A Greek island cruise is packed with world-famous sights, such as the Parthenon, charming seaside tavernas and crystal-clear waters. Cruisers can witness these splendors while exploring the most alluring Greek islands, such as Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos, Corfu, Crete and Paros.
Only 227 of the 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas of Greece are inhabited. Some of these islands are only accessible by boat, making small ship Greek island cruises on cruise lines like Silversea and Windstar the best way to discover these idyllic destinations.
Take a look at our list of the nine best Greek island cruises lines for an unforgettable island-hopping odyssey.
Azamara Cruises offers longer times in destinations when compared to other cruise lines, letting you visit the destinations at your own pace. Take, for example, the multi-night Greece Intensive cruises that Azamara offers.
The itinerary includes an overnight in Mykonos, which is famous for its sun-bleached houses with brilliant blue shutters, vibrant bougainvillea and 16th-century Venetian windmills. Shorter sailings include the seven-night Adriatic & Greece cruise with time to explore the beaches, cobbled Old Town and countryside of Crete (one of the most popular Greek Islands).
Azamara is a four-ship line that prides itself on shore excursions that are much more than average tours. Azamara Cruises' excursions are billed as experiences that take passengers to hidden gems and reveal local secrets and traditions.
Another cruise line that provides a real taste of Greek island-hopping is Celestyal Cruises, which offers a choice of year-round itineraries in the Aegean Sea on its two ships. All sailings begin and end in Athens and include three- and four-night mini-breaks taking in Mykonos, Patmos and Santorini. On their longer sailings, passengers will also visit Rhodes and Heraklion.
The seven-night Eclectic Aegean cruise visits several unique destinations, just one of which being the instantly recognizable island of Santorini. Some sailings include a port of call in Mykonos until 2 a.m. so passengers can enjoy its nightlife to the fullest.
Celestyal is based in Cyprus and is noted for its authentic onboard cuisine that showcases Greek specialties prepared with fresh Mediterranean ingredients.
Recreating the golden age of sailing, Star Clipper's 170-passenger tall clipper ship Star Flyer cruises through the Aegean Sea every summer. Passengers experience the thrill of sailing on an elegant four-masted vessel, stopping off at various beautiful destinations along the journey, such as Malaga, Sardinia, Athens, Skiathos and more.
A Star Clippers Greek Islands itinerary ranges from five to 11 nights with ports of call including Mykonos, Kos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Katakolon. Sailings include themed "Mamma Mia!" cruises visiting beaches and locations on Skopelos where outdoor scenes in the movie were filmed.
Cruises taking in the Cyclades -- one of the six major Greek island groups that's located southeast of mainland Greece -- include a transit of the Mycale Strait, which separates Samos from Anatolia in Turkey and is less than a mile wide at its narrowest point.
With its fleet of six small luxury ships, Windstar can visit hidden Greek ports in the Aegean Sea -- such as Nafplio, Monemvasia and Patmos -- along with well-known islands, including Santorini and Mykonos. While aboard, passengers can expect to experience unique island cultures, ancient treasures and beautiful Greek beaches.
Typical Windstar cruises of the Greek islands range from seven to 19 days, and island-hopping itineraries are also part of longer voyages, such as an epic 85-day voyage starting in Reykjavik and ending in Istanbul.
The nine-night Ancient Wonders of Greece and Ephesus cruise sails round trip from Athens and provides an immersive experience throughout the trip. That includes the chance to swim in the same lagoon the goddess Athena was said to have bathed.
Based in Athens, Variety Cruises is a family-owned line that provides more local immersion of the Greek Islands. Variety sails from the largest and southernmost island of Crete to the beautiful Cyclades archipelago, including Kea, Santorini, Mykonos and the neighboring UNESCO-protected archaeological site on Delos.
The fleet of eight small ships hosts a maximum of 71 passengers each and takes travelers close to the sea, nature and local communities in destinations visited.
All of Variety’s Greek Island cruises are seven-night round trip sailings from Athens. They include the Classical Greece voyage that sails through turquoise-blue waters to reach the island of Kythira, a hidden gem in the Aegean Sea. There are also four-night mini-cruises during the spring and fall that visit Santorini, Delos, Mykonos and Syros.
With just 112 passengers and 95 crew members on each of its two intimate cruise ships, SeaDream describes its luxury Greek island cruises as, "It's yachting, not cruising."
The all-inclusive sailings feature five-star dining and the only "raw food" menu at sea with dishes prepared using raw, organic and vegan ingredients.
Many SeaDream Greek Isles cruises feature a memorable passage through the high-sided Corinth Canal, a man-made canal in Greece that is just 70 feet wide. The nine-night Venice to Athens sailing is one of the line's special Wine Voyages featuring wine tastings and winemaker's dinners reflecting the areas being visited. SeaDream mega-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II are also available for exclusive private charter.
If you're looking to cruise the Greek Islands in a small, stylish ship, then Seabourn Cruise Line may be your best bet. Seabourn is known to be one of the best luxury small ship lines in the Greek Islands and beyond.
Its sleek and intimate ocean ships, carrying between 450 to 600 passengers, offer all-inclusive cruising and in-depth Greek island excursions through its Ventures of Seabourn program all the while visiting ports not accessible to larger vessels.
Among the sailings that take in Greece is the six-night Greek Isles & Maltese Magic itinerary. This cruise sets out from Athens and visits islands including Rhodes, the best-known of the Dodecanese Islands, where the legacy of the ancient Greeks mingles with that of besieging Turks, crusading knights and occupying Italians.
Seabourn’s Adriatic & Greek Glories cruise is about the same length, and features a full day in Nafplio, a scenic port crowned by a Venetian fortress.
Pristine Greek waters provide a stunning backdrop for romantic voyages while aboard one of Sea Cloud Cruises' two sailing ships.. Originally built as a private yacht in 1931, Sea Cloud is a classic four-masted windjammer that carries 64 passengers; Sea Cloud II, accommodating up to 94 guests, was launched in 2001 as a modern take on a tall ship.
Their Greek island-hopping cruises include an eight-night sailing from Thessaloniki to Athens and visits the Cycladic island of Folegandros, which is only accessible via the tiny port of Karavostasis and almost untouched by mainstream tourism. Nearby Chora, the largest village, is perched on a steep, rocky outcrop and provides panoramic views over the island and the sea.
Santorini and Mykonos are pretty as a picture, but both of these lauded Greek Islands also have a let-your-hair-down reputation that aligns perfectly with Virgin Voyages’ cruise ethos. Programming on any Virgin cruise is upbeat and geared toward adults. That makes sense as these adult-only cruises are great for an altogether different island adventure in Greece.
Virgin cruises’ seven-night Greek Island Glow hits both island hotspots -- Santorini and Mykonos. You’ll likely have an overnight stay in Mykonos, too, so you can experience the clubbing and nightlife on offer.
Don’t think a Greek island cruise on Virgin is all drinks and parties, though. There’s plenty of history on the itinerary, including stops to see the ancient ruins of Rhodes plus castles, markets, beaches and Turkish history during a day in Bodrum.
Expect even more on offer from Virgin cruises in the Greek Islands as the line adds Resilient Lady to its fleet in 2023. The ship will homeport in Piraeus (Athens) and be used on itineraries that will include Croatia in addition to Greece.
Updated September 23, 2022