holds about eight less tractor-trailers than the Princess of Acadia does.
However it does have separate decks for cars and trucks.
“That’s a big advantage from a customer care perspective,” said Don Cormier, vice president of operations for Bay Ferries. “That was on our wish list and will provide a much different experience for the passenger.”
When for example cars drive on the stern of the ferry in Digby, they drive up a ramp through a hole to the upper car deck, around the bow and come back to the other end of the ramp hole. The ramp itself can be filled with cars and then leveled for the voyage.
In Saint John, the ramp is tilted down the other way, like a teeter totter, so the cars simply drive down and off through the bow hatch.
The biggest improvement for customer care is the escalators, says Cormier.
Joyce Belliveau, now living in Oshawa but originally from Digby County, was impressed with the escalators during the open house. She says she won’t miss lugging her bag up the steep stairs of the Princess of Acadia.
“It had an elevator but I could never find it,” she says.
Renee LeBlanc, manager at the Digby Pines, says he is impressed with the accessibility of the new ship and the improvements made to it.
“I like that so much is on one floor and I like the renovations,” he said. “It is really beautiful and feels like you’re on a cruise ship.”
Lucille Saulnier of Weymouth said she likes the open concept of the new-to-us ferry.
“There’s more choices of places to sit and relax and more comfortable seating,” she said.
The main cafeteria on the Fundy Rose is called the Acadia Eatery both as nod to the Acadians of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick but also as a wink to the current ferry Princess of Acadia.
The Mid Ship Cafe will be a Starbucks outlet with beverages and pastries.
On the upper deck at the stern is a third cafe called the Crow’s Nest, which is roofed but open at the sides and stern.
A quarter of the tables there have checker or chess boards and the pieces will be available from the crew.
The Fundy Rose has two movie lounges – both will play General entertainment but one will play animated features for younger family audiences and the other will play action or drama.
The movie lounges have airplane style seating and there are also several places with booth like seating.
The front of the main passenger deck was a lounge for first-class passengers only on the Ithaki but will be open to all passengers on the Fundy Rose. It is called the Fortune Lounge in honour of the ship’s namesake Rose Fortune, the first female police officer in Canada and an entrepreneur in the shipping industry on the docks of Annapolis Royal.
The ship has two professional lounges: a business centre with computer stations and a printer and a truckers lounge.
The ship is equipped with wi-fi throughout and also has a bank of phone chargers. Because the ship has European wiring, the normal wall plugs on the ship require an adapter. But the bank of chargers have a set of three different charging chords in each cabinet. Passengers can insert a Loonie, lock their cabinet, take the lock and then get the dollar back when they return the key.
Visitors were also given access to the bridge of the ship where Captain David Doucet was answering questions and letting young people and the young at heart sit in his chair.
The Fundy Rose was expected to enter into service July 18 but that has been delayed. The Princess of Acadia will continue to operate the service until the new ship is ready.
Quick facts about the Fundy Rose
- formerly the Blue Star Ithaki operating in Greece
- built in 200 by Daewoo Industries
- 124 metres long by 19 metres wide
- carries 1,317 passengers, 245 cars
- room for 14 or 15 tractor trailers
- cruising speed of 20 knots
- can make the Digby Saint John crossing in about two hours
- 774 seats on board including 250 airline style seating
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