My wife and I want to celebrate our anniversary with a cruise of the Greek isles. We don't want a huge boat with 3,000 passengers, and we'd love to get out and explore. Ideas?
There are many ships both big a nd small plying the azure waters – Greek economic turbulence aside – of the Aegean Sea. But you're looking for more intimate options, so here are three picks from Muriel Lee, president of Cruisenet Tours & Travel (cruisenet.ca): Windstar Cruises (windstarcruises.com) offers a "country club casual" atmosphere and tall-ship style with electronic sails that unfurl at the push of a button, Lee says. Both its Wind Spirit and Wind Star, each with a capacity of 148 passengers, are sailing the Greek isles this year with stops that include Mykonos and its whitewashed churches, Rhodes and its Acropolis of Lindos and the 15th-century castle of Bodrum, where one can wander though the Museum of Underwater Archeology. Sailings start or end in Istanbul or Athens.
Meanwhile, Star Clippers (starclippers.com) also offers tall-masted ships. Its vessels combine the polished brightwork and sails of a yacht with modern amenities such as swimming pools and sophisticated cuisine. Star Clipper, with its 170 passengers, offers a number of Greek isle cruises that include Croatia, Sicily or Turkey, Lee says . Its seven-night Greek Isles and Turkey sailing, for instance, includes stops in Patmos, where St. John had apocalyptic revelations in a cave, and Amorgos, with its Byzantine monastery clinging to a cliff.
Compagnie Du Ponant (en.ponant.com) is another of Lee's small-ship favourites. Its seven-night Athens-to-Istanbul cruise in July aboard Le Levant includes stops at Lemnos, with a tour to the archeological site of Poliochni, and the cosmopolitan island of Syros. The sleek ship, meanwhile, described as a "thoroughbred private yacht" by the company, carries 90 passengers and offers travel à la français. (Think wine at lunch and the word "chic" sprinkled throughout the company website.) Compagnie Du Ponant also often includes onboard seminars at sea.
And Lee's other tips?
If you're looking for a more budget sailing, consider the Greek-flagged Louis Cruises (louiscruises.com), booked through Air Transat Holidays. "The ships hold between 710 and 1,500 passengers and have marvellous land and cruise combinations," Lee says.
Worried about the euro-zone crisis? "The current economic situation should not deter anyone from visiting Greece as tourists are being given a very warm welcome – perhaps more now than ever before," Lee says. The economic slowdown has meant attractive prices and promotions that are selling quickly, she notes. "So one should act sooner than later."
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Special to The Globe and Mail