As my wife and I stepped off the shuttle bus dockside at the historic port of Piraeus, Greece, we were amazed to see her rich mahogany woodwork, and gleaming brass. We had read about the legendary Sea Cloud sailing ship but after seeing her for the first time we felt we were about to step back into history. Our early September 7-day sailing adventure was about to begin. . . Exploring the Greek Cyclades Islands aboard the historic square-rigger. As we boarded this magnificent ship, we were greeted by our expedition director and his staff from National Geographic and the ship’s capable crew.
The Sea Cloud
The Sea Cloud is the ideal cruise ship for those of us who are not fans of large sea-going hotels with thousands of people to share your travels with. Her original owners, heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and financier E.F. Hutten spared no expense to create the largest private sailing ship ever built in 1931. Today with 37 staterooms accommodating just 64 guests, this four-masted beauty is the ideal cruise ship to explore the Cyclades Islands. Although the Sea Cloud is fitted with modern technology and a capable engine room, she best cruises under 30 billowing sails hoisted and trimmed by hand. It is a joy to watch as 16 skilled sailors go aloft to raise and lower the sails. It takes the crew one hour to set or take in the sails. We were thrilled being aboard a tall ship under full sail, something rarely experienced by today’s travelers.
The Cyclades Islands are some of the most spectacular and photogenic of Greece’s many islands. There are 220 Cyclades Islands spread across the Aegean Sea southeast of mainland Greece. Our expedition explored the islands of Santorini (called Thira by the locals), the uninhabited island of Delos, Amorgos, Tinos, and Sifnos. Here are some highlights and our favorite photographs captured while visiting these beautiful islands.
Santorini – is an island formed by a single volcanic cone that erupted in the second millennium B.C. We sailed into the caldera then cruised by launch to the island’s small port dock. Traveling by bus we drove through unique vineyards to the beautiful cliff-side town of Oia. Although Oia was by far the busiest village of our journey, it was also the most spectacular offering fantastic views of the caldera below.
Delos – This tiny uninhabited island has been called the archaeological gem of the Cyclades and is the birthplace of the mythical twin gods Artemis, goddess of animals, and Apollo, god of healing, light and music. We spent the morning exploring the island’s fascinating ruins and enjoying the spectacular views from the top of Monte Cintos.
Amorgos – is the easternmost island of the Cyclades. After a short zodiac ride from the Sea Cloud, we arrived at the village docks of Katapola. A visit to the beautiful white monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, clinging to the side of a cliff above the sea, was truly remarkable, and an experience we will not soon forget.
Tinos – We dropped anchor at the beautiful island of Tinos known for its Venetian history, terraced hillsides, and green marble quarries. Another zodiac ride brought us to the main docks of Tinos, the town of the same name as the island. A short bus ride took us to the picturesque village of Pyrgos, where we explored the narrow streets and outdoor cafes. Traveling back to the main town of Tinos, we explored many artist shops along the “Leof. Megalocharis”, a pedestrian shopping avenue filled with locals and tourists.
Sifnos – is a rugged island with a harbor village that spreads upward to a beautiful upper chora (village) with waterfront tavernas, and beaches. We felt pretty much alone with the locals in this “photo op” rich little village.
As we enjoyed our night sailing back to the port of Piraeus, we thought of our Greek Island adventures where we explored and discovered rich history, customs, cultures and cuisines. . . and of course, we could not wait to review the images in our memory cards. Our journey was about to come to an end, but the memories we captured during this unique experience aboard the Sea Cloud will not soon be forgotten.
As always, wherever your journey takes you, may only the most remarkable memories and photographs be yours.