If you are
coming to Greece this year and you want to see
as much as you can, what better way to see the
Greek Islands and the coast of Turkey then to
go in style on a cruise ship? But there are some things you should think about. For example do you want to spend all your time on a ship and 5 or 6 hours on an island, or do you want to spend more time on the islands? If you are using a cruise ship as a sort of introduction to Greece for a future trip where you will spend more time on an island or two then I get it. Think of it as getting the appetiser sampler instead of a main meal, so next time you come you will know what you like. If there is a next time.Of course if this is your one and only trip to Greece it would be great if you could do both. Well, actually there is. Fantasy Travel's Smart Seven allows you to spend three nights on Mykonos and three nights on Santorini and in between you are on a Four Day Cruise that includes Turkey, Patmos, Rhodes and Crete.
Personally I feel like if you are going to Greece and you want to do a cruise, you want one that begins and ends in Athens, and includes Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Patmos, and Istanbul, and Ephesus, Turkey and maybe an island that is noton the usual cruise itineraries, like Symi for example like the 8-Day Iconic Aegean Cruise. Or you could do a 5-Day Iconic Aegean Cruise which does not include Istanbul, and just fly there from Athens for a few days to give the city the time it deserves. Or theMagnificent Turkey Program shows you the best of Turkey and includes a 4-Day cruise of the Greek Islands.
For those planning to see the Greek islands on the massive cruise lines there are a few things to keep in mind. These ships were not made for the Greek islands. Thousands of people getting on and off a mega-cruise ship can mean long lines, chaos, endless waits for transportation and long journeys on tender boatsbecause the
ships are too big to get close to the ports. Cruisers who have their heart set on
the beautiful island of Rhodes may be surprised to know that their ship is actually docking in Marmaris, Turkey 12 miles away (cheaper docking fees) and they can only get there by paying for one of the ship's excursions. Other holiday-makers dreaming of the white cliff villages of Santorini may discover their cruise does not even go there!
In March of 2008 I attended the NY Times Travel show and had a conversation with a cruise agent who was complaining about the giant cruise companies jumping into the Greek market. "These ships are on a scale that is totally inappropriate to the Greek islands. They dwarf them. Can you imagine that they are building a cruise ship
that will be as big as the empire state building and plan to use it in the Aegean? This is sheer greed. And what will happen
to these islands
when thousands of people converge on them at once? And the reason they have chosen to extend their seasons from winters in the Caribbean to summers in the Greek islands? They need the money. If it were otherwise they would have built ships that were suited to the Aegean Sea with its small harbors and quaint towns. Smaller ships."
For this reason I recommend the Greek Cruise companies. There are those who will complain because the smaller ships don't live up to their idea of what a cruise should be: life on a floating mall where your every desire is pampered to, even desires you didn't know you had. But the Greek cruise
companies know the territory, the boats are not small but not so big that getting on and off them is a problem. You may not be able to hit golf balls off the upper
deck into the beautiful blue Aegean but there is plenty to do on board and the Greek ships do most of their traveling while you are asleep. The Greek ships generally carry around 800 passengers compared to the big cruise ships which carry several thousand. If your purpose is to sit back like a pasha and use the Greek islands as a background for all the exciting activities offered on the ship then maybe the big international cruise lines are
for you. But if your purpose is to see as many Greek islands, and as much of Turkey and Athens as you can in a short period of time then the Greek cruises are the way to go.
If this is your once in a lifetime trip to Greece and the cruise does not include Santorini and Rhodes, find another cruise company.
Comparing the Greek cruise ships to the mega cruises is like comparing watermelons and raisins. But raisins are fine if you are not expecting watermelons. The Greek cruises are what they are, a cheap efficient way to see the Greek islands in a short period of time. Think of the boats as floating hotels, maybe not super luxury class but maybe A-minus or B-plus. If you read the comments on Cruise Critic they are from people who cruise for a living and care moreabout the boats and the service than the places they are visiting.
By booking through a reliable Greek travel agency you can get discounted rates for
cruises in the Greek islands and you will also have a coach who will tell you which cruise is best for you and why.
Greek Island Cruise Video
This video was made by filmaker Andy Emery during his honeymoon in the fall of 2009. It gives you a pretty good idea of what a cruise of the Greek Islands and Turkey is like.
You can get discounted rates for cruises by going to Fantasy Travel's Cruise for inexpensive packages that includes a 4 day cruise, 3 nights in Athens and Delphi.
Greek Island Cruise Information
Greek Travel Agencies Specializing in Cruises
For more information on the
cruises and to see Itineraries and dates for
3, 4, and 7 day cruises to the Greek Islands,
Italy, Turkey and Egypt visit the Cruise pages
of these two respected travel agencies in Athens: Fantasy
www.fantasytravelofgreece.com or Dolphin
Economical Cruise Packages
offers for the 2014 cruise season by Dolphin Hellas:
Variety Cruises:25% discount for all passengers, on selected small
ship cruise sailings,
for early booking. These cruises are the next best thing to having your own private yacht.
New Economical Cruise Packages: Fantasy Travel has put together a number of packages that offer quality accomodation for economical prices. Most packages that seem too good to be true are actually not as good as they seem, often using hotels that are in areas you really don't want to stay in, to keep the price down. But Fantasy's economy packages feature hotels in and around the Plaka in Athens and are all goodqualityhotels. I recommend Fantasy Travel's 8 day package that includes a 4-day cruise(Mykonos- Kusadasi- Patmos- Crete - Santorini) plus Athens-Delphi-Meteora which starts at 595 euros per person. For these and more visit Fantasy Travel's Special Offers Page
The Saronic Islands
The One-Day Saronic Gulf
Cruise goes all year long and is a great
introduction to the islands of Aegina, Poros
and Hydra. This is one of the best day trips in Greece and is great in combination with a couple days on the islands. See
Yacht and Sailboat Charters
and Smaller Sail-Cruises of the Greek
For Yacht and Sailboat
Charters see www.greecetravel.com/sailing
where you will find information on chartering boats
with or without a skipper as well as cruises on sailing ships with
twenty or thirty cabins that go on weekly
itineraries to the islands, (like the cruise
ships but smaller). You don't have to book the
whole boat. You just book by the
Santorini Sailing: Greek-American Ted Stathis does charters around the island on his luxury Catamaran which includes gourmet meals, swimming in isolated coves, and a spectacular view of the island. You can take half-day, full day and overnight trips.
Tours from Cruise
companies discourage the use of taxi and limo companies
for private tours in destinations like Rhodes,
Athens, Crete, Santorini and places in
Turkey. Whether this is to 'protect' the
passenger or because the cruise ships
themselves offer tours I don't know (actually I do know and you can probably figure out why I can't tell you). I do know
that you can get excellent service from taxi
companies which offer personalized
tours, many of whom charge by the trip
and not by the person. These tours are like
having a local host show you around the
islands, towns and cities that they know.
Instead of eating in some giant tourist trap
that accommodates the dozens of people
who take the bus tours, you can go to small
tavernas where the locals eat, on quietstreets or on the sea.
These are some drivers I recommend:
of course there is
George the Famous
Taxi Driver who is now something of an
international hero for his tours of Athens,
the mainland and his ability to get customers
from the boats to the airport or hotels
comfortably and quickly. George, like the
other drivers listed here is non-smoking,
English-speaking, knowlegable and drives a
very comfortable air-conditioned
For groups of more than 4 there is his son Dennis, in the photo above, with his beautiful luxury Mercedes limo that seats 7 plus the driver. For even larger groups there is son Billy with their Mercedes Bus able to seat 12 people. You can e-mail them at email@example.com
On the island of
Rhodes Nick Axarlis and his brother
Mike, two Greeks from Alexandria, speak
6 languages (English, Greek, Arabic,
French, Italian, Spanish and German) and
showed me places on the island that I
would never have found on my own. Their
company is called
Tours and they do tours and transfers.
Both are friendly, smart and funny and they
have great taste in food. I spent much of my
time with them and am ready to go back
On the island of
Crete there is
Nikoforakis, who I spent a wonderful time with in Heraklion and is
recommended by George the Famous Taxi Driver. Lefteris packs a lot into a day in his tours of Crete. Obviously as with
the other drivers you can see a lot more when
you don't have a large group slowing you
For those who look for drivers and tours on cruise message boards be aware that some drivers plant positive reviews and in some cases plant negative reviews about other drivers. I don't know how common this is in other countries but in Greece this is done with taxi drivers and hotels which is a problem because it devalues the information found on these boards. Could the board administrators do something about this? In some cases they can if they are seriously
monitoring the boards because some fake reviews are so obvious. But in many cases there is no way of knowing if it is a real review or written by a friend or relative or even a competitor. So use discretion.
You can find reviews for the above drivers at www.greektravel.com/testimonials
Seeing Athens on Your Own from the Pireaus Cruise Terminal
There is a new bus that leaves from Akti Xaveriou which is the main road that is in front of the cruise terminal. The X80 connects Pireaus with the Acropolis and Syntagma Square and it is an express route which means it should get you there and back pretty quickly.
If you are good walkers you can leave the cruise terminal and walk to your left (with the city on the right and the sea on your left) until you come to a pedestrian bridge and that will takeyou to the metro. It is about a 15 minute walk. (There is a funny looking shuttle that can take you too though I don't know if it goes all the way to the cruise terminal.) Take the metro to Thission and when you leave the station you will see the Acropolis. Walk to your right andin about 10 minutes you will come to the road that leads to the entrance of the Acropolis. There are guides at the entrance and they charge about 75euros an hour. You can also print my Acropolis page out at www.athensguide.com/acropolis.html since you are going to forget about 95% of what a guide tells you anyway. You can also go to www.athensguide.com/athens-walking-tours and arrange a tour with them or if you want to splurge and not worry about getting back and forth on the metro hire George the Famous Taxi Driver or one of his drivers to pick you up at the ship, show you Athens and take you back, which will cost about 35 euros per hour which is not too bad when split among 4 people,(which is the number that can fit in a cab. With more you will have to take a limo. See www.greecetravel.com/limousine)
From the Acropolis you will see the Acropolis Museum below and you just walk down to the wide pedestrian avenue called Dionysiou Areopagitou south of the Acropolis and walk to your left till you get to it. After the museum you can walk a half a block and take a left on Vironos Street which will take you into the Plaka and eventually to Monastiraki if you follow Adrianou Street and from there you can take the metro back to the ship.
If you want to go to the Olympic Stadium and the Temple of Olympian Zeus you don't go left on Vironos, and instead continue on Dionysiou Areopagitou til you get to the big street which is Amalias Avenue and you will cross over and walk to your left to Hadrian's Arch and walk past it to Vassilissis Olgas Street whichwill take you past the entrance to the temple and all the way tothe marble Olympic Stadium. You can go back past the Zappion building or followthe signs throughthe National Gardens and that will bring you back to Amalias Avenue. You can either cross and follow the tourists who know where they are going into the Plaka, or you can go left and see the Parliament Building and Syntagma Square and the evzones (if there is not a demonstration going on), and from there walk down Ermou, the pedestrian shopping street which will take you right to Monastiraki Square where you can take the metro back to Pireaus after you wander around and check out the shops and the cafesand restaurants which border the ancient Agora. By the way your ticket to the Acropolis is good for all this stuff.
Give yourself at least an hour and a half to get back to the ship. Not that it takes that long but if you go in the wrong direction and then get back to Pireaus and don't see the shuttle you may have a heart attack running to the cruise terminal. Remember that wherever you are in Athens you just have to find the metro and get on the right train to Pireaus. And you should make sure you have a map of Athens before wandering off on your own.
Help Support Matt's Greecetravel.com Do you enjoy using my site? Have you found it entertaining as well as useful? If so please show your appreciation by booking hotels through the travel agencies and the links found on my Athens Travel Agents page. The small comission I make on the bookings enable me to keep working and in most cases you won't find them any cheaper by searching elsewhere. You can alsobook at Booking.com's Greece Page and they give me a small percentage on each booking.