Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Saturday 13th May 2017
I set my phone alarm and discovered from the View from the Bridge on the television that we had already arrived in the caldera at Santorini. It was such an astonishing sight, knowing we were tied up inside the middle of a volcano and could take a tender ashore after breakfast.
The excursion passengers left the ship first and then at 10.30 a.m. the rest of us could take one of the local tenders the short distance to the shore.
The busy quayside seems to have been extended and there are obvious signs that the walkways under the mountainside will be expanded round the headland in the future. We enjoyed walking around and then talking with a man from New York; we all talked about Santorini and then had an amusing short discussion about the UK's vote to leave the European Union and the USA's vote for President Trump.
We went to see where the donkeys are located at the foot of the zig-zag path to the town of Thira way up high; in fact we could smell them before we reached the place where people can get into the saddle for the ascent. I have never been on the donkeys but have walked up using the wide steps cut into the rock beside the donkey walk. It was slightly hazardous at the time and the smell of the animals and their droppings was ever-present. Visitors to Thira are now advised to take the newly-built cable car up to the town and of course this offers wonderful views out over the caldera.
I bought some local postcards which showed ships that called here in the past, and my travelling companion was able to identify the vessels for me, including ROMILDA.
Left to right: local tourist ferry, Apollon of Epirotiki stern onto the quayside then foreground an original R (Renaissance) ship; photo probably taken in the 1980s, photo copyright Haitalis, 13 Astrous Str. Athens
Left to right: an original R ship, Apollon of Epirotiki stern onto the quayside, a small local vessel, then Windstar or Windspirit? photo probably taken in the 1980s, copyright Haitalis, Athens
Top: Marco Polo; below left: Sea Goddess II ?; below right: unknown R-ship 2nd batch (rounded funnel); top left-hand: tiny fast ferry coming in from Crete; photo taken in the 1990s copyright Haitalis, Athens
GA Ferries Romilda, built in 1974, sailing into Santorini probably in the early 1990s; copyright photo by Marmatakis Brothers, Galagado Akrotiri, Chania
We went to a local cafe for coffee, saw occasional ferries calling at their quayside in another part of the caldera, and watched other local tenders going to and from NORWEGIAN SPIRIT and WESTERDAM which were anchored in the caldera. We were also surprised and happy to see the little NEARCHOS, which we had visited in Lavrion yesterday, sailing neatly and fast into the ferry port with her so-recognisable Knud E Hansen profile. That Chief Engineer had obviously done a superb job on her engines.
Back on board I enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine before lunch at the outdoor Thalassa Bar and lido buffet before settling in a shaded steamer chair for an afternoon rest. Later we could see various ships arriving and departing from the ferry port and the tenders taking passengers back to their cruise ships in the caldera. All these big ships cannot anchor because of the enormous water depth, so the engines are constantly working to keep them in position, usually tied up to an allocated and fixed buoy.
Tonight is 'White Night' on board for anyone who wants to wear white clothing, and many did. We didn't know about this so I wore pink. We had sailed from Santorini by this time but the ship took us on a tour around the caldera so we could enjoy the different views from the Deck 5 Eros Bar; we noticed the little NEARCHOS had returned to the port and was sailing parallel to us for a while but soon speeded up and headed out to the other islands on her itinerary. What a delight to see her again; I liked that my friend photographed and sent a picture of her to our maritime author friend Dr Bruce Peter, who wrote the authorised book about Knud E Hanson.
Dinner was enjoyable, and this time we were placed with an American couple and again the conversation was most interesting and topical. This evening the show was a trip around the world in musicals, and we all enjoyed the music and dancing/acrobatics. Tonight we sail for Izmir in Turkey, a distance of 188 nautical miles.
Ships seen at Santorini:
Celestyal Nefeli (Celestyal Cruises), Norwegian Spirit (NCL), Westerdam (HAL), Nearchos of Creta Cargo Lines, Blue Star 2, Champion Jet 1, Champion Jet 2, Nissos Rodos
To be continued...
Friday, 9 June 2017
Friday 12th May 2017
I flew out of London Gatwick Airport on an easyJet Airbus 319/320 at 05.45 in the morning. It was daylight but with heavy cloud and I could see nothing of the English countryside as we headed east. We flew towards Amsterdam and the Low Countries and then headed south towards Greece and my destination of Athens Airport, with a flight time of 3 hours and 20 minutes. I will have to advance my watch 2 hours when I arrive.
We arrived 10 minutes earlier than expected and I had my first glimpse of the mountains and sea as we made our final approach into Athens. I was soon off the aircraft and into the terminal building, before walking outside to enjoy feeling the warmth of the Greek sunshine. It's been a long and grey winter in the south of England. My travelling companion soon arrived and we arranged to get one of the airport buses to our embarkation port of Lavrion, to sail on CELESTYAL NEFELI.
The bus dropped us off in the main square and we decided to walk to the port, which we could see through the trees. A large and dirty stray dog decided to adopt us, at a distance, and acted as an escort as we walked. We noticed he had a used cardboard coffee beaker in his mouth, which we thought might be his own version of a food begging bowl...
We passed the white bench that two other ferry friends thought had been in use on AGIOS GEORGIOS (ex-HENGIST); the ship had been in lay-up here at Lavrion some years ago. The dog kept looking back at us to check on our progress and once we all reached the port gates he left us to our own devices and collapsed slowly in the shade of a snack bar. We thought he was probably known there.
We passed the laid-up TAXIARCHIS, and then went into the Cruise Terminal building to check in for CELESTYAL NEFELI which we could see her at a nearby quayside. We were offered a ride in the shuttle bus to the ship, but it took us only 5 minutes to walk the distance, along the side of the inevitable metal fencing. Before we got there however we could see something interesting, tied up at another quay. It was NEARCHOS, of Creta Cargo Lines, looking empty and rather forlorn. As we walked towards the stern ramp we could see an overalled man walking towards us from the deck and he said he was the Chief Engineer and invited us on board. We stood at the top of the ramp and I noticed that this little ship had once been a train ferry, as I could see 3 sets of train lines that were now covered up. The Engineer said she was built in 1968, is 4,163 gross tons, and he was obviously really proud of his little vessel and engines (IMO: 6727193). Another man soon appeared and made us feel unwelcome so we all walked back down the ramp; the Engineer explained that it was the owner. We thanked him for letting us see the car deck and telling us about his ship and the removal of much of the stern hull/superstructure, and then walked a few yards to board CELESTYAL NEFELI.
It was a great relief to walk on board and locate my inside cabin on Deck 2. The last forty-eight hours have been rather unexpected and it was good to have a few minutes to get things in perspective again. The plan to sail on CELESTYAL NEFELI for 3 nights on 12th May from Lavrion was made recently, and plans were also made to add some ferry trips after the short cruise. Arrangements were made and all was well until 48 hours ago when one of the ferry companies notified my travelling companion of 3 days of strikes by Greek seamen on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. Naturally this meant we could not sail on anything later in the week after disembarking from CELESTYAL NEFELI. Things were cancelled or abandoned but it was decided to continue with the short cruise and then enjoy a full day in Piraeus port before flying home to the UK on Monday evening. I changed the date of my flight home, removed unneeded items from my rucksack, let my family know of my changed plans, and set off for Gatwick airport on Thursday evening. My son was due to fly into Gatwick from a business trip that evening so we met there for a short while, before he headed home. Nine hours later I flew out to Athens.
Now here I was on this little cruise ship, looking forward to a good time on board but without the planned ferry trips after that. CELESTYAL NEFELI was built in 1992 for the Effjohn Group at 19,090 gross tons as CROWN JEWEL, then became CUNARD CROWN JEWEL, went to Star Cruises as SUPERSTAR GEMINI, VISION STAR, MV GEMINI, before being chartered by Celestyal Cruises (the new name for Louis Cruises). I have enjoyed several trips with Louis Cruises over the years.
Lunch was being served up on Venus Deck 6 in the Leda Casual Dining room and outside deck so we enjoyed that and had a giggle at the thought of this being named 'A Euphoric Cruise'. We sail this evening about 9 p.m., arriving tomorrow morning in Santorini for the day, then sailing on to Izmir in Turkey for Sunday. After a day there we sail back to Greece and the port of Nafplion and that could be the end of my Euphoria.
Boat drill was held at 6 p.m. and we discovered there were one or two different styles of life jackets on board. The top of the life jackets fitted as expected but men wearing shorts or trousers fitted the extra, unfamiliar, strap fairly easily between their legs, with some adjustment back and front; those of us wearing a skirt or dress became aware that wearing this unfamiliar extra strap would cause what I shall call unexpected limb exposure. Hmm, I made a mental note to exchange my life jacket when I could.
We had spent time in the afternoon enjoying the sun in the aft Thalassa Bar with its delightful tiered curved decks around us, but after Lifeboat Drill it was time to change and enjoy pre-dinner drinks and music in the Deck 4 Eros Lounge Bar. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Aegean Restaurant, which covers the full deck width of the ship, with excellent views of the sea from every table. The observant Head Waiter ensured that all passengers were made welcome; the menu offered a good selection of dishes which were professionally served by his staff. The cruise package price includes almost all alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, plus excursions, and we found that the bar staff were also most attentive to passengers' needs, whether in the Aegean Restaurant or in the many Bars.
The evening's entertainment at 9.45 p.m. was a Mythology Show - a trip around the Greek Olympus and the Greek Gods. I enjoyed most of this, but extreme tiredness suddenly overtook me and I had to return to my cabin. It had been a long and busy day, but I was at sea again and happy to be there, as we sail 108 nautical miles overnight.
Ships seen at Lavrion, Greece
To be continued...
Tuesday, 16 May 2017
This is MED STAR in Drapetsona, Greece, that I photographed yesterday as I sailed to Salamina and back.
Saturday, 15 April 2017
Sunday 24th July 2016
I took photographs after our late night Bridge visit here on PRINCE and departure from Igoumenitsa, and of course by that time my camera settings told me it was the next day, i.e. Sunday 24th July, so here are some of those pictures.
The alarm went off at 5.25 a.m. after what felt like a very short night's sleep. Waking to the sound of the ocean was lovely though, with just an awareness of a barely-audible gentle engine noise in the background.
We made our way along to the Bridge, from our very own original stern bridge accommodation, and the Captain again made us very welcome. We watched the Pilot come on board and were introduced to him when he arrived on the Bridge and then we were able to watch the ship PRINCE prepare to turn and get the ramps down to the quay, here in Brindisi in Italy.
The Captain told us that it had taken us just 16 minutes from the outer harbour entrance to getting the ramp down. That is such a contrast with the VASTERVIK, although we think that her engines and controls are not able to do anything faster. We could see her approaching the quay this morning in fact, and she was certainly faster at getting the ramp down here in Brindisi than she was in Igoumenitsa last night (which took 45 minutes). He also told us that PRINCE has 6 engines but uses 2, and can do 22 knots but does 14 knots usually. He gave us his e-mail address to keep in touch. He lives on a Greek island, has a boat for his enjoyment, and a son working in a London Bank. He also told me that he lectures on stars and celestial ways.
This morning in daylight I could see the charts more clearly (used as a back-up for the modern systems on board) and smell the basil plant being grown in a pot. We also stood on the glass panel in the floor at the end of the internal Bridge wings, looking down many feet to the sea below. I could also see and photograph the bell of the PRINS JOACHIM (built 1980) down on the fo'c's'le deck.
Soon we had to leave the Bridge and thank the Captain of PRINCE, and make plans to pack and take final photographs. The staff on here are really friendly, and obviously enjoy their work because many of them spoke to us as we finally disembarked. Oh, goodbye PRINCE, we didn't have many hours on board but goodness they had been amazing.
We took a local taxi into the port town and went to Betty's for breakfast. I then went for a walk around the back streets to see the Roman remains. The Roman marble columns of Brindisi were erected in 1st Century BC and reconstructed between the 2nd and 3rd Century AD to overlook the port and are the symbol of the city. Only one remains now, having been damaged during the passing of time, but I was glad to see it.
Reality and the internet brought us down to earth, as we discovered that most of the Italian trains are on a 24 hour strike today. Plan B was hastily discussed as we made our way up to Brindisi railway station to see if anything was actually running. One long-distance train was running to Milan, two of us bought tickets and raced to another platform to catch it, and caught it with moments to spare. We fell into comfy numbered seats in the air-conditioned carriage and enjoyed over an hour's journey north as we made our way to Bari.
My other friend was hoping to catch an evening train up to Milan, which would probably run, so there were hurried goodbyes at Brindisi as we started to go our separate ways home.
Once in Bari we would relax, find a little local backstreet restaurant for lunch, and get a non-striking train to Bari airport in time to fly home to the UK. We had enjoyed ferrying on many ex-Sealink ships, in Greek and Italian waters, and had many wonderful memories and photographs to take home - how fortunate we each felt.