Written by Marshall Cossman.
A Greek islands cruise! A wonderful trip developed by the triumvirate of Classic Travel, Oceania Cruises, and us.
In late August this year my wife and I embarked on the Insignia for a 12 day voyage of the Greek islands. We had a day and a half in Istanbul, our departure point. Istanbul is an intriguing city of about 15 million people. Must-see sights include the Blue Mosque and Topkapi. Our third sight was the Grand Bazaar. It is an enclosed “mall” of over 3000 stores!
We departed Istanbul in mid-afternoon for our first stop, Ephesus. A beautiful ruin in Asia Minor that had been a port thousands of years ago and in now 25 miles inland. Each day, as we progressed, was sunny and warm. From Ephesus we went to Mykonos, Delos, Rhodes, Santorini, Olympia, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Crete, and finally, Athens, where we spent another day and a half. Each stop presented itself with something new and different. Each had its own charm. Santorini gets most of the press, and most of the cruise ships, but Santorini is indeed special. It’s villages are beautiful and the views of the Aegean from every point are spectacular. This does not take away from any of the other places we visited because they all had beauty. We were awed by all that we saw. The civilizations that created what were now ruins had great esthetic qualities and a deep-seated respect for their gods and nature.
You might note that Dubrovnik is neither an island nor Greek. It’s in Croatia and is a most attractive medieval, walled town. It was here that we took a tour that included a wine-tasting at a vineyard high in the mountains away from the town. It was hosted by the vintner, who spoke no English. We tasted three different wines from his production. None is exported, his is a small vineyard. We then went to an old inn where the owner and a few locals entertained us with local songs and music while we drank wine and ate a lunch of meats, cheese, olives, bread and dessert.
The ship itself is small by today’s standards but is very big in what it offers. It carries approximately 600 passengers. The entire crew seemed bent on our pleasure. We were often greeted with a “Hello!”, how was your tour, or how was your meal. Meals were all open seating either in the main dining area or the cafeteria-style. There are also 2 specialty restaurants which require reservations, made early. No matter the venue, the food was excellent. The ship also has a spa, a large fitness/exercise area, and live performances. Nearly every day we had an opportunity to hear an historian speak on Greek history. Shore excursions were very well done and led by very knowledgeable speakers.
Our final port, Athens, is a large, congested city but has sights worth seeing, from the site of the first modern Olympics (1896) to the Parthenon.
All the arrangements made by Classic Travel were superb and Oceania is a cruise line we highly recommend.