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Embarkation Day: World Navigator by Atlas Ocean Voyages

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For the first time in my almost 32 years of flight, I clapped when the plane landed.

After a year and a half of cold-turkey travel deprivation, United flight 124 with direct service to Athens was nine hours of delicious anticipation complete with a South African Shiraz courtesy of the house.

That deserved a standing ovation in my book.

To say I was thrilled to see the thick haze of Greece’s capital city lying in wait for my particular brand of hedonism would be an understatement for the ages. Even a balmy 100+ degrees and an opaque horizon clouded by nearby wildfires couldn’t scorch my excitement.

Athens Greece

A view of the Acropolis and downtown Athens | Photo: Evan Gove

I had come from South Florida, after all. The heat was already baked into my being.

What wasn’t baked in was the nine days I was about to spend on a cruise line where adventure was not just a key, but THE key to a vacation experience I sorely needed.

Atlas Ocean Voyages graciously extended an invite to their inaugural sailing on board World Navigator and here I am blessed with the opportunity to relax, nitpick, marvel and above all else, thoroughly enjoy myself on a ship destined for the world’s most exclusive locales.

World Navigator: First Impressions

World Navigator doesn’t tower high above the pier like the behemoth ships which call PortMiami home. With a stately navy paint job and crisp white accents, World Navigator sticks out all on her own. I found myself pacing through the outdoor embarkation terminal admiring the vessel while I waited for my 15-minute rapid COVID test to come back clean. 

Atlas Ocean Voyages

Arrival at Port of Piraeus | Photo: Evan Gove

I wasn’t worried.

Okay, I was worried, but 72 hours previous, my bill of health was impeccable and my mask diligence was gold medal-worthy through three airports, two planes and well over 7,000 miles of forward motion.

But still. International travel in an age of COVID-19 and the sinister variants now stalking the globe isn’t a fairy tale. Passenger locator forms, continual testing and a healthy fear of your fellow traveler with nonchalant mask etiquette is enough make even the most intrepid tourist wary of the experience.

Despite the laundry list of things that could go wrong, I braved the trip under the pretense that sailing the Greek Isles with a multi-day stop in Egypt would be the kind of experience everyone dreams about, but few actually turn to reality.  

Then, as the intense sun beat rays upon me and portly beads of sweat trickled down the back of my neck, I received the best present possible – a pink bracelet.

World Navigator

That day, pink was my favorite color | Photo: Evan Gove

Pink was good. It meant my rapid test, much like my previous PCR, was squeaky clean. Better luck next time, you loathsome, deadly viral load.

Since the ship was only operating at half the usual 200 or so passenger capacity, even with the extra steps, embarkation was a walk in the park. No lines, no waiting, no exasperated sighs – it was perhaps 25 minutes in total from the time I arrived at port to the time I was welcomed by the staff with a glass of champagne. I’m sure they were smiling as wide as I was, but every staff member on board World Navigator wears a mask to protect their guests. 

Let the Fun Begin 

Imagine crawling through the desert – lips crusted, eyes bloodshot, skin screaming in red-hot agony, hope just a mirage on the horizon. Then image you pull yourself through the molten sand and beyond that last mammoth dune is a pristine oasis complete with top-quality cuisine, an open bar with premium spirits and a staff of dutiful professionals. That’s pretty much what setting foot on the ship felt like. 

I mean, just take a look at the main course at dinner that evening. 

World Navigator

Charbroiled Calamari | Photo: Evan Gove

I won’t even show you the dinner they served on the plane. 

So, that’s what boarding World Navigator was like for your (mostly) humble narrator. Weeks of debilitating nerves and Google searches like “best mask for international travel” and “COVID trip insurance” no longer consumed my waking hours. My ticket was legitimate and it said Horizon Stateroom 634.

A quick whisper of “Let’s Go” and a single gangway later, I was on board. Let’s go, indeed.

Evan Gove is traveling on the inaugural cruise for Atlas Ocean Voyages’ ship World Navigator until August 13th. Follow @PortholeCruise on social media for more updates! 

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