So many islands, so little time. Robin Gauldie goes island hopping on board some of the country's most luxurious yachts
GREECE HAS thousands of islands and each has its own appeal. Mykonos has attracted the wealthy and the glamorous since the 1960s. Sailing at sunset into Santorini's vivid blue caldera is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Rhodes' walled city is the best preserved medieval town in the world. Patmos' crescent harbour, lined with cafés, is overlooked by a 900-year-old monastery that draws pilgrims to visit the grotto where St John wrote the apocalyptic Book of Revelation. Corfu's Old Town, is one of the Med's most charming island capitals.
However, for true voyagers, there are dozens of smaller harbours to be discovered, and remoteness and exclusivity are part of their appeal. Take Kastelorizo, so small and secluded it doesn't appear on many charts. In summer this sleepy port comes to life, attracting yacht-owning cognoscenti. Tom Hanks and Eric Clapton have been spotted here.
To visit these islands in style, choose from a maritime menu of sleek sailboats, megayachts or clipper ships. On style-conscious Mykonos, one must dress to impress. For a vessel such as the Annaliese, reckon on an eye-watering HK$6.2 million for a week's charter (www.rentayacht.gr). With 18 cabins, Annaliese and her sister-ship Alysia are more like mini-liners than traditional yachts. On-board accommodation is sumptuous, and naturally wining and dining are top-notch. Recreational facilities include jet skis, full-size movie theatre, fast tender for shore excursions and, of course, a heli-pad.
The stately Star Clipper offers the best of two worlds: luxurious privacy, together with a select band of voyagers. Carrying only 170 passengers, this barquentine-rigged vessel evokes the era of the clipper ships. But if its staterooms echo 19th-century elegance, the on-board facilities are bang up to date. You may find it hard to leave the pampered cocoon of your owner's cabin, but when you do you'll find, beneath Star Clipper's dozens of white sails flying from four soaring masts, more outdoor space than most much larger cruise ships can offer. Casual elegance prevails. Dining is open-seated, the Tropical Bar is the perfect place to watch the sun set and the bar stocks an array of fine single malts.
A seven-night cruise of the Cyclades in the owner's cabin in 2013 costs HK$38,000 per person, or take destiny into your own hands by chartering the entire vessel for HK$2 million per week (www.starclippers.com).
If time is of the essence, Monaco-based Y.CO's impressive flotilla includes speedsters like Cheeky Tiger, a sleek Leopard 34 capable of cruising at more than 30 knots - fast enough to take you to the furthest reaches of the Aegean in under eight hours. With a full staff (including on-board masseuse) Cheeky Tiger sleeps up to eight passengers and its open layout, sunroof and bar in the main salon seamlessly blend outdoor and indoor space. Charters from HK$75,000 per week. (www.ycoyacht.com)