From imposing ancient monuments to the lanes of medieval port towns, this itinerary echoes with stories of heroes and great civilizations. Along the way, I was able to revel in the breathtaking regions of Italy and delve into Greek mythology in its most fabled sites, on this all-encompassing classic journey aboard the m/v Tere Moana.
The experience was like one on a private yacht with friends, sailing from enchanting port to another, enjoying the rich local flavors and culture.
Day 1: Saturday June 15, 2013, Athens (Pireaus), Greece
From Athens, the cruise terminal in Piraeus is about a 15-minute drive. The Moana’s hospitality desk is set up right before you enter the terminal.
In this busy, working port, a mix of large and medium ships is moored along with the m/v Tere Moana, which sparkled in the sun.
Once I stepped aboard the elegant ship, I was immediately welcomed with a chilled towel and a glass of Champagne. Piano melodies drifted from Le Salon where guests gathered to meet, enjoy refreshments, and afternoon tea.
A member of the staff accompanied me to my stateroom and gave me a tour of it before my luggage arrived.
In late afternoon, a mandatory safety briefing and life boat drill was held, prior to the ship’s departing.
As The Moana set sail from Piraeus for Itea, Greece, a festive cocktail party took place on the top deck. Guests met and mingled enjoying Champagne, tray-passed canapés, and live music, along with scenic views as the ship cruised the Aegean Sea.
After cocktail hour, dinner began al fresco style at one of the most unique venues on the water—the Soleil Deck of The Moana. Guests took their seats at tables dressed in colorful linens, adorned with fine china, crystal stemware, and silverware. Servers poured wine, Champagne, and mineral water as lively conversations and laughter drifted from each table.
The first course was a Mediterranean platter of tapas. In the center was a Greek salad, surrounded by a triangle of Spanakopita, a stuffed grape leaf, creamy tzatziki, two varieties of hummus, pita bread wedges, bars of feta cheese, and a dainty apricot topped with cream and sprinkled with pistachios. Fresh-baked breads were served on wooden platters accompanied by specialty butters and olive oils.
The main course was a choice of local fish or lamb chops, grilled on deck, and served with an array of Mediterranean dishes.
As we dined, we began to approach the Corinth Canal. Guests rejoiced in how magical and special tonight had been so far and the anticipation of sailing through the canal beckoned. Transiting the Corinth Canal is an adventure not many people in their life will ever experience.
This man-made canal connects the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea.
Cutting right through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth, it separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland, transforming the former to an island.
The canal’s uneven limestone walls stretch up from the blue waters beneath.
The festive dinner party continued as we sail through.
The walls have varying shades of colors, from grey to beige to russet, with deep markings punctuated by green rock shrubs.
Although the canal saves the 430-mile (700-kilometer) journey around the Peloponnese, it is far too narrow to accommodate most modern vessels, as it can only host ships of a width of 54 feet (16.5 meters) and a depth of 24 feet (7.3 meters) such as The Moana. Vessels pass through the canal one at a time on a one-way system. Several rulers in antiquity dreamed of digging a canal through the isthmus and it was finally completed on July 25, 1893, after eleven years of construction.
As the ship emerged from the canal, it was bathed in a magical glow from the setting sun.
After the transit and as the sun began to set, a trio of Mediterranean confections were served—baklava, Turkish delight (gel and nougat with chopped nuts), and a chocolate ball topped with pistachios. Once it was dark, guests went inside to the Piano Bar to enjoy melodies by Alex, The Moana’s pianist, and a few cocktails before retiring to their staterooms.