Our Cruise to Greece
While in Europe walking the Camino Santiago de Compostela, my daughter and I decided to take a cruise to the Greek Islands. We flew from Santiago, Spain to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport and jumped into a taxi en route to the cruise terminal in Civitavecchia, Italy. This was an expensive endeavor because it’s 1.5 hours away but we needed to be at the terminal at a certain time and had no choice.
We decided on a Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea cruise because of the fantastic itinerary. This ship stops in Santorini on one day and it remains in port until about 9 pm while the other ships depart much earlier. I have always dreamed of sitting at one of Santorini’s famed cliffside café at sunset while sipping an ouzo and this ship’s itinerary fits that bill.
We had a lovely stateroom with a large porthole window and plenty of space. We were down on the 3rd deck which was considered a low deck, but it was fine by us and had the added bonus of no turbulence in rough waters. After the safety drill, we explored the beautiful ship, signed up my daughter for the teen club and met our dining companions at the restaurant. This is definitely an international cruise and most of the passengers appeared to be from Europe and Australia.
Soon after the ship departs it passes by Sicily with its incredible mountains and volcanos. The next morning you will quickly see the change in color of the ocean with its brilliant color of blue. I spent the whole day at sea just gazing at the incredible water.
Our first port stop was Santorini. We tendered to the dock and then you are faced with a large cliff in which you must get up to be in Fria, the capital. You can either walk, take a scary chairlift or ride a donkey but all ways are straight up. We choose the chair lift because it was about 100 degrees out and we felt sorry for the donkeys. Once at the top you will be in a lovely, touristy town with lots to see, eat and shop. But if you’re like most people your goal is to visit Oia, which is the town with the white house and beautiful blue roofs you see in most postcards. We took a taxi and spent an enjoyable late afternoon in Oia where we browsed the expensive stores, watched the rich and beautiful folks stroll by, took too many pictures and enjoyed my supper by the sea at a cliffside restaurant at almost sunset. GIA MAS!
Next port was Mykonos and I messed up. I decided against purchasing the cruise ship excursion to a family friendly beach because I thought I could do it myself and save money, however, Mykonos is not the place to venture out without transportation.
After departing ship at the new port terminal in Tourlous you can walk to town which takes about 30 minutes ( some sections are without sidewalks) or take a perilous ferry ride to Mykonos Island. Maybe it was just the day we visited but the rough seas almost tipped our ferry and no one seemed too alarmed. Once at Mykonos we were unable to find public transport, a taxi or instructions on how to get to the famous Paradise Beach. Finally, after an hour of wasted sunlight, a man approached and offered a ride for 40 euros. Normally this is not something I would do but I was desperate to get to the beach so I accepted. The ride was only about 10 expensive minutes and the beach turned out to be ‘party city’ with empty champagne bottles piled high and not in my opinion appropriate for my child, so we turned around and took a public bus home. Next time I will spend the money on the excursion unless I am certain I can get where I want to go. This is now day 4 and we still haven’t had a swim in the Sea.
The next stop was Athens and everyone had warned me that I wouldn’t like it, but they were 100% wrong. We spent 9 euros to uber to the Acropolis and then walked around the surrounding old city which I thoroughly enjoyed. The people were very friendly and welcoming and there is an unlimited supply of shops, historical sites and small cafes in the area. I would go back in a heartbeat but it was very hot there, so be forewarned to bring a hat.
Our last port was Katakolon which is the closest port to the Ancient Olympic Stadium. All of our new friends on the ship were going to the Olympic area but we were going to the beach. I rented a small Avis car at the terminal which couldn’t have been easier. I drove about 20 minutes to Plankes Beach, rented a lounge chair or as they call them in Europe a ‘sunbed’ , ordered an ouzo and jumped into the picture perfect the Aegean Sea. So beautiful and picture worthy that I am smiling writing about this wonderful family-friendly beach. There are beach dwellers walking the beach selling linens from India, souvenirs and beach items but they did not pressure anyone. I bought about 4 linen beach cover-ups for about $5. each and when I returned home and gave them out everyone loved them.
I finally got to jump in the Sea and can’t wait to return to this port and Greece.