Instead of buying a standard package holiday to Greece or putting time and effort into organising everything yourself, there is another way to experience the mesmerising beauty of this part of the world: Greek island cruising.
It would seem logical that a ship would offer the best way to see the various islands, but then some travellers that have never been on a cruise before would have to go against the prevalent pre-conception that cruising is for “geriatrics only” and that it is really expensive. Both ideas are quite out-of-date, though. Whereas there definitely are cruises (and land holiday packages!) specifically designed for seniors, if you do a little bit of research, you’re bound to find a cruise that suits your needs and budget, as well as fellow traveller age requirements!
Island hopping is a time-honoured approach to see this beautiful country, but unless you have tons of time on your hands and speak fluent Greek, it might be a bit of a hassle to try and figure out the capricious nature of Greek ferry itineraries and sudden changes in departures. Greek Island Cruises offer a comfortable and stress-free experience of all the sights, and although itineraries might change slightly if the weather acts up, departures are pretty much guaranteed.
Bigger or Smaller Ship?
There are however a few things to keep in mind when booking your cruise. Giant cruise ships that offer luxury facilities, restaurants and entertainment might win out in the comfort factor and are a good choice if you are travelling to Greece from other destinations as part of a larger cruise and will do some of your sailing during the day. If your focus is however on Greece alone, there is much to be said for smaller, local operators, which usually travel between the islands overnight. The boats are less imposing in terms of scale, but this allows them greater accessibility as well as greater flexibility in terms of itineraries. In other words, they will go where no larger ship has gone before, so to speak!
Some itineraries to the region will include stops near particular islands and then take you on a pre-booked trip to see the sights, payable separately. So if you’re keen on seeing particular locations, like Rhodes or Santorini for example, check out all the fine print in detail to avoid any surprises.
In the end it is worth remembering that your choices support particular businesses and ensure the livelihood of the local residents. I believe in giving back to the local communities that I am visiting, which translates into using local operators where appropriate, or choosing to go on a day tour with a local guide that lives in and knows the area. Although in reality this can sometimes mean paying a little bit more, as smaller companies cannot afford to lower their prices as much as the big ones, it is a more sustainable (as in fair for all involved) way to travel and to get to know the culture: the sights will never disappoint, but the stories you hear from your new Greek friends are truly priceless.
Contributed by Patricia Bieszk+ – freelance travel writer