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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

SUPERFERRY II Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 18 August 2020. From Andros to Rafina, with the SUPERFERRY II of Golden Star Ferries.

The legendary day ferry SUPERFERRY II was built in 1974 in Belgium. She was initially known as the PRINCE LAURENT of the Belgian company Regie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT), which was part of the British conglomerate Sealink . She entered service on the Ostend-Dover line. She collided with a quayside of Dover in 1978, but she was quickly repaired afterwards. She was transferred to Townsend Thoresen in 1985. She was then transferred to P&O European Ferries in 1987, and continued to serve the Ostend-Dover line. Her company then traded as Oostende Lines in 1991. She was sold in 1992 to the Greek company Strintzis Lines and was renamed IONIAN EXPRESS. Initially supposed to be deployed on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line, it was instead decided that she would operate on the Cyclades, in order to replace her older fleetmate, the SUPERFERRY, which had an impressive yet troublesome season on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Syros line, due to her large size preventing her from docking safely in any of the ports she was serving, as most of them were extremely underdeveloped at the time.

Because of these issues, Strintzis Lines shifted their attention to the IONIAN EXPRESS. She underwent a major conversion in Perama, where she saw an expansion of her garage, a full renovation of her interior areas, (including the removal of several cabins), a new bow, an improved stern and the addition of balconies above her bow. She was ultimately renamed SUPERFERRY II and began service in 1993 on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Syros-Astypalaia-Kalymnos-Kos-Nisyros-Tilos-Rhodes line on the Cyclades and on the Dodecanese, with the latter being served due to the ship usually operating there, the IONIAN SEA (later the DIMITRA of GA Ferries and the LEROS of DANE Sea Line) having been chartered to Tunisia Ferries. Upon her introduction, she went on to be a massive success, and a ship far better than her predecessor. Beginning in 1994 she stopped serving the Dodecanese, operating solely on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Syros line, in which she cemented herself as one of the best ferries on the Cyclades. She remained with Strintzis Lines until the latter was taken over in 2000 by Attica Group, with the new company being named Blue Star Ferries. She remained in service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line for the next ten years, initially under the Blue Ferries division from 2000 to 2004 and then under Blue Star Ferries from 2004 to 2010. She also occasionally operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line when her fleetmates would undergo their annual refits. In 2010 she collided with the main pier of the port of Tinos, ending her Blue Star Ferries career.

She was subsequently bought by the newly-established Andros-based company Golden Star Ferries. After a small conversion that included the addition of a new bulbous bow in Piraeus, she began service in 2011 on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line, where she was once again extremely successful. She returned to Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 2013. With the arrival of her new fleetmate, the SUPERFERRY, in 2016, she was deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Paros line. She returned to the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 2017, after having undergone a major renovation in Perama. The following year, she and the SUPERFERRY were deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Ios-Santorini-Heraklion line, thus marking the first-ever connection of Rafina with Crete. In 2019, she and the SUPERFERRY were deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Santorini-Heraklion line. In 2020 she was deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros line.

So this is a quick overview of the long and legendary career of the SUPERFERRY II. Having now completed 28 summer seasons from Rafina to the Cyclades, she is considered to be one of the greatest ships in the history of the Greek coastal service, if not the greatest according to some. She is certainly the best day ferry to have ever sailed in Greek waters, and is undoubtedly the best ship to have ever operated from Rafina. Despite her being 47 years old (making her one of the oldest ferries in Greece), she still provides a speedy and reliable service, and shows no signs of declining anytime soon. Her longevity, her comfortable indoor areas, her outstanding outdoor alleys and balconies, as well as her impressive speed and sail-worthiness have all been key reasons behind her iconic career on the Cyclades. She has widely been lauded by passengers heading to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos, as well as the other Cyclades islands that she has served from time to time. This is considering how demanding and difficult the line on which she operates is, and the fact that she has remained there for such a long time despite the arrival of fierce competitors such as newbuildings and high speed craft makes her even more unique. She has also been a massive success for all three companies under which she sailed, and she played a key role in enabling their growth and expansion into the Cyclades over the last ten years (including Strintzis Lines, whose work has been continued by Blue Star Ferries since 2000).

I was finally able to have a trip onboard this great ferry on 18 August 2020, and therefore I managed to accomplish a childhood dream at last. Indeed, after having spent three days in Andros with my family, it was now the time to return to Rafina in order to then head to Aegina in order to spend the remainder of our vacation together. After having been to the beautiful island of Andros on 15 August 2020 with the THEOLOGOS P of Fast Ferries, our return trip was planned to be with the SUPERFERRY II. By traveling onboard her, I had my first-ever trip from Andros to Rafina, as well as my third-ever trip with a ship owned by Golden Star Ferries. Indeed, I had already traveled with the SUPERFERRY from Rafina to Ios on 14 June 2018, followed by the SUPERRUNNER from Ios to Mykonos three days later. Furthermore, it was my first trip with a Golden Star Ferries-owned ship in more than two years, and I had now been onboard both conventional ferries of the company. She also became the oldest ferry on which I ever traveled, as she was 46 years old at the time of my trip (thus eclipsing the record held by the KEFALONIA of Levante Ferries, which was 44 years old when I traveled with her from Zakynthos to Kyllini on 7 July 2019). It was also my first-ever trip with a ship that began operating on the Cyclades before I was born, and also my first-ever trip with a ship built in Belgium.

The incredible SUPERFERRY II seen arriving in Andros, after having left Tinos. This was her twenty-eighth summer, with all of them having been on the Rafina-Cyclades service.

The SUPERFERRY II having entered the Gavrion Bay, which is named after Gavrion, the coastal town that features the ferry port of Andros.

The SUPERFERRY II preparing to enter the port of Gavrion in Andros. This was her tenth consecutive summer under Golden Star Ferries. She was the company's first ship. Following her successful operations, Golden Star Ferries have since acquired five more ships, including four high speed craft. All of them serve the Cyclades from both Rafina and Piraeus.

The SUPERFERRY II seen approaching Andros. Even if she was 46 years old when I had my trip with her, she still looked like she was a majestic ship, showing no signs of getting older.

The SUPERFERRY II on her way towards her docking spot in Andros.

A view of the iconic SUPERFERRY II. She is the last ship among those built in Belgium between the 1950s and the 1970s which went on to have successful spells in Greece (mostly on the Cyclades), after having first operated under the famed Belgian company Regie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT). This group of ships is known as the 'Gentle Belgians', and included legendary ships, such as the late AIGAION of Agapitos Lines (1976-1992) and later of Agapitos Express Ferries (1992-1996); the late GEORGIOS EXPRESS (considered by some to be the best ferry in the history of the Greek coastal service regardless of the SUPERFERRY II overtaking her in terms of longevity) of Ventouris Ferries (1980-1983), Ventouris Sea Lines (1983-1996) and later Agios Georgios Ferries (1996-2009, although the company ceased operations in 2001); the latter's sister ship, the BARI EXPRESS, of Ventouris Ferries (1983-1997), and later the EXPRESS HERMES of Agapitos Express Ferries (1997-1999) and then of Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins (1999-2003); the late LYDIA of the now-defunct company Hellenic Mediterranean Lines (1985-1995); and lastly the SUPERFERRY II's sister ship, the PANAGIA TINOU 2 of Ventouris Sea Lines (1993-1997), later the EXPRESS ATHINA of Agapitos Express Ferries (1997-1999), Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins (1999-2005) and Hellenic Seaways (2005-2007), before ending her career as the EXPRESS LIMNOS of Saos Ferries (2007-2011). The SUPERFERRY II is the only ship from that group that is still alive and still sailing in Greece to date.

The SUPERFERRY II having entered the Gavrion Bay and preparing to undergo her maneuvering procedure.

The SUPERFERRY II seen about to begin her maneuvering procedure in Andros.

The SUPERFERRY II seen from the docking spot in which she went on to moor following her maneuvering procedure.

The SUPERFERRY II was not alone in Andros, as I could also spot the veteran landing craft AGIA MARINA of Dolychio (also trading as Petrogaz).

The AGIA MARINA spotted in Andros. She is a ship that has been to almost every port that exists on the Aegean Sea, as she conducts several itineraries from Aspropyrgos (near Elefsina) to the Cyclades, the Sporades, the Northeast Aegean Sea and the Dodecanese. In fact, she has served all islands of the Cyclades, as well as Aegina on the Saronic Gulf (which is usually her first stop). She transports different types of cargo, including lorries, chemicals, fuel, dangerous goods and wind generators. She has been operating under this capacity since 2007.

The AGIA MARINA seen in Andros. I had first seen her in 2014, while she was heading from Aspropyrgos to Aegina. I failed to see her again until 2020, initially in Aegina on 12 August and then in Andros six days later.

The AGIA MARINA seen in Andros just before the SUPERFERRY II began her maneuvering procedure.

The AGIA MARINA seen in Andros. She was built in 1978, four years after the SUPERFERRY II. Her career has been quite eventful, as she spent the first 19 years of her life in Yemen as a Ro-Ro carrier and dangerous good carrier under Petrola, which was the Saudi Arabian subsidiary of the Latsis Group. In 1997 she was bought by Dolychio and was renamed AGIA MARINA, and operated in Greece for the first time in her career (despite having been built there). She spent 10 years on the Kefalonia-Ithaca-Lefkada line on the Ionian Sea as a passenger landing craft, before moving to her current role in 2007.

The AGIA MARINA seen docked in Andros.

The SUPERFERRY II preparing to perform her maneuvering procedure in Andros.

The SUPERFERRY II about to maneuver in Andros.

The SUPERFERRY II seen undergoing her maneuvering procedure in Andros. She has been registered in Piraeus since the start of her Greek career, whereas her fleetmate, the SUPERFERRY is registered in Andros, as this is the island of origin the Stefanou brothers (the owners of Golden Star Ferries). The SUPERRUNNER is also registered in Andros, whereas the other three high speed craft (the SUPERSPEED, the SUPERCAT and the SUPEREXPRESS) are registered in Piraeus.

The SUPERFERRY II having almost completed her maneuvering procedure in Andros.

The SUPERFERRY II preparing to dock in the port of Gavrion in Andros.

The AGIA MARINA seen resting in Andros.

The SUPERFERRY II about to dock in Andros.

The SUPERFERRY II having finally docked in Andros, with passengers ready to embark onboard her.

The first four decks of the SUPERFERRY II are dedicated to her engine room and her garage. Deck 5 is the first deck that is available to passengers. There, obviously, one can see the ship's reception desk and pursuer's office.

Moving beyond the reception desk, one can see the rest of Deck 5, which includes most lounge areas of the ship. This one is the Aft Economy Lounge area, which mostly features plastic orange chairs. The floor is wooden, but has been notably upgraded since the 2017 season, as were the wooden columns in the middle.

The central part of the Aft Economy Lounge area, which also features a bar called Golden Cafe, which is the same name used by bars on the SUPERFERRY and on the SUPERRUNNER.

The front view of the luggage room located in Deck 5, which is covered by a deckplan of the ship.

Deck 5 also features the ship's onboard retail store, which sells various products such as clothes, bags, souvenirs, jewelry, toys and gadgets.

In the forward section of Deck 5 is another lounge area known as the Pergola Lounge, which features very comfortable grey lounge chairs.

The lounge chairs of the Pergola Lounge, as seen on the ship's port side.

The ship's lift (reserved to the crew) and staircase entrance which leads to the other decks. The doors' design suggests that they were there during the ship's career in Belgium.

The lounge area located in the front section of Deck, which is known as the Ionian Lounge. It features additional chairs as well as glass walls which are decorated with the company's logo. The lounge area's name presumably originates from the time during which the ship was undergoing her conversion for Strintzis Lines in order to begin service on the Ionian Sea, although she eventually moved to Rafina and the Cyclades once her conversion was completed in 1993.

The bar located in the Ionian Lounge area, also sponsored by Golden Cafe.

After seeing Deck 5, I headed to Deck 6, whose middle section has aircraft-style seats which are assigned in rows. This area is named Air Seats A, and is located in the ship's port side.

Right next to it is the Air Seats B area, which has aircraft-style seats on the ship's starboard side.

The walls in both areas are decorated with many beautiful frames themed after the ship and the islands which she serves. Here is a picture of the SUPERFERRY under the original livery of Golden Star Ferries, which had a different font compared to now.

Next to the aircraft-style seats is a small room consisting of the ship's onboard cinema hall. She is one of the very few ferries that have one in Greece. It was extremely popular during the start of her career on the Cyclades, and it is still used by passengers once in a while.

A view of the first-class lounge area, which is known as the Aphrodite Lounge. It features many white chairs and lounges, as well as a bar and many television screens.

A frame seen in Deck 6, which depicts a map of the Cyclades, with a particular focus on Andros, Tinos and Mykonos, which are the three islands that the SUPERFERRY II has been serving in every season of her career. We can also see the island of Syros, as well as Paros, Naxos and Donousa at the bottom. Furthermore, Kea, Kythnos and Serifos, the three Northernmost Western Cyclades islands, can be spotted.

The small area in Deck 6 that leads passengers to the Aphrodite Lounge, the outdoor area or the ship's cabins which are located in Deck 7.

A view of the alley leading to the ship's cabins in Deck 7. Popular during her spell on the Ostend-Dover line, their role has diminished in Greece, due to the ship primarily operating as a day ferry. However, they are occasionally booked by passengers. Two cabins are considered to be very luxurious, and are named 'Andros' and 'Mykonos' as a tribute to the two islands of the Cyclades.

After having seen all of the ship's indoor areas, I proceeded to check the outdoor areas. Here is the starboard side outdoor alley in Deck 6, which located right below the ship's lifeboats.

I then headed to Deck 7, which has a sun deck located in the ship's stern. It features many white chairs and tables.

Another view of the well-known sun deck in Deck 7.

The outdoor alley of Deck 7, as seen from the ship's starboard side. It features many chairs facing the sea and the lifeboats.

At 13:30, we departed Andros in order to head to Rafina. I was able to witness the ship's incredible speed, as she had already left the Gavrion Bay in less than ten minutes. Despite her age, the SUPERFERRY II still sails at the same speed as she did during the 1990s and 2000s.

I then proceeded to Deck 8, which has an outdoor open deck area, with many rows of blue chairs attached to the floor, hence giving a full view from the stern's angle.

The middle section of the open deck area in Deck 8, which has reserves of life jackets and the ship's iconic funnel. As it is the case with the ships of Golden Star Ferries, the back section of the funnel is painted in yellow, while the rest of the funnel has a dark blue background.

Passing by the ship's funnel in Deck 8.

The forward section of Deck 8, which has the bridge, the crew cabins, the galley and the mess room.

The port side alley of Deck 8 that leads to the ship's famed bridge. Both sides feature an outdoor area that can be accessed by the crew.

A view of the port side staircase leading passengers from Deck 7 to Deck 8. In front of it is one of the most famous highlights of the ship.

This highlight is the iconic front section balcony, located right above the ship's bow. It allows passengers to have a unique view of what the ship is facing. Even when she sails under strong winds, passengers are rarely disturbed by it. These balconies were added during the ship's spectacular conversion, and they surely contributed greatly to her success.

The ship does not only have this feature in Deck 7 (as seen above), but also in Deck 6, with passengers being much closer to her bow.

Another view of the front section balcony in Deck 7, which is were I stayed for the vast majority of the trip. While I did not see many ships, the trip remained very pleasant, and the SUPERFERRY II made it very comfortable and enjoyable. Moreover, she was sailing at such a high speed, that the coast of Attica would gradually appear to be closer and closer to the ship.

After passing by the dangerous Cavo Doro channel, we could now see the island of Evoia.

At some point, I spotted the containership MSC LUNA F of the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) sailing on the Aegean Sea. She was seen here from the balcony of the SUPERFERRY II.

Moments later, after the ship had passed by Southern Evoia and was now on the Petalioi Gulf, I spotted the veteran ferry EVIA STAR of Geraistos NE, which was heading from Marmari to Rafina.

Passing by the EVIA STAR, which is also heading towards Rafina. Built in 1980 in Japan, this ship was originally a Ro-Ro carrier, but, upon being acquired by Geraistos NE in 2000, she was converted into a passenger ferry. She began service on the Rafina-Marmari-Karystos line in 2001. Following another conversion during which she received sponsons in 2010, the ship was deployed on the Rafina-Marmari line, where she has since been remaining.

Crossing the EVIA STAR on the Petalioi Gulf, during her twentieth season in Greece. She is the ship with the second largest amount of experience in Rafina, after the SUPERFERRY II.

The EVIA STAR on her way towards Rafina.

After two hours and ten minutes, we had finally arrived in Rafina, our final destination. There, I saw the ship on which I had traveled just three days prior to my trip with the SUPERFERRY II, namely the THEOLOGOS P of Fast Ferries.

The THEOLOGOS P, a longtime rival of the SUPERFERRY II, seen docked in Rafina. Built in 2000 in Japan, she was bought in 2006 by Fast Ferries. After a conversion in Perama, she was deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 2007, becoming the flagship of Fast Ferries and the first ship of the company to operate on the Cyclades and on a service other than the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line (on which they were previously based) since 1979. Her introduction was extremely successful, and she is considered to be the main ferry carrying out the afternoon service from Rafina to the Cyclades.

The THEOLOGOS P seen in Rafina, in what was her fourteenth summer under Fast Ferries. During the 2017 season only, she operated on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line, thus performing the same service that the SUPERFERRY II had done during her first two seasons under Golden Star Ferries.

The THEOLOGOS P seen in Rafina as the SUPERFERRY II prepares to undergo her maneuvering procedure at 15:25. She is now the ship with the second largest amount of experience on the Rafina-Cyclades service, after the SUPERFERRY II. She is also the ship with the third largest amount of experience in Rafina, after the SUPERFERRY II and the EVIA STAR.

The THEOLOGOS P seen resting in the port of Rafina.

One last view of the THEOLOGOS P, as the SUPERFERRY II begins to dock next to her.

We immediately disembarked upon our arrival in Rafina. This marked the end of the trip and of the beautiful three-day spell that I had in Andros with my family. I was more than thrilled to have completed it by traveling with the unique SUPERFERRY II. For a Greek coastal service enthusiast, traveling onboard the SUPERFERRY II is like an Ancient Greece expert visiting Delos, Ancient Olympia or Delphi. She is truly a legend of the Greek coastal service, with many considering her the best ferry to have been present in Greek waters. I clearly got to see why such people have this view, as the ferry provides unique amenities, comfortable lounge areas, and spectacular outdoor areas, with notably the front section balconies that provide a magnificent view on the Aegean Sea. The ship's name, which has remained untouched despite operating under three different companies, clearly fits her capabilities, as she truly is a superferry, whether it is in terms of speed, comfort, sail-worthiness or passenger/vehicle capacity. This is a result of the smart conversion that she underwent upon her acquisition by Strintzis Lines, and it eventually kept her as one of the main ships of the Cyclades even as she is nearing three decades in her service. Despite her advanced age, which often comes into debates regarding her long-term future, she does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. In fact, her indoor areas are so modern, that they clearly do not indicate how old the ship actually is. She is lucky enough to operate for serious and ambitions owners, who actively seek to extend their services on the Cyclades by buying impressive ships, which is all thanks to the success that she generated them and which set the tone for greater things to come.

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