Easy Odyssey Sailing the Aegean, Living like a God and Loving It

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 16, 1999 | Go to article overview

Easy Odyssey Sailing the Aegean, Living like a God and Loving It


Byline: Klinglesmith Daily Herald Correspondent

Furtive murmurs of mutiny washed across the teak deck. "Monemvasia? Just where the heck is Monemvasia?" questioned passengers aboard the Wind Star as it elegantly raised its cotton-white sails and glided gracefully out of Athens' Piraeus harbor into the cobalt-blue Aegean.

Ahead of us awaited a treasure trove of ancient anchorages: Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, stops along the Turkish Riviera, and lastly, exotic Istanbul. Only moments before Capt. Martin Scott announced a change of chart. Our first port of call, Mykonos, had summarily been nixed from the itinerary. That old cantankerous sea god Poseidon churned up the waters, and like a latter-day Odysseus who finally learned not to squabble with the boss of the briny, our prudent captain altered course rather than risk a sloppy passage to Mykonos. Instead, our compass pointed toward tiny seaside Monemvasia hugging the Peloponnesian Coast.

As it turned out, well-preserved and thus incredibly quaint 15th-century Monemvasia proved worth the detour. Passengers who knew Mykonos gushed that compared to that overly visited Aegean icon, Monemvasia was a blessing. Still, it wasn't an auspicious beginning to what I hoped would be a trip of a lifetime, my own personal odyssey sans unexpected stops.

I long dreamed of sailing the Greek Isles, to finally put a place to all those tales of goddesses and gods that populated my youthful afternoon homework assignments. In my day teachers required us to read "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey." At last, in the land of noble heroes I'd contemplate the navel of western civilization, and perhaps unravel that Gorgon's knot of tangled musings - Socrates, Plato, Aristotle - unsuccessfully imparted to me by hopeful, though sadly disappointed, teachers. I envisioned spending my days scouring old ruins while immersing myself in the classics. This time I'd understand them, becoming one with the wisdom of the ancient world. I'd get an A+ for sure.

Originally, I pictured doing an Aegean excursion on a Spartan student's budget, using the Greek ferry system, staying in charming, inexpensive hostelries, and dining in tiny tavernas. That never happened. So now, coddling myself into the billowing-canvas luxury of the world of Wind Star, I feared submission to an irresistible Siren's call, beckoning to forsake all intellectual pursuits and succumb to an Epicurean life of eat, drink, and be merry.

What can I say? I'm weak-willed.

Yes, it took about two minutes on board the Wind Star for me to run (not tiptoe) onto that slippery slope of total self-indulgence. I settled in my comfy cabin unpacking and checking things out when I came across the room-service menu. "Imagine," I said to myself while looking at the 24-hour selections, "I can order chocolate cake any time I want and it's all included." I picked up the phone.

"Life is short, eat dessert first" never occurred to any of those philosophy-minded Greek scholars, yet I quickly adopted it as my credo as I picked at the last crumbs of my 5 p.m. sugar fix. Windstar Cruises' motto is, after all, "180 From Ordinary," so I yielded to my bad-boy alter-ego. On this vacation I'd have my cake and eat it, too.

Big time.

For main meals I treated myself to anything and everything: champagne, wine, appetizers by the armload, crisp salads, artful entrees and sweets straight from Mount Olympus. Ditto for breakfasts (buttery omelets and croissants - chocolate, of course), and lunches (bouillabaisse and tiramisu ice cream). Although the ship features a tempting health menu, calorie counting, cholesterol watching, sodium scanning and whatever else I'm supposed to monitor were blissfully banished from my daily routine. Thank the gods.

Don't think I was a total Dionysian slug chained to the buffet table. I exercised, though I'll admit to never venturing a sneaker into the ship's gym, or for that matter, joining in on the daily power-walk circuit. …

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