Queen Elizabeth Cruise Review by Pugdom@verizon.net: Cruise from Athens to Mykonos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Santorini, Crete, Oly
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Cruise from Athens to Mykonos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Santorini, Crete, Oly
A wonderful cruise that exceeded our expectations in every way! The ship is beautifully maintained by a very solicitous crew, and our steward, the dining staff, and entertainment crew were wonderful. Cunard offered a good variety of excursions for each stop, ranging from energetic hikes through ancient ruins to pastoral scenic bus rides, meaning there was something for everyone. We booked our roundtrip airfare from Newark, NJ with the cruise line as well, providing us with a price not attainable elsewhere, and full pick- up/drop- off service at both ends by courteous and knowledgeable Cunard hosts.
We were very impressed by how knowledgeable the Greek tour guides were and asked one about what her training was. She explained they have a very comprehensive study curriculum for three years, followed by 9 months of travel throughout Greece and the Islands. However, the Greek government recently lowered the requirement for the same tour license, now requiring only a 2-month study More course, clearly a loss to unknowing tourists. It might be wise to verify tour guide training in advance, although I'm not sure if this can be done since the tour companies will not care about individuals' training, just the fact that they are licensed!
We booked a balcony cabin, but were bumped up to a suite at the last minute. This meant not only additional space via a sitting room with bar, but also a bump up to dining in the Princess Grill. That was the best part of the bump up, with over-the-top meals and service, plus the opportunity to meet interesting, well-seasoned travelers. Less
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We appreciated the bump up to this suite as it had not only a balcony, but a forward-facing picture window as well. The sitting area had a spacious bar with refrigerator, and the couch was a pull out although we didn't require that. A downside to this suite that is important to mention is that it is the forward-most cabin on the deck, adjacent to a door marked "Crew Only" that lead to a leisure deck for crew members only. Since the crew are on rotating shifts allowing time off around the clock, we heard that door opening and closing throughout the night, a rather disturbing feature of the suite.
Port and Shore Excursions
This was an energetic tour with lots of climbing and walking, but well worth it! Before arriving at the Acropolis, we were given a tour of the city of Athens, so had the opportunity to hear information on sights we didn't see when touring independently the day prior to the Cunard-arranged tour. Our guide was passionate about her country and its history, and managed to convey the sense of wonder over this incredible site to all of us in the group.
One of the longer excursions on this trip, our 7 1/2 hour tour of Crete was fabulous, including the typically Greek-style luncheon served in a lovely restaurant facing the quaint port Aghios Nikolaos.
Olympia Archeological Tour
One of the best excursions of the trip, the tour of the ruins of Olympia and adjacent museum was so moving because we can all relate to the Olympic Games still played today!
With another well-trained and experienced guide, we spent a magical day at Ephesus and were amazed at the scope of excavation of this ancient city. The pacing was easy to allow for cautious footing as well as plenty of picture taking. We could have done without the trip to a carpet shop upon our return to Kusadasi, but did enjoy the refreshments served to us while we learned about the history of carpet-making.
Lured by the opportunity for excellent shopping in Mykonos Town, we opted out of an excursion and took a shuttle into the village to spend a leisurely day walking through town, browsing through fabulous shops, dining in a quaint restaurant, and taking lots of photos. The windmills are at the top of the town and there are excellent spots from which to take good photos of them. This was our only "opt out" day.
Lindos Walking Tour
Actually called "Panoramic Rhodes", this was a half-day excursion that afforded us incredible views of the island on our way to Lindos. However, we did not appreciate the stop at a jewelry store along the way. The store was along the road, not in a town or adjacent to other stores, so we felt victimized. Quality of the items sold was no better than in other locations on the trip.
Entitled "Santorini: Akrotiri - The Lost City of Atlantis", this was a scenic drive of this beautiful island and stop to tour Akrotiri, a Minoan city that is still undergoing excavation. This is the highest point on the island and offered terrific views and photo ops. Everything about this excursion was wonderful!