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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

SUPEREXPRESS Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 26 July 2021. From Ios, to Tinos, via Naxos, Paros and Mykonos, with the SUPEREXPRESS of Golden Star Ferries.

The high speed ferry SUPEREXPRESS, a wave-piercing catamaran, was built in 1998 in Australia. She was the second out of four sister ships that were ordered by various operators, and in her case she was delivered to the Argentinian company Buquebus in order to operate on their Western Mediterranean Sea service. She was initially named CATALONIA and she made history by capturing the Blue Riband Challenge Trophy (also known as the Hales Trophy) for having made the fastest Eastbound Atlantic Ocean crossing, while performing her delivery voyage from New York to Ceuta. Her record however lasted just six weeks, as it was then surpassed by her younger sister ship, the CAT-LINK V of Scandlines (now the SKÅNE JET of the German company FRS). The CATALONIA was renamed CATALONIA L just before she began service on the Barcelona-Palma line. In 1999 she was transferred to the Algeciras-Málaga-Ceuta line. In 2000 she was chartered to P&O European Ferries in order to operate under their P&O Portsmouth division. She was renamed PORTSMOUTH EXPRESS and was deployed on the Channel, serving the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line. She returned in late 2000 to Buquebus and was again renamed CATALONIA, before returning to P&O Portsmouth in 2001, having again been renamed PORTSMOUTH EXPRESS and being redeployed on the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line. She returned to Buquebus and was again renamed CATALONIA in late 2001, before being sent again on charter on the Channel as the PORTSMOUTH EXPRESS in 2002, on the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line. The following year, P&O Portsmouth was discontinued as P&O European Ferries began to trade as P&O Ferries on the Channel. She thus spent the summer on the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line as the EXPRESS. After spending the winter of 2003-2004 as the CATALONIA for Buquebus, she was sold to P&O Ferries in 2004 and returned to the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line as the EXPRESS (with the marketing name CHERBOURG EXPRESS). Her spell on the Channel was marred by numerous engine troubles which resulted in several canceled services. In 2005 she was transferred to the P&O Irish Sea division, being deployed as the EXPRESS on the Troon-Cairnryan-Larne line, connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland via the Irish Sea on a seasonal service. In 2010, P&O Irish Sea began to trade as P&O Ferries as well. The EXPRESS was refurbished in 2013, and returned to service by only serving the Troon-Larne line. After many disappointing and unprofitable results, P&O Ferries announced the closure of the Troon-Larne line at the conclusion of the 2015 season. The EXPRESS was laid-up in Belfast. In 2016 she was sold to the Swedish company Gotlandsbåten, and, after being refurbished in Helsingborg, she entered service on the Västervik-Visby-Nynäshamn line on the Baltic Sea. After unsatisfactory service there as well, she was laid-up at the end of the season in Västervik. In 2017 she was chartered to the Finnish company Viking Line, and was deployed on the Tallinn-Helsinki line under the marketing name VIKING FSTR. In 2018 she was chartered to the Spanish company Naviera Armas and was deployed on the Canary Islands Archipelago, on the Los Cristianos-San Sebastián de La Gomera-Valle Gran Rey line.

After her charter ended during the fall, it was announced that she had been sold to Golden Fast Ferries, a joint venture between the Greek companies Golden Star Ferries and Fast Ferries. Both companies have been known as key players on the Cyclades, having operated successful services out of Rafina since 2011 and 2007, respectively. Indeed, during the 2010s, passenger traffic from Rafina boosted significantly, and this prompted companies such as the aforementioned ones to invest in new ships that provided even more efficient service. However, during the mid 2010s they began to experience threatening competition from Sea Jets, which notably deployed the large high speed ferry TERA JET on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Paros line in 2017, before adding other vessels such as the PAROS JET and the NAXOS JET during that same span. That same year, Golden Star Ferries introduced a newly-acquired high speed ferry, namely the SUPERRUNNER (the ex-SPEEDRUNNER IV of Aegean Speed Lines, sold in late 2016), on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line on the Cyclades. This service was considered extremely successful, and therefore sparked a fierce rivalry between Golden Star Ferries and Sea Jets. As this competition carried on, Sea Jets bought the impressive high speed ferry WORLDCHAMPION JET, one of the fastest ferries in the world. They were planning to deploy her in 2019 out of Rafina, while the TERA JET would move to the Piraeus-Paros-Ios-Santorini line. Anticipating another summer full of confrontations with Sea Jets, Golden Star Ferries decided to partner with Fast Ferries and bought the EXPRESS. She arrived in Greece under the name GOLDEN EXPRESS, and began conversion in Perama and in Salamina. She was planned to be deployed on the Rafina-Syros-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Koufosini-Amorgos line. Right before the start of the 2019 season, however, a dispute between Golden Star Ferries and Fast Ferries ensured, and this resulted in the ship being fully transferred to former. She was renamed SUPEREXPRESS, and became the fourth high speed craft of the company. As the WORLDCHAMPION JET was eventually inserted on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line, the company decided to add the SUPEREXPRESS on a service out of Piraeus. As a result, she was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Mykonos-Tinos-Andros-Rafina line, on which her fleetmate, the high speed trimaran SUPERSPEED, had started operations. With this move, that ship was instead deployed on the Rafina-Syros-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Koufosini-Amorgos line, where she had a very disappointing service and ended her season prematurely after suffering a severe engine failure in Naxos. As for the SUPEREXPRESS, her first season was met with mixed reviews. While praised for her impressive amenities and comfortable service, she experienced several engine troubles, which resulted in multiple delays. Golden Star Ferries was eventually unable to match Sea Jets after that season, and this resulted in the company selling four of its ships to the latter in 2021. They only kept the SUPERFERRY and the SUPEREXPRESS, which was deployed on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Paros-Ios-Santorini line, hence replacing the SUPERRUNNER which joined Sea Jets as the SUPERRUNNER JET.

This is a full overview of the SUPEREXPRESS, a high speed craft which, despite her potential, has experienced several ups and downs and has had a rather inconsistent career. This was proven by the several changes in operators, especially before and after her stint on the Irish Sea under P&O Ferries. Her first season in Greece was also troublesome, but she eventually managed to provide good service afterwards. In her first summer out of Rafina, however, she managed to thrive at last, having an excellent season with less engine troubles and with very good passenger numbers. She was therefore deemed as a worthy successor of the SUPERRUNNER, which had made a name for herself during her time under Golden Star Ferries. She was one of the few high speed craft that connected so many islands of the Cyclades between them, and she helped provide a good reputation for her company, despite the latter having a diminished fleet.

I had the chance to travel with the SUPEREXPRESS for the first time as part of the trip that I had been doing with my friends from my exchange semester in Beijing, in which we first stopped by Ios before then heading to Tinos. I had arrived in Ios from Piraeus with the WORLDCHAMPION JET on 22 July, and I had the chance to see a few ships serving the island on 24 July and on 26 July. Later that day, the SUPEREXPRESS was returning to the island from Santorini, in order to make her way back to Rafina. By traveling with her, she became the fourth ship of Golden Star Ferries on which I traveled, after having already been on the SUPERFERRY on 14 June 2018 while heading from Rafina to Ios, then on the SUPERRUNNER three days later from Ios to Mykonos, and on the SUPERFERRY II (now the SUPERSTAR of Sea Jets) while heading from Andros to Rafina. She also became the second high speed craft of Golden Star Ferries on which I traveled, after the SUPERRUNNER. She became the second ship Incat-built high speed craft on which I traveled, after the CHAMPION JET 1 of Sea Jets, on which I embarked on 12 July 2015 while sailing from Santorini to Piraeus. Moreover, it was my second inter-Cyclades trip with a high speed craft, after the one that I did with the SUPERUNNER back in 2018.

The SUPEREXPRESS seen arriving in the port of Ios from Santorini, moments before I embarked onboard her for the first time.

A view of the SUPEREXPRESS shortly before she underwent her maneuvering procedure in order to dock in the port of Ios.

The SUPEREXPRESS having docked in Ios and preparing to load passengers and vehicles. This is a view of her stern, which features the well-known glass window covering the two passenger decks that gives a nice view from the inside. Her name is written right above the glass window, in the classic font used by Golden Star Ferries.

A view of the lower deck of the ship's garage, which is quite modern and provides sufficient lighting.

The upper deck of the garage of the SUPEREXPRESS, featuring several ramps that can provide additional vehicle capacity. The ship can carry a total of 200 cars, in addition to 1,070 passengers.

A view of the reception area, which is located in the first of two decks dedicated to the passenger accommodation. Overall, the ship features many modern areas, including very nice indoor lounge areas along with many comfortable and colourful aircraft-style seats, such as those seen in this picture.

A view of the passenger lounge area in the lower deck, which features dozens of aircraft-style seats, as well as a bar located next to the staircase that leads to the upper deck.

Another view of the indoor lounge area of the lower passenger deck, towards the middle section of the ship. It once again features dozens of aircraft-style seats.

The aft section of the indoor lounge area of the lower deck, featuring more aircraft-style seats and the well-known glass window at the back.

A quick picture of the VIP Lounge area, which features wider spaces and several aircraft-style seats. It was located in the upper deck of the passenger accommodation area.

The front section of the upper deck, which again features several comfortable aircraft-style seats, which are all covered with a yellow patch displaying the logo of Golden Star Ferries. At the back of the section is the Psarou Bar, which is named after the well-known Psarou Beach in Mykonos.

A view of both the lower deck and the upper deck from the ship's atrium, as seen on the starboard side. This give a very nice view of the sea and its surroundings, as well as of the ship's space and lower deck from above.

A view of the Economy Class lounge area in the upper deck of the SUPEREXPRESS, towards the middle section. It had several rows of grey and orange aircraft-style seats.

In the middle section of the upper deck of the SUPEREXPRESS, one can also find the Kardiani Snack Bar, which is named after the eponymous village of Tinos, known for being one of the most picturesque settlements of the Cyclades.

A view of the ship's aft area in the upper deck, once again featuring rows of orange and grey aircraft-style seats.

At 15:20, the ship began sailing towards Naxos. Here is a view from the glass window located in the ship's stern.

One unfortunate thing that I experienced onboard was the lack of outdoor areas where one could stay, even at least when the ship would be docked in a port (which is allowed in most high speed craft in which outdoor stay is forbidden during the trip). As such, I could not take many pictures of the other ships that I saw in the ports of Naxos, Paros and Mykonos. While I did manage to take some, they are not of great quality, as the windows of the SUPEREXPRESS were wet and gave a blurry view towards the outside. As a result, I did not take any pictures in Naxos, where we arrived towards 16:30, and departed immediately afterwards. We arrived in Paros at around 17:00.

The best picture that I could take in the port of Paroikia in Paros, right after the SUPEREXPRESS had docked, was that of the small high speed craft EXPRESS PANORMITIS of Agia Marina I NE. She was built in Greece in 2019 and has been serving the Paros-Antiparos line ever since.

A view of the EXPRESS PANORMITIS in Paros, as she prepares to leave the port in order to head to Antiparos. She is the youngest ship serving the line, and is one of the company's two high speed craft, the other one being the 2015-built ANTIPAROS STAR. Additionally, Agia Marina I NE operates two landing craft that connect Antiparos with the port of Pounta in Paros, both built in 2018: the AGIOS NIKOLAOS and the AGIOI ANARGYROI. I traveled with both of them on 27 July 2018, while heading from Paros to Antiparos and then back to Paros.

The EXPRESS PANORMITIS seen leaving the port of Paroikia in Paros, in order to head to Antiparos. This was her third summer on the Paros-Antiparos line.

About an hour later, towards 18:10, the SUPEREXPRESS arrived in Mykonos. There, I saw the small high speed catamaran SUPER JET of Sea Jets. This was the best picture that I could take from the blurry windows of the SUPEREXPRESS. The SUPER JET was built in 1995, originally as the SEA JET 1 of Strintzis Lines, which later became Blue Star Ferries in 2000, following the takeover of Attica Group. She then operated for Aegean Jet Maritime as the JET ONE from 2002 to 2004, after which she joined the newly-established company Sea Jets, for whom she has since been operating as the SUPER JET. She has spent all her career on the Cyclades, except in 2004 when she was on the Rafina-Samos-Ikaria-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros line. She is currently the high speed craft with the most experience in the Greek coastal service, if hydrofoils are not included. In 2021, she operated on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line, where she was also found during the 2020 season. She has been performing this service alongside her fleetmate and sister ship, the SEA JET 2.

While the SUPEREXPRESS was docked, I saw the small high speed passenger boat MYKONOS EXPRESS of Delos Tours arriving in the port. She connects the new port of Mykonos with the old port of Mykonos, where the Chora is located, under the Mykonos Sea Bus brandname. She additionally serves the Mykonos-Delos line. She was built in 2013, and became the first ship to operate under the Mykonos Sea Bus brandname. Since then, four ships have joined: the MYKONOS STAR built in 2015, the MYKONOS SPIRIT bought in 2017, the MARGARITA CH already owned by Delos Tours, and soon the MYKONOS EXPLORER which is due to start service in 2022.

At around 18:45, the ship had arrived in Tinos from Mykonos, and I therefore arrived in the former island for the first time in my life. Here is a view of the SUPEREXPRESS, shortly after our disembarkation.

The SUPEREXPRESS seen docked in the port of Tinos during the evening.

Not far from the main ferry terminal, I spotted the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 4 of Hellenic Seaways. She was operating on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line, substituting the FLYINGCAT 3, which was normally operating there. This was because the latter high speed craft grounded off near Mykonos, only a few days after having returned following an engine failure which had kept her out of service for almost a month. As a result of this, the FLYINGCAT 3 headed for Perama for repairs, and the FLYINGCAT 4 replaced her, just as she had done at the start of the month.

The SUPEREXPRESS seen docked in Tinos, while loading new passengers and vehicles prior to her departure for Rafina.

Shortly after seeing her docked in the port of Tinos, the FLYINGCAT 4 was seen leaving in order to head to Rafina. While having to operate on the Cyclades for most of July in order to substitute the FLYINGCAT 3, she spent her summer on the Saronic Gulf, on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line, where she has been deployed since the 2019 season.

Another view of the SUPEREXPRESS as she is seen docked in the port of Tinos.

The FLYINGCAT 4 seen leaving Tinos and passing by the SUPEREXPRESS. The former was built in the United Kingdom, which is the same country in which the SUPEREXPRESS operated for the most part of her career so far, having been there from 2000 to 2016.

The FLYINGCAT 4 seen leaving Tinos for Rafina, which would the same trip that the SUPEREXPRESS would be performing only a few minutes later.

The FLYINGCAT 4 seen as she sails from Tinos to Rafina.

One last view of the SUPEREXPRESS in the port of Tinos, shortly before she departed for Rafina as well.

A few minutes after the SUPEREXPRESS left the port of Tinos, the conventional ferry EKATERINI P of Fast Ferries had arrived. She was operating on the Cyclades for the first time since 2018, after having missed the 2019 season and the 2020 season due to a major engine failure. Owned by Fast Ferries since 1999, she began to operate from Rafina to the Cyclades in 2012, initially on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line. In 2016 she was deployed on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line, where she stayed until 2018. For the 2017 season, she added Andros to her itinerary and was therefore on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line. For her comeback season in 2021, she added the island of Koufonisi to her itinerary, and was therefore on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Koufonisi line.

The EKATERINI P seen docked in Tinos. Her return to service was widely praised, and she posted impressive results both in terms of passenger traffic and service quality. The addition of Koufonisi was also deemed a success, and therefore the good reputation of Fast Ferries, who at one point owned the SUPEREXPRESS together with the Golden Star Ferries, reached new heights and extended further to the Cyclades. The company also deployed an owned high speed ferry for the first time in 2021, namely the THUNDER. She however operated out of Piraeus rather than Rafina, being deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos line. I saw her in Mykonos while being onboard the SUPEREXPRESS, but could not manage to take a good picture of her due to the blurry windows of the Golden Star Ferries vessel.

This therefore marked the end of a very nice trip with a very impressive high speed ferry. Indeed, the SUPEREXPRESS had eye-catching indoor areas, which were very well refurbished by Golden Star Ferries. They are very spacious and comfortable, and therefore making the passengers believe like they are traveling onboard a cruise ship. The vessel's speed was excellent, and overall the trip was very pleasant, even if I did not have the possibility of staying outdoors, even when being docked in Naxos, Paros and Mykonos. Apart from this, I had a very good experience onboard this great vessel, which was a major asset for Golden Star Ferries and compensated for the loss of her fleetmates by providing excellent service on a very demanding and competitive line of the Cyclades. Hopefully she can maintain a strong presence on the Cyclades and finally find herself a place where her potential and her great attributes can be utilised, in contrast to her past services under Buquebus or P&O Ferries, which were marred by technical troubles. If her engines stay in good condition, she can definitely be considered as one of the best high speed craft in Greece. Otherwise, she already has some of the nicest passenger amenities found onboard a ferry of the Greek coastal service.

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