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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

BLUE STAR NAXOS Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 3 September 2020. From Piraeus to Koufonisi, via Paros, Naxos, Irakleia and Schoinousa, with the BLUE STAR NAXOS of Blue Star Ferries.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS was ordered in 2000 by the Greek company Blue Star Ferries (which had been formed as the successor of Strintzis Lines, following the latter's takeover by Attica Group), along with the BLUE STAR PAROS, as sister ships of the very successful 2000-built fleetmate, the BLUE STAR ITHAKI (which is now in Canada). She was completed alongside her sister ship in 2002 in South Korea, and was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Donousa-Amorgos-Santorini line. As it was also the case with her sister ships, she immediately became one of the best ferries to operate on the Cyclades, earning much praise for her modern, tireless and reliable service. In 2005 she operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini-Astypalaia-Kalymnos line (thus also serving the Dodecanese for the first time), but this lasted only one year as she was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Santorini line in 2006. In 2007 she operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Donousa-Amorgos-Ios-Santorini-Astypalaia line, while also undergoing a small conversion later in that year in Perama in order to increase her passenger capacity. She continued to operate on that same line for the next four summer seasons. From 2008 to 2014 she was also also deployed on the Dodecanese lifeline every winter, when her fleetmate, the DIAGORAS, would undergo her annual refit, thus serving the Piraeus-Astypalaia-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Nisyros-Tilos-Symi-Rhodes-Castellorizon line. In 2012 she operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line, where she remained until 2014, after the BLUE STAR ITHAKI was sold to the Canadian company Bay Ferries Limited (for whom she operates today as the FUNDY ROSE on the St John-Digby line). In 2015 she returned to the Cyclades lifeline she had previously been serving, being deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Amorgos-Santorini line, which she also served in 2016 and in 2017. In 2018 she was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Donousa-Amorgos-Santorini-Astypalaia line.

So this a quick overview of the famed BLUE STAR NAXOS, which, despite having now sailed in Greece for 19 years, remains one of the most beloved and appreciated ships of the Greek coastal service. She has become a legend on the Cyclades, just like it has been the case for her sister ships (including the BLUE STAR ITHAKI, despite her no longer operating in Greece since 2014). She provides efficient and comfortable service all year long, and she is vital to the connection of the Lesser Cyclades with Piraeus on a daily basis, including during the winter. Therefore, she is seen as the main source of connection between such islands and the rest of Greece, thus making her role in the area extremely valuable in the eyes of these islands' residents. Another reason why she is much-appreciated is the fact that she performs one of the busiest itineraries on the Aegean Sea during the summer. Indeed, she departs the port of Piraeus at 06:45 every morning, and returns there the following morning at 05:00. She therefore only has a resting time of one hour and 45 minutes, before leaving to perform her long trip. Her captains and crews therefore deserve additional credit for working with such short breaks and ensuring that all islands remain well-connected, including during the busy and demanding high season.

I was fortunate to have my first-ever trip onboard the BLUE STAR NAXOS on 3 September 2020. After having returned to Aegina from Andros on 18 August, I then stayed in the former until 27 August. That day, my two best friends from my university arrived, as we had planned to spend a two-week-long trip in Greece. I first showed them Athens and Aegina, and we then planned to go to an island on the Cyclades, namely Koufonisi. The latter is one of the islands located on the Lesser Cyclades. Despite its tiny size, it is considered as one of the most underrated islands of Greece, as it has some incredible beaches and a lovely local culture that has been attracting more and more visitors each year. We therefore planned to go there for five days, and this marked the first time that I went to an island on the Lesser Cyclades. Additionally, it was my first-ever trip with the BLUE STAR NAXOS, which became the fourth ship owned by Blue Star Ferries on which I embarked, following the BLUE STAR PATMOS, the BLUE STAR DELOS and the BLUE STAR PAROS (all built in the same shipyard in South Korea, and all operating on the Cyclades). It was my first-ever trip from Piraeus to the Lesser Cyclades, and also my second-ever early morning trip from Piraeus to the Cyclades (the first one was during my first-ever trip onboard the BLUE STAR DELOS, from Piraeus to Naxos, on 23 July 2018). It was also my earliest-ever trip on the Aegean Sea, and second overall (the earliest-ever was back in 2016 on the Ionian Sea, when I departed Zakynthos at 05:45 in order to go to Kyllini with the FIOR DI LEVANTE of Levante Ferries).

A view of the BLUE STAR NAXOS at 06:00 in the morning. It was right before dawn, and as such the ship was still illuminated.

A view of the BLUE STAR NAXOS in the early morning, right before embarking onboard her for the first time.

We immediately embarked onboard the BLUE STAR NAXOS, in anticipation of our long trip. On her starboard side I noticed one of her fleetmates, namely the BLUE GALAXY. Since she began operating for Blue Star Ferries since 2015, she has been serving the Piraeus-Chania line. She is one of the two ships of the company that operate in Crete, with the other one being the BLUE HORIZON (which has been deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2014).

On the port side of the BLUE STAR NAXOS was her fleetmate and sister ship, the BLUE STAR PAROS. Both ships were built in 2002, and have since become two major contributors to the success of Blue Star Ferries on the Cyclades. The BLUE STAR PAROS was operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line that season. This is the same line on which the BLUE STAR NAXOS operated from 2012 to 2014, and she also served all three islands in 2016 and 2017, back when they were part of her usual itinerary along Paros, Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades.

Another view of the BLUE STAR PAROS at dawn. Just like the BLUE STAR NAXOS, she was going to leave Piraeus in the early morning in order to head to the Cyclades. She has been serving the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line since 2018, although in 2018 and in 2019 she was extending her service to Ikaria, Fournoi and Samos on the Northeast Aegean Sea. In addition, she carried-out the current service of the BLUE STAR NAXOS on the Lesser Cyclades lifeline from 2006 to 2014, as she was on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Donousa-Amorgos-Santorini-Astypalaia line during that span. The BLUE STAR NAXOS also complemented her in this service from 2007 to 2011.

Besides the BLUE STAR PAROS was yet another ship owned by Blue Star Ferries: the BLUE STAR DELOS. Built in 2011 in the same shipyard as the BLUE STAR NAXOS and the BLUE STAR PAROS, she has also spent her entire career so far on the Cyclades, having been on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line ever since her delivery (even though she does not serve Ios during the summer).

In front of the BLUE STAR DELOS, I spotted a much smaller ship, namely the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII of Hellenic Seaways. She operates on the Saronic Gulf, on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

Another view of the BLUE STAR PAROS at dawn, just before our departure. I traveled with her back on 20 June 2018, when I headed from Mykonos to Piraeus (via Tinos and Syros).She therefore became the first of the two 2002 Korean-built sister ships on which I traveled. A little over two years after, I was now finding myself traveling onboard the BLUE STAR NAXOS.

The great BLUE STAR DELOS seen in Piraeus, just before her morning departure. I traveled with her for the first time back on 23 July 2018, from Piraeus to Naxos (via Paros). After the BLUE STAR PATMOS and the BLUE STAR PAROS, she was the third ship of Blue Star Ferries on which I traveled. I subsequently had a trip onboard her on 14 July 2019, from Santorini to Piraeus. I then also traveled with her on 8 September 2020, thus five days after my trip onboard the BLUE STAR NAXOS. This was as part of our return trip from Koufonisi to Piraeus, as we decided to first make a stop at Naxos for a few hours before embarking onboard the BLUE STAR DELOS.

Another view of the BLUE STAR DELOS, right before her departure for Paros.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen at dawn yet again.

After taking pictures of the fleetmates of the BLUE STAR NAXOS, I decided to have a quick look at her indoor areas. Here is the reception desk, which is pretty much identical to that of the BLUE STAR PAROS.

Not far from the reception desk was the ship's onboard retail store. Just like all Blue Star Ferries ships, it is managed under the Hellenic Travel Shops brandname.

Besides the onboard retail store is the ship's restaurant area, located next to her stern. Just like it is the case for the BLUE STAR PAROS and several other ships owned by Blue Star Ferries, the restaurant is operated by Goody's Burger House, which is Greece's most popular fast food chain.

A view of the seating area used by passengers ordering food from Goody's.

Moving forward, I spotted the the Air Seats Area, which, as its name indicates, features aircraft-style seats aligned in one alley and right next to the ship's windows. This is the port side's area.

Another view of the nice and comfortable Air Seats Area.

A view of the deckplan of the BLUE STAR NAXOS. The ship has 8 decks overall. Decks 1 to 5 are dedicated to the garage and the engine room (as well as some storage areas). Deck 6 has some lounge areas, the Air Seats Area, the onboard retail store and the Goody's restaurant. Deck 7 has an additional aircraft-style seats area, some passenger cabins, as well as most of the outdoor sun decks and an outdoor bar. Deck 8 has an additional sun deck.

A view of the staircase area leading from Deck 6 to Deck 7.

A view of the signs that represent the intersection between Deck 6 and Deck 7. The BLUE STAR PAROS had the exact same one onboard.

The additional aircraft-style seats area located in Deck 7.

The alley leading to the ship's passenger cabins. She has 26 of them overall, just like it is the case for the BLUE STAR PAROS.

A view of the outdoor sun deck located in Deck 7, which features several tables and chairs available for passengers willing to stay outdoors during the trip.

The outdoor sun deck of Deck 7, which extends up until the ship's aft area.

A view of the nice outdoor bar in Deck 7, which is operated by Flocafé.

It was now 06:45, and the BLUE STAR NAXOS began her long trip along the Cyclades. As she began to leave, I had the chance to take yet another picture with both the BLUE STAR PAROS and the BLUE STAR DELOS.

Passing by the BLUE GALAXY, in what was her sixth season under Blue Star Ferries.

In front of the BLUE GALAXY was the KRITI II of ANEK Lines, which operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2015. She collaborates with the BLUE GALAXY, as part of the ANEK-Attica Group joint venture. Coincidentally, both ships used to be fleetmates, as the BLUE GALAXY also used to operate for ANEK Lines. Indeed, she operated as the LEFKA ORI on the Adriatic Sea (where the KRITI II also used to operate) from 2000 to 2011.

As we began to head towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, we passed by the high speed ferry SPEEDRUNNER III of Aegean Speed Lines. She was operating on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line for the second season in a row, and it was her fourth consecutive summer on the Western Cyclades under her company. In 2017 she was on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos line, while in 2018 she stopped serving Folegandros and Sikinos, followed by Kimolos in 2019.

Another view of the KRITI II. Built in 1979, she has been owned by ANEK Lines since 1996, and began service for them on the Adriatic Sea in 1997. She was first on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Ancona line, before spending one season on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Trieste line in 2001. She then moved to the Piraeus-Heraklion line in 2002, and remained there until 2011 (with the sole exception being a spell on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Thessaloniki line during the 2009 season). She spent two seasons on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Venice line in 2012 and 2013, which were followed by a season on the Piraeus-Chania line in 2014, before she moved to the Piraeus-Heraklion line in 2015.

I then proceeded to seeing three high speed craft: the FLYINGCAT 4 of Hellenic Seaways, the WORLDCHAMPION JET of Sea Jets, and the SEA JET 2, also of Sea Jets.

The FLYINGCAT 4 seen in Piraeus, carrying the new livery that was introduced by Hellenic Seaways on all its high speed craft. Usually seen on the Cyclades, she was spending her second consecutive season on the Saronic Gulf, serving the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

We then saw the HIGHSPEED 4 of Hellenic Seaways, which was also seen featuring the new livery of her company. Built in 2000, she has spent her entire career on the Cyclades, and she has frequently been viewed as a major competitor of the BLUE STAR NAXOS.

I then saw another familiar face: the ferry DIONISIOS SOLOMOS of Zante Ferries. Built in 1990 and owned by Zante Ferries since 1999, she spent the bulk of her Greek career on the Ionian Sea, on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line, on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, as well as the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. I therefore traveled onboard her numerous times during my childhood. Since 2017 she has moved to the Western Cyclades, where her company has established itself since 2009. For the second consecutive season, she was on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Ios-Santorini line.

After seeing a familiar face from Zakynthos, I then proceeded to seeing four familiar faces from the other island that I go to every summer: Aegina. Indeed, I saw the four ferries that were operating under the Saronic Ferries joint venture, which was established in 2014. I saw the three ferries of 2way Ferries that operate on the Saronic Gulf: the POSIDON HELLAS, the APOLLON HELLAS and the ACHAEOS. Next to them was the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries. Together, the four ferries serve the islands of Aegina, Agistri and Poros, as well as the coastal town of Methana.

The bow of the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen as she was also preparing to depart the port of Piraeus in order to head towards the Western Cyclades. This bow was acquired during her conversion in 2017, whereupon she was prepared ahead of her transfer to the Aegean Sea, after she had spent 18 years on the Ionian Sea.

Next to the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS was the high speed ferry SUPEREXPRESS of Golden Star Ferries, which was spending her second season in Greece.

Next to the SUPEREXPRESS was the CHAMPION JET 1 of Sea Jets.

We then passed by the KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, which was operating on the Piraeus-Milos-Heraklion line.

Besides the CHAMPION JET 1 was the high speed trimaran SUPERSPEED, also of Golden Star Ferries.

Another view of the SPEEDRUNNER III. I had traveled with her back on 29 July 2017, while heading from Sifnos to Piraeus.

The KNOSSOS PALACE seen in Piraeus, in what was her last season under Minoan Lines. Just a few months after this picture was taken, she departed the fleet in order to join the Italian company Grimaldi Lines, for whom she has started service on the Adriatic Sea as the CRUISE BONARIA. She was replaced by her former fleetmate and younger sister ship, the original CRUISE BONARIA (ex-OLYMPIA PALACE of Minoan Lines), with the latter herself becoming the new KNOSSOS PALACE.

Another view of the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS at dawn, during her fourth season on the Western Cyclades.

We then passed by the NISSOS RODOS of Hellenic Seaways, which has been operating on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line since 2018.

In front of the NISSOS RODOS was the KYDON PALACE of Minoan Lines. Formerly known as the FESTOS PALACE, she was spending the first season of her career under her new name, and on the Piraeus-Chania line.

Facing the KYDON PALACE was the high speed ferry SUPERRUNNER of Golden Star Ferries.

The NISSOS RODOS seen resting in Piraeus. She has operated in several long-distance services throughout her career, and has permanently found her place on the Aegean Sea since 2015. She initially served the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline from 2015 to 2017 (while also serving some islands of the Cyclades and Patmos along the way), before having service solely focused on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line since 2018, following the changes implemented by the takeover of Hellenic Seaways by Attica Group (the main shareholders of Blue Star Ferries).

Another view of the KYDON PALACE in Piraeus. Built in 2001, she spent her entire career as the FESTOS PALACE on the Piraeus-Heraklion line, while also making calls in Milos in 2018 and in 2019. Following the aforementioned fleet reshuffle of Minoan Lines, she switched her itinerary with that of the MYKONOS PALACE (ex-EUROPA PALACE from 2002 to 2012), with the latter becoming the new FESTOS PALACE.

The last ship that we saw right before exiting the port of Piraeus was the EKATERINI P of Fast Ferries, which was still undergoing repairs following the engine failure that she suffered in 2019.

About 20 to 30 minutes after having exited the port of Piraeus, we were now crossing heading towards the Cyclades. At the same time, I spotted the WORLDCHAMPION JET approaching us in order to overtake us. As the fastest ferry in the Greek coastal service, this did not come as a surprise.

The speedy WORLDCHAMPION JET ready to overtake us. This was her second season under Sea Jets, for whom she has become an extremely valuable weapon on the Cyclades thanks to her speed. She was spending the summer of 2020 on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line, after having served the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line during her debut season.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET about to pass by us, as she is seen heading towards Syros.

A view of the WORLDCHAMPION JET as she begins to overtake us. She was built in 2000 in Australia, and spent the first 18 years of her career as the VILLUM CLAUSEN for the Danish company Bornholmer Færgen (formerly known as Bornholms Traffiken) before being sold to Sea Jets. At the time she was built, she was the fastest ferry in the world, and she recorded the fastest-ever crossing by a ferry from 2000 until 2013, when her record was overtaken by the FRANCISCO of Argentinian company Buquebus.

The impressive WORLDCHAMPION JET on her way towards Syros. In addition to becoming the fastest ferry in the Greek coastal service, she also won the prestigious 'Ship of the Year' award given by Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards for the year 2019. She therefore became the first Greek coastal service ship to win the award since 2007, when it had been claimed by the NISSOS CHIOS of Hellenic Seaways, which is now a fleetmate of the BLUE STAR NAXOS, as she is known as the BLUE STAR CHIOS.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen heading towards Syros, in what was her second summer under Sea Jets.


The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen sailing at full-speed towards Syros.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET having overtaken the BLUE STAR NAXOS and seen sailing towards the Cyclades.

One last view of the speedy WORLDCHAMPION JET.

Just a few minutes after being overtaken by the WORLDCHAMPION JET, another high speed craft of Sea Jets was about to pass by the BLUE STAR NAXOS. Indeed, the SEA JET 2 was also sailing at full-speed in order to head towards the Cyclades (including Koufonisi).

The SEA JET 2 about to overtake the BLUE STAR NAXOS. For the 2020 season, she operated on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line, which she served alongside her sister ship and fleetmate, the SUPER JET.

The SEA JET 2 seen heading towards Serifos in the morning. This was her fifteenth season under Sea Jets, for whom she has been a consistent presence on the Cyclades. She was built in 1998 as the MIRAGE for Strintzis Lines (the predecessor of Blue Star Ferries), and spent just one season on the Saronic Gulf before moving to the Cyclades and being renamed SEA JET 2 in 1999. In 2000 she joined Blue Star Ferries and operated on the Cyclades under the Blue Star Jets division. She was a fleetmate of the BLUE STAR NAXOS for four years, indeed from 2002 (when the BLUE STAR NAXOS was introduced in the Greek coastal service) to 2006 (when the SEA JET 2 was sold to Sea Jets).

The SEA JET 2 overtaking her former fleetmate, the BLUE STAR NAXOS.

The SEA JET 2 sailing on the Cyclades, on which she has not missed a single summer season since she first began service there back in 1999. Since joining Sea Jets, she spent her first seven seasons on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros line, before moving to Piraeus in 2013. Since then, she serves several islands on the Western Cyclades and the Central Cyclades, operating a very busy service similar to that of the BLUE STAR NAXOS. However, since the SUPER JET has joined her as a tandem in 2019, her itineraries are much more smooth, as both ships alternate departures from Piraeus and from the islands every other day. In 2019, the two sister ships were on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line. In 2020, Ios was removed from the itinerary, while Kimolos and Sikinos were added.

The SEA JET 2, also known as 'The Swordfish of Sea Jets', seen sailing towards Serifos.

One last view of the SEA JET 2 as she is seen heading en route to Serifos, as part of her long itinerary for the day.

Just a few minutes later, I saw yet another fleetmate of the BLUE STAR NAXOS. Indeed, it was the BLUE STAR 1, which was however heading in the opposite direction, towards Piraeus.

Crossing the BLUE STAR 1 during the morning. During the 2020 season, she operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Santorini-Samos-Kos-Rhodes line.

Right behind the BLUE STAR 1 was the landing craft MARIA T of Thalassies Metafores, which was also returning back to her departure port after having completed a long trip across the Aegean Sea. However, she was not heading towards Piraeus, but towards Elefsina, where her owners are based.

A view of the MARIA T, as she is seen heading back towards Elefsina. She has been owned by Thalassies Metafores since 2013, and has since been operating as a Ro-Ro carrier transporting lorries and dangerous goods across the entire Aegean Sea. She has recently undergone a conversion in Perama, whereupon she was heightened in order to carry cargo that is big in height, such as components of wind turbines.

One last view of the veteran landing craft MARIA T, as she is sailing towards Elefsina.

The MARIA T was followed by yet another ship owned by Blue Star Ferries, namely the BLUE STAR CHIOS.

This was the first time that I saw the BLUE STAR CHIOS under her current name and her current owners. Indeed, before that, she was the NISSOS CHIOS of Hellenic Seaways. In 2020 she was transferred to Blue Star Ferries (whose major shareholder, Attica Group, also controls Hellenic Seaways), alongside her sister ship and fleetmate, the NISSOS MYKONOS (which now operates as the BLUE STAR MYCONOS).

The BLUE STAR CHIOS seen during her debut season under Blue Star Ferries. Coincidentally, she had been owned by them before her construction was finished in 2007. Indeed, she had been ordered back in 1999 by Strintzis Lines as the BLUE STAR MYKONOS, along with her sister ship (which was due to be sail as the BLUE STAR CHIOS). Following the takeover of Strintzis Lines by Attica Group in 2000, as well as construction delays, the plans to have the two ferries built were put on hold, and as a result Blue Star Ferries shifted their attention to the construction of the BLUE STAR NAXOS and of the BLUE STAR PAROS. The unfinished ferries were then sold to Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2004, who was rebranded as Hellenic Seaways in 2005. That year, the BLUE STAR CHIOS was completed as the NISSOS MYKONOS, whereas the BLUE STAR MYKONOS, which by that time had been renamed NISSOS CHIOS, was completed two years later. After 13 years with Hellenic Seaways, the NISSOS