My husband planned this cruise for a milestone wedding anniversary. I was concerned because of the small size of the ship and the fact that it had so few reviews. As frequently happens in life, things turn out much more pleasant than my expectations.
Embarkation was quick and easy. We were greeted with the smiling face of Geddy (who would become one of our favorite waiters), a moist wet towel, drinks in the grand salon and were able to check into our cabin. Every passenger was friendly, we introduced ourselves to many fellow passengers and crew members. About half from the US, the remainder from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Tahiti, Mexico, Brazil, France, Hong Kong and Germany to name a few. English was the common language.
Our cabin had a balcony which we enjoyed but didn't use as much as expected. Since there are no full days at sea and the day seemed packed with activities, do not fret if you don't have a balcony. We frequently went to the top deck for a 360 degree view as we were leaving a harbor. There was a pool bar nearby to enjoy a drink along with the view and your new found friends. Plenty of storage in the cabin, bring some wire hangers. Mario kept our room perfect, at all times of day.
The food was good and always beautifully presented with top notch service. I enjoyed the wine at dinner but I am not a connoisseur. Dinner could be eaten partially outdoors (reservations recommended) with same food, service and tablecloths or indoors in the formal dining room. When you arrive to eat you can request a table for 2 or join a larger table. In this way we met may fascinating fellow travelers. I'm not much of a talker in the morning so we enjoyed a table for two most days at breakfast. The flexibility was delightful. Dinner was between 7:00 and 9:30. They accommodated you at whatever time you arrived. If you were joining a table they would put you with a group that had also recently started dinner.
There were social environments like the pool and pool bar, tea time with snacks midday and the evening piano bar in the grand salon. About half of the nights we ended with the piano bar. Alex is talented with singing and playing. One night was a lot of sing alongs, another more dancing, another a mixture. Again everyone was friendly and inclusive. A better book or computer screen to see words for the songs would be helpful although less comical. The crew does a performance night that shows a lot of talent and good spirit. Charlene was an excellent bartender, attentive and quick to refill your drink or ice water. Luckily everyone enjoyed the bars but no drunken crude behavior (unless you count our singing).
Mykonos was cancelled for weather so we went to Paros instead. Delos in the morning. Fellow passengers that did the excursion at Delos said it was too long winded. Following Rick Steves guide was enough (it can be downloaded in advance for audio guide). In Paros we walked the town. Another fellow passenger rented a car and that worked well on this island. There were no excursions planned as this was a fill in for Mykonos. There is a beautiful Greek Orthodox Cathedral in town with a small museum.
Next was Santorini. A beautiful island but crowded with cruise ships. All excursions cancelled as not enough signed up. We got off on second tender in morning to beat the crowd. Rode the tram up, almost no line. After getting off tram we headed uphill on path along the water (away from more touristy area of Fira). It was not crowded and the views were fabulously beautiful. We left this path when more restaurants started appearing. A walk inward and to the left took us to a bus stop where we got a bus to Oia. Another exceptionally beautiful place. We had a great lunch overlooking the water. .The bus back was late and there were no Taxis around. Had to stand for about 1 hour in bus line then it was a mob getting on it. Made it back to Fira . The bus lets you off near the cathedral but past that the area is very touristy with a crowded walk back to tram. Other passengers had rented an ATV and loved that, one couple walked down instead of taking the tram and would not recommend it (too many donkeys on trail), one couple rode the donkey up (it got uncomfortable long before it was over). Another couple arranged a tour of a jewelry factory on their own with a Taxi driver and enjoyed it.
Rhodes: We docked and spent a long day so it was easy to get on and off the ship. Taxis are easily available if you want to explore more of the island. The old town with the medieval walls are a short walk to see on your own. We used Rick Steves again as a tour guide. An excursion is not needed to enjoy this island. Very enjoyable as a nice balance of tourism and history. Easy to return to boat and rest, cool off then go out again. There was an outdoor barbeque on the ship for the evening meal. The food wasn't that great and I missed the service since it was buffet style like picnic. It would have been a good night to stay in Rhodes for an authentic Greek dinner (especially since we were docked till 11pm).
Patmos: We did the excursion to the Cave of St John and the Monastery. It was wonderful. Interesting, well done, no stress. Rest in air conditioned bus between sites. Patty (a German married to a Patmos native ) was an excellent guide. Shops in this town close at 1pm for a siesta that doesn't end till the boat had left. So if you want to shop (and there is a store with exceptional icons) go right into town after the excursion.
Kasadusi: We did the excursion for the House of Mary and Ephesus. Our guide here was Turkish and he did a wonderful job. We went to Mary's house first and there were no crowds yet. It was peaceful. The ruins of Ephesus were great, especially with a guide. Then there was a presentation for Turkish rugs.
I would recommend both of these excursions (Patmos and Ephesus).
Canakkale: We did not do any excursion but our Australian friends enjoyed seeing the Gallipoli battlefield. Others went to Troy but I didn't hear their reviews. We took the shuttle into town and went to a maritime military museum. It was hot and not my least favorite port. I think I would recommend an excursion.
Istanbul. Disembarkment: easy. Put bags outside our room at midnight. Had relaxed breakfast. Do not use the ships service for transportation to your hotel or airport as it is an outrageously expensive per person cost. There were taxis right outside customs. If you prefer public transportation was a 3 blocks away walking along the harbor. We spent 3 days in Istanbul on our own. Felt safe the entire time, very interesting city.
The bad: We sometimes felt a little lost about how to best enjoy the ports. It would have been wonderful to have a local Greek than a Turk on board to tell us about the places and the history. Not enough local foods (like fresh Greek yogurt and Feta cheese). Excursions were cancelled the night before. There should have been more information about the nuts and bolts of transportation options in the ports and a good map available when you leave. Bring your own tour books, they helped.
The good: It felt like a pampered, fun, interesting and social vacation. The staff and fellow passengers were outstanding. We made friends from around he world. Wonderful way to enjoy a special anniversary.