I keep seeing packages for cruises that let you have a few days in certain locations. The packages include the hotels in various spots, Athens, Santorini and Mykonos. Looking for input on the cruise package compared to doing our own travel.
DIY Island hopping allows you to move around at your own pace. The ferry system is excellent. Look into the cruise package to determine if the inter-island transfers are done by commercial ferry. If they are you will be paying more for what you can easily take care of on your own. But if the package includes hotel transfers and land tours (at no extra charge) that appeal to you, then it might be worth your money to go that route.
I have been reading a lot of negative things about cruises, but how about Cruise and Stay type cruises, where you stay for a few days in the pre-determined hotels. Example 3 nights in Santorini, 2 nights in mykonos. So much information to weed through, it is a bit overwhelming.
When we first visited Greece a couple of decades ago I recall seeing cruise and stay packages. It turned out that the cruise portion was just the regular ferries with hotels on various islands. You do need to confirm is this a cruise ship experience with land options or not.
A couple of years ago on another forum someone was pricing a trip like what you are looking at. Regular travelers asked what hotels were being considered dates and the ferry routes. Several of us researched the exact itinerary being proposed and discovered the poster was paying three times more than doing it himself on a booking site like booking dot com..
On that first trip years ago we booked a cruise through the islands. We got to visit Athens Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes and Patmos and stayed 6 to 8 hours at each location. That cruise allowed us to scout places we might want to return to sometime.
Don't discount the cruise option.
Having said that the destinations you mentioned Athens, Mykonos and Santorini are absolutely the most popular destinations regularly mentioned on the Forum but are they actually what you want in a Greek trip. They all can be reached by regular ferry but other than Athens these islands are hugely hyped and promoted but do not give you a true Greek experience and will be very expensive..
If you were to give us some additional information on what you want out of a Greek island hopping experience, what interests you,( antiquities. beaches, mountains quaint villages, cities, quiet, parties, budget, how long do you have and when you plan to go.) This will give us sufficient information to make suggestions that could help you design your own customized trip on a DIY basis.
First, it might help to identify the negative comments you have heard. Sometimes it is just uninformed opinion that should be ignored. While I am fairly knowledgeable about cruises, have not heard of a cruise and stay approach that you described. Would be interested in seeing the web site. One big advantage of the cruise is the unpack once. With your suggestion it sounds more like the cruise ship is acting like a train on land moving from one city to city and staying a few days in each location. Go on cruisecritic.com for information on nearly every cruise in the world.
Thanks so much for all the info. The cruise and stay option may very well be just what you mentioned as I can not get any info on the ship, so probably a ferry. As for our interests. Three couples. Santorini is non negotiable but not really set on other island. We all love the beach. We want to explore some historical locations. Love good wine and the small town experience. One of the couples loves to hike. Maybe this will help clarify our trip. We definitely do not want to be traveling from place to place the entire time. Our original plan was to do Athens at the end of our trip. Planning a 12 day trip, which will include a day of travel on each end. Traveling from the US.
With ten nights on the ground. I would pick two or three of the island and use the ferry system to travel between. You really don't have the time for anything else. An alternative would be to fly back from Santorini (decent airport) to Athens for your departure IF the timing works.
OK thanks for the information Sara this helps a lot..
We now understand Santorini is a must see.
Athens at the end of the 12 day trip.
Experienced Greece travelers often recommend that you fly to your first island immediately on arrival in Athens. This saves you a trip into Athens then a commute to the ferry port or the airport next morning. Flights from the States will arrive between 9:30 and 10:30 if direct and around 5 PM if you fly to another European airport and transfer to a connecting flight to Athens.
If you arrive in the morning then you have options to fly to a Cyclades island that fits you stated needs. I would recommend Naxos or Paros. Both have excellent ferry connections to Santorini.
My favourite is Naxos. It has a lovely main town topped by a Venetian era Kastro. Lots of tavernas and bars but not a party island. Wonderful beaches, mountain villages and a smattering of antiquities spread around the island. Naxos really needs a minimum of 5 days a week would be better.
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/
Naxos trip 2019 https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157711294807761
Ferry to Santorini. Make sure you have a Caldera view. This is going to be an expensive stay but in my opinion Santorini is a must see for first time visitors. Three days is about right for Santorini. That is how long my budget and tolerance for cruise ship crowds lasts. You will be able to stretch your budget for Santorini by staying in Naxos as it will cost about a third of Santorini prices for food and lodging.
Fly back to Athens for the end of your trip. Three days in Athens is about right.
You can of course fly to Santorini on arrival then ferry to Naxos or Paros. Same experience just reverse the order of the islands.
A completely different plan might be to fly to Crete on arrival in Athens. There are flights all day long and later in the evening. Crete is huge and you really need a week just in one area of the island. We choose the west and base ourselves in Chania. While not a small town it is a city but it has a small area called the old town which is full of Venetian era back alleys and the port. It is chock full of charm and is also perfect as a base to explore nearby sites such as Ancient Aptera, Falassarna, The Fortezza at Rethymnon, Samaria Gorge hike, Boat excursion boats to the pirate fortress and beach at Gramovossa and the great beach at Balos lagoon, an excursion to Samaria gorge (16km hike down a mountain gorge) and don't forget a trip to the famous pink sand beach at Elafonissi. You will be planning your return trip before you leave Chania.
Chania,Sougia Plakias 2019 shttps://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157711266062752 This is our trip last September. We included a three night stay in two small south coast villages.
Gramovossa, Balos Elafonissi https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157698932695812
Ancient Aptera, Melidoni Cave and village. https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/7215767211837963
Samaria Gorge hike the easy way. https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157670610409530
We booked this whole trip ourselves through booking dot com, used the local bus system KTEL to get around although a van or 2 cars is better. We also booked the flights on line with Aegean/Olympic and Sky Express, and booked ferries directly with local travel agents a couple of days before each ferry hop. Crete is well connected to Santorini with several departures each morning from Heraklion.
Have fun planning.