A weekend retreat and meetings of members of main opposition SYRIZA’s central committee on the upscale Saronic Gulf Island of Spetses, called by party leader Stefanos Kasselakis and set to convene at his holiday villa, raised eyebrows this week and mostly negative media and social media reactions.

Among others, former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, newcomer Kasselakis’ predecessor, said he will not attend, while another deputy of the leftist party, Kyriaki Malama, wryly announced that “I don’t think so, the ship doesn’t suit me”, ostensibly citing seasickness, but essentially said tongue-in-cheek, given that the distance to Spetses from the mainland is a comfortable 10 minutes through a narrow strait.

Sources from the main opposition party went on “media spin” mode on Friday, saying the “team building” or retreat-style three-day weekend meetings are an opportunity for sector heads to present their work and proposals. Malama, for instance, is the “shadow minister” for culture. At the same time, other sources said Tsipras’ presence at party meetings depends on the necessity of such an appearance.

SYRIZA and Kasselakis’ popularity has continued to plunge since he surprisingly won an internal party election in early September. A good portion of the once radical party’s deputies and top cadres subsequently split to form the “New Left” grouping.

In a related development, Kasselakis and members of a party delegation traveled to Istanbul on Friday following an invitation by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to attend the religious commemoration of the Epiphany (Theophany) on Saturday.

Kasselakis will attend the con-celebratory liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in the Phanar district and the sanctification of the waters service at the Golden Horn.

On Sunday, Kasselakis will be received by Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.