• Alexandros Vrailas

PLATYTERA TON OURANON Tribute and Moments of Trip/Saronic Gulf One-Day Cruise

Trip: 9 September 2017. From Floisbos to Hydra, Poros, Aegina and back, with the PLATYTERA TON OURANON of Hydraïki Cruises (Athens One Day Cruise).

The one-day cruise ship PLATYTERA TON OURANON was built in Greece in 1999 for the Agion Oros-based company Agioreitikes Grammes. She originally operated on the Agion Oros area, operating as a one-day cruise ship on the Ormos Panagias-Ouranoupolis line. In 2007 she was sold to Hydraïki Cruises (also known as Athens One Day Cruise since 2012). She underwent a major conversion in Perama in 2008, during which she was considerably lengthened. She began operating that same year on the Saronic Gulf, making one-day cruises on the Piraeus-Hydra-Poros-Aegina line. In 2012 she began operating from the port of Floisbos (near Phaliron), competing against the KASSANDRA DELFINOUS of Olympic Cruises and the legendary AEGEAN GLORY of Pleasure Cruises, which was then transferred to Olympic Cruises in 2016, with the latter company being renamed Evermore Cruises. The PLATYTERA TON OURANON herself was replaced in 2016 by her fleetmate, the ANNA MARU, in order to undergo an extensive refit, returning to service only at the end of that year.

In her first summer season since 2015, she returned to the Floisbos-Hydra-Poros-Aegina line, where she is now cooperating alongside the ex-AEGEAN GLORY, now known as the COSMOS of Evermore Cruises, under the joint venture Platinum Cruises. Despite the existence of this joint venture, only one ship operates at the time. Hence, for 2017, the COSMOS operated in June and July, and the PLATYTERA TON OURANON first began cruises for the season in August, and remains active to date. The KASSANDRA DELFINOUS was sold in that same year to Corfu Cruises, and operated on the Ionian Sea. She is however due to operate for new owners for the 2018 season, the newly-reformed Kassandra Cruises, on the Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line on the Sporades.

The Saronic Gulf one-day cruise, which basically implies a visit to the islands of Hydra, Poros and Aegina from either Piraeus or Floisbos, is an extremely popular and cheap touristic activity. It has been active since the 1950s, and was represented by several well-known ships, such as the CITY OF POROS of Cycladic Cruises (which was a victim of an onboard terrorist attack while heading from Aegina to Floisbos back in 1988), the legendary HERMES of Epirotiki Line (later known as Royal Olympic Cruises and then as Royal Olympia Cruises), the historical GIORGIS (formerly known as the legendary PORTOKALIS ILIOS which served as a passenger ship on the Saronic Gulf in the 1960s and 1970s) of Hydraïki Cruises, and the AEGEAN GLORY, currently known as the COSMOS. The cruise is notable for its well-organised service, planned excursions to the three islands' major highlights, and constant entertainment while at sea. Several tourists visiting only Athens have the chance to see three islands close to the latter, making a good alternative to visiting more popular islands (Crete, the Cyclades or the Dodecanese) which are more distant.

Hence, the concept of doing the Saronic Gulf one-day cruise had been in my mind for many years. Indeed, as I was spotting the cruise ships when I was much younger (the AEGEAN GLORY and the PLATYTERA TON OURANON, as well as the ANNA MARU in earlier years), and then read about them on Greek shipping magazines, I progressively began to have the desire to do one. I therefore decided to do it alone in 2017, at the end of the summer season. I was still in Athens in early September, and my parents and siblings had already left Greece. In this period, I had started a brief internship at Greek shipping company Dorian LPG, and was staying with my grandmother at home in Athens.


Though I had left Aegina eight days prior to my trip with the PLATYTERA TON OURANON,

I decided to come back to the island for the last time during the summer of 2017, and also to visit the islands of Hydra and Poros for the first time in my life. As I was free during the weekend, I booked my tickets for the cruise on Saturday 9 September 2017 (a gift that was made by my grandmother, to whom I am truly grateful), being told to be in Floisbos at 07:00 in the morning.

The PLATYTERA TON OURANON seen in Aegina on 7 August 2017, one month and two days prior to my trip with her.

I arrived in Floisbos at 07:00, as planned. There stood the PLATYTERA TON OURANON, awaiting for the passengers to embark. The vast majority of them came from Northern European countries, although several people from Italy, India and Eastern Asia were also spotted. I was probably one of the only Greeks onboard.

The PLATYTERA TON OURANON seen in Floisbos, prior to passenger embarkation.

I was one of the first passengers to embark. I thus had the advantage to go and take pictures of all the ship's areas. Here is the lower deck, which features a huge wooden passenger lounge area, with a glowing ceiling and an air hockey table.

The beautiful lower deck passenger lounge, which has a high quality bar at the back. It is reserved to passengers that have paid extra money, similar to the Business Class in ferries of the coastal service.

On the upper passenger deck was another lounge area, much more modern than the deck below, and featuring a small jewelry and fashion store.

The jewelry and fashion store, alongside the seats in the lounge area.

The ship's outdoor port side deck alley.

The ship's stern sun deck area, featuring a bar (closed at the time).

The stern sun deck, featuring several chairs and tables and very limited passageways.

On the right side of the sun deck was a small music corner, used for entertainment while the ship is sailing from one port to the other.

The outdoor section of the ship in the front section, just above the bridge.

The ship's bow, featuring an area full of sun beds facing the sea. It is used by special class passengers and is undoubtedly a perfect way to relax and to admire the sea view.

The ship has a small funnel above the bridge, painted in white. On the front section of the funnel is the original logo of Hydraïki Cruises, installed on all the ships that have been owned by the latter. It was apparently designed by the company's owner's son, who sadly passed away at a very young age. The drawing has thus become the company's traditional logo in his memory.

The ship's sun deck.

The Greek flag placed above the ship's stern.

Another view of the outdoor deck.

The upper deck bar, which displays the logo of Athens One Day Cruise, as well as the one of Hydraïki Cruises, alongside a sign welcoming passengers onboard.

The floor near the bar, painted in yellow and showing a couple dancing. It turned out to be the dancing area for passengers, who learn traditional Greek dances by the crew while the ship sails.

My cruise ticket, which I needed to keep for the duration of the cruise. It is quite interesting, as it features three ships that have operated for Hydraïki Cruises. The ones above are the ANNA MARU (which has only operated for one season since 2010, being laid-up every year in Perama with the exception of 2016), and the late GIORGIS (owned by the company between 1997 and 2012, though she was inactive from 2010 until 2012, when she was sold for scrap in Greece). The ship below the 'Welcome on Board' sign and the website of Athens One Day Cruise is the PLATYTERA TON OURANON, when she was carrying a previous livery (she has constantly changed her exterior appearance, having had six livery changes since 2012!).

Next to the PLATYTERA TON OURANON was the high speed catamaran HYDRA I of Hydra Speed Lines, which has been laid-up in Floisbos since 2012, and out of service since 2009.

The HYDRA I seen laid-up in Floisbos. I had previously known her as the KERAVNOS II, back when she was serving the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line under Panou Shipping, from 1999 to 2006. She was then laid-up for two years before being sold to Hydra Speed Lines, which deployed her briefly on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Spetses line. Her season was cut short due to engine troubles, and she has since never returned to service.

On a much more positive note, another well-known ship, the trireme OLYMPIA (built in 2004), was seen in Floisbos. She also performs several cruises around the Saronic Gulf and hosts various events and parties onboard. She is a replica of the legendary triremes, ships that were built and belonged to Ancient Greeks, and particularly Athenians. They achieved their iconic status upon their successful use during the Battle of Salamina, where the Greeks faced and defeated the former Persian Empire.

On the other side of the port was the legendary COSMOS of Evermore Cruises, previously known as the AEGEAN GLORY.

The COSMOS seen resting in Floisbos, having been taken out of service since August 2017. That year's summer was her debut under her new owners, who refitted for the entire duration of 2016.

The HYDRA I seen in Floisbos. It is noteworthy to state that she is the first catamaran to ever arrive in Greece, having done so in 1983, when she joined the company Cretan Ferries as the NEARCHOS. She remained with them until 1999, when she was sold to Panou Shipping.

Another view of the HYDRA I, as the PLATYTERA TON OURANON begins to leave Floisbos.

Another picture of the HYDRA I.

The COSMOS seen resting in Floisbos.

The COSMOS, formerly a fleetmate of the PLATYTERA TON OURANON (she was operated by Hydraïki Cruises between 2006 and 2011).

The COSMOS first began daily cruises on the Saronic Gulf in 1985. Her company at the time, Tsafos Shipping, was rebranded as Pleasure Cruises in 1992. She spent all the next years under that brand, with the exception of stints under Epirotiki Line from 1995 to 1998 and with Hydraïki Cruises from 2006 to 2011. She last operated for Pleasure Cruises in 2014, before being sold two years later to Evermore Cruises (formerly known as Olympic Cruises).

Another legendary ship could also be seen in Floisbos upon our departure. This time it was the armored cruiser GEORGIOS AVEROF. She is the only ship of this type still in exercise, and was the flagship of Greece for half a century. She was built in 1911, served the Hellenic Navy under both World Wars, and has been kept as a museum ship since 1952 (being in Poros from 1956 to 1983 and in Floisbos from 1984 to date). She is one of the greatest Greek ships of all time, and I have had the honour to visit her back in 2012 with my grandmother and my siblings.

Another view of the OLYMPIA.

After 30 minutes out of the port of Floisbos, we were in the heart of the Saronic Gulf. There, I spotted the catamaran FLYINGCAT 3 of Hellenic Seaways, which was heading from Piraeus to Poros.

The FLYINGCAT 3 heading towards Poros, with Aegina in the background.

Shortly after seeing the FLYINGCAT 3, Hellenic Seaways' other catamaran operating on the Saronic Gulf, the FLYINGCAT 5, was seen returning from Poros to Piraeus.

The FLYINGCAT 5 seen heading towards Piraeus.

After one hour, we passed by the Eastern coast of Aegina in order to head towards Hydra, the furthest island from Floisbos. One-day cruise ships traditionally stop in the furthest island (Hydra) first, and then head towards the islands located closer to Athens, hence making the return trip towards the latter shorter during the evening.

Passing by Aegina.

Passing by a strait of islets located between Aegina and Hydra.

After passing by Troizinia, I spotted the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII of Hellenic Seaways, which was heading from Hydra to Poros.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVII seen on the Saronic Gulf. Like all hydrofoils owned by Hellenic Seaways, she operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

Crossing the FLYING DOLPHIN XVII as she heads towards Poros.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVII heading from Hydra to Poros.

In the meantime, entertainment had began onboard, with a crew member teaching foreign passengers traditional Greek dance moves, notably the 'Sirtaki', which is played on the well-known movie 'Zorba the Greek'.

As we began to approach the port of Hydra at approximately 10:30, the FLYINGCAT 3 was seen leaving the island for Poros.

The 2017 season was the FLYINGCAT 3's second straight season permanently operating on the Saronic Gulf, having previously served the Cyclades. In 2015 she had also done some itineraries on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line. She is now on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

The FLYINGCAT 3 having exited Hydra.

The FLYINGCAT 3 heading towards Poros.

Another view of the FLYINGCAT 3.

The port of Hydra seen from the ship.

We began to approach the port of Hydra, which is one of Greece's most traditional and folkloric ports. It is however small in size, thus not allowing ships of considerable size to dock.

The beautiful port of Hydra, alongside the Chora. It is now only served by high speed craft (hydrofoils and catamarans), landing craft and small passenger high speed boats.

Next to the passenger docking spot was the small passenger boat FREEDOM III of Hydra Lines, which operates on the Metochi-Hydra line, thus connecting the island with the Peloponnese.

At the center of the port was the landing craft GEORGIA M of Metaforiki Hydras, which is on the Ermioni-Hydra line and transports various products on a daily basis to the island, being its main supplier of goods arriving from mainland Greece.

The GEORGIA M berthed in Hydra. She has been a Ro-Ro carrier and a supplier for the island of Hydra since 2002, being an extremely vital ship for the residents.

The ship remained in Hydra for an hour and thirty minutes, during which passengers could have a guided tour of the island's port and history, go for a swim in the closest beaches, or simply walk around the island on their own, which is what I did. I thus had the chance to explore this amazing island, being able to see how traditional and low-key it is compared to other Greek Islands.

Another small passenger boat seen approaching Hydra. This time, it was the METOCHI EXPRESS of Hydra Celebrity Lines, the rival operator of Hydra Lines.

The METOCHI EXPRESS approaching Hydra, having arrived from Metochi.

The METOCHI EXPRESS approaching Hydra. Built in 2014, she spent her fourth straight summer on the Metochi-Hydra line in 2017.

The METOCHI EXPRESS having just entered the port of Hydra.

The METOCHI EXPRESS seen entering the port of Hydra.

The PLATYTERA TON OURANON seen in Hydra, after disembarkation.

Another view of the GEORGIA M, which previously had stints on the Oropos-Eretria line and then on the Trypiti-Ammouliani line, before starting her current role as a Ro-Ro carrier in Hydra in 2002. Furthermore, she used to be a fleetmate of the PLATYTERA TON OURANON when both ships were operating for Agioreitikes Grammes on the Agion Oros area. They operated together for the same company from 1999 (the debut season of the PLATYTERA TON OURANON) until 2002, when the GEORGIA M (then known as the ARGONAFTIS) moved to the Saronic Gulf. The PLATYTERA TON OURANON followed her five years later and the two former fleetmates are often seen together in Hydra ever since.

The METOCHI EXPRESS resting in Hydra.

The GEORGIA M seen in Hydra.

Another view of the PLATYTERA TON OURANON in Hydra, seen from the Chora.

The beautiful port of Hydra, alongside the wonderful Saronic-style houses built on the hill.

Moving more forward towards the port, I was able to spot several passenger ships performing daily cruises from the Peloponnese to Hydra and other nearby Saronic Gulf islands. The first ship I saw was the BARBAYANNIS of Fostinis Cruises.

Built in 1979, the BARBAYANNIS performs daily cruises on the Porto Cheli-Spetses-Hydra-Poros-Monemvasia line. Porto Cheli is where her company, Fostinis Cruises is based.

The PLATYTERA TON OURANON again seen in Hydra.

The PLATYTERA TON OURANON resting in Hydra.

The METOCHI EXPRESS seen leaving alongside various small passenger boats that transport passengers from the port to the island's beaches. This is one of the only ways to go to the latter, as Hydra prohibits the presence of vehicles on the island. Another alternative however is going there with donkeys :)

The METOCHI EXPRESS leaving Hydra. This turned out to be the first and only time I saw her under that name and in Hydra, as in 2018 she moved to the neighbouring island, Spetses, in order to begin operations on the Kosta-Spetses line under the name SPETSES EXPRESS I and under the ownership of Boufis Shipping Company.

While the METOCHI EXPRESS was leaving, I spotted the FLYINGCAT 5 arriving in Hydra.

Next to the BARBAYANNIS was another ship operating in Hydra, Spetses and the Peloponnese. This was the KELLY CRUISE of Fostinis ANE (though related to Fostinis Cruises, it is a different company). She is also based in Porto Cheli, performing cruises on the Porto Cheli-Spetses-Hydra-Nafplion-Leonidion-Monemvasia line.

The FLYINGCAT 5 having just berthed in Hydra. The 2017 season was her second on the Saronic Gulf, the first one having been in 2014. Since beginning operations with Hellenic Seaways in 2005, she has been on the Sporades, with the exception of the summers of 2014 and 2017. She is due to return there for the 2018 summer season.

The FLYINGCAT 5 seen departing Hydra.

While the FLYINGCAT 5 departs, another ship owned by Hydra Lines, the FREEDOM II, was arriving from Metochi.

The FREEDOM II arriving in Hydra. She has been owned by Hydra Lines since 2010.

The FLYINGCAT 5 seen leaving Hydra.

The departing FLYINGCAT 5 seen alongside the PLATYTERA TON OURANON.

The FLYINGCAT 5 having finished her departure maneuvering procedure and beginning to head towards Spetses.

Three different kinds of passenger ships seen together in Hydra: the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 5, the one-day cruise ship PLATYTERA TON OURANON and the small passenger boat FREEDOM II.

The PLATYTERA TON OURANON seen in Hydra.

The FLYINGCAT 5 heading from Hydra to Spetses.

The FREEDOM II loading passengers for Metochi.

The small FREEDOM II seen in Hydra prior to her departure for Metochi.

Another view of the KELLY CRUISE.

I went onboard the PLATYTERA TON OURANON ten minutes prior to her departure for Poros. There I spotted another small passenger boat arriving from the Peloponnese. This time it was the CHRISTOS of Hydra Tours Travel, which was arriving from Ermioni.

Having previously operated on the Hydra coastline by transporting passengers from the port to the island's beaches, as well as to islands like Dokos and Spetses, the CHRISTOS was deployed for the first time in 2017 on the Ermioni-Hydra line, making it also the first time her company deployed a ship on that line.

The CHRISTOS seen entering the port of Hydra.

The CHRISTOS was immediately followed by the FREEDOM III, which was returning from Metochi.

The FREEDOM III approaching Hydra. She is the youngest ship of the company, having been built in 2013.

The FREEDOM III seen entering Hydra.

The FREEDOM III seen heading towards the port of Hydra.

For the next 40 minutes, the PLATYTERA TON OURANON began to sail from Hydra to the next destination of our cruise, Poros. We subsequently entered the Troizinia Strait, where Poros is located. After passing through the passageway, I was able to see the island of Poros, with Troizinia on the opposite side.

The Chora of Poros, which also has the island's main port.

Another view of the Chora of Poros.

In front of us, I spotted the double-ended ferry KYRIAKI of Troiziniaki NE, which is one of the many ferries that operate on the local Galatas Troizinias-Poros line.

On the other side of Poros was the small port of Galatas Troizinias, where local landing craft and double-ended ferries perform short trips towards Poros. I immediately recognised the ship that was docked there: it was the fleetmate of the KYRIAKI, the NIKOLAKIS D.

The KYRIAKI seen heading towards the port of Poros, which is located behind the building seen in the picture.

The NIKOLAKIS D seen in Galatas Troizinias. The 2017 season was her first on the Galatas Troizinias-Poros line, having been acquired in late 2016 by Troiziniaki NE (owned by the Darsinos family) in order to replace the landing craft ELEFTHERIA D, which had been sold to the British Virgin Islands-based company Solaris Shiptrade Company. She was previously known as the AGIOS SPYRIDON, and had stints on the Pounta-Elafonisos line for Simos Star (1994-2003) and on the Paros-Antiparos line for Agia Marina I NE (2004-2016).

While we were approaching the port of Poros, the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX of Hellenic Seaways was also heading for docking, having arrived from Agistri.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX heading towards the port of Poros.

The KYRIAKI having almost reached the ferry terminal of Poros, where the APOLLON HELLAS of 2way Ferries was already docked.

The PLATYTERA TON OURANON having docked in Poros.

The stay in Poros is the shortest one throughout the cruise, with passengers having the chance to explore the island under 45 minutes only. Therefore, the only thing one can do during this short period of time is walk around the Chora and the port.

The KYRIAKI docking in Poros.

Another view of the KYRIAKI in Poros, where she has spent her entire career ever since she was built in 2000.

The KYRIAKI is the smallest double-ended ferry in the Greek coastal service, and is nicknamed 'The Basket' due to her small size and basket-like appearance.

The KYRAKI seen near Poros.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen berthed in Poros, in what was her first season on the Saronic Gulf since 2014, and her first under 2way Ferries, having been previously owned by Hellenic Seaways.