My big fat Greek adventure

//My big fat Greek adventure

Although I am fortunate enough to be able to spend a significant amount of time at sea, so much of that is visiting new ships, or making my first cruise on a vessel, it is rare that I get the chance to return to one I have sailed on before.
But this is my third cruise on Spirit of Adventure, which became one of my favourites when I first sailed round the Black Sea on her in 2007. Following that expedition to Romania, Bulgaria and the fascinating ports of the Crimea, I spent another two exciting weeks on board in 2009 sailing from Aqaba in Jordan to Salalah in Oman, taking in a steam train ride from Massawa in Eritrea, and visiting the ruined city of Suakin in Sudan before braving Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden.
Now I’m taking a gentle voyage in more familiar waters, among the Greek islands. I was going to say friendlier waters, but until today the weather has been distinctly hostile – about 20 degrees cooler than back home, and with unseasonal northerly winds making for choppier seas than expected.
We left Istanbul a week ago, and after a gentle run through the Dardanelles, reached Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on a sleepy Palm Sunday morning. The calm was disturbed, however, by a crazy football fan who insists on playing music and recorded cheering sounds across the harbour every time his team is playing. Apparently, the police can do nothing about him, but I’m surprised the residents don’t just cut off his power.
The next day on Kos was far more peaceful. I joined an excursion from the ship (included in the fare) to the Sanctuary of Asklepeion, where followers of Hippocrates practised early medicine alongside temples dating back to the 2nd Century BC. Back in the town square is the plane tree under which the Father of Medicine allegedly taught, but which, according to our guide, is probably no more than 700 years old – still quite an age.
On Rhodes I joined a cookery class at the Taverna Drachma, and was deservedly rebuked for slicing my village salad tomatoes too neatly instead of chopping them into chunks. My meatballs could have been firmer, but my moussake was a masterpiece.
An afternoon drive to Lindos was approached with trepidation – I spent a two-week holiday in an apartment there in 1978 and I feared that present-day tourism would have ruined the town. True, there are more shops than I remembered, and some trendy new sports bars, but it was reassuring to discover Yannis’ Bar (founded 1976) was virtually unchanged, and the Hermes roof garden restaurant was still in business.
No time to stop for a Tequila Sunrise (my preferred cocktail back in those days when I had considerably more hair and significantly less stomach) because Spirit of Adventure would not wait for latecomers.
In fact strong winds provided a challenge for Captain David Warden-Owen on our crossing to Crete. He steered a course in the lee of Rhodes’s east coast for the early part of the evening, and advised passengers to take advantage of the free seasickness tablets available from reception.
We were a little late arriving at Souda Bay, a huge natural harbour and industrial port from where the best option for the day was to go somewhere else. Some chose an excursion to Knossos, while others took the free shuttle bus for the 20-minute drive into Chania, an infinitely more attractive Venetian harbour with some authentic Greek shops in the picturesque market hall.
The sight of baby kid – perfect for an Easter feast – on the butcher’s slab may have unsettled some stomachs, but many of us came away with bags of herbs and spices to enliven our cooking during the summer.
Many restaurants and tavernas are not serving meat until Easter Day, so I feasted on a surfeit of sea bream and snapper, calamari and crab during lunch and dinner in Naufplion yesterday.
Spirit of Adventure remained in port overnight, and set off at breakfast time for Monemvasia, where we have just arrived. Tonight will be spent at anchor and no doubt we will be woken at a suitable hour tomorrow when Captain David’s voice is piped unbidden from the bridge into our cabins, no doubt to advise us that the tender service is about to begin.
The old walled town clinging to a rocky cliff is bustling with Greek holidaymakers making the most of their Easter weekend, so lunch ashore is likely to be a lively affair. If we’re lucky, there might even be a big fat Greek wedding for us to watch.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:08+00:00 22 April 2011|Cruise Destinations|2 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.


  1. Senait 23 April 2011 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    ”taking in a steam train ride from Massawa in Ethiopia”
    Do you know Massawa is in Eritrea, not Ethiopia? You travelled around yet you don’t know which port belongs to which country?

  2. John Honeywell 24 April 2011 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Thank you for correcting my slip of the keyboard and temporary brain fade. I have now amended the original

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