We took the strangely timed evening flight to Athens which lands at 2.30am, sailed through security and baggage claim and made the 2-minute walk to the Sofitel hotel. By 3am we were in bed, so actually this is not a bad option! A sleep in, late morning brunch and into our taxi for the 45-minute journey to Piraeus port.
Back on board, in our 'happy place' as SeaDream call it, we saw one familiar face after another; SeaDream looked after their crew very well during the pandemic and as a result some 90% returned to the ships. In our refurbished cabin (no suites with balconies here, this is yacht style cruising!) there appeared to be even more storage space than before and the new fresh cream and chocolate décor is very attractive.
A bumpy ride northwards overnight took us to the Sporades, Skiathos and Skopelos, where the film Mamma Mia was filmed. We climbed to the church on the top of the hill and channelled our inner Meryl Streep! Although we were travelling in July, the season hadn't really begun, so the bars and cafés were quiet and as the rainfall is higher in these islands than others, they appeared green and lush.
To Kusadasi, our only repeat port of call and whilst at one time we would have been blasé about revisiting Ephesus, our post-lockdown mentality is very much, "we might not be able to do this again", so we seized the opportunity to explore this extraordinary site once more. You never know, it might be for the last time…
On board, the food was better than we have ever known it! Small ships often find it challenging to create varied menus, but on SeaDream II, dish after delicious dish is served up, beautifully presented and with exquisite seasoning.
In Patmos, one of our party cycled the hills, whilst others hiked up to the cave where St. John had his revelation and then, on to the hilltop monastery. Hiking is not necessary, by the way, you can easily get to both locations by taxi; but our enthusiasm for the food and wine on board could only be mitigated by some serious daytime exercise!
Strong winds meant we were unable to call at Mykonos, which would have been our one repeat island. Instead, we went to lovely Syros, docking at Ermoupolis the capital of the Cyclades and a thriving seafront town. The old walled town, beautiful Ano Syros, is perched high on the hillside above and boasts tiny cobbled streets, plenty of steps, with tiny cafés and bars and bougainvillea tumbling from the balconies and terraces.
In the bay at Kamares in Sifnos, the precipitous slopes suggest walking would be challenging. But, in fact a leisurely hike up the valley took us to the old donkey trail up to pretty Apollonia; a 12km round trip, for which we rewarded ourselves with lunch on the beach, beer and a Greek salad did the job perfectly!
Milos, where the Venus de Milo statue was found, has strange volcanic landscapes with glowing white rock formations. The combination of pretty beaches and inviting turquoise bays against a backdrop of rocky peaks, each topped of course by a monastery or fortress, meant our final port of call offered one more idyllic day, before we were kicked out of paradise once again.
Until the next time!