Haynes World - ships, ferries, a laugh on the ocean wave, and other interesting things...


Summer 2010, Part 4

Summer 2010
Part 4 – Swimming with Swallows

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Sunday 4th July 2010
Overnight was spent in an hotel on the outskirts of Siena in Italy. I woke up quite early and decided to take a swim in the pool in the garden. I simply had to walk between some olive trees, and down the slope to the pool set amongst roses and lavender bushes.

The sun was coming up over the mist of the distant hills surrounding Siena, and the warmth of the air was like silk on my skin. There was no-one around as I swam in the clear water, until suddenly I was aware of movement in the air above me. A swallow swooped down and collected something flying above the pool. It was obviously to his liking, as he and several other swallows began swooping and diving down to collect insects just above the surface. It was the most amazing sensation – swimming back and forth in the calm and clear water, with swallows flying around just a few feet above and beyond me. Swimming with swallows has to be the name for today – it was the most magical and memorable sensation.

After a terrace breakfast, we set off for Ancona via Perugia. We passed Lake Trasimeno with its 3 islands and saw one of the local steamers, went through tunnels, beside mountains, ravines, hairpin bends, and forests, until we reached Ancona Airport to leave the rented Hertz car. Lack of Sunday public transport meant a taxi ride to the new Ferry Terminal at the port of Ancona – well, it was more like a tin hut, big, but still a metal hut, set in an industrial location. It was full of people, check-in desks, noise, luggage, the smell of sweat, food being unpacked and eaten, sparse seating, but absolutely no atmosphere. Thanks ISPS, we thought, what a missed opportunity.

We checked in and obtained our tickets, and the free shuttle bus took us back to the old terminal building, where we could leave our luggage safely in lockers before climbing the hill up to a favourite restaurant beside the Duomo.

CRUISE EUROPA was eventually spotted and photographed, and then it was time to return to the old Terminal Building and enjoy the air-conditioning until it was time for ‘footies to go’. She was to be our overnight sailing from Ancona to Patras in Greece.

CRUISE EUROPA was built in 2009 at 53,360 gross tons, in Italy, to carry over 2000 passengers. She might be a huge Minoan monster, with lots of chrome, mirrors, and other decorative features to admire, but we were due to leave at 5 p.m. and here I am drinking a cup of tea at 6.10 p.m. in the King Minos lounge, still in port. Mind you, I loved the beautiful blue fabric of the seating, which still looked in a brand new condition.

We eventually sailed at 7 p.m. from Ancona, and on the way out of the harbour had a good view of the Fincantieri yard where they were building L’AUSTRAL for Plan Tours. She looks lovely, and we admired her lines as we sailed past; we could also see FIONA berthed.

With this late sailing, and knowing that CRUISE EUROPA is a slow ship for her size and will not be able to make up time after her late loading and departure from Ancona, we will have to disembark in Igoumenitsa in order to catch our planned sailing on IONIAN KING, as she comes up from Patras.

With Plan B mentally already in place, we enjoyed dinner in the Restaurant; we felt they were understaffed, and with seemingly poor management, but the individual staff looked after us well in the circumstances. Hundreds of people were sleeping in the corridors, stairways, on deck, on chairs and mattresses, so after a final warm walk on deck we were pleased to have cabin accommodation.

Ships seen: Olympic Champion, Superfast XI, Fiona, MSC Armonia, Costa Victoria, a little island ferry on Lake Trasimeno, L’Austral (at the Fincantieri Ancona shipyard)

Monday 5th July 2010

After a good night’s sleep on board CRUISE EUROPA, I made my way carefully through the still sleeping people everywhere in the corridors and public rooms, to the self-service café for some coffee and breakfast. The outside heat was a shock, but it was lovely to be at sea. She is a slow ship, as I’m told the engines are not big enough for her size, so she cannot make up time lost in loading and the late departure from Ancona.

We arrived at Igoumenitsa at 12.15 and disembarked there instead of continuing to Patras. I was sorry about missing that last part of the journey, but it was the only way to get our next sailing, which was to be on IONIAN KING. Last year we had been booked on her but she had the euphemistically named ‘technical difficulties’, so I was looking forward to this midnight sailing from Igoumenitsa to Bari in Italy.

With lots of time to spare therefore, we caught the 2.15 p.m. ferry AGIA THEODORA

(built in 1989 in Japan as YUKAZURU MARU/FERRY BLUE SKY, at 2,336 gross tons) from Igoumenitsa to Corfu;

as we left we could see POLARIS tied up at a quayside.

We last saw her in Bari some time ago when sailing out of there on SUPERFAST I. We arrived in the little harbour of Corfu at 3.30 after a delightful passage to the island. There was the added bonus of seeing OCEAN MAJESTY in port too.

Whilst walking around to see her, I noticed an eye-catching balancing act on board SOPHOCLES V.

There was time for lunch and a stroll around the town, and watching the comings and goings of other ships, before catching the 19.15 back to Igoumenitsa on NIKOLAOS.

She was built in Sunderland, England, in 1987, as SUPERFLEX ALFA, for Danish interests, eventually coming to Greece in 2002, and taking her current name in 2007. Her evacuation equipment came from Japan, and the information notices were also written in Japanese.

That was a wonderful ferry journey back, in late afternoon golden light, with ferries and local vessels all around.

Safely back in Igoumenitsa, at 11.59 p.m. we watched from the cool comfort of the dark quayside as IONIAN KING arrived in a blaze of lights.

I was so pleased to see her, as her name at one time was Lavender, which is one of my favourite colours thanks to my Union-Castle Line connections. I remembered that she was once chartered by a Japanese group for transporting football fans, and apparently for that trip she was renamed the Japanese equivalent of Hooligan! Funny how one remembers some things…

Ships seen: Pantokrator, Agia Theodora, Ekaterini P, Nikolaos, Polaris, Superfast VI, Splendor of the Seas, Norwegian Gem, Ocean Majesty, Olympic Champion, Sophocles V, Lefka On, Cruise Europa, Christina, Elene, Thiella