A trip to the Greek islands hadn’t been part of the plan for 2010 – with interesting and untested ships to sail on across the rest of Southern Europe together with a whole host expected to be in their final seasons, the domestic Greek scene, for once, didn’t seem a priority. However, the cancellation of a short cruise on the Island Escape (ex-Scandinavia) in mid-November led to a quick search for alternatives and a five night trip to Greece, out of season, suddenly became very attractive.
Initial plans to focus on the more interesting ex-Japanese tonnage now in operation were partly scuppered by the recent collision with Piraeus’ Northern breakwater (and subsequent absence from service) of Hellenic Seaways’ Nissos Rodos (ex-Kiso) and by ANEK pulling their Lissos (ex-Ferry Hamanasu) from her sailings to the North Aegean. In the event however it turned out to be a remarkably successful short visit – in many ways, the aforementioned scheduling problems apart, the timing was completely fortuitous: each day was sunny and with none of the strong winds that often lead to Greek domestic cancellations. Meanwhile we just missed the 24 hour (later extended to 72 hours+) strike of Greek seafarers which commenced on Tuesday the 23rd – on the European Express from Chios we were one of the last overnight ships arriving into Piraeus that day, actually berthing an hour or so after the official start of the industrial action.
The most notable difference being in Piraeus and its surrounding areas in November compared to the peak season is the large number of normally operational ships laid up – both those in seasonal use (mostly fast craft and cruise ships) or those which happened to be out of service for their annual refits. In addition, there remain the ships of GA Ferries and SAOS, operators whose financial troubles have forced them largely out of business. Whilst the SAOS fleet is dispersed across the country, with only their Panagia Agiasou laid up in Piraeus outer harbour, the ships of GA’s passenger fleet can all be found locally – five in the inner harbour and three more adjacent to the ‘Agiasou’. Other than the fast craft Jet Ferry 1 all have recently been offered for sale by the harbour authority which, in one of the less attractive pitches to prospective purchasers, describes them as “dangerous and harmful”.
I will add more pictures from this trip in due course but for starters here are some of those GA ships and their long-term SAOS co-resident. For the record, the title of this entry is perhaps slightly misleading – the ships aren’t entirely abandoned and it seems that one ship in each of the two batches has at least one watchman on duty with the Rodanthi and Anthi Marina serving as their respective basecamps.