• Alexandros Vrailas

FIOR DI LEVANTE Back-to-back Trips on 26 July 2016

Trip: 26 July 2016. From Zakynthos to Kyllini and back, with the FIOR DI LEVANTE of Levante Ferries.


Nine months after I made a Tribute post about the amazing FIOR DI LEVANTE of the Zakynthos-based Levante Ferries, I am now posting about my second and third respective trips with this ship, which occurred in the morning of 26 July 2016, which was exactly one year and two days after the first trip I ever had with the Levante Ferries flagship. Indeed, my summer stay in the island of Zakynthos was short this year, and the tickets we bought in the port of Kyllini included a trip with the ZAKYNTHOS 1 of Kefalonian Lines from Kyllini to Zakynthos and with the FIOR DI LEVANTE's fleetmate, the MARE DI LEVANTE (ex-IONIAN STAR). As a result, I initially thought that I would not be able to travel at all with this unique ferry for the 2016 summer season. Thankfully though, my father offered to have me do an early morning trip to Kyllini and back with the FIOR DI LEVANTE two days prior to our departure, which I immediately accepted (this post is mainly dedicated to my father, who made these two trips possible). As a typical day in Zakynthos includes going to the beach during the morning and the afternoon, I decided to board the FIOR DI LEVANTE on her first morning trip from Zakynthos to Kyllini, which is at 05:45! After arriving in Kyllini, the ship would depart at 07:30 on the return trip to Zakynthos. These two trips mark the earliest ones I have ever taken on the Ionian Sea exclusively. As there were not many passengers, I got the chance to experience calm and comfortable trips with an already extremely comfortable and modern ferry. Though two days later, in the end, I did not end up traveling with the MARE DI LEVANTE as the tickets were originally stating, but with... the FIOR DI LEVANTE!

There were various interesting personal facts about these two trips. They marked my first back-to-back trips in almost 8 years, the last time had been with the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries from Aegina to Piraeus and back, in 2008. They were also the first Greek coastal trips in which I was completely alone by myself. Furthermore, these trips meant that the FIOR DI LEVANTE was the ship with which I traveled the most times during the summer of 2016. They, finally, also marked my first trips with a ferry operating under the Ionian Group joint venture. Indeed, last year's trip with the FIOR DI LEVANTE was during the last days of Levante Ferries operating independently in Zakynthos, and, more precisely, three days before the establishment of the joint venture with Zante Ferries, a week after the company had bought the IONIAN STAR from Tyrogalas Ferries, thus ending the latter's activities on the Ionian Sea and, eventually, the joint venture they had with Zante Ferries. 2016 was Ionian Group's first full summer season. Apart from operating on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line (served fully by the FIOR DI LEVANTE and alternatively by the MARE DI LEVANTE and the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS of Zante Ferries), the joint venture also operated on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line (served alternatively by the MARE DI LEVANTE and the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS) and on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line (served by the chartered SPEEDRUNNER III, though her replacement has yet to determined for this year, as she is returning to her owners, Aegean Speed Lines, for the 2017 summer season). With the FIOR DI LEVANTE as their flagship, Ionian Group had a very successful summer season, and the joint venture is already considering many different ways in which it could expand its services on the Ionian Sea. Another thing to mention is that, three months prior to the trips, the FIOR DI LEVANTE won the title of 'The Best Ferry in the World' in 2015 by Shippax, which is the most prestigious award given to a ferry on the international scale.

The 2016 summer season was the FIOR DI LEVANTE's second in the Greek coastal service, having been on the Ionian Sea since December 2014, after a successful two-year-long conversion in China (in Shanghai). Despite this being respectively the second and third time that I would go on to travel with this ship (so I already knew how a trip with her would look like), it still seemed to me as if I had boarded her for the first time in my life. Also, she might have been 18 years old at the time that I did these two trips, but she clearly seems like a newbuilding. Therefore, an early morning trip with this ship seemed to be an ideal way to start the day.

I would like to mention that I have already written (as mentioned above) a Tribute post on the FIOR DI LEVANTE, so this post is not an additional tribute to the ship herself, but rather to the two trips I had with the ferry. Note also that some pictures taken in the dark are not very good in terms of quality, but I assure you that they will get better as the light begins to appear.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE seen six days prior to my two trips with her (my first picture of her for the 2016 summer season), as she is preparing to maneuver in the port of Kyllini, having just arrived from Zakynthos.

A view of the FIOR DI LEVANTE from my hotel in Zakynthos, as she heads towards Kyllini.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE at 05:30 in the morning, though the picture's quality is not that great.

Entering the ship through the very modern wooden and illuminated entrance gallery.

The ship's upper garage. As there were not many passengers due to the early morning trip, it was nearly empty.

Though there was at least a car boarding the ship :)

The ship's entrance gallery seen from behind (therefore being the exit gallery when passengers are in the opposing direction), featuring an advertisement of the company thanking passengers for sailing with them.

After reaching the top of the escalators, the passenger area welcomes travelers with this beautiful replica of the FIOR DI LEVANTE printed on glass, as shown in last year's tribute post.

The impressive reception desk, featuring the company's logo and a funky red and white column.

This is the first passenger lounge area, located right behind the replica shown and mentioned above, featuring comfortable blue and grey chairs.

A bar-like lounge area located next to the corner of the ship's indoor bar.

The impressive indoor smoking area, featuring a nice shade of blue light and sea turtles, which are a popular living species in Zakynthos.

The ship's stairs leading to various passenger decks, though they are mainly used by the crew.

The ship's very modern and artistically creative bathrooms. The ZAKYNTHOS 1 must have been inspired by these bathrooms during her renovation in 2016.

Another view of the passenger lounge area.

The ship's outdoor passenger area, located next to the stern.

The ship's aircraft-style passenger seats, which are very similar to the ones the BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries had during my trip with her to the Cyclades during the summer of 2015.

A look inside the ship's onboard passenger shop.

Apart from featuring typical Greek Islands products, the shop also has many Levante Ferries souvenir items, such as T-Shirts, hats, cups and replicas of the FIOR DI LEVANTE. Therefore, it is clear that Levante Ferries is not just a shipping company, it is also a rising brand!

Another view of the passenger lounge area.

The ship's popular VW 11880 van. As you saw last year, it is recorded as the first time ever that a vehicle has been onboard a ferry excluding the garage, or that has been permanently onboard a ship. 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 telephone service company 11880 and the information and booking site vrisko.gr. Both companies are painted on both sides of the van (and also on both sides of the FIOR DI LEVANTE's hull).

The front view of the van.

Another set of high chairs around a high wooden table, which also features chargers for smartphones.

A view of the ship's interior bar along with the chairs and lounges around it.

Another modern passenger lounge area.

The ship's main staircase (leading to the upper passenger deck). The lights, designed by the great lighting company Artemide, are shielded by beautiful silver turtles.

Another view of the passenger lounge.

As we move towards the front passenger section, which also features a large lounge area, the ship's central walls are decorated with various paintings depicting Zakynthos during the Venetian era.

A beautiful painting representing the island's main neighborhood, the Solomos Square, during the Venetian era.

Along with a beautiful mosaic of the port of Zakynthos, presumably as it looked like during the 20th century.

The front passenger lounge area, featuring comfortable yellow chairs, which represent the company's colours.

The ship's kid's corner room. As we had seen it last year, it features an electronic map quiz of the island of Zakynthos and its landmarks.

And it also includes a Tic-Tac-Toe setup.

A sign giving the directions to the ship's different areas, both in Greek and English. The company's logo is printed right next to the directions.

After quickly exiting the ship's interior areas, there was another sign showing the directions to the different areas of the ferry.

Another view of the staircase leading to the garage and the bridge.

The ceiling of the upper deck as seen from above the main staircase, featuring a very modern lamp, also designed by Artemide.

The staircase as it is seen from the upper passenger deck.

The ship's outdoor passenger area, located in the upper deck. As there were very few passengers, it seemed like it was completely abandoned, though it eventually got full on the return trip from Kyllini to Zakynthos.

The ship's exterior seating area, along with the closed outdoor bar. It opened only during the return trip from Kyllini to Zakynthos.

Another section of the outdoor seating area, which also features lounges attached to the ship's columns.

The port of Zakynthos at approximately 05:40, with the sun slowly beginning to rise.

The ship's very modern funnel, with the company's logo being illuminated in the dark.

The sun deck area located right next to the ship's stern.

Another view of the lounge found in the upper deck.

Another view of the lounge area, featuring a large TV screen in the middle of a nicely-designed wall with white stripes.

The starboard side passageway leading to the ship's bridge.

The starboard side passageway at seen from behind, with the passenger lounge area located behind the glass.

We began our trip towards mainland Greece. As the time went by, the sun was soon rising. Interestingly, Zakynthos was already under the light, whereas the Peloponnese was still found in the dark.

The sun rising. It is the namesake of the ship, as FIOR DI LEVANTE means 'Flower of the East' in Italian, which makes a reference to the unique sunrise of the Ionian Sea. The name has since been used as a nickname when referring to the island of Zakynthos.

A small sailing boat heading towards the Peloponnese.

The calm beautiful Ionian Sea seen during the morning.

As the sun begins to rise, more light starts to appear. Here is the ship's stern outdoor seating area as it leaves the dark.

The ship's stern, proudly carrying the Greek flag.

One of the ship's many deckplans, located right next to her black funnel.

As we head towards Kyllini, the FIOR DI LEVANTE's Ionian Group collaborator, the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS of Zante Ferries, is already heading towards Zakynthos in order to complete the first trip of the day from mainland Greece to the Ionian island.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS, in what was her eighteenth season on the Ionian Sea, all of them under Zante Ferries. This season, though, marked the ship's first with a new livery, with her hull being fully painted in orange (in contrast to the half-orange and half-white hull that she previously had) and featuring her company's name and website.

The beautiful DIONISIOS SOLOMOS heading towards Zakynthos.

After spending the first part of her Ionian Group career on the resurrected Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line in 2015, the ship returned to her original Kyllini service after that year's summer ended, serving both the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, alternatively with the MARE DI LEVANTE.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS heading towards the island of Zakynthos.

The beautiful DIONISIOS SOLOMOS leaving the Peloponnese in the dark and heading towards the brighter Zakynthos. Note the first picture of the ship, in which she is under the sunrise.

As our meeting with the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS ends, the FIOR DI LEVANTE is soon approaching the port of Kyllini.

Another view of the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS en route to Zakynthos.

As we approach the port of Kyllini, another ship is leaving for an Ionian island. This time it is the NISSOS KEFALONIA, owned by Ionian Group's competitors, Kefalonian Lines, heading towards her namesake island.

Though some of my pictures were of bad quality due to the dark, from this moment and until the end of the trip I took what I personally consider as my favourite pictures. The legendary NISSOS KEFALONIA, now in her fourth summer season with her current owners, heads for Kefalonia. In the past two summers she also operated on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line, though this service is now being operated by her fleetmate, the ZAKYNTHOS 1.

The NISSOS KEFALONIA leaving Kyllini under the beautiful Ionian Sea sun. She has been in these waters since 1995, operating as the KEFALONIA under Strintzis Lines (1995-2000), Blue Star Ferries (2000-2004) and Strintzis Ferries (2004-2013). She became extremely popular for her operations on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line, which she served for 16 years. Strintzis Ferries' economic problems led to her lay-up in 2012 in Salamina and later in Drapetsona, but she was sold the following year to her current owners, who have since operated her out of Kyllini. During her last summer of operations under Strintzis Ferries in 2011, she had served the Kyllini-Kefalonia line.

The NISSOS KEFALONIA, a former Japanese ferry, passing under the rising sun.

The beautiful and legendary NISSOS KEFALONIA heading towards Kefalonia.

As the FIOR DI LEVANTE prepares to turn in order to enter the port of Kyllini, here is another view of the NISSOS KEFALONIA.

Just a few minutes after the NISSOS KEFALONIA had exited the port of Kyllini, she would be immediately followed by her fleetmate, the ZAKYNTHOS 1, which heads towards her own namesake island.

The ZAKYNTHOS 1 operating in her third season for Kefalonian Lines, who have chartered her from her owners, ANEZ, since 2014. The ship was considerably upgraded this year, in order to better compete against Ionian Group and their Zakynthos operations.

The ZAKYNTHOS 1 ready to pass under the Ionian sun, as did her fleetmate a couple of minutes ago.

The ZAKYNTHOS 1 passing under the sun and preparing to head towards Zakynthos.

The beautiful ZAKYNTHOS 1, with which I had traveled six days prior to my two trips with the FIOR DI LEVANTE, makes her first call of the day from Kyllini to Zakynthos.

The ZAKYNTHOS 1, the oldest ferry on the Ionian Sea, heading towards her namesake island.

A picture featuring both Kefalonian Lines ships while they head for their respective destin