Is a vacation on the dreamy Greek isles of Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes on your bucket list? These are three of the most popular Greek islands, and for good reason. Situated in the clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea, they are stops on this amazing Greek Isles cruise from Athens.
You can visit these islands and more stunning destinations on a 7-night cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line. Without the hassle of domestic flights or island hopping!
Cruising is a luxury way of travel for singles, couples and families alike. You’ll start your Greek Isles cruise adventure by exploring Athens for a few days before you set sail. And if you are completely new to cruising vacations, read our best tips for first time cruisers before you book!
Cruise the Mediterranean in 2022/23 with Norwegian Cruise Line
In this article you will find a suggestion for a 10-night package for a fantastic Mediterranean cruise from Athens, Greece. The package is 3 nights (2 days) in Athens followed by a 7 night (8 days) cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line.
Best of all, it’s easy to book yourself. This way you have complete control over your vacation! And you can, of course, extend your stay with more pre- or post-cruise hotel nights!
3 nights Athens + 7 night Greek Isles Cruise
If you’re looking for a warm and welcoming destination to start your cruise vacation, Athens is the perfect place. You’ll have 2 days to explore this exciting city before heading off on your voyage of discovery.
Start with an early morning excursion to the famous Acropolis, then take in some delicious Greek food at lunchtime, enjoy a cocktail by the Aegean sea in the evening and watch as night falls over this ancient city.
There’s so much to see and do that it’ll be hard to pack it all into just two days. But that’s ok, just extend your stay with more hotel nights if you want to, and book your flights to match your itinerary.
Greek culture has had such an influence on Western society since ancient times that it’s amazing to experience this for yourself. From mythology to democracy, Greece has been shaping our world for centuries.
Your itinerary includes the bucket-list destinations of Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, Olympia, Corfu and Santorini.
Day 1: Arrive in Athens
Arrive at Athens Airport, having booked your flight with your favorite airline. (Tip! Read our advice about booking your flights online before you make your flight reservations!) The name of the international airport is Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos.
Transfer to your hotel in Athens using an official taxi standing right outside your arrival terminal. We have great hotel tips for you. Relax and enjoy your first of 3 nights in Athens.
Days 2-3: Exploring Athens
Follow our 2 days sightseeing tips before you start your cruise. You’ll find detailed itineraries including:
Day 4: Check in for your Mediterranean cruise from Athens
Time to cruise! Your Greek Isles cruise from Athens including 6 more fantastic destinations in Greece is finally here. Check-out from your hotel and transfer to the Port of Piraeus, Athens main cruise port terminal.
The easiest way to get from city to port for your Greek Isles cruise is by taxi. Ask your hotel for help in making a reservation.
Alternatively, see our detailed information on how to get to the port here.
Your port name, address and check-in time is on your cruise ticket. Make sure you get there in time!
Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line Name of Ship: Norwegian Gem – read more about the fantastic Norwegian Gem and Norwegians “Jewel” class ships here! Start Date: Departures from May to August (Tip! Cruise dates and itineraries are subject to change at any time. Check with Norwegian Cruise Line at the time of booking) Cruise Port: From/To Port of Piraeus, Greece
Days 4 to 11: Greek Isles Cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (7 nights)
Cruise Day 1: Athens
Check-in for your cruise at Port of Piraeus. Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships are equipped with all the amenities you would want or need on vacation.
Settle into your cabin, put away your packing in the ample wardrobe space, then take time to explore and familiarize yourself with the cruise ship before heading to the buffet restaurant for lunch.
Don’t forget to get up on the top deck in time for the sail-away party for a view of Athens as you leave port.
On the first day when you are on board, we usually recommend that you visit the speciality restaurants you want to try to make reservations if you have not been able to reserve a table earlier. The same goes for any excursions you may want to join.
Often the cruise line will reserve places on excursions for onboard booking. But it’s on a first come, first serve basis. Head to guest services to book your spot if you have not been able to do this before your vacation started.
Before you leave home, we recommend that you download the Norwegian Cruise Line app onto your mobile telephone. It’s a great way to easily check in for your cruise, stay connected with family and friends on the ship, plan your activities, make reservations and see all that’s happening on board. And you do not need wifi to use it!
Cruise Day 2: Heraklion (Crete) also known as Iraklion
The first port of call on your cruise is Heraklion (also called Iraklion), Crete. The city has a long history and was once the capital of the Minoan civilization.
Explore the ruins in Knossos or take a tour through Heraklion’s old town with its beautiful churches and fortresses.
From ancient ruins to tours through historic neighborhoods, there are some great guided tours to do yourself or with a cruise line excursion. And if you are travelling with children you may simply just want a day at the beach, swimming in the clear Aegean waters.
When you arrive at the port, there are free shuttle buses to take you to the passenger terminal.
From here you can walk along the seafront for 15 minutes into the old town. For those who don’t want to or have difficulty walking in the heat, hop in a taxi at one of the official taxi ranks outside the passenger terminal. Much of the historic center of Heraklion is now pedestrianized. Ask to be dropped at Eleftherias Square. There is a taxi rank here too where you can get a return taxi back to the port later.
On our visit to this port we had a fantastic excursion to visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.
On our visit the ship stayed in port until 7pm meaning that we even had plenty of time to shop in the picturesque old town before returning to the cruise ship for a late dinner.
Cruise Day 3: Rhodes
Day 3 of your cruise and your cruise ship will dock in the cruise port of Rhodes, very close to the medieval city.
It’s easy to disembark here and find your way around. If you want to explore yourself don’t miss the Acropolis of Rhodes, the temple of Apollo and the Ancient Theater.
Rhodes is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world. Expect white sandy beaches and blue water, cosy old towns and friendly lunch taverns with authentic Greek food.
If you love the beach, there is a great day excursion for visiting the best beaches on the east of the island. And this will also give you plenty of time to relax and swim.
On the same day you have time to visit Lindos village and its Acropolis for stunning views.
Cruise Day 4: Mykonos
Mykonos is our favorite greek island with its simple, white-washed houses, beautiful beaches and friendly locals.
This is a tender port, meaning that your cruise ship is anchored in the bay and you are tendered to shore onboard a smaller boat. It’s a short journey.
You will get off the cruise ship quicker if you book an excursion with your cruise line. Otherwise get your tender boat ticket as early as possible from the customer service personnel on board.
If you want to check out Mykonos on your own time, you can walk to Mykonos Town from your boat’s arrival point.
The town offers a charming maze of traditional white stone houses and narrow streets lined with shops, peddling everything from designer sunglasses to elaborate lace tablecloths.
There are also many restaurants serving up traditional Greek food and snacks, and of course delicious Greek coffee.
The island is a magnet for travellers from all over the world, with its beautiful beaches like Platis Gialos and Paraga Beach – both considered some of Europe’s finest stretches of sand.
In addition, you can visit famous attractions such as the Blue Caves (also known by their Turkish name which is the Limani).
A popular destination for celebrities, Mykonos is also famed as an artists’ colony with its many galleries showcasing everything from paintings to sculptures.
Cruise Day 5: Olympia (Katakolon)
Today you arrive in the busy seaside town of Katakolon on mainland Greece.
The town has a long sandy beach within walking distance of the port and plenty of eateries and shops around if you want to stay close by.
But we highly recommend visiting Ancient Olympia, famous for the ruins of the ancient stadium that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is a train station about 15 minutes walk from the port that takes you to Olympia. The distance from Katakonom to Olympia is about 40km and the journey time takes 45 minutes. Buses and taxis are also a good option, however they take a little longer, about an hour.
Once in Olympia, explore the ruins and see where the Olympic Games were held in centuries gone by and visit temples dedicated to Zeus.
You can also take a break in one of the cafes scattered across town. Or hike up Mount Kronos for an amazing view over Olympia.
Cruise Day 6: Corfu
Corfu is a real gem on this Greek Isles cruise itinerary. With its unique mountain range encircling small coves and hidden bays along it’s clear-blue coastline, you need to make sure you disembark your cruise ship early to make the most of your day here.
To get to the old town by foot from Corfu port takes about 20 minutes. Alternatively you can find taxis and buses right outside after exiting the passenger cruise terminal upon arrival in port.
There are plenty of sightseeing trips that your cruise line can offer you, however our recommendation is to pack your hiking shoes for this port and explore yourself.
Discover mountain villages amongst the olive groves, Venetian palaces and secluded off-the-beaten track coves.
The island has fantastic nature just waiting to be explored. Take a backpack, refreshments, sunscreen and sun hat and explore on your own. Keep an eye on the time, so that you make it back to your cruise ship before departure!
Cruise Day 7: Santorini
Your final stop on this cruise before returning to Athens is the small, romantic island of Santorini. A rocky island, it’s volcanic beauty is undisputable.
Santorini is a tender port. The cruise ship will anchor in the bay and get you to the island on small tender boats. Often cruise ships will stay in the bay long into the evening, this means that you can enjoy the breathtaking sunset.
Santorini is known as “the island that time forgot” and has a rich history of ancient Greeks who lived in caves carved into the volcanic rock. Being a volcanic island, Santorini is known for using volcanic rock and lava in jewellery and beauty products. They make great souvenirs to take home with you.
Explore both Fira and Oia- either by yourself or with a tour guide
It is certainly possible to visit both Fira and Oia during your port stop at Santorini.
Book a ship excursion or a tour with an independant supplier such as Viator if you need help with transportation and are unable to walk far. Even better, and one we recommend over and again, is booking your own private tour guide. That way your day is tailor-made to suit you with a knowledgable guide. In an air-conditioned vehicle you can get around easily as Santorini gets hot and very crowded, with many cruise ships arriving daily into the port at high season. Queues can be long, so come prepared with a sunscreen, hat and a water bottle. An ideal combination is a half-day private tour followed by a half day exploring yourself.
If you want to explore by yourself with a guide, you can get to the capital, Firi, from the tender port by walking or by cable car. Cable car tickets are available to purchase right by the tender arrival spot and one-way tickets cost around 6 euros per person. If you choose to walk up the 600 steps, do wear good walking shoes!
The view from Fira is of colorful houses overlooking caldera cliffs plunging to depths from which you can sometimes see whales. Famous for good wine, there are some good vineyards to visit. If you prefer to take the opportunity to shop, start in Fira for art, jewellery and local crafts.
It is not possible to walk to Oia from Fira as it will take too long (the 10km hike takes around 4 hours). Choose a taxi that takes about 15 minutes and costs around 40 euros, alternatively a local bus from central Fira.
Visit Oia and experience a little piece of paradise
Oia, a beautiful village of white-washed houses is located on the north-western tip of Santorini. It takes about a half hour by bus from Fira to get there. Alternatively, if you want to make Oia your first stop when you arrive by tender into the port, there are local boats to take you there. When you get off the boat, it’s just a short bus ride to the center.
Oia is famous for it’s sunsets. Look out over the roofs of the famous Blue Domed Churches, probably one of the most well known images of Santorini.
Note that the areas around these churches are private so you cannot walk too close, watch out for the private propery signs and respect these. Afterwards, be sure to walk down the cliffside from the town of Ammoudi Bay Harbor. A beautiful, cosy waterside bay with great seafood!
If you are looking for beaches, the most famous are the Black Beach and Red Beach. These are so named for their colorful stones derived from the volcanic rock – there are no white sandy shores here!
Cruise Day 8: Return to Port of Piraeus, Athens and disembark your cruise
Your final day. Disembark at Port of Piraeus. Head back into Athens to extend your stay if you have booked extra hotel nights. Or transfer back to Athens airport with a Norwegian Cruise Line transfer bus for your flight home.
Book your transfer in advance at the same time you book your cruise. The port-to-airport buses can become fully booked.
Remember if you have a morning flight, ask the cruise line for an early check out from the ship. This will ensure you get on one of the first transfer buses.
Need more tips on cruising? We’re here to help!