GEMS OF THE AEGEAN SEPTEMBER 2009
Part 6 THE AEGEAN PEARL
Monday 14th September 2009
Ugh, up before dawn again at 5.30 a.m. back in Piraeus, for early breakfast and then reporting to Reception by 7.a.m., but it was worth it. Our group of 10 were personally escorted from AQUAMARINE, round the quay, through the terminal and onto our home for the next 4 days: The AEGEAN PEARL.
Luggage and passports had all been taken from one ship to the other for us, so we were on board by 7.20 a.m. – wonderful attention – and free to do as we chose until we sailed at 11 a.m. This time my outside cabin 203 was well forward portside on Caribbean Deck, the lowest passenger deck of 7,
and the dropping of the anchors at our ports was to prove a most efficient wake-up call. That lasted about 4 minutes each time, and I usually fell straight back to sleep again until my alarm clock went off later.
This little pearl was built in 1971 as M/S SOUTHWARD, in Italy, to carry 732 passengers, at 16,710 gt, for Klosters Rederi, Oslo; she went to Miami and with her sister ship SEAWARD, joined the highly successful SUNWARD and STARWARD with which Mr Knut Kloster was building his Miami cruise business, as Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Lines.
In 1995 she was sold to Airtours Sun Cruises, renamed SEAWING, and in 2004 sold to Perla Navigation in Piraeus and renamed PERLA. In July 2007 I sailed on her with friends and delighted in our time on board. By then she had lost her forward looking lounge, which had now become the smelly Crow’s Nest disco with only side windows, but had retained on Beach Deck the lovely Swimming Pool and also the highly original tapering funnels, which were also angled outwards.
The Ship’s Master now is Captain Stathis Goumas.
Passenger cabins were on Caribbean, Biscayne and Atlantic Decks; Boat Deck above them had the elegant Eldorado Restaurant; Mayflower Deck above that had the Clipper Lounge forward,
with Library, Internet Point and Beauty Salon on the port side, and Children’s Club and Fitness centre on the starboard side. The Casino was midships aft of them and the full-width Piano Bar aft of that.
That proved to have such cold air-conditioning that our group tended to meet outside on the covered open deck aft of the Piano Bar, which had a Bar with efficient and pleasant staff. Many a happy hour was to be spent there enjoying our time at sea or in port, or leaning against the ship’s rails and chatting or enjoying the sea air and views.
So this was the ship I left for a short time in Piraeus that morning to go and visit the Telstar book shop along the main road, and say hello to the proprietor and his colleague. They stock a wonderful selection of maritime books and newspapers in many languages, so we received a pleasant welcome. Coffee at a pavement café followed, and then it was time to return to the ship for 11 a.m. departure. We could see the lovely AGIOS GEORGIOS (ex-HENGIST), GRAND MISTRAL with that unfortunate logo on the bow, and NORWEGIAN JADE, as well as other ships in the harbour.
I must have had a rush of blood to the head, because I decided to have a swim in the pool before the deck became too crowded. It was so cold I nearly lost my nerve, but the water looked so clean and inviting that I got in, and managed not to scream. My feet immediately became cold and despite swimming in the hot sunshine for 10 minutes, they became even colder. I knew when I was beaten, so got out, changed and sat in the sunshine with more coffee, feeling pleased with myself. That turned out to be the only swim of the trip!
Later that morning I remembered swimming on BLACK WATCH and BLACK PRINCE where the swimming pool water had been heated during its route through the Engine room to the outside pools – ah well, that was then and this is now.
Restaurant lunch followed, in that wonderful full width Dining Room, with the original light fittings that I remembered from her PERLA days. Each day the food was varied and plentiful, although some of the menus proved to contain the same choices as those on AQUAMARINE. Greek meatballs featured heavily, but were delicious and when in a particular country I do prefer to eat local dishes and try local wines.
My cabin beckoned for a while, so I unpacked and returned on deck for afternoon tea. There was a big choice of tea flavours and food to stave off hunger until tonight’s open sitting dinner at 8.30 p.m. First though we had another port of call, in the island of Mykonos, this time with sunlight.
Tenders took us ashore with the chance to walk to the famous windmills, and photograph the ships and surroundings in that lovely time before nightfall.
Then it was back to the ship to prepare for our first evening meal on board, which was excellent and lengthy. I went to see the dancing entertainment but it didn’t hold my attention for long so went to my cabin to enjoy the facilities.
Ships seen: Romilda, Agios Georgios, Daliana, Marina, Diagoros, Festos Palace, Vincente, Rodanthe, Blue Star 2, Superfast XII, easyCruise Life, Aquamarine, Grand Mistral, The Emerald, Apollon Hellas, Phedre, Jet Ferry 1, Blue Star Ithici, Norwegian Jade, Celebrity Solstice
To be continued...