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The Return of the Clipper (Our Third Group)

Posted: July 07, 2022
 
Category: Blog

Thursday 16th June

Our original flight was cancelled and so after weighing up our available options, we opted to fly out a day earlier than originally planned. Planning the new schedule was complicated by the fact that British Airways had only cancelled our outbound flight, and as such we were now flying out of Heathrow but, at present, would be flying back into Gatwick – not ideal but after everything that has happened in the last few years, not a major issue either.  

Flew down to Heathrow from Newcastle this afternoon. Annoyingly, we had to collect our luggage at Heathrow and check in again for our flight to Athens. Despite the fact that they were both British Airways flights, the fact that we had to rebook after our original flight had been cancelled meant that the two flights couldn’t be linked and as such, our baggage couldn’t be checked through from Newcastle to Athens. Regardless, the whole affair went smoothly and it didn’t take long for us to check-in again (via the self-service machines) and be back airside ready for our onward flight to Athens.  

Arrived in Athens and transferred to the hotel St George Lycabettus; tired but excited for what lay ahead. Worth noting, the process of getting through Athens airport was incredibly smooth. The plane taxied to the terminal and five minutes later, we were through one of the friendliest passport controls we have ever experienced! Arriving in the baggage hall, our bags were already on the carousel. Passing through to landside, it was easy to spot our driver holding up a printed card with our names and Star Clipper written on it. 15 minutes after landing, we were in the taxi heading to our hotel.  

Friday 17th June  

This morning we awoke and had a lovely breakfast on the hotel terrace. Sitting in the early morning sun, with a glass of orange juice and breath-taking views of the Parthenon – not a bad way to start the day!  

Spent the day exploring Athens. Had lunch in a quaint taverna in the Plaka district – situated in the shadow of the Acropolis, the Plaka district has a village feel, with cobblestone streets and an array of small shops, cafes and family-run bars and tavernas. After lunch, we stopped and had a drink in a lovely Mexican bar – we figured that the next fortnight was going to be very ‘Greek’ so wanted to mix it up a little bit! 

This evening we had pre-booked a table at Kiouzin, a small restaurant serving traditional Greek food in a warm and friendly environment. We had originally made the booking for 8 people (ourselves and three other couples) but two of the couples were unable to join us – one due to a flight change and the other had booked to stay in a hotel close to the port – so in the end there was just the four of us. It was a lovely evening, delicious food and wonderful company – a great first night!  

Saturday 18th June

Very excited this morning; after three long years we were finally embarking on another Clipper sailing today! After another few hours exploring Athens, we set off for Piraeus (the port for Athens), ready to begin the boarding process.  

No matter how many times you have sailed on a Star Clipper ship, the moment you first glimpse the vessel is always a magical moment; truly an experience that will never get old!  

As some of you reading this will know, Star Clippers still require passengers to show a negative test result before boarding is permitted. However, they now offer complimentary tests at the port during the embarkation process. Thankfully, after just a fifteen-minute wait, all results came back negative and we soon found ourselves on the deck of the Star Flyer enjoying a drink in the Tropical Bar.

After settling into our cabin and freshening up, we headed down to the dining room for the ‘Welcome Dinner’. At present, Star Clippers are requiring passengers to sit in set seats during mealtimes. As a group of 8, we had a table to ourselves. Whilst we enjoy the social aspect of Star Clipper sailings, it was nice to be with just our group and get to know them. Some of whom we were meeting for the first time after years of communicating via email and phone calls!  

After dinner we headed back up on deck for the first sail away – always incredible! We have to admit, once again being onboard one of these wonderful ships, mingling with the other guests and the crew was a more emotional experience than we were expecting.  

Sunday 19th June  

Our 14-night back-to-back Greek odyssey began with a 7-night ‘Southern Cyclades’ sailing and today was spent at sea as the ship sailed from Piraeus (Athens) to Rhodes.

A day at sea affords guests the opportunity to explore the ship and learn about life at sea. At various times throughout the day, guests had the chance to learn ‘how to read a sea chart’, ‘how to make a sailors knot’, ‘the secrets of the Star Flyer’, and, ‘centuries of Greek and Turkish history’. As well as exercising the mind, guests could also exercise the body with early morning gymnastics, deck golf and mid-afternoon pool aerobics.

If rest and relaxation is more your speed then you are obviously more than welcome to grab a good book and spend the day lounging on deck, or sitting at the bar with a cocktail or two – if you are lucky, you may even get a lesson in cocktail making from one of the bartenders! 

Today the winds were perfect for sailing and, at one point, Captain Brunon Borovka advised that under full sail we were achieving a speed over 12 knots. 

Before dinner, we joined the other returning guests for the ‘Back on Board’ cocktail party with Captain Bruno. Tonight, the after-dinner entertainment was the ‘Star Flyer Fashion Show’ - always good fun!  

Monday 20th June 

Today the Star Flyer would be docking in Rhodes at midday and so a leisurely morning onboard with a late-ish breakfast and a coffee on deck.  

Rhodes was the Island of the Sun God Helios and as such, has a reputation for being one of the sunniest islands in Greece – a reputation it certainly lived up to! The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, both Byzantine and Ottoman influences can be seen across the island. Highlights include the Acropolis of Lindos, the medieval Street of the Knights, and the castlelike Palace of the Grandmasters. The island is also home to a number of golden-sanded beaches, locally produced wines and a selection of delicious signature dishes.

We had a stroll through the Old Town but, due to the stifling heat, we soon took refuge in a local taverna where we enjoyed beer in a boot! To be clear, the beer was served in a glass shaped like a boot, not an actual boot worn on someone's foot!  

Tonight was ‘White Night’. It always surprises us that they don’t advertise these themed evenings – ‘White Night’, ‘Pirate Night’ etc. - before guests embark. Having said that, we guess it wouldn’t make much of a difference to ‘White Night’, the majority of people onboard have something white that they can wear. (It only seems to be ‘Pirate Night’ that is greatly affected by a lack of advanced warning).  

Tonight, the ship didn’t depart from Rhodes until 23.00 and so guests were afforded the opportunity to have dinner and a few drinks ashore.  

Tuesday 21st June 

Today’s port of call was Bodrum, Turkey. A once sleepy fishing village that has grown into one of Turkeys loveliest tourist destinations. It was a 30-minute walk from the ship to town, which depending on the conditions, can be a rather pleasant stroll, as the Star Flyer was required to dock in the modern cruise terminal.  

For the more active amongst the group, a walk up to the Castle of St. Peter was the chosen activity – it should be noted that with the uneven flagstones and stone staircases, this walk can be a bit of a challenge so good walking shoes are recommended. We opted to visit an amazing Spanish restaurant and enjoy some drinks and a selection of Tapas as we watched the the world go by.  

Guests were required to be back on-board ship by 17.30 so that the Star Flyer could set sail for Dalyan River at 18.00. After freshening up, we met for a pre-dinner drink in the Tropical Bar – something we did every night.  

Tonight’s entertainment was ‘The Quiz with the Numbers’. Whether participating, or just watching the other guests as they get more and more competitive, the quizzes onboard are always enjoyable. To be honest, even Stephen Hawking would have struggled with this one!

Did you know? Since the 1700’s, it has been widely believed that having a banana on board was an omen of disaster.  

Wednesday 22nd June  

This morning the Star Flyer anchored off Dalyan River at 08.00 and so any guests booked on the excursions had to be ready to leave the ship by 8.30. We had decided to just explore on our own and so after a leisurely breakfast, we headed ashore.

The Star Flyer anchors off Iztuzu Beach and the ship runs a tender service to the beach. From the beach, guests can partake in a number of water sports, although this is limited to non-motorised sports as part of the beach is home to a turtle conservation programme.  

From the beach, you can hire a water taxi to take you into town, a journey that takes approximately 30 minutes and costs 20 euros, per person, return. Along the way, the driver stopped to show us and explain the Tombs of the Kings, built into the hillside opposite. The water taxi dropped us of in the town and waited for us as we did some shopping and had some lunch.

Some people will enjoy relaxing on the beach, partaking in some swimming / snorkelling or going for a stroll along the sand, but we would highly recommend following our lead and taking the water taxi into town – it's cheap, informative and enjoyable.

Did you know? Parts of 'The African Queen’, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, were filmed here.  

Back onboard ship mid-afternoon in preparation for the Flyer to sail towards Santorini. A number of activities were laid on by the crew including a virtual tour of the hotel department, water aerobics, a deck tour and, weather permitting, mast climbing.

Tonight, the onboard musician, Jerby, put on a Beatles concert – not an easy band to imitate, but he certainly gave it a good go!

Thursday 23rd June

This morning the Star Flyer sailed into the Caldera (volcano-crater) of Santorini. If you ever find yourself on an itinerary that takes in Santorini, be sure to be on deck as you sail in, the scenery is spectacular! The ship sails through a gap in the island ring, cutting through the blue-black water and enters the ancient crater of what once was one of the most violent volcanoes on earth!

For some, the highlight of a call to Santorini is not the island itself – although there is no denying its natural beauty and character – but rather the approach and departure into the Caldera!

It is not possible for the Star Flyer to anchor in the Caldera, the water depth is too deep and the tender service is strictly regulated and so only boats from the island are permitted to operate. Therefore, the Star Flyer had to drift while local boats provided a tender service to shore.

Did you know? Some believe Santorini to be part of the legendary Atlantis.

We had actually been contacted by clients of ours who informed us that they were currently holidaying in Santorini. They have already booked to join us on our Costa Rica group in February 2023, so together with two others from our group (who are also coming to Costa Rica), we met up for a very pleasant lunch in a restaurant with views down to the ship. The captain had warned us that, as he could not anchor, he might move the ship and it was quite strange, during lunch, to suddenly see the ship sail off into the distance!  

Onboard this evening was the ever-popular guest and crew talent show! It was mostly the crew participating tonight, but as always, they gave it their all and performed with a constant smile on their faces. Although two young brothers, one of whom was deaf, did get up to sing acapella and that was amazing!  

Friday 24th June 

Star Flyer wouldn’t reach todays port of call, Hydra, until noon and so this morning guests had the opportunity to climb the mast or, for the less adventurous onboard, partake in a little shopping with a sale in the Sloop Shop.

The Star Flyer is too deep-drafted to enter the small port, and instead anchored off the harbour entrance. A tender service landed guests at an exceptionally picturesque pier, right in the heart of the town – a perfect place from which to set off and explore the scenic surroundings.

Hydra is the island where a young Leonard Cohen lived for a while and it is here where he wrote many of his songs. So, while four of us enjoyed a drink, two of our party (big Leonard Cohen fans) went off to successfully find his house and favourite bar.

Another late sail away tonight, with guests once again afforded the opportunity to dine ashore.

After this evening's meal, and once all guests had returned from shore, the Star Flyer raffled off the sea-chart of this voyage – a wonderful keepsake for one lucky passenger. In all our years of sailing with Star Clippers we are yet to be fortunate enough to win one but we still dream of one day having one hanging in the office. Fingers crossed!

Did you know? The Eastern Mediterranean is actually a good spot for whale watching and over the years many Star Clippers travellers have been treated to the sight of whales.  

Saturday 25th June

Disembarkation day, always a sad occasion. Thankfully we still had another week to enjoy and everyone in the group was staying with us – no tearful goodbyes to say! Still, we were up early for breakfast and to settle the first week's bar bill.

We were also switching cabins from the first week to the second week but we had actually received a knock on our cabin door from our steward on Thursday to advise that our cabin for the second week was ready and we could switch early if we wanted to. So, we did. Not really sure how the cabin was available on Thursday, but not complaining, it gave us a couple of extra days and saved us having to pack and put our cases out last night.

We disembarked the ship and took a hop-on hop-off city tour of Athens this morning. Conveniently, the buses were lined up alongside the ship and, with a bit of haggling from one of our party (thank you Alison), the cost was only 15 Euros per person. An overall enjoyable experience.

After the tour we headed back to the Star Flyer to check in for our second week. As well as the three couples staying on from the first week, we were being joined by another three couples for the second week, bringing our number up to 14 – a nice size that allowed us to get to know and spend time with everyone.

Did you know? Over the course of a ‘Southern Cyclades’ sailing, the Star Flyer travels a total of 727 nautical miles.

Another mandatory safety drill before the ‘Welcome Dinner’ and ‘Champagne Sail Away Party’. Tonight, the Star Flyer set sail for Dikili, Turkey as she began a 7-night ‘Sporades Highlights’ sailing.

Sunday 26th June

As like last week, the first day of this itinerary is spent crossing the Aegean Sea as the Star Flyer sails the almost 200 nautical miles from Piraeus to Dikili. Again, the crew put on a number of activities aimed at educating and entertaining the guests.

As those of you who have sailed with Star Clippers before will know, the mandatory safety drills on both the day of embarkation and the morning after used to take the best part of an hour – and sometimes longer. Thankfully, Star Clippers have now introduced a much shorter safety drill. On embarkation day, passengers simply watch a short video in their cabin and then take their life jacket to their muster station, put it on, and then sign to say they have watched the video. On the Sunday, you simply watch the video once again, in your cabin, and that is the drill complete.

This evening, once again the ‘Star Flyer Fashion Show’ took place. This week, two of our group actually volunteered as models – very exciting!   

Monday 27th June

Early arrival into the port of Dikili this morning with a tour to ‘Pergamum’ leaving at 08.30. Pergamum is one of the major sites of antiquity in Turkey and was one of the outstanding cultural centres for over a century.

We opted to explore on our own (as we do in most places) and whilst ashore some of the group stumbled across a little bar where hanging on the wall was a large, full wall-sized picture of the Star Clipper. The bar also afforded its patrons lovely views across the bay, so one side you had the beautiful picture of the Star Clipper and on the other, you had a beautiful picturesque view of the Star Flyer – a truly stunning setting!

Ship departed Dikili at 18.00 and after setting sail, Peter (the Cruise Director) gave a lecture on the ‘history of the Clipper ships’ - very informative!  

After dinner this evening the wonderful Jerby put on a ‘Bee Gees Night’, equally as good as his earlier ‘Beatles’ tribute and confirmed the view of the whole group that he was the best entertainer we had ever experienced on board a Star Clipper ship.

Tuesday 28th June  

Today’s port of call is Limnos. Due to its isolated location, few tourists visit Limnos – it is 103 nautical miles from Dikili and 87 nautical miles from tomorrow's port, Skiathos. In the past however, its position in the wind-tossed Aegean made it a logical stepping stone on the busy Athens trade route.

Did you know? In Greek mythology it is said that when Hephaestus was thrown off Mount Olympus by Zeus, he landed on the island of Limnos.

The Star Clipper anchors of Myrina, the capital and main port of Limnos. This scenic port stretches across two bays with an imposing castle in the centre, sitting on a large formation of volcanic rock. The island is home to what is supposedly one of the oldest Greek wines in existence. Referenced by Homer and favoured by Aristotle, we decided to sample a few glasses – after all, it would have been rude of us not to!

Today’s lecture from Peter was on ‘the largest tall ships in history’ - another informative and interesting talk. Next time you are onboard one of the ships, we would highly recommend you listen to at least one of these talks from Peter (or another Cruise Director).    

Wednesday 29th June

Today the Star Flyer anchored off the island of Skiathos, a place of great natural beauty with pine clad hills, golden-sanded beaches, a pretty harbour and a sunlit waterfront boasting numerous bars, restaurant and boutiques.

Did you know? The Sporades consist of 24 islands but only four of them are permanently inhabited: Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros.

The ship would be anchored off the coast of Skiathos until 23.45 with guests not required to be back onboard until 23.15. We therefore decided to take advantage of the late sail away and finally have dinner ashore. We informed the rest of the group of our decision and invited them to join us but told them that they were more than welcome to eat onboard – we like to make these group sailings as informal as possible. Six of the group decided to join us and so, after returning to the ship to freshen up, the eight of us made our way back into town for an evening of authentic Greek food and wine. We ate in the Fisherman’s Restaurant, a lovely family-owned restaurant on Old Street. The sardines were amazing and one of our group opted for the most unusual salads we had ever seen which included apples, pineapple, whole cherries and melon!

If we had decided to stay onboard this evening, we could have enjoyed a screening of ‘Mamma Mia’ (with fresh popcorn!) as it was being shown in preparation for tomorrow’s port – Skopelos!  

Thursday 30th June 

As mentioned above, today’s port of call was Skopelos, a larger but less visited neighbour to Skiathos. Considered by those in the know to be home to beautiful rugged-scenery and one of the prettiest harbour side towns throughout the Greek Isles, its role in the film ‘Mamma Mia’ has boosted its popularity immensely.

Without detracting from the island's natural beauty and rich history, the locals have embraced the fame that ‘Mamma Mia’ brought it with tours, souvenirs, and a small cinema that still shows the film three times a week!

Did you know? Skopelos is home to 300 churches. With a population under 5,000; on a quiet day you could have one to yourself.  

Today is a Thursday which can mean only one thing - ‘the Star Flyer Guest and Crew Talent Show!’ With varying degrees of talent but 100% enthusiasm from all, it is always an enjoyable and entertaining evening.

Friday 1st July  

Last full day on board today. Always sad waking up and realising that tomorrow we will be getting off the ship. Still, shouldn’t dwell on it. It’s been a fantastic trip so far and we still have one more port of call to explore.

The journey from Skopelos to Poros is 153 nautical miles and the route takes the Star Flyer past Cape Sounion, the most southernly tip of the Greek mainland. Anyone who is an early riser should make sure they are on deck as the ship passes the cape, home to the famous Temple of Poseidon, the views from the seaside, especially during sunrise, are definitely worth getting up for!

The ‘Sporades Highlights’ itinerary ends with a stop in Poros, a small, volcanic island of great beauty. Its proximity to Athens makes it popular summer resort for both Greeks and foreigners.

Did you know? In Greek mythology, the island of Poros is said to have belonged to Apollo but he gave it to Poseidon in exchange for Delphi.

As it was our last day, we decided to have lunch ashore. We ate in the Old Boat Yard, a family-run restaurant and enjoyed an incredible cheese pie and Greek salad with a few glasses of the local wine. A perfect last meal ashore.

Another sea-chart raffle this evening, another missed opportunity. One of these days we’ll get our hands on one. After the raffle Jerby laid on a ‘Queens Night’ - another wonderful evening of music, dancing and drinking.

Back to our cabin to pack ready for disembarkation tomorrow.  

Saturday 2nd July

Up early this morning for one last breakfast on board before settling our bill and checking out. After saying goodbye to the group, six of us shared a pre-booked taxi transfer to the airport. Once you start your journey, you just want to be home. However, after two wonderful weeks onboard, with friends old and new, we didn’t mind a day of travelling – especially after the last few years!

Did you know? On a ‘Sporades Highlights’ sailing, the ship travels 604 nautical miles. Over 100 miles less than on a ‘Southern Cyclades’ sailing!

A few small issues aside, the last two weeks have reminded us why we fell in love with Star Clippers in the first place and why we began escorting groups on these wonderful ships. We can’t wait for our next group adventure in Costa Rica but until then, we wish you all fair winds and a following sea!   


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