Santorini

The Brightest Jewels in the Aegean

 

A Truly Authentic Greek Island Cruise

Stars shining in the clear night sky, looking over the rooftops of one of the worlds oldest cities, eating authentic food and drinking a cool glass of wine – you could be mistaken for thinking this is a scene from a romantic movie, but no we are in Athens at the start of a Greek Island Adventure on board a cruise ship, Having decided to pick the ship up in the Port of Lavrion we were staying for one night at The Athens Plaza situated right on Syntagma Square with its ancient monuments, delicious food and charming tavernas before embarking on our voyage onboard The Celestyal Odyssey sailing around 5 Greek Islands and the Turkish Resort of Kusadasi.

Suitably refreshed after a good nights sleep, belly’s full of a delicious breakfast we headed off to meet The Celestyal Odyssey our home for the next 5 days. The Odyssey is the latest ship to join the Celestyal fleet and is designed to offer an authentic Greek Experience with a passenger capacity of 836 making it the smallest of their five vessels.

Welcome cocktails consumed we headed off to explore our cabin (418 in total) along with the rest of the ship. Our outside cabin was light and airy and fully equipped with air conditioning, ensuite, seating area, making it ideal to stow away to after a busy day exploring and having fun; Note to myself, the next cruise I take I will be upgrading to a balcony purely so I can enjoy the views from my own private viewing area.

Wasting no time with everyone onboard we sailed into Mykonos, a beautiful island in the Cyclades. With its cobblestone streets designed like a maze to discourage pirate raids in the 18th and early 19th centuries, crammed with bars, cafes, charming boutiques and gourmet restaurants. The white washed buildings against the clear blue skies are a delight to behold. According to mythology, Mykonos was the place where Hercules killed the giants. The rocks around the island are supposedly their corpses!!! All these myths and legends combined with exploring the cobbled streets had made us a little peckish, La Roca Restaurant was a delight with authentic Greek food including Houmous, Greek salad, vine leaves all eaten whilst watching the sunset over the harbour made me realise why at some point all women wish to be a Shirley Valentine and escape to this beautiful island.

Back on board and our cabins beckoned, with fresh Greek delicacies left for us along with some creative towel art we fell into a perfect sleep hardly being aware we were sailing in the middle of the sea, and on waking we found ourselves coming into the port of Kusadasi, Turkey.

The Odyssey has two dining rooms one offering the more formal dining option, with choices from a set menu or the other offering the more relaxed help yourself buffet option, both offer authentic Greek cuisine, with dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, both dining choices are probably dependent on your schedule and what you fancy, the buffet restaurant leads onto the pool deck and so enjoying your lunch in the open air with the sea breeze blowing gently in the background is a real experience.

Breakfast eaten it was welcome to Kusadasi. With its many sandy beaches, sparkling glassy waters, and historic sites including Ephesus which is one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world. Based in Ephesus are the “Terrace Houses” which are located on a hill opposite the Hadrian Temple these are being carefully excavated allowing you a wonderful insight into history and how life was during the Roman Period. No trip to Kusadasi would be complete without a visit to the covered bazaars, where you can bargain to your hearts content.

Back on board and sailing to our next destination allowed us some time to lay on deck and catch some of the sun rays, with a slight sea breeze the scene was almost perfect but not quite I was missing something – Oh yes a nice cold cocktail in fact it would be rude not to try The Odysseys “Cocktail of the Day” wouldn’t it?

For the more energetic amongst us like my hubbie there is always the onboard gym to pay a visit to – well he did pay a visit to it – he looked round and then decided the sun, sea and cocktails were having a bigger pull on him – “I’ll get up early and go tomorrow” was his excuse!

Disembarkment for Patmos was via tender boats – at each island you can choose to pay extra for the excursions or you can explore at your own leisure the choice is entirely yours, although I would recommend at least participating in a few of the excursions especially if you haven’t visited that particular island before – Although not a big island Patmos is one of the best known. It was here that St. John had his vision and wrote the apocalypse. Whether you are interested in history and religion or not, the Monastery of St. John is a must, full of priceless icons and rare manuscripts. The Cave of Revelation which is where St. John had his vision is also a must, A lesser known fact about this island is that it is twinned with Glastonbury, although I can’t see any muddy field concerts making its way to Patmos anytime soon!

Dinner back on board was full of authentic delights and for my hubby the jewel in the cuisine crown was “The Lobster” the freshest, tastiest he had ever had – which coming from an ex chef and foodie critic is high praise indeed. Dinner finished there’s no shortage of things to do whether you fancy a cocktail or two, a live show, dancing the night away, or even impercinating James Bond and having a little flutter in the casino the choice is yours.

Sailing through the night to Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese Islands, meant we had a full day to enjoy and explore. Whether you seek the buzz of beaches, diving in crystal-clear water or a culture-vulture journey through past civilisations, it’s all here. The atmospheric old town of Rhodes is a maze of over 200 cobbled streets spiriting you back to the days of the Byzantine Empire and beyond. As you enter the walls of the Old Town know that you are about to enter the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe. It is a thrill to behold. The Street of the Knights is one of the best preserved and most delightful medieval relics in the world. The 600m long, cobble – paved street was constructed over an ancient pathway that led in a straight line from the Acropolis of Rhodes to the port, close your eyes and you can be mistaken for thinking you had stepped back in time.

Visiting The Throne of Helios had us on an Indiana Jones adventure fighting our way through rain, snow, storms and even snakes!!!! (a 9D theatre experience that allows you to learn the history of Rhodes in an interactive, thrilling way)

Having fought our way through the bygone years, it was only right we rewarded ourselves with one of our favourite Greek things – Food and we made our way back to the centre of the Old Town to Vassilis Tavern, authentically Greek in Décor and cuisine – I was learning that when the different plates of food were brought out as delicious as they are I must remember not to keep eating as this is just the taster and the main is still to come!

 

Lunch devoured, and refueled we took a coach to Lindos, a picture-perfect town of sugarcube houses that spill down the hillside to the most amazing clear turquoise bay. I knew there was a reason I bring hubby along on my trips it’s so I can relax on the tranquil beach with its beautiful clear waters whilst he pretends he’s Anthony Quinn reinacting The Guns of Navarone as he climbs the steep hill to the ruins of the Acropolis for views that take your breath away (his words not mine!). There is so much to do in Rhodes a day just isn’t enough which is why it is now on my list of destinations to visit.

Dining back on the ship was extra special this evening with cocktails and then dinner on the Captain’s Table and it’s only good old me  sitting next to him!!!

Heraklion the vibrant capital of Crete is where we find ourselves the next morning. A visit to Knossos which comprises of more than 1500 rooms and occupies more than 20,000 square metres, numerous archaelogical finds all of exceptionally high quality include art, pottery, vessels, figurines, the archive of Linear B tablets, and original wall-paintings, are all housed in Heraklion Museum. We just have time for a walk around the centre for light refreshments and any last minute shopping before we head back to the ship!

Time to catch some last minute rays before we head home tomorrow, but first I need to watch the “cocktail making”, now I have seen many a cocktail made but this time I am awe struck – eat your heart out Tom Cruise there is so much, spinning, flipping, throwing, balancing and pouring going on I am dizzy just watching, how can he do something like that with 3 bottles whilst balancing another on his nose – maybe it has something to do with the fact he’s the Turkish cocktail making champion (yes they even have competitions for this!) This display is just one of many activities to keep you amused and busy during your cruise there’s Greek dance lessons, ping pong tournaments, flower making, fruit and vegetable carving (if you see what they can do with a piece of fruit you’ll be astounded!), darts, board games and so much more. One thing you can be guaranteed of on a cruise is you’ll never be short of something to do

Ooops it’s my last day and I nearly forget to visit the spa where I opt for a massage. I don’t know if it’s a combination of the steady rhythm of the boat sailing on the sea mixed with the therapists expertise I just know whatever it was had me so relaxed I was fighting to keep my eyes open – The spa has an extensive range of treatments to choose from you’re bound to find something you like.

Our final disembarkment was Santorini – this island had me lost for words it really is breathtaking and so serene. Locals believe the island is the site of the lost city of Atlantis and, whether that is true or not, it is certainly near to paradise with its bright white buildings, with their distinctive blue shutters perched on the edge of the extinct volcano, white marble streets and glorious sunsets, this is the place dreams are made of. A mystical, seductive place just perfect for a wedding – I may just have to get married again! A cable car journey back to the tender boats allowed one last panoramic view of this beautiful Island.

The stars are shining again as we sail through the night to the Port of Lavrion. Our 5 days of sunsets, history, fun, fabulous cuisine, wonderful hospitable people, and beaches is over, but what an experience it was, what other holidays allows you to see so much in such a short space of time – I’m now addicted to cruising and can’t wait for my next one!

Fact File;Celestyal Cruises (www.celestyalcruises.com / +30 210 4583400) four day Iconic Aegean cruise costs from £356 per person to include full board accommodation.

A flight inclusive package including a four night stay in Athens (Electra Palace) costs from £649 per person with Cosmos Tours (www.cosmostoursandcruises.co.uk / 0800 997 8826). To include flights, B&B hotel and full board cruise accommodation and transfers (based on a 15th October 2015 departure)

www.selecttravelholidays.co.uk