View From the Bridge - NAOMI KABAK

Alan Lewis and Grand Circle Corporation & Grand Circle Cruise LinesNAOMI KABAK
Senior Vice President
Group IST

Naomi Kabak is Senior Vice President of Group IST, where she oversees customer relationships and product and business development for all Group IST brands. She shares her view about the joys of small ship and yacht cruising.


By Naomi Kabak

On the Greek island of Kea, the locals make a delectable dish called “paspala”—a concoction of pork, egg and tomato that somehow just works. I’ve never found it anywhere else in Greece or, in fact, anywhere else in the world. On the nearby island of Mykonos, I first tasted “kopanisiti,” a spreadable spicy goat cheese that’s sublime when smeared on a slice of toast. Then there’s Crete, home of “stifado salingariko,” a perfectly-spiced snail stew that leaves you thinking that the French preparation of escargot is just unimaginative. If you have a sweet tooth, you’d be wise to visit the island of Syros, if only for the “halvadopita” an almond and nougat snack found on certain parts of the island. And you thought Greek cuisine was just about a silly salad and some olives.

Such is the diversity and richness of the Greek islands. There’s so much to experience, to discover and, most importantly, to taste on each island, if one only takes the time to go beyond the port village and venture inland to the heart of the local culture. This is why, when cruising the Greek Islands, it’s so crucial to choose the right ship for you. If I have one piece of advice to offer first time cruise-goers it’s this: when it comes to sailing vessels, size matters. The quality, depth and richness of the entire travel experience depends on it. And bigger isn’t always better.

Naturally, small ships and yachts have better means of entry to small ports of call, inaccessible to major ocean liners. Large cruise ships are typically relegated to big ports, where the surrounding village is essentially the mouth of the tourist trap, full of overpriced goods, over-eager merchants and worse—inauthentic cuisine. To make matters worse, embarking and disembarking on a large cruise ship with thousands of passengers can be a time-sucking ordeal in its own right. If you’re travelling by large cruise ship and you only have one afternoon to explore an island, the chances of finding an idyllic secluded beach or hunting down the perfect glass of “ouzo” become slim to none.

This is why I’m an advocate of Greece-based small cruise company Variety Cruises. With access to unique and private ports of call on islands large and small, Variety Cruises has the flexibility to take cruise-goers off the beaten track, where they can enjoy the quaint and less-frequented villages, meet the locals and experience the many nuances of the island culture. Helpfully, Variety even offers Half Board, so that gastro adventurers are free to go exploring the islands for culinary finds. Variety Cruise’s fleet of vessels, with sizes varying from 4 to 36 cabins, offers passengers a truly refined cruising experience. In them, I, and thousands of other Mediterranean travelers, have found the ideal alternative to “My Big Fat Greek Cruise.”


• Naomi Kabak
Senior Vice President
Group IST

• Guy A Young
President & CEO of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

• Larry Pimentel
President & CEO of Azamara Club Cruises

• Cdr Mark Gaouette
Maritime Security Consultant
Department of Homeland Security

• Rick Sasso
President and CEO
MSC Cruises

• Diane Moore
Windstar Cruises

• Paul Strachan
Pandaw River Cruises

• James Rodriguez
Senior Vice President, Marketing
Oceania Cruises

• Colin Stone
Managing Director
Swan Hellenic

• Mike Deegan
Managing Director
Hebridean Island Cruises

• Derek Banks
European Waterways Ltd

• Ken Carver
International Cruise Victims Association (ICV)

• Terry Dale
President and CEO
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

• Lawrence Dessler
Executive Director
Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance (NCMA)

• Ross A Klein

• Bob Levinstein
Cruise Compete

• Alan Lewis
Grand Circle Corporation & Grand Circle Cruise Lines

• Albert Peter
Chief Executive Officer
Silversea Cruises

• Dietmar R Wertanzl
President and Chief Executive Officer
Cruise West