Greek Islands

We are back from our Greek Islands cruise now, and what a week it has been. Mum and Dad have done a post that details exactly what we did on each day, and since we were with them, I thought I would just write the general itinerary for each day, as well as our highlights.

Day 1 – Athens – arrived in the afternoon, had lunch at the rooftop pool and then I had a quick swim. Later we met the others in our group for an orientation session. There were the 4 of us, Debbie & Katie (mother and daughter) and John & Mary (good friends/travel buddies). I thought it was a shame that we had such a small group, but it turned out to be fantastic. We had dinner around the corner from the hotel at a Bistro, where we all had a traditional Greek meal.

Day 2 – Mykonos – we met our tour leader, Beverley, at the Port in the morning, and we all boarded the MS Aquamarine. We all had a meeting with Beverley where she took us through the different excursions on offer again, and explained life on the ship. From very early on we could tell she was going to be good fun, with her cute catchphrases like ‘ok my lovelies’. In the afternoon we were in Mykonos, and Beverley offered to take us for a walking tour, which lasted about 40 minutes. We went through the windy little streets, and she showed us some of the key places, such as the churches, shopping areas, the pink pelicans, little venice and the windmills. We had to keep tearing her away from the shops, so she wouldn’t buy anything. She left us at the windmills to do as we pleased for the rest of the evening. As the sun was setting we wandered around, and found Gyros for dinner. Oliver (Hilary & Andy’s son) had told us about them and he was right – they were great! It is toasted pita bread, filled with chicken, tomato, onion, tzatsiki, potato and french fries, wrapped up in a cone shape – very yummy. We decided we needed dessert so had some traditional crepes – again, very yummy 🙂

Day 3 – Kusadasi (Turkey) and Patmos – my favourite guide from the trip was Can (pronounced John) who took us to Ancient Ephesus, one of the most magnificent excavated cities in the world. It was amazing to think of what their civilization had back then. I also enjoyed taking photos of all the cats around the site, but more on that later. We used our free time at the end of the excursion to go back to the ship, while Mum and Dad did some shopping. They were far too pushy for my liking, even standing in the streets trying to get you to go into their shops. Just before lunch, we had a cocktail party, organised by Globus and Louis Lines, which was another great chance for the 9 of us (8 plus Beverley) to get to know each other a bit better. In the afternoon we were in Patmos, where we had some more stunning views, and the chance to see the Grotto of the Apocalypse, where it is believed by some that John the evangelist wrote the book of Revelations. That night for dinner we all wore something blue and white and ate together in the restaurant.

Day 4 – Rhodes – here we did a tour of Rhodes and Lindos combined, with the major attraction being the ancient Acropolis of Lindos. We had to walk up several hundred unevenly spaced steps, but our guide was great, and took regular stops to give us a break and to give us some more information about what we were going to see. The view once at the top was unbelievable – such clear blue skies and seas. We had lunch on the ship, and then once the heat of the sun had gone, went to Elli Beach in Rhodes, where Mum, Adrian and I had a swim in the Aegean sea, while Dad sat in the shade watching and minding the bags. We didn’t stay long, as I really just wanted to say I’d been to a Greek beach, and the sun was very hot. In the evening we got ‘dolled up’ and had another cocktail party, this time with everyone from the ship, where we met and had our photos taken with the captain, and were introduced to his ‘team’ onboard. We then went into the restaurant where we had a wonderful meal, and a parade of baked alaska for dessert, with all the waiters dancing and singing for us – it was a lot of fun. The 4 of us went for a stroll around the deck and then called it a night.

Day 5 – Crete and Santorini – in the morning we did the Taste of Crete excursion. We went to a winery and then a quaint little greek cafe where we each had a plate with spinach pie, cheese pie, honey puff, olives, cheese, and greek yoghurt and honey. While we were eating 2 ladies and a man danced for us while 2 others played traditional Greek instruments. They of course got us up dancing, so we learnt some new moves. In the afternoon we went out onto our deck (we were on the only passenger deck that had views) to watch as we headed towards Santorini, one of the most famous and popular islands in Greece. From a distance the little white houses on the top of the cliff look like snow. Our excursion took us to Oia (pronounced eeya), which is where the typical pictures of Greece come from – the white houses with blue dome roofs and doors. Again we had spectacular views, especially from the edge of the village where the old castle once stood. After some shopping and an ice cream we headed back to the capital of the island, Thira. We decided we didn’t want to spend any time there as the queues for the cable car back down are known to get very long. Since we were one of about 6 ships docked, we thought it best to take advantage of the little line, and go down to the port straight away. We watched the sunset from the ship and then had a buffet for dinner.

Day 6 – Athens – we disembarked the ship early in the morning, said our goodbyes to Beverley and got the bus back to our hotel. We caught a taxi to the National Archaeological Museum, had a look around and then had lunch at a nice little cafe in the gardens. We then went to the monument of the unknown soldier which is guarded by 2 Evsones – Greek guards dressed in their traditional uniform. From there we went back to the hotel, relaxed and then got ready for our farewell dinner. We went to a lovely restaurant called Memories where we had a lovely meal, nice view of the sunset beside the Acropolis, good music and even a bit of dancing. It was a very nice way to end our time in Greece with Mum and Dad.

Day 7 – Athens again – Mum and Dad caught an early flight to Rome, and Adrian and I slept in. After breakfast we read our books, and then had another Gyros for lunch. Once the sun wasn’t so hot, we walked to the Panathinaikon Stadium, built in the 4th Century BC, and where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896. From there we walked to Hadrian’s Arch and the temple of Olympian Zeuss, through the National Gardens, and caught the shuttle bus back to the hotel. The next morning we got up, had breakfast and the bus picked us up to take us to the airport.

Overall highlights/memories:

The early mornings. The taxi picked us up from Maidenhead at 6.30am and then every day we were on the ship the wake up call was 5.30 or 5.45. It was worth it though as it meant we were often the first ship to dock, which meant we were the first lot of buses to head off on excursions. A lot of the places would not have been as enjoyable if we were stuck in the crowds of hundreds of people (remembering that each ship can hold at least 1000 people, some of them 2000). Beverley spent the first day explaining that we wouldn’t always be the first group off, and to just not worry about it. Every morning without fail, we managed to be called off on either the first or second group!! Even the last morning, we were the very first group called to disembark the ship 🙂

The tour guides – I know it’s their job, but the tour guides everywhere we went were so good at what they did.

The dogs in Athens – they have a program in Athens where the dogs that live on the street are given feeding stations, and they also have regular cleaning and grooming. Once a year they are taken for a medical check, given any vaccinations and also checked to see that they have been desexed – it’s a great system.

The cats in Greece – I couldn’t believe how many cats and kittens I saw all around the Islands, not so much in Athens. Overall I saw and photographed 23 cats!!

Having fun with Beverley – Beverley was such an awesome tour leader. She was so much fun, and had a great relationship with the other tour leaders, guides and the cruise director Sharon. She is well liked, which is understandable – I don’t know how anyone could meet her and not love her.

I have a lot of great memories that I will take away from this trip, and I am so glad we got to share something different like this with Mum and Dad. Now as Mum would say ‘it’s back to porridge and old clothes’. Not quite, but it is back to washing, groceries and grey skies.

I know I started by saying I would keep this short, but hey I lied ….. there was just too much I wanted to say. Besides this is for our record as well, to look back at in years to come 🙂

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