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One day Athens

We end our Mediterranean cruise in Athens on a Saturday. It is me, my sister and my almost 92 year old dad. So, simplicity is the best.

1) I was considering a private day tour I found online (Athens Taxi Private Day Tours) they would pick us up at the port, luggage and all, and give us an 8 hour tour and drop us at our hotel. Any knowledge of this? Due to my dad's age this is better suited than do it yourself.

2) I am totally open to Hotels- I was looking at Herodion thinking maybe we could walk around and see more after our tour if we wanted. I know we want to go the the museum. We will only be staying for 1 night and I want to make sure we are in a safe area walking at night, we would prefer not to need public transport. Then we will get a taxi to the airport the next morning.

Any suggestions ?

Thanks!

Posted by
1897 posts

We stayed at the Hotel Phillipos a few years ago and were quite happy. It is on a nice, quiet residential street, zero noise issues. It has an elevator. Our room was comfortable and well maintained, the bathroom was small. Acropolis and metro, restaurants, ATMs just minutes away on foot. The folks there were very nice. They provide a nice breakfast in a pleasant area ( I remember huge pots of yogurt and honey among a lot more). We had dinner at the Herodion one night; nice setting, nothing especially memorable, but food isn't a biggie for us. I think they are "sister hotels", whatever that means. The Herodion overall seemed more plush than our place, and more expensive too, I believe. We also landed by ship and I will tell you...that port is gigantic. We were at a distant pier, and 3 consecutive taxis refused to take us to the metro station (hoping for fares into Athens I guess); we gave up and walked. It was close to 45 minutes with luggage in tow, not for the feint of heart. Your arrangement as described could be the perfect solution, but I know nothing of private tours in Athens. Once, in St. Petersburg, we used toursbylocals.com and it was excellent. It was just us two, and the guide picked us up at the cruise port...maybe a similar deal could be achieved in Athens? maybe something to consider? Have a wonderful trip with Dad.

Posted by
2934 posts

PRIVATE TOUR -- Susan, please be aware that the "tour" you found really just amounts to hiring a car & driver. The driver is NOT a licensed guide, and therefore is not permitted to accompany you into an ancient site/historic site/museum. He can give you a running commentary as you drive past a place, and provide a small folder about the place. And If you'll look on a map, you can see that many places are not accessible by car. This handy online map http://www.orangesmile.com/destinations/img/athens-map-big.jpg (click & it gets huge) shows many streets that are "green-checked" -- these are NO-CARS streets. In those places, a driver will take you to the nearest area where cars are allowed, hand you a brochure, and then you are on your own. Is that OK with you??? He also will sometimes recommend a place for lunch (it might be good, or it might be run by his uncle) -- do NOT allow him to take you far out of Central Athens just for lunch.

Of course, with a 92yr old dad, it can be useful to have a car just waiting, with your dad inside, while you & sister scamper in & out of sites. And many ancient sites (Temple of Zeus, Hadrians Arch, Hadrian's library, Roman Agora, 1896 Olympic Stadium) are OK to see as drive-by, for non-history buffs. Unless your dad is very spry, walking up the steep incline to the Parthenon may be a bit much, and wlaking around the Ancient Agora. If you do not have a licensed guide, you'd get less out of these famous landmarks -- However, Rick Steves' website has a very good D-I-Y audio that you can download to phone or Mp3 player, FREE. Check it out!

We really cannot judge if your "private day tour" is a good deal when you don't quote a price. If he would do it for €300 or so, it would be a good deal. You might consider googling, private car/driver, and compare the charges to your "tour" price.

HOTEL -- Herodion is a very handy area, a good choice. BTW, in areas around or near the Acropolis, Athens is VERY safe for walking around even very late at night, much more than most US cities.

Posted by
1047 posts

With a 92 year old with you I suspect you would like to get this plan nailed down in advance. So this may not be helpful but just for information.
There will be taxis waiting just outside the cruise ship dock. Last year we could not get any of them to take us to the Acropolis on a one way fare. They all wanted a full day for a tour just as Jan outlined.
So if for some reason you want to decide to take the taxi tour you can even if it is last minute.

As an aside we eventually did get a taxi to take us to the Acropolis and he met us at the parking lot at the Acropolis 5 hours later for a return to the port. He actually took us on an impromptu tour of Piraeus his home town. It is much more than just the port. All that for 40 euros.

Posted by
1848 posts

Thank you!

I just booked the Herodion and it looks like many sites are walkable from there...? Would we be missing out if we just took a taxi to our hotel dropped our bags, and headed out on foot for the day, period? Honestly, I'm not sure what to see in one day and if we really should venture out further than our legs will take us. It is hard to know what are the "should see sights". Dad likes cruise excursions, likes planned tours, isn't big on going "on our own". I know the Acropolis is number one. I was kind of hoping to see Corinth (by tour) but I don't want to cut short the Acropolis or other must see sights.

Suggestions?

BTW- just got this:

The price of the “Highlights of Athens & Corinth tour” is 270 euros (not per person),valid for the Mercedes E-Class vehicle.
Everything is included in the price except for admission fees and meals.

Please note that we are driver-guides but not registered tour guides.That means we are not allowed (by the greek law) to guide you inside the sights but since we are knowledgeable drivers,we can provide some historical information before you into each sight.Should you prefer to have a licensed guide with you inside the sights, we can hire one at extra cost (200 euros for the whole time).

Posted by
1848 posts

BTW- Dad would probably be up for hiring the guide, too. We are paying that with all our tours off the ship anyway. I personally wouldn't do it, but I'm too cheap!

Posted by
2934 posts

I think that 270 isn't bad for having a taxi at your disposal for 8 hours ... it means you & your sister won't be slowed down by your dad's understandable lack of stamina. But as you say, Dad likes planned stuff, being taken care of, not big on spontenaity. There are some excellent private tour guides, who charge around €200 for several hours, taking you to Acropolis, and whatever sites you want. However, it's mainly walking unless specified. It's hard to advise you when you don't share more about his preferences. Will he insist on going up to the top of Acropolis, it's a steep climb, or would he be OK with sitting in a cafe? Is he paying for all this? That also matters. Whoever pays the piper calls the tune! Some options:

(1) Full-day taxi tour at 270€, dad can get out of car or not, depending on his interest & stamina.

(2) Private LICENSED guide, with/without car, sample of services & costs, here's a highly recommended one
https://tourguides.viator.com/tour-guide-diana-stefanou-huttinga-1752.aspx

(3) Taxi from cruise dock to Herodion (40E). Check in, refresh, quiz dad on his interests. If he's OK sitting on balcony or roof terrace with a beverage, you & sis run off to scale Acropolis with R Steve's D-I-Y audio on your phones. Return & take Dad next door to Acropolis Museum for walk-thru, and nice lunch on outdoor terrace looking up at Parthenon. 2 of you or all 3 -- wander thru Ancient Agora, check out its small museum, photo ops. THEN be picked up at your hotel for a 3 or 4 hour taxi sightseeing drive around the other Athens highlights ... you can google "Athens 4-hour taxi tour" and get dozens of such, with reviews. Many have hourly rates like 40-45€. YOU will dictate what you want to see ... but that means you'll need to do a little homework ... browse thru a good website, print out an Athens Map -- here's a simplified one, http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/athens-gr-ath-ath.htm#GR107 - just showing tourist highlights.

(4) Same as #3, through the lunch. Then Pick up the Happy Train! http://www.athenshappytrain.com -- In athens I do NOT recommend the hop-on/hop off BUS, because it's limited to big streets & you end up sitting in traffic. But the "happy train" can go on small lanes, and no-car streets, and is enjoyable. and you can get off a couple of times & re-board the next one. This may be the "Goldilocks Version" for you!

CORINTH -- No. Unless you are well-versed & ancient history buff, hard to get the most out of this site... and it's a long trip out of town. Some religious people go there to stare at a stone that St. Paul stood on to preach ... but you can do that right in Athens, looking at the Areopagus (Mars Hill) right next to Acropolis, where Paul preached as well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areopagus

Posted by
5371 posts

I think you made a good choice in the Herodion. We stayed there several nights last year and liked it a lot. There are a few steps from street to lobby, and one or two to the elevator and breakfast room, but not bad for Europe. Helpful staff, very good lobby bar, comfortable rooms (try for the back with an Acropolis view), very good breakfast, good rooftop restaurant where you can see the Parthenon in one direction and the statues on the top floor of the Acropolis Museum in another. The museum is about a block away, fully accessible and very well designed, with a nice café. The neighborhood is safe. Just north of the hotel is a pedestrian street that runs along the south side of the Acropolis and gives access to the theater and other sights. Climbing the Acropolis itself is a trek that your dad might not be up for. There is an elevator somewhere on the north side, but I believe it's available only to wheelchair users. But all the original Parthenon sculptures (that didn't get blown up by the Venetians or "rescued" by the Brits) are in the museum, arranged on the top floor as they were on the site itself. They even provide replicas of the pieces that now languish in the British Museum, Louvre, and elsewhere.

I'd say a day tour like you described makes a lot of sense in your situation. You can all see a lot of the city from the cab, and you and your sister can get to places like the Agora and Acropolis while you dad is comfortable.

Posted by
1848 posts

Thanks so much for all the help!!

To answer some questions:

Dad is paying for the whole trip- Dad will not be sitting in a cafe or taxi, he will be hiking up that hill to the Acropolis. So, we will have to pace ourselves to hold him back because he may need to sit and won't. He is stubborn that way.

Very good info to not go to Corinth.

Since we only have one day and if we decide to hike to the top then I'm sure we need to do that first. Even 10:00 is better than 4:30 and I think they close at 5:00.

I like the idea of a half day tour or even the happy train. But, maybe a good air conditioned car would be better.

I wish we had more time as the more research I do the more awesome it sounds!!

Posted by
2934 posts

Best strategy for Acropolis is to be at the SOUTH side entry gate at 8 AM ... then you can beat the crowds .... the group tours arrrive around 9:45, and then it can become a Zoo, depending on time of year (BTW, you asked for specific advice, but then did not give your DATE -- "a Saturday" in June is FAR different from mid-July and again far different from April or November. When you want good counsel, it is thoughtful to give all relevant details, not make us guess).

Posted by
5371 posts

If your dad takes his time he should make it to the top of the Acropolis. The approach is from the west. You could save a lot of steps by getting a taxi at the hotel and just going up the street (to the right as you face out the front door) to a big parking lot where taxis let people off for the Acropolis. Driver is likely to know. Then it's a short uphill walk to the ticket window and restrooms, then a longer steeper walk, with some shallow steps as I recall, to the main gate where the processions entered, and shortly after that you're on top. You can't go into the buildings, and the surface up there isn't entirely regular, but thousands of people do it every day. You make a clockwise circuit (at least we did) and return down the same way. Do it first, then drop down to the museum to see the sculptures and have a café sit-down. (Don't miss the history video.)

You're right, one day isn't enough, But knowing your travel habits I'm sure you'll return for more! The Greeks we met, not limited to those in the tourist industry, were the friendliest kindest people we've encountered.

Posted by
1848 posts

Oh, sorry I forgot to give the date.....ready for it....Aug 5!!! Probably one of the hottest. We leave the ship that morning so to get off the ship, get a taxi (which sounds like it can be difficult) drop off bags at the hotel and then head for the Acropolis, who knows what time that could be?

The "tour" is George's Taxi and he gets really great reviews. So, maybe it wouldn't be so bad having him take us straight there holding our luggage and then we return back to a cool car with each stop. I suppose it is better than a cruise excursion. I just found out that Princess seems to offer all day excursions on the day you leave the ship. I didn't think they did. So, for probably the same price we could get the transport and a guide. Too bad we are limited with time, and being such a hot day likely we may decide not to climb. I bet we will all be pretty tired by then. But, my sister was an anthropologist who did archeology for several years. She has never been to any of these wonderful European sites! We are actually lucky to have one day after the cruise to see Athens.

Thanks for so much feedback and help!

Posted by
3745 posts

I visited the Acropolis in October, 2014.

Please be aware that the walk up is long and very steep, before you even get to the entrance gates. The scant marble paving at the top is slippery even when dry. About 90% of the terrain is very rough, like walk-around-big-stones-on-dirt rough. I saw no real benches to sit on. Many people sat on the ruin pieces, rocks or entrance steps, the last making it somewhat difficult to make your way up the stairs. There were very few hand rails anywhere except on the steep entrance stairs. Do a Google Images search for lots of pictures.

However, when I was there I saw a young woman in a wheelchair, so I realized that there must be an easier way to get up there. Later I found this guide which might be helpful.

Although it was October, it was hot and sunny. Be sure to take water to drink. I enjoyed a slushy-like fruit drink when I came down. There are restrooms at the top and at the entrance. I didn't use the ones at the top. Unless a miracle has occurred, at least the women's toilets near the entrance are a wreck. No seats. BYOTP.

The Acropolis Museum is fantastic with a great cafe. It is about a 30 minute walk down from the top.

If you meant the Archeological Museum, I liked it even better, but the cafe isn't as good. It's not exactly within walking distance from the Acropolis and it's huge. I found the bronzes the most breathtaking on that trip. They are from about 2400 years ago. Be sure to see the astonishing horse and jockey and look for the marble funerary relief piece with a jumpy horse and the same model at a somewhat later age used for the groom.

You have so little time and there is so much to see that you will have to be very selective. But I can't resist one more suggestion. I'm an absolute nut about Cycladic art. The Museum of Cycladic Art is small and very manageable. It has some of the most amazing sculptures and pottery I've ever seen, including an almost lifesize Early Cycladic II period (roughly 4500 years ago) figure of a woman, the 2nd largest in the world.

Finally, it may not be required on your ship, but please do not flush TP or any other paper-like products when you are on shore. That's what the trash cans next to toilets everywhere are for. Greek sewer systems cannot process anything but human waste. You may see signs in English with drawings near the toilets explaining this. Here's more on the subject.

Posted by
2934 posts

Susan, Things to Consider re

TRANSPORT -- TAXI George's Taxi is basically a huge industry highly promoted by the website Matt Barrett's "Greektravel.com" While Barrett provides a lot of very useful Greece information (I particularly like his section on Greek food, and How to Order in Restaurants), some of the site sections have not been updated in quite a while (his list of Athens sites opening hours & fees is long & interesting but not updated in 5 years). ALSO, Matt continually PLUGS certain services, such as Fantasy Travel and George's Taxis. Every driver from the latter claims to be George or one of his relatives -- while it's actually a huge fleet, which has prospered mightily from Barrett ballyhoo. Unless you do some of your own web-browsing (with review follow-up on Trip Advisor), you may well be getting a considerably higher price than the going rate. However, if dad's paying perhaps no motivation for research.

TRANSPORT/GUIDES - OPTIONS
(1) Ship Excursion - Another Large Group of people you're already tired of ... also, since dealing with complete newbies to ancient times, guides will spend most effort on basics like: How many Olympian Gods? What did Athena signify etc?? Your sister will be bored stiff, and your Dad will be looking for a place to sit down.
(2) Private Guide -- I gave you a link to an excellent one, who can also provide transport for added cost. But there is an entire LIST at Viator, with varying rates - https://tourguides.viator.com/Listing.aspx?type=tourguide&Country=&Region=&City=Athens These guides will provide info at YOUR level, not kindergarten level. The added plus is that they come to you at YOUR schedule, when arranged sufficiently in advance. For instance, the Acropolis in the BEST of times is hot hot hot from 11 - 3. How about going at 4 or 5 pm?? You might want to get to hotel, give dad a rest, while you & sis scamper off to a few walkable places that don't require guidance ... Then you dad & sis could meet a guide for 3 hours, at 4 pm at Acropolis museum, then go up on The Rock at 5:30 or so, then down thru the Ancient Agora as sun gets lower. When you contact guide in advance you can have back-forth about sightseeing agenda. you needn't have car, she can handle hailing a taxi when & where needed.

BASIC PREP - Again I emphasize, if you & particularly sis want to get the most out of this one-day visit, it's really up to you. You have EIGHT MONTHS to stop by your local libraries and at no cost (gasp!) browse thru shelf-loads of guidebooks, photocopy what appeals, and be totally ready for a memorable day. Take along the info on your cruise & you'll have something to read between ports, and while lining up to disembark and re-board.