When my parents first suggested a Greek Isles cruise as a family vacation, I will admit that I was skeptical. I was still a little wary of cruising as a travel mode, and I wasn’t sure that a cruise was really the best way to get to know a country. And while I still love to plant myself in a city for a few days and really get to know it, I have absolutely found the merit of cruising as a way to see many places in one trip. And, cruising was actually a fantastic way to island hop in Greece. We went to and saw places that I may not have ever gone on my own.
We are currently in the process of planning our next cruise which leaves from Barcelona in September, and we couldn’t be more excited! But first, let me recap our amazing Greek Isles cruise. We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas, and we loved it. Royal Caribbean as a line is amazing, and while this is one of their smaller ships, we still had a fantastic experience. The food was excellent, the service was even better, and we really enjoyed (most of) the excursions. We traveled in early October, which was really lovely weather for the Mediterranean.
Day 1: Embark
Amanda, John, and I flew directly into Venice and used Royal Caribbean’s airport transfer bus to get to the port. This was a seamless experience, and I highly recommend it if you are going straight from airplane to ship. However, we no longer had cell service upon arrival, and my parents (who had flown into Venice a couple days before) were supposed to meet us at the ship. We started to get extremely worried when 2 hours passed and they still hadn’t arrived. If you are meeting people, make sure you have a plan or that some of you have an international cell plan, which is now much easier to get. After some mild panic, my parents finally arrived and we were able to easily check in and board.
An important thing to note about boarding a cruise is that you don’t take your baggage with you. You check it in, and it will be delivered to your stateroom after the cruise has left port. This means you won’t have access to your things for hours after getting on the ship, and if you have just traveled 12 hours across the Atlantic like we had, I suggest bringing a carry on with toiletries and a change of clothes. Honestly, I don’t prefer to fly into port and board the cruise the same day. It seems like there is always drama with flights these days, and it may be safer to plan to spend a night in the city the cruise leaves from first, if you have that availability. We will do that for our next cruise, for sure.
The first day on a ship is always a great opportunity to wander around and figure out where things are, make any spa bookings you might be interested in, and enjoy the ship since you will be busy with excursions later. We planned an upgraded dinner for the first night, and took time to get some rest.
Day 2: Kotor, Montenegro
We may or may not have planned this trip a little spur of the moment, so I honestly didn’t know much about the ports. Montenegro turned out to be the most amazing surprise on the trip. We fell in love with the seaside town of Kotor, and we enjoyed every moment of wandering the streets, eating lunch at a café on the water, and our tour of the ancient walled city. I have to say, I always love when I have little to no expectations for a place, because it always turns out to be more amazing than I could have imagined.
Day 3: Corfu, Greece
Oh, Corfu. Corfu was the only port that was actually pretty rough for us. We somehow picked an excursion that went to a monastery and Sisi’s (some Austrian princess) palace on the island. None of us remembers picking this excursion. The sky was ominous when we left the boat, but we were optimistic that the rain couldn’t ruin our day. When we arrived at the bottom of the winding road that led up to the monastery (I can’t tell you what monastery or why we went there because no one remembers), we were told that heavy rains had washed out the road, so we had to walk up to the top since the van couldn’t get up there.
My mom wisely bowed out of the adventure, but refusing to be defeated, John, Amanda, my dad, and I set out up the half washed out road. About halfway up, what can only be described as a tropical storm began. We weighed our options carefully in the monsoon, and decided we were already halfway there, so we should continue. We arrived at the monastery at the top of the cliff only to find an actual river flowing down the hill. We continued in rushing water up to our knees, and finally entered the monastery. I remember nothing of it, since we were laughing too hard about what had just happened. I did feel terrible for the adorable nun who tried to mop up the water behind our group, to no avail.
It’s safe to say when we got back to the van, we were soaked. Our rain jackets had done us no good, and we were wet and shivering and unbelievably unhappy. We then had to sit in our sopping clothes and shoes for hours longer as we listened to our tour guide talk endlessly about Sisi (and her palace was also uninteresting).
Corfu, unfortunately, was not our favorite port. I have heard it is lovely, and that’s probably true, but a combination of bad weather and poor excursion picking resulted in disaster for the day. Please excuse the poor quality, grainy, ridiculous faced photo. It is all we have from the day!
Day 4: Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos, on the other hand, was a dream. The weather was bright and sunny, and the island was more beautiful than I could have imagined.
Being the ancient history nerd that I am, I dragged my family on the Ancient Delos excursion, and I couldn’t recommend it more. We took a small boat out to an island about 20 minutes away from Mykonos, which is the mythological birthplace of the Sun, or Apollo. We wandered around the ruins of the various temples to Apollo for a couple of hours, and I understood why that island was supposed to be where the sun was born due to the most beautiful, bright sunlight. This short excursion was so worth it and an amazing way to see unique ancient history that is otherwise inaccessible.
We had the rest of the day on the island of Mykonos, and it was so incredibly breathtaking. We wandered the cliff side, did a little shopping, found ocean front cafes, and took in the beauty of the island. Mykonos is a place I will absolutely return to someday.
Day 5: Athens, Greece
I honestly don’t know where to begin with Athens. We picked the massive excursion that saw everything in a day, which was ambitious, but very worth it. We spent the morning at the Acropolis, which can only be described as awe-inspiring. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you there were actual tears streaming down this nerd’s face as I tried to adjust my camera to capture the beauty of the ruined Parthenon. We then had time in the Acropolis museum, which was an incredible museum filled with the excavated treasures of Athens. The day ended in Old Town, or the Plaka, for shopping and dinner. It was a long, exhausting, amazing day, but what else should you do when you have 12 hours in Athens?
Day 6: Argostoli, Greece
The last big surprise of our trip was Argostoli, on the island of Kefalonia. I had no idea what to expect, but I would go so far as to say it was the most beautiful island we visited. When the ship pulled into port in the morning and we saw the color of the water, we knew we were somewhere special. Argostoli is the seaside port, but we booked an excursion that took us into the mountains to Melissani Cave. In mythology, the cave was where the nymph’s lived, and I can see why! When you are in the cave in just the right sunlight, the sun comes through the hole in the top of the cave and the water glows the most magnificent shade of blue. I have never seen anything like it.
We ended the tour overlooking the most beautiful beach in the world, where apparently scenes of Captain Correli’s Mandolin was filmed (I’ve never seen the movie). I would have given anything for more time to actually go down to the beach, but the view was truly magnificent.
We had a little time to wander Argostoli after our excursion ended. It was the most charming town with incredible baklava and the bluest ocean water I have seen in my whole life. We all fell in love with Argostoli, and we plan to make it back someday!
Day 7: Venice, Italy
We ended the cruise back in Venice where we started, and thankfully our flight didn’t leave until the next morning! I will spend an entire post soon on our day in Venice, but we found Venice to be the most magical city, with unbelievable food.
Our Greek Isles cruise was an adventure to remember. We found magic and beauty at every turn, and of course the most important part was that our family was able to experience it together.
What has been your favorite family vacation? Or are you dreaming of a place to take your family someday?