Peter Knego embarks Sea Dream Yacht Club’s deluxe mini cruise ship for a six night voyage from Piraeus to less traveled Greek hamlets and Turkey before disembarking in Istanbul. Part One gives a brief overview of the ship on sailing day as well as a visit to the friendly island of Skiathos, the paradisical setting for “Mama Mia!”.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
After years of seeing Sea Dream Yacht Club’s trim little 112-guest SEA DREAM I during my cruise travels, I was thrilled to finally experience her. Our all-too-short six night journey began in Piraeus and would take in several off the beaten track Greek and Turkish ports of call before winding up in Istanbul. An especially nice plus was that despite our having been to Greece dozens of times over the years, most of these visits would be bonafide “firsts” for the both of us.
In order to get photos of the accommodation, we were at the ship an hour and a half before the 2:00 PM embarkation. As staff buzzed about primping and polishing, we dropped our luggage off in our home for the next six nights, Yacht Club Stateroom 409 on starboard Deck 4. Measuring 195-square-feet, it is divided into a bedroom and sitting area that can be separated with a privacy curtain. It has a large picture window (on Deck 2, these staterooms are fitted twin portholes), sofa, cocktail table and writing desk. There are 53 Yacht Club Staterooms, 32 of which can be adjoined to make 16 Commodore Suites. SEA DREAM I also has a 375-square foot Admiral’s Suite and a 447-square-foot Owner’s Suite and one wheelchair-access Yacht Club Stateroom with a modified floor plan and WC (all will be shown in an upcoming Decked! feature).
Yacht Club Staterooms have a large cabinet with storage space and an entertainment center with a Sharp flat screen television and DVD player as well as shelving to store champagne flutes, wine and drink glasses, a stocked mini-bar/fridge and safe.
The bathrooms are compact but intelligently designed with marble surfacing and showers that have a combination hand-held nozzle and side jets. Sea Dream supplies Bulgari soap, shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer.
I had a chance to explore the ship and marvel at all the gorgeous polished woodwork and freshly scrubbed teak decking. The entire length of the uppermost deck, Deck 6 is covered in teak and boasts shaded and open spaces that are all served by the al fresco Top Of The Yacht Bar.
The Main Saloon on aft Deck 3 can seat 95 guests plus an extra 11 at the bar. Its circular center is akin to a smaller version of the Midships Lobby on the recently retired QE2. All of the SEA DREAM I’s public spaces, save for the gym and spa, are aft-situated.
When guests arrive, they are greeted by a line of officers and crew, handed a refreshing wet towel and a glass of champagne.
A welcome buffet is set up in the Main Saloon with various savories and a few sweets. For those needing more than a nibble, there is a round the clock menu of “always available” courses at the Pool Bar.
With most of the documentation complete, we had a refreshing workout in the gym on forward Deck 4, “paying it forward” for six days and nights of indulgence.
After boat drill, the SEA DREAM I revved up her engines and pivoted out of Piraeus in the midst of a cruise ship exodus. As she gained speed in the Aegean, the sun dipped into a fiery orange glow behind the Peloponnese.
We had an ideal table for two in the aft/port nook of the Deck 5 level of the Topside Restaurant, which can accommodate all of the ship’s 112-guests at once. A gentle, following breeze kept us cool as the sky phased from twilight to deep night mode.
After dinner, I was discreetly presented with a slice of birthday cake, a very kind gesture on the staffs’ part but they weren’t quite finished. When we got to our stateroom door, a blue balloon was hovering…
…and, inside, our bedroom was festooned in birthday balloons. Another cake was waiting, along with a birthday card. All in all, it was very sweet, completely unsolicited and much appreciated by this reluctantly aging blogger.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Open seating breakfast in the Topside Restaurant was just a few short steps away when we arose after a full night’s sleep.
For breakfast and lunch, there is a buffet as well as a daily menu with special offerings. Today’s piping hot Greek Omelet with feta cheese, olives and spices was a major hit and almost was followed with seconds but then the fresh smoked salmon with all the trappings (lemon, onions, capers, tomatoes, cream cheese) and the authentic, creamy Greek yogurt (doused in honey, fresh strawberries and macadamia nuts) pretty much filled any remaining space. We chased it all down with fresh-squeezed orange juice and frothy cappuccinos (made with Jacob’s brand coffee).
At 9:00 AM, we neared the dramatic coastline of Skopelos. Unlike the more well-known lower Aegean islands, Skopelos is carpeted in lush green vegetation. A nice touch were the handy binoculars tucked away in drawers in the aft corners of Deck 5.
We would need those binoculars to make out the tiny chapel atop a rocky promontory that was the setting for the wedding scene in the movie “Mama Mia!”
Just before noon, the SEA DREAM I came to rest off the shores of Skiathos, a beautiful and friendly island that is often likened to Mykonos thirty years ago. We hopped on one of the first tenders to Skiathos Town. Quite a few more scenes from “Mama Mia” were filmed here.
In the noon swelter, we did our best to find some shade as we passed several inviting but lonesome cafes. Skiathos was in slumber mode.
From the spit at the entrance to the harbor, we were able to get some nice shots of our handsome ship as she swung around at anchor like a tethered thoroughbred.
On the way back, we caught a few glimpses of the town before heading back to the ship for lunch.
Lunch was wonderful with a salad bar and a great selection of oils, vinegars and homemade dressings as well as a spicy Thai style chicken curry. What I wasn’t expecting were the dreamy homemade cookies: coconut macaroons, pistachio, caramel, chocolate chip, butter with raspberry jelly and my favorite — almond cookies!
On the fantail, surrounded in a sea of teak, the pool glistened in a Hockneyesque early afternoon light.
From 2:00 — 4:00 PM, the marina was open for water sports, including zodiac rides, jet skis, water skiing, kayaking and para sailing.
We hopped on board a zodiac and circled the ship a few times for optimal views before taking out a jet ski for a few more loops. From 4:15 to 5:15, there was a chance to swim in the crystalline waters, so the cameras got a break and we got refreshingly wet.
After another trip to shore, we returned to the ship, had a quick workout, then joined young Norwegian chief officer Claes and a nice couple from Minnesota at the Topside Restaurant for dinner overlooking the stern as the sun set behind the still-tethered SEA DREAM I.
In the evening, life on the SEA DREAM I is akin to what is used to be like on ships of yore. There are no Broadway shows, “blingy” Casinos (other than a very civilized card table) and no magicians or game shows. On occasion, there is a movie with fresh popcorn by the pool (such as tonight’s screening of “Mama Mia!”). Otherwise, there are constellations to ogle, sing-alongs at the Piano Bar and, for the more gregarious, disco dancing into the wee hours at the Top Of The Yacht Bar.
End Of SEA DREAM I To The Other Side Of The Aegean, Part One
Much More To Come…
Very Special Thanks: Christophe Cornu, Martin Cox, Mike Hicks, Ginny Perkins, Captain Bjarne Smorawski
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."