Coronavirus Impact on Greece Tourism

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The Coronavirus Pandemic Impact on Greek Tourism

It hasn’t been a typical summer in Greece. As a sailing charter company, traveling through the Cyclades, we’ve seen and experienced the impact Covid-19 has had on tourism. As always, the islands welcomed an abundance of tourists, however, there were some notable differences from past years. 

The season started much later this year and the diversity of tourists was vastly limited. For example, Vacation Yachting is our family-run, one-yacht, sailing charter company. Generally, we sail the Cyclades islands with guests from May to October and the majority of our clientele are Americans. 

I’ll assume you see where this is going…

 

sailing sail skippered yacht

Shorter Tourist Season

 

As I mentioned before, our sailing charters, and the majority of other tourist attractions, start running in May and begin preparations for the winter in October. Those working in tourism in Greece count on those months each year. But, unfortunately, due to the impact of Covid-19 and the travel bans, that number of working months was cut drastically.

 

 

Small Island Impact

Patrik, my husband and Vacation Yachting’s skipper, and I take guests to many lesser-known, smaller islands in the Cyclades. One of those islands is Kythnos, located in the Western Cyclades. We stopped in Kythnos at the beginning of August, during our FIRST charter. 

We sailed our guests to a well-known tourist harbor called Loutra. Loutra is quaint and has a small beach boasting a natural hot spring. There are many cafes and restaurants at this tiny, harbor-side village. 

Patrik and I know some of the kind people who run and work for these businesses. One man told us the taverna he works for opened  two weeks prior to our arrival. He also mentioned that, that was the case for all similar, tourist-centric businesses in the area. In other words, the season in Loutra began toward the end of July, when they would normally start in May. 

 

 

 

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW TO SEE THE LOUTRA, KYTHNOS HOT SPRING.

 

Diversity of Tourists

The season started later, and once everything opened, there was definitely an influx of tourists in Greece. But, not as great of an influx as usual. 

Europeans flocked to Greece, as always, in August, since that’s the typical holiday month in Europe. At each stop it was common to hear people speaking French, Italian, German, Dutch, and, of course, Greek. But, other than those from the UK, groups were not speaking English. Why? Because U.S. tourists are still not allowed to vacation in Greece. 


Lack of Americans

I think the lack of American tourists this year is affecting some tourist industries more than others. For our company, Vacation Yachting, the travel ban from the U.S. to Greece has had a huge effect. 

As I said, the majority of our bookings come from Americans, and this year was no different. Our season looked to be shaping up nicely by January of this year. We nearly had a fully booked season at that point. However, we were expecting a plethora of guests from the States. 

By February, booking requests ceased. Clientele, planning to sail with us this summer, began questioning their travel plans. By April, all our charters booked for May were cancelled. By May, all our charters booked for June were cancelled. And, by June, all our American guests cancelled their trips. 

This summer we went from a prospectively incredible season, to a five charter season. But, on the bright side, we were lucky to have some European bookings this year, which isn’t always the case.

 

 

Who is Impacted?

Companies who rely on American tourism, or even Brazilian tourism (the case for one of our friends), are experiencing the impact of Covid-19 more than those who heavily rely on European tourism. 

 

Coronavirus Regulations on the Islands

Different islands have different rules for containing the coronavirus. Some islands had to adopt strict restrictions due to an increase in cases. A few of these islands include Poros, Paros, Antiparos, and Mykonos.

We’ve visited Paros many times already this year and we obeyed the following rules:

  • masks were required everywhere, inside or outside.
  • shops, bars and restaurants could only be open from 7 AM to 11 PM (before, bars and restaurants could be open well past 2 AM).
  • At an eating or drinking establishment, only four people were allowed to a table, unless a larger group consisted of immediate family members.

At the end of the day, these rules didn’t hinder the enjoyment and activity of tourists in Paros. And, other islands don’t currently have curfews or strict rules. The only rule is that people wear masks in stores and markets. 


WATCH VIDEO BELOW TO SEE OUR WALK THROUGH PAROS MAIN TOWN DURING THE RESTRICTIONS.

Final Thoughts...

Coronavirus has had a huge impact on Greece. But, despite the shorter season and decrease in tourists, people are still attracted to the beauty of this country, and they are still enjoying their holidays on the islands. 

 

WATCH VIDEO BELOW TO SEE TOURISTS HAVING A GREAT TIME! 

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Interior Renovation – Before & After
After

Interior Renovation – Before & After

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Interior Renovation!

Hey all! I am so excited to announce that we revamped the interior of Anastasia, our 61′ sailing yacht. We went from camping on the water to GLAMPING on the water with only a few simple changes.

Check out our before and after pictures below along explanations of what we did! 

Saloon - Before & After

As you can see, we got rid of the rug and opted for the wood floor (I’ll go over how we achieved this), replaced the curtains, and redecorated. 

In the before picture, you’ll notice we had wall to wall carpeting throughout the entire boat. On top of the large carpet, there were smaller pieces layered on top in various areas. I was so over this rug! For one, I found it unattractive and old. Secondly, it would scrunch up and slide around with the smallest of movements. And thirdly, it had a few permanent stains (despite professional cleanings), and having it cleaned was expensive and time consuming. 

So, getting rid of the rug was my number one priority. The only problem was that the rug was there to hide the floor underneath for good reason. The floor had a number of dents, scratches and stains that needed to be fixed. 

We toyed with the idea of having the floors completely replaced professionally, but that would have been way out of our price range. We also thought about purchasing sheets of teak or cork to put on top of the floor. Also a pricey option. Then I suggested staining the wood that we already had to hide some of the imperfections. This was the most affordable, doable option. The only issue was that the interior floor is laminate. Therefore, typical stain would not work. 

I did some research and came across gel stain. Gel stain is specifically made to work on laminate wood. I watched a few YouTube videos and figured it was worth a try. 

I ordered Minwax gel stain in the Aged Oak color. They sell a wide variety of shades. We chose this color because it needed to be darker in order to cover up all the scratches and stains. 

We started by testing the gel stain on a couple planks of wood from the skipper’s cabin (since it wouldn’t matter if they came out terribly). And they came out nicely. 

Gel stain process that worked for us: 

  1. Sand the surface well (I used a heavy grained sand paper).
  2. Clean all the sand and debris off the surface (I used acetone & a shirt-like cloth to wipe the wood down).
  3. mix the gel stain well then pick out a generous amount with a paint brush.
  4. splatter the gel stain on the wood thick and then spread it across or down in even swipes. 
  5. Repeat this process section by section, do not try to splatter gel stain on the entire surface at once, because it dries fairly fast and it doesn’t spread out as nicely.

We went piece by piece and did each one precisely. I would sand, acetone and then stain each one. After they dried, Patrik would take heavy grained sand paper, fold it, so it would be very thin, and then sand in the lines with a ruler. This is how we achieved the look shown in the picture to the left. 

Kitchen - Before & After

We didn’t do much to the kitchen area. The before picture is quite old, and that tv has been gone for years (since before I joined Vacation Yachting). Since I’ve been working on Anastasia, a place-mat had been glued in that space. I replaced that with a beachy sign I found at a boutique here in Syros. 

We also changed the curtains throughout the entire boat. The old curtains, as you can see, were blue and had dolphins all over them. Personally, I thought they were old looking and a little bit tacky. Also, they were beginning to become moldy, so, of course, it was time to replace them. We decided on a simple sandy color, with a more fitting size, so that they did not look large and frumpy. 

The rods that hold the curtains are bright gold and metallic. With the old curtains, this wasn’t noticeable since they were large and draped over. But with the new curtains you could see the rods clear as day. And, naturally, I hated that. So we had the idea to get a small rope, and rap it around the areas of the rods that were showing. We tried this and tied little half hitches at the ends to keep the ropes in place. It actually looks really cute and nautical. Much better than the gold!

Beds - Before & After

I am so happy we changed the bed covers. Like the rug and the curtains, I was sick of these beds. They were old and ugly and needed to be replaced. 

We chose a neutral colored fabric, that’s cigarette proof, drink proof, UV proof, and all sorts of proofs. 

The Overall Look & Goal

I suggested to update the interior because I thought it needed modernizing. 

Before, there were too many bold colors and patterns. The decoration had no uniformity. The fabrics were old and worn. The interior wasn’t terrible, but it simply did not look like it was from the present era. 

We have a lot of competition here in Greece, and as a small business, we should be vigilant in keeping up with the times. And, in my opinion, aesthetics is an integral selling point.

Anastasia is an incredibly well built boat, made for the Greek seas,  and she’s sturdy and reliable. However, not all clients are seasoned sailors who care about how heavy the yacht is or about the length of the keel. Many prospective guests may be sold or turned off based on looks alone. In fact, I know many friends and family with this mindset. Therefore, it’s important to appeal to both sailors as well as all other vacationers. 

Overall, I wanted to simplify the design. It was important to maintain a nautical feel, while removing all the blatantly nautical decor. There was no need for so much Greek blue, as anyone taking a sailing charter in Greece knows where they are. There was no need for pictures of dolphins everywhere or place-mats with photographs of islands on them. You can decorate in a way that feels authentic to the setting without overdoing it. 

I tried to achieve a nautical, beach-like feel with color and texture. A teak sign, a bowl with shells & rocks in it, sandy colors, and summery plants. As well as taking advantage of the wood and bringing it center stage. There is nothing that screams “boat” more than teak. And simplifying pattern and color allows the eye to focus more on the beautiful wood. In addition, choosing colors that play within the many shades of the teak help it pop much more. 

I am a perfectionist in many ways, so the interior is not 100% the way I envisioned it, but it is so much better than before! I think we achieved a great transformation with creativity on a budget. 

Before & After Interior Video

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Our New Sailing Vlog

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My New Sailing Vlog

Hey all! I’m very excited to announce that I have a new sailing vlog out on YoutTube. We are not chartering right now given the current Covid-19 situation. However, we are working on the boat everyday to make it even better for those who will sail with us in the future! 

Content To-Date

If you are interested in getting a closer look at the boat, and our day to day projects, follow “Boat Life with Abbi” on Youtube. I upload a new video almost everyday!

Additionally, I provide tips and tricks for making the most out of your trip to Greece and guide virtual tours. 

Future Content

Once we are able to start charters again (hopefully late June or early July) I will be capturing the full experience. Virtually sail to a new island each day, catch all the beautiful views, and explore gorgeous Cyclades islands with us! 

our skippered sailing charter in greece summer 2018

Boat Life with Abbi - Episode 3 - Interior, Ouzo, & Souvlaki

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Our new sailing vlog is up! This sailing vlog is a documentation of our charters, work on the boat, and islands we visit. Subscribe to out sailing vlog on youtube. This sailing youtube channel will be nothing like you have ever seen! Don’t forget to subscribe to our sailing youtube channel and have some fun virtually sailing with us! 

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Interactive Sailing Holidays with Vacation Yachting!

Learn to Sail with Vacation Yachting

Interactive Sailing Holidays with Vacation Yachting!

This August 2019 we had a wonderful and fun charter with a family from the Netherlands (a mother, father and their three sons). The boys were 9, 13 and 15 years old, and, believe it or not, embarking on a sailing holiday in Greece was their idea! The kids had some experience sailing in the Netherlands, but they were eager to learn more on their trip with us.

The Aegean is said to be one of the toughest seas to sail due to its constantly changing winds and unpredictable swell. Despite these conditions, Patrik and I fair well sailing these seas with Anastasia, Vacation Yachting’s 61′ yacht. However, during the Deloo family’s trip we experienced how nice it is to have all hands on deck!

The boys were like sponges soaking up all the knowledge they could while on the boat. They observed us, listened to our advice, and quickly caught on to the routine. All three of them had the oppurtunity to steer while motoring and while under sail. They helped me with picking up the anchor nearly everyday. They assisted us with tacking, closing and opening the sails, and in the docking process. And, not only did the boys participate in the big tasks, but they partook in the tedious ones as well.

The Deloo family would help with the fenders, putting up the sun-tent, securing the saloon and cabins, closing hatches, lifting the dinghy up and lowering it down, and so much more! These jobs aren’t exactly the most exciting when it comes to sailing, but Abel, Jonah and Benjamin didn’t mind. They truly wanted to learn and help us as much as possible.

Surprisingly, Patrik and I don’t have many charters with families that want to learn how to sail. So, I didn’t know what an incredible experience it could be for everyone. We had such a great time showing Abel, Jonah and Benjamin the ropes (both figuratively and literally). It was rewarding to see their progress and to see their confidence grow in sailing.

This growth was most noticeable during our last sail from a small harbor in Paros to Naxos maintown. The wind was strong and the boys participated throughout the whole sail. I’ll always remember when Jonah (13) was at the wheel heading into the port of Naxos (where there’s always a lot of wind and swell). He didn’t seem to mind or fear the weather at all, and stood strong at the helm with the biggest smile on his face.

Patrik and I always say that our trip is as good as our guests’ trip. And, in this case, the Deloo family’s interactive sailing holiday was a great experience for everyone!

We hope to have many more charters just like this one!

"Patrik and Abbi were great instructors and company."
The Deloo family
Netherlands, August 2019

Interactive sailing holidays in Greece Interactive sailing holidays in greece interactive sailing holidays in greece interactive sailing holidays in greece

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Following the Wind to Beautiful Places

Follow the Wind with Us

Following the Wind to Beautiful Places

One of the most incredible aspects of sailing is that you follow the wind where it takes you at whatever speed it takes you there. However, during a sailing charter there are certain places you need to be at certain times (I know, a little counterintuitive to the concept of sailing). 

Greece is known for Its strong winds and unpredictable swell, but luckily, It’s also known for Its vast array of stunning islands. Our skippered sailing charter is based in the Cyclades, and we start and end most of our trips within those islands. For example, we could begin in Syros (the homebase of our boat), Mykonos, Paros, or another neighboring island; and then finish a charter a week or so later somewhere in the Cyclades. The wind is almost always in our favor for this sort of trip. 

However, for one charter last summer this wasn’t the case. 

At the very beginning of August, 2018 we had a group of ten people sailing with us for ten days, embarking in Syros and also disembarking in Syros. Like before every charter, our skipper, Patrik, checked the weather predictions and attempted to plan a trip according to the wind, start and end destinations, client requests, and the length of the charter. This time the predictions were alarming. As far as we knew, the winds in the Cyclades were going to be too strong for safe sailing for the majority of our ten day charter. 

We needed to make a decision: Prepare to be stuck somewhere in the Cyclades or escape… 

Patrik knew these clients as they were returning from a previous charter season, and knew for a fact that they liked to sail. So, the decision was to escape the Cyclades, and the best direction to head according to the wind was toward the Dodecanese Islands. 

Syros – Embarkation

The clients arrived in Syros with weather too strong to sail. We waited for the wind to subside in Finikas harbor for about a day and a half, and although we were stuck, we made the best out of the situation. The most memorable part of our (first) night in Syros was a pot-lock barbeque on the peer.

The harbor master gave us octopus, lamb, tuna, sausages, bread and even more to grill. We had enough food and wine for our ten clients, myself (first-mate), Patrik, the harbor master, and all the others from the harbor who joined the barbeque!

It was a beautiful night full of great food and a plethora of different people from different walks of life laughing and joking together for hours. And after all was finished, we went back to the boat, sat on deck together, and played card games under the stars. 

The weather was not in our favor, but it didn’t get in the way of us all having an incredible time and making the most out of an unfortunate situation.

Naxos – Kalados an Undiscovered Paradise

The logical first stop on our sailing charter journey was Naxos Island. Naxos is the largest Cyclades island with a high number of inhabitants (for Greek island standards) and has a main town full of shops and restaurants. But Naxos, being such a large island, also has plenty of less populated areas. 

We chose to spend the night in Kalados, an extremely secluded harbor in Naxos. 

It is truly magical arriving into Kalados. We enter into a large, empty bay surrounded by green hills and farmland. There is a clear, sandy beach stretching along the water line; and, sometimes you can see (and hear) herds of goats, horses and even giant pigs strolling down the beach. 

Kalados may lack people, but what it does not lack, is food. 

There’s a family who lives in the area and they own a ton of land and livestock. They also own a trailer at the top of the hill beside the harbor where they serve fresh and delicious food. 

This place is anything but fancy, but a wise person once told me that restaurants with the most uncomfortable chairs have the best food.  

After the trek up the hill to this “restaurant” you are rewarded with homemade cheese, wine, freshly picked vegetables, unbelievable french fries, and juicy goat chops (made from a goat who lived mere hours before you had the privilege of digesting it). Sorry vegetarians! 

Anyway, we all ate and drank to our hearts’ content. We even asked the owners’ if they could prepare breakfast the next morning to which they kindly agreed. So we ate just as much the next morning! 

Full and eager to sail we left Kalados. 

Astepalia – Saint Mary’s Day

It was a long, but amazing sail to Astepalia. Neither me nor Patrik had ever been to this island, but we decided to take the chance and check it out. And what a great decision that was! 

Astepalia, although not a touristic island, had so much to offer. It was full of adorable shops, interesting architecture, and great dining and entertainment. And it made such an impact on the clients that they wanted to stay for two nights. 

Luckily, our second night was on Saint Mary’s day (a celebrated holiday in Greece). We went out to dinner together at a nice restaurant located at the top of the mountain overlooking the harbor. 

As we enjoyed our meals, a few people carrying a huge, decorative arch stood beside us. In front of the arch stood a priest, and behind the arch, seemingly everyone on the island formed in a line. 

Music played and slowly but surely each person made their way under the arch to kiss and shake the hand of the priest. 

Then after dinner myself and a few of the younger clients decided to partake in the after-hour festivities. There was a party that everyone was talking about taking place in a famous church at the top of the mountain. Of course, we went!

As soon as we walked into the church, an old woman called us into a room where she gave us tons of wine and bread before we made our way to the main corredor of the church.

The church was completely full of people from top to bottom, and there was a band playing traditional Greek music. Food and drinks were being served at every corner, and the atmosphere gave off authentic yet vibrant vibes. 

The clients and I joined hands with the locals and danced until the early morning hours. 

Nisyros – The Volcanic Island

Sailing toward the island of Nisyros is a spectacular sight. It is a small, round island that looks just like a volcano. Which makes sense since it is a volcano!

Nisyros, although one of the more active volcanoes in Greece, is a habited island. It has two harbors, plenty of restaurants, taxi services, and markets. The island is small and quiet, but has enough to entertain tourists and locals alike.

Our charter group took a taxi to the top of the island (rather the volcano) to a village along the rim of its hot center. I know two things from their descriptions: (1) it’s a super cool sight to see, and (2) the gasses coming from the volcano smell like rotten eggs.

It’s pretty crazy to think that just the night before we were celebrating in a church on top of a cliff, and then the next day we were walking along the edge of a volcano! 

Kos – Large & Lively

Sailing beside Kos you can see Turkey so clearly, as if it were a stone’s throw away. A sight that reminded us all how far we traveled since leaving Syros.

Kos, unlike Astepalia and Nisyros, is a large touristic island. Pulling into port you see tons of boats, big and small; and, a long line of restaurants, souvenir shops, taxi services and plenty of people.

Kos was the perfect place for the teens onboard to go out and have a good time. There are a lot of clubs and bars on this island, and definitely a lot of young tourists looking to party.

After our night in Kos, we needed our next stop on our sailing charter journey!

Levita – One Family Population

Levita is the polar opposite of Kos. There’s no port on this island, but there’s a large beautiful bay to moor.

Only one family lives in Levita and they have a restaurant where they serve anyone who decides to spend a night or two in the bay.

We took the dinghy to shore and we hiked until we found the restaurant. There we sat outside and had amazing local food.

This one-family island is definitely one to remember! 

Schinoussa – Dining Beachside

Our next stop, Schinoussa, is part of the small chain of islands known as “the small Cyclades”.

We dropped anchor right in front of a beautiful white-sand beach. And right on the beach, there is a restaurant and bar that always plays great music and serves delicious food and refreshing drinks.

Some of us took the dinghy to shore, others swam or took the paddle boards. But, sooner or later, we all made our way to the beachside restaurant.

After a long sail it was nice to relax beside the water, eat, drink and laugh together.

Then to top it all off, Patrik took myself and the four adults on a dinghy-ride to see the perfect sunset!

Paros – Old Town, New Vibes

The main village in Paros is always a great stop during a sailing charter! This old town is full of little side roads, paved with stone, and surrounded by white clay buildings. It is easy to get lost walking through the village, mesmerized by all the colorful shops, beautiful architectures, and delectable smells.

There is something about Paros that feels like going back in time, while simultaneously, experiencing something modern and lively.

We had a relaxing night in Paros. We enjoyed dinner together at a wonderful restaurant located down a little side-street. The food here, like many places in Paros, was a bit different compared to traditional Greek cuisine. But equally as delicious!

This change in food and atmosphere was just what we needed after many long sails! 

Syros – Journey’s End

After a long and incredible week we finished where we started…Syros. To recreate our first night in Syros, we went to the butcher and the market to get a bunch of food to grill and bottles of wine to drink. Once again, we barbequed on the peer and ate until we couldn’t eat any more! 

Over 300 miles later, we finished our sailing charter with new memories and new friends. 

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Sailing Charter Packing List

Pack Up and Come Aboard!

Sailing Charter Packing List

Sailing Charter Packing List

Are you preparing for a sailing charter holiday in Greece? Are you wondering what to pack? What not to pack? Well, here’s a sailing charter packing list!

The first piece of advice I can give you is to pack smart when spending your summer holiday aboard a sailing vessel.

Our sailing yacht can accommodate up to 9 people (11 including crew). There is a large saloon and galley area, as well as four, double-bed guest cabins, each with its own private bathroom and shower. AND each cabin contains storage cabinets.

Yes, I know, so much space!

However, although our yacht is large compared to most, the space shrinks when you add 8 life-sized luggage bags, 14 backpacks, and 10 purses.

This brings me to my first-step to smart packing…

Choose luggage bags that are easy to store…

If you plan to use a large suitcase, if possible, choose a soft one when packing for a sailing charter. Soft luggage bags can be stored much easier than hard-covered suitcases.

For instance, if you are an 8-person charter, and each person brings one large, hard-surfaced suitcase each cabin will be crowded with two big, unavoidable bags. This makes your living space much smaller, and it becomes a lot more difficult to move around. Whereas, softer suitcases can be shrunk down, folded and/or moved at your convenience.

This advice is most important for charters where each of our four guest cabins will be occupied.

If your charter requires the use of three or fewer cabins, you can get away with a lot more when it comes to the type of luggage you use. We’ve had plenty of charters where everyone in the group keeps their suitcases in one of the empty cabins; and this works out great for them!

In short, think about the number of people in your group, the number of cabins you will use, the amount you plan to pack and the number of bags to fit in each cabin. Depending on your situation, choose you luggage accordingly.

Now that you know more or less what bags to use, it’s time to talk about what to put in those bags…

Sailing with us for one week? Here’s a list of items you may want to bring…

Clothing

  1. 4-5 shirts
  2. 2-3 pairs of shorts
  3. 2 bathing-suits
  4. 1 or 2 dinner outfits (dresses, etc.)
  5. 1 long-sleeve shirt
  6. 1 sweater or sweatshirt
  7. Wind-breaker
  8. Flip-flops
  9. Hat for the sun
  10. Sunglasses
  11. Undergarments

This is a very general list of what clothes to bring with you. Feel free to pack whatever clothes you think you’ll need and wear on your vacation in Greece. But packing on the light-side is always best, as you’ll find you spend most of your time in light, comfortable clothing and bathing suits. Not to mention, it’s always a good idea to save some space in your bag for souvenirs and maybe some new, Greek designed clothes!

Almost every island has an affordable and fast laundry service. So, you won’t have to worry about running out of clean clothes! 

Other Items

  1. Sunscreen (this you can purchase at all markets in Greece)
  2. Bug spray
  3. Beach towels (If you don’t want to take from home, you can find plenty of beach towels for sale on the islands)
  4. USB charger for your phone/tablet/kindle/etc.
  5. Adaptor for European plugs
  6. Sea sickness medication
  7. For kids – Arm floaties (if you deem necessary)

In Conclusion…

This sailing charter packing list is by no means an exhaustive one. It is simply meant to guide you in the right direction. You don’t have to bring everything listed here, and you can definitely bring items that are not listed. Avid swimmer? Bring your own masks and flippers. Extra concerned about safety? Bring your own medicine and first aid supplies. Hiker? Bring along your hiking shoes and other gear.

At the end of the day, this is your vacation, and you know exactly what you need to complete the experience!

Do you have additional questions about what to pack, what you can find in Greece, or anything else? Do you have something we could add to this sailing charter packing list? Feel free to contact us and we will answer any questions you may have!

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