Best Stops in a Cruise in the Mediterranean Sea

Advisor - Siane Chirpich
Curated By

Siane Chirpich

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  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • Cruises

  • Coastal

  • History

  • Relaxation

A Mediterranean cruise will take you to multiple destinations.
Curator’s statement

The Mediterranean exudes enchantment and tranquility. The waters are remarkably calm, allowing you to hardly sense any movement on the ship. Yet, each port of call unveils fresh discoveries and emotions. It's incredible to contemplate exploring these locations aboard a grand, luxurious ship, while reflecting on their ancient history. This itinerary offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in these experiences and spark wonderful ideas. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to reach out via email. Your enjoyment of this journey is my utmost priority!

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Where to stay

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Canaves Oia Boutique Hotel

This honeymooner go-to is a dreamy mix of whitewashed suites, cliffside infinity pools, and views across the Aegean.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade whenever possible.

Grand Hyatt Athens

Luxurious elegance amid ancient splendor in the heart of Athens.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in whenever possible.

MSC Cruises

Luxury cruise line offering service to over 40 destinations including The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mediterranean and Northern Europe.

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Advisor - Siane Chirpich

Unlock perks by contacting Siane to book your trip.

Day 1: Depart from Kotor

Kotor is a captivating coastal town nestled in the dramatic fjord-like landscape of Montenegro, renowned for its medieval charm, Venetian architecture, and breathtaking bay views.

We embraced the early morning, rising at 6am, to ascend to the cruise ship's uppermost deck and bask in the spectacular sunrise casting its golden glow across the Adriatic Sea's majestic mountains. The experience was nothing short of enchanting. The air held a refreshing crispness, even for a July summer, as the sun unveiled its brilliance at a leisurely pace, revealing the unparalleled beauty of the Mediterranean landscape.

Our ship anchored a distance from the port, as the waters ran shallow. Arriving ashore required a short voyage via small boats (but rest assured, we didn't miss the return boat!). Kotor, steeped in history dating to 500 BC, has stood resilient through the test of time, weathering wars and invasions. Today, you'll walk amid the remnants of its medieval past, a captivating journey we'll fondly refer to as a stroll through its "feudal" story.

Kotor's compactness, with just over 5,000 residents, is its charm. It's the ideal canvas for leisurely exploration during the brief hours (around 5 or 6, if my memory serves right) when our ship graces its harbor.

As we embarked on the path towards the citadel, an enchanting transformation occurred. The fortifications and drawbridges ushered us into a portal of antiquity. Immerse yourself in the awe of their immaculately preserved relics, designed to captivate curious minds and provide an authentic taste of history. Today, this cherished gem holds the esteemed title of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Venturing further, I share a word of advice: be prepared to take a stroll of significance. While a challenging climb awaits to capture postcard-perfect photos, the reward is immeasurable. A nominal fee of 8 euros grants access to the pinnacle of the fortress. For those seeking a slower pace, and this includes the young-at-heart, consider this – it's worth every step if your heart and legs are up for the journey. Now, you might wonder about this encouragement. The reality is, Kotor's small footprint, ancient staircases hewn from its feudal past, steep incline and endurance-testing length make for an invigorating ascent. Pace yourself, whether young or young-at-heart and guarantee comfort with suitable attire and supportive footwear.

During your ascent, be prepared for delightful pauses, including a visit to a small yet exquisite church. The second halt offers an expansive view worthy of gracing any postcard, an invitation to sit back, absorb the panorama and reflect on the city's evolution from its "feudal" roots to its modern incarnation.

Our ascent encompassed a 20-minute journey, while the descent, driven by the desire to not miss our ship's departure, took a brisk ten minutes. As time slipped away, transforming our leisurely walk into an invigorating race, an idea emerged – why not indulge in ice cream and collect souvenirs on our return?

Day 2: Korfu

Corfu is a captivating Greek island blending historical elegance with natural beauty.

Embarking on Corfu's shores is a voyage to remember, often led by cruise ships or boats ferrying travelers from nearby Greek islands and cities. Now, let me unveil a gem of wisdom – as you step onto this enchanting island, consider a swift car rental straight from the port. With a prior reservation made with Hertz, our transition to the road was seamless, allowing us to promptly immerse ourselves in Corfu's splendors. For those seeking another route, a taxi awaits, ready to whisk you to the beach for 100 euros (round trip). Yet, keep in mind, the taxi accommodates only four, while we were a spirited group of five. Comfort is key, and truth be told, navigating to the beach via your smartphone's GPS – even without internet, just make sure to download the map before – is quite an adventure on its own.

As tales from the web intertwined with personal narratives, one echoing promise stood out – Corfu harbored "Greece's most exquisite beach." Carrying this anticipation, we embarked on a journey pulsating with excitement, set to uncover the beauty that had garnered such acclaim. And let me assure you, the reality exceeded every lofty expectation. With a car rented at the port, our compass directed us to Palaiokastritsa. A delightful tidbit: you needn't veer off the main road; simply follow the fragrant trail of summer blooms, leading you straight to the shoreline.

But here's the captivating twist – Palaiokastritsa isn't just one beach; it's a collection of five, each nestled in its own enclave, separated by rolling emerald hills that caress the cerulean sea. The sight is nothing short of a breathtaking masterpiece, a testament to nature's grandeur. Some of these enclaves even boast an air of exclusivity, reserved for hotel guests or those lucky enough to call the nearby houses their haven. As the shore nears, a symphony of blue and green greets the eyes, as if inviting you to join in the serenade of colors.

Dive into the salty embrace of the sea, a touch more saline than most, making each stroke feel like a rejuvenating balm for the senses. Families abound, finding refuge in the expansive stretch of sandy delight. A shallow expanse morphs into deeper waters, curating an aquatic paradise suitable for every age and inclination. Prepare for the sun's warm embrace, a sizzling dance of light that complements the cool waters perfectly. With temperatures soaring close to 100°F (feeling like 110°F), the trick is to bask in the sun's glory, then plunge into the refreshing sea – an exhilarating rhythm that soon becomes your beachside anthem.

The adventure deepens when you explore the myriad activities beckoning on the fringes. Glide across the waters in a pedal boat, indulge in the thrill of a motorized boat, or opt for the rhythmic pull of oars. To those seeking an aquatic escapade, boat tours beckon, unveiling secret caves accessible only during low tides and pristine beaches, accessible solely by sea. Hungry? Thirsty? Fear not, for a delightful parade of bars and restaurants line the coast. Whether you crave traditional Greek flavors or international delights, Corfu delivers an epicurean haven where hunger is eclipsed by culinary magic.

Day 3: Mykonos

Oia is a picturesque village perched on the cliffs of Santorini, known for its iconic blue-domed churches, stunning sunsets, and panoramic views of the Aegean Sea.

Who hasn't dreamt of indulging in the idyllic allure of Greece's paradise islands? Among these dreams, Santorini shines with exceptional brilliance, a gem that effortlessly claims a spot among the top contenders. With its petite size spanning just 19.4 km², this island is a romantic haven bursting with captivating corners waiting to be explored. While a single day might seem fleeting, it serves as an appetizer to an irresistible feast, leaving you yearning for more. But if the hands of time grant you only a snippet of Santorini's magic, worry not, for every essential secret is unveiled in the pages ahead. So, tighten your seatbelt and get ready for an unforgettable journey. Enjoy every bit of it!

For those who arrive by sea – much like us – setting your alarm clock a tad earlier unveils a breathtaking show of the island's gradual embrace. Of course, if early mornings aren't your forte, rest assured that the beauty of Santorini unveils itself in all its glory upon departure. The harbor is a quaint pocket of tranquility, and while larger cruise ships dock in the bay, they provide an enchanting sight from atop. In the summer months, particularly in July and August, temperatures rise while humidity takes a plunge, making raindrops an almost mythical occurrence. Yet, amid all the excitement, remember to keep your body well-hydrated, for the island's allure can be as deceptively quenching as it is captivating.

And now, the twist that adds a dash of intrigue to your arrival: the entire inhabited part of the island clings to its crown, the summit. Thus, as you disembark at the port, you're met with an island crowned at an elevation of 150 to 170 meters in its inhabited regions. Departing the port entails an ascent, and here lies your pick of the intriguing trio: an infinite staircase, often accompanied by patient donkeys, an unconventional donkey ride or soaring skyward on the cable car (a mere 3 euros). Despite the donkeys' beckoning eyes, time constraints nudged us toward the latter choice. Even amid a queue, the ascent is swift, a journey that spans no more than tw minutes, all the while treating you to vistas that are simply poetry in motion. Trust us, the panoramic view is worth every second – a choice that paves the way for a spectacular start.

As you alight from the cable car, an array of souvenir shops beckon, offering keepsakes, hats, clothing, ice creams and more. Now, we chose to explore these treasure troves on our return, opting to first lose ourselves in the island's hidden gems. But what's a Santorini adventure without a dash of exhilaration? We'd recommend a quad bike for that. A brief amble led us to the main street – an adventure as simple as following a trail of signs and weaving through charming lanes.

Embarking on the main street, we chanced upon a hub for motorcycle, car, and quad bike rentals – a haven for adventure enthusiasts. While I regret to say the precise address eludes me on Google, I urge you toward this treasure trove, for its owner showered us with hospitality, even sweetening the deal with a cheeky discount and a quick guide to the island's top spots. For those intrigued, the quad bike rental came to a reasonable 20 euros, with an extra 10 euros for a tank of fuel that promised to transport us from one end of the island to the other. Fear not, for you'll come across many similar rental nooks, but stick to a budget of 25 euros per day. Now, a quick heads-up – helmets are a rarity here. If you're up for a different kind of adventure, this is your chance. And remember, a generous coat of sunscreen is your best friend under the Grecian sun!

And now, dear traveler, here's a golden nugget of advice: let Oia be your gateway to enchantment. Make a beeline for this oasis, for it's an experience that deserves to be savored without haste. Oia stands tall as the island's most enchanting and 'fancy' corner. A single night's stay in its opulent hotels starts at a princely 500 euros (if booked well in advance). As architectural connoisseurs still aspiring to reach those heights, we contented ourselves with a mere glimpse – a fleeting taste of grandeur. And let me tell you, the taste is divine. The pathways weave between opulent hotels, inviting you to wander amid whispers of luxury and whispers of dreams. And for those lucky enough to linger until dusk, bear witness to the sun bidding the day adieu in a blaze of glory. The whispers promise it's an indescribable experience.

Day 4: Athens

Athens is the capital of Greece, a timeless city offering a rich blend of history, culture, and vibrant urban life.

Hey there, fellow travelers! Buckle up for a truly enchanting journey through the heart of Athens. Our adventure unfolded under the blazing sun of a summer's day, with temperatures soaring to a sizzling 99°F (37°C) – it was late July, after all. Our mission? To capture the essence of Athens in just a few hours, and let me tell you, it was a whirlwind of unforgettable experiences.

Stepping off the ship, we embarked on a quest to find a tour bus or hail a taxi. Now, we had some savvy friends who had recently embarked on a similar voyage, so we chose to veer away from ship-sponsored excursions once again. It's worth mentioning that while these excursions promise comfort and meticulous planning, they often come with a price tag. So, ready to dive headfirst into Athenian life, we were greeted by a taxi driver offering a "guided" tour, a chance to explore key attractions in the limited time at our disposal. With a party of five adults and a kid in tow, they quoted us a reasonable 80 euros for a whirlwind of exploration, promising that we'd only pay if we were content with the ride.

Our first stop, a mere 10 minutes from the port, was the Temple of Zeus. Standing in solemn ruins, this complex once embraced grandeur. But wars and the encroachment of the city have stripped it of its former glory, leaving behind mere fragments of its past. Our taxi driver shared a somber tale – most of these monuments had been razed, and what we glimpse today accounts for less than half of their original grandeur. The relics stand as a poignant testament to history's turbulent winds. We decided to wander within its shadows, snapping photos and gazing in awe at the intricate column details, even though the somber past still lingered in the air.

Next, we ascended to the Acropolis, and our taxi driver left us there for a solid 3 hours – an extended span that initially raised eyebrows. But we soon realized it wasn't the sprawling archeological site that called for such ample time, but the formidable queue that awaited us at the entrance. We found ourselves standing for an hour and a half, the scorching sun testing our endurance. I vividly recall seeking refuge beneath an olive tree, a small oasis in the sweltering heat. If there's one piece of advice I can impart, it's this: hydration is key. Be sure to carry water, and plenty of it. As for tickets, they cost us 20 euros each, with discounts available for children under 12 and seniors over 60. International student IDs didn't secure any extra favors, but they did catch a bit of shade in a country that has seen its fair share of sunlight.

Now, prepare to be transported through time as you ascend the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stands tall at 150 meters above sea level, visible from every nook of Athens. The star of the show? The Parthenon, a name that resonates through the ages. While Greece boasts many acropolises, this is unquestionably the most iconic, the most visited. It was erected around 450 BC as an offering to the city's patron goddess, Athena.

Picture this: a colossal, awe-inspiring structure – the Parthenon – a living relic that stands as a testimony to the ages. Though the restoration on one side temporarily marred its façade, the monument stood resilient, a silent sentinel of the past. You'll discover that access to the interior is off-limits, primarily for visitor safety. And as you tread the hallowed ground, be mindful of the watchful guardians, vigilant against any errant touch or misplaced souvenir. But there's a silver lining – a water fountain, a refuge for parched visitors seeking respite from the sun's unyielding embrace. A symbol of resilience, the Parthenon has undergone countless transformations over the centuries – a temple to Athena, a Christian church, a mosque, a storeroom for gunpowder during the 17th-century wars. Today, it stands as a symbol of Greece's resurgence, each marble column whispering tales of time.

On the western flank of the Parthenon, you'll encounter the Erechtheion, a temple once devoted to sacred rituals honoring Athena. Its architectural splendor is a sight to behold, with its famed "Caryatids" – sculpted female figures – serving as supporting pillars. A masterpiece, a fusion of art and reverence, awaits your gaze.

As you stroll past the Parthenon, prepare for sweeping vistas of Athens, a city that whispers its history through time-worn stones. And, as if caught in a reverie, the taxi driver's words echoed in our minds, beckoning us toward a lesser-known treasure: the Temple of Poseidon, a well-preserved marvel that lay a mere 100 km from Athens. The idea ignited a spark within us – a promise to return and uncover more of Greece's hidden gems.

Our journey continued toward the Greek Parliament, where we bore witness to the changing of the guard – an hourly ritual that transcends weather or season. The guards' stately dance, an iconic salute, was a sight to behold. It's worth noting that while you can photograph this spectacle, please do so with utmost respect for their service.

Our guide offered insights into the symbolism of the guards' attire – the crimson cap symbolizing the bloodshed of soldiers lost to battle. The black fringe representing the tears shed by Greeks mourning their fallen, and the distinctive pompom-adorned shoes (which, incidentally, produce quite a clamor as they march) embodying the steeds that once thundered across battlegrounds. The Greek Parliament complex houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a solemn reminder of the nation's sacrifices in the name of freedom.

Next to the Greek Parliament stands the Old National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, founded in 1837. It's a testament to Greece's commitment to education that these modern buildings maintain the architectural charm of bygone eras.

And then, the Olympic charter. Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics, proudly hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Our journey through picturesque neighborhoods led us to the Panathenaic Stadium, where these age-old contests of strength and willpower had once unfolded. Nestled within its walls lies the original Olympic flame – a flame that never falters. Entrance comes at a fee, offering a glimpse into the hallowed halls where Olympic history comes alive. Alternatively, outside the stadium, a souvenir shop beckons, laden with mementos to immortalize your visit. If your heart wants a more budget-friendly experience, ask for your taxi driver to drop you near the harbor – the heart of the city – where a plethora of shops await, offering Athens' charms at a more accessible price point.

As our car tour drew to a close, our taxi driver offered directions, leaving us a couple of blocks from the port, surrounded by inviting restaurants and shops, ready to embrace wanderers like us. And don't leave Greece without indulging in the quintessential gyro! Athens, you've etched your place on our list – a destination that beckons us to return, a treasure trove waiting to be rediscovered. Until next time!

Need to Know

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Advisor - Siane Chirpich

Travel Advisor

Siane Chirpich

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