Saturday, March 1, 2014

Finding Greek Treasures in the South Pacific

Okay, so no one in their right mind, would think twice about taking a South Pacific cruise, right?

Well, we did. 

Of course we've always wanted to visit Sydney and Auckland and French Polynesia, but the problem with committing to heading that direction meant we wouldn’t be going anywhere near our favorite destination: Greece.

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At least our Celebrity ship had a tie to Greece: it was founded in 1988 by the Greek-based Chandris Group and merged in 1997 with Royal Caribbean. That “X” you see on the ship is Greek for “chi” – the Chandris Group.

But little did we know at the time that the Travel Gods out there had a bit of serendipity up their sleeves and we were in for some very special Greek surprises:

It turned out that our ship’s Master (the Captain) and the Staff Captain (Second in Command) and the Chief Engineer (the VIP in keeping the ship running) were all from Greece.

Let’s Start at The Beginning. . .

This story actually began two years ago when we met the Staff Captain, Panagiotis Kiousis, (‘Captain Panos’ ), aboard the Celebrity Solstice as we sailed to Europe on the ship’s transatlantic crossing. . .

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We met at one of those big ‘meet and greet’the ship's officers cocktail parties and had a brief conversation about the island of Spetses; a place we had visited and from where Captain Kiousis hails. During that visit I took the photo above of him and The Scout

He subsequently invited us to be among the 9 – 10 guests at the Captain’s Table he was to host later in the cruise - we planned to continue our Greece discussions then.

Unfortunately on the night of the dinner a work slowdown by port workers in Malaga, Spain kept all the top ranking officers on shore while the nine of us who’d been invited to the Captain’s table met with our substitute host.  He was a wonderful fellow but not Captain Panos. . .who we didn't see again on that cruise.

Fast Forward to last fall on the South Pacific. . .

We were delighted to learn that ‘our’ Staff Captain "Panos' Kiousis was an officer on our cruise ship. And we were flabbergasted when we reintroduced ourselves at this cruise’s ‘meet and greet’ cocktail party and  he remembered us, even recalling me taking the photo above.

Because of the many sea days we had, we suggested that perhaps we meet for coffee and finally have that talk about Greece.  He suggested we dine together and talk about Greece. 

The Captain’s Table. . .


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The evening spent with Captain Panos was the highlight of the cruise.  We told stories about our travels in Greece; he told stories about living in Greece. We talked of his family – the wife and children who live in America and his siblings and parents who live in Greece. He told us of his travels and we told him of ours. It was a special evening. And unlike the previous time, we’ve exchanged contact information and have stayed in touch. 

And the Other Captain’s Table. . .


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I think word was out that there were a couple of Greece fans on board because a few days later we were invited to join the ship’s Master, Captain Yannis Berdos at the Captain’s Table on the final formal night of the cruise.

SolsticePt22013 222Captain Berdos makes his home in Piraeus, Greece when not sailing the world at the helm of a Celebrity ship.  During that dinner we talked with him about that bustling port city and our experiences there as well as the island of Poros – a favorite of ours --  the island from where his father and his wife come.


The old saying, “It’s a small world after all” seemed to have held  true for us on this cruise.  And it made us realize once again why it is so important to be open to new adventures; you never know what surprises they might have in store for you.



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And one of these days we hope to dine with Captain Panos again . . . in some small taverna on the waterfront in Greece. We will sip some wine and visit long into the night. . .talking about Greece, of course, and reminiscing about our friendship that began far away aboard a cruise ship! And if not, who knows, we might sail another sea together!

29 comments:

  1. Hey stranger! This was great, Jackie! Those pics at the Captain's Table look so nostalgic...and I love that. You and Joel can adopt Phoenix and I, ya know :) I like what you said here, "And it made us realize once again why it is so important to be open to new adventures; you never know what surprises they might have in store for you." :)

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    1. Isn't that just the absolute truth, Mike? And yet, sometimes it is so very hard to do! Thanks so much for the visit! (And the tweet!!)

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  2. Hello Jackie and Joel:

    How very intriguing is all of this. It is, as you rightly say, a very small world. We are fascinated to know if you have any particular connection with Greece.

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    1. Greece stole our hearts several years ago when we visited for the first time. We've since made it a regular destination and try to spend at least a month each year there. Last year we spent part of that month meeting new friends and exploring new country in its Peloponnese and Mani country and then took the ferry (we love Greek ferry travel) to Crete which is one of the most stunning places on earth. We celebrated Greek Easter there with friends from England and had such a magical time that we are returning to the same small town, Loutro, on Crete's southwestern coast, to celebrate Easter again. Thanks for the visit Jane and Lance!

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  3. Hi Jackie and Joel,

    Well, because I am partial to the country of discussion in this most interesting post, I have to say that I truly enjoyed your 'it's a small world, after all' story, and secondly because I love how you introduced it, 'had a bit of serendipity up their sleeves'!! How wonderful that you met up again with Captain Panos, who seems like a charming and considerate man. You should be so honoured that you were invited to two different Captain's Tables; wow!! It's so refreshing when foreigners appreciate Greece in the way that you and Joel do. Thanks for this lovely story of your ongoing adventures at sea!

    Happy March!

    Poppy

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  4. Oh Poppy, we are so 'on countdown' to Greece and can't believe that in four short weeks we will be back in your wonderful country. Our cruise ship 'treasures' helped bridge the gap between trips. And we were most appreciative of their generosity of time and sharing of their own stories. So glad you dropped by today, see you in the blogosphere later this week! Jackie x

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    1. Thanks much for stopping by - it really was a great experience!

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  6. How delightful to connect with people who share so many of your loves. :-)

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    1. Yes, we did get the best of 'both worlds' with discovering how much we enjoyed our 'taste' of New Zealand and Australia as well as remembering our wonderful Greek travels.

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  7. you certainly never know who you might meet (or re-meet) on your travels. I have never been on a cruise or to Greece. I must move them to the top of my list!
    Have a great week and thanks for stopping by my blog today. It was great to hear from you.

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    1. Oh Jill, I sometimes think it is that possibility of who you might meet and what you might do and how you might change that makes travel such an intoxicating experience for us. Thank you for stopping by - see you later this week!

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  8. Interesting story. Travel often makes us realize how small the world is. I just heard from a cousin who ran into a distant relative (one he didn't know) while on vacation. Always interesting who you meet on travels.

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    1. Nothing seems to make the world smaller than travel does it, Donna? Thanks for stopping by and telling your small world story!

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  9. I must say that is quite a unique piece! I was expecting to read about the South Pacific, but now that you've brought Greece into focus, it makes me really look forward to my visit to Greece this fall!

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    1. We are in the twixt and tween mode of travel where we are still remembering such wonderful experiences from our last big trip but also preparing for Greece -- in April!! Thanks for visiting Patti.

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  10. I share your love of Greece, Jackie. But again for me (just like with Hawaii) it has been far too long since I've been there. Our last visit was in 1996 to celebrate our 1st anniversary. It seems that when you are a travel writer as I am, different parts of world keep tugging at me and once I've been to a place once or twice, it gets put further down the list as I continue to discover new places. Cheers!

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    1. I hear you, Doreen! We are that way with Southeast Asia - 'been there, did that' want to go back, but they've slipped down the list. As a fellow travel writer, I do understand the need to branch out and see new places -- that's why we keep returning to Greece: so many new areas to discover! I look forward to reading more about your Hawaii experiences. . .

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  11. Actually, one of the benefits of cruising is the chance to meet people from all over the world among the other passengers and the crew in a very relaxing environment. At least among the passengers, no one has the work and stress of entertaining at home. My husband is pretty reserved at home, but on cruises he seems content to meet and mingle.

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    1. We love that part of cruising! And on this cruise we had so many people on board from Australia, and so many days at sea, that we really did have time to visit and get to know each other whether dining together or having a coffee in the afternoon. (Your husband and mine sound like twins!)

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  12. Captain's Tables can be a bit stuffy but it's always interesting to meet the crew who have so much travel and experience under their belts. What fun to run into the same guy again!

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    1. We've been fortunate to experience Captain's Tables on other cruises and there are certainly folks who could make for a 'bit stuffy' but in general we've found the other guests to be equally well-traveled and usually more 'well-cruised' than us so the conversations have been lively and interesting. Both Paul Theroux and Frances Mayes have written some descriptions of cruising that always have me laughing!

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  13. Sounds like this Captain's Table experience was a wonderful way to wax nostalgic about Greece. I think in traveling we are constantly reminded at what a small world it is. You and hubby look very glamorous!!

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    1. Travel really does shrink the world, doesn't it? Shared experiences, conversations, waxing nostalgic are all the more interesting when talking to a group of well traveled/cruised enthusiasts. I had a friend write an email about how 'fashionable' I looked in the photos. . .I suspect it was because she's never seen me not wearing blue jeans and tee shirts! :-)

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  14. What a lovely experience for you and Joel. I see that if I ever take a cruise I will have to update my wardrobe. You look fab in your "dress up" clothes.

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    1. I've had others send emails about my looking 'fashionable' and I have had to laugh but at the same time it makes me think that most of the people who know me, only see me in blue jeans and tee shirts these days. Perhaps I should give a bit more thought to everyday 'fashion'?? ;-)

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  15. What a fun read! You found your Greek adventure anyways!!

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    1. Thanks for the visit, Marilyn. And you are correct. . .if I look close enough and the fates step in, I can usually find a touch of Greece in every place we go!

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  16. That is so cool that you had those Greek connections on your South Pacific cruise, especially getting to dine with Captain Panos! Interesting info about the Celebrity's history and the "X". Your final paragraph has me dreaming about dining in a small taverna on the waterfront in Greece. So inviting.

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