Tuesday, May 20, 2014

15+ Ways To Get The Most Out of a Greek Isles' Cruise

Louis Cruises, Patmos (photo: JCarnegie)
By Jacquelin Carnegie - (Piraeus, Greece)
While a cruise through the Greek Isles is a wonderful experience, here are some things to consider in your planning:
Tips for Planning Your Trip
1. Stay a While on an Isle - The ships only stop for a few hours in each port-of-call. Research the isles and pick one or two that you'd like to spend more time on. Some of the cruise lines (i.e., Louis Cruises) let you stay a few days on certain islands, than pick you up with the next sailing, a few days later.
2. Save Time - You can get more time out of your holiday by flying (or taking a fast ferry) to the first island you'll visit, then picking up the cruise.
3. Research Itineraries - There are many islands from the most popular (i.e., Santorini, Rhodes, Crete) to ones you never heard of. Review the cruise itineraries carefully before you decide. You might get more out of visiting just a few.

(photo: JCarnegie)
4. Book a Local Guide - Instead of taking the shore excursions organized by the ship, do some research beforehand. For a more authentic port visit, hire a local guide for a private tour (the cost could be shared by other passengers you meet onboard).
5. Enriching Experience - In addition to all the wonderful discoveries you'll make in the various ports-of-call, many cruise lines offer onboard seminars & lectures by distinguished experts highlighting the historical aspects. If this is important to you, be sure to inquire if your cruise line provides onboard enrichment seminars.
6. Seasonal Savings - Most Greek Isles' cruises run March through October; consider going in spring or fall to avoid the busier and hotter summer months.
7. Greek Specialists - Booking a trip online is not always easier and cheaper. If a Greek Isles' cruise is on your "Bucket List," get the most out of the experience by consulting with a travel agent who specializes in Greece.
8. Crowd Control - There are several cruise lines to choose from. In addition to cost, be sure to factor in the number of passengers onboard. (Do you want to sail with 7 others, or 70, or 700 to 2,000?)
9. Ask Around - Another very important consideration is the friendliness of the crew and the quality of service. Ask everyone you know who's done a Greek Isles' cruise for recommendations. (You can also check the reviews & message board on www.cruisecritic.com.)

Santorini
10. Travel Wisely - Find out what type of passengers the cruise line caters to: families, sophisticated couples, etc. If you're traveling with your kids, inquire about activities for children. If you want peace & quiet on your vacation, make sure the boat will not be packed with kids.
11. Built-In Value - Part of the appeal of cruising is the all-inclusive concept. The price includes your stateroom, all onboard meals & snacks, activities, parties & entertainment. Extra expenses will be for drinks, optional shore excursions, and personal services such as a massage or a new hairdo. Find out the price of these "extras" before you go.
12. Become Informed - It may seem obvious, but be sure to inquire about the ship's policy on: Smoking/Non-Smoking; Wi-Fi availability; special dietary needs. And, just in case, to avoid seasickness get a prescription for the patch (Transderm Scop). 

Lindos, Rhodes (photo: JCarnegie)
13. Divine Destinations - Before or after the cruise, be sure to leave time to see other truly-spectacular parts of Greece such as Athens, Olympia, and Delphi.
14. Turkish Delights - The Greek Isles are very close to Turkey. Some of the cruises even begin and end there. Consider adding a visit or organized tour to Istanbul and some of Turkey's other magnificent sites.
The Greek Isles
15. Historical Highlights - All the islands have lovely, little towns to explore, stunning views, and beautiful beaches. But, be sure to select a cruise itinerary that stops at some with not-to-be-missed historical sites: 

Knossos, Crete (photo: JCarnegie)
Crete: Tour the fascinating ruins of the Palace of Knossos, the seat of ancient Minoan culture (and some would like to believe the mythical Labyrinth of King Minos). Continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period until Roman times, the grandeur of the site helps you appreciate how elaborate the culture once was. The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion displays artifacts from Crete's archaeological sites including splendid examples of ceremonial items, pottery, sculpture, and gold jewelry.
Santorini: While this island is famous for ritzy shopping and towns of striking, whitewashed houses with blue roofs and trim, Santorini is also home to some of the most important archaeological sites of the Aegean. Visit the ruins of Ancient Thira and the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, which displays excavation finds including ones from the late Minoan City of Akrotiri. 

Santorini, Thira
Santorini, Akrotiri
St. John, Patmos
Rhodes: Wander through the Medieval City of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the Palace of the Grand Masters, there are impressive ancient mosaics, statuary, and ceramics. Then, visit the breathtaking Acropolis at Lindos with ruins from classical times and spectacular views of the surrounding sea.
Patmos: This Island is known as the site of St. John the Divine's apocalyptic revelations, where it is believed that the Book of Revelation was written in 95AD. During his exile from the Roman Empire, St. John lived in a grotto in the town of Chorá that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as is the Monastery of St. John, with priceless icons and manuscripts in its Treasury; both are open to visitors.
Booking Your Trip:
Masterpiece Travel (Tel: 973/635-0893; www.masterpiecetravel.com) - specializes in Greece & Greek Isles' cruises.

Lindos, Rhodes
Louis Cruises - an affordable cruise line with very friendly crews. If you take Louis Cruises, and would like to spend more time on a specific island, contact them to discuss your options. (They also have hotels on a few of the islands and can help you arrange your stay. They can also add tours in Greece & Turkey.)
Orpheus Yachts - if you can afford it, consider sailing through the Greek Isles on a private yacht!
Karavan Travel - tours in Turkey. However you go, be sure to do some research beforehand to get the most out of your trip.

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