Friday, 13 November 2009
GEMS OF THE AEGEAN - SEPTEMBER 2009 Part 1
GEMS OF THE AEGEAN - AQUAMARINE & AEGEAN PEARL September 2009
Why fly when one can go by ship? That question hardly needs answering, so I shall just say that the Haynes rucksack was re-packed ready to go to Greece for the Ocean Liner Society cruises from Piraeus. We were to sail with Louis Cruise Lines on AQUAMARINE and The AEGEAN PEARL.
Tuesday 8th September 2009
A flight had been booked from London Stansted Airport to Bari in Italy for part of the journey, and I was particularly bemused during my Underground journey across London, getting to Stansted. At one station an older man, his pink long shirt-sleeves rolled up and his white hair looking rather wild, got into the full carriage at one end and proceeded to make the sign of the cross in front of each and every one of us as he walked along the whole length of the carriage. It all happened very quickly and most of us just nodded our polite thanks. A rather stunned silence followed him.
Wednesday 9th September 2009
The next day I felt blessed as a 7.00 a.m. Ryanair flight took us safely to Bari, ready for the ferry journey from there to Patras. I loved looking out at the Italian coast as we flew south, and had a lovely view of one of my favourite ports - Ancona. The Ryanair fanfare was sounded as we landed on time (I know, little things please little minds), a bus took us into the city and we could enjoy the hot walk to the Agoudimos Line terminal to collect our tickets. Aha, our sailing on IONIAN KING has been cancelled, as the ship has ‘technical problems’. We would be re-booked on SUPERFAST 1 but had to return later for the new tickets. We had time to see GUGLIELMO MAZZOLA still laid up at another quay; we had time to see SVETI STEFAN II, RIGEL, RIVIERA ADRIATICA and IONIS near each other, as well as GRECIA and FLAMINIA.
We never did see IONIAN KING during our subsequent travels, so it will be interesting to find out what has happened to her. She was the ex M/S FERRY LAVENDER, so I had a mild interest in seeing another Japanese sister to IONIAN QUEEN. As Union-Castle ships had lavender-coloured hulls, the name was appealing.
After a fish lunch in a local restaurant, and a stroll around the old town, we returned to collect the new ferry tickets for the overnight trip on SUPERFAST 1 from Bari to Patras, via Igoumenitsa. En route we came across one of the inevitable sleeping dogs, which I photographed thinking "This is a 'case' of letting sleeping dogs lie".
SUPERFAST 1 was built in 2008 in Italy at 24,950 gt, and originally named M/S FORZA for Grand Navi Veloci, to carry 500 passengers. She became SUPERFAST 1 later that year, on being sold to Attica Holdings, with a passenger capacity of 950, and vehicle capacity of 900, so we were to travel on a very new vessel. She seemed a very basic ferry, with only the top Solar Deck open for fresh air and views, and no chance to get aft. We could watch with some dismay a couple of livestock lorries (full of sheep) being loaded as well as other vehicles.
POLARIS was nearby and sailed before us. Old familiar vessels were sighted, including MARKO POLO, so the beautiful evening light for departure gave great pleasure.
The first meal in the self-service buffet, including meatballs and tomato sauce, made us realise we were on a ship destined for Greek waters – well cooked and predictable.
Even so, this clearly was not a proper Superfast of the type built by the company’s founder, Mr Panagopoulos. These had a la carte restaurants, double-deck lounges, outdoor lidos and all kinds of other trimmings. They were also very expensively built – the best of German shipbuilding technology. This Italian imposter looked decidedly insubstantial in comparison and it also appeared that the top coat of paint had been applied in places to bare steel as, after only a few months in service, she was surprisingly rusty. However, she was quite fast and left punctually.
My last waking thought was of heading feet first to Greece, at 24 knots.
Ships seen: Grecia, Ionis (European Seaways), Sveti Stefan II, Rigel, Riviera Adriatica, Flaminia, Marko Polo, Polaris, Guglielmo Mazzola
To be continued...