Monday 4th August 2014
My View from The Bridge on the television showed sunshine and a calm sea as we sailed along. Early breakfast out in the sunshine on deck was most welcome, and looked far more appealing than the offerings available in the Restaurant last night. Captain Kostas Gritzelis did his smiling walkabout with his Staff Captain (who remembered me from last year) before having his breakfast. He greeted, smiled or shook hands with many passengers as he walked around the deck and is understandably a very popular Captain in the Louis fleet. I remembered several members of staff from my trip last year, and it was pleasant to be recognised and greeted by them. I don’t think they have many English passengers!
Today we are due in Rhodes at 13.00 hours, leaving at 23.30, so there would be lots of time in port, which is a very busy one. Entertainment on the ship this morning included Price is Right, Towel Folding, Bingo Bingo, Cooking Competition, Darts, Salsa Dance Lesson, and an Aperitif Game.
As we arrived early in the port of Rhodes we could see BLUE STAR 1 in a berth;
AEGEAN PARADISE’s white paintwork gleamed in the sunshine and we were soon alongside the quay ourselves. I was interested to see AEGEAN PARADISE as she is a cruise ship, built in 1990 in Japan, and now operating for the Turkish tour operator Etstur. Their name is painted on the hull. She has been through various owners (and their bankruptcies) and charterers, has been re-built, and has been with Etstur since 2012.
Later we strolled in intense heat along the quayside and out along the waterside until we had a lovely view of the LOUIS AURA and could take photographs, with the ancient walls of the medieval city behind us.
Back on deck we could see other comings and goings into the port.
I was amazed to see ROYAL IRIS arrive, as she looked very like a car ferry. In fact she was indeed built in 1971 as a car and cruise ferry, at St. Nazaire in France, for Southern Ferries who named her MV Eagle. Her itinerary from Southampton to Lisbon and Tangier proved unsuccessful, so she was sold and became AZUR, and then sold again in 1987 to the Greek Chandris Lines as THE AZUR, for cruising. In 1994 she was sold to Festival Cruises for cruising out of Venice, but they declared bankruptcy in 2004, so the ship was finally sold in 2005 to the Israeli company Mano Maritime, renamed ROYAL IRIS and now operates short cruises mostly among the Greek islands. At 14,717 gross tons she was another delightful sight in Rhodes harbour, as was our own little liner LOUIS AURA.
Security was very tight around her, but that was an unexpected and interesting ship to be able to photograph from a distance.
Whilst we were watching her from back on board, we could see two ferries coming fast towards us and there was SYMI and PANAGIA SKIADENI racing for pole position in the harbour entrance! They were heading for different parts of the port, but SYMI seemed to ‘win’ the race to reach the entrance first, with PANAGIA SKIADENI having to do a rather sharp turn to starboard aft of SYMI to get in position for her berth. That was interesting to watch, especially from shore-side!
Small local fast craft were soon leaving, and then the tiny ARTEMIS arrived and berthed. She was built in 2007 at 1,206 gross tons and looked very small as she berthed ahead of us.
We heard a broadcast telling us that because of strong winds expected tomorrow around our intended port of Kalymnos, it had been decided to head for the island of Kos instead, in the morning, and then visit Symi for the evening. We noticed later that the chart on display had been removed and replaced by another one. This was most unusual I thought as it included some unexpected chart notes, mentioning the positions of a capsize, missing person overboard, semi-sunk boat adrift, which are notes that have to appear on official Notices to Mariners for amending the charts but which I suspect are not often seen by passengers in some other areas of the world. With so many islands in the area it is so important that charts are up to date of course.
After dinner we headed for the Stars Show Lounge and listened to the Greek bazoukia music. They were joined by some singers, sitting at tables on the stage set; we noticed they were singing along to words on iPads or Kindles in front of them on the tables. The music was very enjoyable. After that it was pleasant to go out on the deck and enjoy the warmth under the night sky.
Ships seen: Blue Star 1, Louis Aura, Diagoras, Aegean Paradise, Aegean Queen, Flying Poseidon, Marmaris Express, Aegean Cat, Royal Iris of Mano Cruises from Israel, Symi, Panagia Skiadeni, King Saron, Dodekanisos Seaways, Artemis, and far in the distance we could see the white-hulled profile of Salamis Filoxenia as she sailed past the port of Rhodes.
To be continued....
Several months ago a few friends planned to sail on this little liner and I was happy to join them, for a second trip on the ship. The four night cruise was to sail out of Limassol in Cyprus, so it was a long flight of over four hours from the United Kingdom to reach our embarkation port.
Saturday 2nd August 2014
I caught an afternoon flight from the UK to Paphos in Cyprus, and immediately had to set my watch forward two hours to local time. By then it was dark and I was glad to be met by a pre-arranged local taxi driver to go straight to my hotel in Limassol. The air-conditioned taxi was a great relief after the tremendous heat outside. When I arrived at the hotel, it was very disappointing to discover that my friends’ rooms at the hotel had been over-booked and they had been moved to another establishment, some distance away. This was not the welcome and meeting that we were hoping to enjoy!
Sunday 3rd August 2014
Solitary breakfast was pleasant in the air-conditioned breakfast room beside a huge swimming pool. The shade cast by trees and shrubs outside was delightful, and all the smokers seemed to enjoy sitting at the tables there. I could see a Bar beside the pool and a tennis court beyond that. My friends were due to meet me here and I was soon re-packed and ready to head for the sea side with them.
We simply had to walk down the road to reach the glittering sunlit sea and wait for the sight of the LOUIS AURA as she sailed around the distant headland, heading for the port of Limassol. We found a comfortable café right on the water’s edge and happily spent some time there drinking coffee and later having a light lunch before we could head for the new cruise terminal. That was more like the cheerful start to this little trip we wanted!
Check in was easy and we were hardly aware that we were three of the 800 or so anticipated passengers coming on board in mid-afternoon. The first thing I noticed about the ship’s hull was the LOUIS CRUISES logo, along with a red and blue stripe next to it.
On board, my cabin this time is 5111 on Poseidon Deck, a twin berth inside for single use, and with a welcoming plate of fruit on the dressing table.
I first visited the ship as ORIENT QUEEN in Piraeus in July 2007 after she had been acquired by Abou Merhi Cruises and chartered to Louis Cruises, still as ORIENT QUEEN, and I can still recall my surprise at seeing her distinctive styling with the Venus Bar levels 1 and 2 up on Panoramic Deck.
I remember from my last trip on 14th September 2013 on LOUIS AURA that she had been built as STARWARD in 1968 in Bremerhaven for cruising for Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Line; in 1995 she was sold to Festival Cruises and became BOLERO. With the collapse of Festival in 2004 she was laid up before being bought by Abou Merhi Cruises in 2005 and renamed ORIENT QUEEN to sail to ports including Beirut, but that was abandoned and AMC chartered her to Louis Cruises; in fact she sailed again to Beirut under charter to rescue stranded Americans.
My diary back then in September 2013 noted that Louis Cruises had just renamed the ship as LOUIS AURA in keeping with Greek mythology and as their company had become the foremost Ambassador of Hellenic Cruising. I also noted that the ship had a charter to South America over the winter and imagined that this new name of LOUIS AURA would continue to promote the company’s image.
Since then the ship had been chartered by French company Rivages du Monde in Spring 2014, which ran several cruises for passengers from Marseilles, and visited many Baltic ports including Oslo, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg. A maritime journalist friend in Denmark was so delighted to see and visit the ship in Denmark that he wrote a piece about her, and used one of my photographs taken in Patmos, Greece, as an illustration to accompany the article.
Now she is back in Aegean waters and has been sailing out of Limassol from 22nd July on short cruises. Her tonnage is 15,781, with 364 passenger cabins with an 895 maximum passenger capacity, with eight passenger decks, so I was pleased to be on board her again.
Lifeboat drill was held and then we prepared to sail. We headed out of Limassol port aided by tug PRINIAS, passing AIDALUNA,
and then we saw an unexpected sight rushing towards us: it was a dark-hulled vessel now called DP GEZINA, but which we had last seen in Rotterdam in January (see NORWEGIAN GETAWAY January 2014). I remembered I had first seen and sailed on her in 2008 between Helsingor and Helsinborg in Denmark, when she was called SIMARA ACE.
Dinner was to be served in the Mermaid Restaurant between 7 and 9 p.m. so after a refreshing drink we were about to go to the Restaurant when an announcement was made. It seems that so many people had decided to go in for a meal at 7 p.m. that there was no more room and everyone else was requested to wait until 8.30 p.m. That was a bit of a surprise, as that meant waiting about an hour, but we did so and discovered that rather unappealing buffet food was all that was now available and laid out for us to collect. That was such a disappointment, as I had really enjoyed the food on my last trip on this ship, and had praised it to such an extent that my companions were really looking forward to their first meal.
We had all bought the drinks package so that rather came into use for the rest of the evening, and we were entertained by a band playing under the Venus Deck bar. It was very pleasant sitting in deck chairs under a dark sky, feeling comfortably warm as we sailed along.
Tomorrow we are due in Rhodes so we are all looking forward to that.
Ships seen: Aidaluna, Louis Aura, catamaran Sea Grace, tug Prinias, DP Gezina (ex Simara Ace)
To be continued....
Saturday 26th July 2014
I went to Eastbourne in East Sussex to attend the Lammas Fair, held on the Western Lawn behind the Promenade. It was a beautiful hot English summer's day, and one of the photographs I took was of the Eastbourne Pier.
Wednesday 30th July 2014
In mid-afternoon it was announced that a huge fire had engulfed the Arcade on the Pier, which was on the town end. Fortunately the wind was blowing from west to east, so the billowing black smoke went away from the town and the rest of the Pier. The firefighters and local lifeboats fought the fire but the whole of the Arcade was destroyed, leaving a blackened skeleton of metal supports, but the remaining two-thirds of the buildings on the Pier were saved. Everyone on the Pier was evacuated within five minutes and there was no loss of life.
Thursday 31st July 2014
I went to an afternoon matinee performance at one of the local theatres and decided to walk back to the bus stop along the Promenade. It was a heart-wrenching sight to see what remained of the Arcade on the Pier. I was in there only a few weeks ago, taking a visiting friend to see one of the iconic sights of the seaside town and walking the length of the Pier out to sea and back again. Today I had my camera with me and decided to take a few photographs.
Friday 1st August 2014
Today one of the local newspapers gave more details.
We all hope that the Pier will soon be rebuilt, and meanwhile I shall treasure my memory and photograph of the Pier as it was only a few days ago.