• Alexandros Vrailas

Piraeus Morning Visit on 1 August 2021

Following the amazing experiences that I had back in 27 July 2019, when I went to Piraeus to witness the morning departures of numerous ships of the Greek coastal service, which was something that I also went on to do on 14 August 2020, I decided to continue the tradition during the summer of 2021. I therefore headed to Piraeus in the morning of 1 August 2021, hence ensuring that I would witness the morning departures of the ships of the Greek coastal service for a third consecutive season. I had returned to Athens after having traveled to the Cyclades from 22 July 2021 to 30 July 2021, with my last trip having been from Tinos to Rafina with the FAST FERRIES ANDROS of Fast Ferries. Later that day, I would travel to Aegina with my mother, onboard the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII of Hellenic Seaways, for which I had written a Tribute Post when I traveled with her on 19 July 2021.


As it was the case in 2019 and in 2020, I managed to find a day where I was free to go to Piraeus in order to take as many pictures as possible. Indeed, and you saw in the relevant posts, the vast majority of the departures for areas such as the Cyclades and the Northeast Aegean Sea and the Saronic Gulf occur between 06:40 and 08:00, with ships leaving in the morning so that they can serve their respective destinations during the day and return to Piraeus during the evening. At the same time, there are ships from more distant destinations like Crete and the Dodecanese that arrive from the latter in order to be present in Athens in the early morning. For a shipping enthusiast like me, this an ideal scenery, as I can see a multitude of ships of different kinds leaving the port in order to bring passengers and/or vehicles to various islands across the Aegean Sea. Without further ado, let's have a look at the countless pictures I took that morning, which undoubtedly became a major highlight for me during the summer.

I arrived in Piraeus at about 06:15, in order to witness the first departures that would take place. I entered the port through the E8 gate, which is the area from which the ships serving the Saronic Gulf depart. There, I saw the landing craft ELENI of Kerkyra Seaways, which had been introduced on the Piraeus-Aegina line for the 2021 summer season, in order to replace the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries, which was sent to operate on the Agios Konstantinos-Glyfa-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line on the Sporades, due to her fleetmate, the SYMI, which was serving this line, having ended her season prematurely following a major engine failure. After the summer ended, the ELENI returned to her usual service on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line on the Ionian Sea, where she has been operating since 2007. I traveled with her three times during her short spell on the Saronic Gulf, with the first trip being on 21 July 2021, while heading from Aegina to Piraeus.

After arriving in Piraeus, I decided to walk towards the E1 gate in order to take better pictures of the ships as they would be departing the port of Piraeus. I therefore passed by the high speed ferry HIGHSPEED 4 of Hellenic Seaways, which was in the E7 gate. Built in 2000, this successful ship has spent her entire career on the Cyclades, and she was operating on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Koufonisi-Amorgos line for the first time since 2018. She had previously operated there in 2014, and from 2016 to 2018.

Besides the HIGHSPEED 4, I spotted the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII, also of Hellenic Seaways. Built in 1984, she has spent her entire career on the Saronic Gulf, on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line. She was ordered by the Greek company Ceres Flying Dolphins, and operated for them until their services were taken over by the newly-established company Minoan Flying Dolphins in 1999. The latter was renamed Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002, before being rebranded to Hellenic Seaways in 2005.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVII seen resting in Piraeus during the early morning. I have traveled with her four times, including on 19 July 2021, while heading from Piraeus to Aegina.

I then saw the BLUE STAR DELOS of Blue Star Ferries. Built in 2011, she was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line on the Cyclades (although she does not serve Ios during the summer).

Besides the BLUE STAR DELOS, there was another ship docked in the E7 gate, namely the BLUE STAR NAXOS of Blue Star Ferries. She has spent her entire career on the Cyclades since being delivered to Blue Star Ferries in 2002. Since 2015, she has been operating on the Lesser Cyclades lifeline, and since 2018 she has been serving the demanding Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Donousa-Amorgos-Santorini-Astypalaia lifeline.

Another view of the BLUE STAR NAXOS, which has gone to become one of the most successful ships of the Greek coastal service. She is widely lauded by the residents of the Cyclades, where she has been operating with great success for almost two decades.

A bit further down, I got to see the cruiseferry ELYROS of ANEK Lines, which serves the Piraeus-Chania. She was built in Japan in 1998, and was bought by ANEK Lines in 2007. She was converted in Perama and began service on the Piraeus-Chania line in 2008. She is the flagship of the historic Cretan company.

Another view of the BLUE STAR NAXOS, moments before her morning departure for the Cyclades. Since 2020, she is the first ship to depart the port of Piraeus during the day.

Next to the BLUE STAR PAROS, I saw her fleetmate and sister ship, the BLUE STAR PAROS. She was also built in 2002, and has spent the bulk of her career on the Cyclades, where she has also become an acclaimed ferry. She has been operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line since 2020, while having served the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos line in 2018 and in 2019.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen docked in the port of Piraeus at dawn, shortly before her morning departure.

The great BLUE STAR NAXOS seen docked in the port of Piraeus at dawn.

A closer view of the BLUE STAR PAROS as she is seen docked in Piraeus. She has operated on the Cyclades for most her career, with the sole exceptions being during the 2016 season and during the 2017 season, when she operated on the Dodecanese lifeline, replacing the DIAGORAS which had been sold to Africa Morocco Link in 2016. The latter returned to Blue Star Ferries in late 2017, but the BLUE STAR PAROS was inserted on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos line in 2018, while the Dodecanese lifeline was assigned to the NISSOS CHIOS of Hellenic Seaways (which joined Blue Star Ferries in 2020, and is currently the BLUE STAR CHIOS).

A view of the funnel of the BLUE STAR DELOS, which was remodeled after the ship underwent a conversion during which she was equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system which enables her to limit her sulphur consumption. The funnel was slightly heightened, but overall its appearance did not change dramatically.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen docked in the port of Piraeus. She is one of the most hardworking ships of the Cyclades and of the Aegean Sea altogether.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen in the port of Piraeus at dawn.

The BLUE STAR DELOS seen in Piraeus, in what was her tenth summer on the Cyclades, since she entered service for Blue Star Ferries.

Another view of the BLUE STAR PAROS, as she is seen resting in Piraeus at dawn.

While heading towards the E3 gate, I was able to take a better picture of the high speed ferry THUNDER of Fast Ferries. Owned by the company since late 2019, the 2021 season was her debut summer in Greece, as she was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos line on the Cyclades.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen in Piraeus at dawn. She is one of the four ships of Blue Star Ferries that provide the main operations of the company on the Cyclades, together with the BLUE STAR PAROS, the BLUE STAR DELOS and the BLUE STAR PATMOS.

The BLUE STAR DELOS seen in Piraeus alongside the THUNDER. Both ships serve the Cyclades, although the BLUE STAR DELOS began service there a decade before the THUNDER was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos line.

The BLUE STAR DELOS, also one of the best ships that the Greek coastal service has seen, is spotted in Piraeus right before her usual morning departure.

Just as I was walking in the E3 gate, I saw the KRITI I of ANEK Lines maneuvering in the port of Piraeus. She had just arrived from Heraklion, during her first summer back on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2014.

The KRITI I was seen maneuvering next to the high speed ferry SPEEDRUNNER III of Aegean Speed Lines, which was also due to depart the port of Piraeus in the morning.

Three different ships of the Greek coastal service are seen together in Piraeus. We can see the THUNDER and the SPEEDRUNNER III docked in the port, while the KRITI I undergoes her maneuvering procedure.

Two high speed ferries operating on the Cyclades are seen together in Piraeus. These are the THUNDER and the SPEEDRUNNER III.

The THUNDER seen resting in Piraeus. She was built in 1998 in Australia, as the TURGUT ÖZAL for the Turkish company İstanbul Deniz Otobüsleri (İDO). She operated on the İstanbul-Bandırma line on the Marmara Sea for 21 years, before her sale to Fast Ferries. She was renamed THUNDER, and became the first high speed craft to be owned by the company. After two years of conversion, she was introduced on the Cyclades, and also became the first ship of Fast Ferries to be based in Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS once again seen in Piraeus at dawn.

The KRITI I seen having completed her maneuvering procedure in Piraeus, and now preparing to dock in the E3 gate. Built in Japan 1979, she joined ANEK Lines in 1996, and was introduced on the Adriatic Sea in 1997, together with her sister ship, the KRITI II. The summer of 2021 marked the ship's first one in Greece since 2016. Indeed, from 2017 to early 2020, she had been chartered to the Italian company Grandi Navi Veloci, for whom she was deployed on the Civitavecchia-Termini Imerese line on the Tyrrhenian Sea. This was not the first time that the ship had operated there, as she had also spent the summer of 2013 under charter to the Italian company Go In Sardinia. That year, she served the Livorno-Olbia-Civitavecchia line, before returning to ANEK Lines the following summer. For the 2021 season, she replaced the KRITI II, which spent the entire summer under lay-up in Perama.

In front of the KRITI I, I could see the cruiseferry KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines. This was the ship's first summer under her new name and on the Piraeus-Milos-Heraklion line, as well as first season under Minoan Lines in 10 years. She was originally the OLYMPIA PALACE, which was built for Minoan Lines in 2001. She was deployed on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line on the Adriatic Sea, where she remained until 2010, when she moved to the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Venice line. Following the completion of the 2011 season, her company closed the service, and she was chartered to the Italian company Tirrenia Di Navigazione as the BONARIA. She was deployed for the latter on the Civitavecchia-Olbia-Arbatax line for six years. In 2018 she was transferred to the Italian company Grimaldi Lines, and was deployed on the Livorno-Olbia line as the CRUISE BONARIA. Following the fleet reshuffle of Minoan Lines, the ship returned to Minoan Lines and replaced the original KNOSSOS PALACE (built in 2000), which joined Grimaldi Lines and became the new CRUISE BONARIA. The new KNOSSOS PALACE was deployed in 2021 on the Piraeus-Milos-Heraklion line.

A view of the funnel of the KNOSSOS PALACE, which was remodeled after the ship was equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system (also known as 'scrubbers') in 2019, back when she was operating as the CRUISE BONARIA for Grimaldi Lines.

After finally reaching the E1 gate in Piraeus, I witnessed the docking procedure of a unique ferry, namely the cruiseferry ARIADNE of Hellenic Seaways. The ship had just returned to Piraeus after having served the Cyclades and the Dodecanese.

The ARIADNE seen docking in Piraeus. This was her first summer back in Greece and with Hellenic Seaways after having spent three seasons under charter to Tirrenia Di Navigazione (the former charterers of the current KNOSSOS PALACE). Indeed, from 2018 to early 2021, the ARIADNE operated on the Naples-Cagliari-Palermo line. Therefore, it was great to see such a fantastic ferry back in Greece after such a long time.

The ARIADNE seen completing her docking procedure in Piraeus, and ready to unload her passengers and her vehicles.

The ARIADNE now seen docked in Piraeus at dawn. During her comeback season under Hellenic Seaways, she was deployed on the Cyclades and on the Dodecanese for the first time in her career. Indeed, she was inserted on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Santorini-Samos-Patmos-Leros-Kos-Symi-Rhodes line. While she was praised for her impressive amenities and her large vehicle capacity, she had a few delays when docked in Paros, Naxos or Santorini, due to the limited port infrastructure found in these islands, which made her maneuvering procedures slower. Moreover, due to her large garage, several vehicles and lorries in these islands could embark onboard her, but the small capacity of the ports meant that all adjacent roads had to stop their regular traffic as long as the ferry was docked. This caused several disruptions in the middle of the high season. Nevertheless, her service to Samos, Kos and Rhodes in particular was met with much favourable reviews.

The ARIADNE seen having docked in Piraeus, after having arrived from the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. Built in Japan in 1996, she spent her first years there, initially as the RAINBOW BELL of Kyuetsu Ferry (1996-2002), and then as the FERRY HIMUKA of Miyazaki Car Ferry (2002-2004) and later of Shuttle Highway Line (2004-2006), before being laid-up in 2006. That same year, she was acquired by Hellenic Seaways, was renamed ARIADNE, and underwent a major conversion in Perama in order to enter service in the Greek coastal service. She began service in late 2007 on the Piraeus-Chania line. However, her high operating costs soon drove her away from the plans of Hellenic Seaways, and she was chartered to Minoan Lines, ANEK Lines and Algérie Ferries between 2008 and 2013. In that same year, she had a brief, but ultimately successful, spell on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line on the Northeast Aegean Sea, back when she temporarily replaced the NISSOS CHIOS, which had moved to the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Ikaria-Samos line to replace the NISSOS MYKONOS, which had been taken out of service after her funnel was damaged by a fire just before the summer of 2013 began. The good impression that she left was taken into account by Hellenic Seaways, and in 2014 she was deployed on the Piraeus-Chio-Mytilene line on a permanent basis, as the NISSOS CHIOS was chartered to the Spanish company Baleària. The ARIADNE stayed there for four seasons, while in 2015 she also operated on the Piraeus-Samos-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Kavala line. She was then chartered to Tirrenia Di Navigazione from 2018 to early 2021.

The ARIADNE seen docked in Piraeus at dawn, during her first season back with Hellenic Seaways, and seventh overall summer operating under the company.

A nice view of the ARIADNE in Piraeus at dawn, after she had docked in the port.

Another view of the ARIADNE in Piraeus, as the sun begins to rise.

At around 06:55, I saw the first ship departing the port of Piraeus, namely the BLUE STAR NAXOS. She was leaving Piraeus in order to begin her long trip to Paros, Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen leaving the port of Piraeus. For the second consecutive year, she was the first ship departing the port during the morning. When I first started this tradition back in 2019, the first ship that left Piraeus was the high speed ferry SUPEREXPRESS of Golden Star Ferries, back when she was operating on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Mykonos-Tinos-Andros-Rafina line.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen departing the port of Piraeus in the morning. She connects Piraeus with the Lesser Cyclades on a daily basis through a very tight schedule leaving Piraeus at 06:45 every morning, and returning there the following day at 05:00. The crew only has one hour and thirty minutes to rest before her next departure there. This is why she is such an exceptional ship.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. She has been connecting Piraeus with the Lesser Cyclades for many years, namely from 2002 to 2004, from 2007 to 2011, and since 2015. From 2015 to 2017 she operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Amorgos-Santorini line, while from 2012 to 2014 she notably operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line, which is currently served by the BLUE STAR PAROS.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen as she leaves Piraeus. She performs her morning service to the Cyclades and Astypalaia (which is part of the Dodecanese) only during the summer, as Paros and Naxos are served by the BLUE STAR PATMOS during the evening. Outside of the summer season, the BLUE STAR NAXOS instead departs Piraeus at 17:30 in the late afternoon, whereupon she serves the Cyclades and Astypalaia during the night, and makes her return back to Piraeus in the afternoon of the following day.

The much-acclaimed BLUE STAR NAXOS seen leaving the port of Piraeus in order to serve the Cyclades and Astypalaia. I had the chance to travel with her for the first time in my life back on 3 September 2020, while heading from Piraeus to Koufonisi. I was extremely impressed by her indoor areas, and I really found this trip to be very pleasant and comfortable. So far, this is the longest trip that I have done on the Aegean Sea with a ship leaving from Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen leaving Piraeus in order to head to the Cyclades and Astypalaia. For the 2021 season, a banner celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Blue Star Ferries was added on both sides of her hull, towards the aft section. Most ships of the company also received, even though the 20-year anniversary was actually in 2020, since Blue Star Ferries was established as the successor of Strintzis Lines in 2000.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen on her way towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. She and the BLUE STAR PAROS were built in South Korea in 2002, two years after their sister ship, the BLUE STAR ITHAKI. The latter also became a legend on the Cyclades, and operated for Blue Star Ferries from 2000 to 2014, before being sold to the Canadian company Bay Ferries Limited. She has since been operating on the St John-Digby line on the Bay of Fundy as the FUNDY ROSE.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen shortly before she exited the port of Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen as she is about to exit the port of Piraeus, and to begin yet another successful trip on the Cyclades.

A few minutes after the departure of the BLUE STAR NAXOS, I witnessed the second ship leaving the port for the day. This was the high speed ferry CHAMPION JET 2 of Sea Jets. Owned by the company since 2015, she was spending her second consecutive season on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line.

While the CHAMPION JET 2 was seen leaving the port of Piraeus, she was being followed by another ship of Sea Jets, namely the WORLDCHAMPION JET.

The CHAMPION JET 2 is seen leaving the port of Piraeus in order to head to the Western Cyclades. Her introduction there proved to be successful, and played a key role as Sea Jets further cemented their presence in the area. While she was departing the port of Piraeus in the afternoon during the 2020 season, this year she also performed morning services, so as to compete more effectively against Aegean Speed Lines and the SPEEDRUNNER III.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen leaving the port of Piraeus. She was built in 1996 in Australia, and operated as the CONDOR VITESSE under the French company Condor Ferries on the Channel. In 2015, she was sold, together with her fleetmate and sister ship, the CONDOR EXPRESS, to Sea Jets. The CONDOR VITESSE became the CHAMPION JET 2, whereas the CONDOR EXPRESS became the CHAMPION JET 1.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen as she leaves the port of Piraeus in the morning. During her first two seasons in Greece, she operated on the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line. In 2017 she moved to the Heraklion-Rethymnon-Santorini-Ios-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line, where she stayed for three seasons. Since 2020, she operates on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen following the CHAMPION JET 2, as both Sea Jets high speed craft are departing the port of Piraeus in order to head to the Cyclades.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen leaving Piraeus, during what was her seventh consecutive season in Greece and under Sea Jets.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen leaving Piraeus, right behind the CHAMPION JET 2. Built in 2000 in Australia, she was bought by Sea Jets in 2018, and was began service for the latter in 2019. For the 2021 season, she operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line.

Another view of the CHAMPION JET 2, as she is seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen leaving Piraeus for Serifos, Sifnos and Milos. Since entering service on the Cyclades under Sea Jets, she has become one of the most effective vessels of her company, operating in key services such as the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line, the Heraklion-Cyclades service and the main islands of the Western Cyclades.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen leaving Piraeus in order to head to the Western Cyclades.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen as she heads towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. She and the CHAMPION JET 1 were part of the start of the rapid fleet growth of Sea Jets during the mid 2010s, and their acquisition meant that the company had the world's largest fleet of high speed craft built in the Incat Shipyard in Australia. The CHAMPION JET 1 operated on the Cyclades from 2015 to 2018, while in 2019 she was chartered to the Spanish company Naviera Armas for service on the Almería-Melilla-Málaga line on the Alboran Sea. She returned to Sea Jets in 2020, and in 2021 she was deployed on the Thessaloniki-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Mantoudi line on the Sporades, hence taking over the service that had been launched earlier that season by the newly-acquired SUPERRUNNER JET (previously the SUPERRUNNER of Golden Star Ferries).

The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen leaving Piraeus at dawn. This was her third consecutive summer in Greece and under Sea Jets. During her debut season, she operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line, while in 2020 she was on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen once again, while she heads towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

One last view of the CHAMPION JET 2 as she leaves the port of Piraeus.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET is also seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. When she began her career in 2000, as the VILLUM CLAUSEN of the Danish company Bornholms Traffiken (which became Bornholmer Færgen in 2010, before merging with Molslinjen in 2018), she was the fastest ferry in the world, appearing even on the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest speed ever recorded by a passenger vessel. Upon beginning her services on the Cyclades in 2019, she became the fastest ship of the Greek coastal service.

Another view of the WORLDCHAMPION JET, as she is seen leaving Piraeus in order to head to Syros. I have traveled with her on three occasions, with the first two trips having been from Piraeus to Syros and back on 20 September 2020, while the third trip was from Piraeus to Ios on 22 July 2021, hence 10 days before this picture was taken.

A view of the WORLDCHAMPION JET as she leaves the port of Piraeus. To further highlight the success of her services, she won the prestigious 'Ship of the Year' award given by Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards for 2019. She became the third Greek coastal service ship to win the much-coveted award, and the first one since 2007, back when the NISSOS CHIOS of Hellenic Seaways (now known as the BLUE STAR CHIOS of Blue Star Ferries since 2020) won it. The first Greek coastal service ship to have received this honour was the sister ship of the NISSOS CHIOS, namely the NISSOS MYKONOS of Hellenic Seaways (which is now the BLUE STAR MYCONOS of Blue Star Ferries, also since 2020).

The WORLCHAMPION JET seen leaving Piraeus in order to serve the Cyclades. Thanks to her speed, she is able to return to the port of Piraeus towards 17:00, when some of her competitors serving the Cyclades only make it back to the port late at night.

Another view of the WORLDCHAMPION JET as she leaves Piraeus, in what was yet another successful summer season for her.

One last view of the WORLDCHAMPION JET, as she heads towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The next ship to leave the port of Piraeus was the conventional ferry DIONISIOS SOLOMOS of Zante Ferries, which operates on the Western Cyclades lifeline, namely on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Ios-Santorini line.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen leaving Piraeus during the morning, in order to perform her long itinerary on the Western Cyclades. She was built in 1990 in Japan, and spent the first nine years of her career as the ROYAL KAWANOE of the Japanese company Shikoku Chuo Ferry. She was sold in 1999 to Zante Ferries, becoming their first-ever passenger ferry in the process. She was renamed DIONISIOS SOLOMOS and was deployed on the Ionian Sea, on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line. She stayed there until the end of the 2016 season, having also spent large portions of the summers of 2013 and of 2015 on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. In 2017, her company decided to operate her on the Western Cyclades, and she underwent a major conversion in Keratsini, during which her bow was entirely remodeled.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen leaving the port of Piraeus, her fifth consecutive season of operations on the Western Cyclades. She spent the first two seasons on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Ios line, while in 2019 her service was extended to Santorini. She is now the only ship of the company that still operates on the Western Cyclades, as her fleetmate, the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS, moved to the Alexandroupolis-Samothraki-Limnos line following the completion of the 2019 season. The latter had been operating on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Ios-Santorini line since the 2009 season.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen leaving the port of Piraeus. She is also the only conventional ferry to connect the Western Cyclades from Piraeus as of 2021, and she therefore competes against the high speed craft of Sea Jets and of Aegean Speed Lines. Due to this, she is the ship that is charged to transport lorries and most of the vehicles heading towards the Western Cyclades. As such, her service is extremely busy and demanding, but her hardworking crew always ensures that it remains efficient.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen leaving Piraeus, a place that she has been calling home since 2017, after having previously spent 17 years on the Ionian Sea.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen leaving Piraeus for the Western Cyclades. Back when she operated on the Ionian Sea, she was part of the Ionian Ferries joint venture, which included Zante Ferries and the now-defunct company Tyrogalas Ferries, as well as the Zakynthos-based company ANEZ on certain occasions. This joint venture ended in 2015, after Tyrogalas Ferries sold their last ship operating on the Ionian Sea, the IONIAN STAR, to the rapidly-emerging company Levante Ferries, for whom she operates today as the MARE DI LEVANTE. Following this sale, the Ionian Group joint venture was established between Zante Ferries and Levante Ferries during the summer of 2015. It remained active until 2019, when Levante Ferries became the sole operator on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line, on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line and on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line.

The loyal and hardworking DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen leaving the port of Piraeus in the morning.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. As she was operating on the Ionian Sea throughout my entire childhood, I saw her several times in Zakynthos and in Kyllini during the 2000s and the 2010s, and I also traveled with her several times while sailing between both ports. The last time that I traveled with her was on 9 July 2013, while heading from Kyllini to Zakynthos. This was only a few days before she spent the rest of the 2013 season on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen leaving Piraeus, and is due to head towards the Western Cyclades.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen leaving the port of Piraeus. I notably got the chance to see her docking in the port of Kimolos on 29 June 2021, back when I had visited the island.

One last view of the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS, as she is seen leaving the port of Piraeus.

Right behind the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS, there was yet another ship leaving the port of Piraeus in order to head to the Western Cyclades. This time, it was the SPEEDRUNNER III, which operates on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line.

The SPEEDRUNNER III seen leaving the port of Piraeus at dawn. Built in 1999, she joined Aegean Speed Lines in 2009, together with her sister ship, the SPEEDRUNNER IV (which is now the SUPERRUNNER JET of Sea Jets, since the summer of 2021). She spent her debut season on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line, while in 2010 she was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line. In 2012 her company experienced financial difficulties, and only operated the SPEERDUNNER IV, while the SPEEDRUNNER III was sent for lay-up in Elefsina. She was reactivated the following year and was deployed on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line, where she stayed for two seasons. In 2015, her service on the Western Cyclades was taken over by the SPEEDRUNNER IV, and therefore she spent the summer on charter to the Moroccan company Navline, while in 2016 she was chartered to Levante Ferries and operated on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. In 2017, following the sale of the SPEEDRUNNER IV to Golden Star Ferries the SPEEDRUNNER III returned to the Western Cyclades in 2017, being deployed on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos line. In 2018 her service was shortened to the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos line, while in 2019 it was restricted to the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line.

The SPEEDRUNNER III seen leaving the port of Piraeus, during her fifth consecutive summer on the Western Cyclades, and also her third consecutive season on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line. Altogether, this was her seventh summer on the Western Cyclades.

The SPEEDRUNNER III, which is now the only ship that is owned by Aegean Speed Lines, seen leaving the port of Piraeus.

The SPEEDRUNNER III seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. I have traveled with her on three different occasions. The first one was during her comeback season under Aegean Speed Lines, while heading from Sifnos to Piraeus on 29 July 2017. I then traveled with her from Piraeus to Milos on 22 June 2021, followed by a return from Milos to Piraeus on 1 July 2021, hence exactly a month before this picture was taken.

The SPEEDRUNNER III seen leaving the port of Piraeus in order to follow the CHAMPION JET 2 and serve the ports of Serifos, Sifnos and Milos.

The SPEEDRUNNER III seen as she heads towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. Before joining Aegean Speed Lines, she was known as the SUPERSEACAT THREE, and operated for Sea Containers on the Irish Sea and on the Channel between 1999 and 2003. She then had a spell on the Tallinn-Helsinki line on the Baltic Sea while being chartered to the Finnish company Silja Line, for whom she operated under the SuperSeaCat brandname. She remained in this service until 2008, and she subsequently joined Aegean Speed Lines.

The SPEEDRUNNER III seen as she prepares to sail towards the Western Cyclades at full-speed.

The SPEEDRUNNER III seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus in order to begin her first trip of the day.

One last view of the SPEEDRUNNER III, as she prepares to exit the port of Piraeus.

After the SPEEDRUNNER III left the port of Piraeus, I got to see yet another ship departing the port. This time, it was the BLUE STAR MYCONOS of Blue Star Ferries, which was operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Patmos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos-Chios-Oinousses-Mytilene-Limnos-Kavala line.

A view of the ARIADNE and of the BLUE STAR MYCONOS together in Piraeus at dawn. This picture was quite meaningful, as it shows the ARIADNE looking at her former fleetmate as the latter leaves the port. Indeed, the BLUE STAR MYCONOS used to be the NISSOS MYKONOS of Hellenic Seaways, having operated for them from 2005 (the year during which she was built) until early 2020, when she joined Blue Star Ferries.

The BLUE STAR MYCONOS seen leaving Piraeus, during her second season under Blue Star Ferries. This was also her first summer with her remodeled funnel, which she acquired after her conversion in Perama, during which she was also equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system, just like it was the case for the BLUE STAR DELOS. Unlike the latter, the BLUE STAR MYCONOS saw her funnel increasing significantly in size and height.

The BLUE STAR MYCONOS seen departing the port of Piraeus at dawn. She was built in 2005 in Greece, two years before her sister ship, the NISSOS CHIOS (which also joined Blue Star Ferries in 2020, and is now the BLUE STAR CHIOS). She has spent the bulk of her career on the Cyclades and on the Northeast Aegean Sea. Since late 2014, after the Greek Ministry of Shipping and Insular Policy stripped NEL Lines of its license to operate on the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline, the BLUE STAR MYCONOS (then known as the NISSOS MYKONOS) was called to replace the latter company's ships. This enabled Hellenic Seaways to further expand their services on the Northeast Aegean Sea, with ships such as the NISSOS RODOS and the NISSOS SAMOS being introduced there during the mid 2010s.

The BLUE STAR MYCONOS seen leaving Piraeus at dawn. She is considered to be one of the best ferries of the Greek coastal service, thanks to her modern and comfortable passenger amenities, her reliable speed and her impressive outdoor sun decks.

The BLUE STAR MYCONOS seen leaving Piraeus. As stated above, she became the first ship of the Greek coastal service to receive the prestigious 'Ship of the Year' award given by Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards, which she earned in 2006, back when she was sailing as the NISSOS MYKONOS.

The BLUE STAR MYCONOS seen as she leaves the port of Piraeus in order to head to the Cyclades and the Northeast Aegean Sea. She operated on the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline alongside the DIAGORAS, which was serving the Piraeus-Mykonos-Patmos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Kavala line during the 2021 season.

The great BLUE STAR MYCONOS seen as she leaves the port of Piraeus.