I’ve been blogging for 3 years now about my life and the challenges of becoming an unexpected widow. I started dating 2 years after my husband passed and just as unexpectedly fell in love again. As a teacher I waited until the weekend after school let out and had my dream wedding on the beach followed by my dream honeymoon to Greece. Today’s post highlights taking a cruise in Greece – not for everyone but I loved it!
1. You only unpack once
Being a minimalist is not my thing. I need a few outfits and shoes to match. I need a couple of different bathing suits and coverups and of course hats to match. It is nice to move into a space and unpack for the week. You can find everything and the suitcase is stored out of the way.
2. You travel, but the ports come to you.
I love to travel. But packing my bag and waiting for planes and trains can be time consuming and a bit boring. On a cruise, you get the itinerary and can research as much as you want about the places you are visiting. The ship often offers several excursion choices for when you disembark so new adventures are waiting!
3. Open bar
This is something that I must admit I may have indulged in on our recent trip. Some high end cocktails cost a bit more, but you don’t have to drink them. At dinner, someone is always ready to refill your wine glass, and if you want happy hour in your own room, room service will deliver. So fun!
4. Unlimited Food
One of the best, or most dangerous, aspects of cruising is the amount of food available. For each meal on our cruise you had the option of a 4 course sit down meal or a buffet of assorted choices. You could even do both and no one would bat an eye – except maybe your new husband or wife. Anyway if you like to eat, cruising may be for you.
5. Being waited on
Many honeymooners probably have not had the opportunity to be a parent yet, but if you have you can really appreciate having the tables turned and having someone else wait on you for a week. Tasty meals prepared the way you want? Dishes cleaned? Bed made? Need clean towels folded like little animals? Laundry service? Someone to iron your clothes? DONE. Just pick up the phone and help is here.
If you take a cruise in Greece you are likely to stop at the main port of Piraeus in Athens. We stayed overnight in a hotel and had a day to tour the city including climbing the steep marble sunny slope of the Acropolis to look at the 2500 year old Parthenon and other ancient Greek buildings. Then a walk through the narrow stone streets of the the Plaka for fresh salads with tomatoes and cucumbers and a souvlaki or gyro. So much history and friendly people everywhere.
Known for its partying nightlife, our ship arrived early in the morning and did not leave until early the next morning leaving the opportunity for all night long shenanigans to occur. We took a bus transfer to a beach upon arrival and enjoyed the first morning dallying between floating in the crystal clear salty Aegean sea and lounging in the shade of cushioned beach chairs. After a busy morning of sun and sea it is back to the ship for a nap then dressing to stroll along the busy streets of Mykonos village. Narrow streets lined with with shops and restaurants and nightclubs attract a well dressed international crowd. We found a lovely waterfront restaurant to watch the sunset then walked to see the windmills, a landmark of the island. The busy square with outdoor seating and ice cream shops came alive after 10pm and I’m not really sure when (or if) that city ever sleeps but it was sure fun to visit.
The second afternoon of our cruise we arrived in the small volcanic island of Milos. Our bus transported us from the port to an amazing beach at Sarakiniko. The white stone moon like path leads down to a turquoise water beach. Jumping off the rocks or kayaking through caves makes swimming at this beach quite the adventure. Our bus took us to another sandy beach as well where we enjoyed a swim, a walk and some cocktails at the waterfront restaurant.
9. Santorini overnight
The reason I chose this particular cruise was for the 2 day stay in Santorini. I had heard of the hotels along the side of the cliff with rooms in caves and infinity pools and decided that could be an extra splurge, since I probably won’t have any more honeymoons in Greece. We took a tender ride to the port in Santorini and then a bus tour to one of the older villages and then to Oia, the most photographed spot on the island. The marble paved walkway along the Caldera Rim is something everyone must experience in their lifetime. After a restful night in a luxury hotel and breakfast by the pool we took a private tour to the Red beach, the black sand volcanic beach, the monastery at the highest point on the island, drove past the Akrotiri village excavations which date back to before the eruption of the volcano which sank the the center of Santorini in 1650 BC. All over Greece archaeologists are uncovering evidence of advanced people who lived thousands and thousands of years ago. And then there was this view:
The port to Heraklion is within walking distance of the town. A lively stone street with no cars that boasts shopping, churches and many cafes and restaurants. As the locals do, we sat at a table for a coffee and a water to people watch. Beware of Greek coffee though – it is the size of an espresso but it does not seem to be filtered, the grounds need to settle before I found it drinkable, but that could just be me. Our ship did offer an included tour to the Minoan Palace of Knossos. The first civilization in Knossos was in 7000 BC – can you believe that?? Knossos was the legendary seat of King Minos and the first palace was destroyed in 1700 BC. Fascinating that they are still discovering so many artifacts and information about these ancient civilizations.
11. Kusadasi Turkey
When I read that this cruise was heading to Turkey I immediately thought I would stay on the ship that day. But once I was there, I joined the group and enjoyed adding a new country to my list. Our included tour included Mert, a local Engish speaking native who told us lots of information and some funny stories about life in Turkey both now and way back when. We went to Ancient Ephesus to walk among the ruins. Dating back to 400 BC it served as the capital of Asia Minor and was visited by Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Saint Paul, John the Baptist and in her later years, the Virgin Mary.
After walking around the ruins we were welcomed into a rug making establishment. After handing us glasses of wine, we watched silk cocoons become silk threads and were impressed as many men lifted and rolled out beautiful silk carpets for us to admire. Of course, they were hoping for a sale and even tried to convince me that cleaning up accidental dog pee from these $8000.00 silk carpets is easy, “like cleaning a glass table.” We enjoyed our wine and free lunch but did not purchase any rugs that day.
12. Sunrise and Sunsets
Waking up early to sit on the balcony and watch a sunrise is such a treat, especially when you know since you are on vacation you can go back to bed after the show. Sunsets are just as glorious and well worth venturing to the top of the ship for the best view and photo opportunities.
13. Private bathrooms
I have traveled with groups and sometimes you do have to share bathrooms or at least while traveling you have to unpack your toiletries each day and then pack it all up again. On a cruise you unpack for the week and it feels like your bathroom at home. Just for you and sometimes that is just what you need.
After a long hot day of hiking ruins or shopping it is nice to take the air conditioned express to the floor you are on and not take the stairs. Also in case you happen to slam the heavy balcony door into your foot and are having trouble walking, elevators can help alleviate the pain from putting your weight on your foot. People with canes, wheelchairs or strollers enjoyed the elevators as well so everyone can enjoy a cruise.
16. Happy people
When you decide to take your vacation on a cruise, you are vacationing with a bunch of other people who are spending their hard earned money for the trip of a life time too. You will meet people in the elevators, the bars, the dining rooms and on the excursions. Everyone is smiling and talking about where they are from and the fabulousness of traveling. Much better than a week at work.
17. Fresh food in Greece
OMG! It is everything you have heard and more. The cruise ship gets their produce locally so the tomatoes were the best I have ever had, and I have had really good tomatoes. The fish and the meals we ate off the ship were amazing. We love to eat and had not shortage of finding fresh ingredients and great tastes.
18. Perspective on History
Being from America, our history doesn’t go back that far. Even if you look into the Native Americans, there aren’t many places to visit that show ancient civilizations. When you learn that people thousands of year ago had running water and sewage systems or that they had similar political infrastructures and stories or myths that explained forces in nature, it can be mind blowing and you may even want to learn more.
19. Olives and Olive Oil
Is this the magic of the Mediterranean diet? The Olive oil in Greece is just so tasty you want to put it on everything, especially those tomatoes. Salad dressing doesn’t hold any allure after eating salads with just the oil and some salt and pepper. And apparently olive wood is good for making souvenirs like salad forks and spoons to help remember your trip when you go back home.
One of my favorite parts of the cruise was having a fun exciting morning of sightseeing followed by lunch and a delightful nap during the hottest part of the day. Resting up for the evening activities or just finding some alone time on your honeymoon, naps are the best.
21. Free Evening Entertainment
Bonus on a cruise ship is the nightly entertainment. We had an international group of performers sing, dance and do some acrobatic feats each evening in the theater lounge. One evening we saw a performance of Abba’s greatest hits, another night a reenactment of Greek myths and there was even a Cirque Fantastic complete with flexible circus artists.
22. Greek people speak English
Pretty impressive that so many people in Greece could speak English in the hotels, shops, taxis and restaurants. They are warm people who are happy to have tourists. Their economy is not doing all that well which may be why they are happy to have us. We were warned to watch your bag while walking the crowded streets of the Flea Market in Athens. We did have one situation where we got tricked. We had paid 5 Euros to get from our hotel to the Acropolis. After we walked down from the Acropolis we were overheated and checking our map for the Plaka area, which is right next to the Acropolis. A taxi driver offered us an air conditioned lift to the Plaka. It was supposed to be .5 miles away. He took us for a long ride and then asked for 15 Euros. We gave him 10 for his entrepreneurial skills but learned a lesson to ask before hopping into strange cars.
23. Starbucks is in the Country
Every once in a while when traveling, it is comforting to see a familiar sight. Starbucks has many international locations and when you are craving that frozen mocha Frappuccino on a hot afternoon, and maybe some wifi, Starbucks is there for you.
I have to thank my travel agent Rosemary Martinek with Cruise Planners. I had not used an agent before but she was amazing booking our fights and helping us select the perfect cruise for us and the hotels throughout the stay. She was available when my sister had a delayed flight and got her to Greece in time for the cruise.
Athens: Hotel Divani Caravel
Santorini: The Hotel Katikies