GEMS OF THE AEGEAN SEPTEMBER 2009
Part 9 (the final one)
Thursday 17th September 2009
This was to be another two-port day, with early arrival first at Heraklion, the main port on the island of Crete. With only a few hours here, after breakfast I took the shuttle bus to the port entrance but instead of going into the city, I enjoyed a walk around another part of the port, within the restricted area.
FESTOS PALACE, KRITI II, FLYINGCAT 4, EASYCRUISE LIFE and OCEAN VILLAGE were all at nearby quays, but with none of the hustle and bustle of a harbour such as Rhodes.
The sea was calm, the sky blue and ship reflections lovely, but I had to return to the ship for departure at 11.30 a.m. followed by a special invitation.
Our Ocean Liner Society group had been invited to visit the Bridge at 12 noon and we were very happy to accept that invitation.
I liked seeing the old and new equipment, the flags (including signs for Bahamas and Airtours), the Bridge wings and the views aft from there, the view down to the forecastle and the ship’s bell,
the Captain’s hat and coffee mug, and of course the Master of the ship himself.
He made us most welcome with his speech: he was obviously a senior and professional Greek Captain with Louis Cruise Line, but
seemingly with a fiery personality.
We were due to arrive in Santorini at 4.30 p.m. and it seems that thanks to our new friend Captain Goumas and the Guest Host Ion, we were given preferential treatment in getting one of the first tenders ashore.
Santorini is a crescent-shaped island, originally formed in 1600 BC, with subsequent volcanic eruptions
in 1925/26 (photographed at the time), 1939/41 and 1950 on the nearby island of Nea Kameni. It is the largest caldera on earth, and the picturesque cliff-top town of Thira is a huge attraction to visitors; one can look out from here to the nearby Nea Kameni.
We had anchored safely in the caldera of this volcanic area, so the priority ashore was to get up to the village of Thira by walking, riding a donkey or cable car.
We chose cable car (I have walked up once before) and had time to walk along the cliff top and enjoy the fabulous views down into the caldera.
We could see several other vessels down there, and by turning round we could also look over the island towards the distant sea and mountains.
Land clearance and levelling could also be seen on the outskirts of the village, presumably to create more building space.
Tea and tasty Greek tzatziki with fresh bread completed our afternoon wanderings on top of the Santorini cliff-top paths, before heading down to the water and the tender back to AEGEAN PEARL in the gathering dusk. My diary jottings for the rest of that day just say drinks and dinner, so I shall leave it at that, as we set off to sail 131 nautical miles back to Piraeus.
Ships seen: Aquamarine, Ocean Village 2, HMS (not H.M.S.) Laurence, Festos Palace, Kriti II, Flyingcat 4, easyCruise Life, and at Santorini: Aquamarine, Cristal, EasyCruise Life, Flyingcat 4, Aida Diva, Blue Star Paros, Wind Star
Friday 18th September 2009
Anchors were dropped and we tied up in Piraeus at 5.30 a.m. in the wet but warm darkness; breakfast was being served early so passengers could disembark quickly, and so a last meal was enjoyed together on board The AEGEAN PEARL. Two of us set off around the harbour to enjoy seeing what ships were in port or ferries loading, before taking the bus to the Athens Airport. By this time the puddles had dried, the sun came out and the port was busy. We heard Police sirens and ahead of us on the quayside was great activity as a man was pulled from the water and resuscitated – he must have fallen in very suddenly and been rescued by someone using a nearby emergency ladder to reach him down in the water. It certainly all happened very quickly.
Ships seen: Aquamarine, Cristal, Flying Dolphin XXIX, Fastboat Alexandros, Agios Georgios, GA laid up ferries, Flying Cat, Elyros, Festos Palace, Kriti II, Vincenzo Kornaros, Ierapetra L, Adamantios Korais, Blue Star Ithaki, Mytilene, MSC Armonia, Jet Ferry 1, Speedrunner 1, 2 and 3, all Aegina ferries
Bus tickets were bought (Euros 3.50 each) for the one and a half hour journey to the airport, and on the way I enjoyed seeing all the countryside, mountains, Glyfada with its wealthy area and marina of huge and expensive yachts, and the more ordinary swimming beach of Attica. After snacking on the last little spinach pie of the trip, I flew home to England; and if I might make a play on words, it had been a gem of a trip on two jewels of the Aegean – AQUAMARINE and The AEGEAN PEARL.