Ithaka, Greece

Sep 17, 2017 - Sea Cloud

“At many a Summer dawn to enter,

with what gratitude, what joy –

ports seen for the first time.”

                                                   Ithaka, C. Cavafy

It was with a sense of expectation, of homecoming and perhaps of nostalgia that we sailed at sunrise on Sea Cloud into the beautiful little port of Vathy. The captain dropped anchor, and guests quickly transferred to shore using both ship’s Zodiacs and tender. We were greeted by our Greek Cultural Specialists, Eleni and Kriton, who would be traveling with us for the remainder of our voyage. From the port, we traveled by island bus, around an enticing little turquoise bay, fringed with olive trees, where Odysseus was said to have come ashore after all those years of war and wandering. Our busses climbed up dramatic switchbacks, along a narrow road crossed by goats, to reach Kathara Monastery with stunning expansive views over the Ithaca, Cephalonia, and the surrounding Ionian Sea. Our guides introduced us to the beliefs of the Greek Orthodox faith and to the architectural and decorative elements inside the church. We continued along the road through a mountainous rocky landscape to stop at the tiny village of Anogi to view the well preserved frescoes dating from the 14th century. We descended in our coaches to the town of Stavros where we viewed the bust of Odysseus and took a break at cafes to perhaps enjoy a frappé or iced Nescafé. From there we returned along another scenic road to Vathy where guests had time to explore the small square, quaint alleyways and, apparently, the jewelry shops of local artists!

Sea Cloud sailed in early afternoon. Once in open water, the captain gave the order for sailors to hit the rigs, and today nearly all sails were raised, including three top mast stay sails, the inner and outer and flying jibs, the spanker and upper gaff sails, and the topmost sky sail.  We had only the lightest of breezes, so the captain called for Zodiacs to be lowered, and we were able to offer guests a special photo safari around Sea Cloud for pics and memories of the elegant ship under full sail.

In the later afternoon, historian Tom Heffernan offered a lecture on “The Games of Olympia – How & Why the Ancient Greeks Used Myth,” to prepare us for the following day’s visit to the site of the sacred ancient games.  Photographic instructor, Erika gave a break out session on “How to Press your Camera’s Buttons” to help guests familiarize themselves with their own photo equipment. And to celebrate our arrival to Greece, hotel manager Simon and his galley team offered a tasty and varied Greek barbeque dinner on the lido deck.  This was followed with a little ouzo and the boisterous singing of the famed Sea Cloud Sea Shanty Singers. Many guests joined in on the fun, and assistant expedition leader, Alisha Kilgore led a stirring rendition of “We Are Sailing.” The full day was completed by yet another stargazing session offered by the expedition leader.

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About the Author

John Frick

Expedition Leader

Although he didn’t set out for a life of travel, John has combined his passions for education and exploring the world and turned them into a successful career leading trips around the globe. 

About the Photographer

Erika Skogg

National Geographic Photographer

Erika Skogg is a photographer, educator, and National Geographic Explorer with experience documenting cultural stories from the United States to Morocco, Greenland, Iceland, Colombia, and beyond. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Erika’s photographic research and storytelling ideas are driven by the desire to immerse, understand, and visually preserve the region’s local Nordic culture, and in 2018, Erika received a National Geographic Early Career Grant for her project “Scandinavian American.” Erika travels to Scandinavia regularly in search of the cultural connections to our emigrant history and promote an interest in one’s own genealogy to foster a respect for the continued immigration of today.

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