As of the 25th of May 2015, Greek maritime lovers have had the opportunity to once more visit the historic ship, The Neraida, while she makes her berth at the Flisvos Marina. Visitors can come aboard for free and learn about the rich history of the ship, and its former owner, John S. Latsis, a Greek shipping magnate. The billionaire’s son, Spiro Latsis turned the passenger ship into a museum to celebrate the life and business acumen of his father and The Neraida regularly draws in crowds wherever it moors. With opening hours operating late on the weekend, there is plenty of time to view this floating piece of history.
A Little Ship with a Big History
The Spiro Latsis blog helps to shed light on how he rescued The Neraida in 2007, the ‘little ship’ had been left ashore since 1974 when John S. Latsis had retired it from service. Fortunately, instead of being scrapped three decades ago, The Neraida had been preserved by the entrepreneur. This mean that when it came to refurbishing the vessel in the NCP Shipyards, Croatia, the work would have been relatively straightforward. It was just three years before the ship that started the Latsis story was ready to retell it for generations to come.
The Neraida was already a decade old and seen service during World War 2 before John S. Latsis bought her. Originally, the ship was built in what is now Rijeka in Croatia in 1939, and at first was purpose built to serve as a cargo vessel in the Adriatic. Following the outbreak of the War, the Neraida was then pressed into rescue service before being captured by British forces. After a brief time working in the coastal waters around Malta and Syracuse, the vessel was bought by John S. Latsis and marked the beginning of the entrepreneur’s fleet.
For the next 25 years, The Neraida served as a faithful passenger and small cargo ship around the Argo-Saronic Gulf, ferrying thousands of people to and from the many islands that make up the archipelago there. Here she continued to take people on holiday or back to the mainland until 1974 when Latsis finally retired the ship from service. By this stage, the fleet had grown considerably to include more cargo vessels as well as a tanker.
The Repurposed Neraida
Now The Neraida stands as a memorial to the heyday of Greek shipping and passenger industry. Since being repurposed as a floating museum as part of the John S. Latsis Public Foundation, the vessel has visited many of its former destinations such as Spetses, Hydra Methana and Aegina among others, where it has been visited by former passengers as well as hosts of tourists.
As well as being a stunning example of mid-20th Century passenger ship design, The Neraida houses a comprehensive and detailed museum that covers every aspect of the ship’s history from its service in WW2 right up until the present day. In addition, the permanent exhibitions also display historical items that relate to the life of its former owner, John S. Latsis and his ventures in the shipping, oil and banking industries. Latsis was ranked at 101 in the Forbes list of richest people after his passing, and the museum provides a valuable insight into how he amassed his fortune.
The John S. Latsis Public Foundation
A further permanent exhibition is displayed on The Neraida, one that describes the efforts of John S. Latsis’ legacy – the organisation that bears his name. Established in 2005, the John S. Latsis Public Foundation is a non-profit organisation that has been set up to help fund research and welfare programmes. With a focus on education, the sciences and environment, the organisation attempts to provide opportunities to those who would struggle to get to school or take the time out to pursue philanthropic ventures.
Through a stringent selection process, the organisation attempts to fund sustainable projects that benefit as many people as possible. Previous programmes have included upgrading homeless shelters, the improvement of social services in Greece as well as providing grants to educational courses.
Visiting the Neraida
The Neraida is moored at Flisvos Marina until July 7th, giving visitors plenty of opportunity to come aboard and take in the rich history of the vessel and to see the impact of the John S. Latsis Public Foundation. If you miss it this time around however, the ship continues to travel along the Argo-Saronic Line visiting its old destinations. Old passengers will delight in the nostalgia of stepping on board the ‘little ship’ and tourists can learn a huge amount about the vessel’s service.
As a testament to the organisation and the work of the Latsis family, The Neraida could not be more perfect.