• Alexandros Vrailas

ZAKYNTHOS 1 Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 20 July 2016. From Kyllini to Zakynthos, with the ZAKYNTHOS 1 of Kefalonian Lines.

The ZAKYNTHOS 1 was built in 1973 in Germany as a Ro-Ro carrier ship for service between mainland France, Corsica and Italy, for the French company Compagnie Méridionale de Navigation (now known as La Méridionale). Her initial name was VILLE DE CORTE, and she operated on the Marseille-Bastia-Ajaccio-Propriano line. She remained in this service until she was bought in 1989 by ANEZ.

ANEZ was Zakynthos' first public and anonymous shipping enterprise. They began operations in 1981, after the had bought the then two-year-old Greek-built ferry GIOCONDA of Greek Atlantic Cod Fishing Company. This ship was renamed ZAKYNTHOS and began operations on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line. Her service was very successful, but it abruptly ended on 28 December 1989, when she sank near the port of Kyllini, due to intense storms which hit her and damaged her severely. The consequence was the tragic death of one passenger. As ANEZ was left without any ship in their name, they bought the VILLE DE CORTE two days after the ZAKYNTHOS disaster. The Ro-Ro carrier arrived in Perama in January 1990, where she was converted to a passenger ferry, and was renamed ZAKYNTHOS 1, as her owners wanted to distinguish her from her doomed predecessor. She began service on the Ionian Sea in the summer of 1990, on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line. After her company became part of the now-defunct Ionian Ferries joint venture, which had been composed of competitors Zante Ferries and Tyrogalas Ferries, she also made regular appearances on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, though her main service remained on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line. Like her predecessor, the ZAKYNTHOS 1 enjoyed a successful 15 years on the Ionian Sea thanks to her loyal and reliable operations.

However, in 2004, her company began to head towards the opposite direction. This happened mainly because ANEZ made a huge mistake in buying a Russian-built cruise ship, the MIKHAIL SHOLOKHOV of Far Eastern Shipping Company, a ship with a very small garage and with passenger accommodation that did not correspond to Greek coastal service standards, and which therefore required a very important sum of money needed for a conversion to take place. Though the ship had started her conversion in Perama and had been renamed UGO FOSCOLO (after a poet from Zakynthos who lived during the 19th century), the company did not have enough money to pay the shipyard for the completion of her conversion, and she was subsequently sent for lay-up in Zakynthos. There, the company also realised that the ship was too big to operate on such a short line as the Kyllini-Zakynthos line, and therefore looked to sell the ship. As there were no buyers, their economic situation became even worse, which led them to leave the Ionian Ferries joint venture in 2006. The ZAKYNTHOS 1 operated independently during the summer of that year, but, in 2007, as the company could not afford to send her for refit in Piraeus, she was herself laid-up in the port of Zakynthos, on the entrance pier facing the one where her fleetmate, the UGO FOSCOLO, was docked. ANEZ quickly disappeared from the public view, with many believing that the company had ceased operations (though this proved not be the case, even though the company remained inactive). She spent the next five years abandoned in that same spot, with many people believing she would never return to service (due to her old age and due to her latest refit at the time dating back to 2006). Her exterior condition worsened, though it seemed that her interior was apparently in an excellent state. In 2010, ANEZ managed to get rid of the UGO FOSCOLO, but the ship did not leave Zakynthos until 2011, when she headed towards India for scrapping, at the age of 25. After the UGO FOSCOLO's departure, it had been expected that the ZAKYNTHOS 1 would follow the same path as her fleetmate. However, ANEZ had other plans, which were very favourable towards the ship's future.

And indeed, during the spring of 2012, the ship left Zakynthos for the first time in five years to undergo a major refit in Piraeus. ANEZ, which was on the verge of joining Ionian Ferries again, had finally enough funds to bring the ship back to service. This eventually happened in December 2012, when the ship began operating on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, thus operating for the first time since 2007, despite being 39 years old at the time. A month later, ANEZ rejoined Ionian Ferries, and the ship continued to operate on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line during the summer of 2013. A major engine failure ended her season in October 2013. In 2014, due to newfound economic pressure and disagreements with Zante Ferries and Tyrogalas Ferries, ANEZ left Ionian Ferries once again. A few weeks later, it was announced that the ship would be chartered to Kefalonian Lines, a company which had just begun operations the previous season, after acquiring the fellow Ionian Sea veteran and legendary ferry KEFALONIA, renaming her NISSOS KEFALONIA and placing her on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line (in fact, she was the ZAKYNTHOS 1's competitor during the summer of 2013). The initial charter agreement was for two years. The ship kept her name, and was slightly refitted in Piraeus, where she was painted in the typical Kefalonian Lines dark blue colours. In the summer of 2014, she operated on both the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, alongside her new fleetmate, the NISSOS KEFALONIA, providing competition against her former operators, Ionian Ferries. In 2015, she only operated on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, due to the arrival of newly-established company Levante Ferries and their superbly modern and luxurious ferry, the FIOR DI LEVANTE, which was deployed on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line. After the departure of Tyrogalas Ferries from the Ionian Sea and later from the Greek coastal service and the establishment of the Ionian Group joint venture between Levante Ferries and Zante Ferries, Kefalonian Lines were now the only other main competitor on the Ionian Sea market. In order to compete with the FIOR DI LEVANTE and her Ionian Group fleetmates, the company had to upgrade its veteran ferries (in 2015, the ZAKYNTHOS 1 was 42 years old, while the NISSOS KEFALONIA celebrated her fortieth year of service).

Kefalonian Lines did not wait too long for the upgrades to happen. In 2016, the ZAKYNTHOS 1 was sent to Piraeus to modify her passenger accommodations, as well as to upgrade her average speed. After a month of work, the ship returned to service completely fresh and ready to compete against Levante Ferries and Ionian Group. Furthermore, her charter to Kefalonian Lines was extended to six years (which means she will be 49 years old once it expires) and she was deployed exclusively on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line, while the NISSOS KEFALONIA operated exclusively on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line.

This long and huge historical background is essential in order to describe to you the experience I had with that particular ship. Although she has not essentially been one the best ships to have operated in the Greek coastal service, she remains a strong and reliable ferry on the Ionian Sea, an area which she has been serving loyally since 1990 (with the exception being her 5-year-long lay-up). So it was very special to travel with this ship in order to make my first Ionian Sea trip for the 2016 summer season, from Kyllini to Zakynthos. And the trip was even more special thanks to the fact that the ship has returned fully upgraded, which gave me the chance to explore the areas that were transformed in order to accommodate passenger to today's standards. The trip also had interesting personal facts and records. It was my second-ever trip with a ship operating for Kefalonian Lines, after I had done the exact same crossing with the NISSOS KEFALONIA a year earlier. It was also the first time I used this ferry while being able to identify her (I may have traveled with her when I was between 2 and 5 years old, but I unfortunately do not remember anything from back then). And, lastly, the ZAKYNTHOS 1 is currently the oldest ferry I have ever boarded in my life, as she was 43 years old last year (the second oldest is her current fleetmate, the NISSOS KEFALONIA, with which I had traveled in 2015 when she was 40 years old). All the above facts were key to my excitement in traveling with this ferry, which I was only used to see in the Zakynthos port's entrance pier in a very bad state.

The trip succeeded my discovery of the renovated Kyllini port, something which I talked about last month, while also showing you a few pictures of the ZAKYNTHOS 1 preparing to leave Kyllini, as well as of the FIOR DI LEVANTE maneuvering in the port. However I will add three of these again in order to give you a clear first impression of the ship I am writing a Tribute post to.

A view of the beautiful veteran ZAKYNTHOS 1, preparing to leave Kyllini for her namesake island.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE, the flagship of Levante Ferries, which is 25 years younger than the ZAKYNTHOS 1. She also appeared for the first time on the Ionian Sea 24 years after the latter had done so, back when she began service in 1990. The FIOR DI LEVANTE is seen here maneuvering in Kyllini, while her competitor is preparing to leave the port.

The Kefalonian Lines logo occupying the funnel of the ZAKYNTHOS 1. This was the first summer that the ship spent without the printing of the map of the island of Zakynthos in her funnel, which she had while operating for ANEZ (since beginning service in Greece in 1990) and during her first two years with her current operators (in this case, the Kefalonian Lines logo had been printed in a much smaller size below the Zakynthos map).

The ZAKYNTHOS 1 in Kyllini, shortly before we boarded her.

Right after boarding the ferry, the stairs leading us to the passenger accommodation area had an exterior view, in which we could see the FIOR DI LEVANTE, right after she had completed her maneuvering procedure, and having just docked in Kyllini.

The ship's upper garage deck, which quickly became full.

Another view of the impressive FIOR DI LEVANTE, in her second summer operating on the Ionian Sea, on both the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and the Kyllini-Kefalonia line. She had also been selected, about 5 months prior to this picture, as 'The World's Best Ferry of 2015' by Shippax.

The ship's reception desk, which features the logo and the colours of Kefalonian Lines.

The stern section of the lower indoor passenger lounge area. The ship had two passenger decks, with the upper deck giving the passengers the possibility to access the ship's outdoor areas.

The corner of the stern section of the lower deck passenger lounge area.

The central section of the passenger lounge area found in the lower deck, which features new rolling chairs, a nice bar, and plenty of space for passengers to move around.

Another view of the central section of the lower deck passenger lounge area, with the modern rolling chairs, which were added during the ship's renovation during the winter of 2015-2016.

The bow section of the passenger lounge area in the lower deck, which regroups several tables, chairs and couches in one small corner.

The upper deck passenger lounge area, similar to the one found in the lower deck, though it lacks a bar (it instead has two large TV screens) and the chairs are greener, compared to the grey ones that I saw previously. They were also a new addition during the ship's major upgrade that year.

Another Kefalonian Lines sign found in the corner of the passenger lounge.

Right next to the company sign, there was an access to the public restrooms, which looked quite impressive, modern and stylish. The modern sinks and the motorcycle painting were all items added during the ship's most recent renovation.

Another view of the upper deck passenger lounge area.

And while I was preparing to take pictures of the ship's outdoor areas, I unexpectedly saw Kefalonian Lines' other ship, the legendary NISSOS KEFALONIA, maneuvering in Kyllini, after having just arrived back from her namesake island.

Another view of the amazing FIOR DI LEVANTE.

The NISSOS KEFALONIA maneuvering in Kyllini, in her fourth summer operating for Kefalonian Lines. Her previous Ionian Sea operations include stints with Strintzis Lines (1995-2000), Blue Star Ferries (2000-2004, Strintzis Lines' successor company after they were taken over by Attica Group) and Strintzis Ferries (2004-2013). From 1995 to 2010, she operated on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line, while in 2011 she was transferred to the Kyllini-Kefalonia line. She has since remained on that line, with the exceptions being 2012 (when she was laid-up for the entire season in Salamina and later in Drapetsona following Strintzis Ferries' economic difficulties, which led to the company's closure) and the summers of 2014 and 2015, where, apart from her Kefalonia operations, she also operated on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line. Her service on the latter line was fully taken over by the ZAKYNTHOS 1 in 2016.

The starboard side outdoor alley of the ZAKYNTHOS 1, leading to the ship's bridge.

Another view of the FIOR DI LEVANTE, which was preparing to leave the port 20 minutes after our departure.

The stern section of the ship's outside area. Here, you can see both funnels being attached to a mast.

An empty area in the middle section of the ship's exterior deck.

The NISSOS KEFALONIA while she undergoes her maneuvering procedure in Kyllini.

And another view of the FIOR DI LEVANTE. As I have mentioned previously, the 11880 and vrisko.gr signs in her hull serve as a way to promote both the telephone service company and the information website, which are both owned by the head of Levante Ferries, Georgios Theodosis.

The upper exterior deck, with a view of the ship's stern. The lower outdoor deck has a useful tool: a sun deck right above the ship's wooden seats. The ferry's main lifeboat and some rafts are also seen on the left.

The NISSOS KEFALONIA, having just completed her maneuvering procedure, is now preparing to dock right next to the FIOR DI LEVANTE.

The NISSOS KEFALONIA almost ready to dock in the port of Kyllini. This was her fourth summer under Kefalonian Lines.

One of the two iconic funnels of the NISSOS KEFALONIA, featuring, just like the ZAKYNTHOS 1, the Kefalonian Lines logo, which represents a small version of the geographic shape of the island of Kefalonia while also forming the company's initial letter K at the same time.

The NISSOS KEFALONIA now ready to unload her passengers and her vehicles.

A view of the bridge of the ZAKYNTHOS 1, as well as of the crew's cabins (obviously seen from the outside) on the starboard side.

Another view of the great NISSOS KEFALONIA.

The funnels of two of the three companies operating on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line. And both companies are fierce competitors between them.

Another view of the Agios Nikolaos church in Kyllini, destined to protect seafarers.

We are now preparing to leave port of Kyllini and head to Zakynthos. Our departure occurred less than 10 minutes after the FIOR DI LEVANTE's arrival, and less than 2 minutes after the NISSOS KEFALONIA's arrival in Kyllini.

A view of the NISSOS KEFALONIA and of the FIOR DI LEVANTE as we prepare to head towards Zakynthos.

The two main ships of their respective companies seen together in Kyllini, preparing for their next departures to their respective Ionian islands.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE and the NISSOS KEFALONIA together in Kyllini. Both ships were built and began their careers in Asia, before they arrived in Greece. In fact, the ZAKYNTHOS 1 was the only European-built ship among the five ferries operating in Kyllini for the summer of 2016.

Another view of the greatest ship on the Ionian Sea, standing to the one which could, if she stays for a long time in the area, surpass her.

Another view of these two great ferries: the FIOR DI LEVANTE and the NISSOS KEFALONIA.

A final view of these two ships, as we exit the port of Kyllini.

And a last one of the NISSOS KEFALONIA, which has been the ZAKYNTHOS 1's fleetmate for the past two years.

Another view of the starboard side alley of the ZAKYNTHOS 1, in the middle of the Ionian Sea.

As we were approaching the port of Zakynthos, I managed to take my first-ever picture of the ex-IONIAN STAR under her current name, MARE DI LEVANTE. The ship, which had been bought by Levante Ferries during the summer of 2015, changed her colours and her name during her refit in the spring of 2016. Present on the Ionian Sea since 2003, it felt very awkward to me to see her for the first time without her former name and without the insignia of her former owners, Tyrogalas Ferries.

Crossing the MARE DI LEVANTE on the Ionian Sea. Like her fleetmate, the ship also has the 11880 and the vrisko.gr signs on her hull.

The beautiful MARE DI LEVANTE seen on the Ionian Sea. Her bow mirror was slightly modified during her refit, in comparison with pictures of her as the IONIAN STAR.

The MARE DI LEVANTE heading from Zakynthos to Kyllini. Her sale to Levante Ferries marked a turning point in the history of the Ionian Sea coastal service, as it marked the end of Tyrogalas Ferries' operations in the area, and the end of the Ionian Ferries joint venture which was composed of her former owners and Zante Ferries. Furthermore, it marked the beginning of the new joint venture, Ionian Group, which is now composed of Levante Ferries and Zante Ferries.

The beautiful MARE DI LEVANTE heading towards Kyllini.

The MARE DI LEVANTE as she is heading towards the port of Kyllini. During the summer of 2016, she operated on both the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, along with the third ship of Ionian Group, the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS of Zante Ferries.

As we were approaching the port of Zakynthos, we were not the only ones preparing to dock. Indeed, the small passenger boat DELFINI of Voutirakos Cruises was also returning from her daily trip around the island, which she began in the morning.

The DELFINI is the flagship of Voutirakos Cruises. Apart from her trip around the island of Zakynthos, she also makes occasional calls to the small island of Marathonisi.

The beautiful DELFINI approaching the port of Zakynthos. I traveled just once with that ship, back in 2009. Since that year, I would always recognise her in the port, something which I had not done in the years prior to my trip with her.

The DELFINI following us right behind in order to enter the port of Zakynthos.

Right in front of the port of Zakynthos, there is a pier that is reserved exclusively to small passenger boats (except for the ones owned by Voutirakos Cruises) and to abandoned passenger ships. The first ship you can see is the DIMOSTHENIS of Top Cruiser, which also makes daily trips around Zakynthos. Right next to her, on the back of of the picture, is her fleetmate, the DIMOSTHENIS K, which also makes the same trips.

The DIMOSTHENIS and the DIMOSTHENIS K together in Zakynthos.

The port of Zakynthos greeting us for the first time in 2016.

The DELFINI preparing to enter the port of Zakynthos, standing right behind us.

The iconic Agios Dionisios Church campanile, standing right next to the port of Zakynthos.

The DELFINI is now ready to enter the port, as we are now preparing for the maneuvering procedure.

On the other side of the port, another ship belonging to Voutirakos Cruises, the MENIA MARIA I, was resting, after having completed her own pirate-themed cruise around Zakynthos and Marathonisi.

The DELFINI having just entered the port of Zakynthos and now preparing to dock.

The DELFINI is on her way to docking right next to her fleetmate, the MENIA MARIA I.

The DELFINI heading towards the docking area that is reserved to Voutirakos Cruises ships. She was built in 2001 in Greece, and entered service for Voutirakos Cruises, replacing her older fleetmate, which was also named DELFINI. The latter was retired and scrapped due to reaching an old age in 2001, and her hull was used in order to build the current DELFINI.

Another view of the MENIA MARIA I. Before arriving in Zakynthos for Voutirakos Cruises in 2011, she had previously spent her career under Athos Cruises on the Agion Oros region, serving the Ormos Panagias-Agion Oros line from 2002 to 2011.

The MENAI MARIA I waiting for the DELFINI to come and dock right next to her.

In the meantime, as the ZAKYNTHOS 1 is maneuvering, another tour boat, the IKAROS PALACE of Seven Islands Cruises, is leaving the port for her planned afternoon cruise.

The IKAROS PALACE is the fastest small tour yacht on the Ionian Sea. She is the only ship of her company operating solely in Zakynthos by performing trips around the island as well as by stopping in Marathonisi.

The beautiful IKAROS PALACE seen leaving the port of Zakynthos.

In the meantime, the DELFINI has just completed her own maneuvering procedure, and is now preparing to dock.

The ZAKYNTHOS 1 having just arrived in her namesake island. Here is a final view of the ship's stern.

And the company still keeps its traditions: a sticker attached on the back windshield of our car, featuring the Kefalonian Lines logo, colours and website.

And this marks the conclusion of my trip with the Kefalonian Lines ferry. It was truly a great experience, despite the ship's advanced age, which in the end did not have any significance. The trip was pleasant, comfortable, while I was also able to see the upgraded features that were placed on the ship during her most recent refit. It is great to see her in service on the Ionian Sea, because if you were in Zakynthos between 2007 and 2012, you could have easily thought that she would never operate again. But there she is still, continuing to provide efficient and reliable service until at least 2022, when her current Kefalonian Lines charter ends. And we have to wait, as there could still be more to come beyond that year.

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