written by
Joe Boone

Greek and Roman ruins abound throughout the region and visitors flock to the more popular sea ports each year by the thousands, courtesy of the ever expanding number of cruise lines offering Mediterranean excursions. At each port of call, harbor towns and villages offer pampered refuge, making for a delightful and fitting tribute to man’s endless fortitude.

Spread throughout the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Sea of Crete, the Greek isles are made-to-order for sea cruises, and for good reason. Geologically, they are a treasure trove of natural wonderment, with dramatic landscapes, the bluest of blue seas and the whitest of white beaches. Their storied history has been on display for thousands of years, courtesy of heroic countrymen and invaders alike, and the rise and fall of their accomplishments and defeats lay in witness to the present, as well as the past.

As you sail along their coast lines and into their ports, you’ll discover whitewashed houses with contrasting cobalt-blue doors and shutters dotting the high cliffs of many of the islands. It’s an impressive sight, especially around the island of Santorini, with its cliff-lined caldera that formed centuries ago in 1500 B.C., when the mouth of its proud volcano collapsed during a major eruption. It’s one of the most popular of the Greek isles and can be found in the itineraries of most cruise lines.

Legendary Ports

Mykonos and Rhodes are two more of the popular ports in the Greek island chain. Rhodes, with its impressive Grand Master’s Palace and the remarkable old walled fortification that surrounds the town, offers numerous walking tours and wonderful views of its many grand temples, as well as the ancient Acropolis of Rhodes.

Mykonos is an adorable, windmill–topped fishing village that gained popularity as a tourist destination in the early 1960’s when shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis brought Jackie Kennedy there. It soon became an exclusive playground for the rich and famous and has been a popular haven ever since for the international crowd who enjoy its many beaches and the ruins on nearby Delos Island. According to Greek mythology, Delos was the birth place of Apollo and Artemis, the twin offspring of Zeus. It is one of the most extensive and important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in all of Greece.

Many of the smaller, lesser known ports are also a must see, if not just to wander off along their labyrinthine cobblestone streets and sidewalks. Their lore and enticement can pay off handsomely. Strolling along the beaches or up into the hillsides often rewards you with charming shops, cafés and tavernas, those quaint Greek eateries that serve up quick, small dishes. Local favorites like marinated feta and olives, spanikopita, gyros smothered in tzatziki sauce, moussaka — the Greek version of lasagna— and the delectable flavors of dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) are commonly served. Rent a scooter and head along the back roads and you’ll discover fields of olive trees, tiny villages and countless churches, perched precariously atop the hills at every turn.

May through October is the most popular time to cruise the Mediterranean, with July and August being the busiest and hottest. Temperatures often reach beyond 90°F, so prepare accordingly. More comfortable weather prevails in the earlier and later months with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s. Most ships sail round-trip between Athens, Istanbul, Rome and/or Venice and cruises range from several nights to several weeks. Itineraries often include ports in Greece as well as adjacent coastal countries including Turkey, Israel, Cyprus and Italy. A few itineraries offer more intense visits to the Greek islands, including lesser known but wonderfully obscure gems like Kos. The birth place of Hippocrates, Kos is a lush island with endless beaches and makes a relaxing stop amidst the vast sea of sometimes hectic ports of call.

If you’re on a mission to see the sights, choose a cruise line that specializes in mid-sized ships to handle its cruises. They offer all the comforts of home and fit right into the pocket of most ports. What they may lack in some of the add-ons that the bigger cruise lines offer, they make up for with easy shore access and additional time for exploring.


Exploring Ancient Sites in Modern Sophistication

For an upscale travel experience, consider Oceania Cruises’ award-winning mid-sized ship, Nautica. Having recently undergone a multi-million dollar redo, it’s virtually a new ship. Decks and verandas are graced by the finest custom teak, stone and tile work and the cabins and public areas are adorned with rich furnishings and fabrics characteristic of Tuscany. Surrounded by a feeling of warmth, intimacy and elegance, its 684 guests are guaranteed to feel pampered by Nautica’s crew of 400.

Nautica offers numerous Mediterranean cruises including a 10-Day Adriatic & Aegean Pearls voyage where you’ll have plenty of time to explore the many treasures of the past. Your journey starts in beautiful Venice with stops in Umbria, Italy; Split, Croatia; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Kotor, Montenegro. Your first stop in Greece is in Corfu where you can immerse yourself in this island of glorious scenery and beaches, serene monasteries, beautiful palaces, traditional mountain towns, and a lovely old Venetian quarter. When you visit Santorini you’ll visit the beautiful whitewashed hilltop towns of Oia and Fira and their breathtaking views of the caldera below. See the stunning artifacts in Fira’s museum, including recent finds from the excavation of Akrotiri, thought by many to be the legendary city of Atlantis, or visit a winery. Stroll through the winding streets with fantastic views around every corner. Rhodes will greet you with a walking tour of the old fortified city and you’ll stand in awe of the impressive Grand Master’s Palace. You can see where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood and savor the charm of this remarkable walled town.

Seabourn is another popular midsized cruise line serving the eastern Mediterranean. It offers a variety of weeklong cruises on its luxurious 450 passenger ship, the Seabourn Odyssey. It’s the first of a new class of mid-sized ships for Seabourn and at 650 feet in length, navigates the island harbors well. Featuring 225 sleek, spacious modern suites, most with private verandas, it houses numerous clubs, bars and restaurants, and sports a casino, pool and relaxing spa. From its beautiful atrium with its elegant spiral staircase to its fashionable onboard boutiques, Seaborn Odyssey exudes richness.

Starting in Athens (Piraeus) and winding your way towards Venice, Italy, the 21-day Enchanting Isles & Adriatic Gems on board Seaborn Odyssey includes many spectacular days in Greece. Included among the stops in Greece is Spetses, nicknamed “The Isle of the Aromas,” and a delight to the senses. A yachtsman’s paradise, its stunning harbor boasts some of the finest restaurants and quaint shops on the islands. Agios Nikolas, the main port of the island of Crete and its foremost resort village is another. Its charming white houses overlook the sparkling Gulf of Mirabella and its Venetian harbor is surrounded by the aroma of tantalizing restaurants, the vibrant sound of outdoor cafes and an array of fashionable shops. Another “can’t miss” stop that you’ll experience is the island of Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades island group, containing mountains, beaches, and ancient ruins. Everywhere on Naxos, you’ll find something to delight your inner archaeologist, from Dimitra’s Temple at Sangri to the Cheimarros Tower.

For those with a penchant for luxury, Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers Greek cruise packages ranging from 7 to 29 days. Travel up and down the coasts of the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean on board Seven Seas posh mid-sized ship, Seven Seas Voyager, and you’ll want to call it home for ever. Completely refurbished in 2016, nothing was spared during Seven Seas Voyagers magnificent transformation.

Regent’s 10-night Myths, Gods & Legends cruise includes most of the popular island stops including Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Katakolon, and many more. What also makes this itinerary special is that it starts and stops in Athens (Piraeus), so make sure to enjoy extra time pre- or post-cruise exploring this amazing city. Piraeus is the gateway to the ancient city of Athens, known as the “Cradle of Western Civilization” because of its immense impact on cultural and political achievements throughout the world. Due mainly to tourism and the 2004 Olympics, Greece has redeveloped many sites in Athens. A historian’s delight, the city is home to such wonders as the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the atmospheric winding streets of the Plaka, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Temple of Athena Nike, and the Archaeological Museum with the world’s finest collection of ancient artifacts.




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