Celestyal Nefeli 12th May 2017, Part 3
Sunday 14th May 2017
My phone alarm and the View from the Bridge told me that we were in the long channel approaching the port of Izmir, with ample time to get on deck and have breakfast before our arrival alongside at 08.30. I last visited Izmir (the Turkish name for Smyrna) in April 2013 on the COSTA CLASSICA and there has been much political upheaval in the country since then. We walked along the wide promenades beside the sea towards the nearest ferry station. The timings did not allow us to sail over to another part of the huge bay and get back in time for our departure from Izmir soon after lunch, but we enjoyed the views and warm sunshine.
Coffee back on deck under a shady parasol was enjoyable and then we noticed that a small boy was playing in the children's pool with a Superfast blow-up toy ferry. I went over to speak to the people with the child and after some minutes of conversation in English with the Greek man and woman, we realised that we knew each other from meeting a few years ago when I was with some other ferry friends. The man (Fotis) was a keen ship photographer from the Piraeus area, his sister was married to one of the ship's senior officers, and the small boy was his nephew and God-child. It seemed such an extraordinary coincidence to be sailing on this ship. His sister mentioned that she had sailed with her husband some years ago on a Japanese ship he had been converting, and by another of life's coincidences that same ship was also in Izmir port today, and we could see it in the distance in its latest company paintwork. We all arranged to meet up that evening, which was Gala Night.
After lunch the ship had to wait for the excursion parties to return (late) before we sailed from Izmir (with a cat watching from the quayside), but we enjoyed watching the views of the ever-expanding city and the modern ferries as we left the port and headed out to sea.
We went for a cup of tea at 4 p.m. carrying my friend's current reading book - Theodore W. Scull's latest publication "Ocean Liner Sunset". This book caught the attention of the Head Waiter Christos and suddenly there was another conversation about ferries and cruise ships with someone else who enjoyed talking about them! I showed him my Santorini postcard pictures and he remembered some of the ships in them and of course the cruise ships in Ted's book.
Gala Night meant 'the posh frock' for ladies and drinks and photos with Captain Nektarios Rigas, before heading into the Muses Theatre for introductions of all of his Senior Officers and Department heads. We sat with our new friends, including the lad with his toy model ferries this time. We were introduced to his father (one of the Senior Officers) and I realised that I had met him before: way back in July 2008 I had been with other ferry friends on a visit to a Japanese ship being converted in the Keratsima repair yard near Piraeus and the little lad's father had been kind enough to show us around. The ship then was the AEGEAN HEAVEN, the ex-SUNFLOWER TOMAKOMAI, which was being converted to a ro-ro cargo ship at 23,503 gross tons. She is now named AYSHE, with the EKOL Line, and this is the ship we could see part of this afternoon in Izmir port.
Life continues to amaze I thought, as we all headed into Gala Dinner. This evening we sat with a silent couple, and another lady who was happy to talk about her life in Brazil and working and travelling abroad. At one point the waiters sang Happy Birthday to someone and minutes later some portions of birthday cake arrived at our table with the little lad's mother; he is to be 5 in a few days time and the waiters decided to celebrate his birthday tonight so the creamy-rich cake was shared with his family on their table, and then some brought over to us. I thought that was so kind.
After dinner we were invited to join the family up in the Lounge and that made for an enjoyable time discussing ships and visits. The little lad had brought his toy model ships with him, so he happily played on the carpet with them. It had been a happy and amazing day today and there were many nostalgic goodbyes at the end of the evening.
Tomorrow we are due in Nafplio, Greece, having sailed 247 nautical miles overnight from Izmir, and must disembark.
Ships seen at or near Izmir:
Celestyal Nefeli, Ayshe of EKOL line (ex-Aegean Heaven, ex-Sunflower Tomakomai), Pilot boat 65, Inandilar, Nazim Tur and other ferries
To be concluded...