I am heading to Athens, Greece to board the Seabourn Ovation for two weeks sailing Greece and Cyprus. Will it be smooth sailing or, ‘er um, an Odyssey?
It is my first Seabourn experience since I disembarked the Seabourn Quest in Chile after my third amazing expedition to Antarctica. The date was January 13, 2020…just before the Covid-19 hit the fan, travel, business, and life in general. (I guess I am sort of a Last Off/First On kinda guy!)
My primary focus will be on what is the same, different, not as good (seriously, I will tell you!), and better regarding every aspect of the Seabourn experience.
My other focus is that my daughter, Devin, will be joining me for the second week of this 14-day cruise! What is really exciting for me is that she interned with Adam Tihany, the interior designer of the Seabourn Ovation (and Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Venture), and worked on a number of the interior elements of the ship. How cool is it going to be walking the Seabourn Ovation with Devin and seeing what she worked on and her first seeing her efforts in person?! (More on that, obviously, in another article!)
One very positive thing that has happened is Seabourn’s new president (OK, he’s been president now for a year, but without previously been on a Seabourn ship, no less a cruise), Josh Liebowitz has not only been on the first re-start sailing of the Seabourn Ovation but has continued his year-long engagement with the officers, staff, and crew. But now he has been able to interact with them in person. In fact, as the Seabourn Ovation passed Cypress with its first passengers, she paused so that Josh L. could take a zodiac ride out to the anchored Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Quest, and Seabourn Encore to say hello to each of those ships’ Seabourn employees. A nice touch and a refreshing change from the recent past.
My journey consists of two back-to-back cruises returning to Piraeus (Athens), Greece in the middle and only repeating one port, Rhodes:
SAT 17JUL21 Sail from Piraeus (Athens), Greece 7:00pm
SUN 18JUL21 Agios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece 1 10:00am 11:00pm
MON 19JUL21 Sea Day
TUE 20JUL21 Limassol, Cyprus 7:00am 2:00pm
WED 21JUL21 Rhodes, Greece 10:00am 6:00pm
THU 22JUL21 Mykonos, Greece 8:00am 6:00pm
FRI 23JUL21 Nafplion, Greece 8:00am 5:00pm
SAT 24JUL21 Piraeus (Athens), Greece 7:00am 7:00pm
SUN 25JUL21 Patmos, Greece 8:00am 6:00pm
MON 26JUL21 Sea Day
TUE 27JUL21 Paphos (Palaipafos), Cyprus 1 7:00am 3:00pm
WED 28JUL21 Rhodes, Greece 8:00am 6:00pm
THU 29JUL21 Thira (Santorini), Greece 1 8:00am 11:00pm
FRI 30JUL21 Spetsai, Nisos Spetsai (Spetses), Greece 1 8:00am 5:00pm
SAT 31JUL21 Debark Ship Piraeus (Athens), Greece 7:00am
Flexibility and Disaster-Proofing
The most important thing to remember as travel is starting up is Flexibility. It is essential these days because, well: COVID. I am confident there will be some bumps and unexpected things. To be sure, I could be negative about them or I can embrace them because, as those that have followed my journeys in the past know, I thrive on the unexpected. It is part of what makes travel exciting. The reality is that I am traveling and even with some imperfections it is worth its weight in gold!
And it seems that things are changing the day before I embark. Last night it came to my attention that, according to ABC News, “Starting Friday [July 16, 2021], and until the end of August, all indoor commercial areas, including bars, cinemas, and theaters, will only be available for the vaccinated…The new restrictions will apply nationwide, including the Greek islands and other key tourism destinations.”
Well, since being vaccinated is required for anyone entering Greece, this shouldn’t be an issue…but we shall see; not only how it affects going ashore in Greece, but also Crete and Cypress as well as onboard the Seabourn Ovation. I’m hoping for the best, but am ready to go with the flow. I mean that is, in large part, the whole purpose of this exercise: To let you know what it is really like to travel after Covid-19 has come into our lives and how the world adjusts and readjusts to it.
I know everyone is confused by the requirements to enter into a country. It depends on where you are from if you are vaccinated, and what sort of tests are (or are not) required…and when to take them…is very country dependent. As of now, a PCR test is not required to enter Greece. However, a couple of points arise out of the hodge-podge of rules throughout the world about testing requirements at the moment. (Don’t worry I set out a summary of what you need to do at the end of the article.)
First, while these change seemingly every day (see above!!!), it would be a help if the Seabourn website was clear about what is or is not required. Seabourn is not alone with the lack of clarity, however. I am flying on United and received an email stating I am required to have a negative 72 hour PCR test before boarding my first of three flights…until you scroll far down and an exception is if you are fully vaccinated. Even its app doesn’t differentiate between vaccinated and tested.
Second is to “Disaster-Proof” yourself. In other words, do more than you understand is required so you aren’t left wondering or, worse, find yourself with a problem while traveling or, worse, unable to board your flight or ship.
So how am I approaching this? I took a 72 hour PCR test as I did before I headed to Sint Maarten for my Windstar Star Breeze Cruise. That way I avoid issues with a confused agent at check-in or on arrival in Athens insisting I needed the test I didn’t take. Once again, I took my test, and by the time I got back to my office, my negative results were emailed to me. Easy!
(Just emphasize the potential for confusion: If you are heading to the Seabourn Odyssey in Barbados the requirements are substantially different. You must take a 72 hour PCR before you depart and then a second one when you arrive in Barbados either at the airport or at your approved hotel…of course, after taking an approved transfer to your hotel…where you are quarantined until your second negative result is obtained; in hopefully 4-6 hours. That is, of course, unless you are heading straight to the Seabourn Odyssey, in which case you don’t need a second test until you board the ship. Whew!
I also completed my Greece Passenger Locator Form days ago; not leaving it to the last minute. (BTW, the page is not well designed so you think you just click on Start. Scroll past it for relevant information and clarifications.) The PLF asks for arrival information, contact information, and information about your vaccination, but not proof thereof. On the day before/of your arrival (probably while you are flying in) a QR code will be emailed to you. You do need to be able to show it on your phone, so be sure you buy some wi-fi on the plane before arriving to download it or that you have data on arrival.
My Getting To, and One Night in, Athens, Greece
Speaking of flying on United Airlines, I am changing things up a bit because the pricing worked a bit in my favor (though ticket prices are much higher than pre-Covid). I normally fly economy with a complimentary Million Miler “upgrade” to Economy Plus; usually being able to grab my bulkhead-aisle preferred seating. This time the price for Premium Economy for my international flight (Washington D.C. to Athens and the return) was only $200 more, so I figured, “Why not?”. And then I was given a “one-time offer” by United: Priority Waitlist Upgrade to domestic First Class and International Polaris Business Class for $420 + 20,000 miles each way. If I don’t get upgraded I get the money and miles refunded. We shall see, but so far it looks like I could clear into first on one domestic flight and the international one. Fingers Crossed!
“My Guy” in Athens has arranged my transfer from the airport to my hotel. I will be staying one night (hopefully with my luggage) at a favorite boutique hotel, St. George Lycabettus, located in the Kolonaki district of Athens. It is in the upscale residential area so it is away from the noise and bustle of the King George/Grand Bretagne area and I think a better value. I have a lovely Panoramic Acropolis View Room with a balcony, so I can sit on my balcony drinking some local wine or lie in bed and see the Acropolis lit up at night. And I will also enjoy my breakfast with that amazing view too in its restaurant. Very special! However, I haven’t stayed there in a few years and it was looking a bit tired the last time I was there. It seemingly has gone through a major renovation and, well, has made it through Covid, so I am optimistic. I will let you know.
Oh, and not to worry, Greek Cuisine is going to happen! I do have plans for a Greek dining experience my one night in Athens!
And after my Greek breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant balcony overlooking the Acropolis, I will be off for my early afternoon arrival at the Seabourn Ovation.
Summary of What to Do
I know some of this may seem confusing but it actually – once you know what to do – it is pretty easy:
Let me know if you have questions or obviously, you would like to book a Seabourn cruise!