The ship that commenced a cruise revolution in the Aegean:
The Ship that Commenced the Popular 4 & 4 Day Cruises to the Greek Islands. When Two cruises were Combined it became a 7 Day Aegean-Grand Circle Cruise!
Today we look into the early days of long established Epirotiki Lines. Epirotiki Lines was known for purchasing second hand ships in order to enter a brand new market of operating a cruise service around the Greek Islands, which they were the very first to establish!
The Epirotiki Story in Brief:
The Epirotiki Shipping Line began when Mr. Anastassios Potamianos commenced his first shipping venture in 1850 by transporting both cargo and passengers along the River Danube between the Island of Cephalonia and the City of Braila. Assisting Mr. Potamianos was his nephew, Giorgos Potamianos.
When Anastassios Potamianos passed away in 1902, Giorgos took over control of the company and took the emblem of the Byzantine Cross as the company’s trademark, and changed the company name to Epirotiki. In 1916 Giorgos moved to the new centre of shipping of Piraeus, acquiring his first steam powered ship. By 1926 the company owned 15 passenger vessels ranging between 800 to 1,500 GRT (Gross Registered Tons).
Considering the Potamianos family had been in the shipping industry since 1850, it took them just over one hundred years to enter to enter their company Epirotiki Lines into operating passenger services.
In fact Epirotiki pioneered cruises in the Aegean Sea working in conjunction with the “Hellenic National Tourist” Office and establishing round cruises to the Greek Islands and Eastern Mediterranean. In order to do this they obtained a 1935 built ship from Elder Dempster Lines being a passenger-Cargo ship in 1953 and this was the beginning of the passenger services for Epirotiki Lines, thus this page will tell the story of this very special ship!
Epirotiki Lines obtained the MS Calabar in 1953 for £42,000 (English Pounds) and took her to Greece where she was given a comprehensive refit and a partial rebuild to become a cruise ship. On Bridge Deck, the Bridge was modernized, whilst forward on Promenade Deck there was now a large deck space covering what used to be, where hold number two had been, for it had been removed and it was now used for accommodations, etc. The Dining Room had gone and the Lounge had now stretched right across the ship, for a new Dining Room had been relocated down on Main Deck where the hold area used to be. Only a few cabins had private facilities such as a toilet and a shower. And the ships passenger capacity was around 80, although I am unable to obtain confirmation of her early numbers.
Epirotiki pioneered cruises in the Aegean Sea, working in conjunction with the “Hellenic National Tourist” Office and establishing specialty cruises to the Greek Islands and Eastern Mediterranean.
Thus the main purpose of obtaining this particular ship and rebuilding her into a cruise ship in order that Epirotiki could pioneer this, being a new market, which had not been greatly explored previously, and the Semiramis was the very first cruise ship to do so! She was indeed the pioneering ship that commenced the entire Aegean Island cruise business and has created 3 and 4 days cruises, which could be combined to make an unpatrolled week-long voyage. Ports of call included gems such as; Delos, Skiathos, Rhodes, Mykonos, Crete and much more! On the 7 day cruise the passenger would encounter, the Minoan, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Medieval and Byzantine and all this in the comfort of this fine classic intimate yacht like ship! The Semiramis commenced her cruises in 1955 and she certainly became a rapid success and she needed further public rooms as well as cabins!
Major early 1960s Rebuild:
However, it was not long after Epirotiki realised that they needed to upgrade the Semiramis extensively, and thus in the early 1960s she underwent an extensive rebuilding programme and yet another refit, bringing her up to the required standard that was required for a far higher standard of cruising!
Far forward, directly above the “new Main Lounge” was the spacious new “Solarium,” being a popular Deck space used for relaxing as well as for viewing when entered a fascinating port of call, such as one of the magnificent White Greek Islands!
Aft there were six cabins all with Private Facilities, two were located portside forward and these could only be entered from the deck outside, and thus passengers in these cabins needed to walk to the aft housing where the other cabins were and enter the hall head down the stairs to Promenade Deck for the Lounges, or Main Deck to the Dining Room.
Major changes had taken place at the forward part of the Promenade Deck, for the superstructure was stretched forward over the previous hold number 2, that was already covered in her original refit and rebuilding, thus it just required strengthening of the flooring and the building new housing that created a brand new spacious lounge, having windows on three sides. Although there was a great deal of glass on the inner wall as there were glass doors and windows separating the venue to the Smoking Room and Bar directly aft. Aft of the public rooms were nine cabins all with all with private facilities. Far aft there was a spacious deck area as well as a Swimming Pool, a Solarium, and Medical Centre in the aft housing.
Far forward was the spacious Dining Room, which was located somewhat to starboard directly below the Main Lounge over ex hold one. Aft of the Dining Room, on the starboard side were seventeen cabins as well as a Card Room and a Beauty Parlour. Nine of these had Facilities.
This Deck contained cabins fore and aft. Around 28 out of 74 cabins had private facilities, although six of those cabins on A Deck had a shower only.
Upon completion she looked a smart little ship with her buff hull, gleaming white superstructure, her two tall main masts combined with and her yellow funnel, with a big blue band around it with the traditional yellow Epirotiki logo on both sides, and along the waterline her red boot topping. She was now registered at Piraeus and at 1,964 GRT.
The Semiramis received several further refits, one in 1966 and whilst having her annual service she received a sprucing her up with new carpets and soft furnishings in 1970. Upon completion she commenced seven day cruises from Piraeus to the Aegean islands as well as to Turkey!
The Semiramis proved to be extremely popular, even though she was far from being a luxurious ship. Yet she offered the right cruise programme with all the exciting ports and the ship had an intimate nautical atmosphere offering excellent service and passengers enjoyed the best of cuisine!
Her Final Days:
Thus Epirotiki used there first faithful small cruise ship for a good 26 years, but finally in 1979 she was chartered to a Saudi Company “Shobokshi Maritime” who relocated her to the Middle East” where she was used as a workers’ accommodation ship. However when the charter expired she was sold to a Singaporean breaker to be broken up and she departed for Singapore in February 1980.
MV Semiramis arrived in April at the breakers Yards in Singapore of the National Ship breakers, Pty, however, work did not commence until October and thus breaking was not finished until February 1981, being 46 years after the MS Calabar departed on her maiden voyage.
Specifications for 1 = MS Calabar & 2 = MV Semiramis:
Name: 1. MS Calabar III – 1935-53.
Operator: Elder Dempster Lines.
Name: 2. MV Semiramis.
Operator: Epirotiki Lines 1953 – 1997.
Built by: by Harland & Wolff, Belfast in 1935.
Tonnage: 1. 1,933 GRT.
. 2. 1,964 GRT.
Length: 249.4ft – 75.9m.
Beam: 41.2ft – 12.5m.
Draught: 16.3ft – 4.95m.
Engines: Five cylinder Burmeister & Wain-type diesel by the builders.
Screws: Single – 1,400 BHP.
Speed: 10 knots.
Accommodations: 1. 40 First Class, 12 Second Class passengers
. 2. 185 One Class.
Passenger Decks: 1. 3.
. 2. 4.
There was no doubt that the MV Semiramis encouraged Epirotiki Lines to enter into an upmarket cruise programme and thus back in the early 1960s they decided to commence a search for a ship that they could convert into an all first class product, and they soon found one in 1964, this was the ship that would become the luxury cruise ship the MS Argonaut.
“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores. I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”
Το MV Semiramis: Ένα από τα πρώτα κρουαζιερόπλοια στην Ελλάδα:
Το MV Semiramis ξεκίνησε μια επανάσταση κρουαζιέρας στο Αιγαίο. Ξεκίνησε τις δημοφιλείς κρουαζιέρες 4 & 4 ημερών στα ελληνικά νησιά. Όταν συνδυάστηκαν δύο κρουαζιέρες έγινε 7ήμερη Aegean-Grand Circle Cruise!
Η Epirotiki Lines απέκτησε το MS Calabar το 1953 για £ 42.000 (Αγγλικές λίβρες) και την πήρε στην Ελλάδα όπου της δόθηκε μια ολοκληρωμένη ανακαίνιση και μερική ανακατασκευή για να γίνει κρουαζιερόπλοιο. Η Epirotiki Lines είναι γνωστή για την αγορά μεταχειρισμένων πλοίων προκειμένου να εισέλθει σε μια ολοκαίνουργια αγορά λειτουργίας μιας υπηρεσίας κρουαζιέρας γύρω από τα Ελληνικά νησιά, την οποία ήταν οι πρώτοι που ίδρυσαν!
Η Ηπειρωτική πρωτοστάτησε στις κρουαζιέρες στο Αιγαίο Πέλαγος, σε συνεργασία με το Γραφείο «Ελληνικός Τουριστικός Οργανισμός» και την πραγματοποίηση εξειδικευμένων κρουαζιέρας στα Ελληνικά Νησιά και την Ανατολική Μεσόγειο. Έτσι, ο κύριος σκοπός της απόκτησης αυτού του συγκεκριμένου πλοίου και της μετατροπής του σε κρουαζιερόπλοιο, ώστε η Ηπειρωτική να μπορούσε να το πρωτοπορήσει, είναι μια νέα αγορά, η οποία δεν είχε εξερευνηθεί προηγουμένως και το Semiramis ήταν το πρώτο κρουαζιερόπλοιο που το έκανε! Ήταν πράγματι το πρωτοπόρο πλοίο που ξεκίνησε ολόκληρη την κρουαζιέρα στα νησιά του Αιγαίου και δημιούργησε κρουαζιέρες 3 και 4 ημερών, οι οποίες θα μπορούσαν να συνδυαστούν για να κάνουν ένα μη ελεγχόμενο ταξίδι μιας εβδομάδας. Οι θύρες κλήσεων περιλάμβαναν πολύτιμους λίθους όπως: Δήλος, Σκιάθος, Ρόδος, Μύκονος, Κρήτη και πολλά άλλα! Στην 7ήμερη κρουαζιέρα που θα συναντούσε ο επιβάτης, τα Μινωικά, Αρχαϊκά, Κλασικά, Ελληνιστικά, Ρωμαϊκά, Μεσαιωνικά και Βυζαντινά και όλα αυτά στην άνεση αυτού του εκλεκτού κλασικού οικείου σκάφους σαν το πλοίο! Η Semiramis ξεκίνησε τις κρουαζιέρες της το 1955 και σίγουρα έγινε μια γρήγορη επιτυχία και χρειάστηκε επιπλέον δημόσιους χώρους καθώς και καμπίνες!
Με την ολοκλήρωση ξεκίνησε επτά ημερών κρουαζιέρες από τον Πειραιά στα νησιά του Αιγαίου αλλά και στην Τουρκία! Τα Semiramis αποδείχθηκαν εξαιρετικά δημοφιλή, παρόλο που απέχουν πολύ από το να είναι πολυτελές πλοίο. Ωστόσο, πρόσφερε το σωστό πρόγραμμα κρουαζιέρας με όλα τα συναρπαστικά λιμάνια και το πλοίο είχε μια οικεία ναυτική ατμόσφαιρα που προσφέρει άριστη εξυπηρέτηση και οι επιβάτες απολάμβαναν την καλύτερη κουζίνα! Δεν υπήρχε καμία αμφιβολία ότι το MV Semiramis ενθάρρυνε την Epirotiki Lines να συμμετάσχει σε ένα πολυτελές πρόγραμμα κρουαζιέρας και έτσι στις αρχές της δεκαετίας του 1960 αποφάσισαν να ξεκινήσουν μια αναζήτηση για ένα πλοίο που θα μπορούσαν να μετατρέψουν σε ένα προϊόν πρώτης κατηγορίας και σύντομα βρήκαν ένα το 1964, αυτό ήταν το πλοίο που θα γινόταν το πολυτελές κρουαζιερόπλοιο το MS Argonaut.