Friday, September 10th, 2021
The summer is gone if you look at the calendar, it ain't over till it's over if you ask me and a few more people who are still holding the fort on the beaches, sunbathing and sipping cocktails. Thus the not so regular updates. But for the ferry companies, the mood is already an autumnal one as they look ahead to a rather difficult winter.
- But let's start on a positive note with a detailed presentation of the interiors of Fast Ferries' Thunder. I think they have done a great job with their interiors and I have thoroughly enjoyed the 2 crossings I have already done on her. Garage wise she is pretty simple and cars can roll on and off without having to perform any complex manoeuvring, they are just circling the garage both on the main garage as well as on the hoistable deck. The advantage of this fast ferry is that it is very well lit from natural sources, which creates a great atmosphere on board. The seats are spacious and at a distance from each other, with gaps for the luggage. Only at the stern area there are rows of 3 seats, where one may find himself sandwitched between 2 other people. Apart from the 2 weeks when she was at reduced speed, the rest of the time she is performing quite well. In one of my crossings from Mykonos to Piraeus she even arrived 15 minutes earlier than scheduled, acheiving a speed of 35 knots on a full main garage. The timetable for an early night(2140) arrival in Piraeus is just great, overall very positive impressions. Fast Ferries are taking very careful steps -I could even call them too cautious- but they are delivering.
- The Ariadne(great ship, impressive but very expensive to operate) was the first ferry to go on winter lay up, a lay up which is only postponed because of the engine trouble the Blue Carrier 1 is facing. The latter performed sea trials with the hope of the problem being fixed but she limped again back to port. Attica are looking for a drydock slot in the vicinity, it seems the issue is far more serious than initially thought. The Diagoras is also sidelined in Perama, together with the Blue Star Myconos which is undergoing emergency repairs in the area of her forward hoistable car decks which suffered some serious damage last week in Samos. The Hellenic Highspeed has also discontinued her summer sailings.
- Before any Attica ship, the Olympus took the lead in stopping sailings for the winter, already in late August. This ship is yet another scandalous chapter in the sinful history of Greek coastal shipping, appearing only during the summer and collecting subsidies whenever these are around. Now she will let again other ships take the winter losses while the rumour concerning her is that she will be -successfully- applying for the subsidised service which the Prevelis is currently performing. A completely unsuitable ship(single rudder, no pitch) in a very demanding route. Anyway, let her be awarded the route and we have all the time in the world to bitch about this.
- Have a look at the interior of the Festos Palace, former Europa Palace, Amsicora, Mykonos Palace). Speaking of interiors, here is the full monty of the Benchijigua Express of Lineas Fred Olsen, following a recent crossing by one of our members.
- On the Seajets front, the hoo-ha is still going on about the Aqua Star and the problems in the Lemnos route. I mean fine, the locals have every right to protest but choosing as a means of protest to not allow the ship to dock in Lemnos, goes beyond my comprehension. Whether they like it or not, this ship is the only lifeline with the mainland. Not allowing her to berth is more like punishing yourself rather than anyone else. Thank God, the more moderate voices appear to have prevailed and it looks as if tomorrow the Aqua Star will be berthing as scheduled. Other than that, the Caldera Vista is now on drydock in Chalkis and shows no sign of returning to service any time soon, kicking off yet another domino of ships in the fleet. Suffice it to say that in the Heraklion - Santorini - Ios - Naxos - Mykonos - Paros route, Seajets have used no less than 5 ships since the beginning of the year. The Naxos Jet is now doing a combination of subsidised sailings with a touch of Paros - Mykonos.
- Yet another set of rumours have surfaced about the fate of Attica and ANEK, I think it's pointless to comment on scenarios or wishful thinking by part of the "impartial and unattached" Greek shipping media. The gist of it is that something dramatic will happen during the winter. And while it may be good for the bottomlines of the companies involved, I highly doubt it will do any good to the public and the islands. Attica's already rat-bitten profile is further tarnished by the fact that their loyalty programme Sea Smiles is falling apart. Holders of the loyalty cards are advised that their miles ought to be cashed in by the end of October or they will be lost, while any points collected as of December will have a limited validity of 2 years. Needless to say that the amount of points needed for a free ticket has increased to the point where realistically you cannot obtain free tickets unless you are a very frequent traveller. In classic fashion, they believe that the shortcomings of a sub-par management, can be rectified by making cuts in the loyalty programme.
- On a similar note, in terms of what has to do with the amount of respect the Greek ferry companies are showing to their customers and their intellectual capacity, Minoan Grimaldi announced to the public that last Monday's sailing of the Santorini Palace was not going to be performed due to severe weather conditions. Letting alone the fact that all the other ships sailed as usual on that day, the Santorini Palace limped to Piraeus at reduced speed the previous night. And then of course the next morning the Coast Guard formally announced that Monday's sailing was not performed due to engine issues. A pretty huge communications blunder if you ask me, Grimaldi probably think the passenger public are baboons.
- There was also a sudden stoppage of service between Brindisi and Igoumenitsa for Arkoumanis, with the Golden Bridge having been suddenly chartered out to GNV for Bari - Durres service, with a purchase option. Too bad, this owner never seems to be keen on some continuity, he will flip ships to other owners if the money is right and with no view to the future. In the meantime let's have a good taste of the interiors of the Golden Bridge, while mentioning that the Sea Wind is rumoured to be one of the possible replacements they are looking at.
- Similar news for Ventouris Ferries with the former Rigel I sailing for the breakers, while the Bari is said to follow suit. Cash is more than likely to be needed here too. A touch of positive news is the fact that the sailings of the Rigel VII from Bari to Igoumenitsa and Corfu have been extended to the 19th of September, as a result of the strong tourist season in the Ionian Islands.
- Another sudden departure is the Celestyal Experience which is hotly tipped to have been sold for scrap. It seems Celestyal Cruises is still into a heap of trouble with Covid with the Celestyal Crystal and Celestyal Olympia stopping their sailings suddenly in the end of August. So I think the sale of the Celestyal Experience is a desperate attempt to collect some decent cash. It's a great pity because the ship would have been a good upgrade for them.
- Last but not least, here is an impressive video of the Champion Jet 1, battling heavy seas in the vicinity of Mykonos.