What’s in a Name?

The origins of Greece’s most iconic ports of call

For many cruisers, a voyage to Greece is highlighted by phenomenal beaches and legendary ruins. But this extraordinary country, with its strong cultural and historical identity, is the birthplace of mythological deities that continue to fascinate. Sweeping tales, from Pandora’s infamous box to Icarus’ ill-fated flight, were born in the early days of Greek civilization and have been passed down through the generations and remain prominent today—not only in Greece, but around the world. As you explore this wondrous country, you will inevitably encounter remnants of those stories and icons in the art and architecture, as well as in the names of its cities, from Athens to Crete.

Below find a few of my favorite cities and the origin stories of their names.

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The Perfect Gift

A historian’s delight, Athens is home to such magnificent wonders as the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Temple of Athena Nike. Its name, of course, is a tribute to the city’s patron goddess, Athena—but according to legend, this was not the city’s original name. Athens was once known as Cecropia, named after its king, Cecrops, an odd creature, thought to be half-man half-snake. Athena was chosen as the patron deity of the city, giving rise to celebrations and festivals, and eventually its name was changed in her honor.

A Nymph’s Island

Legendary Corfu is a lush and romantic island, written about by Homer in his famous Odyssey. The island’s history is full of battles, indicative of Corfu’s turbulent position that lasted until modern times with unification with modern Greece in 1864. While the rest of the world knows this magical island as Corfu, locals refer to it as Kerkyra, named after the daughter of river god Aesop. Legend states that Kerkyra, an irresistible nymph whose beauty seduced Poseidon, birthed the first inhabitants of the island.

Guardians of Greece

The name Crete in Greek means mighty, strong and powerful—named after the first guardians of the island, the Curetes. The capital city of Greece’s largest island, Heraklion, however, has Roman roots, derived from the ancient Roman port of Heracleum. There are fascinating places to visit here, including the Palace of Knossos, a center of Minoan power that dates back to 2000 BCE and revered as the location of the mythic Minotaur’s Labyrinth.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

The Sun’s Grandson

Steeped in Greek mythological history, Mykonos was named after Apollo’s grandson, Mykons. Today, this island is one of Greece’s most adored destinations due to its picture-perfect postcard setting and the gateway to the archeological dig at Delos. In fact, the history of Mykonos is very much connected to the history of the neighboring Delos. It is there that, according to mythology, Hercules defeated the Giants and, having killed them, he threw them in the sea where they petrified and turned into huge rocks, forming the island of Mykonos.

A Name Fit for a Colossus

Renowned as the site of the former Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Rhodes was home to the Knights of St. John from the 12th to 16th centuries. But why that name? In mythology, the name of the island derives from the nymph Rhodos who bore seven sons to the sun god Helios.

Your Call

If your voyage across the Eastern Mediterranean includes calls on Grecian ports, revel in the picturesque Cycladic architecture, the seemingly endless beaches and the opportunity to walk in the mythical footsteps of gods and heroes. Greece really does offer something for everyone, mortal or Minotaur.

The Art of the Baltic: Cruising Northern Europe

There is nothing that I long for more than to look toward the horizon and see a legendary castle illuminated by a golden sun. From the Scandinavian architectural treasures of Denmark and Finland, to the awe-inspiring art of Russia and Germany, the glorious countries that encircle the Baltic Sea are the epicenter of beauty, elegance, and splendor…and just the journey we can all use.

Thinking about a voyage to Northern Europe in 2022? Here are a few of my favorite ports:

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Taku Glacier Flight

“How much do you weigh?”

To be safe, I added a couple of dozen pounds or so to the real number. This is an answer I often lie about in the opposite direction, but because it was being used to calculate the flight-worthiness of a seaplane holding six people currently indulging night after night on a cruise vacation, I was content with bulking up.

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Spirit at the Disco

This post is part of a throwback series to my cruise ship days.

When working on a ship, I hardly sleep. It’s a 24 hour job. My phone can ring at anytime and I have to be prepared to accommodate the request, whatever it may be. I’m usually up and about at 6:30 in the morning, as it’s the quietest time to walk the deck. Just the sound of the waves crashing against the bow and crackle of my cigarette with each inhale. It’s peaceful and humbling. My version of a morning prayer.

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The Secret to Happiness is a Caribbean Beach

The beach has always been my happy place. The majority of my childhood was spent on the shore of Miami Beach and I learned to surf on the waves of Maui’s Ka’anapali. I got married on Smathers Beach in Key West and discovered my passion for travel on the black volcanic sands of Los Gigantes of Tenerife. Yet it’s the beaches of the Caribbean that bring me the most joy.

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Sink Your Toes in the Pink Sand Beaches of Bermuda

Bermuda conjures up images of beautiful homes with its unique white roofs, crystal clear waters, iconic shorts and, of course, the pink sands that make their beaches more idyllic than your average tropical paradise. These pretty-in-pink beaches are all found along the island’s south shore between Horseshoe Bay Beach (my personal favorite) and Warwick Long Bay Beach. But what gives the sand its rosy hue? It’s the result from the blending of crushed shells, coral and calcium carbonate called red foraminifera.

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Hello Humpback: Whale-watching in Sitka, Alaska

Traveling to Alaska for many is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, yet I’ve been lucky enough to keep finding my way back. On my last adventure, I took a small boat out to Sitka Bay where I met the acquaintance of a very handsome humpback whale…unfortunately he had awful breath.

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