Tomorrow Nautica concludes her adventures exploring the Jewels of the Aegean. This popular itinerary took Nautica to several of the charming Greek islands that grace the Aegean Sea. On the island of Chios, several guests joined an excursion to explore the medieval town of Pyrgi, where the streets are so narrow and the houses so tightly packed that the village resembles a fortress. Indeed, many of the villages in southern Chios were settled during the time of Genoese occupation and were built to withstand pirate invasions.
Today the economies of these villages are built around the indigenous mastic trees, which produce a valuable resin used in liquor, chewing gum, ice cream, pastries, cosmetics and other products.
One of the most unusual characteristics of the town is the geometric graffiti adorning many of the buildings, including the main church. The designs, called xysta, are typically black and white, often complemented by splashes of brilliant red from strings of tomatoes drying in the sun.
On this journey Nautica also visited the lovely Greek island of Zakynthos.
While tourism is a major industry here, there are many beautiful unspoiled areas on this island due to the protections afforded its famous loggerhead turtles. These endangered turtles hatch on the local beaches and then make their way out to sea where, if they survive, they may reside for twenty-five years or longer before the females will return to the place where they hatched in order to lay their own eggs.
As Blogger-at-Large, I was privileged to visit Zakynthos myself on a recent cruise. I joined one of Oceania Cruises’ excursions in which we took a boat ride around the bay in hopes of catching a glimpse of one the enormous loggerhead turtles. Unfortunately it was a bit early in the season, and we did not have a sighting, but we did learn many interesting facts from our guide. For instance, bars and nightclubs are prohibited on parts of the island, as are nighttime flights, because the hatchling turtles generally make their way out to sea at night, guided by the light of the moon. Artificial light can cause the turtles to navigate inland and be exposed to threats such as dehydration and predators.
While we were unable to spot a turtle, we did see many beautiful views of Zakynthos and the small islands that surround the main island. Hidden caves and white pebble beaches are tucked away in tiny coves amidst brilliant turquoise waters. On hot summer days guests onboard these boating excursions would relish the opportunity to go for a swim, but it was barely over 70 degrees Fahrenheit the day we were there, and our guide told us the water would be exceptionally cold.
Little did I know, the adventurous among us were not going to let a little chill keep them from the opportunity to swim in the crystal blue Zakynthos waters.
Mr. Robert Cordo leapt into the chilly waters without even hesitating, and I have to say as Blogger-at-Large, I took that as a challenge. I could not sit by and miss this chance to share a wonderful experience with the readers of the Oceania Cruises blog.
I summoned my courage and dove right in. I confess it was a bit of a shock at first!
The water was certainly brisk, but once I had joined my fellow swimmers, it was quite invigorating. And the view was astounding!
It was at this point that I spotted the tiny white sand beach at the foot of the majestic rocks rising from this little island. Since I’d already done the hard part of diving into frigid sea water, and I didn’t know when, if ever, I would have the privilege of returning to Zakynthos, I decided I should swim to this beach and wriggle my toes in the sand.
I stood there a few moments taking it all in (and catching my breath after the rigorous swim). It’s not every day that one gets to have an experience like this. The seascapes were awe-inspiring, the swim was rejuvenating, and my memories of this charming Greek island will last a lifetime.
I found myself unable to stop laughing during the swim back to the boat. This led to a few mouthfuls of salty seawater being swallowed, but that did not dampen the joy of the day. Thank you to Mr. Cordo for inspiring me to dive right in!
Should you have the chance to sail to any of the lovely Greek islands onboard an Oceania Cruise, I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity. Perhaps you too will find yourself inspired to dive into the coastal waters and explore a hidden cove. Or you may simply choose to relax on the beach and savor the views, or to meander the cobbled streets and enjoy the charming architecture. Whatever your inclinations, exploring the Greek islands with Oceania Cruises is an experience not to be missed.