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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

First Trip of the 2020 Season with the ACHAEOS from Piraeus to Aegina

The 2020 summer season began for me in early August, as I had finally arrived in Greece after having spent five months as an intern in Cyprus with the Limassol-based shipping company Intership Navigation. Having been reunited with my family, we spent a few days together in Athens before heading to Aegina for a week, so as to start our usual vacation in that island. Despite me spending just a month-and-a-half in Greece this year, I managed to go to several islands and travel with numerous ships. More information about my trips will be published over the next few months, which will focus on my Greek coastal service experience during the summer of 2020. By beginning the season by going to Aegina, I found myself traveling in an area that I know very well: the Saronic Gulf. And this was with a ship that I also know very well: the double-ended ferry ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries.

While this post is not a Ship Tribute post, as I had already made one about the ACHAEOS back when I traveled with her from Aegina to Piraeus in 19 July 2016, I usually tend to write about my first trip of the summer regardless of whether the ship on which I travel has had already a post fully dedicated to her services. A similar case was that of 2017, when I made my first trip of that summer with the BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries from Santorini to Ios in 10 July 2017, even though I had already written a Tribute post about the latter when I traveled with her from Piraeus to Santorini back in 7-8 July 2015.

Concerning the ACHAEOS, this was her seventh consecutive season operating on the Saronic Gulf. Since 2014, she has been on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line, operating under the Saronic Ferries joint venture (which includes her company and Nova Ferries). She had also spent the first season of her career, back in 2006, on the Piraeus-Aegina line, before heading to the Ionian Sea the following year in order to operate on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line. Ever since her return to the Saronic Gulf, she has become an established ferry in the area, and the advantage of her being a double-ended ferry has made her an extremely convenient ship when docking in Aegina or Agistri, despite her not being the fastest ferry on the line. She remains the youngest ferry of the Saronic Gulf operating from Piraeus.

We headed to the port of Piraeus on 7 August 2020, and the ACHAEOS was already there waiting for us. We were simply waiting for my sister to arrive in Piraeus from Paros, with her arrival being right before the departure of the ACHAEOS. Regarding my experience with the latter, this was the seventh trip onboard her, as I had already traveled with her twice in 2014, once in 2016, twice in 2018 and once in 2019.

My first picture of the Greek coastal service for 2020: the ACHAEOS docked in Piraeus, shortly before embarking onboard her.

The ACHAEOS seen in Piraeus, during her seventh consecutive season on the Saronic Gulf (and eighth overall since she began her career).

Facing me was a ship which I managed to see for the first time in my life. Indeed, it was the AQUA JEWEL of Sea Jets Ferries, a ferry with a long and quite eventful career since she began service after being built in Greece in 2013. This was her first-ever season operating out of Piraeus, as she was deployed on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos lifeline, thus serving the Peloponnese and the islands of Kythira, Antikythira and Crete.

The ACHAEOS seen loading passengers and vehicles in Piraeus, before her next departure to Aegina.

The AQUA JEWEL resting in Piraeus. Built in 2003 for Alpha Ferries, she had a successful stint on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line (having started to serve the latter island in 2005 after being lengthened in Elefsina) before being chartered to NEL Lines in 2010. Under the latter, she operated on the inter-Cyclades lifeline, but her service in 2013-2014 was marred by engine troubles and NEL Lines' severe financial problems. After a major engine failure ended her service in 2014, she returned to Alpha Ferries, who attempted to reactivate her over the following years. She was ultimately bought by Sea Jets in 2017, in order to deploy her back on the inter-Cyclades line, so as to replace the company's previous ferry, the AQUA SPIRIT (which was a former partner of the AQUA JEWEL on the Cyclades back when both ships operated for NEL Lines), which had been sold to the Canadian company BC Ferries. After spending one season there, she spent two summers under charter to the Portuguese company Atlântico Line, being deployed on the Azores Archipelago. Afterwards, she returned to Sea Jets (for whom she operates under the Sea Jets Ferries division) and began her current service on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos line, replacing the IONIS of Triton Ferries which was deployed on the Lavrion-Kea-Kythnos line on the Cyclades.

Next to the AQUA JEWEL was one of her fleetmates, namely the high speed catamaran SEA JET 2. A regular presence on the Cyclades for more than two decades, she served the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line in 2020, alongside her fleetmate and sister ship, the SUPER JET.

I then saw the BLUE HORIZON of Blue Star Ferries, which has been operating on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2014.

Next to her was another familiar face. Indeed, it was the high speed ferry HELLENIC HIGHSPEED of Hellenic Seaways, which had returned to her owners after having spent the previous summer under charter to Fast Ferries. Apart from returning to Hellenic Seaways, she also received the company's new livery, which was added on all its high speed craft. After the partnership with Cosmote ended, Hellenic Seaways did not seek to collaborate with another advertiser. Instead, the ships began to carry a traditional livery featuring the company's colours, while featuring its logo and name on both sides of their hulls.

The BLUE HORIZON seen in Piraeus. Built in 1987 in Japan, she first arrived in Greece in 1998, having been acquired by Strintzis Lines. She operated for them as the SUPERFERRY HELLAS on the Adriatic Sea, before the company was taken over by Attica Group, resulting in the creation of Blue Star Ferries in 2000. After being renamed BLUE HORIZON, she continued to operate on the Adriatic Sea until 2010, when she was deployed on the Piraeus-Chania line. She remained there until 2011, and after a period of lay-up in 2012, she was successfully reactivated in 2013 in order to serve the Piraeus-Santorini-Kos-Rhodes line. Since 2014 she is on the Piraeus-Heraklion line, operating under the ANEK-Attica Group joint venture.

The next Hellenic Seaways high speed craft that I saw was none other than the HIGHSPEED 4, which was also carrying her company's new livery for the first time. After having spent 17 years with the advertisements of Vodafone and then of Cosmote, she finally began to only feature her company's name and logo on both sides of her hull. To be fair, the new livery fits her extremely well.

The AQUA JEWEL seen in Piraeus, in what was her second summer operating for Sea Jets (after having also served two summers on the Azores Archipelago).

Another view of the veteran ferry BLUE HORIZON.

While looking towards the port's exit, I spotted the NISSOS SAMOS of Hellenic Seaways, which serves the Piraeus-Psara-Oinousses-Chios-Mytilene line on the Northeast Aegean Sea since 2018.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen in Piraeus. A few days after seeing her, she began her summer service on the Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes line, being deployed in Crete and on the Dodecanese for the first time in her career. This happened as her fleetmate operating there, the EXPRESS PEGASUS, grounded off in islets near Kasos and had parts of her hull cracked. Therefore, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED marked her comeback under Hellenic Seaways by replacing her older fleetmate, which has since been laid-up in Drapetsona.

Another view of the HIGHSPEED 4, which was celebrating her twentieth anniversary since successfully beginning operations in Greece, back when she was a newly-built high speed ferry under Minoan Flying Dolphins (which became Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002 before being restructured as Hellenic Seaways in 2005).

One of the two funnels of HIGHSPEED 4, which were once again painted with a red background and with the three dolphins (the logo of Hellenic Seaways) coloured in white. Before that, back when the high speed craft were sponsored by Cosmote, their background was painted in white, whereas the dolphins were painted in red. However, following the new livery change, the funnels were reverted back to their Vodafone-era appearance.

Next to the BLUE HORIZON was another Greek coastal service veteran. Indeed, it was the cruiseferry PREVELIS of ANEK Lines, which operates on one of the most demanding lifelines of the Aegean Sea, the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Anafi-Heraklion-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes line, since 2009.

Another view of the NISSOS SAMOS, formerly known as the IONIAN QUEEN of now-defunct company Endeavor Lines. She was acquired in late 2015 by Hellenic Seaways after having previously been laid-up in Patras for more than three years. She entered service on the Aegean Sea for the first time during the summer of 2016, being deployed on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Thessaloniki line. In her second season under Hellenic Seaways, in 2017, she had a successful stint on the Cyclades, on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Santorini line. She then returned to the Northeast Aegean Sea, on the Piraeus-Psara-Oinousses-Chios-Mytilene line, in 2018, and has since continued to operate there.

The AQUA JEWEL docked in Piraeus, shortly before her departure for Gytheion.

The HIGHSPEED 4 seen resting in Piraeus. I had traveled with her exactly two years and nine days before my trip with ACHAEOS, back when she brought my family from Paros to Piraeus on 29 July 2018.

The impressive BLUE HORIZON seen in Piraeus, awaiting her next departure to Heraklion.

The PREVELIS docked in Piraeus. The summer of 2020 marked exactly 20 years since she began operating for ANEK Lines. Before that, she operated on the Piraeus-Rethymnon line as the PREVELI for Cretan Ferries. After ANEK Lines acquired the latter in 2000, the PREVELI became one of the many ships to have served the famous Cretan company. She was renamed PREVELIS in 2001 and remained on the Piraeus-Rethymnon line until early 2007. She spent the 2007 season on the Piraeus-Chania line, while in 2008 she had a stint on the Cyclades, namely on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line, before moving to her current service in 2009.

The stern of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, featuring her name and port of registry (Piraeus) in Greek on both the port side and the starboard side.

While I was photographing the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, I spotted one of her former fleetmates, namely the POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, which had just returned to Piraeus after having carried-out her usual service on the Saronic Gulf.

The BLUE HORIZON seen docked in Piraeus.

The POSIDON HELLAS having just returned in Piraeus. This was her twenty-third summer since she began operations, with all of them having been on the Saronic Gulf. She has operated under Poseidon Consortium Shipping (the original company of the Papaïoannidis family, which now owns 2way Ferries) from 1998 to 1999, under Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins from 1999 to 2005, and under Hellenic Seaways for exactly ten years (2005-2015), before she was sold to 2way Ferries in 2015. As part of the Saronic Ferries joint venture, she operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Methana-Poros line.

The POSIDON HELLAS seen arriving in Piraeus. She was the first-ever conventional double-ended ferry in the history of the Greek coastal service back when her construction was completed in 1998.

The POSIDON HELLAS about to begin her maneuvering procedure in Piraeus, after having arrived from Aegina.

The POSIDON HELLAS about to begin her maneuvering procedure in Piraeus, in what was her sixth consecutive season under 2way Ferries.

The AQUA JEWEL and the POSIDON HELLAS seen together in Piraeus. Coincidentally, both ships had extremely large construction delays, with both of them waiting 17 years before they were completely built, and in fact their initial building plans were completely different compared to how they were eventually built. Indeed, the AQUA JEWEL was initially ordered in 1986 as multi-purpose megayacht available for daily cruises under the company Perosea Shipping Company. She was due to be completed under the name NISSILIOS, but her construction was delayed and ultimately abandoned in Elefsina. Her unfinished hull was bought in 2001 by the then-newly-established Greek company Alpha Ferries, owned by the shipowner Perogiannakis, and she was instead built as a ferry under the name AQUA JEWEL in 2003. As for the POSIDON HELLAS, she had been ordered as an electricity supply ship for OTE in 1981, under the name THALIS O MILISSIOS II. The plans were however abandoned, and the ship was instead built as a conventional double-ended ferry in 1998, as the POSIDON HELLAS for Poseidon Consortium Shipping. Thus, seeing these two ships together is quite meaningful, considering that they both waited 17 years for their construction to be completed.

The POSIDON HELLAS about to begin maneuvering in Piraeus,

The POSIDON HELLAS seen maneuvering in Piraeus.

Barely a few minutes after the arrival of the POSIDON HELLAS, another ship had returned to the port of Piraeus. Indeed, it was the great BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries, which had just returned from her service on the Cyclades. She was the ship on which my sister was traveling, as she headed back to Piraeus from Paros.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS having just arrived in Piraeus, in what was the ninth summer of her career. This year was quite particular for her. Indeed, and as you will see it in the upcoming pictures, she underwent a major conversion in Malta, during which she was equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system, also known as 'scrubbers', so as to be in accordance with the new environmental regulations set by the IMO regarding sulphur consumption. She became the first ship of Blue Star Ferries and of Attica Group to undergo this conversion. She is also the sixth ship of the Greek coastal service to have received scrubbers, with the other five being the cruiseferries of Minoan Lines.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS having returned to Piraeus and heading towards her docking spot. This was her sixth consecutive summer on the Cyclades, having first started service there in 2015. For the 2020 season, the islands of Ikaria and Samos were added to her itinerary in some weekdays. Therefore, she was on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini-Anafi-Ikaria-Samos line this year.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus.

In the meantime, the POSIDON HELLAS is still seen maneuvering in Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS heading towards the E7 gate, where her docking spot is located.

The POSIDON HELLAS having finished her maneuvering procedure and beginning to dock in Piraeus.

The impressive BLUE STAR PATMOS heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus. Outside of the ships operating on the Saronic Gulf, she is the ship with which I have traveled the most on the Aegean Sea. Indeed, since 2015, I have traveled with her four times: the first time was during my first-ever trip on the Cyclades, on 7-8 July 2015 from Piraeus to Santorini. The second time was on 10 July 2017 from Santorini to Ios, the third time was on 26 July 2018 from Naxos to Paros, and the fourth time was on 12-13 July 2019, again from Piraeus to Santorini (back when I went to the island with my sister, who happened to be onboard the ship when this picture was taken).

A view of the funnel of the BLUE STAR PATMOS, which had to be modified so as to fit in the new exhaust gas cleaning system. It was heightened a bit, while its back section was extended. Moreover, several openings were added, and the base became a bit wider.

The PREVELIS seen resting in Piraeus. As she turned 40 this year, it is noteworthy to state she has spent exactly half of her career under ANEK Lines, as she joined them in 2000, back when she was 20 years old.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS having quickly maneuvered and beginning to dock in Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS about to dock in Piraeus.

A frontal view of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, which is seen resting in Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS seen docking in Piraeus.

Another view of the PREVELIS.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS having almost docked in Piraeus. After she did, I greeted my sister and together we headed towards the E8 gate in order to embark onboard the ACHAEOS.

Another view of the upgraded funnel of the BLUE STAR PATMOS following her scrubbers installation. The other ship of Attica Group to have been equipped with the latter before the 2020 season was the SUPERFAST XI of Superfast Ferries, which underwent her conversion in Perama. The sister ship of the BLUE STAR PATMOS, the BLUE STAR DELOS, is set to finish her service on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line in the next few days in order to begin the same conversion in Perama. She is planned to finish the scrubber installation in early 2021.

After having boarded the ACHAEOS, I was able to continue to take pictures of the surrounding ships. Here is her fleetmate, the POSIDON HELLAS, right after she had finished docking in Piraeus.

On the ship's port side, I spotted two Hellenic Seaways high speed craft operating on the Saronic Gulf. The first one was the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XIX (which was operating for the first time since 2012), while the second one was the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 6. Both of them were carrying the new livery introduced by their company on all its high speed craft.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XIX seen in Piraeus. In what has been one of the most unexpected comeback stories of the past few years, I was able to to see and photograph a ship which I had constantly seen during my childhood. Indeed, she had been present on the Saronic Gulf from 2004, hence a year before Hellenic Seaways was established. She remained there until right before the start of the 2012 season, when her service abruptly ended following a major accident in the islet of Melopi, while sailing between Aegina and Agistri. She was salvaged and towed to Perama, whereupon she was declared a constructive total loss. As she was due to be retired the following year after having reached 30 years of service (as these were the restrictions at the time in Greece), she was removed from the fleet of Hellenic Seaways. She remained laid-up in Perama until she was unexpectedly given the chance to have a second career in 2019. Indeed, after her fleetmate and sister ship, the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII, was completely destroyed by a fire and was scrapped in Perama, Hellenic Seaways sought to fill the void left by the latter by deciding to reactivate the FLYING DOLPHIN XIX, despite her having been declared a constructive total loss. Following a huge refit, she was reactivated in 2020, entering service on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line for the first time in eight years.

The FLYINGCAT 6, another Hellenic Seaways veteran, seen carrying her company's new livery. This was her third consecutive season on the Saronic Gulf, and sixth overall in her career. This year however, she also began operating in Aegina and Agistri for the first time, thus being deployed on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli alongside the hydrofoils.

In the E9 gate was the high speed ferry SUPEREXPRESS of Golden Star Ferries, which has been owned by the latter since 2019.

The FLYINGCAT 6 resting in Piraeus, as the ACHAEOS began leaving the port at 15:30.

Another view of the impressive HIGHSPEED 4, with the BLUE STAR PATMOS seen in the background.

The BLUE HORIZON seen in Piraeus, as the ACHAEOS begins to leave the port.

The PREVELIS and the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen together in Piraeus. A few days later, the two ships would find themselves operating together on the Crete-Dodecanese lifeline, with the service on the Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes line performed by the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED also being a part of the long itinerary of the PREVELIS.

A final view of the PREVELIS in Piraeus.

The SUPEREXPRESS seen alongside a rival: the CHAMPION JET 1 of Sea Jets. Despite both their companies having a fierce competition on the Cyclades, both ships have a close relation. Indeed, they were built in the same shipyard in Australia, with both being well-known Incat-built catamarans. Moreover, both of them used to serve the Channel during a part of their careers before being bought by their current Greek owners.

Next to them was another ship owned by Golden Star Ferries, the high speed trimaran SUPERSPEED. She had been repaired following the major engine failure that she suffered last summer, back when she was operating on the Rafina-Syros-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Koufonisi-Amorgos line.

The SUPEREXPRESS and the CHAMPION JET 1 seen together in Piraeus.

The CHAMPION JET 1 seen in Piraeus. She returned to her owners this year, after having spent the previous summer under charter to the Spanish company Naviera Armas, being deployed on the Almería-Melilla-Málaga line for the latter. Before that, she had spent two seasons (2017 and 2018) on the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line for Sea Jets.

After seeing two rival high speed ferries, this picture now shows two rival small passenger-only high speed craft: the SUPERSPEED and the SEA JET 2, both of which compete on the Cyclades.

One last view of the BLUE HORIZON, as seen from the departing ACHAEOS.

While heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, I spotted another high speed craft of Golden Star Ferries: the SUPERRUNNER. Owned by Golden Star Ferries since late 2016, she spent her first three seasons on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line, where she was extremely successful.

Passing by the NISSOS SAMOS, which was resting prior to her departure for the Northeast Aegean Sea islands that she has been serving since 2018.

Facing the SUPERRUNNER was another familiar face, but which had also undergone a major change. Indeed, it was the cruiseferry KYDON PALACE of Minoan Lines, which was previously known as the FESTOS PALACE. This was the first time that I saw the ship under her new name, which she acquired as part of a fleet reshuffle carried-out by Minoan Lines. Indeed, after having previously operated on the Piraeus-Heraklion line from the start of her career in 2001, she switched her itinerary with that of her fleetmate and sister ship, the MYKONOS PALACE (which originally began her career under Minoan Lines as the EUROPA PALCE), which was operating on the Piraeus-Chania line since 2018. As a result of this change, the MYKONOS PALACE was renamed FESTOS PALACE, while the original FESTOS PALACE was renamed KYDON PALACE and was inserted on the Piraeus-Chania line for the first time in her career.

The SUPERRUNNER seen in Piraeus. I had traveled with her back in 17 June 2018, while heading from Ios to Mykonos.

The KYDON PALACE seen in Piraeus, during her first summer on her new line and under her new name.

Another view of the veteran ferry NISSOS SAMOS, in what was her fifth season under Hellenic Seaways.

The large funnel of the KYDON PALACE, which was upgraded back in 2019, when the ship underwent her scrubbers installation conversion in Malta back when she was still known as the FESTOS PALACE. She became the third ship of Minoan Lines and of the Greek coastal service to undergo this conversion, after the MYKONOS PALACE (the current FESTOS PALACE) and her other sister ship, the KNOSSOS PALACE.

Another view of the KYDON PALACE. Despite no longer having the name which made her famous in Greece, she remains one of the best ships of the Greek coastal service. Moreover, her service on the Piraeus-Chania line was praised by many, and she quickly won the hearts of the passengers using the line, just like she had done so in her 19 years while serving the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The next ship that I saw while heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus was the superb BLUE STAR 2 of Blue Star Ferries, which was operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes line.

The BLUE STAR 2 seen in Piraeus. This was her twentieth anniversary since beginning operations. Seventeen of these years have been spent on the Aegean Sea, with fifteen of them on the Cyclades and the Dodecanese, and she became one of the most important ships to have ever served these areas. She was one of the main reasons why Blue Star Ferries became the dominant company on the services from Piraeus to the Dodecanese. She also carried a celebration sign on each side of her hull (near her stern) in honour of the 20 years since Blue Star Ferries was established.