FIOR DI LEVANTE Tribute and Moments of Trip
Trip: 24 July 2015. From Zakynthos to Kyllini, with the FIOR DI LEVANTE of Levante Ferries.
The amazing FIOR DI LEVANTE was built in South Korea in 1998. She was owned by Dong Yang Shipping Company, and she began her career in South Korea under the name TREASURE ISLAND, on the Busan-Jeju line. She was renamed HYUNDAI SEOLBONG in 2000, while her company was renamed Dong Yang Express Ferry Company in 2005. In late 2011, a fire partially destroyed her while she was sailing from Busan, although it was extinguished and the passengers and crew were safely evacuated. Despite her state, in 2012 she was purchased by the newly-established Zakynthos-based company Levante Ferries. She was repaired in China (in Shanghai) and underwent an extensive conversion, being entirely modernised and having completely refitted interior and exterior areas. After two years of undergoing a conversion which cost of 30 million euros, the ship arrived in Greece and began service on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line in late 2014, marking the start of a new era on the Ionian Sea as well as in the Greek coastal service. The ship was awarded the title of 'The Best Ferry in the World' by Shippax in 2015, and she quickly became a threat to her competitors, the Ionian Ferries joint venture and Kefalonian Lines. The success of the FIOR DI LEVANTE led her company in purchasing the IONIAN STAR of Tyrogalas Ferries (which has now been renamed MARE DI LEVANTE) in 2015, and this caused the end of the Ionian Ferries joint venture and the subsequent creation of a joint venture between Levante Ferries and Zante Ferries named Ionian Group. The ship was also deployed on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line as a result. Currently the youngest ship on the Ionian Sea, she is unarguably the most exciting and most luxurious ferry in the region.
Zakynthos is one of the two islands, along with Aegina, in which I go to each summer, as you now know. This means that I am used to seeing all established ferries on both islands, but I also get to see new ferries arriving, such as the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins in 2011 (though I only saw her for the first time in 2012), the double-ended ferry ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries in 2014 (both in Aegina) and, this year, the FIOR DI LEVANTE. I was so excited with that arrival that I asked my parents if we could travel with her on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line. This happened, as we booked a ticket with Levante Ferries on our return from Zakynthos to Athens via Kyllini, so that we could later go to Aegina. I finally had the chance to see the ship with my own eyes. As it was also the case with the BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries, I had already seen many pictures of the ships in various websites dedicated to the Greek coastal service, but seeing them in real-life was even more impressive. Of course, I was not disappointed at all with what I got to see, and in fact, the BLUE STAR PATMOS' status as the best ferry I had ever travelled with lasted only 16 days. Here are a few photos of my experience with the FIOR DI LEVANTE, and I will explain through them how this 18-year-old ferry is such a precious jewel which the Greek coastal service is lucky to have under its possession, let alone the Ionian Sea.
The FIOR DI LEVANTE awaiting her morning departure to Kyllini.
The FIOR DI LEVANTE before boarding her.
The mega modern funnel of the ferry, featuring her company's logo. The shape of the funnel resembles to that of many modern Greek ferries, especially of those under Blue Star Ferries, ANEK Lines, Superfast Ferries and Hellenic Seaways ownership.
Talking about Blue Star Ferries, the FIOR DI LEVANTE underwent her conversion under shipping architect Apostolos Molyndris, who also made the designs of the two most recent newbuildings in the Greek coastal service, the BLUE STAR DELOS of Blue Star Ferries in 2011, and her sister ship and fleetmate, the BLUE STAR PATMOS in 2012. Therefore, I saw many similarities in the designs of the BLUE STAR PATMOS and of the FIOR DI LEVANTE, and the only thing I have to say is that Molyndris is simply a genius.
The entrance through the stern's passenger door, featuring a beautiful painting of albatrosses.
After going through the end of the escalators, passengers can see, on their left-hand-side, a large poster of the ship attached to the glass at the back, greeting them and welcoming them onboard.
The impressive reception, featuring this funky red-and-white-stripped column and Levante Ferries' logo. The mirrors on the ceiling are also very impressive.
A very popular feature of the ship: the 11880 van. It is recorded as the first time that a vehicle has ever been onboard a ferry's interior areas excluding the garage, or that has been permanently onboard. The van, decorated with Levante Ferries' colours, is used as an advertisement for the company and its owner, Georgios Theodosis. Apart from owning Levante Ferries, he also owns the telephone service company 11880 and the information and booking site vrisko.gr. Both companies' names are printed on both sides of the van.
The impressive van onboard the FIOR DI LEVANTE, featuring the names of 11880 and of vrisko.gr.
The modern staircase leading to the ship's upper deck.
The stairs are also decorated with Artemide lights, just like it is case with the BLUE STAR PATMOS. These specific lights are shielded by silver turtles, which are an important symbol of Zakynthos' marine life.
One of the many comfortable passenger lounge areas.
On the upper deck, a very modern bar is located in the stern's open deck area. The chairs are very similar to the ones that the BLUE STAR PATMOS has in her outdoor passenger areas.
The kid's corner room, featuring an electronic map quiz of the island of Zakynthos and its landmarks. It is by far the most original game found inside a ferry's kid's corner.
A staircase that leads passengers from the first passenger deck to the upper deck.
Another original feature of the FIOR DI LEVANTE: this secluded room is an indoor smoking area which absorbs the smoke and limits its spread through the rest of the ship's interior areas. The walls are also decorated with Zakynthos turtles.
The ship's outdoor sun deck area at the level of the stern.
A sneaky view on the bridge's hallway, which leads to crew's cabins. From photos I have seen on the Internet, they look as luxurious as the passenger cabins of cruiseferries like the OLYMPIC CHAMPION of ANEK Lines (a ship that I travelled with back in 2007 and 2008).
The Greek flag flying with pride in this superb ferry.
We began the trip, with the ferry being fully loaded. It did not last long, obviously, as it only takes an hour for ships to connect Zakynthos with Kyllini. This meant that I only saw two other ships passing by the FIOR DI LEVANTE, and both of them now operate with her for the newly-established joint venture, Ionian Group. I also saw a few Zakynthos tour boats.
Leaving Zakynthos with us was the DELFINI of Voutirakos Cruises, which makes around-the-island trips and calls in the small island of Marathonisi. I traveled with her back in 2009.
Like the DELFINI, the DIMOSTHENIS K of Top Cruiser departs for a trip around Zakynthos.
The FIOR DI LEVANTE en route to Kyllini. This is the port side alley, located next to the ship's bridge and crew cabin area.
Crossing Levante Ferries' most recent acquisition: the IONIAN STAR (now known as the MARE DI LEVANTE), whose sale from Tyrogalas Ferries had been completed just three days before this trip.
In just three days, the Tyrogalas Ferries funnels of the IONIAN STAR were replaced with those of Levante Ferries. The blue stripe over the windows was later painted in black for the rest of the 2015 summer season. The ship then had a brief spell on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line during the winter of 2015-2016, and then headed for a refit in Perama, during which she was fully painted in Levante Ferries' colours, while also taking the name MARE DI LEVANTE.
The IONIAN STAR heading towards Zakynthos. That summer marked her last one under Tyrogalas Ferries (who had owned her since 2003), and her first one under Levante Ferries. She has now returned on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line.
As we approached Kyllini, we met with the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS of Zante Ferries, which was coming back from Kefalonia.
Staying behind the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS, which was now collaborating with the FIOR DI LEVANTE after her owners, Zante Ferries, agreed to form the Ionian Group joint venture with Levante Ferries just two days prior to my trip with the latter ferry.
The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS, named after the Zakynthian poet who composed Greece's national anthem, ready to enter the port of Kyllini. She has been owned by Zante Ferries since 1999. A few days after seeing her, she was sent to the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line under the Ionian Group joint venture, thus reactivating the line for the first time since the summer of 2013 (during which she herself was operating on the line for the majority of that season).
The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS after having docked in Kyllini.
We arrived in Kyllini, but we had to leave immediately because of the cars awaiting departure to the Ionian Islands.
Just like with the BLUE STAR PATMOS, there are no doubts that the FIOR DI LEVANTE is an exceptional ship, with areas (both indoor and outdoor) that are incomparable with those of other ferries in the Greek coastal service. She has already offered so much to the coastal service of Zakynthos and Kefalonia, and it is very likely that she will continue to do so for many years to come, as her owner, Georgios Theodosis, does not plan to deploy her on the Aegean Sea like despite considerable demand. Even though the Aegean Sea is missing out on a real jewel, it is better that she continues to write her own history on the Ionian Sea. She represents the start of a new era of fast and luxurious ferries set to operate in Greece, despite the difficulties caused by the Greek financial crisis.
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