A Greek Island Cruise.
It was the end of the season for a Greek island cruise and we wanted small. But the smallest cruise ship I could find was the 450 passenger Seabourn Odyssey, a 6-star luxury liner. Still, that was petite compared to the other available vessels, most exceeding 1000 passengers.
So how was the experience aboard the Seabourn Odyssey?
The decor was elegant and luxurious, the cabins spacious and comfortable. Service was impeccable, and the food in the five restaurants ranged from good to superb. Also, the passengers were friendly, and as for travel, I couldn’t feel any movement or vibration of the ship.
But there were niggling issues.
In the main restaurant women dressed in fashion evening gowns with high-high heels, while the men wore tuxedos, or white trousers and navy blue blazers sporting gold sleeve buttons. To me, this appeared very twee and pretentious, and led to the impression that the Seabourn vision was primarily to provide a floating luxury hotel that moves from port to port rather than being a ship exploring exotic places.
So in conclusion, the Sebourn Odyssey was not for me.
Impression of the Greek islands
At a ship lecture, we learned that the Greek islands were formed by volcanic activity leaving a string of arid islands immersed within a tranquil sea. So I can see the attraction of escaping the cold and damp of Northern Europe to a warm, picturesque location bathed in daily sunshine. But coming from Australia with its sunshine and sandy beaches we sought something different, something historic, something culturally unique. Although each island presented a different silhouette and feel, they were all heavily influenced by the large number of visitors disembarking from the cruise ships (including ours), so most of the shops in the narrow winding streets and alleyways were mainly fashion and souvenir shops serving the tourist.
As an example, in Rhodes, which I really liked, most of the old town closes down for the winter and the shopkeepers move out of the old city into the modern conurbations outside the historic city walls. Still, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Santorini were impressive, and if we were younger, we probably would revisit them for an extended stay.
Mykonos was the first island I really enjoyed. There was a tiny fish market with local fishermen selling their morning’s catch flanked by the brilliant white of the waterfront cafes. Behind this facade was a helter-skelter of narrow whitewashed lanes designed to confuse marauding pirates. Well, pirates aside, it confused us even with a map, and we needed to be led back to the waterfront by a local shopkeeper. Next was Rhodes, the historic walled city of the Knights Templar with its imposing fortress, and away from the busy main thoroughfare, its warren of medieval cobblestone streets. Here, in the shadows below the arched stone buttresses, we could imagine scenes of long ago.
Santorini was completely different. As we approached the island, the imposing dark cliffs appeared to be capped by snow gleaming white in the dawn sun. That was impossible, and as we came close, all was revealed as row upon row of brilliant white houses clinging to the steep cliff faces. The island was much larger and diverse than I expected, and it even had a mountain over 1000 m which when we visited was immersed in cloud. Fortunately, we had a private guide with car, so we had a good opportunity to sample the highlights of the island, although I felt our 5 hour visit was too short. In part this was due to the short stay of our ship and in part to the limited capacity of the cable car taking all visitors (if they declined the donkey ride) down the steep cliff to the departure dock. All it needed was the complement of another cruise ship to return at the same time for us to miss the last tender to our ship.
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