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.
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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.
Captain 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.
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!