The vessel was also fitted with a second bow thrust unit for improved manoeuvrability in port, new smoke alarm systems and a full overhaul of the sprinkler system.
Work on the passenger areas 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 reflect the link with Oscar Wilde, including a major upgrade to the cafeteria - the Left Bank Brasserie. Other items include the fitting out of a new hair & beauty salon, revamping of the main reception area, the provision of 130 new reclining seats, the fitting of new passenger information signs and the re-branding of the vessel in an Irish Ferries livery.
The Oscar Wilde’s principal dimensions are:-
Gross Tonnage: 31,914
Length Overall: 166.26 metres.
Breadth (moulded): 28.40 metres.
Draught: 6.50 metres.
Speed: 21.5 knots.
Car Capacity: 580.
Meanwhile, the Normandy performed as expected throughout the 2007 season. Her final sailing for Irish Ferries was from Cherbourg to Rosslare on 3rd November, arriving at the Irish port at 12.15 on 4th. Having disembarked passengers and vehicles, departed Rosslare for the last time that same afternoon, bringing to an end her tenth year of service to the company, the longest unbroken period in her 25 year life. She sailed to Cherbourg then around the south east coast of England, and into the North Sea, heading for Fredericia in Denmark for lay up and a meeting with her replacement so that crew could transfer between the two vessels. Pending the entry into service of her successor, sailings between Ireland and France were then suspended for four weeks to facilitate statutory, and familiarisation training of the crew, and other operational considerations. They transferred to the Oscar Wilde on 5th November to commence statutory training.
Having sailed from Fredericia on 17th November the Oscar Wilde undertook berthing trials in Cherbourg and Roscoff, before heading for Pembroke Dock on 20th November. She attained a speed of 26 knots between Cherbourg and Roscoff. The Oscar Wilde arrived in her new home port of Rosslare at 10.45 am on 21st November where she completed EU Host Nation drills.
Liveried in blue hull with the Irish Ferries ‘wave’ logo, and a white funnel with the company’s house flag, the Oscar Wilde entered service with Irish Ferries with the 16:00 sailing for Cherbourg on 30th November 2007. With her introduction customers were offered a vastly superior level of comfort and facilities than those available on the Normandy, as well as shorter crossing times.
The main passenger deck is Deck 7. Facilities are lounge bars at both ends. Forward is the Merrion Lounge, whilst aft is the larger Gaiety Lounge, both with entertainment facilities. The starboard side features a wide and imposing passageway, with seating and tables along the vessel’s side. Off this walkway are the Berneval waiter service restaurant, the Steakhouse, the Café Lafayette, Oscar’s Piano Bar, a games zone and a children’s play area. There is a central staircase towards the bow, and on the port side the tastefully appointed Left Bank cafeteria.
Deck 5 is the location for the information desk and themed foyer, off which are the hair and beauty salon and the ship’s shop.
Cabin accommodation is situated on Decks 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Each cabin has ensuite facilities, and there is a wide choice from 2 to 5 star, and additionally suites. On Deck 10 are reserved seating lounges, and the ship’s 2 cinemas.
Deck 11 features a service point which will lend itself to sales of ice creams and snacks, situates as it is in the centre of the upper sun deck.
The bridge is situated on Deck 9, and Decks 3 and 4 are vehicle decks, with an internal ramp for accessing the upper deck.
Internally, the vessel is light and airy and virtually all evidence of Color Line ownership was gone. Money had been spent to the extent that if not ‘in the know’ passengers could form the opinion that the ship had been built for its new owners. This was very much in contrast to the Normandy right up to her final sailing with Irish Ferries.
When one bears in mind that the Oscar Wilde on entry into service was just 5 years younger than the vessel she replaced, the contrast in terms of facilities could not be more marked. While not as modern as the other vessels in the Irish Ferries fleet, she is none the less what has been described as “homely.”
The inaugural voyage of the Oscar Wilde was eventful but reassuring. Under the command of Captain Brian Gordon, she sailed from Rosslare 70 minutes behind schedule on 30th November 2007 with approximately 700 passengers on board. Soon she was coping with a south westerly force 9 severe gale, and waves of up to 6.7 metres. Having rounded Land’s End at 01:00 on December 1st, she made 21 knots and arrived on schedule at Cherbourg at 11:30.
The return crossing also departed late, some 65 minutes behind schedule. Heading into the teeth of a force 10 storm and waves of up to 8.7 metres, Land’s End was passed at 07:00 on 2nd December, average speed from Cherbourg having been 11 knots, with passenger comfort in mind. Heading for Rosslare, the ship achieved 20 knots with ease, and 20 miles off the Tuskar Rock light was still coping with 8.2 metre waves and winds in excess of 100 km/h.
Arrival in Rosslare was at 14:45, some three hours and fifteen minutes late. Berthing was achieved smoothly in winds of 70 km/h, so proving the wisdom of the fitting of the second bow thrust unit. In bidding farewell to his passengers on both crossings, Captain Gordon, hoped to see them on board again, but expressed the wish that “next time, perhaps Oscar will not be so Wild(e).”
The vessel had been tested under about the most severe weather conditions possible, and had not been found wanting. It was proven that with Oscar Wilde Irish Ferries had the vessel which they needed for some years to come.
The Oscar Wilde continues in service on the Rosslare – Cherbourg run until 22nd December 2007, and will then replace the Isle of Inishmore on the Rosslare to Pembroke Dock service as she and the Ulysses dry dock. In late January 2008 the Oscar Wilde will be shown to the media and travel trade in Dublin, before resuming service to and from France in early February.