Greek Ships Abroad: WAVE DANCER I (ex-MARGARITA)
This Blog post marks the first of what I hope will be many within a new category called 'Greek Ships Abroad'. Indeed, since late February 2020, I moved to Cyprus for a five-month-long internship at the Limassol-based shipping company Intership Navigation. During that period, I was lucky enough to visit several well-known places in the island, such a Nicosia, Larnaca, the popular coastal villages of Protaras and Pissouri, as well as the port town of Paphos. I happened to go to the latter on 19 July 2020, alongside the family of my godson who was living in Cyprus as well. There, I happened to see a former Greek coastal service ship operating overseas for the first time in my life.
That ship happened to be the passenger landing craft WAVE DANCER I of Wave Dance Shipping Company (also trading as Cyprus Sea Cruises), which was known to Greek waters as the MARGARITA of Margarita NE from 1962 until she headed to the neighbouring island in 2004.
A view of the WAVE DANCER I in the port of Paphos, as she was seen resting in the port where her services are based for the past 16 years.
Even before arriving in Cyprus, I had already heard about the WAVE DANCER I and her current operations. Indeed, her company deploys her on one-day cruises (quite an interesting service for a ship that was originally built as a ferry) around Paphos and the Akamas Peninsula (which is the Northwestern tip of Cyprus) via the Coral Bay, the Lara Bay and the Chrysochou Bay. In other words, she is deployed on the Paphos-Geronissos-Agios Georgios-Lara-Latsi line. In most of her classic cruises, she departs from Paphos' main port, usually stops in the middle of the Coral Bay in order to let passengers swim next to the rocky coast, then goes to the small island of Geronissos and also to the small village of Agios Georgios, before eventually heading to the beach of Lara (located in its eponymous bay), and sometimes until Latsi in the Chrysochou Bay, where the famous Blue Lagoon of Cyprus is located. Her cruises are extremely popular, as they are frequently the main highlight of countless foreign tourists coming to Paphos (especially British, Germans and Russians). She also performs some occasional family-based half-day cruises every Tuesday of July and August from Paphos to the Atlantida Bay (located at the Eastern coast of the town) where she just stops in order to let passengers take a quick dive there. She then also hosts night cruises to the same area for adults, providing beverages and music onboard. Moreover, she also serves well-known barbecue meals onboard throughout most of her cruises.
The success of the ship in Cyprus is largely due to the impressive conversion that she underwent right upon arriving at the island in 2004. Indeed, her former open garage was completely covered and converted into a lounge area, with the top of the cover being transformed into an open deck area featuring several sun-beds and tables (when events are being held onboard), one dance floor area and one large bar, making her look like an actual tour boat such as the ones found in Greece. Despite the ship being almost 60 years old, this conversion makes her look far more modern and appealing to passengers, and this clearly shows why she has been so successful during her second career as a tour boat in Cyprus.
The WAVE DANCER I seen performing a cruise in the Coral Bay. Picture taken in 2012 by Rob Renes and published on www.shipspotting.com.
The WAVE DANCER I seen next to Paphos during the summer of 2015. Her impressive outdoor deck can be seen. She also uses her former ferry ramp as a diving spot for passengers willing to take a swim in the various bays she serves. Picture published on her company's Facebook page.
The WAVE DANCER I seen doing a night cruise during the summer of 2012. Her original appearance as a Greek landing craft can clearly be seen, although her accommodation superstructure has been completely renovated. Her former open garage area has been fully covered by a closed deck, with the top being used by passengers for the ship's onboard activities. Picture published on her company's Facebook page.
Now that some information about the ship and some photos of her current service have been provided, it is now a good moment to talk about the former ferry's history, including her 42 years in Greece. Indeed, she was ordered in 1960 by the then-newly-established company Margarita NE, which was owned by the Salamina-based shipowners Margarita Evangelodimou (after whom the company and the ship were named), Athina Papanikolaou and Athina Papadimitriou. She was completed in the Savvas Shipyards in Neo Ikonio in Greece in 1962, and she became one of the many landing craft built in the 1960s to join the well-known Perama-Salamina line. The latter was in full development, as it became one of the most effective ways for Salamina residents to commute to Athens. The MARGARITA would go on to spend more than three decades on that line, which continued to see a significant increase in landing craft which would go on to spend a significant portion of their careers there. Despite her longevity, there have been no pictures of her while operating in Greece available on the Internet.
The MARGARITA continued to operate on the Perama-Salamina line until 1997, when she reached the then-mandatory 35-year age limit for landing craft operating on passenger services, and she thus continued service for Margarita NE as a Ro-Ro carrier on the Aegean Sea. Her actual services and the line on which she was deployed are unknown, although it is quite possible that she was using Elefsina or Aspropyrgos as her base port. In order to replace her service in Salamina, the company built a new landing craft, the MARGARITA II, which was completed in 1999 in Greece and was deployed on the Perama-Salamina line.
After spending approximately seven years as a Ro-Ro carrier transporting dangerous goods across the Aegean Sea, the MARGARITA was sold to the Cypriot company Wave Dance Shipping Company, was renamed WAVE DANCER I, and departed Greece for the first time at the age of 42. She changed her port of registry from Piraeus to Limassol (and hence her flag from Greece to Cyprus), and underwent the impressive conversion which transformed her into a one-day tour boat. Ever since then, she has been operating on the aforementioned cruises based in Paphos. Her successor, the MARGARITA II, continued to operate on the Perama-Salamina line for two more years, until it became clear that, due to the increasing arrival of newly-built double-ended ferries in the area, landing craft were now becoming less useful. As such, following the completion of the 2006 season, she was sold to the Greek company ANEM Ferries, for whom she began service as the OLYMPIOS ZEUS. She has since been deployed on the Western Kos-Kalymnos line on the Dodecanese, departing from the port of Mastichari. With her sale to her current owners, Margarita NE ceased operations after 44 years of service which saw them operating two landing craft.
The MARGARITA II, the successor of the MARGARITA, seen heading from Perama to Salamina in 2006, in what was her last season on the line and under Margarita NE, as she was then sold to ANEM Ferries later that year. She has since been operating as the OLYMPIOS ZEUS on the Western Kos-Kalymnos line on the Dodecanese. Picture published on www.shipfriends.gr.
Now that all the available history of the ship and that of her former company have been revealed, it is the time for me to show all the pictures I was able to take of the ship while she was docked in Paphos on 19 July 2020. She was seemingly seen having a rest at her departure port, probably hosting a night event later on that day.
The bow of the WAVE DANCER I, which looks like a typical Greek landing craft. The Cypriot flag can be seen at the top of her foremast.
A view of the WAVE DANCER I, showing her name printed on a wooden plate on both sides of her bow. The staircase seen at the right, behind her ramp, leads passengers to the upper outdoor deck.
Another view of the bow of the WAVE DANCER I while she is resting in Paphos.
Another overview of the bow of the WAVE DANCER I.
The logo of the owners of the WAVE DANCER I, Wave Dance Shipping Company, printed on the wooden garage ramp of the ship.
A better view of the WAVE DANCER I as she is seen from the top of the Paphos Castle Her stern was also considerably converted, as a section of it has a hull made out of wood, in contrast to the rest of her accommodation superstructure.
The WAVE DANCER I seen from the top of the Paphos Castle, resting in her home port.
One last view of the WAVE DANCER I from the top of the Paphos Castle, as we then left the city in order to head back to Limassol.
This very nice trip to Paphos was very meaningful as it allowed to see a former Greek coastal service ship overseas for the first time in my life. It was indeed a very old ferry which spent many years in Salamina before finding a new home in Paphos. Despite her advanced age, as she is nearing six decades of service, her successful conversion (whose type is rarely found amongst former landing craft) has made her a very impressive tour boat, and her services have been extremely popular and acclaimed by tourists heading to the Western part of Cyprus. This success is likely to carry on for many years to come, as her customer base is far from disappearing any time soon, unless a new ship joins the fleet of Wave Dance Shipping Company in the near future.
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