1987 saw the largest ferries ever built at that time enter service on the short sea service between Dover and Calais. The two ships represented an investment of over £85 million by European Ferries for the Townsend Thoresen operation, apart from technical refinement and points of consumer appeal to compete with both existing ferry opposition and any future English Channel fixed link, the Pride of Calais and sistership Pride of Dover are claimed to have acheieved greater cost effectiveness per freight unit transported than previous vessels.
With the proposed Channel Tunnel eventually likly to provide a new dimension of competition, Townsend Thoresen deliberately set out to enhance the travel experience of seaborne passengers with a philosophy much along the lines of the big Baltic companies and in some respects the interior ambience of the hugh new ships was quite reminiscent of Viking Line's vessels with large scale use of mahogany and brass. The aim was to create an impression of giving travellers more than they pay for. The accomodation at the time designed to cater for 2300 passengers was spread over two main decks with room below for a total of 650 cars on two complete decks, combined with hoistable platforms.
Traffic on the Dover to Calais route took a tremendours leap forward from 1980 with the introduction of the Spirit of Free Enterprise, Pride of Free Enterprise and the Herald of Free Enterprise, vessels of almost 8000 tons which became known as the 'Spirit' Class, and which had sufficient speed to make as many as five return crossings in a 24-hour period, taking up to 1300 passengers and 350 cars a trip. They were built by Schichau Unterweser, the Bremerhaven concern also responsible for another four Townsend new builds in addition to the englargement of a further four vessels in the fleet, and it was logical that the German yard would be entrusted with the task of constructing the latest ships. Obviously a lot of features from the 'Spirit' class were incorporated in the new vessels.
The Pride of Calais arrived in Dover on the 29th November 1987 and officially entered service on the 4th December 1987 from Dover.
Apart from a choice of bars and lounge areas there was a wide range of eating options including a 55 seat restaurant with full silver service, two self-service cafeterias seating 292 and 204 respectively, plus a further 55-seat lounge/diner. A completly fresh innovation at the time was a 180 capacity function suite. The ships were introduced at the height of Duty Free sales and the ships utilised this to great advantage, boasting an extensive shopping complex.
Unlike the Pride of Dover the Pride of Calais was delivered in the new full P&O blue folowing P&O Ferries takeover of Townsend Thoreson following the aforementioned Herald of Free Enterprise disaster.
So after 20 years of service out of the Kent port, the Pride of Calais was going strong and are still being recognised as being the most successfull short-sea ferry introduced, where other ships have come and gone the Pride of Calais and sistership Pride of Dover have stayed and become somewhat of a legend with a hugh following. Internally the Pride of Calais has changed signifantly during the many refits and overhauls over the years, for example the drivers cabin area was removed and a large Club Class lounge installed in their place, but one thing remained and that was how comfortable the ship is to travel aboard.
During January 2007 the announcement was made that a long career was coming to an end. New replacement ships were being designed and built in Finland which when completed in 2011 were due to enter service between Dover and Calais. The Pride of Calais was chosen as the second to step down from service following the introduction of the second new build, however a repreive was granted following the closure of Seafrance and their withdrawl from the Dover to Calais service. The Pride of Calais was given an overhaul and was retained in service, albeit freight only until the 23rd October 2012. The final sailing of the Pride of Calais was the 11:30 sailing from Dover on the 20th October 2012 arriving back into Dover at 15:20, this sailing marked the end of several era's. The final departure from Calais (14:50 local time) saw the final departure stern first out of the port before turning around, something no other ship operating on the route is permitted to do. Following discharge in Dover the ship was destored before departing on the 23rd October 2012 at 10:35 for layup in Tilbury. Unlike the Pride of Dover the departure for the Pride of Calais was unrecorded due to very thick fog at the time, however the arrival at Tilbury later that afternoon was captured on film and finally at 17:05 the ship was berthed infront of her long departed sister the Pride of Dover.
Unlike the Pride of Dover, the Pride of Calais sailed under her own power again soon after arriving in Tilbury. The ship was to underwent a maritime inspection following arrival which was passed with flying colours and all certificates put inplace for the next few years. Early December saw the rumour surface that TransEuropaFerries had chartered the ship for three years to operate between Ramsgate and Ostend, these rumours proved true and following a refit and repaint the ship entered service on the Ramsgate to Ostend service under the name of Ostend Spirit.