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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

Saronic Gulf One-Day Trip on 21 July 2017

My third and fourth trips in the Greek coastal service for the 2017 summer season occurred on 21 July 2017. For the third year in a row, it was for the same exact purpose as the trips I made with my mother and her own mother on 3 July 2015 and on 19 July 2016. Indeed, it was a round-trip to the island of Aegina (one of the two islands in which I go to every summer, as you already know). Traditionally, my mother and my grandmother had been going to Aegina together a few days before we leave Athens for Zakynthos, in order to store in our Aegina house whatever we do not need for the vacation (such as oversized bags, warm clothes) and in order to take whatever is necessary for the beaches (volleyballs, rackets, towels, which stay in our Aegina house all year long). For the third consecutive year, I also went to Aegina with them for help, so it was once again an opportunity for me to see the Greek coastal service ships during both trips. We took, on both occasions, the POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, which was also the last ferry I traveled with on the Saronic Gulf and overall in the Greek coastal service in 2016.

This post is dedicated to the two trips I made that day: from Piraeus to Aegina and back. This post is not a tribute to the ship of 2way Ferries, as I had already done one last June. I did take photos of the passenger areas of the POSIDON HELLAS, but they are the same as the ones from last year, so I will not update them in this post. Regarding the topic of the post, it was a great joy to make my first trip of the season on the Saronic Gulf with the POSIDON HELLAS (more than 11 months after making my last trip with that same ship). The summer of 2017 symbolically marked her twentieth consecutive season on the Saronic Gulf. For the vast majority of the summer, she operated extremely well during what was her third consecutive season with 2way Ferries (who had acquired her in 2015 from Hellenic Seaways), although her services ended abruptly in mid August after she suffered a major engine failure which kept her out of service until November 2017. Her loss had a subsequent impact on the rest of the Saronic Gulf summer season, as many itineraries had to be removed since only three ships were operating for the Saronic Ferries joint venture at that time. She has since returned to service and hopefully she will have a full and successful 2018 summer season.

The pictures below will describe you the experience of the two trips I made to and from the second nearest island from Piraeus, Aegina, thanks to the beautiful double-ended ferry which provided a memorable day for me.

I first arrived in Piraeus early in the morning to drop my sister, as she was leaving to Hydra for two days with the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX of Hellenic Seaways. I then spent the next two hours in the port of Piraeus, photographing all the ships that were moored there, as well as the ones departing and/or leaving the port. As I took too many pictures, I am not going to publish them on this post, and they are anyways available in the Gallery section of this website.

A view of the POSIDON HELLAS in Piraeus, shortly before my trip with her.

The POSIDON HELLAS seen alongside her 2way Ferries fleetmate and longtime Saronic Gulf collaborator, the APOLLON HELLAS. The latter had previously arrived from Aegina and was now resting in the port, while the POSIDON HELLAS was preparing to load passengers and vehicles for her trip to the Saronic Gulf.

Next to them were the two high speed catamarans of Hellenic Seaways operating on the Saronic Gulf, namely the FLYINGCAT 5 and the FLYINGCAT 3. Both ships operate on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

On the right of the APOLLON HELLAS was the small passenger ship SALAMIS EXPRESS I of Salamis Express, which was spending her second straight season on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

The port side funnel of the APOLLON HELLAS. Just like the POSIDON HELLAS, instead of a company logo, she carries a portrait of the Greek God after whom she is named. In this case, it is Apollon, the God of light, arts and music.

After my mother and my grandmother arrived, we immediately embarked onboard the POSIDON HELLAS. Upon our embarkation, I spotted the FLYINGCAT 5 departing the port of Piraeus.

At the same time of the departure of the FLYINGCAT 5, the POSIDON HELLAS also departed for her trip to Aegina, Agistri, Methana and Poros. We immediately passed by her fleetmate, namely the APOLLON HELLAS.

The FLYINGCAT 5 following us right from behind. The summer of 2017 marked her second season operating on the Saronic Gulf, the previous time being during the summer of 2014. Apart from these two years, she has been operating on the Sporades, on the Agios Konstantinos-Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line.

The FLYINGCAT 3 resting in Piraeus. This was the ship's second consecutive season operating full-time on the Saronic Gulf. Indeed, two years ago (2015), she combined her services to the Cyclades (on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Koufonisi line) with a few extra trips on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line, hence providing additional service to these islands which were also being served by two other catamarans of Hellenic Seaways, namely the FLYINGCAT 1 (which was sold in 2016 to the Turkish company Bursa Deniz Otobüsleri) and the FLYINGCAT 6, which spent the 2017 season on the Sporades (on the Agios Konstantinos-Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line) after switching services with her sister ship, the FLYINGCAT 5.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen resting in Piraeus. This was her first summer on the Saronic Gulf since 2013, and her second season under 2way Ferries. Indeed, between 2014 and 2016, she operated on the Sporades, first under Hellenic Seaways (who owned her from 2005 to 2016) and then under 2way Ferries, before the latter decided to bring her back on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line for the 2017 season.

The FLYINGCAT 5 following us as we head towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

As we are moving towards the port's exit, we could now see the ships from the E4, E5, E6 and E7 gates. There, I saw the cruiseferry PREVELIS of ANEK Lines, which had arrived earlier in the morning from her service on the Kasos-Karpathos lifeline.

The FLYINGCAT 5 seen leaving the port of Piraeus right behind us.

Next to the PREVELIS was her fleetmate, the cruiseferry EL. VENIZELOS. The 2017 season marked her return on the Piraeus-Chania line after five years of absence, whereupon she replaced the KYDON which was chartered to Ferries Del Caribe on the Caribbean Sea.

Next to the EL. VENIZELOS was the other ship of ANEK Lines operating in Crete, namely the KRITI II, which is deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The three ferries of ANEK Lines that operated in Crete (and on the Aegean Sea as a whole) in 2017 seen together in Piraeus. These were the KRITI II, the EL. VENIZELOS and the PREVELIS.

On the port side, I noticed the cruise ship CELESTYAL OLYMPIA of Celestyal Cruises. The 2017 season was her sixth with her current owners (who were known as Louis Hellenic Cruise Lines, or simply Louis Cruises, until 2015), and her third under her current name (as she was previously known as the LOUIS OLYMPIA).

In front of the KRITI II was her one of her main competitors, namely the KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, which also operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The KNOSSOS PALACE is the flagship of Minoan Lines since her delivery to the company in 2000. She has spent her entire career on the Piraeus-Heraklion line alongside her sister ship, the FESTOS PALACE. Both ships are considered to be among the best ships the Greek coastal service has ever seen.

The FLYINGCAT 5 heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. Built in 1996, she first arrived in Greece in 2004, after having been acquired by Hellas Flying Dolphins. While she was undergoing her conversion, her company was rebranded as Hellenic Seaways in 2005. She began operations on the Sporades, where she operated from 2005 to 2013 and from 2015 to 2016.

In front of the KNOSSOS PALACE, I saw a fleetmate of the FLYINGCAT 5, namely the gigantic ferry NISSOS RODOS of Hellenic Seaways, which operates on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Patmos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos Kavala lifeline.

The NISSOS RODOS seen during what was her third consecutive season operating on the Cyclades and on the Northeast Aegean Sea. She had also spent one season on the Aegean Sea, back in 2010, when she was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Kos-Rhodes line.

As we were heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, I saw the flagship of Superfast Ferries, the much-acclaimed SUPERFAST XII, which operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes line in 2017.

The NISSOS RODOS seen resting in Piraeus prior to beginning her long itinerary, which lasts almost two days. Ever since she started operating on the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline, she has become a vital ship on the Aegean Sea, and her service has been constantly praised by passengers and residents of the Northeast Aegean Sea Islands.

The SUPERFAST XII seen resting in Piraeus. She has been in her current service since 2015, and she has also received very favourable reviews from passengers and island residents alike.

The NISSOS RODOS seen in Piraeus. Owned by Hellenic Seaways since 2005, she has had an adventurous path in these past 12 years, spending time on the Corinth-Venice line on the Adriatic Sea as a Ro-Ro carrier with her owners, under charter to various companies (Grimaldi Lines, SAMC), and on the Aegean Sea. She was converted to a full-time passenger ship in 2010, and she seems to have found a permanent spot within her company in her current service.

The SUPERFAST XII seen receiving bunkers in Piraeus. Built in 2002, she operated on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line on the Adriatic Sea before being deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion line in 2009. She returned to the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line in 2013, while in 2014 she served the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Ancona line. In 2015 she returned to the Aegean Sea as she was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kos-Rhodes line. In 2017, with the addition of the island of Kalymnos, she served the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes line.

The FLYINGCAT 5 seen sailing behind us, along with the EL. VENIZELOS which has also departed, and the APOLLON HELLAS on the right.

The FLYINGCAT 5 and the EL. VENIZELOS seen following us as we head towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The FLYINGCAT 5 seen exiting the port of Piraeus.

The FLYINGCAT 5 having just exited Piraeus at the same time that we did.

The FLYINGCAT 5 having just exited Piraeus.

While we exited the port of Piraeus, the conventional ferry PHIVOS of Nova Ferries was heading towards the entrance of the port, after having returned from Aegina.

The PHIVOS seen heading towards Piraeus. The summer of 2017 marked her thirteenth consecutive season in Greece, with all of them being spent on the Saronic Gulf for her current owners. Since the establishment of the Saronic Ferries joint venture in 2014, she has been operating on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line.

The FLYINGCAT 5 now seen heading towards Poros, Hydra, Ermioni, Spetses and Porto Cheli.

The PHIVOS seen heading towards Piraeus.

The beautiful PHIVOS, now 37 years old and the oldest ship in the area, but still looking as if she was a newly-built ferry.

The enormous EL. VENIZELOS seen exiting the port of Piraeus, in order to head towards Chania.

The EL. VENIZELOS exits the port of Piraeus while the smaller PHIVOS intends to enter it.

The EL. VENIZELOS having exited the port of Piraeus and heading towards Chania. The 25-year-old cruiseferry was previously the flagship of ANEK Lines from 1992 until 2000, and has since been operating either under charter to companies on the Western Mediterranean Sea (Tunisia Ferries each summer from 2004 to 2011, the now-defunct SNCM in 2013, Go In Sardinia in 2014 and Africa Morocco Link in 2016), or replacing her fleetmates during their annual refits on the Adriatic Sea and on the Aegean Sea. Initially not due to operate in 2017, the charters of the KYDON, the KRITI I and the ELYROS to other companies left a spot available on the Piraeus-Chania line, which she covered immediately.

As we headed towards Aegina, we were followed by the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins, which operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA seen heading towards Aegina.

Another view of the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA operating at full-speed.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA seen as she heads towards Aegina.

We then crossed the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries, which operates on the Piraeus-Aegina line.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen as she is returning from Aegina to Piraeus.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen during her seventeenth season on the Piraeus-Aegina line. Built a year after the POSIDON HELLAS, she spent her first two years on the Sporades as the PANAGIA SKIATHOU, on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Pyli line, before moving to the Saronic Gulf in 2001. She was owned by the Northern Sporades and Evoia Shipping Company from 1999 to 2007, after which she was bought by ANES Ferries. Despite the latter being based in Symi, they nevertheless kept the ship on the Saronic Gulf, where she has remained a loyal ferry for almost two decades.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen once more as she heads towards Piraeus.

We arrived in Aegina after one hour and five minutes. After disembarking, I immediately spotted the fleetmate of the POSIDON HELLAS, namely the double-ended ferry ACHAEOS, as she was returning from Agistri.

The ACHAEOS heading from Agistri to the port of Aegina.

The double-ended ferry ACHAEOS seen approaching the port fo Aegina.

After doing our task in our house in Aegina, we headed back to the island's port in the early afternoon. There, while waiting for the POSIDON HELLAS, the APOLLON HELLAS was docking at the port.

The APOLLON HELLAS heading towards the dock of the port of Aegina.

After boarding the POSIDON HELLAS, we departed for our return trip. We once again left while the APOLLON HELLAS was docked in the same port as us.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen resting in Aegina. Built in 1990 in Greece, she began her career on the Saronic Gulf as the GEORGIOS for the Akouriki Shipping Company. She was sold in 1995 to the South Korean company Wing Ferry Company, for whom she operated on the Nokdong-Jeju line as the SUN BEACH. After four years there, she returned to Greece after being bought by Poseidon Consortium Shipping in 1999. She was renamed APOLLON HELLAS and she returned to the Saronic Gulf. Later that same year, her company was taken over by Minoan Flying Dolphins, which was renamed Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002. The ship continued to operate on the Saronic Gulf under the Saronikos Ferries division, and remained there as her company was rebranded as Hellenic Seaways in 2005.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen resting in Aegina upon our departure.

Another view of the APOLLON HELLAS as she is seen in Aegina.

The APOLLON HELLAS in Aegina. Apart from 1998, 2014, 2015 and 2016, this ship has been by the side of the POSIDON HELLAS on the Saronic Gulf every single summer since the latter's entry to service.

As we were leaving Aegina, the ACHAEOS was heading towards the opposite direction.

The ACHEAOS heading towards Aegina. The summer of 2017 marked her fourth straight season on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line, and she had also previously operated on the Piraeus-Aegina line during her debut year in 2006.

The ACHAEOS heading towards Aegina. Between 2006 and 2013, she operated on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line on the Ionian Sea. She was also chartered to the Italian company Blunavy from 2011 to 2012, and she operated for the latter on the Piombino-Elba line.

The beautiful Greek-built ACHAEOS seen as she heads towards Aegina.

Crossing the ACHAEOS on the Saronic Gulf.

The ACHAEOS heading to Aegina.

The ACHAEOS seen heading towards Aegina.

Another view of the ACHAEOS as she is heading towards Aegina.

As we started approaching the port of Piraeus, the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX of Hellenic Seaways was seen heading towards Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX, which is the youngest hydrofoil in the Greek coastal service, seen heading towards Aegina. She was previously a fleetmate of the POSIDON HELLAS when the ship was owned by Minoan Flying Dolphins (later Hellas Flying Dolphins) and then by Hellenic Seaways.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX heads towards Aegina.

Crossing the FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX as she heads towards Aegina. Built in 1993, the hydrofoil has spent her entire career so far on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line on the Saronic Gulf.

Crossing the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX as she heads towards Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX heading at full-speed towards Aegina.

After 60 minutes, we began entering the port of Piraeus. At the same time, the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA was following us, after she had returned from Agistri and Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA seen entering the port of Piraeus.