Deciding to cruise Greece is deciding to see the Mediterranean Sea, the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea at their most intimate. Your gleaming cruise ship will ensure you’re taken to each point of the voyage in style and comfort, and what you can expect onshore varies from location to location, yet is united in being distinctly rich in history, cuisine and culture.
Yet with so much choice open to you, Greece is a country where it can seem tricky to take everything in – this is where cruising really shines, with shore excursions giving you the chance to explore ancient temples, quirky vineyards and stunning architecture. With a new beach and island to enjoy almost daily, cruising is arguably the best way to get the depth and breadth of experiences in Greece that you deserve.
Popular ports in Greece
The largest of the Ionian islands is one of the most popular, and with good cause. A blend of British, Venetian and French influences have made it a mash-up of cultures that’s distinctly Greek throughout. Corfu is also massively mountainous, meaning those of you into testing your mettle can step onshore for some hiking. The architecture is something to behold, too, with the Palace of St Michael and the Palace of St George both showing off how even little islands can be host to some jaw-dropping beauty.
A large Greek island, Crete is still deeply intimate. At the heart of the island, mythology and folklore from antiquity is still a massive part of life today. For instance, the majestic Mount Ida hides the legendary Ideon Cave, which is said to have been the birthplace of Zeus himself. Even if you stick to the stylish streets of Heraklion, you can also dip into hotspots like the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. And of course, the beaches are all white sand and vast views, complemented by gorgeous turquoise sea. Expect some surprising and inspiring shore excursions here.
Just off mainland Greece, Kefalonia lives to its own idyllic rhythm. Its coastline is a zigzag of secluded spots like Myrtos Beach, and in many places these more personal scraps of sandy shore can only be reached via walking trails or narrow, forgotten roadways. Caves, woodlands and animals aplenty make this a popular destination for nature lovers, whereas those looking for some charming character among sumptuous architecture can check out Argostoli. The island’s capital, it is perched hillside in a natural harbour, giving many of its chic cafes some lovely sea views.
What are the best ships for a Greece cruise?
Cruise ships sailing the Mediterranean simply can’t help themselves when it comes to Greece. After the all, the three destinations we just touched on are just the beginning of a huge swathe of islands, beaches and mainland cities inviting intrigue from every corner of the globe. You can therefore expect every major cruise line to make sure that their Eastern Mediterranean itineraries take in as many Greek ports as possible. Here are a few favourites:
Marella Celebration may not be as big as many of her sisters in the Marella fleet, but that just gives you even better access to the most exclusive Greek islands. Onboard, she’s not slouch either, with a two-storey wellness spa, the al fresco Sun Lounge and the lively night-time live music performances in cocktail bars across the cruise ship. Add in cuisine from every culture imaginable spread out for your delectation, and you’re on to a winner.
Marella Discovery 2
Launched in 2017, Marella Discovery 2 was built to complement Marella Discovery, and has made quite the splash doing so. This is a cruise ship that’s big on personality. Entertainment options include casinos, escape rooms, live bands and kids’ clubs, while the classy drinkers head to the Atrium Bar and cocktail fanatics grab colourful deals at Venue. Meals from Asia, Europe and beyond all feature in the various restaurants, with ice cream and comfort-food classics to choose from when you want fast and easy eats.
Shore excursion ideas
The streets of Santorini
As one of the most beloved of the Greek islands, Santorini’s handsome blue rooftops and distinct stepping-stone streets make it a magical place for a shore excursion. Many cruise lines will give you a structured walking tour, but you’ll likely also have your own opportunity to stroll Santorini, too, taking in its coffee shops and quayside sunshine.
Sample Achilleion Palace in Corfu’s old town
History is around every turn on Corfu, but for a look into how the real movers and shakers did things back in the day, look no further than Achilleion Palace. Shore excursions to this neoclassical beauty show that cruisers aren’t the first luxury holidaymakers stepping onshore to savour Corfu. The stunning locale drips with history and Greek mythology, and on a clear day views from the clifftops let you gaze out to nearby Mouse Island.
Enrich yourself at Rhodes
Rhodes Town itself is popular with cruisers, yet as you’ll see in your own shore excursion, it’s a place of contrasts. The new town district is home to landmarks like the Mandraki Esplanade, while the old town hides castle walls and forgotten crypts. You can also check out the Palace of the Grand Master, a glorious structure that shows off that timeless Greek architecture just as well as anywhere on the mainland.