Monday, 11 June 2012

Cicadas and Cruising

The cicadas are about, a sure sign that the summer is now upon us. Once you start to hear their rasping sound in the trees, you can be sure that sweaty armpits and an insatiable thirst, that a blindingly hot sun and the sight of cats sleeping perpetually in the shade, are with you now until at least the end of September. Starting my first excursion of the 2012 season at Krana Square in Lindos, Thursday May 31st, I was sitting under the tree beside the kiosk and the supermarket waiting for the coach and my first few guests to arrive when I heard one above me, my first cicada of the season.

Soon thereafter, while walking down the lane from our home a few days later when I was conscious of a cacophony of cicadas in the trees and shrubs beside the lane. I have spotted them on many occasions, but it's notoriously difficult to do so, since as one approaches on foot, they'll go silent and usually wait until you've put a few yards between you and them before starting up again, which is really irksome if you want to take a look at one, which I usually do, of course. I'd say they're about thumb-sized, which is pretty big for an insect. They're also totally harmless to humans and so it's sad when some of our species react adversely when coming into close contact with one. 

(Photo courtesy of Bruce Marlin,

As I said above, since they don't begin to "sing" until it's regularly about 29ºC every day, you know that summers's truly arrived once you hear them. In fact, on the Wikipedea page it says:
"Average temperature of the natural habitat for this species is approximately 29 °C (84 °F). During sound production, the temperature of the tymbal muscles was found to be slightly higher. ...Cicadas like heat and do their most spirited singing during the hotter hours of a summer day…"
In fact, on that very page ( you can also listen to some cicadas recorded in Ithaka, Greece.

So, the above now dealt with, we can proceed with the story, which revolves around a rather beautiful boat called the Magellanos. Last year I rattled on about the Free Spirit and the Pegasus, each of which I've worked on and enjoyed for differing reasons. Both appear to be anchored in Lindos Bay this year, but more than that I don't know about their movements in 2012. This year it's a new boat to me and we're starting the voyage from the tiny quayside at Kolymbia, which is really good because it means that the guests and I can embark and disembark at each end of the trip by simply walking along the gangway between the boat's stern and the quayside, so civilised!

Adonis awaits his guests for the day

Adonis left, Ilias right. The "stains on Adonis' polo shirt are only water by the way. Least, that's what he told me! The over-sized Coke can is where they keep the drink straws

Ilias mans the anchor chain as we prepare to move to the next bay

The boat's owner and captain is Adonis and he is aided by a retired friend and "first mate" called Ilias. Both guys are good at smiling. Both guys are intent on ensuring that the guests have a good day. No names, no pack drill, but I've been on boats where - for example - the crew go bananas if a guest comes aboard after a swim and attempts to enter the cabin to get a drink from the bar, or perhaps use the toilets without first towelling themselves off.

"Gianni, Gianni!!" They'd shout, whilst usually tugging at my sleeve, "Tell them they can't do this!! The sea salt from the water ruins the carpet on the cabin floor!! They must dry off before coming into the cabin!!"

On my first day out with Adonis on board the Magellanos, at the first sign of a guest about to commit this cardinal sin, I asked Adonis if he wanted me to say anything (in Greek so as not to alert or upset the potential offender) and he replied, a sour look of “are you serious?" about his face, "Gianni, why should I ask them to do this? They are on their holidays. It's only a bit of carpet for goodness sake. Panagia mou, this is a boat after all!!"
We exchanged smiles, mine bearing ample evidence of both relief and approval of his attitude.

Something else which really warmed me to this guy too was the fact that all the drinks in the refrigerator at the modest bar bore known brand names, like Fanta, Coca Cola, and Greek beers in the shape of Mythos and Fix. His bar prices are very reasonable when you consider that he has a captive audience for the day. In fact they are the same as those of a boat on which I'd worked in the past which procured all its drinks from the Rhodes branch of Lidl. Now, don't get me wrong, I rate the quality of the products sold in this particular store quite highly, but if you're asking a couple of Euros for a beer and it can be bought in this aforementioned foodstore for about 35 cents, it does rather tend to get a guest's goat somewhat. In fact, the single largest national group of guests which I hosted last year were Germans and Lidl is a company based in Germany. On frequent occasions during a cruise I'd have a German guests say to me, "You know John," as they tugged at the ring-pull to get that pfizz sound, "that this is the cheapest beer you can buy in Germany." They didn't need to say more. All I could do was to shrug my shoulders and explain that such things were out of my hands, but that if I'd had my way, things would have been different.

So I told Adonis this story and commended him for stocking known brand names. You know what he said in response? "Gianni, so I may make a little less on each sale. But the important thing is the guests are happy. If you have a happy guest, they will tell their friends, perhaps even come with us again. So we all win in the long run." See, there's living proof that some Greeks are not just preoccupied with cash in the pocket at the expense of customer satisfaction.

The cruise ambles down the East coast to our first swim-stop, which is Stegna Bay. From there we carry on down to the furthest point South of the day, where we make a u-turn at the mouth of St. Paul's Bay in Lindos, before coming around into Lindos Bay where we drop anchor and take our second swim of the day. before moving on from there, Adonis & Ilias will serve up lunch. it's not a huge variety of food, but it's definitely not short on quantity. They'll personally serve every guest with a huge chunk of Pastitsio (it's pasta and mincemeat pie, so I pass on that one, but have to concede that for meat-eaters it's damn good!), some delicious Greek salad, a dollop of tzatziki large enough for Cleopatra to take a bath in (usually homemade by Adonis' wife), some Greek bread and a piece of fruit for dessert. This time of year it's liable to be water melon, chilled of course. As he scoops the Pastitsio on to each guest's dish, Adonis repeats, "You can come back for more, there is plenty!" They also hand every guest a complimentary bottle of mineral water to go with their lunch, brought out from the ice chest at Ilias's feet.

Once lunch has been taken we eventually weigh anchor and head gently Northwards again to the next stop, which is Agathi Bay. From Agathi we head North again to the final swim-stop of the day, Tsambika Bay. The boat, having departed Kolymbia at around 10.30am, ambles back the the quayside there at around 5.00pm and by then all the guests are decidedly chilled out and browned off (in the appropriate way, of course). I lead the weary gang back to the waiting coach and we take them all back to their accommodations, usually reaching the last stop down my way (Lindos or Pefkos area) at about 6.00pm.

During the day at various stops I rattle on over the ship's P.A. about a few details which will be [hopefully] of interest to the guests. Between these moments of deeply interesting erudition (who am I kidding, eh?) Adonis plays music. Usually it's Laika, Greek bouzouki music, but he tends to succumb to his 80's CD with stuff like "Careless Whisper" and "I Will Survive" at least once per cruise. When I quizzed him about this last Thursday, he replied that it took him back to the carefree days of his youth in the playground that was Faliraki. "Aaah, Gianni," he wistfully mused, "Those magic times when I was young and free and the tourist girls so wanted a Greek lesson in love…" I'll duck out of his recollections at this point, but I think you get the idea.

"Mind you!" he warned, a look of seriousness coming over his face, "we weren't like the youth of today, oh no! We had respect for a young lady, not like today. And we didn't drink like they do today either. Today they are getting out of hand…"

By these words I was reminded of an occasion, which was indeed back in the 1980s, when my wife had, in a reckless and emotionally charged moment, gone and booked herself a week's holiday in Kefallonia alone. We'd been there together earlier in the season and, as the British summer hadn't been very good, she'd pined for the place and, one early September day whilst browsing Teletext (remember that? It was so cool for booking holidays in those days) she'd seen such a good offer, which involved staying in the exact same studios as we'd done during June, that she'd picked up the phone and booked it. Then she'd spent the rest of the day rehearsing how to break the news to me when I got home from work!

Needless to say at the outset I wasn't well pleased. But once the prospect a a few nights down the snooker hall with my old mate Chris Lewis had sunk in, I agreed to let her go (like I really had a choice in the matter!) and that was that. Truth be told, I was already mentally running my duster along my mature ash cue, chalking the tip and taking a first sip of that glorious pint of mild. I wondered if the author of Shirley Valentine knew my wife?

Any road up. Why am I going on about this particular occasion? It's because, having dropped my better (although slightly irksome at that moment) half at the airport, I'd admonished her to ring me now and again since, amazingly, I was going to be worried about her. I mean, her out there all alone every day on the beach in her bikini. Then out at some taverna or other every night for a whole seven nights without her man gazing protectingly and lovingly at her across the table. All kinds of scenarios flooded through my mind, most of them scary!

As it turned out, her experience bore out what Adonis had said about how the young Greek would-be lover behaved in those times. I was very relieved when we first talked on the phone to hear that she'd teamed up a with a couple in the room next door and they'd been inviting her to dine with them during the evenings. But there was one occasion which she chose not to relate to me until she got home. Just as well, because otherwise I'd have been half way to Greece before she'd finished telling me. She'd got talking in a bar to a group (yes a flippin' group) of young Greek boys, maybe numbering seven or more, and they'd suggested that she accompany them to the beach after the bars closed (so we're talking not just dark here, but very dark). You can imagine what my mind was doing even at this point in the story. All the things that may have gone wrong in such a scenario flew around my cranium at once and I don't mind admitting that I was very agitated!!

But, she said, all that happened was that they piled out of the small car in which they'd gone to the beach, one of the guys got out his guitar and they'd all sat around in a ring singing Greek pop songs for an hour or so beside the lapping surf and under the twinkling stars. After this they took her back to her room and bade her goodnight. No impropriety, no attempts at anything that would have caused me a mild coronary. She assured me that she knew what she was doing and she was right.

Now can you imagine what was quite likely to have happened had this taken place in Northern Europe, or, dare I say, the UK? It doesn't bear thinking about. I never really savoured being interviewed in the studio during a live broadcast of "Crimewatch" even though I think Fiona Bruce was doing it then and she's quite ...oops, sorry going off the subject a bit there. But this well illustrates the truth of Adonis' words about how the young Greek behaved. To be honest, yes things have changed a little, but it's still more than likely that she'd have been as safe today. Mind you, she's thirty years older now too.

If you feel like making Adonis and Ilias' acquaintance aboard the Magellanos, I don't know if they're running any regular cruises independently of TUI, but once over here you could contact a Thomson (TUI) rep, if you can find one, and they'll be happy to book you on to a Lazy Day Cruise if it takes your fancy. Mine begin, as you'll have noticed, in the Pefkos/Lindos area on the coach at around 9.00am. We go Thursdays and Sundays until the weather breaks, probably some time during October.

Must get to bed now, it's past 2.00am. Got to go out cicada-spotting tomorrow morning.


  1. Ahh John!!
    You remind me of our trip out with you just a short week ago. Seeing Adonis and Ilias beaming smiles next to the large coke can almost brings a tear to my tired (night shift) eye! Thanks so much for your warm, heartfelt and detailed history of the beautiful Island and its many quirks and lush tapestry of a past.
    We very much look forward to returning and maybe we could have dinner with you and your (I presume lovely!) wife. I will post some details of my job and some sites for vessel spotting online, for now please check out my companies website 'NSSL Global'.
    If you are interested my (unfinished) blog of travels around Thailand/indonesia can be found on blogger 'GeorgeB11:11'
    I would love some feedback as yours is very polished and intriguing!!
    YAMAS John and Thanks again for igniting visions of The Knights!!


    1. Nice to hear from you George and thanks for your kind comments. I do try to make my guests' days out something to remember, so it's nice to get such feedback. Got a busy few days on at the moment, but when things settle down I'll certainly take a look at the websites and blog.