A superyacht Greek odyssey
With its archaeological wonders, awesome coastlines and myriad islands, Greece truly comes alive when experienced by superyacht – especially when that superyacht boasts insider knowledge and a welcoming crew.
There’s something magical about curling your toes in cool sand while dining on a delicious dinner prepared in an impromptu beach kitchen while your yacht swings to anchor a little way offshore. The coloured lights that the crew have strung through the tree above the table and laid in the water on the shoreline bathe you and your family and friends in gentle hues while you relive another unforgettable day on the water.
There are several things that make such an experience possible, and they are the same things that make it extraordinary. First, there’s the location – in this instance, Greece and its heady combination of history and archaeology and islands and azure waters. Then there’s your accommodation – in this case, a 45.7-metre Christensen superyacht. Finally, there are the people who make every day special – in this case, the crew and their highly experienced Greek captain, who not only ensures the crew are happy and refreshed but who also brings his extensive local knowledge to bear to deliver the ultimate family holiday experience.
Indeed, for a captain like Takis Tsakos – who for a decade captained one of the Mediterranean’s busiest and most in-demand yachts, Ionian Princess – there’s a palpable sense of pride in showing off his country and the myriad gems it hides, and an infectious enthusiasm that carries through the crew.
“There are little places all over the country,” Tsakos beams. “To know particular spots is a matter of luck, knowledge and exploration. Some people decide to visit only well-known places, but you must find the gems, which are not on maps or in guides.”
It’s clear even on a short cruise through the Pelopponese starting at the historic port town of Naflpio, overlooked by the impressive Palamidi fortress that offers sweeping views across the Argolic Gulf and out to tempting coves beyond. It’s a classic route that takes in unvisited sandy bays and beautiful Greek harbours and islands such as Porto Heli, Hydra, Spetses, Poros and more before the welcoming arms and archaeological wonders of Athens beckon a short hop across the Saronic Gulf.
And that is but a fleeting taster of what superachting in Greece can offer. “We have north Greece and the Aegean islands in the northwest and northeast, Mykonos and Santorini in the central area, and Crete to the south,” Tsakos enthuses. “In the southeast there are the 12 islands of the Dodecanese, Samos, Kos, Patmos, Simi and more; and cruising these islands in combination with Turkey, taking in Gocek, Marmaris, Fethiye and Antalya makes for an excellent charter.
“Then,” he continues, “there’s the Ionian to the east, which is 90 per cent calm during the summer; the Sporades islands in the northwest Aegean, Saronica and Athens with the holy mountains; and for me I love Crete, which is a magnificent place – particular cuisine, particular people, and particular things to see; it’s beautiful. It’s one of my highlights, but every area has something that guests can enjoy – you just need someone who knows it well to emphasise what they should try and what they should see.”
Key to creating incredible memories – the epitome of the superyachting good life – is not only the location and the insider knowledge that brings it to life, but also the crew who are perhaps the core element that elevates the superyacht experience so far beyond the typical five-star shorebased retreat. The best charter yachts are marked out for their crew rather than for the size of the yacht or even the facilities on board, and often the happiness of the crew comes down to the management of the captain.
It’s something Tsakos knows well, having been awarded Fraser Yachts Captain of the Year in 2012 at the Monaco Yacht Show. “The key is a combination of many things,” he explains. “Honesty from the management is one, and respect both ways. And of course there’s the atmosphere on board, and crew time off during operation – you can’t have someone standing for 16 hours and to then be smiling and kindness, so I ensure good rotation even in a crew of just 10 people; everyone gets at least 11 hours rest everyday with eight hours sleep, and at least two hours in the afternoon – they wake up rested and ready to serve dinner, wake fast the yacht, wash down after arrival.”
It clearly works – for the decade that Tsakos ran Ionian Princess the yacht averaged as many as 120 days charter per year, with only four crew changes in nine years. More than that, though, is what a good charter yacht offers families and friends – the chance to see places well off the tourist routes, to spend time together and share experiences that can only come from exploring by superyacht.
“I like Corfu, and I like Zakynthos because there is a wild part in the west where there are villas, no buildings, no ports – it’s completely wild with beautiful beaches,” Tsakos says. “Lefkava also has one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in the world, and Cephalonia has a very nice village which is like the St Tropez of Greece. Every area has something magnificent from a beautiful beach to an archaeological monument to nightlife. And if you want somewhere quiet,” he concludes, “I can find you islands and rocks where you will be the only people there the entire summer…” Such temptations epitomise the wonders that Greece confers, the freedom and the privacy that only a superyacht offers, and the experiences that only a knowledgeable captain and an engaged, happy and professional crew can deliver.