The arrival of the HSS concept on the Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire service numbered the Stena Hibernia's remaining days on the Irish Sea.
Stena Adventurer (I)
Renamed Stena Adventurer in January 1996, the ship was earmarked for a transfer to Dover where her high passenger capacity would have been welcomed. The Stena Cambria had already been transferred back to her old home port but had not been warmly welcomed as her accommodation was now rather basic when compared with the former Stena Hibernia. In the event, the Stena Adventurer remained at Holyhead beyond the entry into service of HSS Stena Explorer on April 10, 1996.
While the spotlight was trained on the HSS service another newcomer had been working away, out of the limelight, since November 1995. The Stena Traveller was also a key element in the company's quest to revamp travel on the Holyhead routes. This ship had replaced the Stena Cambria but running to Dublin Port instead of Dun Laoghaire. This gave hauliers their own dedicated freight ship, a move welcomed by some Dun Laoghaire residents who were concerned about the increase in ro-ro traffic through their town.
The summer of 1996 also saw the ship's last local senior master retire. Capt Richard Jones had joined the Holyhead fleet of British Rail Sealink in 1972, his first ship being the cattle boat Slieve Donard. By 1973 he found himself as 2nd officer on the passenger ships, sailing on the Lord Warden under the command of Capt Len Evans. His opposite number back then was Jim Wilcox who, having moved to Fishguard and eventually became master on the Stena Felicity, now replaced Capt Jones as senior master.
Having played support to the Stena Explorer during the summer season the end for the conventional ferry service finally came on 30th September 1996. Having completed her final sailing the Stena Adventurer was laid up at Dun Laoghaire as the port of Holyhead could not offer a berth for the ship. Such was the level of reconfiguration at the port that a suitable berth for lay-up was no longer available. A far cry from the days when container ships, cattle ships, car ferries and mailboats all operated from the port while ships on overhaul were handled at the Refit Berth.
For one month the former flagship of the Sealink fleet remained on standby in the event of mechanical problems on the HSS. After this period of inactivity the ship was moved from Dun Laoghaire to Belfast for lay-up at Stena's new ferryport.
Before her move northwards, she was permitted one final visit to her homeport, operating one round trip to clear a backlog of traffic on 29th October. The following evening the Stena Adventurer slipped out of Dun Laoghaire under the command of Capt Jim Wilcox. As she left the harbour Stena Line's port vehicles lined the quay sounding their horns, a salute normally reserved for retiring masters. In response, the Stena Adventurer's whistle echoed around Dun Laoghaire as she completed her final swing before heading into Dublin Bay. Eight hours later she arrived at Belfast, Finished with Engines being rung off at 0240hrs on 31st October.
It was not too long before the Stena Adventurer was required again and on 3rd November she pressed into service to Stranraer, replacing the Stena Caledonia, her former running mate St David, which required attention at Harland & Wolff. Unfortunately one of her crossings took some 16 hours as she sheltered off Larne in high seas. Her final commercial sailing under the Stena Line flag was from the Scottish port to Belfast at 0230hrs on 7th November under the command of Capt Peter Lockyer.