We loved Venice as it was such a unique city! We took the people mover from our ship to Piazza Roma and then walked to San Marco. It was the best thing we did because we got lost and saw so many parts of Venice that we wouldn't have otherwise. We came upon a fish market and fruit and veggie market that made for great pictures and ate breakfast in a small local section of town. We then took a 2 hour boat tour with Walks of Italy. It was really nice to see venice by boat and we got great pictures that way. After our boat trip we took the shuttle back to the ship to start packing. The next morning we disembarked early (6:30 am) and hired a water taxi to take us to our B&B Locanda Orseolo. The water taxi ride was nice and definitely worth the cost as we had a fair amount of luggage. The Locanda Orseolo was an amazing B&B and we would recommend it to anyone!! Igor and Alex helped make our stay very enjoyable - giving us restaurant recommendations, maps etc and Barbara cooked a fantastic breakfast in the morning. They also upgraded our room which was really nice. Our last day in Venice we just walked around to see more of the city. We visited San Marco during our pre-arranged time slot (definitely worth it) and it was beautiful. We did not pay to see the individual rooms etc but just walked the main aisle of the church. That night we had dinner and then headed back to San Marco to hear the orchestra's play which was very romantic. If you sit at the restaurants you have to pay 6 euro pp but it's worth it. Overall we loved Venice and will go back again.
Santorini (particularly Oia) was GORGEOUS!!!! We booked a ship tour to Oia for the transportation only. We wanted to avoid the cable car and tender issues and planned to ditch the group in Oia. We ended up getting to Oia at the same time as the independent travelers who were on the first tender. Our plan didn't make a difference for us but there was only 1 other ship in port. if there were more ships the alternative tender spot and bus to Oia would have probably helped. Once we got to Oia we parted ways with the group as planned and walked around on our own. It was well worth it because we spent 4 hours in Oia as opposed to the 1 hour the ship tour gave you. One hour is Oia is not even close to being enough!!! We were able to walk around and get fabulous pictures first thing in the morning (make sure to talk all the way to the old fortress) and then we went back for the shopping. We found amazing unique jewelry and art shops and got great souvenirs. For lunch we walked down to Ammoudi Bay and ate at Katina. The lunch, service and views were wonderful! The walk down is a little steep and you do have to watch out for the donkey droppings but it was worth it. After lunch we were picked up for our 2 hour (pre-arranged) boat tour around the island. It was really nice to see Santorini from a different prospective and the hot springs stop was neat. Our captain dropped us off at the tender port so we were able to avoid the cable car backup all together. Overall Santornin was my favorite stop of the entire cruise!!!
We took a cab to Faliraki beach for 60 euro roundtrip. I thought the price was pretty high for only 9km each way but we paid it. The beach was nice but it is rocky by the shore so you need to bring water shoes (NOT flip flops) if you want to walk the shore line. We only had flip flops and we keep getting rocks in our shoes and we couldn't walk barefoot so we gave up. :( We only stayed at the beach for a few hours and our taxi was waiting for us at the agreed upon time. The beach does have umbrellas and chairs to rent and water sports. We would have liked if there were "beach bars" to sit at the enjoy the view but we didn't see any. In the afternoon we walked around Old Town and it was fantastic. The walled city is really neat and there were lots of great restaurants, bars and shops to entertain us. We also got a fish pedicure which was hilarious and fun to do! We paid 12 euro for 20 minutes and the fish really do slough off your dead skin. Also if you like beer make sure you get a "beer boot" from the local restaurants. We enjoyed our day in Rhodes and it was a very easy port to DIY.
We booked a full day Athens tour with Private Greece Tours. Nikos (the owner) was fantastic to deal with and our drive and guide were great. You have to pay 200 euro extra for the guide but he was WELL worth the cost!!! The Acropolis was amazing and not as crowded as I expected. It was windy the day we went so we were covered in 2000 year old dust :) We also stopped at the Ancient Agora and Temple and our guide really brought everything to life for us. We had an amazing greek salad and gyro lunch outside the Agora at a place our guide recommended and it was one of the best meals we had in any port! We drove around the city a little bit and stopped at Syntagma square to see the changing of the guards and take pictures. It was fun to see and then we headed over the the Plaka for souvenir shopping. We decided to skip the museum and instead our guide took us to the best view in Athens. I don't remember the name but it's the highest view in Athens (near a church) and it has the most amazing views of the city and the Acropolis. It really gives you a feel for how the Acropolis towers over the city. It was a very unique perspective and definitely worth the stop!
We took the 50 minute hydrofoil with SNLV to Capri for our Naples stop. The sea was rough that day and a lot of people ended up getting sick on the ride over. The ferry ride back was on a bigger boat (NLG)and it was smoother.
We had arranged a 3 hour boat trip with Gianni's boat tours and his brother Pauolo was our captain. This was one of the highlights of our trip!! Pauolo was super friendly and charming and overall a great guide. The boat was nice and spacious and they provided drinks for us. The island of Capri is gorgeous and a must see by boat. The water was too rough to get to the blue grotto but we did go to other grottos, including the green grotto which was really nice. The scenery was just simply stunning and I wish we had more time there. After our trip we had lunch and walked around Marina Grande for souvenir shopping. We didn't make it to anacapri because we were concerned about the time but we will next time. Capri is a must do if you are stopping in Naples.
We stopped in Souda Crete and took the local bus into the main town of Chania. The bus ride was about 20 minutes and it drops you off in the middle of the town so you need to walk a few blocks to get to the harbor. Make sure you get a map from the info desk on the pier as you will need it to get to the harbor because it's not obvious. The harbor itself is very pretty and has restaurants and shops to browse in. We actually found an artist displaying her work in the old mosque and we picked up a few fantastic unique pieces. Make sure to walk around the town all the way out to the lighthouse for really nice views. After a few hours and a really nice lunch in the harbor we headed back to the ship.
We stopped in Catania Sicily and had an excursion booked with Sicily Life to visit Mt. Etna, Castelmola and Taormina. Our guide spoke decent english but didn't understand some of the questions we asked. We did have a great time joking around with her and our driver Carmello though. Mt. Etna was really neat to see but we didn't have a lot of time there because of our other stops. We mostly stopped for pictures. Other people actually climbed around one of the craters and took a chair lift closer to the top. We still enjoyed our visit and thought it was worth the stop but make your wishes known if you have a preference. Castelmola was another quick stop but worth it for the panoramic views and beautiful church! Taormina was gorgeous and I wish we would have had more then 2 hours there. Make sure you see the greek theatre and the town square. It is a very charming town with great views and I would definitely go back!
Kusadasi is a very beautiful port in Turkey. We booked a tour with Ekol to visit Ephesus and Sirince Village. The tour and great and our guide Taylan was wonderful. Ephesus was pretty impressive and worth seeing even if you are not a huge history buff like me. It's also a must to visit the terrace houses! The ruins are really impressive but be prepared because it will be hot and there is a lot of walking with no real shade. We ate lunch at a family restaurant near Ephesus called Hanimaha. It was a fabulous experience and the whole family cooked for us. The food was really good and definitely get the meatballs. The entire family came out and waved us goodbye which was really sweet. We did stop at a carpet factory/shop and it was amazing to see the entire rug making process. We saw the silk worm cocoons to the ladies weaving at the loom to the gorgeous finished rugs. They do pull out all the stops to sell you a rug but it was a fun experience. Sirince village was our last stop and it was a cute small town to walk through but you don't need a lot of time there. Even though there was only 4 of us Ekol provided a big luxury van which was a nice treat! Overall great day in Turkey.