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Italy & Greece - To cruise or NOT to cruise - THAT is the question!?

Italy & Greece - To cruise or NOT to cruise - THAT is the question!?

Sep 4th, 2012, 10:02 AM
  #1  
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Italy & Greece - To cruise or NOT to cruise - THAT is the question!?

My husband and I are starting to plan a trip for next summer - July 2013. I know it sounds early, but I like to take my time planning and have something to look forward to! To provide a little background, we are both 30 years old, just got married, and love to travel. We like a mix of relaxation and being active.

I have been to Italy (Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Pisa, and Rome), while my husband has not yet been to Europe. I loved Italy so much that I would really like to take him there and show him how amazing it is! With that being said, we'd like to do something that both of us have never done together as well. We were thinking of cruising to the Greek Islands from Venice. Has anyone ever cruised to the Greek Islands from Italy? Is it worth it? Would you prefer flying to Greece and picking 2 or 3 places to visit rather than crusing? Does anyone have a dream itinerary that they want to share with me? We have roughtly 12 days for our vacation. Please let me know your thoughts!

Thanks!
Allison

ALSO...I am COMPLETELY open to any other itineraries that you thought were phenomenal in Europe. I have only been to Italy, so I would be open to suggestions in other countries as well, but am stuck on Italy and Greece...for now!
Allie50 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:10 AM
  #2  
 
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Fly to Greece and take ferries between the islands. A cruise port stop will not give you the real flavor and beauty of Greece and it's people. Also visit the Peloponnesean Peninsula from Athens.
Or visit Italy which you know well.Think of those wonderful places yo have visited in Italy. Would you have liked to only spend several hours at each of them on a cruise stop instead of immersing yourself in Italy and it's culture?
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:12 AM
  #3  
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Well I was thinking that we could spend Monday - Saturday in Italy - maybe doing Rome, Cinque Terre, and Venice - then we could either fly to Greece for the next 6 nights / 7 days or cruise there! I agree - I'd MUCH rather immerse myself in the culture, but am very intersted to see what other people have to say about cruising! Also - which islands would you stay on other than Athens? Thanks!!!
Allie50 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:26 AM
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Twelve days will just let you scratch the surface of Greece - I wouldn't try to stuff another country in. I would organize it yourself and start with Athens and add a couple of the islands.

IMHO I would not do a traditional cruise - too much time on the water and not seeing the islands at night.
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:27 AM
  #5  
 
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Some people love cruises, and if you enjoy shipboard activities with a few hours at each port of call that will be fine for you. Others, like myself, enjoy being on the islands, and look upon a ship (ferry) as only a means of transportation. If a ferry trip takes more than five hours I prefer to fly to the islands instead.
Heimdall is online now  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:27 AM
  #6  
 
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Paros,and Naxos give you a less touristed, more Greek experience. We preferred them to Santorini.
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Sep 4th, 2012, 10:29 AM
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Full disclosure: Cruising has absolutely no appeal to me, for all the reasons outlined in the first post.

I would fly to Athens,but leave it for last and continue on to Santorini. It's one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and since this is your first trip to Greece, you should visit there for a few days.

THen, depending on your interests, either take a ferry/hydrofoil to Mykonos ( which is party central in the summer months) or Crete or Paros and Naxos.

If you let us know what you are looking for, we can help you plan which one would suit you best.

Then fly back to Athens to maximize your time and spend a few days there before flying home.

Just an idea to consider: 12 days is not much time. I love Italy, too, with a passion ( or did until I started visiting Greece regularly) but maybe you can satisfy your taste for Italy by returning to Rome, then flying on from there to Athens?
You really don't have much time to do both destinations well, and Greece - or Italy - could easily take up all 12 days.
Weadles is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:35 AM
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Another option...a week sailing in Greece! We just got back from two weeks sailing with this company and LOVED it http://seascape-sail.com/home/

We went to off the beaten paths and had so much fun...happy to answer any questions...hubby is going to write a trip report soon...
jamikins is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:40 AM
  #9  
 
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Cruise Greece and its islands, but then do Italy by land. Be sure to spend a few days in Athens ahead of time, getting over jet lag, seeing the sights. Fly to Italy.
220volt is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:45 AM
  #10  
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Oh my gosh...SO much great information! We MAY be able to do 14 days, which is still not enough time, but I think that I'd like to do Greece (Santorini and Crete would be ideal - we would rather do relaxing, sightseeing, and have great meals and beautiful views) and then fly to Rome and maybe do Rome and the Amalfi Coast? That way, the only thing that my husband will be seeing that I've seen is Rome. Also, I don't want to sound foolish, but do you think Athens is safe?
Allie50 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 10:52 AM
  #11  
 
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We were just in athens over the weekend and it is perfectly safe. No different than say Rome.
jamikins is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 11:18 AM
  #12  
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Sounds good to me . Thanks!!! Clearly I have a lot more research to do, but this is such a good start - any other information / suggestions are VERY welcome!
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Sep 4th, 2012, 11:26 AM
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If you are going to be in Greece long enough I would not limit my visit to the islands. The so-called "classical tour" sites of Corinth, Epidaurus, Naphlion, Olympia, and Delphi, would also be worth your time IMO.
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Sep 4th, 2012, 11:52 AM
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I visited Athens again in June right before the elections. No problems at all. To maximize your schedule, try to fly from Athens to Naples, if they have a flight (s) available. Flights are usually pretty limited, and it's a small plane, but a fairly short flight. If you can go into Naples, it will be much more time efficient than going in and out of Rome, then down to the coast.

You can get picked up at Naples airport with a private transfer to Naples, Sorrento, or any of the towns on the coast. Or you can take a train to Sorrento, then transfer to a boat or bus for the rest of the trip to one of the AC towns.

Again, even with 14 days, that's not much time to do what you propose. Since Greece is farthest, I'd start there and backtrack
But try to connect through Athens on Day 1 to an island, so you don't waste a lot of time.

Agree with Dukey1 that a tour of the classical sites would be well worth the time - if you have it! There are plenty of very good tour companies that go to those sites first thing in the AM from Athens.
Weadles is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 12:09 PM
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Santorini and Crete would be a perfect combination, but Crete is a large island and deserves more than a few days. Otherwise, combine Santorini with Naxos, two very different islands that will give you a sample of both touristy and laid-back Cyclades.

Contrary to what weadles wrote, there are no hydrofoils in Crete or the Cyclades, and you wouldn't want to ride on one if there were. What they have are catamarans, a completely different kind of ship, and conventional ferries, much preferable to catamarans if you have the choice between the two. For Crete to Santorini you won't have much choice, because apart from a once weekly conventional ferry, catamarans are the only way of getting from one to the other.

If you choose Santorini and Naxos (or Paros, another good choice) there is a wonderful Blue Star ferry that does the route. You can stand on the outside deck and take in the views of Santorini and other islands en route. Save Athens for the end of the trip.
Heimdall is online now  
Sep 4th, 2012, 01:06 PM
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Hey Heimdall,

My mistake with the term, but I guess we took a high-speed catamaran from Heraklion to Santorini? I know it was a shorter amount of time than the regular ferry would have been. Thanks!

Also, curious about your recommendation for ferries over catamarans. Better stability? Smoother ride?
Weadles is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 11:56 PM
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Hi weadles,

Of the many types of ferries (catamarans are ferries too), I prefer conventional types over catamarans for many reasons:

They are more reliable — catamarans are like sports cars, more temperamental and prone to damage from debris in the water. Right now two catamarans normally used in Crete and the Cyclades are laid up long term due to engine problems: Cosmosjet has been laid up since last summer, and FlyingCat 3 was pulled from the timetables earlier this summer. Both are sitting in shipyards near Piraeus. I have friends who were stranded on Sikinos when Superjet broke down, and dumped all its passengers on that island. Can you imagine 400 passengers descending upon one small travel agency at the same time, all trying to get onward tickets?

Catamarans stop sailing when winds reach Beaufort force 7 (quite common in the Cyclades), while conventional ferries can sail in much stronger winds. When the small passenger-only catamarans, e.g. Superjet and FlyingCat 4, do sail in strong wind, the ride is very rough, causing many people to become seasick. I have a cast iron stomach, but don't like people throwing up around me.

Conventional ferries are much larger, giving passengers more space and the ability to move around ship. I enjoy spending time on the open deck, taking photos and soaking in the scenery — catamarans have no outside deck, so you can only look through the windows, and when they are salt incrusted you can't even get a good photo. If your seat isn't near a window you don't see much at all. There is a class of catamaran, e.g. Hellenic Seaways highspeeds, that are much larger, carry cars, and have many attributes of the conventional ferries.

Conventional ferries offer a better choice of seating, have restaurants and snack bars scattered around ship, and other amenities. Some even have wifi. When I use Blue Star I go business class, which has comfortable sofas and chairs, dining tables, and waiters in white jackets who take your order and serve you at the table. Business class on Blue Star costs only about €11-12 more than standard economy tickets, and air seats in economy only about €5 more.

Catamaran ticket prices are about twice the price of conventional ferries, so even business class on Blue Star is cheaper than an economy class highspeed ticket for a comparable journey.

Having said all that, sometimes a catamaran is your only option, e.g. the connection between Crete and Santorini. Superjet also provides summer connections that conventional ferries don't make. All inhabited islands are served by ferries year-round, but mainly to and from Piraeus along specified routes. Catamarans are mainly for tourists, and are laid up over winter.

Heimdall is online now  
Sep 5th, 2012, 03:42 AM
  #18  
 
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Thanks so much, Heimdall for the great information.
It's too bad that a Flying Cat is the only way to connect between Crete and Santorini. Truthfully, we had such a rough ride ( now I know it was on a Flying Cat) between the two, we would never do it again. I was hoping that there was an option for regular ferry service. Seems strange ( although not given the current economics, I suppose) since those are two of the most popular islands.
Weadles is offline  
Sep 5th, 2012, 04:05 AM
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The first time we sailed 2 weeks in the Dodecanese Islands in Greece (bareboat sailboat charter) in July it was near 100F; one day it was 104F.

The next time we sailed there we went in May and it was MUCH more comfortable.

Just food for thought.
Queenie is offline  
Sep 5th, 2012, 04:27 AM
  #20  
 
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We were just there and it was mid-thirties the entire time. The only issue with May is that the water woudl be quite cool. It was coolish even in Aug this year, I wouldnt want to go swimming in it if it was any cooler!
jamikins is offline  

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