In 1992, my husband and I were lured overseas by our son who was studying in London for a semester. The trip was life-changing! As we waited to board our flight home, we were already planning future trips aboard.
In the past 26 years, our adventures have included a trek through a cork forest in Portugal, walks along Normandy's beaches, boat trips on Lake Como and through New Zealand's fiords, shopping in Jerusalem's souks, and touring Antoni Gaudi's architecture in Barcelona. But cruising eluded us. We didn't get the concept of spending our vacation on a boat; we were independent travelers. That all changed this past summer when we floated our way through the Greek Isles.
Above: The starting block for the original Olympic Games.
What made the difference? An excellent travel agent, a beautiful ship, and the challenge of visiting 6,000 islands and islets, 227 of which are inhabited. So let me begin at the beginning...I have never employed a travel agent. With a computer on my lap and time to spare, I have always been able to plan a trip from the comfort of my home. But with so much to see and so much water to navigate, Greece brought travel planning to a whole new level. On the advice of my sister, I contacted her travel agent, a savvy woman named Suzanne based in Marietta, Georgia.
After interviewing me, Suzanne recommended Seabourn Cruise Line, an American company based in Seattle. The Odyssey, a 450-passenger ship, offered everything we were looking for: attention to detail, a smaller ship, an excellent selection of excursions, and lovely accommodations. We were sold! And the cruise was everything we had hoped for.
Our travel agent booked our Athens hotel, provided us with a "must see" list, and arranged for a tour of the Acropolis on our first full day in the city. We had ample time to explore Athens on our own, do some shopping on the Placa, and taste some of Greece's excellent cuisine. By the time we boarded our ship, we felt at home in Greece and ready to cruise.
Over the course of three weeks, we visited a wide variety of Greek Islands. Some were smaller than others, but each had an interesting history and ambiance of its own. Seabourn, unlike Viking, employs local guides. That is a plus and a minus. The guides provided an insider point-of-view and that was the plus. All of the guides spoke English, though some were more difficult to understand than others; that was the minus.
The weather was beautiful -- sunny skies, seas every shade of blue, and temperatures in the high 80s. Although the Greek economy is struggling, everyone we met was friendly and welcoming. Our ship's staff made every effort to make us feel at home; by the end of the cruise, we were greeted by name. When a stateroom on an upper level became available after the first two weeks of the cruise, we were offered an upgrade, which we happily accepted.
All in all, it was a lovely trip, everything we had hoped for and more. One of our favorite treats each afternoon was a freddo coffee, a delicious blend of iced espresso, sugar, and cream. It is not to be missed!!