The Aegean Sea on Louis Cruises' TS AUSONIA from 02 to 09 October 2005

home

On departure day I arrived at Limassol by shared taxi. I tried to find a vantage point north of the New Port to document AUSONIA’s arrival. But I had no luck. The harbour is surrounded by high walls. Boarding was somewhat slow, and departure also delayed by 45 minutes to 15:45. This was great, as SALAMIS Glory was due to arrive at 16:30. Going out of port she passed us on port side in full sunshine! A real classic from the outside. 

The AUSONIA welcomed me with a huge panel (permanent fixture) depicting AUSONIA’s cruise itineraries in the Mediterranean of the "First Choice"  times . It was situated at the “shopping mall” in front of the reception and the two adjacent shops. Of this space only the forward stair-tower retained it’s original railing and wall decoration by Enrico Paolucci. Also the aft stair-tower retained its original wall decoration. 

   Arrival of AUSONIA at Limassol=>

Klick to Enlarge

Original Stair Tower

(Klick to enlarge)

Original Panel in Dining Room

There is a bit of wood panelling left around the photo shops exhibition panels opposite the pursers office. This office still retains the huge and heavy cast-iron safe of Italian origin. Also the corridor that separates First and Tourist Class on Delphi Deck has wood panelling. Miraculously one short corridor leading to cabins 29 and 31 was left in all wood-panelled splendour while all others had been redone in a monochrome blue fabric, that is ubiquitous aboard. The First Class cabins on Delphi deck remain wood-panelled all-over. The cinema survived in place but was refurbished. The main show lounge facing aft has been redone completely in preparation to the charter to First Choice in 1998. The dining room forward on the same deck has been rebuild completely in the 80s or 90s while retaining some original wall murals made in Egyptian style by Enrico Paolucci in 1956.

The portside promenade has been amalgamated with the restaurant while the starboard one was re-erected as Orangery/Library. Alas, the new cupboards contain, except  air, the vast number of exactly 8 English novels (all printed before delivery in 1957 and with cancel “Property of Crew Steward SS Ausonia”). Forward of this and the adjacent shopping mall, there is the quite new Voyager bar/night club, that despite its position at the front of the superstructure, does not feature forward view as the windows are all closed.

.

On decks E and F I found what to me seemed to be the lower ends of the two kingposts that stood on foredeck once, 30 cm in diameter and 20 feet apart from each other.

Louis Cruises have joint the security hype and closed the bridge for passengers. But I sneak onto the bridge wing on the last day for some photos. The old equipment is mostly gone, so no telegraphs anymore. The installations to the walls remain mostly original, though. 

Bridge =>

This first evening was Captain’s reception, only that the captain didn’t materialize. His name was not mentioned in the cruise program so I ventured to the usual board with all officer’s photographs, on which 3 of 5 photos were missing, including the captain’s. On my question at the reception I was told  he has much to do on the bridge so he couldn’t attend the reception.  First and last evening were supposed to be the formal evenings, but I saw no jackets and ties. Partly this could be due to the inappropriate days for a formal attire.

There were 527 passengers aboard, all Cypriots except 50 passengers with foreign passports, which in most cases were also Cypriots who emigrated and were on a visit home. “Original” foreigners were a polite couple of elderly English at my table, a Dutch woman and I. I could not make out others.

 

This was a distinct Greek cruise experience: The meals were geared to Cypriot tastes: amidst international items there were baked aubergines, meat-balls; baklava and other cake as desert; almost every evening one entry of Greek cuisine in the menu, which were very delicious. One evening  there was a Greek barbecue on lido deck, while lying in the roads off Patmos. Greek tunes came from the stage above(!) the lido.

The graceful AUSONIA off Patmos in the evening (klick to enlarge)=>

.

 

The evening shows were something special. Every evening cruise director George would step onto the stage and announce in Greek and English a Rembetiko-Night. He leaves and a minute later the curtains open and on comes: … cruise director George singing Greek songs. Ok, there were two other singers, and they really could sing! The dancers troupe was only back-up without their own choreography.

Then one evening George announced an international show. The curtains open and on comes…: George, singing international classics!  

The crew counted about 230 to 240 I was told by the gentleman at the reception. This is quite a high passenger-crew ratio, and I have to say that service was quite good. You did not have to wait in the dining room for the next course. The only thing I missed was a lido buffet at breakfast and lunch, as the weather was so good you could always dine on deck. The ship is a turbine steamer, which requires more personnel in the engine room, also a cause for the high number of crew. One passenger told me he always cruises on AUSONIA, because of the low level of engine noise of her turbine, which  I can second. The cabin crew was made up by Ukrainians and Rumanians, many of the Dining room staff are Philippinos, while the higher ranks mostly are Greek. 

Tinos Evangelistra Church=>

In every port shore excursion were offered, and they were surprisingly low-priced. Most were in Greek language, only in Kavalla to the ancient site of Philippi there was one English/Greek bus. Louis still sticks to their lunch-box policy from their Egypt-Israel-cruises, instead of wasting time in a restaurant on full-day excursions. But you didn’t need a guided tour. In every port the ship was in walking distance to the city centre. In Patmos you were tendered to Skala were the public busses to the St. John's-monastery leave. In Tinos you are in walking distance to the town and the Evangelistra-church. Tinos also is an excellent point for ferry watching, as no less than 3 ferries arrived during our 5 hours stay. Thessaloniki’s port is about one mile outside the city centre. While the townscape is not very attractive there are many Byzantine churches and the remaining later Roman Empire buildings in walking distance, dating from the episode as imperial residence of Galerius (306-15 A.D.). Kavalla is in itself a destination even if I could not resist the lure of the ancient site of Philippi. The AUSONIA was berthed directly underneath the castle hill, on which the picturesque old Turkish town is situated. The castle provides good opportunities for an aerial view of your cruise ship. Lesbos (Mytilini) was less interesting, while I rate Kos with it’s green vegetation even in October and it's antique Asklepion my favourite Aegean island.

 I in Philippi Basilika B 560 A.D. =>

Cabin on D-Deck where most of the First Class cabins retained their splendour. 

 

Kavalla not only offers the magnificent ruins of ancient Philippi in the hinterland, but has also a picturesque former Turkish quarter, in front of which the lovely AUSONIA is shown here. (Klick to enlarge)

AUSKav.jpg (53727 Byte)

The Discovery Show Lounge features a glass screen at the forward end that separates a bar with view into the show lounge to provide a more tranquil location to observe the show. This is a similar setting as on DALMACIJA, and the whole lounge was designed to the wishes of First Choice Cruises. This view was taken from the stern (stage) end and faces the glass screen in the background.

In all, it was a gorgeous cruise even if you don't speak Greek! Daily programs and announcements were also delivered in English.

 

back