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ANEK’s Olympic Champion-ship 

ANEK’s Olmpic Champion berthed at the Port of Patras

One might think that we exaggerate with this title, but we don’t. Nothing is by chance and this year, the actual year of the Olympic Games, the Bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence, the year we begin to make a breakthrough with Covid-19, we have yet another alignment – as in 2018 when we sailed with ANEK’s Hellenic Spirit from Patras, Greece to Ancona, Italy and that was more than a banner year! 

Check-in at ANEK’s Patras office with Ms Christina Antoniou

Due to Covid, we have “lost” last year a 12-day cruise from north Europe to the Med which we won at the Oinoussian Benevolent Fund’s Ball in London, but in October 2021 we were more than fortunate to have another memorable passage from Greece to Italy and get a bit of a happy time thanks to ANEK’s Olympic Champion, her managers, master, and crew! 

“Olympic Champion”‘s Athina Filippidi recheking us before boarding

As the pandemic continues, it is not only the cruise industry, but the coastal ro-ro / cruise ferry sector that has suffered – and to the tune of billions of dollars in losses.. the business model is struggling and will take time for a full recovery, but at least proves to be the safest means of transport given the regulatory observance to prevent humans and animals from spreading this infectious virus. Much tonnage worldwide has been left idle, creating also social chaos, particularly to nations with island trades – such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, and many in the Caribbean to mention but a few. Shipping-related service businesses were also badly affected, and many have gone under…  Moreover, it is worth mentioning that whilst cargoships continued to sail with full loads where possible, the passenger, ro-ro and ferries and their tonnage combinations saw a fall in passenger numbers of up to 98 centum because of the despicable Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions by governments on travel. The introduction of protocols was and continue to be better observed by maritime than in any other means of transport as per the traditional ‘ship-shape and Bristol fashion’!

Inside the vessel’s multi-story garage

After a three-hour drive from Athens Riviera, we arrived at the South Port of Patras – North-west Peloponnese and entered the check-in section of its international passenger terminal. All in order following the examination of our travel and health documents in compliance with Covid-19 protocols as well as that of Casper, our little dog, by ANEK’s experienced and courteous personnel. 

At the reception; all ship-shape!

We then drove to the end of the pier where the Olympic Champion was berthed. Another thorough check by deck-officer Athena Filippidi before going up the stern ramp and then down to the well-lit garage where, as in our previous experience, we were assisted by the ship’s specialist parking team. 

A view at the stern overlooking the swimming pools

We took our little trolley bags and Casper and headed in an ample lift to level 8 at the reception to collect our cabin keys. The cabin crew – like all crew members wearing masks, all lined-up awaiting passengers at the ship’s reception – led by Ms Eleni Vasilaki, the chief receptionist, who welcomed us with a charming smile and Ms Ourania (Rania), who ushered us to our cabin, a special purpose outer cabin to accommodate also our little Maltese doggy, Casper the invisible!  Ms Rania told us that we could have an upgrade if we felt the cabin was small and offered a VIP cabin at level ten… subject to same being available. She came back to us, and the upgrade was to our surprise a five-star cabin at the starboard side which you can only get on a luxury cruise-ship! An ultra-king-size bed, a bar, an office desk, a library, a double wardrobe, and a king-size round coffee table, with comfortable armchairs… you name it! And what a bathroom/ shower-room that was, fully equipped with top of the range toiletries, needless to mention the ultra-soft cotton towels, mats, and bath-slippers!

With Anny Zade just before sailing

We took a shower and a small rest before going for our usual expedition around this 200 m long vessel – the aft deck featuring ample space and swimming pools. This vessel and her sister-ship have swimming facilities for all ages, built with the safe lay-outs and comforts that you can only witness on purpose-built cruise ships.

Anny Zade with Casper getting …familiarised

Afterwards we had to return to get ready for dinner and to check the news and the site whilst Anny went to purchase internet Wi-Fi cards… She come back with a happy smile, as the chief steward, Vasilis Thomopoulos, whom we met back in 2018 on board the Hellenic Spirit, had recognised her. This is what counts most: human relations and a keen interest in the wellbeing of passengers!

Stewardess Rania assisting Anny Zade

We had an excellent complimentary dinner offered by ANEK’s management and master at the self-service restaurant where all health including Covid protocols were met as well as observed. On this or indeed any marine floating object, the two most important issues for ease of mind are good food and accessible correspondence and mail.

Cheers! (Stin Iyia sas) Στην Υγεια σας

The food, home- …err ship-made was excellent. Ships’ cooks are renowned for their marvellous culinary capabilities that keep everybody happy. We had a couple of glasses of chilled Cretan Rosé from the Pnevmatikakis winery; very tranquil, deliciously smooth, and appropriate for our taste…

Barman Spiros

Internet specialist Sophia Harambati came to help us as we had some internet connection issues: immediate response and fast solution!

Here comes the Sun

A good night’s sleep – didn’t attend the call at the Port of Igoumenitsa – we needed a refreshing rest as we had ahead of us to drive a couple of thousand miles with only two pre-planned stops. It was bed, bath and beyond thanks to the company’s wellness ethos!

A humorous Anny Zade heading for breakfast

Daybreak saw us on level 10 to watch the sun rising from the western Balkans: magnificent – a moment we love to observe for years doing this and other crossings!

Passing-by from the vessel’s chapel before breakfast to pay our respects to St. Nicholas and the All Holy Mother of God

Early morning breakfast, beyond your imagination – not British, not Continental but Cretan Greek; needless to say, the service and manners of the waiter and waitress crew were fantastic and might I insist of the utmost professional standards!

Early morning breakfast with Anny Zade being served by Ms Rania under the watchful eye of the ever present Chief Steward Vassilis Thomopoulos

A bit of work back at the cabin tackling some bureaucratic issues with respect to the forms to be completed to transit via the Eurotunnel… while Anny was preoccupied with the site and Casper feeling on home-sea grounds – he got immediately familiarised and his sea-legs…

Last time round we couldn’t meet the master as we had been close to arrival time in Ancona so this time, we did it earlier: just before lunch we were taken to the bridge where we met Captain George Takoglou who has been with ANEK for just over 17 (seventeen) years! The chief engineer Yioryos Koumpiadis was also present as well as the deck officers on watch including a female officer; highlighting diversity at its best!!

Lunchtime and a goodbye to all…

Here’s to you

In our humble view and given today’s circumstances but also – hopefully post-Covid-19 — this vessel and her sistership can be used or hired as summer party extravaganza venues. You can look no further with these vessels’ impressive facilities where you can entertain everyone – all ages included. Corporate events for two up to three or four nights can be a thrilling experience without a doubt.

Our fellow passengers had included tourists from all over Europe, mainly families and couples as well as small student groups, many drivers from the logistics chain and a few businesspeople. Worth mentioning that all behaved excellently in keeping the Covid-19 protocols and we must praise the crew’s continuous observance with masks and distances.

Entering Ancona

What an arrival in Ancona that was; the synchronised manoeuvre by the master for stern berthing, which left all passengers in the outer decks ecstatic given the size of the ship – 204 m LOA, given the congested port with many piers for its size in close distance. Seamanship at its best with an excellent pivot. Add the stunning views of this historic Italian seaport with dozens of listed buildings – a great sight-seeing experience so to speak.

Before disembarking we thanked every single seafarer who looked after us, going down to the ship’s garage and leaving for our road trip via Novara and Versailles to London.

All …decked-out viewing Ancona

Lastly, as on our trip with the Hellenic Spirit, in keeping with the demands and expectations of the times, the ship was governed – we were more than pleased to observe – by ANEK’s keen attention to both environmental and health considerations, especially its Covid policies; an example for all!

Anny Zade upon arrival in Ancona

Ships are like watches: watch makers are incredible people making incredible mechanisms; equally naval architects and interior designers build incredible ships. The Olympic Champion and her sister Hellenic Spirit are rare examples of their kind.

A big Thank you to all at ANEK onboard / ashore

Aeolus, the …wind-master was gently quiet throughout the crossing, sending us all the way his sea-breeze messages… Plain sailing at its best assisted by the ship’s construction apparatus – the name of the game.

Once again, a great experience and many congratulations to all our Sea-wise Ambassadors who keep Greek coastal and international shipping at its best.

NB.1 The Olympic Spirit: built in Fosen Shipyards, Norway in 2000 – a millennium ship – carries 1,833 passengers out of which 203 in aircraft seats; 808 beds; 605 cars; LOA 204 m; breadth 25.8 m; speed 30 knots  A state of the art specimen, particularly when you think that she’s 21 years old. She was already an advanced vessel when commissioned.

This ship was inaugurated by an Olympic champion, and she’s able to make the Italy-Greece crossing, from Ancona to Igoumenitsa, in only 15 hours. She’s also suitable for passengers with special needs and has shops for gifts, garments and other consumers’ goods. There are also slot machines as well as camping onboard

She’s a real marvel of super-modern technology: for her automation, the comfort offered to passengers and her speed, deriving from four main engines.

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www.anek.gr

https://www.anek.gr/en/vessel/hsf-olympic-champion/

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