Luxury Charters: The Mediterranean charter vacation or holiday season starts in May and ends in September. July and August are the main European vacation months and all popular locations are pretty crowded. May is a great month for charters but the water is still a little cold. September is, in our opinion, one of the best months because there are fewer people and the water is still warm from the summer heat.
Most people relate Greek Islands cruising to the classic destinations of Mykonos and Santorini. The truth is that there are more than 700 islands in Greece and every one offers a fantastic and different cultural and gastronomical experience. The easiest way to think about the islands is to classify them into groups:
1. The Cyclades (keek-lah-dess) that include Mykonos, Santorini, Syros and others.
2. The Saronic (Sah-ron-ik) Gulf and Peloponnese Islands that include Aegina, Poros, Spetses and Hydra.
3. The Ionian (Eye-ohn-yan) Group of Islands, on the West coast of the Greek mainland that include Corfu and Cephalonia (home of "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" fame).
4. The Dodecanese (Doh-dek-ahn-ease) Group, is in the far Eastern waters of the Greek Archipielago that border with Turkey. These include Samos, Kos, Kalimnos and Rhodes. Cruising these waters can give you a wonderful experience of both Greek and Turkish cultures and foods and include a visit to Ephesus, famous for its ancient Biblical history, architecture and monuments.
5. The Sporades (Spor-ah-des) Group, North of Athens are quite different and very green and agricultural. Generally calmer waters and less wind, a favorite for fair weather sailors.
6. You can also add the island of Crete to these Groups, Crete is a unique place and a bit off the beaten track and should be a "stand-alone" destination.
When you fly into Athens, you can start your yacht charter at the Port closest to Athens which is Piraeus. From Piraeus you have three choices: East to the Cyclades, South to the Saronic and West, through the Corinth canal to the Gulf of Corinth and to the Ionian islands. This latter is a longer trip more suitable for 2 week charters. If you choose the Dodecanese, you should fly on a local airline (Aegean Air is very good) to either Samos or to Rhodes and pick up your yacht in either location.
In June July and August which are "Meltemi" wind months, the Meltemi blows from the NorthWest, It's better to fly in to Samos, pick up the yacht there, and travel SouthEast with the wind behind you making for a smoother ride and a more pleasant trip. Another thing to bear in mind is that you can use a Turkish yacht, maybe even a Turkish Gulet which are marvelous, comfortable and well-maintained boats, made entirely by hand out of wood grown in the Turkish highlands, that can be chartered from Samos, Rhodes or even better, from Bodrum or Marmaris on the Turkish side. The Turkish Lira has a much more favorable exchange rate with the US$ than the Euro so everything, including hotels and restaurants, is relatively less expensive.