A trip from Copenhagen to Oslo and back on DFDS Seaways' newly overhauled MS Pearl Seaways on 22-24 January 2011. Pearl Seaways began life in 1989 as Viking Line's Athena, operating 22-hour cruises from Stockholm to Mariehamn and back. From the outset, she was an outstanding cruise ferry. Her designers Bo Franzen and Per Manfredsson gave her a very distinctive aesthetic with vast expanses of glazing all around her saloon decks and cabins with windows angled to give forward-facing views of the passing archipelago scenery. In 1993, she passed to the Malaysian Star Cruises, moving to the Far East as the cruise ship Lankapuri Star Aquarius. Later, in 2002, DFDS Seaways bought her, re-named her Pearl of Scandinavia and renovated her in Aalborg for service between Copenhagen and Oslo. Now, she has been re-painted in the Company's new livery and re-named Pearl Seaways. Onboard, she remains one of the best appointed ferries in Northern Europe. Furthermore, her Danish crew take obvious pride in her appearance (she is immaculate) and her passengers enjoy excellent hospitality onboard. Recently, she was voted Denmark's second bast workplace - a remarkable achievement because being employed onboard a ferry is hard work. As a passenger, one gets the impression that the Pearl Seaways is a very well-run ship and with a proud and happy crew.
I flew to Copenhagen via London Heathrow's Terminal 5, where I had luncheon in Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food. This was very good and re-kindling a sense of jet age glamour missing from British airports for too long a time. The Norfolk suckling pig was top-notch.
Before boarding the Pearl Seways, I had a wander around Copenhagen, taking in the sights and signs of this most lovely city:
Maersk Line headquarters at the foot of Esplanaden - the architecture reflects that this is the world's biggest operator of container ships. Built into the facade are vitrines containing models of various Maersk ships. Note that Regina Maersk's superstructure is no deeper than a 40 foot TEU container.
Shipping wealth turned to cultural capital: the Opera House in Christianshavn, a slightly bastardised design by Henning Larsen; it does not look quite as the architect intended.
Copenhagen is full of magnificent public sculpture from La Belle Epoque. Here, Gefion rides her chariot, hauled by a brace of bulls.
Nearby, the headquarters of a famous Danish (ex) shipping line - the East Asiatic Company. This is the work of Carl Brummer, who also designed the interiors of many of the Company's liners.
Churchill Park - Sir Winston's determined face is always a great subject for figurative sculptors.
The splendid Frederik's Kirke by Nicolai Eigved was completed in 1894 with funding provided by C.F. Tietgen, the great Danish financier, industrialist and founder of the shipping line, DFDS.
Kongens Nytorv where the old headquarters of Maersk Line is located (above right)
Nyhavn in winter
Pearl Seaways in her new livery. This is a big improvement over the previous 'racing stripes' scheme.
Me with a large model of the stately Clyde-built DFDS Scandinavia-American Line trans-Atlantic liner United States.
My very comfortable cabin on Pearl Seaways - cosy and immaculate.
The upper hallway and the Explorers' Grill restaurant.
The Red & White wine bar - featuring on the bar counter two quite magnificently pretentious books about 'Timeless Living'. These contained images of white-painted interiors with single items of designer furniture and empty rococo picture frames leaning against walls. This is the first time I've ever seen such genteel aspiration on display onboard a ferry. Timelessness is seductive yet impossible to achieve - just as is counteracting the inevitability of our own mortality.
The deck scene upon departure from Copenhagen. Happily, they still play 'Københavnermarsch' over the tannoy.
Above: The Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar and the Blue Riband Restaurant, where I had a fine dinner, as shown below:
In the hallways are vitrines containing large builder's models of famous DFDS Copenhagen-Oslo ships of the past. I'm posing here with one of my favourites, the Kronprins Olav of 1937, designed by the young naval architect Knud E. Hansen:
The Columbus Club featuring a lively Bulgarian showband playing various pop, jazz and country & western hits. DFDS ships are family orientated and it is always nice to see children up dancing with their parents, or watching the musicians at work from in front of the bandstand.
Two well known Danish ferry experts give a detailed inspection of a model of Kong Olav V, introduced in 1968.
Above left: dancing in the dark in the Force Seven nightclub.
A quiet drink with piano music in the Navigator's Bar. This is a very attractive space.
A touch of the Obamas in the conference suite.
Approaching Oslo at the dawn of a sunny day. In Norway, winter lighting can be very beautiful.
Breakfast in the Seven Seas Restaurant and a Commodore De Luxe cabin sitting area, inspected once the occupants had disembarked.
A visit to the roof of the new opera house: at least it's useful for something.
When using public telephones, Norwegians obviously believe in taking pragmatic precautions. Well, you could catch something nasty, I suppose.
A visit to the maritime museum gives a chance to inspect some beautiful models of favourite ships.
Fred. Olsen multi-purpose freighter Bomma (above).
The departure of Color Magic for Kiel at 2 pm.
Fred. Olsen Lines' headquarters, complete with bow bronze grandly aloft.
Smorgasbord in the Seven Seas Restaurant. This was excellent.
Pearl Seaways back back in Copenhagen at the end of the trip.