May 2016 will mark 40 years since Townsend Thoresen took delivery of the Viking Viscount, the last of their ‘Super Viking’ quartet for Southampton and Felixstowe service. We have looked in the past at two of her sisters, the Viking Venturer and Viking Voyager but today the ‘Viscount’ is the last survivor. After passing to TT’s successor P&O European Ferries in 1987 she ended her English Channel days more than two decades ago but continues operating in Greece as the Vitsentzos Kornaros for her only subsequent operator, Lane Lines.
The images below are from a voyage in September 2013 on the ship’s regular operation between Kissamos on Crete to Piraeus via the islands of Kythira and its tiny neighbour Antikythera. The ship provides a direct link to the port of Athens for these half-forgotten corners of the Aegean, but it is a somewhat controversial one. The Vitsentzos Kornaros is heavily subsidised – in 2013 at a cost of almost Euro200 per passenger carried making this the most expensive ferry operation that the Greek government supports. The majority of travellers to these islands take the shorter ferry from Neapolis, over 4 hours driving to the south west of Athens, and in late 2013 government tried to withdraw the subsidy which would have seen the Piraeus link cease. An outcry followed and eventually agreement was reached which would see the Vitsentzos Kornaros continue (her scheduled retirement and replacement as outlined in the earlier 2009 contract between Lane and the government appears to have been brushed under the carpet).
It is not really expected that many passengers will sail direct from Kissamos to Piraeus (direct sailings from Chania, 30 minutes away from Kissamos, leave much later and tend to arrive earlier) so most are heading to or from Kythira and Anthikythera. But the salvation of the route was fortunate not just for islanders but also for travellers seeking a sail on a vintage ferry operating one of the most fascinating routes anywhere in Europe.