We are traveling to Athens on a Greek cruise in July. The ship docks in Piraeus for 12 hours. Factoring in the time to get off the ship and the latest we can return to get on the ship, we will probably have about 9-10 hours to visit Athens. We would like to go to the Acropolis, the Acropolis museum, the National Archaeological Museum and do a little shopping during that time. Normally when we're on a cruise, we book a shore excursion through the cruise line. However, this time I don't feel like the shore excursions that include the Acropolis will allow us to squeeze in the other things we want to do. Should we hire a private guide, book a tour through a travel agency in Athens or just do everything on our own? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
You picked 3 great places to see in your short visit. With limited time, those plus a little wandering around would make a good day in Athens.
First you need to check both museums and the Acropolis to verify the open hours for the day and timespan you will be there.
Both museums have cafes. The Acropolis Museum's is much better than the one at the National Archeological Museum.
You can walk between the entrance to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. Be aware that the walk is easier going down than going up and that there are lots of steps up to the Parthenon. The terrain at the top is very rough and you will need good shoes for it. Also there are no options for buying food or water there. There is a kiosk close to the Acropolis entrance that has snacks, bottled water and refreshing fruit slushy type drinks.
I was in Athens the 2nd week of October. It was hot then, so I'm sure it will be hotter in July. Be sure to stay hydrated.
I had plenty of time to figure out the metro and bus system and I used both. With your limited time, I'd take a taxi at least from Piraeus to your first destination and one back to Piraeus from your last. It will be a little pricey, but probably worth the money in time and hassle savings.
You can use Rome2rio.com to put in the places you want to go and find information on the potential time and money costs for getting around, including walking.
I'm partial to Cycladic art, so the charming little Museum of Cycladic Art was must-see for me. I'm sure others will chime in with their special places to see.
You might find this link useful.
I'd avoid a taxi myself as the traffic can be really bad going into the centre. My preference would be metro to Thisseio. Be aware though that the Piraeus metro statio is about a mile from where the cruise ships dock.
I really like the Keramicos which is about five minutes walk from Thisseio and has great views of the Acropolis as well as a nice museum.
From there it is possible to walk along to the Agora, up to the Acropolis and then down to the Acropolis museum. That's a fair amount to cover.
The Archaeological Museum is a bit trickier as it's across town. From Acropolis metro you need to take a metro to Omonia and then change to Victoria Station. The museum is then about a ten minute walk. From Victoria you can get a metro direct back to Piraeus.
This map might help
PS I agree the Cycladic is a great museum, but I'm not sure you have the time.
U can easily see athens on your own. Many key sights are in walking distance of acropolis thn taxi to greeces archeological mueum. If u have time for lunch 2 blocks from acropolis dine at mani mani restaurant on second floor. It is pelopensse style food , casual, reasonablpe and very delicious.
Thanks for everyone's input. I recently found out the passengers who book shore excursions through the cruise are allowed off the ship first. I'm not sure how long we would have to wait if we decided to do everything on our own. We'll probably book the shortest Acropolis shore excursion offered (4hrs) and then venture off on our own to see whatever we can in the time we have left. Thanks again for the advice.
In addition to any replies you get here, be sure to look at Cruise Critic. Here's their Athens Port Review: http://tinyurl.com/cs3tgcj
Here's their Greece Ports Forum: http://tinyurl.com/ax6ys4a
I have never taken a cruise, so I probably shouldn't comment, but from what I've read, the "threat" that you won't be allowed off the ship until the people who have bought the ship's own excursion is usually just that - something to intimidate you into buying their excursion. The big exception is at tender ports, where the first tenders are indeed reserved for those people. Again, look around on Cruise Critic to see if this is an issue with Piraeus, and with your particular ship line and ship.
I want to second Alan's comments.
I like your logic on getting off the ship fast and 4 hours at the Acropolis is fine. If you're on your own you can prioritize what you see, etc.
JS (?) said to eat at the second floor of some place. Hey, with a limited time in town do the local's fast food options such as the Everest at the north side of the acropolis, down near the Monastiraki Metro station (which I think you can take to the National Arch Mus. but don't recall - it was a long walk when we walked there). If you have time after you've hit your list of places, there are lots of restaurants in the Plaka area that are nice.
You can see the city on your own, and as you have so little time, a hop on hop off tour might work for you as it hits the highlights.
Ordinarily I'd agree with Jenny, but in other cities, not Athens. I've visited there on 12 visits, (on 9 of which I brought along 3-4 "travelpals" who were newbies). Therefore, I decided to do a hop-on/off bus to see what it offered. I didscovered it offered the frustration of sitting in traffic on car-choked main avenues, between rows of office buildings. The main Athens "sights" are all clustered within a couple of miles, many of them in no-cars areas. The busses can only go on the big streets; they waste yr time. This website http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/athens-gr-ath-ath.htm#GR107 on the main page has an excellent map to print showing main sight-seeing places -- you can see they are all within walking distance. As for a D-I-Y approach, the rick steves book is excellent on Do-it-yourself Athens sightseeing. The book is worth it for that section alone -- run out & get it or order today from Amazon. Also, if you have a smartphone or MP3 player or Apple I-Pod, the Steves Website has a FREE download of step-by=step guide to Acropolis.... AND similar "highlights" guide to Arch. Museum; new edition may also have the Acropolis museum.
THerefore I'd suggest following:
• Get off ship quickly (push a bit!) and get taxi to your start point. I would tell cabby "Taxi to Acropolis Metro Station... my friends tell me that it's about 15-20 Euros on the Meter". That point is just a few yards from the SOUTH SIDE entry to Acropolis.
• Enter site, pass Theatre Herodius Atticus, enter Acropolis. Leaving, u might want to check out Aeropagos (Mars Hill) ... the Ancient agora Museum Stoa of Attalos) as well. (unless it's really hot) But don't fret; I suggest instead going back to S. Sid exit.
• Go to Acropolis Museum, just across the S. Side Promenade. There are guides inside to assist you. The 2nd floor restaurant (all-glass, a/c, looks up at Parthenon) is VERY reasonably priced for luncheon. Rest your feet & relax.
• After regaining energy, walk E. along that promenade to the Arch of Hadrian (see map). At that point, get a taxi to Natl Arch. Museum, just off top of map. it won't be more than about 6 E fare. Don't kill yourself in museum ... go for Rick's Top Ten. There's a nice restaurant on the lowest level, looking out at an atrium with greenery. Put your feet up again & have a beer.
• Time to think about getting back to ship?? If not totally exhausted, you walk down the big street the Museum is on, about 8 blocks, and you come to OMONIA Circle (busy busy busy traffic). The Metro station there has the GREEN LINE which goes straight to the port. Go to window & buy ticket (€1.6). On the train WATCH YOUR PURSE & WALLET (pickpockets). Metro lets u out right at sea front, very busy traffic. Don't try to walk to Cruise dock it's more than a mile; get a taxi.