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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

BLUE STAR PAROS Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 20 June 2018. From Mykonos to Piraeus, via Tinos and Syros, with the BLUE STAR PAROS of Blue Star Ferries.

The BLUE STAR PAROS was ordered in 2000 by the Greek company Blue Star Ferries (which had just been acquired by Attica Group, after previously serving the Greek coastal service as Strintzis Lines), along with the BLUE STAR NAXOS, as sister ships of their very successful 2000-built fleetmate, the BLUE STAR ITHAKI (now in Canada). Initially ordered under the name BLUE STAR SANTORINI, she was instead named BLUE STAR PAROS. This was done in order to avoid confusion with the ferry EXPRESS SANTORINI of Hellas Ferries (now the AL SALMY 4 of the Emirati company SAMC) which was operating on the Cyclades at the time. She was completed in 2002 in South Korea, and was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line, replacing the BLUE STAR ITHAKI. Just like it was the case with the BLUE STAR NAXOS, the introduction of the BLUE STAR PAROS proved to be a major success, and the ship managed to beat off competition against established rivals such as Hellas Ferries (part of Minoan Flying Dolphins and later Hellas Flying Dolphins). Their introduction cemented Blue Star Ferries' dominance on the Aegean Sea, and most notably on the Cyclades. In 2006 she was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Donousa-Amorgos-Santorini-Astypalaia line, where she would go on to operate for the next eight years, leaving the line after the 2014 season after an extremely successful service during which she was the sole provider of coastal service connexions of the Lesser Cyclades with Piraeus (while the same islands relied also on the traditional inter-island service provided by the small ferry EXPRESS SKOPELITIS of Small Cyclades Lines).

In 2015, the ship was deployed for the first time from the port Rafina, operating on the Rafina-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios line previously occupied by the company's former ship, the BLUE STAR ITHAKI, before she was sold to the Canadian company Bay Ferries Limited in 2014 (serving today on the St John-Digby line as the FUNDY ROSE). The following year she was deployed on the Dodecanese lifeline for the summer, on the Piraeus-Astypalaia-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Nisyros-Tilos-Symi-Rhodes-Castellorizon line, replacing the DIAGORAS which had been sold by Blue Star Ferries. Despite being a day ferry and lacking enough cabins required for this long and demanding lifeline, she performed extremely well, and was able to meet the success of her predecessor, which rejoined Blue Star Ferries after the 2017 season. In 2017, she connected the Dodecanese lifeline with the Cyclades islands of Paros and Naxos, thus operating on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Astypalaia-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Nisyros-Tilos-Symi-Rhodes-Castellorizon line. In 2018, she was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos line.

So this is a detailed summary of that special ship's history. Despite now being a veteran of the Greek coastal service, she is still among its youngest members, having spent all of her 16 years in Greek waters so far, alongside the BLUE STAR NAXOS. Together with the BLUE STAR ITHAKI which unfortunately is no longer operating in Greece, the three ships have formed one of the most successful trios in the history of the Greek coastal service. The BLUE STAR PAROS has traditionally been acclaimed on the Cyclades, but also met considerable success on the Dodecanese in recent years. The ferry, just like her sister ships, was built in order to mark a new era on the Aegean Sea, with ships built to today's design standards and featuring modern and comfortable amenities designed to make a trip in Greece an unforgettable experience. Sixteen years later, the ship has not disappointed at all, and many still claim that she is one of the few ferries that are this modern, reliable and fast when performing trips.

I personally had the chance to travel with the BLUE STAR PAROS for the first time during the 2018 season, as part of my return trip from Mykonos to Athens, where I was to spend the next month as an intern. After having done a week-long trip in Ios, in Mykonos and in Delos with my university friends, it was now time to head back home. And I personally think that I chose the best ferry in order to make this return trip as memorable as possible. This trip marked my fifth one of the season, and was also the first time that I returned from the Cyclades to Piraeus with a conventional ferry, with my previous trips on that same route having only been done with high speed craft. Moreover, it was my third trip with a Blue Star Ferries ship, after having already done two different trips with the BLUE STAR PATMOS, one from Piraeus to Santorini on 7-8 July 2015 and one from Santorini to Ios on 10 July 2017. Therefore, the BLUE STAR PAROS became the second Blue Star Ferries ship on which I traveled in my life.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen in the new port of Mykonos, shortly before traveling with her.

I reached the new port of Mykonos (where ferries and some cruise ships dock, as the old port is too small to fit such ships today) by traveling on the MYKONOS STAR of Delos Tours-Mykonos Sea Bus from the old port (a trip which only lasts ten minutes).

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen from the MYKONOS STAR in the new port of Mykonos.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen resting in Mykonos.

The BLUE STAR PAROS, which had previously arrived from Ikaria. She had been deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos just a few days before my trip, with the BLUE STAR NAXOS being on the line before she returned to her usual service on the Lesser Cyclades lifeline.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen in Mykonos, with the cruise ship JEWEL OF THE SEAS of Royal Caribbean International docked right behind her.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen as the MYKONOS STAR begins to approach the new port of Mykonos.

While the BLUE STAR PAROS was still visible, I spotted the fleetmate of the MYKONOS STAR, the MYKONOS SPIRIT, leaving the new port of Mykonos in order to head towards the old port of the island.

While I headed towards the docking spot of the new port of Mykonos, I spotted the fleetmate of the MYKONOS STAR, the MYKONOS EXPRESS, resting in the new port.

The MYKONOS EXPRESS seen in her namesake island's new port. She was built in 2013, two years before the MYKONOS STAR, and was the first ship to connect the two ports of the island. Her service proved to be very successful, with her company deploying three new ships on this service in addition to their core services on the Mykonos-Delos line, as I mentioned it in my previous blog post.

As I embarked aboard the BLUE STAR PAROS, I saw the high speed ferry CHAMPION JET 2 of Sea Jets having arrived in the new port of Mykonos. Hence I decided to take pictures of this ship before going to present the indoor and outdoor areas of the BLUE STAR PAROS.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen in Mykonos. In 2018, she was on the Heraklion-Rethymnon-Santorini-Ios-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line, as it was also the case in 2017. Previously, she spent the summers of 2015 and 2016 on the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line, a line which was taken over by her sister ship, the CHAMPION JET 1, beginning in 2017.

The funnel of the CHAMPION JET 2, which is simply long and flat. Most ships built in her shipyard, the well-known Incat Shipyards in Australia, feature this funnel. Unlike her fleetmates, she does not have the logo of her company written down on her funnel.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen departing Mykonos in order to head towards Paros.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen departing Mykonos in order to make her return trip towards the Cyclades Islands and Crete. In what was her fourth season with Sea Jets, the CHAMPION JET 2 was very successful while operating on a very popular and demanding seasonal line: the connection of the main Cyclades islands with the Cretan ports.

After seeing the CHAMPION JET 2 leaving the Mykonos port, it was now time for me to have a look around the ship's amenities, beginning with the indoor areas. The ship has a total of 8 decks, with Decks 6 and 7 being the ones featuring interior passenger areas. Deck 8 has the ship's well-known outdoor sun decks. Thus, I began walking around Deck 6, where I spotted a modern reception desk.

Right behind the reception desk, I saw the ship's modern alley, part of the B' Class Lounge, which featured a few seats and a small bar selling soft drinks, coffee and snacks.

The continuation of the alley, which becomes even more narrow and features seats placed one next to the other.

Further forward, I could spot 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.

The deckplan of the BLUE STAR PAROS, displaying signs in both Greek and English.

Another view of the Air Seats Area.

Further back, I spotted the ship's onboard retail store. Just like all Blue Star Ferries ships, it is managed under the Hellenic Travel Shops brandname.

At the stern section of Deck 6, I noticed that the ship had restaurant area managed by Goody's Burger House, which is Greece's most popular fast food chain. It produces food of very good quality and is known to operate aboard the BLUE STAR NAXOS as well. The younger BLUE STAR DELOS is also known to have a Goody's restaurant onboard, as do the older sister ships BLUE STAR 1 and BLUE STAR 2.

The outdoor area of Deck 6, located next to the stern. It features a small sun deck with several wooden chairs and plastic tables sticked to the ground.

I then headed upstairs, reaching Deck 7. The latter had a larger sun deck in the stern section, though it also featured an outdoor bar. It nevertheless features similar chairs and tables as the ones seen in the sun deck of Deck 6.

The port side outdoor alley in Deck 7, featuring life-rafts and a small orange lifeboat.

Another view of the port side outdoor alley.

Inside the middle section of the ship in Deck 7, one can see the ship's few passenger cabins. Overall, she has 26 of them, which are enough for a long trip on the Lesser Cyclades lifeline or when doing trips to Ikaria, Fournoi and Samos, but not enough for the Dodecanese lifeline which she served in 2016 and in 2017.

Some of the cabins' doors are decorated with posters showing the mascot of Blue Star Ferries, the small anthropomorphised blue star named Bluestarino. Above the character, the sign says, in Greek, 'Bluestarino wishes you a pleasant trip'.

After exiting the cabins alley, one can find a brighter alley leading to another aircraft-style-seats-based lounge area, as shown in this picture.

The indoor staircase linking Deck 6 with Deck 7, as shown in this picture.

I then headed to Deck 8, which has the ship's famous outdoor sun deck.

A view of the ship's Deck 8 seen from the front section, where the sun deck is located.

One of the ship's many life buoys, featuring her name and port of registry (Piraeus) in English.

The ship's foremast and emergency landing area. The bridge is located in front of the mast.

The ship's builder's plate, which shows that she was completed in 2002 in the Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) shipyards in South Korea, just like the BLUE STAR ITHAKI did in 2000 and the BLUE STAR NAXOS did in 2002 as well. Two other ships were built for Blue Star Ferries in that same shipyard, the sister ships BLUE STAR DELOS (in 2011) and BLUE STAR PATMOS (in 2012), which both operate successful services on the Cyclades.

Back at the stern section, I spotted the Greek flag flying onboard the ship.

The ship's very modern funnel, painted in her company's colours and displaying the famous blue star, after which her owners are named.

Just a few minutes before the BLUE STAR PAROS was supposed to depart the new port of Mykonos (at around 14:15), I spotted another high speed craft arriving at the port. This time, it was the unique SANTORINI PALACE of Minoan Lines, which was arriving from Paros.

The SANTORINI PALACE, which had been operating for Minoan Lines for only 10 days prior to my trip with the BLUE STAR PAROS. She was the main rival of the CHAMPION JET 2, as she was on the Heraklion-Santorini-Ios-Paros-Mykonos line (all ports that are served by the Sea Jets high speed ferry, alongside Rethymnon and Naxos). She was previously operating under Hellenic Seaways, as the HIGHSPEED 5 (2005-2016) and then as the HIGHSPEED 7 (2016-2018).

The SANTORINI PALACE seen prior to her maneuvering procedure in Mykonos. She has been on her line since 2013, and operated successfully for Hellenic Seaways, before suffering a fire incident while undergoing a minor conversion in Keratsini in 2015. She was repaired the following year and was renamed HIGHSPEED 7, returning to her usual service from Heraklion to the Cyclades.

The SANTORINI PALACE approaching the new port of Mykonos. While she began the 2018 season under Hellenic Seaways, she was sold to Minoan Lines when the former was acquired by the parent company of the BLUE STAR PAROS, Attica Group. The deal included her sale to Minoan Lines (a member of Grimaldi Group, which were the previous major shareholders of Hellenic Seaways) and the transferring of the Heraklion-Santorini-Ios-Paros-Mykonos line to the Cretan company, as a means to avoid a monopoly of Cyclades services by Attica Group.

One of the two funnels of the SANTORINI PALACE, featuring the well-known logo of Minoan Lines. It was added just ten days before my trip with the BLUE STAR PAROS.

The SANTORINI PALACE after having maneuvered and preparing to dock in Mykonos.

The SANTORINI PALACE preparing to dock in Mykonos. She was the first high speed craft to operate for Minoan Lines since 1999. Indeed, the Heraklion-based company owned the HIGHSPEED 1 from 1997 to 1999, a ship which went on to become a fleetmate of the SANTORINI PALACE during their Hellenic Seaways years. The HIGHSPEED 1, the original ship that began to carry the 'Highspeed' trademark name, was sold by Hellenic Seaways in 2011, and now operates as the SEASTAR 7 of Korean company Jung Do. However, she has not been sailing since 2017, and is currently listed for sale.

The SANTORINI PALACE having just docked in Mykonos.

The SANTORINI PALACE departed Mykonos just a few minutes after having docked, in order to make her return trip towards Paros, Ios, Santorini and Heraklion.

The SANTORINI PALACE departing Mykonos.

The SANTORINI PALACE leaving Mykonos, in what was her first summer under Minoan Lines.

The SANTORINI PALACE leaving Mykonos in order to head towards Paros.

The SANTORINI PALACE beginning to head towards Paros.

Another view of the SANTORINI PALACE.

Another view of the Mykonos landscape, shortly before the departure of the BLUE STAR PAROS.

At around 14:15 the BLUE STAR PAROS began to head for the first stop of the trip, the island of Tinos. For the BLUE STAR PAROS' standards, the trip only last 30 minutes. Fortunately, the sea was calm, making the crossing more smooth. Usually, the Cyclades area including Syros, Tinos and Mykonos is known for its intense winds which occasionally make the sea around these islands a bit rough.

While the BLUE STAR PAROS departed, I noticed another high speed craft arriving from Paros to Mykonos. This time, it was the PAROS JET of Sea Jets, which was operating on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line at the time.

Th PAROS JET seen maneuvering in Mykonos. Just like the BLUE STAR PAROS, she is named after Paros, the beautiful Cyclades island located at the heart of the Archipelago.

The PAROS JET seen maneuvering in Mykonos, while the BLUE STAR PAROS leaves that same island.

After 30 minutes, we arrived in Tinos, at around 14:45. I got to see the port again, after having already done so six days before my trip with the BLUE STAR PAROS.

Shortly prior to our departure, scheduled at 15:00, I saw the PAROS JET approaching the port of Tinos.

The PAROS JET approaching the port of Tinos, just a few minutes after having left Mykonos.

The PAROS JET seen approaching the port of Tinos.

The PAROS JET preparing to enter the port of Tinos.

The PAROS JET in the process of entering the port of Tinos.

The PAROS JET seen shortly prior to her maneuvering procedure.

The impressive PAROS JET seen in Tinos. The 2018 season was her fourth in Greece under Sea Jets, after beginning service for them in 2015. Her initial season was spent on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Koufonisi-Amorgos line. Her second season saw her on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line, while in 2017 she was solely on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line, where she successfully operated alongside her fleetmate, the flagship of Sea Jets, the much-acclaimed TERA JET.

The PAROS JET entering the port of Tinos. 2018 saw her operating as the company's spare ship, being deployed on any line covered by Sea Jets in case one of its incumbent ships would experience technical problems. And to be fair, this occurred quite frequently that summer, so the ship was quite busy. She spent most of her time on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line, but also served the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line and the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini line. Moreover, she had stints on other lines not served by her company, being deployed for a few days on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line on the Sporades when the EXPRESS SKIATHOS of Hellenic Seaways had an engine failure, and also operated on the Piraeus-Chania line in the first days after the fire incident that the EL. VENIZELOS of ANEK Lines experienced at the end of the summer season.

The PAROS JET having entered the port of Tinos. Before being bought by Sea Jets, she operated in Italy (the country where she was built), being owned by the French-Italian company Corsica Ferries-Sardinia Ferries and operating as the CORSICA EXPRESS SECONDA on various lines connecting the French island of Corsica with mainland Italy. In the early 2010s, her company had financial issues and used her sparingly in order to limit their fuel costs.

The PAROS JET in Tinos. She has two sister ships that initially operated alongside her under the ownership of Corsica Ferries-Sardinia Ferries. One of them, the CORSICA EXPRESS THREE (the only one still operating for the company to date), actually operated in Greece previously, when she was chartered by the now-defunct Kallisti Ferries, operating between 2007 and 2009 on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos line (the same line on which the BLUE STAR PAROS was operating). This service was however unsuccessful, and as a result the company ceased operations and the ship returned to her owners. Six years later, her sister ship was bought by Sea Jets and still operates in Greece today.

The PAROS JET seen maneuvering in Tinos.

The PAROS JET maneuvering in Tinos.

The PAROS JET seen in Tinos. At the same time, it was 15:00, which meant that the BLUE STAR PAROS began to leave for the next destination, which was Syros.

The PAROS JET preparing to dock in Tinos.

While the PAROS JET prepares to dock, the BLUE STAR PAROS has left Tinos.

The PAROS JET heading towards Tinos' docking spot.

One last view of the speedy PAROS JET in Tinos.