I hadn't been to the Greek Islands for a few years so was really looking forward to my week of island hopping on the megayacht Harmony V. I'm not a fan of large ships, so this sounded perfect - a relaxed, casual cruise with just 40 or so fellow passengers. I'm pleased to say that from the minute we boarded Harmony V, we were instantly made to feel very welcome on this immaculately maintained yacht. Moored at Marina Zea in Athens, the ship was easy to find and so much easier than setting off from Piraeus, the main port of Athens. From the outside, Harmony V looks exactly like a large private yacht, and the inside didn't disappoint either! My cabin was small but very well designed with lovely furnishings, flat screen TV and DVD player, a great shower/wet room and was very clean.
We met the cruise co-ordinator, Iossef immediately, who was absolutely fantastic - his knowledge of the islands we stopped at was amazing, he was very helpful and friendly and his briefings really made the cruise flow very easily. As on any small ship, the weather dictates the route to a certain extent and the itinerary is never set in stone. The captain had a wonderful knowledge of the Greek Islands, and ensured that the route we took was always the best
Mykonos and Santorini were the ports of call for the first two days with optional visits available to the impressive classical ruins of Delos, and an exploration of the island of Santorini. Excursions were not pushed on us - if we didn't want to take them we were given information about the places we moored and could spend relaxed days discovering for ourselves. However, we did take a couple of excursions which were good value for money and very informative, obviously in small groups as Harmony V is a small ship!
The cruise is on a half board basis, which is a perfect way to enjoy all that these lovely islands had to offer. We had a great buffet breakfast on board (fruit, cereals, pastries, plus all the usual hot food like bacon, eggs, sausages, toast) and then either had lunch or dinner on board depending on the schedule, meaning that we were free to enjoy a Greek salad in a harbour side taverna for lunch, or a great moussaka for dinner in the evening. The food on board was fabulous - lunch buffets were enormous and freshly prepared - a wide variety of salads and grilled fish, chicken and Greek specialities. Most of the time we had dinner on land, but enjoyed a memorable Greek night, complete with Greek dancing, plus excellent five course Captain's Dinner on board ship.
Where this cruise really excels is the ports this superb small ship can visit. We ventured far off the tourist trail and visited islands untouched by the large cruise ships - tourist-free places that the Greeks keep a well-guarded secret. My favourite of these was Kythira, with its stunning double bay, wonderful beaches, and amazing views from the top of the island. Another memorable highlight was sailing past Monemvasia and seeing this medieval walled town from the sea - a unique view that not many people get to see. This was a wonderful evening as we walked the short distance from Harmony V for a delicious meal in this atmospheric old town.
Another benefit of this relaxing cruise was being able to stop for a refreshing swim. Several times, the yacht cruised into a secluded, picturesque bay and dropped anchor so we could swim off the very useful platform at the back of the ship. There is no better feeling than swimming in the clear, warm waters of the Aegean sea in a tranquil and incredibly beautiful location! Floats, flippers and snorkels were always available - as was a small kayak for the more energetic guests!
With an interesting mix of Americans, Australians, Europeans and Brits on this cruise (just 40 guests altogether!), there was always someone to chat to, or a quiet corner of the ship to relax in. The crew were friendly and helpful, always working hard to make sure everything ran smoothly. Whilst not a luxury ship, Harmony V is classy and well-designed, superbly looked after, and has all the comforts you need. However, the real benefit of being on a small ship was the unique itinerary and superb destinations we could visit - this really felt like a tailor-made cruise on a private yacht and I recommend it whole-heartedly.