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The Haunting Wreck of Cruise Ship “Mediterranean Sky” Near Athens

Mediterranean Sky shipwreck Elefsina
Abandoned and left to half-sink and rot, the “Mediterranean Sky” cruise ship has a rich history. Credit: gary4now / Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-3.0

From its glory days as a cruise ship to its current rusty resting place in Elefsina, the “Mediterranean Sky” has had quite a journey. It is one of the best known shipwrecks in Greece, but its deteriorating looks over the last two decades haunt the eye.

Originally named the “City of York,” it was built in 1953 by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering of Barrow-in-Furness in the UK. Along with its three sister ships, the City of Port Elizabeth, City of Exeter, and City of Durban, it operated on the route between London, Las Palmas, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Lourenço Marques, and Beira.

It once made passage between London and Cape Town in an incredible fifteen days. In 1971, it was sold, alongside with its three sister ships, to the Greek cruise company Karageorgis Lines. Along with City of Exeter, it was converted into a passenger ferry and renamed the Mediterranean Sky.

City of York Mediterranean Sky ship
The City of York in the London docks in 1967. It was later sold to Karageorgis Lines and renamed the Mediterranean Sky. Credit: Wolfgang Fricke / Wikimedia commons/ CC BY 3.0

The ship had many amenities for the time, including luxury cabins, two swimming pools, stylish bars, polished wooden decks, and air conditioning. It had a capacity of about one thousand passengers and 470 vehicles. Its length is 165 meters (541 feet) and its width is 22 meters.

Mediterranean Sky, the first cruise ship to connect Patras with Venice

Mediterranean Sky was the first cruise ship to take the now popular route of Patras – Venice. During the winter months, the ship was hired out for cruises by the rich and famous of the 1970s.

Its last trip was from Patras to Brindisi in August of 1996. Due to the major financial problems encountered by the shipowner from 1996 to February 1999, the ship remained decommissioned at the old port of Patras.

The ship was transferred to Elefsina in 2002 at the expense of the Patras Port Authority. The now-abandoned ship was then towed to shallow water where it was intentionally beached on November 26, 2002.

There, it remained abandoned, a victim of the company’s debts. Slowly the “Mediterranean Sky” began to tilt, until it finally capsized and sank by January 2003. The half-submerged wreck is still clearly visible.

Mediterranean Sky Perama
Cruise ship Mediterranean Sky during a renovation in Perama, in 1986. Credit: Peter J. Fitzpatrick / Wikimedia commons/ CC BY-SA 4.0

A cruise ship wasted, rusting away

In 2009, it was decided that the ship along with seventeen other shipwrecks in the Gulf of Elefsina would be removed. However, like most things Greek, the ship was never moved from Elefsina, where it has been left to rust away in ignominy for the past eighteen years.

In 2017, a graffiti crew OneUp painted “1UP” on the exposed side of the ship, covering about half of the total exposed area. It’s still visible from Google earth as of 2022. The parking area near the ship allows visitors to get quite close to the coast.

The area is not maintained well enough and, as a result, trash litters the roadside there. The buildings surrounding the area look abandoned, as well. The whole scene is like a shot from a post-apocalyptic John Carpenter movie.

The shipwreck is a mere one hundred meters (328 feet) from the Elefsina coast. Despite its rusty façade, traces of its majestic past are still quite evident.

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