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September 12, 2016 - A couple of months ago I happened to be in Santorini, Greece. That day, no less than 5 cruise ships visited the island. Some 10,000 cruise ship passengers mingled with Santorini's 15,500 or so residents. Traffic in the town of Thera came to grinding halt, with hundreds of frustrated, overheated tourists waiting up to two hours for the cable car up the mountain. Caught in the tourist gridlock in Santorini, I thought back to the time, now ten years ago, when I leisurely sailed to some of the most uncrowded Greek islands on the beautiful clipper Star Flyer. Here is my account of that unforgettable week under sail.
July 8, 2006 - Yawn! It's an early morning start as we fly from Amsterdam to Athens. A quick taxi ride brings us to from Athens to the port of Piraeus where Star Flyer is waiting for us. Our outside cabin is small but well equipped but we figure we will not spend too much time in it. So out we venture, to the open air Tropical Bar where the crew has set up a nice welcome snack buffet and where we meet the ship's staff and its resident parrot. After a very nice dinner Star Flyer leaves Piraeus under the tones of Vangelis' Conquest of Paradise and we toast to a great start of our cruise.
July 9, 2006 - A sunny day at sea as Star Flyer makes her way towards Turkey. By the time I venture out on deck, all sails are hoisted and the main engines have been shut down. There is nothing but the sound of the wind in the giant sails - it's magical. After the mid-morning crew presentation in the Tropical Bar, we enjoy a freshly baked waffle accompanied by our already favorite rose wine and meet some really nice fellow guests. Without exception, these are well traveled people that are really not attracted by floating resorts. And come to think of it, life on board Star Flyer is indeed utterly relaxed and uncomplicated. Simply wonderful.
Camlimani Beach & Kusadasi, Turkey
July 10, 2006 - We start our day in Turkey with a visit to the beach resort Camlimani Beach, just north of Kusadasi. Star Flyer drops anchor and we are ferried ashore by the ship's tenders. Camlimani Beach is home to the sprawling Pine Bay Holiday Resort and Star Clippers have made an agreement that their guests can use their beaches and facilities. We spend an enjoyable couple of hours here before being called back on board for the short lunchtime hop to neighboring Kusadasi. The galley staff have prepared a lavish and delicious lunch buffet in the restaurant. By the time we are ready to attack the dessert tables we see Kusadasi appear through the portholes. After finishing our dessert we venture ashore but the overload of shops selling leather jackets and carpets make us return to our delightful floating oasis fairly quickly.
July 11, 2006 - Star Flyer is in her element today as we reach the Greek island of Samos. Instead of heading to the busy ferry port of Vathy near Samos Town, our ship anchors off the pretty town of Pythagorion. With its beautiful harbor lined with restaurants and some nice beaches nearby, this is the perfect destination for small cruise ships. We are ashore quite early, seeing the town wake up and enjoying a good cup of coffee on an inviting terrace overlooking the harbor. The town can be explored easily on foot. Some fellow Star Flyer guests rent mopeds and cars to explore the island, but we decide to take it easy and walk the short distance to the rocky beach. Here, we dip in the turquoise waters and at the nearby beach hut we order the best Greek salad ever.
July 12, 2006 - Every morning, our personable Cruise Director can be found out on deck telling guests about what to expect that day. It has become a daily ritual to pick up a cup of coffee and venture up on deck to listen to her tips while enjoying the next destination approaching. Today we are in Patmos, one of the most interesting of the Dodecanesos islands near the Turkish coast. We are dropped off in the quiet port of Skala. Looming over the town up on the hill is Chora with its impressive Monastery of Saint John the Theologian. A brisk walk uphill brings us to the picture-perfect village and its stunning monastery, where it is said John was given a vision from Jesus. It has made Patmos a popular pilgrimage destination. It is simply great to be able to venture ashore in places like this, far from the mad tourist crowds. All too soon it is time to venture back on board and as Louis' Cruise Lines vintage Ivory arrives our sails are hoisted. As we sail into another stunning Greek sunset, preparations are made for the crew talent show. After a wonderful dinner, which tonight happens to feature lobster, all guests concregate in the open air Tropical Bar where we see familiar faces perform. From Thai dancing to our captain playing the guitar, it is a wonderful night that is ended in true fashion by a massive sirtaki. Hoppa!
Delos, Mykonos and Paros, Greece
July 13, 2006 - We are up at sunrise as Star Flyer drops her anchor off the uninhabited island of Delos, one of most important archeological sites in Greece. As the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, the island was considered a holy place for centuries. As Star Flyer has arrived early, we are able to explore the island before the daytrippers from nearby Mykonos arrive. It is truly special to discover remnants of beautiful monuments, statues and the intricate mosaic floors. Later, as lunch is served in the Tropical Bar, Star Flyer heads for Mykonos but very strong winds make it impossible to anchor here. The Captain announces that instead, we will head for the island of Paros where we will make an evening call. The afternoon is spent on deck, seeing the officers and crew handle our giant sailing ship. This cruise, we spend most of the time under sail and it is a simply superb experience. As the sun sets over the Aegean Sea, we enjoy a quick but delicious dinner in the restaurant before jumping in a tender. Parikia, the capital of Paros, is heaving with late night acitivity. All shops are open and we love making our way through the whitewashed alleys before ending up on a rooftop terrace with newfound friends ordering an ouzo or two. Anchored offshore right in front of us is our beautiful ship, her masts illuminated with tiny lights. It's as magical as it is unforgettable.
July 14, 2006 - On this cruise, Star Clippers have saved the best for last. We start our morning traditionally near the front mast, coffee in hand, as Star Flyer approaches the island of Sifnos. Our Cruise Director advises us to take a local bus from the port area to the main town of Apollonia (love that name). A short walk will then lead us to the village of Kastro. Her tips prove to be invaluable. When walking from Apollonia, a grand panorama unfolds with white washed houses clinging to a hill, overlooking a lone church perched on a rock in the sea. It could be a scene from "Mamma Mia", but this is the real thing and there is hardly a soul around. We venture through the narrow alleys of Kastro. This is how places like Mykonos and Santorini must have looked before the tourist boom. Returning to Kamares (where our ship is anchored), we spend some time at a delightful beachside taverna before heading back to Star Flyer. This afternoon, we are able to board one of the ship's tenders and sail with our mother ship out to sea as her sails unfold. Star Clippers calls this "Photo Tender" and offers it on most sailings. It is a must-do, really. Sailing with your impressive ship as the sails are hoisted is downright sensational. It is a great prelude to a brilliant evening where we gather as usual in the Tropical Bar, say goodbye to many newfound friends and vouch to come back to Star Flyer and to the wonderful Greek islands.
July 15, 2006 - Through our cabin porthole we see the hustle and bustle of the port of Piraeus. Ferries shuttle back and forth. We are back where we started a week ago. We massively enjoyed cruising the Greek Islands on a real sailing ship. This sailing ship offers great food, good cabins and a truly unique shipboard atmosphere, taking you in style and comfort to some of the lesser known hideaways that are inaccessible to larger ships. If you are willing to spend a cruise holiday away from water slides, Broadway shows, napkin folding and glass elevators, Star Clippers is definitely worth a try.
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