Back home on my Azorean island paradise, I first, cooked my favourite meal for myself in a long time: grilled salmon with fresh pan-fried vegetables and wild mushrooms. For four weeks I made myself comfortable, sorted out my things, took care of official business and did a lot of hiking. Then I received an email that a ship’s doctor was needed again on the Scenic Eclipse for a month. The voyage is to go from Lisbon first to Madeira and then via Gibraltar the whole European coast from the Iberian Peninsula around Italy through the Strait of Messina past Mount Etna to Greece in the Aegean Sea to Turkey and back again.
I didn’t let myself ask that twice and packed my things again. Many familiar faces on the ship greeted me warmly, a nice feeling! For me, the journey began in Lisbon, which I had not yet seen from the ship. I immediately recognised the Ponte 25 de Abril and the statue of Cristo Rei in Almada, as well as the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Torre de Belém.
A COVID-19 outbreak on the ship gave me and my nurse busy days and nights. However, there were no medically complicated cases. We sailed to Funchal in Madeira and back towards the European continent, which I identified at Cabo de São Vicente. After a stop in Portimão, we continued on to Gibraltar, where I was able to capture the famous Levante cloud on a photo.
The swing back via Cádiz to Seville brought a very quiet ride with a pilot upstream on the Guadalquivir. Seville is the only city in inland Spain accessible by boat. Rows of trees with colonies of white storks lined the riverbank. Then it was finally back via Gibraltar and Andalusian stops such as Puerto Banús (Marbella), Malaga to the Murcia region to Cartagena, on to Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca and Menorca to Barcelona, where there was another big change of guests and crews. From there we rattled off a few stops on the Côte d’Azur to Monaco before entering the Ligurian Sea and visiting beautiful Italian coastal resorts.
An excursion to Corsica concluded the Italian journey before arriving in Civitavecchia, the important port in Lazio that serves Rome to a great extent. From there we crossed the Tyrrhenian Sea, stopped at the Sorrento Peninsula and admired Mount Vesuvius before heading to the Lipari (or Aeolian) Islands and visiting the island of Lipari. Passing Vulcano and Stromboli, we finally passed through the Strait of Messina, where Etna beckoned us with a long plume of smoke and steam.
Our first stop after sailing through the Ionian Sea was Fiskardo, opposite Itaka in the footsteps of Ulysses. Through the Στενό Ιθάκης (Strait of Ithaca) we continued to Gythio on the Peloponnese peninsula, which in ancient times was the main port for the Spartan fleet and thus had to withstand many enemy attacks. From there, we opened up the Aegean Sea and stopped for land explorations at several islands. Santorini in the Cyclades (usually called Thyra in Greece) is special because the archipelago is the remnant of numerous, gigantic volcanic eruptions, most recently the Minoan eruption (volcanic explosivity index VEI 6-7 of 8) about 3600 years ago. The lowering of the sea level by 40 m below today’s level is said to have caused the underlying magma chamber to erupt in the area, which has been tectonically very active for 600,000 years, due to the reduction in pressure. The caldera of the underwater volcano subsequently collapsed several times and thus became a caldera. After a supply stop, guest and crew change in Piraeus, we sailed via other Aegean island stations to Kuşadası on the southwest coast of Turkey.
An eventful journey came to an end with the following day on the island of Kos. I will report further soon.