Cruising the Greek Isles

“Hey Ruste, I got a great price–want to go on a Greek island sailing cruise with me in September?”

Rob and I were exhausted and really grimy, trying to conserve water at our Montana camp when my sister in law called in late July. It had been a tough and emotional week. We’d been back and forth to the vet with Sugar’s illness, and I was doing everything I could think of to help her get well.

One way or another, I didn’t expect we’d still be dealing with a sick pup in September.

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Pictures of blue skies and calm, endless sea filled my mind. There was no question. I was going. Without hesitating, I replied, “Sure! When?” We planned to leave a few days ahead of our September 10 sail date, leaving from Denver and arriving in Athens on the 8th. Rob and Susie’s husband Bob would stay at their home in Gypsum, CO to work and watch the menagerie—Combined, we have 5 dogs, 2 cats and an African Grey parrot.

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Chula, Arthur, Olay and Sugar…Only half of the menagerie

Our husbands are incredible, aren’t they?

We were soon on our way!

Susie arranged for a driver to take us from the airport to our hotel in downtown Athens. He explained why traffic was slow on the way into town. “Prime ministers from all over Europe are here today. They’re working on a Brexit plan—our economy’s a mess.” He told us that he works from 8 am to 9 pm 7 days per week and takes 500 Euros a week home, paying 66% of his income in taxes. On top of its economic woes, more Syrian immigrants have landed in Greece than any other European country, straining Greece’s  resources even further.

Around us, it was clear that beautiful, historic Greece is suffering.

Athens roads were a mess, graffiti was everywhere and buildings are crumbling.  When we passed the Parliament building where the Brexit meeting was taking place, police and military with machine guns were placed every 10 feet.  As we walked through the city, people looked like they are struggling.  Later in the evening, we watched a loud street protest from the café on our hotel roof.

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I am reminded about how fortunate I am.

I have been enjoying this year of exploration, but with all the suffering in the world, I’m wondering if I need to get back to giving back.   What work would make the efforts of a lone person truly worthwhile? Which of my skills would be of greatest assistance?

I need to do some thinking about this.

Soon it was Saturday, our departure day. When we got to Piraeus, the bustling port near Athens, I immediately understood that Greece is a sea-going nation. With more than a thousand islands, travel by boat is a part of its culture. The harbor was filled with ferries.

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Ferries docked at Piraeus Harbor

We found the cruise ship departure terminal and climbed the steps to board the Wind Star, our home for the next week.

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Windstar with its sails out–The captain put them out just for my dad!

Wind Star’s a small ship as cruise ships go, with a capacity of 148 passengers–intimate enough that we were able to meet most of the passengers and greet the crew by name by the end of our week. They have an ‘open bridge’ policy that allows passengers onto the bridge, free to talk to the captain and watch the crew sail the ship at non-critical times.

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Our captain on the bridge of the Wind Star

Susie and I settled into our cabin, then found a seat on deck for the sail away.

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Our tug, helping us navigate busy Piraeus Harbor

We motored out of the harbor and then the captain opened the sails.

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A view from the lower deck–No sails yet…but wait for it….

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Wind Star glided across the calm Aegean effortlessly, past tiny islands…sailboats…sea birds…into the setting sun.

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Our itinerary included several Greek Islands—Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kalymnos and Nafplio (which technically is part of mainland Greece). Each port was unique, with most offering points of archeological interest, great shopping, sunbathing or more adventurous options .   The islands were very different from the Caribbean cruises I’ve been on in the past, where every port looks just the same.

Here are some photos from the trip:

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Fisherman repairing his nets on Mykonos

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A narrow street (all of them are narrow!) in Mykonos

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Fruit stand across from the bus station on Mykonos

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Lonely, plain Catholic Church on Mykonos.  90% of Greeks practice the Greek Orthodox religion.

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The movie theater in Mykonos.  Air conditioning?  Nah!

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Towns in Santorini are perched high above the bay…which is an active volcanic caldera!

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The view into the caldera from the top at Oia, a fancy ‘A-list’ kind of town.  Cavelike hotels, each room with a personal infinity pool, ring the top of the island

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A street in Rhodes.  

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A view out to the old city from our ship at port

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The busy port in Rhodes

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A shop in the old city of Rhodes

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A view to the Rhodes port–site of the Ancient Wonder, Colossus of Rhodes.

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Greek dancers at the Rhodes Casino

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Sidewalk cafes in Napfilos, a very romantic, honeymoon-worthy town

The cruise was lovely and the week went by too quickly.  Soon we were checking the standby flights back to the US. We realized that most flights from Athens to Newark were full … so we decided to spend a few days in Rome, where more seats on flights to the US were available.

Thanks for your sweet hospitality people of Greece…and Wind Star.

Next post: Rome!

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