Is visiting the dreamy Greek isles of Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes on your bucket list? These are three of the most famous Greek islands. Situated in the clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea, they are stops on this fantastic 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 by ferry.
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 entirely new to cruising vacations, read our best tips for a first-time cruise before you book!
Cruise the Mediterranean 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. We suggest three nights in Athens and a 7-night cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line.
Best of all, booking a cruise yourself gives you complete control over your vacation. And you can, of course, extend your stay with more pre- or post-cruise hotel nights!
3 nights in Athens + 7 night Greek Isles Cruise
Athens is an exciting place to start your cruise vacation. Before heading on your Mediterranean cruise, you’ll have two days to explore this awe-inspiring city.
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 a 3- nights stay, which gives you two full days sightseeing. Extend your stay with more hotel nights if time and budget allow, and book your flights to match your itinerary.
Greek culture has influenced Western society since ancient times, and it’s fantastic 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. Find out more about our best hotel recommendations in Athens that are popular with cruise guests. Relax and enjoy your first of 3 nights in Athens.
Days 2-3: Exploring Athens
Follow our two days sightseeing tips before you start your cruise.
Click on the links below to find detailed itineraries, including:
Classic Athens, the essential sights – Acropolis, Hadrian’s Library, Monastiraki Square, Plaka.
Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon – view a coastal view along the Attic Peninsular.
Explore more options for day tours here if you prefer to join a group excursion with a knowledgeable guide.
Day 4: Check in for your Mediterranean cruise from Athens
Time to cruise! Your Greek Isles cruise from Athens, including six more fantastic destinations in Greece, is finally here. Check out from your hotel and transfer to the Port of Piraeus, Athens’s main cruise terminal.
The easiest way to get from the city to the 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 are 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 or find the itinerary to suit you here). 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 want or need on vacation.
Settle into your cabin, put away your packing in the ample wardrobe space, then 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.
During your first day on board, we usually recommend you visit the specialty restaurants to make any reservations you want if you have not been able to reserve a table online earlier. The same goes for any excursions you may wish 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.
Free shuttle buses take you to the passenger terminal at the port. 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 off at Eleftherias Square. There is a taxi rank here, too, where you can get a return taxi back to the port later.
Explore the ruins in Knossos or tour Heraklion’s old town with its beautiful churches and fortresses.
This port has an excellent selection of guided tours, whether you choose an independent supplier or a cruise line excursion. For example, a tour to the Minoan Palace of Knossos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites.
Alternatively, if you are traveling with children, you may want a day at the beach, swimming in the clear Aegean waters.
Often the cruise ship will stay in port until early evening, meaning you have plenty of time to shop in the picturesque old town before returning to the ship for a late dinner.
Cruise day 3: Rhodes
Day 3 of your cruise and your cruise ship will dock in the 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, blue water, cozy old towns, and friendly lunch taverns with authentic Greek food.
If you love the beach, there is a great day excursion to visit the best beaches on the island’s east. And this will also give you plenty of time to relax and swim. On the same day, you can 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 without a guided tour, you can walk to Mykonos Town from your ship’s arrival point.
Discover a charming maze of traditional white stone houses and narrow streets with shops peddling everything from designer sunglasses to elaborate lace tablecloths.
Many restaurants also serve traditional Greek food, snacks, and delicious Greek coffee.
The island is a magnet for travelers from all over the world, with its beautiful beaches like Platis Gialos and Paraga Beach – 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, the Limani).
Mykonos is a popular destination for celebrities, famed as an artists’ colony with its 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 if you want to stay nearby.
But we highly recommend visiting Olympia, famous for the ruins of the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site stadium. Explore the ruins, see where the Olympic Games were held for centuries, and visit temples dedicated to Zeus.
A guided excursion is the best way to visit Olympia. With an expert, you’ll understand the significance of what you see. It’s a fantastic experience to walk the same track the first Olympians competed on. The starting line in marble is still visible.
You’ll also visit the Temple of Hera, where the Olympic flame is lit every four years to mark the start of the games.
If you want to make the journey yourself from the port without a guide, the train station is a 15-minute walk from the port. The distance from Katakolon to Olympia is about 40km, and it takes 45 minutes. Buses and taxis are also good options. However, they take a little longer, about an hour.
You can also take a break in one of the nearby cafes. Or hike up Mount Kronos for a fantastic view over Olympia.
Before you visit, you can read more about Olympia on the official Greece tourism website and download the app for up-to-date information.
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 its clear-blue coastline, you must 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.
Your cruise line can offer plenty of sightseeing trips; however, we recommend packing your hiking shoes for this port and exploring 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 independently. Keep an eye on the time so you return to your cruise ship before departure!
Cruise day 7: Santorini
Santorini’s small, romantic island is your final stop on this cruise before returning to Athens. A rocky island, its volcanic beauty is indisputable.
Santorini is a tender port. The cruise ship will anchor in the bay and get you to the island on small tender boats. Cruise ships will often stay in the bay long into the evening, which means you can enjoy the breathtaking sunset.
Santorini is “the island that time forgot” and has a rich history of ancient Greeks who lived in caves carved into volcanic rock. Santorini is a volcanic island known for using volcanic rock and lava in jewelry 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 Fira and Oia during your port stop at Santorini.
Book a ship excursion or a tour with an independent supplier if you need help with transportation and cannot walk far. Alternatively, you may find a better price by using an independent supplier to book a private tour with a guide.
With many cruise ships arriving daily into the port at high season, queues can be long, so come prepared with sunscreen, a 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 alone without a guide, you can get to the capital, Fira, from the tender port by walking or cable car. Cable car tickets are available right by the tender arrival spot, and one-way tickets cost around 6 euros per person. If you walk up the 600 steps, wear good walking shoes!
Find out more here about visiting Santorini without booking a shore excursion and instead doing your own self-guided tour.
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 excellent vineyards to visit. If you prefer to take the opportunity to shop, start in Fira for art, jewelry, and local crafts.
Walking to Oia from Fira is impossible as it will take too long (the 10km hike takes around 4 hours). Choose a taxi that takes about 15 minutes and costs about 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, local boats will take you there if you want to make Oia your first stop when you arrive by tender at the port. When you leave the boat, it’s just a short bus ride to the center.
Oia is famous for its 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 property signs and respect these. Afterward, walk down the cliffside from the town of Ammoudi Bay Harbor. A beautiful, cozy waterside bay with excellent seafood!
If you are looking for beaches, the most famous are Black Beach and Red Beach. These are so named for their colorful stones derived from volcanic rock – no white sandy shores here!
Cruise day 8: Return to Port of Piraeus, Athens, and disembark your cruise
Your final day. Disembark at the Port of Piraeus and return to Athens to extend your stay if you book 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 checkout from the ship. This will ensure you get on one of the first transfer buses.