Classic Aegean On LOUIS OLYMPIA, Part Three

Peter Knego wraps up his four night journey from Piraeus to the Greek Islands aboard Louis Cruises’ LOUIS OLYMPIA with visits to Rhodes, Heraklion and Santorini.

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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Rhodes is a fantastic island, replete with spectacular vistas of the sea, gorgeous beaches, a myriad of ancient cultures and history and a wonderful place to shop or grab a bite in a local tavern. I have done every tour possible, including Lindos, Kamiros, Ialysos, walks through the medieval fortress and shuttles to various beaches, so this would be a day to catch up on blogs and get some stories filed. It was also blazing hot, hovering in the 100 degree range when I awoke.

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Just as I decided to wander ashore, an incoming ship had me digging out the cameras back out. The little ORIENT QUEEN 2 was best known as Plantours’ VISTAMAR and was sold last year to Lebanese-owned Abou Mehri Cruises who seem to have a fondness for the name ORIENT QUEEN. Since their former ORIENT QUEEN (ex STARWARD) is now Louis’ ORIENT QUEEN (soon to be renamed LOUIS AURA) they had to add a “2” on the newest incarnation. To make things even more confusing, the ORIENT QUEEN — the one you will be reading about in the next blog — was berthed off our port side and the incoming “2” would snuggle up to our stern. LOUIS OLYMPIA was literally in an ORIENT QUEEN sandwich. I can only wonder how many people would return to the wrong ship that evening.

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Rhodes cafe view.

Seeking out every bit of shade on the way, I walked into the old town and set up shop in a little cafe, watching the crowds roll by through wafts of cigarette smoke.

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Reality in Rhodes.

A group of video camera-clad guys darted in and took over the table behind me. Soon, a gregarious Greek girl and her make up crew popped in and they began shooting a segment for a Greek reality show. Between her lipstick breaks, the guys asked everyone in the cafe to “just act normal and not look at the camera” as they carried on. The realities of “reality”.

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Captain Romeos.

Work posted and/or filed, I headed back to the ship. It looked like the “real” ORIENT QUEEN would be the first to go but some of our lines had to be released before hers could be freed. ORIENT QUEEN’s gangway was hoisted and she was impatiently puffing smoke from her uptakes but then, suddenly, the game changed and we switched into departure mode. Within minutes, Captain Romeos had LOUIS OLYMPIA’s gangway up and lines released. Out on the wing, he began his seemingly effortless maneuvering and before we knew it, we were en route to Heraklion.

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Classical recital.

Before dinner, I dropped in at the Oklahoma Lounge where a classical concerto was being held by pianist Stanislav Stanchev and violinist Yuri Sapotichnyi. It was superb, well-attended, much enjoyed.

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Louis Cruises’ Executive Chef Ioannis.

I laid the cameras to rest for a wonderful dinner with the good captain, the staff captain, Louis Cruises’ Executive Chef Ioannia, two delightful couples from South Carolina and the quietest baby girl I have ever had the pleasure of dining with.

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Slivers of roasted eggplant drizzled in olive oil.

And, to make it even more perfect, there was an eggplant selection on the menu.

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Towel blossom.

Meanwhile, back in 7003, Adriana had concocted a fabulous towel blossom for me to sleep by.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

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Exiting Heraklion.

Choices must be made on these intense Aegean circuits. Fortunately, I had visited Knossos Palace in Crete a few years ago, so for me, Heraklion was a sacrificial lamb in exchange for some rest. I decided to sleep in with no holds barred and found myself conscious at 9:45. With barely an hour before “all aboard”, I raced ashore, slurped a cappuccino and uploaded via fast wifi waves in the terminal cafe. Woe betide anyone trying to steal those quick Cretan signals without buying a drink first…

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Catching up with the QUEEN…

When I got to the upper decks, our “neighbor”, the “real” ORIENT QUEEN (which had overtaken us the night before) was loosening her lines and backing into Heraklion harbor. We followed suit and set a 0 degree northbound course for Santorini. The two fleetmates seem to enjoy racing each other and this time, it was LOUIS OLYMPIA’s turn to take the eventual lead.

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Passing the QUEEN in the Caldera.

When we reached the outer fringes of Santorini’s spectacular caldera, LOUIS OLYMPIA was well ahead of the ORIENT QUEEN.

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Chief engineer Michail Zoas.

My appointment with Chief Engineer Zoas looked as though it would eclipse a visit to Santorini, which was fine since I enjoy the view from below almost as much as that from above. The chief began his passenger ship career on Celebrity’s ZENITH and has worked on all three CENTURY class ships and all five of the SOLSTICE class (curiously, no MILLENNIUM ships) but it seems as though the relatively little LOUIS OLYMPIA has stolen his heart. “These Wartsila diesels are the very best machines I have ever worked with. They are so well designed and are as good as new — better than what you will find on most newbuilds.”

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I did get a peek at those spotless Wartsila diesels but promised to not show them here, although I am permitted to share a view of the control room.

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Lava fang at Santorini.

With one last tender still loading, I grabbed the computer bag and cameras and hopped on board.

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Layers of Fira Town.

Few places in the world have the emotional impact and stunningly raw beauty of Santorini. Its jagged pumice cliffs are mere fragments of a massive volcano whose explosion in approximately 1500 B.C. was one of the greatest cataclysms in human history.

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Rising moon over ashen cliffs.

The intense blues of sky and sea in the surrounds of Santorini are unrivaled.

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LOUIS OLYMPIA from Cafe Ios, Santorini.

No messy donkey climb or cable car for me today. Just a big bottle of water, another cappuccino and some high speed wifi at the Cafe Ios, thank you. The sea was close by and the caldera was filled with a trio of handsome ships, including Windstar’s WIND STAR, in addition to the dynamic Louis duo.

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LOUIS OLYMPIA in the caldera.

After an hour or so, I grabbed a top deck tender seat and relished the breeze as we sped back towards the LOUIS OLYMPIA. It was fun watching fellow passengers’ awestruck looks as we passed under those ominous cliffs.

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Post sunset glow in the caldera.

As the caldera waters are extremely deep, most ships, including the OLYMPIA and ORIENT QUEEN drift about, exchanging places during their Santorini calls. Only the little WIND STAR actually anchored that day and she looked quite magnificent in the sunset’s afterglow.

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Switchbacks beyond the ORIENT QUEEN.

On the wing for one last time, I bid “tikanis” to the LOUIS OLYMPIA’s fine officers, some of whom I am honored to know are regular MaritimeMatters readers.

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Oiya over wing.

As we passed the outcrop of Oiya, I headed down to pack. Early the following morning, I would be disembarking, although I will save my final goodbye for an upcoming blog since I expect to see the OLYMPIA again in a few days from the vantage of the equally-if-not-more delightful ORIENT QUEEN.

End Of Classic Aegean Cruising Aboard The LOUIS OLYMPIA

Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Nicholas Filippides, Captain George Koumpenas, Michalis Maratheftis, Captain Stathis Romeos, Nic Spanoudes

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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