This post was written by Windstar’s Public Relations Director, Amanda Graham, regarding a recent Greek Isles & Turkish Delights press trip.
I just returned from Star Breeze, one of our recently acquired power yachts, on the Greek Isles & Turkish Delights cruise itinerary. I was eagerly anticipating this voyage, as I have been saving the Greek Isles for just the right time. What I didn’t think about was that August is the heart of tourism season, and I have been beyond spoiled with the Windstar way of travel (i.e. the only ship in town).
Here are a few insider tips to make even the busiest season feel like your own private yacht experience.
1. Travel on a holiday weekend. We arrived in Athens just in time for a public holiday, and the city was empty. Pair that with an 8:00 a.m. arrival at the Acropolis, and we were actually able to get a beautiful picture without anyone in the background.
2. Meet the Chef. One of most important people (in my opinion) to meet when you get on board is the Chef. Windstar does local market tours almost every cruise. In addition, the Chef is going out every day to buy local products, so if there is something you want to try, just ask! Chances are the Chef can grab it for you. Another event not to miss is the galley tour, which is a behind-the-scenes look at all the kitchens.
3. Explore the opposite end of the island. We pulled into Myknonos, and were the only ship in port. The small port town is busy with travelers and we wanted more of a private beach experience. So we rented a car and traveled to the other side of the island. We were able to find a quiet beach, away from the crowds. There were even complimentary tiki huts and chairs so you could be out of the sun.
4. Embrace the Private Event. There is no better way to escape the crowds than with Windstar’s Private Events, our unique, exclusive onshore events. This cruise featured the Private Event at an outdoor amphitheater in Rhodes. Local dishes such as dolmades, moussaka and baklava were served. White and red Greek wine were poured. Locals then came up and taught traditional dances, and before long the entire ship was up and shouting Opa!
5. Take the road less traveled. There were five ships in Santorini. This was one of the comments I kept hearing from the guests, and my response is, there is no way that we can sail a Greek Isles itinerary and not go to Santorini. So, what’s the best way to experience this gorgeous destination? We asked the locals and took a hike from Fira to Oia. It’s not for the faint of heart, it’s a five-mile trail on jagged coast line in ninety degree weather. However, there was NO ONE around. We had the stunning coastlines with white picturesque buildings all to ourselves.
6. Sail a Private Yacht. In Bodrum we had the amazing opportunity to go on a gulet, a typical Turkish boat. This could very well be my favorite Windstar shore excursion. There was a group of 10, and we had the entire boat to ourselves, complete with a local guide and chef. We sailed along the coast of Bodrum, jumping in and snorkeling at a few bays, and ending with a delicious local lunch with dishes such as grilled octopus, rice wrapped with squash flower, and fresh figs.
7. Don’t Miss the Belly Dancing. We always try to bring on local entertainment once per cruise. This voyage featured Turkish belly dancers in Bodrum. The dancers came on board and we watched from the comfort of the Lounge. Again, it was a great way to beat the crowd, as the entertainment came to us.
8. Get a Guide. I was really looking forward to Ephesus. I wasn’t looking forward to the crowds that are at every major historical ruin. The way around this is to get a guide. Windstar’s shore excursions are 20 people or less per guide. This gets you an interactive experience, brings the history to life, and takes you to some places that you otherwise couldn’t go.
9. Relax. Just Spa. If you are really looking to relax on vacation (and who isn’t), book a session in a spa on one of the port days. There are always great specials during time at port as it is less busy.
10. VIP Airport Service. This is the first time I have tried this service in Istanbul, and it’s amazing. An escort will take you right through the baggage line, the security line, and into a private lounge where you can wait for your flight. It’s the perfect way to end a cruise!