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Svensk Sjöfarts Tidning
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Birka Paradise

Luxury cruiser for the Baltic Sea

Like her predecessor “Birka Princess”, “Birka Paradise” is a true cruise vessel with no car deck. Purpose-built for short cruises between Stockholm and Mariehamn, her main attraction is a floating spa with a tropical beach and a covered sun deck.

In the 1990’s the era of continuous expansion within the passenger ferry traffic across the Åland Sea came to a halt. There was a row of coincidental factors leading to this, of which the foremost were the economic recession in Finland and Sweden at the turn of the decade, the expansion of the EU threatening the tax free trade and finally the “Estonia”-disaster. As a consequence of that, the ferry companies were no longer willing to invest in newbuildings.

The “Birka Paradise” is the first new-built large passenger vessel within the Finnish and Åland merchant fleet in more than ten years. The owner Birka Line ordered another cruise vessel newbuilding in 1988, but she was never delivered to the original owner due to the bankruptcy of the builder Wärtsilä Marine in 1989. Now, fifteen years later, Birka Line has finally taken delivery of its second newbuilding ever. The company’s first newbuilding Birka Princess, built in 1986, still remains in the fleet.

Second newbuilding
Birka Line started working on a new cruise concept for its Åland cruises at the end of the 1990’s. In June 2002 the project had reached a stage where Birka Line in Mariehamn and Aker Finnyards in Rauma signed a letter of intent to develop a new cruise vessel. A firm building contract followed in November the same year. According to a press release of Aker Finnyards, 14 shipyards had been competing for the order.

Since then the project has advanced fast. The production started on June 18, 2003 and the keel was laid on October 20. At the keel-laying ceremony it was revealed, that the name of the vessel would be Birka Paradise. It was a result of a contest, where 3,500 people had left their suggestions. Of these, more than 50 had proposed the winning name.

“Birka Paradise” was launched on April 16, 2004 and the EUR 155 million vessel was handed over to the owner on November 8. In the evening she left the shipyard for Mariehamn, where she was open to the public the following day. After a transfer across the Åland Sea, “Birka Paradise” sailed on her official maiden voyage from Stockholm to Mariehamn on November 10. Before that the vessel had been named by the singer Arja Saijonmaa at the Skeppsbron quay in the centre of Stockholm. In addition to the invited guests, a large crowd witnessed the occasion.

Short cruises
The “Birka Paradise” is purpose-built for Birka Line’s short cruises between Stockholm and Mariehamn. The traffic is operated under the brand Birka Cruises, which is Birka Line’s wholly owned Swedish subsidiary. Birka Cruises handles the bookings and the marketing of the cruises on “Birka Princess” and “Birka Paradise”.
With the new vessel Birka Cruises wants to attract the large generation born in the 1940’s better than before.
– This generation’s financial position is good and they are experienced travellers. They also often have the possibility to travel any day of the week. This market segment has great potential, states Birka Line’s President and CEO Wiking Johansson.

“Birka Paradise” replaces“ Birka Princess” on the Mariehamn-route. For “Birka Princess” Birka Cruises has launched new two-day cruises from Stockholm to Turku (Åbo), Helsinki (Helsingfors) and Tallinn with departures on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays respectively. In addition to that, she makes a short cruise to Mariehamn on Fridays.

The port of Stockholm has upgraded the Stadsgården-terminal and the quay for the new vessel. In the terminal, the area of the passenger transit hall has been increased to house larger volumes of passengers and there are new gangways leading directly to the vessel. Birka Cruises has also opened a travel shop in the building.

  The artificial sun is always warm at the Paradise Beach.

Tropical beach
With “Birka Paradise” Birka Line introduces a new cruise concept on the Åland Sea. On a cruise vessel the sun deck is one of the central parts. However, the climate in the Nordic countries makes a traditional sun deck useless for most of the year. Birka Line has therefore developed a closed sun deck, which brings the warmth and the sun to the North.

The sun deck is called Paradise Beach and it is covered by a glass roof. An artificial sun provides the beach with a light, which except for one thing is identical to that of the real sun: Most of the harmful UV-radiation has been filtrated to keep it within Swedish norms. It is indeed possible to get a tan, but it takes longer than in real sunlight or in a solarium. The system has been developed by the Swedish company IMN-Suntech AB.

Tropical climate
The temperature inside is kept at some 30 degrees C. The roof of the sun deck can be opened during the summer to let the real sun in. Paradise Beach has a swimming pool, which is covered at night, when the 850-sqm-pool area turns into an exotic nightclub. There are also two Jacuzzis. The tropical environment also includes a light breeze and sound effects.

The adjacent area on deck 10 houses the Relax & Spa compartment, which is operated by Scandinavian Beauty Line. There are 3 saunas, an outside Jacuzzi and five rooms for different spa-treatments. Outside on the deck a jogging track runs round the Paradise Beach.

From left to right: The á la carte restaurant Four Seasons, Café Brazil and Yacht Club Bar.

Three in one
The general idea is to offer the customers a voyage in three parts with their own profile. Part one is the outbound voyage, focusing on food, entertainment, sun and bath. Part two is the arrival with sunset and a rising tempo. The return voyage is called “a day in Paradise”, including relaxation, pleasure, shopping, bath and entertainment.

The interiors have been designed by Yran & Storbraaten, Lasse Heikkinen and Partner Ship Design. In addition to Paradise Beach, there are two other centres for entertainment on board. The Torget is like a plaza in the middle of deck 5 with a piano bar, Pub Pacific and Café Brazil. The show lounge Club Copacabana in the aft part of deck 5 has a stage, two bars, dancing floors both inside and outside on the aft deck, as well as a casino operated by Ålands Penningautomatförening (PAF).

“Birka Paradise” has a large conference area for 400 persons in the forward part of deck 6.

The passenger cabins on “Birka Paradise” are spacious. There are 734 passenger cabins for 1,800 passengers, located on decks 2, 4, 7, 8 and 9. In all categories the standard is high, including two lower beds, shower/toilet, air conditioning, radio/TV, telephone and hair dryer. 224 cabins are of Birka Class, which are also equipped with a safe and a refrigerator. The most luxurious suite on board is in two levels with a separate living room and bedroom and a two-deck high panorama window facing forward.

The prefabricated cabin modules have been manufactured and installed by the Finnish company Shippax Ltd.

The complement of “Birka Paradise” consists of 21 officers and 160 crewmembers. The total number of crew cabins is 181.

“Birka Paradise” for the first time in the home port Mariehamn.

Clean and silent
“Birka Paradise” is said to be the most environmentally friendly vessel on the Baltic Sea. She fulfils two new class criteria from Det Norske Veritas: Clean Design and Comfort Class 1.
The Clean Design rule has a technical approach and defines several environmental solutions for ship structures, such as prohibiting the carriage of oil in the double bottom. Comfort Class 1 means that the noise and vibration level is extremely low, ensuring a pleasant environment for the passengers.
The hull form is optimised for the route and its speed profile, minimising swell and suction in the archipelago. Further, there are closed sewage treatment systems, no chemicals are used in the cooling water and the bottom painting is non-toxic. All diesel engines are equipped with catalytic converters for minimising emissions in the air.

Four main engines
Propulsion is provided by four Wärtsilä 6L46B medium speed engines with an output of 5,850 kW at 500 rpm. They are coupled in pairs to two Renk gearboxes, reducing the speed to 153 rpm. The two stainless steel CP propellers are manufactured by Rolls Royce and have a diameter of 4.6 m.
Two thrusters in the bow and one in the stern ensure excellent manoeuvrability. The vessel has two rudders with a max rudder angle of 60 degrees.
For generating electrical power there are four generator sets, each generator driven by a Wärtsilä 6L32 diesel. The diesels develop 2,760 kW each at 750 rpm.
Birka Paradise is equipped with two pairs of heeling tanks and one pair of foldable fin stabilizers by Blohm & Voss.

The integrated bridge is built around the latest version of the Atlas Nacos system. There are three seats for the navigators in the cockpit, which is situated in the centreline of the vessel.

“Birka Paradise” has a broadband satellite connection to the head office in Mariehamn supplied by SatPoint. The telephone lines on board are connected via the satellite link to the switchboard in Mariehamn. Also the computer network on board is connected to the head office through the same link.

Maintenance control
Xantic has supplied the AMOS Business Suite application on board the “Birka Paradise”. It consists of AMOS M&P for the maintenance, spare parts and purchasing and AMOS Mail for communication ship–shore. The system ensures efficient running of engineering and hotel equipment. In addition to main and auxiliary machinery, the AMOS Business Suite system also organises and tracks the broad array of equipment surveys and regulatory certificates. The database includes technical, hotel and vessel equipment, suppliers, manufacturers and spare parts. Integrated and combined with an extensive office-based AMOS M&P system, “Birka Paradise” is operated as part of the overall fleet of Birka Line-vessels.

The vessel is fire-protected by a hi-fog sprinkler system from Marioff. In the engine room a CO2 fire extinguishing system has been installed.

//Pär-Henrik Sjöström


Latest update 18-10-2006 8:49


No 24/2008
SST Ships of the Year

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