Chartering the magnificent Ionian Princess
By Jochem Kaan & Maarten Janssen
Earlier this spring, we were invited on a fabulous four-day charter on the 45.7 metre regal superyacht Ionian Princess, with a wonderful company of eight guests. The vessel is undoubtedly one of the finest charter yachts in the world today, and some of her many striking features involve a classic, high-gloss mahogany interior and lavish guest accommodation consisting of six sumptuous staterooms with luxurious en-suites.
Our trip would turn out to be a remarkable one, a true experience starting at the main Poros marina, and introducing us to a series of wonderful Greek locations along the way. The journey, meticulously planned by our captain, involved several stops at the Saronic islands of Spetses and Hydra and would finally finish with a grand finale in the vibrant city of Athens. All this, immersed in Ionian Princess’ refined sense of luxury and class.
Ionian Princess was built in 2005 and has since developed an outstanding reputation for refined luxury charters. This is partly due to her interior and exterior areas, the former having a warm and intimate, yet spacious and luxurious atmosphere, and the latter being equally large and inviting. But a considerably large part of this outstanding reputation must be attributed to her crew, a team of highly skilled, hospitable and friendly professionals. It's all in the details, which are abundantly present and precisely executed onboard.
From seamless tender operations to picture perfect table settings, it all seems meticulously prepared and aimed at bringing guests a most pleasurable experience. All crew members understand their trade to perfection, effortlessly combining their efforts to one soothing and relaxing vacation.
As far as tempting physical characteristics and amenities are concerned, she has plenty. One of her most enticing features is the grand sun deck, which boasts a large Jacuzzi fore, a collection of comfortable sun loungers and central dining table. The semi-circular fully equipped bar area completes this deck's full array of amenities, making this one of the most pleasant areas to spend lots of time in utter comfort and relaxation.
We are welcomed onboard Thursday early in the afternoon, soon realizing that this trip has already been planned to perfection. With a pleasantly varied blend of activities in the offing, some of which were mysteriously kept secret until the very last moment, all guests are bound to have an exciting mix of experiences and entertainment at their disposal. After being welcomed onboard by the captain and his crew, all exuding warm hospitality and professionalism, we are invited into the main deck saloon. In this grand and stately room, where classic luxury is applied to perfection, our company of eight are invited to receive the captain's welcome and a short and adequate safety briefing. After an introductory conversation, framed by refreshments that would offer a delightful taste of gastronomical highlights and hospitality we would come to experience over the course of the next few days, we are shown to our spacious cabin to freshen up. With our luggage already neatly placed, all that rests, is to wonder at our home for this trip and explore the ubiquitous luxury.
Ionian Princess lavishly accommodates a company of up to twelve guests, in a total of six staterooms. Apart from the spacious full beam Master stateroom, with luxurious en suite bathroom and separate shower area, all guest cabins are located on the vessel's lower deck. One VIP, three doubles and one twin are at our disposal, making sure we are supplied with every commodity imaginable to make our stay onboard as comfortable as can be. High-gloss mahogany combined with golden and marble details are the main ingredients for the interior design. With plush upholstery, classic artworks and a colour palette of rich, warm tones, the overall atmosphere is classic, refined and, above all, comfortable.
What would become clear over the course of this journey, is that such a trip is simply defined by the quality of crew onboard. Even the most luxurious superyacht would be rendered uncomfortable if the crew would not be up to standards. In this case, the service of Ionian Princess's crew was of the highest level. Always friendly, ever helpful, skilled and totally focused on tending to the guest's every need imaginable. Their level of skill is striking and their relaxed, driven and charming manner is nothing short of admirable.
When gathered on the marvelous sun deck, we embark on our magical journey by lifting anchor and waving goodbye to the island of Poros. We sail through the small strait separating Poros from mainland Peloponnese, a sight that is gorgeous and exhilarating. Looking at the island passing by, the captain skillfully manoeuvres his superyacht between small water-taxis and tourist vessels, a sight that is simply fascinating when viewed from the top deck of a superyacht of this size. With our welcoming drinks at hand, the crew is already setting up the upper aft deck al fresco dining table for our first onboard lunch. Protected by wind from semi-transparent screen, assuring ample privacy and setting an intimate ambiance, we partake in a lunch that is sumptuous and delicious, while sailing for our first location en route: a joyfully romantic deserted beach on the island of Spetses.
Our four course lunch is prepared and served to perfection, a standard that seems to come so natural onboard Ionian Princess. Table settings are simply a joy to experience every single meal, with different themes and colours turning the dining table into a different style every single time. As for our first extensive menu, from the delightful creamy asparagus soup to grilled vegetables and baby octopus salad, the meal is a heavenly introduction to all experiences we are about to receive over the course of the next few days. Suffice to say, our company is already enthusiastically looking forward to our trip, toasting to a wonderful experience never to be forgotten.
With a blend of the deep blue Aegean Sea, perfect blue skies, a soothing Greek sun and pleasant breeze, added to a lavish lunch served with perfect elegance and friendliness, these few hours just fly by and we soon arrive at Spetses island, where we anchor in a quiet bay, embraced by a sandy beach topped by one of the minuscule white churches that seems to be a charming addition to every island, beach and rock-formation we pass.
When our lunch is completed and all guests are satisfied by the chef's first of many wonderful meals, we have the afternoon to further enjoy our superyacht's many amenities. With the Jacuzzi bubbling away invitingly, the tenders and waverunners are available at our discretion and a collection of snorkelling equipment is set out on the swimming platform. Our company goes on to try all possibilities available. The waverunners are soon aiming for the horizon and a refreshingly cool swim is enjoyed by several others.
The afternoon is finished by a common dip in the sun deck Jacuzzi, perfectly framed by a selection of drinks and sodas. Most opt for a fine glass of white wine or a first cocktail, all skillfully prepared and served within the blink of an eye. After an afternoon filled with pleasure, great food, fine wines and a perfect company, we are already bound for our next stop. While enjoying drinks, Jacuzzi and fantastic views, we sail for the main town of Spetses, where the superyacht will anchor in the marina for the night. The last addition to our wonderful company of guests awaits us ashore, so the party is now complete.
Walking around Spetses, we feel an atmosphere that seems to be a relaxed, Greek variety of St. Tropez. The town is neatly organized, yet has that undeniable Greek sense of hospitality. The small luxury stores, impeccable white houses, narrow streets and mosaic-paved streets all form a pleasant ambiance, that we enjoy while strolling around town. After several hours of shopping, sightseeing and simply enjoying the experience, we return onboard with the skies darkened by the early evening, to find a magically set dining table awaiting us once again. Golden plates, shining silverware and delicate glasswork form an arrangement perfectly framing the five course, divine meal that awaits us. Anticipation is omnipresent as we read our personal menus, of which the exquisite lobster pasta is one of many dishes deserving to be commended.
Our dinner obviously is sumptuous, delicious and highly fulfilling, with the impeccable service that is standard onboard Ionian Princess. Our company moves upstairs to the sun deck, where a sound installation has turned this area into a nightclub under the skies. Enjoying our drinks, snacks and music, our party laughs, talks and dance the early hours of the night away under the stars, before retiring to our staterooms belowdecks.
The next morning, we have time available to spend ashore, some last minute shopping is done by some, while others enjoy some pleasant Jacuzzi-time. While freshening up after breakfast, we lift anchors and set for the next leg of our journey. Several pleasant hours of sunbathing, relaxing, enjoying a gentle breeze and taking in the wonderful vista views that Greek has to offer later, we arrive at yet another picture-perfect beach, which will we the location of the rest of our day. After lunch, our day is spent in wonder and delight, waverunning, swimming and enjoying all of Ionian Princess's amenities.
In the afternoon, while relaxing on the sun deck, the captain joins us, and enthusiastically speaks about all the possibilities Ionian Princess and Greece have to offer. Supported by a nautical map, he shows our company several charming regions and must-see islands, thus illustrating the endless possibilities in the region for a charter on our vessel. It is not hard to imagine a charter on Ionian Princess is extremely relaxing and fulfilling no matter where you go. With the many islands Greece obviously has to offer, each with their own charm and character, possibilities are virtually endless.
While enjoying our afternoon, it becomes clear that captain and crew have planned something very special for us later that day. The crew are all busy going ashore, setting up what would be simply the most wonderful dinner setting imaginable. After dark, we are invited by the captain to board the vessel's largest tender, which easily suits our entire company, and brought ashore. Here, we find a breath-taking scene of a fully set beachside dinner table, as extensive, elaborate and exquisite as we would find onboard. A complete open air kitchen has been installed on the beach, and we are treated to a candlelight dinner that is beyond anything we ever imagined. Our talented chef has the skills to perfectly prepare a full five course dinner, including fresh lobster, grilled to perfection, even outside the comfort of his own galley, and all guests are astounded by the level of service we are once again treated to.
The night’s atmosphere takes a fun and festive twist when the entire crew comes out, dressed as a mariachi carnival, complete with sombrero, wigs and instruments. Thus, our perfect beachside dinner is transformed into a fun and light dance-party, complete with music-installation and dance floor lighting. Smiles, laughter and enjoyment aplenty, our company and crew dance under the stars, framed by the view of Ionian Princess floating contently in the background. After our tender takes us home, we enjoy a last drink and our company is universally agreed that this was a night to remember.
Early morning, before most are awake, we embark on our trip to the island of Hydra, famous for it's lack of motorized traffic and therefore high level of traditional ambiance. After breakfast, we anchor near yet another deserted beach, our third of the trip, and have time for a post-breakfast swim, waverunning session and stroll on the beach. Snorkeling at the nearby rocky coastline of the bay shows a large variety of marine life, crystal clear waters and, above all, space and relaxation.
During lunch, we sail for the main town of Hydra, which gives us enough time to enjoy our meal, freshen up and enjoy the fantastic view of the town. At anchor just outside the town, our tender brings us ashore and we have time available for some shopping and sightseeing. Hydra, with it's cute donkeys and mules, relaxing atmosphere and ample possibilities for quality shopping (notably fine jewellery and clothing) is the last island we visit, as we embark on our trip to Athens in the late afternoon. The trip, which takes a little over three hours, is as smooth and comfortable as always, with the setting sun and island backdrop as a perfect setting for a cocktail or two.
Arriving in the Piraeus-marina of Flisvos, where Ionian Princess has her fixed berth, we enjoy our most formal dinner yet. The captain joins us, and we all talk about our experiences and the levels of quality he and his crew are able to achieve. Here, we learn yet another surprise the captain has in store for us: after dinner, around midnight, we are picked up at the marina and taken to the grand finale party of our trip. We are invited to join and enjoy a front row table during an evening of Greek entertainment, traditionally called a Bouzoukia. This cultural phenomenon, typical for this country, might best be described as a combination of dance club, concert and theater. A series of performers, supported by live band, extravagant dancers and spectacular lighting effects, all join the stage and drive the crowd of 500 – 1000 people totally insane. The center stage is surrounded by separate sofas and seats, dividing the audience in small groups all facing the stage. The main act, arguably Greece's most popular pop star today, is Sakis Rouvas, whose show we get to enjoy from the best seats in the house. Our captain went all out to make sure we have a good time, with drinks and snacks served right to our table. One particular ingredient of a Bouzoukia is the throwing of trays full of white carnations on the stage, resulting in a spectacle unlike any other we have ever seen. Dancing, singing, throwing flowers, enjoying the music and surrounding public all resulted in a spectacularly phenomenal evening that would certainly be a high point of our charter.
The following morning, a trip to the Acropolis and lunch in town are the main ingredients of our last day in Greece. Our company meets at the old neighbourhood of Pláka, a mere ten minute taxi ride from the port, right next to the ancient Akropolis site, where we enjoy a nice lunch, after which we stroll around the area. The night is spend in Flisvos marina. This is the only private marina in the city of Piraeus, part of the Athens Urban Area and a large selection of shops, restaurants and children's playgrounds can be found here. We toast to a trip that has been as relaxing and exciting as it was truly remarkable, and have a few last dances on the dance floor. The next morning, we wave goodbye to our crew, and a taxi brings us to Athens International Airport.
Having a charter on Ionian Princess is being assured of the highest quality on all fronts. From food and wine, to service and ambiance. Captain and crew are all highly skilled in their profession, but what's more is they all love what they do as a team. Communication is always key, but when onboard a superyacht like this, it is vital to the success and quality of a trip. The crew of Ionian Princess apparently holds the key to this success. With this trip, we have been privileged to experience a journey that is felt harmonious and of the highest quality, but most of all unforgettable. We had the pleasure of being a company of fantastic people, both guests and crew, and we hope Ionian Princess will be around to spread such joy to lots of guests in the years to come.
Ionian Princess is available for charter with Fraser Yachts, at € 180,000 per week.