Friday 20th July 2018
Part 12 - The afternoon and evening
After a light lunch and a rest, I finished reading my paperback book so took it to Reception. They were happy to have it for one of the crew; we all talked about the ship and its history and it was suggested that we come back and talk to the Chief Steward on duty later.
Later that afternoon we talked to the Chief Steward and then one of his colleagues. This colleague obtained some keys and we were all invited to go with him to see the locked-up Japanese Lounge and the Cinema.
I seem to remember that the Lounge was on Deck 9 and once some of the side curtains were opened we could look out at the sea. The lounge seemed vast and was in lovely condition considering it had been locked up for some time. There was a small stage, a beautiful wooden dance floor, lots of comfortable seating in various groups, tall mirrors and what had obviously been well-designed wallpaper. I imagine this room will be restored and put back into public use when there is time and money. What a treat that will be.
The Cinema was on Deck 7, behind the plain door above the semi-circular step we saw yesterday. We entered through another doorway on which was hung a deep-cushioned door, obviously to contain the noise from the cinema. The tiered seats were nicely raked, they looked comfortable, and photographs of various film-stars were on the walls. It looked almost ready for a new film show and audience - maybe one day...
We thanked the member of staff who had allowed us to see and photograph the locked Lounge and Cinema, and then went back to thank the Chief Steward.
That evening at dinner it was my turn to order and pay for the wine but the Chief Steward told the man on the till that we were not to pay for the bottle, as it was a gift from him. That was so kind and of course we went back to thank him once again.
The evening continued with me giving an illustrated talk, which was much easier than it might sound. My friends will not be able to come along to the October Ocean Liner Society meeting in London when I am to be the speaker, so I had all the pictures on a USB stick which we could put into a friend's lightweight computer to view, rather than through a projector. I had a paper copy of my notes and so as we sailed through the calm waters of the Adriatic Sea that evening I gave my upcoming 'Union-Castle Line Purserette' talk to a very small audience of two! They seemed fascinated, amazed and amused in all the right places; what a novel way to spend an evening at sea we thought.
Ships seen: Asterion II, Olympic Champion, Kerkyra Express, 2 cruise ships in Corfu but too far off to identify, Hellenic Spirit of ANEK with whom we exchanged whistles as we passed, Rigel I, Cruise Olympia of Minoan Line
To be continued...
Friday 20th July 2018
After a good night's sleep in the spacious cabin here on ASTERION II, I managed to wake in time to get on deck for our arrival at Igoumenitsa. It felt odd to think we had been here yesterday but had looked down from the mountainside to see the ship sail below us. We saw various other vessels under the glorious hot sun and then went for breakfast at the large self-service restaurant. The next few hours were spent mostly out on deck in the shade, enjoying the views and blue sea as we sailed along.
Ships seen: Kerkyra Express, 2 Way Ferries vessel, Hellenic Spirit
To be continued...
Thursday 19th July 2018
Here in Igoumenitsa, after breakfast in a nearby quayside cafe, we collected the hire car, and headed up a road leading to Patras on a mountainous route. Soon though we stopped and parked safely under some trees at a viewpoint, as tonight's ship ASTERION II was heading towards Igoumenitsa, just below us in the beautiful water. What wonderful views of her as she came round the headland and into the channel and towards the port!
We finally left Igoumenitsa (again) and this time we are on our way to Patras on the amazing motorway over the mountains. I have since read that it was opened less than a year ago (5th September 2017) by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and was one of the most challenging construction projects. The Ionia motorway (known as Ionia Odos) took 11 years to complete and connects the northern town of Ioannina via the western mainland coastline with Patra via the Rio-Antirrio Bridge.
There was very little traffic on this route over the bare mountains, and it made for awe-inspiring views. We stopped for a break at a motorway petrol station/cafe; the outside heat was almost unbearable and the air-conditioned facilities inside felt wonderful. Then we were off again and gradually we noticed that the elevation was dropping and our surrounding landscapes were not as bare-rocked as they had been for the last few hours.
Nearing Patras we could start to see part of the route ahead, and then the top of the amazing Rio-Antirrio Bridge. It felt a little odd to approach it by road this time, as we have always previously sailed into the port of Patras on the other side of the bridge. The construction of the Bridge, which is the world's longest fully suspended cable-stayed bridge, began in 1998. I remember seeing the huge base constructions in the water there, many years before anything more was done. It was inaugurated on 7th August 2004, a week before the opening of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Previously that southern part of Greece was only reached by the road and rail bridge over the Corinth Canal, or by sea.
Once we reached the environs of the bridge we ignored the road signs directing us onto it, and headed instead for the little ferry port nearby. We were directed onto the PROTOPOROS XIV and soon realised we were heading across the water to the city of Patras.
She was newly built and finished this year, and started service only in May. Ahead of us we could see many other small ferries, all moored at the quayside, and above us we could see the huge new bridge as we sailed along in parallel.
Once ashore again we headed for the new Ferry Terminal but almost unbelievably all 20 luggage lockers were "out of service" and we were unable to leave our belongings safely until we could board our ship.
Out of the terminal again it was still daylight so we could drive back into the city and locate where we had to return the hire car but for now we had to find somewhere for a meal and hope that we could park nearby and lock our luggage safely away in the car. This we did but with some difficulty and in the end we took our baggage with us, for peace of mind until we could go back to the terminal and check in.
We returned the hire car and then took a taxi to the ferry terminal; our ship had arrived so we could check in and then board ASTERION II.
Lots of us foot passengers had to wend our way across the embarking lorry lanes in the darkness, but finally we climbed the ramp and could head for the cabins on this big ship.
She was built as ISHIKARI in 1991 by Mitsubishi in Kobe, Japan, and delivered to Taiheiyo Ferry for use in Japan, at 31,084 gross tons. In March 2011 she was sold to Golden Spring Enterprise, Panama, and became GRAND SPRING, which was the name we could see imprinted under her current one on the hull near the stern. A year later she was sold on, and then sold again in March 2018 to be managed by ANEK lines. Her name was changed again to ASTERION II and she has kept many of her original Japanese features for this new Patras to Venice service. Although some changes have been made, she has also suffered from delays due to loading and unloading through her original Japanese stern-door.
I was delighted to find a spacious outside original Japanese-built cabin.
Ahead of us we had two nights on board to explore and enjoy, sailing through the Adriatic on our way up to Venice in Italy.
Ships seen: Prince, Bari, Agias Theodora, Agias Spirydon, Protoporos XIV, Asterion II, Ana Chora II, Cruise Europa, Kerkyra Express, plus about 12 non-Bridge ferries at Patras
To be continued...
Posted by U-Cdolly at 3:58 pm