Moby Vincent - the 'Looney Tunes' classic
One of four near identical vessels, two of which I have reviewed numerous times, I was keen to undertake a journey aboard vessel number three - Moby Vincent, the original Stena Normandica from 1974.
Now in her 47th year, at the time of writing Moby Vincent operated the 6hr (day time) voyage from Nice in the South of France to Bastia in Corsica, so as I was in the area this was the perfect opportunity for me to check her out.
The other three vessels in this class being the former Ostend/Dover vessel Reine Astrid (ex Stena Nordica of 1975 - now scrapped) and Corsica Ferries two vessels Sardinia Vera (ex Stena Atlantica of 1974) and Corsica Marina Seconda, ex Stena Nautica, also of 1974).
Allow me to take you around this veteran ferry so you can see if this vessel is right for your needs should you need to get from A to B via sea #a2bviasea
It is 4am and having arrived at the port several hours early for the ferry which departs early morning all I can do is relax in the terminal until embarkation commences.
For those of you who have never been to Nice, the port is at the eastern end of the vast stretch of beach, partially hidden by a rocky outcrop which is illuminated at night.
The port its self has an eastern berth and around the bay a western berth, with a marina in between the two.
Now, as you know from reading my website I tend not to pre-plan my trips; to ensure no bias when writing blogs and to act as a 'regular member of the public' I just rock up at the port and get on the first ferry that is leaving (in this case Moby Vincent) and write a travel blog to facilitate you by giving you first hand hints and tips if you ever need to cross the sea from this port however, by not pre planning I had no idea what side of the harbour Moby operate from.
Fortunately for me Moby Vincent is moored at the western side of the harbour closest to the city which is where I have walked from - lit up like a Christmas tree with string lights between her mast and funnel, she couldn't be missed!
It was quite a spectacle walking along the promenade at 'silly o'clock' in the morning and her bow coming into view as I rounded the rocky outcrop between the beach and the port - seeing the giant head of 'Tweety Pie staring back at me!
Looney Tunes art work adorns the hulls of all Moby Lines vessels - I was very tired having had no sleep for 36hrs and so tanked up on coffee I thought I was hallucinating!
Being so early I took the opportunity of taking a short walk along the adjacent pier before going down to the terminal for more coffee to keep awake. Moby Vincent's bow visor was raised and I could get my first glimpse of inside - her car decks appeared to be in good order; no visible signs of grime or damage.
Arriving at the entrance to the western dock I descend down the pedestrian path which runs alongside the road giving access to the dock - I am stopped by a security officer at the gate / marquee asking to see ID before allowing me to proceed to the terminal - a relatively small building located on the right hand side opposite the vehicle lanes and the vessel, which is moored starboard side to quay.
Below - the ramp giving access to the terminal via the security gate.
Below - the ferry terminal with the promenade & beach behind the rocky outcrop.
Below - sun coming up and embarkation about to commence.
Ironically Moby Vincent's sister ship, Corsica Marina Seconda, is on the berth at the eastern end of the harbour - great photo opportunity.
The terminal building its self houses several seating areas, vending machines, TV screens and a children's play room.
Foot passenger embarkation commenced just as the sun started to appear over the cliffs at the eastern end of the harbour - we can now see Nice in all its beauty.
Let's board the ship.
Boarding ferries in Nice is 'Mediterranean style' meaning foot passengers embark via the ships' main car deck as there is no dedicated overhead gangway into the main accommodation deck.
We follow a brightly coloured painted yellow 'path' ensuring we do not fall into the sea (there are no railings between the ship and the quay).
We also maintain eye contact with the vehicle drivers to ensure we do not get run over as they board at the same time as foot passengers.
We pass under the raised bow visor, walk along the lower vehicle deck, and ascend via Moby Vincent's central stair case to her accommodation deck.
Below - passengers and vehicles mixing on the narrow car ramp! Follow the yellow painted path and don't fall into the water!! Embarking a vessel is part of the adventure of travelling around Europe by sea.
Sorry for the blurred photographs - I kept looking behind me to ensure there were no cars about to run me over!
Embarking via her central staircase - very tight and constrained area, very 1970's.
Arriving at the main deck.
Navigation around Moby Vincent, as with her sisters, is easy. All accommodation is on one deck - in this case Deck 7, though two decks of cabins are at the forward end below this one.
Let's go for an explore - we can start off at the reception at the top of these central stairs.
The ships reception can be found adjacent to the amid ships stairs. Facing aft this facility is open throughout the voyage. Personnel within are pleasant and helpful.
I enquired about some literature for this vessel - a 'welcome aboard' pamphlet or similar, and although no specific printed plans or information about Moby Vincent are available, they did give me a copy of the Moby Line brochure and showed me what facilities were aboard - going above and beyond; maybe they thought I was a travel blogger lol.
From here, as all the facilities are on one deck, we can either go forward or aft. Let's do the later.
The children's playroom dominates the amid-ship / aft section of this deck; those passing through do so at their own risk for fear of being hit by flying coloured plastic balls from the ball pool or by excitable children running around. One section of this facility consists of a truly vast soft play area consisting of colourful padded walls, ball pool, slides and a sofa bench whilst the other is an empty area with a slightly raised stage; most children were laying in this area reading books and doing colouring.
Moby Lines does well attracting families and playing to their Looney Tunes marketing scheme; this vast play area shows they are dedicated to catering to families for this lengthy voyage - this area keeps children entertained.
At the extreme aft end of Deck 7 the large and spacious lounge bar can be found. Decorated in blue, this area exudes peace and relaxation.
The almost full width bar is located at the forward end and faces aft and has the drink section; hot and cold beverages plus alcohol on the starboard side and the snack section to port.
Strangely it is necessary to purchase drinks on the port side then re-join another queue on the starboard side to collect - very back to front which caused some confusion!
Snacks range from toasted baguettes to crisps.
The seating area consists of seated alcoves situated around three sides of the lounge by the windows facing inwards and individual chairs clustered around tables.
A TV monitor showing French sports is located on the wall of the staircase which gives access to the exterior deck above.
Below-the stairs from the aforementioned bar giving access to the exterior deck.
We will come back to the exterior deck later, but first let's go back to the information desk, taking our lives in our hands passing the children's playroom and we can explore the forward end of Deck 7.
A long arcade (corridor) with gaming machines and pullman chairs spans the length of Deck 7 along the ships' starboard side and connects the aforementioned bar with the facilities at the forward end of this deck.
Passing the information desk and central, we next come to the self service cafeteria which dominates the amid ship/forward section of this deck.
The main counter is located portside aft and appeared to serve a good selection of products albeit at high prices.
The seating area is extensive - many patrons remaining here for the duration of the voyage even though food is only available at certain times.
Below, note the window centre top with views into the shop and the small corridor centre right which gives access to the toilets and the forward stairs.
Below, the aforementioned small corridor with access to the shop on the left, self service restaurant behind me and the forward staircase ahead of me.
Back at the cafeteria, it is open plan to the starboard side arcade and pullman seating by way of a half height divide.
Off the forward stairs the only shop aboard sells items to pass the journey time such as , puzzle books, novels and children's soft toys, all of which are in abundance. Unfortunately no Moby Line souvenirs are available for purchase.
With regards to these forward stairs, if you go down them you will find (just like Moby Vincent's three sisters) two decks of cabins - both of which are adjacent to the upper vehicle decks
I did not sample a cabin on this voyage as it was day time and the weather out on deck was superb. However, here are some pictures of the cabins aboard sister ships Sardinia Vera (left) and Reine Astrid (right) which will give you a fair indication of what the cabins are like aboard this ship, Moby Vincent.
If you continue up this forward stairwell all the way to the top you will eventually come to the exterior deck, but I will show you around there shortly.
At the forward end of deck 7 is a bar/lounge, accessed from the forward stairwell.
The counter is amidships facing forward with sofas in cosy alcoves facing inwards around all three sides adjacent to the windows.
Decorated with red fabric and localised blue carpet with hard flooring around the bar, the décor is pleasant. A wall mounted TV on the forward/starboard corner shows French TV programmes and provides the only entertainment, other than watching the world go by through the numerous windows.
Moby Vincent has a relatively limited amount of exterior deck space primarily located around the port, starboard and aft sections of Deck 8 plus around the large funnel on Deck 9; all decks are narrow and transiting around these areas was obstructed by dogs lounging in the hot Mediterranean sun and by random
sun-lounges blocking the way.
Dog kennels are available on Deck 8.
Plastic benches featuring life saving equipment underneath dominate the aft end of Deck 8. They are less comfortable than the wooden deck chairs found elsewhere however, they are still welcome on a long hot voyage.
An excellent and very much appreciated feature is the exterior bar located at the aft of Deck 8 under the shelter of the aft stairs. The ice cold bottled beers go down way too easily when you are lounging out on deck in the hot summer sun, watching the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea passing by and dolphins playing in the ships' wake. That's right, dolphins!
Below - dolphin spotting!
On the other vessels in this class; Corsica Marina Seconda and Sardinia Vera, together with the now scrapped Reine Astrid, an additional solarium is (was) located forward of the funnel. On this ship however this area has been converted into a pullman lounge.
Below - access to the pullman lounge via a set of doors from the exterior deck.
Accessed via the exterior decks and the ships' central stairwell, this area has (mainly) forward facing seats decorated in blue in a highly air conditioned environment.
The floor to ceiling windows overlooking the port/starboard side lifeboats are tinted blue giving a very disconcerting 'night club feel' turquoise coloured haze which is highly unpleasant and gave me a real headache!
In closing it was so refreshing to travel aboard a classic / old style / traditional car ferry. Now in her 47th year (!!) internally she appears to be very well cared for with a choice of bars and lounges, a large informal dining area and excellent children's facilities.
She did not feel cramped although many passengers were out on deck so on a night time crossing or when the weather is less favourable things may be different. As such, I would recommend hiring a cabin to have some personal space.
Moby Vincent does have a certain charm not least owing to the gentle rumble of her engines, the fuel smell from her funnel and noisy vents around the exterior decks - it brings back memories from my childhood when ships were smaller when 'cruise ferries' were never heard of.
A classic no frills vessel, but a real pleasure to cross the Mediterranean Sea.