I wouldn't be too hard on Superfast X. I travelled on her recently, and found her not bad. I talked to one of the engineers and he said there is plenty of 'Seafrance' documents and signage still floating about. In all fairness I found her a big improvement on the Nordica. The ship was a lot cleaner, and I personally thought the conversion was a good job all in all. Just a quick note - Wifi was down, apparently there were problems of some sort.
Crossing was very quiet, and most of the areas were closed off.
This may come as a shock to some, but on my return journey with P&O on the European Endeavour, there was more people, and cars on board, than on the Superfast sailing? For the record the tickets were around the same price, and the feeling I got was P&O are looking to expand the passenger section of their Irish Sea operations. Norbay has received the new P&O livery, and house flag.
Competition seems to be getting very interesting, and P&O's departure and arrival times, are proving attractive, with both freight and passengers.
To be honest, I agree with those of the opinion pensioning off the HSS without a proper replacement is a mistake. On the passenger side capacity isn't too bad (if all areas were open), but freight capacity seems too low, certainly no improvement there.
No dedicated express sailing will probably hurt Stena. A vessel like the P&O Express might not be a bad thing.
But, in terms of real change and a real improvement, and that 'wow' factor this 'new ship' certainly doesn't come anywhere close to that of P&O's Spirit of Britain, or Stena Britannica. Superfast X doesn't feel like something you would bother paying more for. The ship is grand enough, but doesn't have the 'wow' factor.
Was my experience dramatically different to P&O? Not really! Crew performance was about on the same level. But terminal facilities do need to be improved in Liverpool. The port was looking tired, loadings were good in terms of freight, but cars also occupied much of the upper deck. One thing in Stena's favour is being RoRo. Lorry drivers seem to find reversing on P&O a pain in the a***, and in conversation they all reckoned P&O needed to invest in bigger, modern RoRo tonnage, and get Liverpool port modernised with twin level RoRo ramps.
The Liverpool route does appear in the dark ages, and hence Stena should take advantage of this, and grow the freight on the Holyhead route.