This is a very thorough review because part of taking on a destination Cruise involves all the little details you may not think to prepare for especially when traveling to a foreign country.
I spent months researching and preparing for this cruise. Our travel agent had wanted to save us on the length of time we would be flying by having us on a flight that landed in Istanbul Turkey at 5pm because the boat departed at 8pm. We decided to change the flight to landing at 1pm instead. This ended up working out because he ship wanted everyone on board by 6pm. A few days before departure, she e-mailed me she would set up transportation from the airport to the ship. The night before our departure, we realize she has not done this. I find out the port our ship will sail out of and contact info. For the ship. One of the issues preparing for a trip like this is figuring what to pack, what the weather will be. Then your friends and family are e-mailing you and you are trying to work, take care of your daily routine, do research, it can be harrowing. My travel agent had booked the cruise and arranged for transportation at the end of the cruise. She had also provided me with the address of the port, I just did not realize Istanbul had 15 million people living there!! We had e-mailed a few days before departure about doing an excursion before getting on the ship, I declined and said just arrange transportation from the Airport to the ship. Well, the night before we left, I had not heard anything. I e-mailed and then and right before we left for the airport. Nothing, I asked her to text us as we would be flying all night, still nothing. She was on a cruise at the time herself and simply arranged for the transport, however, what she and I were about to find out as we got to the Airport, that our flight to New Jersey was cancelled due to thunderstorms in the area. No problem as the agent proceeded to rebook us. We ended up flying to Reagan International where midflight, the pilot started talking about the thunderstorms in that area and that we might have to land in Richmond Va. due to low fuel because he could not fly in a holding pattern, we ended up landing at Reagan, claiming our luggage, catching a cab to Dulles airport, 30 miles away in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. We made our Lufthansa flight about one hour before takeoff. We bordered the flight, taxied down the tarmac and had to wait and sit for two hours because the thunderstorms were over New York! We landed in Frankfort and our now earlier flight to Istanbul on Turkish Air took off and landed on time. In the meantime, my travel agent booked the transfer from the airport to the ship, but, she did not text us and our flight had landed two hours earlier. So here we were in a very little English speaking country, hailing a cab with a non-speaking English cab driver with only the name of the port, the ship was going out of. It was a 40 minute wild ride, but, we made it to the port! The real enemy here was the weather and my lack of knowledge about a city and a country. I have never fought so much to fly and get on a ship. Consider yourself warned and make sure you yourself are prepared.
The ship: we get on board, it is lovely, and we shower and prepare for dinner. Everything is top notch! We go to bed, wake up at 10am, all is well, they have a ship drill at 10:30am, we shower and then the sanding starts. We are in a port, the wind is blowing, I look out and our balcony is covered!! With the sand! Our chairs, the table, the floor. I wipe it off as best I can and we order room service because none of the restaurants are open. I am furious, why are they sanding with the wind blowing. I order a tuna salad pita, my husband orders the Salmon. His food is great, mine is inedible. I go down to book an excursion, they do not have record of my $300.00 onboard credit. I have had it!! Nelson and the receptionist save the day. They will make sure the onboard credit is corrected and take care of the balcony. They invite us to the bridge to view the departure for later that day. We go back to our stateroom which is perfect and watch as a man is thoroughly washing down the balcony and cleaning the windows. We then go to the lunch buffet and sit on the stern eating a delicious lunch overlooking the beautiful harbor of Canakkale, Turkey. The ship holds 90 passengers and is very clean and attentive to passengers. We are walking around up top and are offered tours of the ship and made to feel welcome, safe and secure. I would not embark from Turkey tho. I did not feel safe nor do I feel they welcome Americans. Keep in mind there is an 8 hour time difference and that needs to be part of the plan. We go to the bridge for our departure from Canakkale. We served nonalcoholic cocktails, a storm gathers and as we glide off, a torrential downpour, lightning and hail!!!!! At 5pm, we go to the Piano Bar for cocktails and soft piano music. The canapés come out, piped blue cheese over cucumbers, salmon, delightful. Vishal is the bar manager in charge and it feels like you are on your own private ship. The Tere Moana is starting to intrigue me, we head to our room with a wine to go and they deliver it for me! Where are the other 70 plus guests on this ship? There are plenty of cubbyholes for everyone. I am starting to think this must be the ship for me. We are invited to dine with the Chief Engineer with another amazing dinner and I had the lamb this time.
Kusadasi: We are off to our excursion to Ephesus and the house of the Virgin Mary in her final days. The tour is expertly guided and we get the pushy carpet demonstration as well as the scarves. Price your jewelry and jackets before you get here. We just want to get back to our ship where we order room service with Salmon, salad, club sandwiches and dine on our balcony overlooking the beautiful waters of Kusadasi. Tomorrow is SYMI and tonight another fine dinner. We decide to have breakfast delivered to our room where we enjoy our balcony and our approach to Symi.
Quaint charming Symi with its colorful houses. Hilly, but, with a flat main street with plenty of shops. I do not feel sorry for those w/o balconies for breakfast is enjoyed on the stern of the ship and they see what we see too. We spot a large yacht leaving the marina, so, this is what you do with your millions. I feel like I am on my own big yacht too. There is no need for sweaters because 75 degrees here feels like a pleasant 85. This ship is perfect for your Greek Cruise. It is small, a one to one and ½ ratio for crew member to guest. No long hallways to travel, no casinos or Broadway shows. They have a wonderful piano player and a small dance floor. You can find your own nook, watch movies in your room, your room has plenty of storage, the room is great with lots of toiletries, fresh towels, the food is great, yes, we have chosen wisely or our travel agent has!! The dining room is open for lunch 1 to 3pm and dinner is served7:30 pm to 9pm, freestyle. We can pull right up to the dock too, just like the ferries, not so with the large cruise ships who have to tender. The ship always have refreshing towels and bottled water. The restaurants looked good, yet we knew we had a great Greek Buffet on board. They were also offering a tender to a beach at 3pm. Tony was in charge of our beach excursion and one of our servers at the BBQ tonight, he was fantastic! The BBQ had beef, chicken, lamb, Bananas Foster and homemade Baklava. I am in tears at the thought of leaving my ship.
Beach: the water is about 50 degrees and it is June. It is very still and very clear and a gorgeous blue. The sand can be black and very hot underneath. Since there are rocks in the water, you should wear shoes and bring a hat. An umbrella and a chair will set you back 10 Euros, but, it is a must. The air is perfect in June, much hotter in July and August, but, the water is warmer. I see the Greeks go to the beach in the morning or afternoon as the sand just gets so hot.
Breakfast on the balcony at 7:30 is perfect as it starts getting too hot around 8:30. Breakfast can be an omelet, fresh fruit, tea, and a good variety.
Our next island to visit was Rhodes, took a taxi to the beach, he gave us 2 hours, picked us back up, took us on a tour of the historical sites, dropped us off for lunch at a Greek restaurant and I even fed a starving cat on the street. He came back when the restaurant called and took us back to the ship. The crew did a show for us that night after dinner which was quite entertaining. Some of them have really fabulous voices and could probably do Broadway. Tony sang a song and presented me and another lady A “ROSE”. I was just thrilled. I just love the crew and in fact would try to do excursions they led because I felt safe with them. I have had such a good time on this ship, I haven’t even checked my e-mail!
Santorini: is next and since my wine excursion got canceled, I turn to Isabel our shore excursion expert for her help. She comes thru with several wineries to visit because this island is the Napa Valley of Greece. We wisely have breakfast on our balcony as it is so beautiful. We tender off the ship and wait in the queue for the Cable car. We were warned about the Donkeys, “Ride the Donkey, smell like the Donkey”. Some who did ride them reported they slipped as they went up. We arrived at the top and witnessed not only a very long line to get back on the cable car, but, 3 men walk up and cut in line! Well, all of a sudden in 6 different languages, we heard “You can’t do that”! We walked thru a busy touristy part of town and got to the main street around 12:30pm. We hailed a cab to go to ART Space winery in Exo Gonia. Established in 1861, the winery and the tasting is perfect! We purchase a few bottles ask them to call us a cab and head to Sigalas Winery next in OIA. The cab also picks up another lovely couple from the UK on their way to our winery so we share a wonderful wine tasting and a Greek lunch. We try the eggplant, the grape leaves, the Santorini tomato Greek salads… It is outdoor seating amidst the grapevines and it is perfect. At 3:30, we call our cab and head back for the Cable Car and the tender.
DELOS/Mykonos: we decide to have our usual breakfast on our balcony and forgo the morning excursion to the ruins of Delos. We had read from other reviews that it was a lot of walking, tedious and long winded. The ones who went also confirmed this. At noon, we travel to Mykonos after enjoying another fabulous lunch on the ship. Everyone is talking about how much Jackie Onassis loved this island. We decide to disembark and walk thru the winding quaint streets where you can easily get lost to the windmills where we are in search of a path to the public beach. It takes us 30 minutes to get to the beach. It is very beautiful, but, the water is cold so we walk back admiring the scenery along the way. If you want to go sit at one of the many open restaurants or walk along a path with flowers, this is the island for you. They have many high end shops and some good restaurants, but, the ship is hosting another fabulous dinner with some Greek Musicians. So, even tho we are in port until 10:30pm, we elect to forgo dining in Mykonos where we might have an even harder time finding our way back in the dark.
In the morning we disembark by 9:00am, we are almost in tears as our lovely crew bids us goodbye. I am slightly handicapped, so, Tony, our favorite, carries my bags to where our luggage has been dropped off. We hug Tony goodbye, I think of our wonderful piano player who would play my favorite songs upon request. We were served, spoiled and made to feel like Kings and Queens. We climb into our taxi who takes us to our Athens hotel for the night. They check our luggage, we walk to the Acropolis, the Museum and have gyros at my favorite restaurant I found 5 years ago. IOAKH BBQ Café not to be confused with the full restaurant IOAKH. My café grills the Gyros for an extra touch! Our hotel is The Athens Gate with a rooftop bar/restaurant that is outstanding. In the morning we head for the Airport and our 12 hours of flying ahead of us.
My only regret on this trip so far is I did not bring a hat and I did not anticipate the lack of humidity, so, keep water handy. You will make friends and you will relax. The stars shine brightly at night and the sea is a deep blue, clear and there is no pollution. No wonder everyone loves the Greek Isles.