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Home > Member Reviews > Big Chik's Port Reviews of Corfu, Crete (Heraklion), Kusadasi, Mykonos, Athens (Piraeus), Katakolon (Olympia)

Big Chik's Port Reviews of Corfu, Crete (Heraklion), Kusadasi, Mykonos, Athens (Piraeus), Katakolon (Olympia)
Thomson Spirit cruise in September 2011
Member Name: Big Chik
Cruise Date: September 2011
Embarkation: Athens (Piraeus)
Destination: Eastern Mediterranean
Member Review: Big Chik's Thomson Spirit Review
Port Rating: 2.0 out of 5+
We didn't see much of Corfu Town because it was actually our embarkation point, but Cruise Critic don't list it in their selection! We have visited Corfu on 3 previous occasions so we know the island and town well so just stayed on board to soak up the sun.

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Crete (Heraklion)
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Aghios Nikolaus to be precise, a charming town with the centre focused on a "bottomless lake" - apparently at least 250 feet deep, although they don't know for sure, at least, that's what they said. We took the ships excursion to Knossos which was the inspiration for the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur and centre of the Minoan civilisation from around 2000BCE. The guide was exceptionally clear and informative and kept her group of 50 well organised and on schedule. We also called at a reconstructed "typical Cretan village" with typical houses from various recent historical periods. We were given a buffet of typical Cretan foods which was pleasant but nothing special. Those who went on the Panoramic Tour also said good things about the experience when discussing it over dinner.

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Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
We had already visited Ephesus 20 years ago and if a full day tour had been available we might have gone back but the half day tour included a trip to "Mary's House" which we had also seen and would have left virtually no free time in Ephesus to see what had changed. (This was later confirmed by those who did the trip) We considered DIY but in the end spotted another trip to the much less well known Miletus (also visited by St Paul, and famous as a seat of learning in antiquity, especially for geometry and trigonometry) and the Temple of Apollo at Didyma. There were only 12 of us in a very comfortable mini-bus. The guide was awful. He started by trying to give us his email address to buy a property in Kusadasi, he then took us to a café owned by a family friend. At Miletus we got a cursory and not too informative tour (although we were the only tour group there so no pressure) and eventually 10 minutes free time before meeting at a café where he "encouraged" us to have pancakes and coffee. As a result we got an overview but didn't get up close to more than about 10% of the site, which was a shame because what we could see looked very interesting as the guide book I bought, and read later, confirmed. The trip to the Temple of Apollo was slightly better although he appeared to be listening to the guide in front of us and merely repeating what she had said(in German) to us in English! (Maybe they all follow the same official script?) We were then again encouraged to have a coffee at another friend's café. On the way back we got a lecture on Turkish politics and the evils of the Kurdish "International Communist Terrorists" on their border. Finally, we were press ganged into visiting the Fabergé carpet and Jewellery shop where were were presented with carpets well beyond the means of the typical Thomson cruiser (a bargain at £10,000! or a 2x1 foot patch for £250) and fabulous jewellery at equally unrealistic prices (a beautiful diamond and topaz ring at £5000). Thankfully they didn't push when they saw nobody was interested in buying, but it just seemed such a waste of everyone's time! A potentially good trip spoiled by a bad guide!

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Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
We didn't go on any excursions here but just wondered the maze of side streets and bought all of our gifts and souvenirs here. We loved the town and its friendly atmosphere and only got lost once. The narrow streets have enough shade to make it pleasant, the locals were friendly and eager to please without being pushy or aggressive. And it is all so picture-postcard quaint that you couldn't help but love the place. I'd go back in a heartbeat. (There were a lot of other ships in port too so it is obviously popular, we had two Costa line ships, one NCL and one MSC and I think another from Celebrity)

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Athens (Piraeus)
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
We did a DIY trip into Athens to visit the Acropolis using the local Metro train from Praeus to Thissio station. This was very easy and fast and very cheap - less than 3 Euro return compared to the 30 Euros of the Thomson DIY trip! The Acropolis is so well known I won't say much about it except that it exceeded my expectations. We didn't have a guide but did have a book, and the ongoing restoration work on the Parthenon was confined mainly to one end so didn't detract too much. The views were outstanding. What was a surprise was the Agora below the Acropolis, as entrance to this large park-like area, with many ruins, is included in the Acropolis ticket (12 Euro). This included a splendid colonnaded museum with many statues/busts on display as well as a much smaller but more complete temple (A Parthenon in miniature). The many trees provided shade and the walk through the park exited right beside Thissio rail station for the journey back to Piraeus. A great day spiced up by the soupçon of adventure that always accompanies a DIY trip!

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Katakolon (Olympia)
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
The launchpad for ancient Olympia. We had intended going DIY via the local railway but strikes were threatened and we were starting to feel "ruined out" by this stage so we had a relaxing day in the port. There isn't much to it - 3 parallel streets full of tourist tat and a few boutiques. There were also a couple of places doing bus trips to Olympia at 10 Euro - much cheaper than the ship tour, but I've no idea how good they were as we had already decided to opt out. The feedback from several others on the official tour was that the guide was very regimented and full of information but dead boring with it... What was a revelation were the two small museums in Katakolon itself. The first is a museum of ancient musical instruments (and a few assorted other snippets) which includes reconstructions of many different instruments ranging from cymbals through to harps and "lutes" to a water powered organ. Most of these work and you can try several of them yourself or the curator will demonstrate them. Its partner establishment, just over the road was even better with models and reconstructions of Greek technology, including cranes showing how the stones for the temples were raised, a variety of water clocks and novelties, many different types of siege engines and signalling systems. It's amazing what you can achieve by applying the principles of levers, pulleys, vacuum and syphons. For 2 Euros each these were delightful bargains.

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