Post-Peloponnese and after a fitful night’s sleep in Athens, we were up at the butt-crack of dawn for the next leg of our not-so-fat Greek adventure:
The least expensive version of a yacht cruise through the Aegean Sea’s Cyclades Islands we could possibly swing.
You might not believe me for a sentence or two, but we had a lot of fun on this gorgeous little journey.
As of October 2005, Viking Yacht Cruises‘ H&B had the weathered look of a vessel last rehabbed when Dynasty was a great big deal, but Viking says she was built in 2001. (Hmm. Sunscreen: It’s not just for humans anymore.)
With starch-crisp, yellow plaid “linens” on twin beds, two tiny portholes and a nostril-pinching waft of sulfur coming from the loo, our upper-deck cabin left much to be desired; with a top deck open to the sea, though, we were rarely cooped up below.
Our travel companions were mostly couples, with the exception of a pair of twenty-something sisters from a “wicked big” family of Massachusetts boating enthusiasts; a porcelain-skinned, always be-hatted Italian woman from Lucca in her early thirties whose grasp of English was less than firm; and a twenty year-old Army private from Kentucky on furlough from his base in Germany.
In the yacht’s best room was a twinkly New York doctor in his mid-50s; he seemed proud of his walrus moustache and his longtime wife’s brand new breasts. There was also a forty-something gay couple from Edmonton, tanned to a Vuitton shade of brown, rarely wearing more than white Speedos and never without cocktails; sadly, this fabulous duo were only with us as far as the hedonistic mecca of Mykonos. A middle-aged married couple from Johannesburg seemed the most mismatched pair: He had a khaki outfit for every occasion, a beer belly, ruddy complexion and laugh like a marauding bear; everything about her was delicate, pinched, quiet and sunburned — unless she was eating something with feta, in which case she’d smile warmly to herself. With their thick Afrikaans accents, no one on board could, sadly, understand more than 50% of what they said.
Rounding out our group were a chatty/taciturn Midwestern couple of seventy-something retirees (the seemingly henpecked husband provided one of the week’s biggest surprises); the tall, sweet and blond newlyweds from Melbourne; the intrepid, pale and serious 35 year-olds from Toronto, then taking their umpteenth trip together; and a friendly crew of sometime-Athenians who are at sea far more than they’re home with their loved ones.
Back then, our sailing itinerary was Athens’ Marina Zea > Santorini > Ios > Paros > Delos > Mykonos >Syros > Kythnos > Marina Zea. There’s not a single island in this lineup that we wouldn’t return to if given half a chance.
We spent part of day and/or a night in each port, with only one guided tour (on Delos, a strictly protected UNESCO World Heritage Site inhabited only a handful of archaeologists). We had lots of time alone for exploration, but could easily tag along with others if the mood moved us. We had occasional lunches, swims and beach forays with the younger half of the passengers; by the week’s end, we’d come to call ourselves The Kids’ Table.
Adam learned that he gets pretty darn seasick and that SeaBands will work, but not enough to stave off a session of dry heave-age over the starboard edge. At the Captain’s Dinner, where the crew inexplicably dressed up in costumes, I learned that a leathery Greek sailor in an eye patch and bandanna makes an excellent (if handsy) pirate. And each night under the Aegean skies, we would think we saw glowing planets, ancient myths and shooting stars.
Flashing forward, Viking’s H&B has become a private charter and is now aboard the Galileo, a larger, swankier motorsailer. The price has gone up a bit ($2,700 USD, double occupancy, for an upper-deck cabin) and the itinerary has changed a little (e.g., the order of islands, the replacement of Kythnos with Poliegos and Folegandros), but it still seems to promise the same opportunity for excitement, relaxation, education and togetherness…with perfect strangers.
Still to come: Adventures on every island (that we visited).
More posts on Greece
Strange Shrines of the Peloponnese
Safe by the Sea in Napflio
Dreaming of the Peloponnese
It’s Always the Quiet Ones
8 Surprises in Athens
Greece is the Word
TWT Travel Binder: Greece