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Greek island cruises - The best choice to cruise in the Greek islands
7 Mar 2015

To cruise or not to cruise? This is the question..

Sounds familiar? When we speak about the Greek islands there should be no dilemma. The answer is definitely yes-to cruise! Reason is very simple, the waters that surround the famous Greek islands, offer the perfect setup for a cruise among them.

Relax! When we speak about the Greek islands there is no bad itinerary.

When we think about vacation in Greece and more specifically a cruise in the Greek islands I feel that the first mistake that many visitors fall into is that the ask themselves ‘which is the best island and how many can I see in my available time scale?’. Don’t get me wrong, of course you may have your preferences however you should first decide the type of vacation you prefer and the available choices you have for cruising the Greek islands. You have three choices in terms of cruising through the Greek islands

a) Big Cruise ships
b) Local cruise ships
c) Private sailing ships

When it comes to big cruise ships that is an international trend we mean that you book a huge ship, in the size of a shopping mall, in order to sail through the Greek islands. Ok, I understand how you feel-you want to visit the Greek islands, the more the better you suppose, you decide to book with a huge ship that will travel through the coasts of Greece Turkey and along the islands as well. And here I am wondering: How much time do you want to spend in each island? Since a 4 or 5 hour stop reminds me more of coffee break rather than vacation itself. If you intend to see a glance of the main ports, shoot 5 photos with your friends or family and quickly return to the ship for your next stop. This could be ok if you just gather information for the Greek islands and you may be happy with seeing the beautiful places from a distance. If however you really want to visit Greece and live the experience of a lifetime then you should reconsider.

Huge cruise ships will never fit into the ports of the islands.

I have been living in Greece for the last 35 years of my life and I have been travelling since I was very young throughout our beautiful Greek seas and islands. The first thing, even for a novice like me, was to realize that the Greek islands have small ports! This is actually the beauty of the scenery. I always wonder how can all these huge cruise ships fit into the ports of the Greek islands. Well, the answer is very simple. They cannot fit. This is why most of the times the cruise ship will anchor to a big distance from the island and use its tenders to take the visitors out for a quick visit on the island. Now, picture yourself in the big line along with thousand co travelers that would disembark on the island with the help of the tender. In addition in most islands the main core is located outside the port and you need to spend time on the island to have an idea. Not to mention that when thousands of people are located simultaneously in a place, the scenery is what we call packed! Not so refreshing scenery to my eyes.

I know! You will tell me that I describe a war.. Going a step backwards I can understand that visitors/guests/travelers are divided into 2 large groups in terms of how they understand the word vacation. The active, outgoing, energetic type that would like to have a true idea of the place that they are visiting and the ones that more interested in having the scenery on the background of the Jacuzzi inside the luxurious cruise ship. I am not saying that either one is good or bad, I just list the upcoming issues if you think of cruising in the Greek islands with a big cruise ship. It is true on the other hand that if you like living on the luxury side of life the cruise ship is the place for you. You will be the king leaving in a floating paradise. I understand how you feel however I am more of the first type.

People sometimes mix the cruising of the Carribean with the cruising in the Greek islands. And I am quite convinced that the big shipping industry does not differentiate this on purpose, since they need to have ships operating in the Med during Summer and in the other side of the Atlantic during winter. However this is totally different areas and locations. In the Greek islands it is not just a scenery that you can feel and see while cruising through. It is the life on the islands that make the experience so unique. The people, the hospitality, the food, the life in general. There is no way that you feel any of these when you have to return back to the ship before you even disembark.

As a friendly suggestion, decide the type of traveler you are and then think for a second time before deciding to cruise the Greek islands on a big ship.

A more flexible option of a cruise ship would be a local smaller in size ship

The second category mentioned is again with a ship but this time a smaller one. There are local companies that use their ships to travel within the islands offering trips within Greece. The difference would be that in this boat it will be you along with additional 750 co travelers, while in a big ship you may have thousands. The ship would be smaller so she could approach the Greek islands a bit closer to the shore and in some islands even reach the port. In this case the local companies will provide a more flexible and smart root that would be more attraction oriented rather than economy of scale oriented (that is the case with big cruise ships). This means that locals know the areas and surely will navigate you in better and more popular areas. If you like however to play tennis on the 10th floor of a huge cruise ship and to drink wine into gold glasses then the smaller ship would not keep up to your expectations. Not because it is worse as a product, not at all, but because it is a different product. Not all travelers think and like the same stories or amenities.

International cruise lines will make you feel as a king onboard as if you were a prince of the Emirates but you will be missing all the juice of the trip which is Greece herself. How this king could wait in huge lines until he disembarks with 40 degrees Celsius on top of his head that is another story.. On the other hand a smaller ship, would be more flexible, more to the point, and to my opinion, a better choice for the medium traveler that wants to see what Greece truly is.

In a private sailing cruise in the Greek islands YOU are the story.

The last alternative is the private sailing trip to cruise throughout the Greek islands. That could be in the form of a sailing boat or catamaran. As anyone that has tried that in the past will confirm you, this is the best way to cruise through the Greek island and the coast of the mainland. There are numerous subcategories however the main two, in order to keep the post practical and simple are the so called bareboat or skippered/crewed. In the first case (bareboat) you need to have sailing experience and to put in practice some effort, your navigation skills and your friends into play (they have to do some part of the job). The second category (skippered/crewed) is the most popular one and you do not have to have any idea of any sailing skill or knowledge. During this trip you will have the ability, if you like of course, to gain sailing knowledge by the captain who will guide you throughout the Greek seas.

But why is this way of cruising great and how is it considered the best choice among the others?

I am not quite sure which would be the most important for each one of you and it is not really important since the priority is not really the case. Well for me the real difference is that I am part of the story when it comes to sailing vacation. This means that I can touch the sandy beach that looks great from far away, I can dive in the middle of the rocky bay I have anchored, I can even use my mask to explore the beautiful underwater environment. Have you ever tried that? For me when I put on my mask and dive into the water, the peace and quietness make time stop and I am truly resting. This is vacation, among others, for me. In a huge cruise ship I could never do that, I could never see the unique locations Greece has to offer, it would be as watching a documentary in the TV.

What is so special with a private sailing cruise?

Two years ago, we decided to actually participate in this private skippered tour ourselves. We had our Skipper Vasilis organizing everything in terms of paperwork, so the only thing we did our end was to unpack our clothes in our double cabin. I had invited my family friends and along with their children we were already 8 people onboard. I will not go into a lot of detail for this trip since I would like as said to keep the post practical. My first impression was that I was in a floating home with all the amenities in place. We started our cruise and our first stop was a bay under the temple of Poseidon. We decided to have a quick dive, to eat something light and to have the so called mini siesta (I was dreaming to have one since my early childhood summers). Our first stop would be normally the island of KEA however we woke up around 18.00, the sea was so calm you would like to drink in a glass. After 2 seconds of thought we decided to spend the night where we were anchored. We took our dinghy and had a perfect dinner in the little tavern in Sounion bay, drinking wine and telling stories for the Greek economy (no joke, for the last 7 years we have the same discussion of what is going wrong in the Greek economy..). In any case after a bottle of wine we returned to our yacht, I was sleeping after 10 minutes. Next morning Vasilis was up quite early, we did after some time manage to wake up ourselves and we headed for KEA. This was just a glance of my half first day. I will not continue the story into this post, since I believe you got the point. On a private tour you are the story. You can talk to the ‘garsoni’ of the tavern, walk through the little white homes of the Cyclades, taste the Greek cuisine with the traditional recipes (each island has different local ways of mixing up the ingredients). Oh, by the way, if you like a place you can stay more and more days. There is a basic route to follow, but you are the one to decide if you want the program customized. Of course the captain will advise the weather forecast and suggest the safest choice possible, but I believe you got the point.

When was the last time you met the Captain of the big cruise ship?

Speaking about the Captain, you actually know the captain! When was the last time you met the Captain of the huge cruise ship? Have you had a chat while drinking a beer and tasting local tastes in secret ‘ouzeri’ that are known only to the people living on the islands? Well the answer is pretty straight forward. The only way to have this ‘asset’ is by the private skippered holidays. I said previously that there are variations on the level of crew you like onboard and what your level of service you prefer. If you speak to Maria from Yachtsailing.gr she will give you all the available options on which boat is the available for you and if you need a Captain, a hostess, a cook or an additional deckhand.

What makes sailing private tours unique is the combination of emotions that rise when it is for you to return home. For me the feeling is so sad every time, ‘why does it have to end’ I wonder.. Not to mention that kids love it and keep complaining when we come back.

An additional extra value of the private sailing trip is the cost compared to the value of your trip. This is incomparable. Prices start on a 700 Euros/person per week! No way close to the cost of a ship cruise. Contact Maria and get your quote now if you wish. There is nothing obligatory. Just gather information.

So, if you really looking to visit the Greek islands and get to know what true Greece is all about then the a private sailing cruise is the best way to do that. In terms of experience, cost, emotions, stories to remember and reasons for coming back.

Thank you for taking the time to read through the lines of this text, please don’t hesitate to ask anything you may wish. You can email me, or come and meet me in Athens to learn in person why Greece is the next world location you should be visiting.