The marble path to the Acropolis is worn smooth as soap. Millions of soles have tramped this route over the centuries, and millions more will still come to see these symbols of ancient, glorious Greece. Their appeal is eternal, alluring and evocative. Like the majestic Parthenon, inspired by the warrior goddess Athena, and still considered a most perfect piece of classical architecture.
Today, modern Athens lives effortlessly between its elaborate antiquities, revering them while at the same time synthesizing them into daily life. The capital also has a unique energy and vibrancy – a warm aloofness - as elegant Athenians go about their daily business. But when night falls and the work is done, Greeks celebrate life ‘til late. In Athens, as in all of the Mediterranean, there is a palpable lust for living.
As evening light dusts Athens in soft shades of gold, we watch this sprawling city grow small in our wake. Leaning over our private balcony aboard a mega-yacht, sundowner in hand, life is good. Very good. These Yachts of Seabourn are special boats, small and exclusive, utterly luxurious and decadent. They are about slow cruising and elegant journeys.
We breathe fresh Mediterranean air and watch our yacht cut quietly through the hushing sea. It’s a liquid rhythm that brings with it perfect calm. Actually, there’s no sense of movement at all aboard the mega yacht, and you have to look out to sea to know if you are actually sailing.
That’s one of the special things about cruising – aside from not having a care in the world. Then, you also drift off to sleep at night in one country and wake up next morning in another. No fuss or bother.
“Welcome aboard the yacht,” greets a smiling Diana Loseva, our vivacious stewardess. “You don’t need to lift a finger,” she adds, “anything you would like, just call me and I will be glad to assist.”
Then Diana tells us briefly about some of the facilities on board – just some though, because there are many.
“Seabourn Square is the yacht’s living room with a business centre, coffee bar, library and all the shore excursions are arranged there,” she says. “Then there are shops and boutiques and many different bars, observation areas, a spa and salon, fitness centre, a retreat area, swimming pools and whirlpools,” she stops. “Do you want to hear more? Oh, there are four restaurants to choose from too – everything from fine dining to poolside meals, themed dinners and tasting evenings. Or if you’re not in the mood for any of these, just order in and dine right here in suite.”
Ah, how to choose. In the spirit of slowing down to a gentler pace, we enjoy a Seabourn style ‘surf and turf’ of fillet and crayfish, prepared to perfection and savoured under the stars at the Patio Grill. But during the cruise we will certainly dine in all the venues on board.
The Yachts of Seabourn are renowned for their sublime cuisine and impeccable service. Attention to detail – from the appointments and amenities in the sumptuous suites and marble bathrooms to all the public dining and leisure areas on the yacht – is flawless. Somehow every whim and desire is anticipated, as if the extensive crew were all trained mind readers.
"Nirvana for lovers of the good life"
To sleep, cruising in the Mediterranean and we wake up in the Ionian Sea, as we cut through the ocean to Pylos. To the eye, the Ionian Sea looks completely unnatural: perfectly clear and dark inky blue at the same time – and the sea is as warm as the early autumn weather.
Cruising really epitomizes the art of slow travel, plus there is no packing and unpacking, scurrying about, whipping out passports and clearing customs, chasing planes or trains. All you need to think of while sailing is what you’d like to do, and then simply do it. It’s unadulterated hedonistic bliss. Heaven for pleasure seekers. Nirvana for lovers of the good life.
“If you want to see something spectacular, be on the viewing deck at six o’clock tomorrow morning,” says Captain Mark Dexter, as we pass him in the passage on board the yacht. “Why?” I ask. “Be there and you’ll see,” he smiles. “It’s one of my favourite experiences.”
Disheveled and bleary eyed, we are up and on deck early next morning. And we are speechless and in awe of the sight before us. Slowly and effortlessly, we are sailing up a fjord. Flanked by land on both sides, our yacht eases up this narrow sea inlet, passing little fishing boats on early morning sortees and watching red-roofed villages wake up to the day. Captain Dexter’s “spectacular” was certainly an understatement.
"...new on the map, but old at heart..."
In Montenegro, we’re in one of the world’s newest countries. As one of the former republics of Yugoslavia, Montenegro may be new on the map but it’s old at heart. Ancient villages with heavy red tiled roofs, hilltop stone churches and city walls of solid rock allude to plenty of history, as well as war and peace.
The country has a wild beauty and was only recently noticed by tourists in search of the unusual. But it’s the Adriatic coastline that is most startling discovery, and it’s quite clear to us why it’s rated one of the world’s most magnificent coasts to see and sail.
As the spots on the dog, the Dalmation Coast is a collection of hundreds of islands, some tiny as a big sea rock and others larger. The coast looks distinctly like a sky god sprinkled islands on the surface of the sea, and when people came they decorated many of them with lighthouses that now caress the Adriatic with their night beams. More beautiful is impossible.
It’s dark outside, but the stars are out and their light dances fancifully on the surface of the sea. And then a lighthouse flashes in the distance too. Outside on our balcony sipping a nightcap, we are lulled by the sound of the sea as the yacht gently carves its way through the night. We’re also enchanted and seduced by the elegance of sailing as a way to savour travel and soak up the full experience. Now the destination is not the goal; it’s the journey that’s important. Travel for the soul, in a modern-day odyssey
For more information on Yachts of Seabourn and luxury cruising, visit www.cruises.co.za or call 011 327 0327.
Keri Harvey has an insatiable passion for Africa; traveling the continent and writing about it for decades. Now she’s sharing the most special and enchanting places she’s found, through tailor-made itineraries and on small tour groups to North Africa. Visit www.sandsafaris.com to find out more.