BLUE AEGEAN Blog, Part Five: AEGEAN Blog, Ctd.

In this restored Sea Treks quintet of blogs from 2007, Peter Knego embarked on pair of cruises in the Aegean aboard two since-scrapped cruise ships, Monarch Classic Cruises MV BLUE MONARCH (ex RENAISSANCE, WORLD RENAISSANCE, etc.) and Golden Star Cruises SS AEGEAN tWO (ex AUSONIA, IVORY). This fifth blog concludes aboard the gorgeous AEGEAN tWO with visits to Kusadasi, Patmos, Heraklion and Santorini .

Keep up to date with Peter Knego on Twitter by clicking here

THE SANDS OF ALANG: Peter Knego’s new DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2007 unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I was not up on deck for our dawn arrival at Kusadasi, taking advantage of a full night’s sleep in my cozy berth. When I did awake at 8:30, I visited the buffet for a light breakfast by the pool. It was a reasonably warm and breezy morning. The port, which was practically full on our prior visit, was host only to AEGEAN tWO and OCEAN MONARCH. I grabbed the laptop and headed to the terminal, where the friendly internet center operator remembered me. As I left, he gave me an “anti-evil eye” magnet and a sticker with the Turkish flag. In addition to that kindness, his assistant came running up as I was going through security to give me my hat, which I carelessly left draped over my chair. Such gestures form lasting impressions.

Back on board, there was another absolutely delicious buffet with a variety of Greek salads, tender chicken, roasted pork, an assortment of steamed vegetables, pilaf, and burgers on the grill. I gnawed away at my usual salad menagerie as we backed into the calm waters and made our turn southward into Samos Strait.

Mast and funnel. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Mast and funnel. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Tripod to the sun. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Tripod to the sun. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Curves and shadows. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007
Curves and shadows. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007
Finbetween. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Finbetween. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Sunlit superstructure. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Sunlit superstructure. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

I had another sun-drenched afternoon to wander about photographing AEGEAN tWO’s poetic features, secret curves and crannies from another era.

Mahogany blue. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Mahogany blue. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

After passing Samos (this time, unfortunately, not encountering PERLA), backlit Patmos was on the horizon. The water around us was so magnificent, I made a pact to stay out of the internet cafe and spend some time in the Aegean. Cameras, of course, would be permitted.

Perfection in Patmos. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Perfection in Patmos. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

The tender made its usual arc along the port side of the ship, turning away to provide a perfect view of our AEGEAN tWO, whose Italian beauty, like Sophia Loren, resonates ever the better with age. No other ships, aside from AEGEAN tWO’s rival, the OCEAN MONARCH, would populate little Patmos town this afternoon.

Patmos paradise. Photo and copright Peter Knego 2007.
Patmos paradise. Photo and copright Peter Knego 2007.
Patmos boats. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Patmos boats. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

For 18 Euros, we hired a cab to take us to a beach two or three coves away, where I sought shade under a scraggly tree in the brittle, dusty sand, away from a community of umbrellas and cushioned deck chairs. Barren, rocky slopes were behind and to either side of us and the bow of a brilliant white yacht bobbed behind the nearest promontory, Once in the cool, crystalline Aegean blue, with feet dangling over a sea bed of kelp, coral, and tiny fish, I felt renewed. Later, a lovely breeze billowed through Patmos town as we drank a cold beer and consumed another gyro, perused the sparsely populated shops, and finally returned to the ship.

AEGEAN Jacuzzi on aft Bahia Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007
AEGEAN Jacuzzi on aft Bahia Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007
AEGEAN Gym. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007
AEGEAN Gym. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007

A note from AEGEAN tWO’s captain, Nikos Giannokopoulos, was waiting for us when we returned to cabin 39, requesting we contact reception after departing Patmos at 9:00 PM. I had time to ogle our teak decks, admire the always-fetching OCEAN MONARCH across from us and work out quickly in the gym (which is small but has a reasonably good selection of weights and cardio machines) before we headed to dinner at 8:00.

Greek salad on Greek Night. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Greek salad on Greek Night. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

The maitre’d informed us we were having dinner with the captain at 10:00, but we were very hungry and managed to sneak in a “preview” dinner to tide us over. The Greek Night menu was exactly what I was hoping for, with a selection of dishes from appetizers (dolmatae, olives, spicy meatballs, calamari), avgolemono soup, Greek salad, a tender chicken entrée, and a selection of baklava for dessert.

”Zorba” on Greek Night. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
”Zorba” on Greek Night. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Cruise director extraordinaire and Greek Night emcee, Giorgios Nakos. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Cruise director extraordinaire and Greek Night emcee, Giorgios Nakos. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

We head to the Greek Night show, which featured a combination of the Romanian entertainment team and the crew. Excellent musicianship, dancing and singing was provided by all concerned, but the Voyager bartender, adroitly nicknamed “Zorba”, stole the show with his acrobatic Greek Flashdancing.

Christopher was exhausted by our long, adventurous day and retreated to the cabin while I returned to the dining room to be joined by a nice father and son from Germany, Klaus-Georg Koth Sr. and Jr., who happened to be avid ship enthusiasts. I envied them for booking two cruises in a row so that they could spend a full week on the AEGEAN tWO. Captain Giannokopoulos (who had served on a wonderful variety of vessels from CITY OF MYKONOS and CITY OF RHODOS to STELLA OCEANIS and OCEAN MONARCH) and Staff Captain Darakis Georgios soon joined us for a great time talking about ships and Greece. The friendly captain has a devoted interest in the history of AUSONIA/AEGEAN tWO as well as a respect and appreciation for her aesthetic beauty and solid construction.

We adjourned to the pulsating disco soundscape of the Voyager Bar for an after dinner drink before it was time for the officers to return to their charge and the rest of us to retire for the night.

Sunday, August 24, 2007:

This morning offered another chance to sleep in, but not late enough to miss the breakfast buffet on deck in Heraklion. One nice feature about the AEGEAN tWO’s buffet is that coffee and tea are always available, even when the meal service is not.

KNOSSOS PALACE kicks up the seas as she charges out of Heraklion. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
KNOSSOS PALACE kicks up the seas as she charges out of Heraklion. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Compared to the prior visit, Heraklion was rather sleepy. The OCEAN MONARCH was berthed nearby and the powerful and handsome new KNOSSOS PALACE was directly across the pier, fuming like the Minotaur as she readied for departure. Her lines were quickly loosened and her car deck hydraulically retrieved before she maneuvered past us and into the Aegean for another high speed crossing.

AEGEAN tWO followed just after 11:00 AM with the assistance of a large tug. A strong wind managed to temper the sun’s roasting rays as I wandered about admiring and documenting all aspects of the rare steamship.

Captain Giannokopoulos on the port wing. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Captain Giannokopoulos on the port wing. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
AEGEAN TWO’s wheelhouse, facing port. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
AEGEAN tWO’s wheelhouse, facing port. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Italian wheelhouse window. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Italian wheelhouse window. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Starboard wing, facing starboard. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Starboard wing, facing starboard. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Grate photo/teak underfoot. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Grate photo/teak underfoot. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

The captain signaled from the bridge wing that I could come up to document the wheelhouse, allowing me a generous amount of time to maneuver between the working officers to capture original features such as the Grinell sprinkler panel, the brass speaking tubes and wheel. The original telegraphs were replaced in the 1980s refit which saw the addition of a modern console.

Bone in teeth from the tip of nose. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Bone in teeth from the tip of nose. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Face to face. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Face to face. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

We climbed up to the flying bridge, but the high winds and strong backlight were not conducive to photography. Then, the captain accompanied me to the fo’c’sle, allowing me to get my “face” shot and even suggested I try to get some footage of her bow cutting through the waves from the side of her forward bulwarks. He seemed as pleased as me that it was being captured for posterity.

Mounds of Greek salad, perfectly cooked fettuccine with mushrooms and tomato sauce and a cappuccino (in the shelter of the Kontiki Bar) followed, and then we were in the rocky roads off Santorini. Thira’s cataclismic, volcanic beauty will never get tiresome, although I had chosen to enjoy a low key afternoon on board the empty ship.

GOLDEN PRINCE at Santorini. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
GOLDEN PRINCE at Santorini. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
ROYAL IRIS at Santorini. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
ROYAL IRIS at Santorini. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

We steamed into the caldera with the OCEAN MONARCH behind us and the Turkish ferry SAMSUN converging from the east. Ahead, in a panorama of pumice and pristine blue, lay the anchored THE EMERALD (ex SANTA ROSA, REGENT RAINBOW) and the INSIGNIA. The GOLDEN PRINCE and ROYAL IRIS (ex EAGLE, AZUR) were tied up at the buoys under the striated cliffs.

My plan to take an early tender ashore for footage of AEGEAN tWO backfired when I found the hired tenders just make one-way trips before running off to other ships or the harbor at the opposite side of the caldera. I suppose there are worse things than spending a few hours on Santorini! I joined Christopher at the internet cafe across from the cable car station at the top and savored an eagle-eye view of the GOLDEN PRINCE, ROYAL IRIS and INSIGNIA departing as little tenders cut across the deep blue waters, their wakes like comet tails. SAMSUN and AEGEAN tWO eventually maneuvered over to the buoys as we rode the cable car back down.

Since they almost always fall on the final night of these Piraeus-based cruises, my visits to Santorini are taking on a Pavlovian sense of weariness. Thoughts of packing, good byes, and the realization that a horrible air plane awaits mix with the awe of the surrounding beauty. A particularly delightful cruise on what was possibly my favorite ship amplified the conflict of emotions.

Once back aboard, there was time for a short work out. I shared the gym with one of the dancers, who sweetly asked if I wanted to use the treadmill before she started.

At 8:00 PM, Christopher and I headed up to the Kontiki Bar for the deck buffet. There could be nothing more magical than being anchored in Santorini’s caldera, sun setting over the former AUSONIA’s racy, sleek upper decks, with a nearly full moon rising above the volcanic wall behind us.

From sanctuary to sunset in Santorini. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
From sanctuary to sunset in Santorini. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Moonlit sculpture. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Moonlit sculpture. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Buffet fit for the gods. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Buffet fit for the gods. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Although I had a comfortable seat and a plate full of delicious Greek specialties, I had to run around one last time with my sweet little Canon SD800 and take some atmospheric twilight shots. By the time I returned, the last tender was alongside, the sun nothing more than an indigo memory across the caldera, and the moon and the lights of Thira town were suspended in the sky above us. The bow lights were switched off and lines released as AEGEAN tWO edged forward. On the dimly lit, breezy terrace, we indulged our appetites for morsels steeped in olive oil, feta, oregano and lemon juice under the spectacular panorama.

From Romania to REGAL EMPRESS and AEGEAN TWO, Roman dances and choreographs across the seven seas. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
From Romania to REGAL EMPRESS and AEGEAN tWO, Roman dances and choreographs across the seven seas. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Trifon and Tataniya team up for a song. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.
Trifon and Tataniya team up for a song. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Packing went quickly, allowing plenty of time to secure good seats in the Discovery Lounge to enjoy freshly popped corn and an excellent show from the diverse and talented entertainment team. A nice plus is that the non-smoking areas are politely but firmly kept smoke-free so that everyone, regardless of their stance on tobacco, can enjoy the show.

In this day and age with the homogenization and monopolization of cruising by just a handful of major operators and the onslaught of huge, prefabricated ships with every possible amenity to distract passengers from the natural wonders of being at sea, it was such a treat to have Golden Star and the AEGEAN tWO.

With this in mind, Christopher and I circled that wonderful teak promenade one more time, savored the moonlit seas off our port stern, retired to the cozy creakiness of our amber-lit wood paneled cabin and let the high frequency hum of those CRDA turbines lull us to sleep for one more night.

Monday, August 27, 2007:

At 7:00 AM the air of Piraeus was hot and heavy. Fires were raging throughout Attica and Peleponessos as we left our beautiful ship behind. The shuttle bus circled the bow of the lovely OCEANIC II before dropping us off at the terminal and our multi-hurtle course homeward.

End of BLUE AEGEAN Blog

Very special thanks: Mr. Yiannis A. Angelopoulos, Spiros Christodoulatos, Martin Cox, Captain Nikos Eleftheriou, Captain Nikos Giannokopoulos, Darakis Georgios, Stephanie Kokkali, Christopher Kyte, Bianca LeMoeul, Chantal Lundgren, Giorgios Nakos, Staff Captain Nikolaos, Maria Panopoulou

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 www.midshipcentury.com 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

Latest posts by Peter Knego (see all)

One Comment

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

MENU
login