Yacht in the Cyclades

On a trip to Greece in September ’05, my wife, Margaret, and I took a 7-day cruise of the Cyclades Islands aboard the comfortable but not luxurious motor yacht m/s H&B, through Viking Yacht Cruises (4231 Lakemoor Dr., Wilmington, NC 28405; 800/341-3030, www.vikings.gr).

The cruise cost $1,460 per person, including breakfast daily along with either lunch or dinner plus the services of Eleni, an excellent cruise director. The H&B is a small craft that carries 40 guests; on our trip there were only 26.

Our itinerary was flexible, but we visited at least one of the Cyclades each day. Among our stops were Delos, Naxos (where we visited the Venetian Museum), Paros, Siros and Kythnos, the latter a quiet, peaceful island where we spent a somnolent afternoon on the beach.

Embarking ship in Piraeus, we left port at 4 p.m. and the captain elected to sail through the night to Santorini, where we docked at Thira the next morning. After breakfast we took a local bus to Oia, a picturesque village at the northern tip of the island, coming back to Thira for lunch.

At this point we became victims of an ATM scam. It was a Saturday and the banks were closed, so I used my Chase ATM card and withdrew €200. The money and the receipt came out, but the card remained inside the machine. A “helpful” young man appeared and said he could get the card back for us. He did, and I pocketed the card.

When we returned to Houston a week later, I found that almost $1,000 had been withdrawn from our account at various ATMs in Marseille, France. How the thieves were able to get all the necessary information remains a mystery because the young man had the card in his hand for less than two seconds before returning it to me. My bank, fortunately, was very understanding and canceled all the false withdrawals at no cost to us.

Generally, our voyage was arranged so that we arrived at an island early in the morning, before any of the large cruise ships discharged their hordes of visitors. The advantage of this timing was nowhere more apparent than on Mykonos, a picturesque island with narrow “pedestrian only” passageways in the Old Town.

After a very pleasant lunch there, we walked through the streets and visited “little Venice,” then rented a small car and spent the afternoon at a beach. In the evening we went into town for dinner, but several ships had arrived and the streets were chaotic with the throngs of souvenir hunters. We retired to a restaurant for an ample dinner, watched by one of the resident pelicans.

At week’s end, on our way back to Piraeus we anchored off Cape Sounion so that passengers could enjoy a final swim from the ship.

The Woodlands, TX