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Self tours suggested on Greek Islands

My husband & I just booked a Greek Isles cruise coming out of Rome for Sept 2018. Of course, we could book the ship excursions, but we are Rick Steves travelers at heart and would like to do our own thing. Here are the stops for only a day at each.....Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes & Athens. Any suggestions as to what to see or do at each stop would be appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by
16832 posts

Have a look at the destinations covered in Rick's Mediterranean Cruise Ports book. It should have exactly what you need. It's not scheduled for an update before you go, so you can buy it now.

Posted by
2841 posts

For Santorini you will be tendered ashore and back to the ship to Skala, the "old port," so plan your activities accordingly. There is a cable car to take you up the cliff that only holds 36 passengers at a time, so you will be standing in a long line both coming and going, especially if there is more than one ship in port that day, which is highly likely in September. It can take up to 1.5 hours to get up the cliff and then another 1.5 hours to get back down again. There is no road to the tender dock so your only other option is walking the 600+ smelly, donkey-soiled steps, and PLEASE don't ride the poor abused donkeys!

So for Santorini, unless you have a full 12-hour stopover, it might be best to sign up for the ship's excursion. You get priority for leaving the ship and are taken to an different wharf where there will be buses with guides waiting to take you on your island tour, depending on which ship's excursion you decide to take. And no, you can't go to that wharf if you're going to do your own thing.

Posted by
389 posts

Thank you Laura & Lee.

Do either of you know, if we book a private tour on Santorini and show the ship our paperwork for it, will it get us off the ship earlier?

Posted by
2513 posts

Just guessing Linda, but my fear is that your paperwork will cut no ice with the cruise staff ... from what I read, cruises get a Huge % of their profit from the ancillary expenditures, i.e., drinks programs, shore excursions etc. Why would they favor an excursion that gives them no profit. The cynical approach would be to find out who allots space in the first tender vessel to leave ... and slip him a "little something" to include you. But that would be dishonest and unethical.

Cruises have their frustrating aspects.

Posted by
3443 posts

In Santorini take the cable car up and walk back down. The donkeys are very overworked and appear to not be well cared for. In Mykonos go to Delos. In Athens check out the Ancient Agora just down form the Parthenon.

Even though they are more expensive than doing it on your own, the ship excursion have one good feature. If the excursion is late getting back the ship will wait for you. Not so if you are off on your own. We've actually seen people left on the docks on several occasions.

Posted by
801 posts

Unfortunately cruises are notorious for "drive-by" excursions giving you only a few hours at best at each port to walk around and see what you can see in a short amount of time.

If you can get out of this type of cruise and do something on your own you'll have a much more enjoyable, pleasurable and slower time to see what each island is all about.

Nothing wrong with cruises, depending on the type of cruise, but for the most part they are a short stay at a port, walk around a bit, get on the ship, go to the next island and do the same thing over and over.