Summer is on its way and what we all need right now is to basically do absolutely nothing. I can easily imagine myself lounging on a sunbed, sipping a colorful cocktail as I watch one by one the Greek islands go by, taking in the fresh sea breeze and enjoying the calming effect of the eternal Greek blue.
Well guess what? Taking a cruise to the Greek islands couldn’t be easier. Why? Because travelers from abroad can take a cruise right out of Athens (from Piraeus), Lavrio, Thessaloniki or Crete. The idea is called “homeporting” and what it basically means is that cruise companies are calling Greece home for the next few years at least.
How does that affect you? Ease. You can come to Athens or Thessaloniki, enjoy a city break for two or three nights, which I highly recommend, and then set off on a dream cruise of the Greek islands.
You also have much more choice this year. Besides traditional stopovers such as Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos, Patmos, and Katakolon (to visit Ancient Olympia, where the first Olympic Games were held in antiquity), cruise ships will be sailing to the Peloponnese dropping anchor at Nafplion, the country’s first capital, Gytheio, or outside the fortress town of Monemvasia, in Laconia. Hitting the Ionian isles of Corfu and everyone’s favorite Zakynthos with its famous shipwreck and turqiose waters. The Cyclades islands of Syros, Amorgos, Milos and Paros. The mainland Greece port towns of Volos and Kavala. The pocket-sized, car-free Saronic isle of Spetses, Ikaria, Samos, Limnos, and of course, Skiathos and Skopelos. Ships will also be traveling to destinations in Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and the Holy Land (between the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River).
And guess what. Though many of us think of cruises as a luxury travel experience, we’re wrong. No doubt about it, there are cruise itineraries that may be pricey offering lots of lavishness like your own private balcony literally hanging over the water as the boat slides its way to the islands and other exciting destinations, but there are many types of cruises out there. Not only in terms of cost but also size of ship, lifestyle focus, travel interest, adventure and much more.
Why take a cruise, you ask? To be honest, I too was not very keen on cruise travel a couple years back. Always thought it was more for senior citizens who were just too tired to travel. But after a going on a short voyage of the Greek islands a few years back, I changed my mind. The trip was very different to what I had expected. And in the end, I really enjoyed it and plan on doing it again.
Why Take a Cruise of the Greek Isles
1) First of all, yes, I lounged all day on a sunbed listening to music, getting a great tan, enjoying a drink (or two), and meeting people, which for me is the best part.
2) It was easy. Can’t stress that enough. I had nothing to think about. Everything is planned for you onboard and at stops with shore excursions as long as you have good cruise travel agents.
3) I had a chance to see several Greek islands in one go, giving me the time and knowhow to decide which ones I want to visit again in the future. This is how I changed my mind about traveling with organized groups as well. You’re basically carefree, no worries about waiting in lines, booking, prices, etc.
4) It reminded me of the excitement I felt when I used to watch The Love Boat as a kid in Chicago: deep winter outside, dreams of sea, sun and fun on TV. Now it’s real and it’s affordable.
5) And, in short, I think cruising is all about having fun. It’s something about being at sea, floating that brings all “busyness” to a stop. You’re like “oh well, I might as well chill until my next stop” … and that’s where the magic begins: you finally find time for yourself to catch a musical, workout without looking at your watch, listen to music as you feel the sea breeze in your hair, learn a new hobby, or simply relax and get some good sleep.
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Taking a Cruise in Greece: Maria’s Tips
►Set a budget – know how much you want to spend. Greece hosts all types of cruises – mainstream, luxury, ultra-luxury, or smaller vessels for your cruise experience.
►Big or small? Are you interested in a small cruise ship that can offer exclusivity and is more flexible allowing you to visit off-the-beaten-track Greek islands or do you want the big, luxury liner which has everything from its own casino and theater(s) to gym and pools?
►Chose your itinerary. Think number of days, destinations, and whether you want to start your cruise from Piraeus port (Athens), Lavrio (near Athens), Thessaloniki, or Heraklion (Crete) after a few days there. Do you want to do the popular stopovers or are you looking for a trip away from the mainstream, a cruise of the Greek islands only or a multi-country cruise of the Mediterranean?
►Make sure to check the shore excursions available and plan early.
►Find a specialized cruise agent. I can’t stress this enough. Travel agents who specialize in cruise travel cannot only find the cruise offering exactly what you’re looking for, they can also get you discounts and prepare an exciting program of activities on board and at destinations. That said, I highly recommend The Greek Vibe partner, Athens-based cruise agency allcruises.gr These folks – Eleni and Michalis – have been doing this for two decades. Plus they have a fresh outlook and a passion for cruise travel. Contact them and tell them Maria from The Greek Vibe sent you. You won’t regret it.
What You Need to Know About Cruising from Greece
These are new times for travel but like previous decades, holidays always were about adventure and the unknown. For me personally, that’s what makes traveling a rewarding experience: it takes you out of your comfort zone and into a different way of doing things. That’s why in Greek the word “diakopes” (holidays) means “stopping”. So we stop what we usually do and just chill.
Before you board:
Have in mind that there are no pre-boarding requirements and all Covid-19 related restrictions have been lifted.
♫I end today’s post with a 1982 song that says it best: “Krouaziera Tha Se Pao” (I’ll Take You on a Cruise) “because I care and love you, just the two of us…” performed by Greek songsmith Vangelis Germanos.