From its pink sand beaches to snow-capped mountains, its deep gorges to rugged plateaus, Crete is one of the most beautiful and diverse islands in the Mediterranean. You’ll love exploring its unspoilt corners.
The island is also steeped in history. The Minoans lived here 4,000 years ago, followed by a succession of other invaders, each of which has left their mark on the island. On your Crete cruise you’ll discover a landscape speckled with ancient ruins, and cities where palatial Venetian mansions sit alongside ornate mosques and Turkish baths.
Popular Ports in Crete
Crete’s capital, Heraklion, is a vibrant city where you can get your fill of restaurants, museums, shops and beaches. The old town is clustered around the harbour, encircled by crumbling defensive walls. Enjoy exploring the pedestrianised streets lined with palatial Venetian mansions and chic boutiques. The highlight of this district is the imposing 400-year-old fortress – take a walk on the ramparts for a splendid view.
History buffs shouldn’t miss out on the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, one of the largest and most important museums in Greece, containing fascinating millennia-old artefacts. A shore excursion to the fabulous archaeological site of Knossos is also a must.
For those who prefer to spend their holidays relaxing, Heraklion doesn’t disappoint. Enjoy savouring traditional seafood dishes with an ocean view on the harbour front. You can travel out of the city to visit some of the region’s stunning beaches – the golden stretch of sand at Karteros is only a few miles from the centre.
Beautiful, beguiling Chania is a town that never fails to captivate tourists. You’ll be enchanted by its old town, said to be the most picturesque in Crete. It’s centred around a Venetian harbour, with a maze of narrow streets and colourful houses leading off the main drag.
There’s a new surprise around each corner. Go souvenir shopping to Stivanadika, a street devoted solely to leather handicrafts, or visit the bustling Agora, a covered market selling delicious regional produce. Refresh yourself with a cocktail at Kibar, a trendy drinking spot housed in a beautiful former monastery.
Chania is surrounded by some stunning Blue Flag beaches. Relax on the aptly named Golden Beach, a stretch of golden sand conveniently close to the city centre. The nearby Chrissi Akti Beach is another stunning sandy bay with calm, clear waters.
The chic resort of Agios Nikolaos occupies a hillside sloping up from the stunning Mirabello Bay. It’s a modern town with tree-lined boulevards and a lively marina dotted with stylish restaurants and bars.
In the centre of the town you’ll find Lake Voulismeni, a picturesque lagoon with boats bobbing up and down. It’s a great place for a gentle promenade, and is surrounded by cafés, ice-cream parlours and restaurants where you can sit and watch the world go by.
There are lots of smaller beaches nestled into the curve of Mirabello Bay, each with a distinctive character. One of the most beautiful is Elounda Bay, located next to an unspoilt fishing village where you can enjoy a traditional seafood lunch.
What are the best cruise ships for a Crete cruise?
With so many ships visiting Crete, making a choice can be overwhelming. Here are two sleek cruise liners that will take you to the island’s shores in style.
The luxurious Marella Discovery is the newest addition to the Marella fleet, crammed with state-of-the-art amenities. There’s both an indoor and an outdoor pool, as well as a deck devoted to sports. There are a range of dining options on offer, including the Glass House by the pool, which serves snacks by day and tapas at night. In the evening there’s a lot of entertainment offer, including Broadway shows and Movies by Moonlight, an open-air cinema.
The Marella Explorer is renowned for her luxurious features, and is the best way to see Crete in style. You won’t be able to get enough of the spa, especially the couple’s area where you can enjoy five-star treatments for two.
There’s also an exclusive adult’s hangout, complete with cocoon chairs and Balinese day beds, as well as two outdoor pools. Meanwhile, kids will love the kids club, pool parties, and exclusive teen hangout spot. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating too, with 10 restaurants offering everything from sushi to Mediterranean tapas.
Shore Excursion Ideas
Crete is Greece’s largest island, so there are a lot of places to explore. Here are three firm favourites showcasing Crete’s beauty and diversity.
Knossos and Arolithos
The most popular shore excursion in Crete is a trip to Knossos, the oldest archaeological site in Europe. Take a guided tour of the site, including the 4,000-year-old Palace of Knossos, learning about the fascinating myths linked to the city, such as Theseus and the Minotaur. Move onto Arolithos, a secluded Cretan village renowned for its traditional crafts.
If you want to get off the beaten track, then this is the shore excursion for you. The Omalos Plateau is a rugged plane encircled by craggy peaks, and in sight of the deep Samaria Gorge, the longest in Europe. You’ll take a scenic tour of the plateau, learning about the rebels who used to hide out here during the Turkish occupation of Crete. There will be a refreshment break in the village of Omalos, where you can try some traditional cuisine in the tavernas.
Elounda & Spinalonga
Take a boat trip to Spinalonga, nicknamed the ‘island of tears.’ On this tiny island you’ll discover a crumbling Venetian fortress which once housed a leper colony. But it’s not all tears – afterwards you’ll visit the picturesque port of Elounda, where you can shop for souvenirs or relax on its pristine Blue Flag beach. Enjoy a traditional Cretan buffet for lunch, tucking into crispy cheese pastries or succulent souvlaki kebabs.