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Any advice for a couple on their first Greek islands cruise?


Jun 17th, 2009, 11:10 AM
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Any advice for a couple on their first Greek islands cruise?

So my wife and I are going on our first cruise. Its a short one to five Greek islands (Mykonos, Ephessos, Patmos, Crete and Santorini). We opted for this cruise to see more places even though there is only a short time at each stop. I'm concerned though that we only have about 5-6 hours at each port. We never pay for tour groups because we want to explore on our own. Is it even possible to get beyond the port towns in this short of a time? Can anyone recommend some tucked-away spots away from the beaten path? We are young and can hike but realize we can't get too far away.

Also, you can weigh in on whether or not cruises are a waste and island hopping is better. I went back and forth but decided on the cruise since we got a deal, it's all-inclusive and seemed more convenient. I estimated that the price for island-hopping would be about the same as our cruise when factoring in meals, hotels, ferries etc. I could be wrong though.

Also, we're hitting Thessaloniki and Athens on the mainland and would appreciate any tips there as well. Thanks in advance!
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Jun 17th, 2009, 11:33 AM
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Well, you've already booked it and paid money down, and now you want us to reassure you. People do this all the time. I wish I could do so ... but it wouldn't be honest.

Cruises are about shipboard life, not about the port stops. THat is OK in the caribbean, when many islands don't have much to offer beyond the port, except beaches. But it is NOT a way to even get a taste of Greek isles or Greek culture ... you are with a throng of people... waiting in line to get off, get back on, in between take pictures, eat lunch, buy some souvenirs.

Your estimate that the price would be the same is not based on asking people who have done it. I have just come back from 28 days in Greece and the isles, and even including 5 days in Athens (more expensive), I did it easily on 70- 75E per day for EVERYTHING. If you allotted 100E per dy per person, you could wallow in amenities.... AND, with 3-4 days on each of 3 islands, you would have the time to explore, find those spots off the beaten path, interact with greeks, make your own discoveries.

Cruises are for people with physical disabilities or elderly, want to be waited on a lot, and who don't have time, energy or inclination to do any research beforehand. Yes, they are convenient. Whether they constitute a visit to Greece is another question.

If you are "hitting" Athens I assume it will be for one day ... that is more what I call a glancing blow. You can hire some taxi to take you around. Ditto for Thessaloniki.

Enjoy your sea voyage, and next time, come to us when you are in the trip-planning stage, and we can help you do an itinerary to visit Greece.
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Jun 17th, 2009, 12:11 PM
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Hey, thanks for the honesty. I get it. Cruises suck in your opinion and for my sake I hope you're wrong. Normally my travels are more adventurous but this time I just wanted to relax. Obviously, I would love to spend three days at each island and 28 days in Athens like yourself but I have a job! We are spending 2 days in Thessaloniki and two days in Athens as well- hopefully a bit more than a 'glancing blow'.

I guess the main point of my post was that if you did have only five hours on each island, what would be something to do beyond the souvenir shop and the snack bar?

For me this is an intro to Greece- it really is more about sites, food and pictures. I don't pretend to think that I'll get a real sense of Greek culture or people from a one week trip. Since I live in Europe, I know I can come back. Thanks for taking your time to reply!
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Jun 17th, 2009, 12:18 PM
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Hey, lots of people see Greece that way. No worries about food or accommodation.

I would get some info about each port and then walk around the town or head out to a nearby beach. There's not much time for anything else.
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Jun 17th, 2009, 12:30 PM
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Well you might want to go to the library or purchase a book on the Greek Isles - also there are some good websites with alot of deatiled information on the individual islands - google them. We just came back from a cruise that went some of those places - some are more "sight" oriented and others more kick back and wander or relax. Santorini - first you have to negotiate the port. You will probably tender in, then you must get up to Fira by walking, donkey or cable car - this can eat up some time. But if enough time remains, there is local bus service, relatively cheap taxis or maybe walk from Fira to Imogila (something like that!). Ephesus - you may want to book a guide there to see the ruins. We used Ekol travel. Mykonos - not too far from town to beach - not alot of sights. Crete is huge - where do you dock? We were in Ag. Nic. - another place you may want to take a tour to see the Palace of Knosssos. We enjoyed our cruise, even tho we did not spend alot of time on any one islands, it was a nice overview and gave us ideas for "next time".
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Jun 17th, 2009, 12:37 PM
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Thanks, suec1 for posting. I just purchased my greek isles book and I am also googling and posting while I have a little time. I appreciate the specific info. In Crete, the ship stops in Heraklion.
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Jun 17th, 2009, 12:56 PM
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(Disclaimer: it's been many years since we visited Greece, but we did one cruise that included Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes, and Santorini.) Mykonos is quite compact; just wander the streets looking for the perfect "white village" photo, spend some time at the beach, have lunch on a sunny terrace.

For Crete I would definitely concetrate on Palace of Knossos -- may need a taxi to get there? or you may be able to hire a local guide? There might be leads for guides on other Greek threads?

I know that in Rhodes we did our own self-guided walking tour of the town, then rented a "car" (with open sides, canvas roof, and NO HORN - how can you drive in Greece without a horn?!) to go up to Lindos for a leisurely lunch on the beach. I know you're not going to Rhodes, but if you'll have 5-6 hours, you might want to consider a car rental?
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Jun 17th, 2009, 07:13 PM
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OK Tubaguy, you just asked us to express our opinions and so I did, so don't knock me for it. Also, this thing about u wish u could spend 28 days but you have a job... well I worked for over 40 years & brought up 2 kids on my own, I could never travel at all when I was your age, and now my main thing is I go to greece once a year, that's my only vacation & only 'splurge'. So don't think I'm some affluent lady of leisure; i don't own a house or even a car. The other people are right that u have to do a tour or get a guide with the short time u have at each stop. Here are some tips:

SANTORINI - those cruise ships really hit u both ways. They charge the earth for their port tours, then the people who sign up for these get priority & are let off the ship first & the rest are at the end of the line. I hope your ship docks at the "Regular" port .... then you can get off rright onto the dock & take a bus up to the top and Fira town. If you are moored outside the "Old Port," you'll be stuck getting a tender to the quay, and then will have to wait in line to go up on the cable car ... the disembarkation/reboarding process will thus waste up to an hour each way... frustrating and never described on the brochures.

HERAKLION - shore tours are costly here too...but you dock directly, you can get a public bus right at the dock (30 mins) to get to Knossos, and you & a few others from the ship can usually hire a guide right by the gate... do not let the guide make you wait around 30 mins so he/she can collect a crowd of up to 20.... cut a deal to go with 6 or 8 peple.

MYKONOS -- nothing of historic interest in town ... you can spend your time wanering around and looking in the shop windows of DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Cartiers, Calvin Klein, Hermes, etc ... or you can take a few quick pictures then grab a taxi and go lie on a beach.
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Jun 19th, 2009, 09:52 PM
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It has been a long time since we first went to Greece but as complete newbies we felt that a cruise would be a good way to get a feel for many different places so we could decide where we wanted to come back to.
Based on that experience I was frustrated by being the last to be tendered off of the ship because we didn't book shore excursions.
Having said that both Fira and Mykonos towns are fun to wander through and explore. Find a taverna and have a drink and watch all the people go by. Even on a short trip you can find lots of special places in these two towns.

For Kushadashi (Ephasus is several miles away from the town) I would suggest you find another couple on the ship and hire a taxi. There will be lots of Taxis at the port and they are experienced at getting you back on time. There is a sort of jungle telegraph going on and if you speak English at the taxi line up, magically an English speaking driver appears. We felt safe the whole time.

Ephesus is a very special place and is not to be missed.
We have taken the ship excursion (the first time) and hired a taxi the second time and the taxi was much better and cheaper too.
Be aware that everyone in Turkey has a brother who owns a rug shop and you will end up in one. Just enjoy the experience. By the way the rugs look great in our house. They do arrive by mail in about a month.
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Jun 20th, 2009, 12:00 AM
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Hi tubaguy

Well I disagree with Jan's comments. In my opinion cruising is one way of enjoying a relaxed, resort lifestyle - the only difference is your hotel is floating on the world's biggest swimming pool I suggest you hire a car in Mykonos and Santorini (never been to Crete so can't comment). You can get a decent look at the islands that way. Pre book and have the vehicle waiting for you at the disembarkation point. I found Mykonos town charming. Its maze of streets was supposedly constructed that way to fool marauding pirates. Getting lost is an adventure in itself. It's OK, you'll always find your way back. Finding a bakery that sells cheese pies will help with your "exhaustion". Watch out for the resident pelican!
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Jun 21st, 2009, 10:42 AM
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Thanks everybody for submitting their opinions and keep 'em coming! We're getting really excited about the trip and appreciate the input. I plan on doing a trip report when we get back.
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Jun 21st, 2009, 10:56 AM
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I think it was Mr. Frommer's who said that cruise ships don't even need to leave port. Most are happy to be on board doing eating, reading, eating and using the gym and such. More eating.

I cannot think of a greater waste of time and money. However, just my opinion. Me,I would rather be walking around, enjoying a glass of wine and not having to be worried about getting back in time.
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Jun 21st, 2009, 12:59 PM
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I agree with those that suggest you spend time in Mykonos town itself, one of the prettiest in the Cyclades. Get lost in the little streets and take time to sit and drink some coffee or wine and people watch. The already mentioned shop windows of DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Cartiers, Calvin Klein, Hermes, are mostly on two streets. Believe me, all those streets and lanes remaining, and there are scores of them, provide a much more interesting side of Myconian life.

Most of the 'quick' places of interest are in town such as the windmills, Little Venice, the Folklore Museum and the Archeological museum.

One of the best photo points is above the town and is easy to find. Ask a local for directions to taxi square, face the statue there and keep walking up through the narrow streets behind it until you exit at another of the old town windmills. From here, you will get some superb pictures of the town, the island of Tinos and beyond. I think all of this should take you about 3 hours.

In the remaining time, you could either:

take the small local bus from Fabrika (ask any local and they will tell you how easy it is to find) to the beaches at either Ornos or Agios Ioannis. The journey time is only about 10 minutes, and the service operates every 30 minutes in summer.


take another of the other local buses to Ano Mera and visit the 16th century monastery there. Again, time permitting, have some food in one of the few tavernas in this small village. It is the best on the island.

Enjoy your trip.

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Jun 23rd, 2009, 05:40 PM
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Hey Tubaguy! Have you ever checked out the cruisecritic forum? You can do a search by ports of call and get ideas for how to make the most of your days. In general, avoid ship tours - you usually can venture on your own. Our family loves cruises as well as land vacations. Enjoy your time in Greece!
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