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If three days of sailing throughout the Mediterranean just isn’t enough to take in all the wonders of Greece, there’s also an Athens and four-day Greek Isles cruise. The itinerary for the two vacations are almost identical, but on the four-day cruise, the M/V Aquamarine also docks at the most popular of all the Greek Isles, Santorini, as well as a stop at Heraklion, Crete.
Two Friendly Planeteers enjoying the breathtaking views of Santorini.
On the four-day journey, after a day in Rhodes, travelers will enjoy a trip to Heraklion. Just five kilometers from the Heraklion city center lie the ruins of Knossos — the capital of Minoan Crete and today the island’s major tourist attraction — which travelers can visit on an optional shore excursion.
Other points of interest here include Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum — one of the finest in the Mediterannean — which houses exquisite findings from Knossos and other Minoan ruins, numerous Venetian fortresses, and fountains and loggias scattered throughout the city.
At the Historical Museum of Crete, Byzantine and folklore collections are on display. The island’s open air market is a must-see, where colorful and boisterous crowds buy, sell, and trade everything from goats and sheep to enormous cauldrons of freshly churned yogurt.
The next port of call is Santorini. This striking island, with breathtaking panoramas and rugged landscapes, is actually a volcanic crater slightly immersed in the sea. The island is famous for its whitewashed houses, narrow streets, open-air cafes, and glittering boutiques which cling to steep cliffs, accessible by foot, cable car, or mule. Like Mykonos, it is not only Santorini’s physical beauty that makes it one of Europe’s most popular destinations, but its dynamic nightlife as well.
The island of Santorini was formed by one of the largest volcanic eruptions on the planet, which destroyed the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island. The Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption) occurred approximately 3,600 years ago at the height of the ancient Minoan civilization.
Vacationers can enjoy an optional tour of Santorini that takes them up along the Caldera (volcanic crater). They can also drive uphill along the rocky sides of the Caldera and pass through many traditional villages to Oia, a village that brims with many fine examples of Cycladic architecture. At the end of the day, passengers return to the ship for a final evening at sea before returning to Athens.
On the third day of our Athens and Greek Isles cruise, vacationers head to Piraeus, a large coastal city just 10 km from the center of Athens, where they’ll board the M/V Aquamarine. Travelers can pass their time enjoying the sun, warm sea breezes, pool, and shipboard facilities while they sail to Mykonos.
The island of Mykonos is famed for its cosmopolitan character and energetic nightlife (some say it’s the best in Europe), as much as it is for its labyrinth of winding alleyways and whitewashed buildings, basket-laden donkeys, and cascading geraniums. Chic crowds flock to the island’s trendy restaurants, discos, and clubs each night, and vacationers sit seaside, sipping ouzo and watching the sunset while listening to traditional Greek music.
The next day takes travelers to Rhodes, the stunning “Island of Roses.” Historically, Rhodes was famous throughout the world for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
In the heart of the island’s biggest city, also named Rhodes, is the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe, a fascinating web of Byzantine, Turkish, and Latin ruins. There’s no wonder why it’s been declared one of the few World Heritage Sites. Its mighty fortifications provide the finest surviving examples of defensive architecture of the time.
Lindos, with its dazzlingly white houses clustered beneath a soaring castle-capped acropolis, is Rhodes’ most picturesque village and most important Doric settlement because of its natural harbor and vantage point built 125 meters above sea level. Here, travelers can explore on their own, or take advantage of Friendly Planet Travel’s optional shore excursions.
The following morning, the M/V Aquamarine docks in Kusadasi, Turkey. Just 10 km from the port of Kusadasi lies the ancient city of Ephessos, where travelers will find an archaeological site that ranks among the wonders of the world. The day’s optional tours include the the Great Theatre of Ephessos, which had a capacity of 25,000 people, and the Library of Celsus, dating from 135 A.D.
Vacationers will then sail to Patmos, Greece. The Aquamarine docks at Skala harbor, a lively atmosphere with whitewashed houses, flowered courtyards, tavernas, and shops. The Island of Patmos is famous in history as the place where St. John wrote the Book of Revelation. An optional tour takes you to the cave where St. John lived and the nearby Monastery, built on one of the island’s highest points, housing priceless icons and manuscripts in its Treasury.
From there, it’s back to Athens for a final few days in the Paris of the Mediterranean.
You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, so why would you book a vacation without first checking out where it is you’d be calling your home away from home? In my opinion, where you lay your head at night is sometimes just as important as the sights and activities you experience during the day.
No one wants to sacrifice cleanliness, luxury, or amenities to get a cheaper price for a vacation. That’s why we work extra hard at Friendly Planet Travel to get you the comfort and luxury you deserve at the end of the day for prices that would put you in a flea bag motel with most other travel companies. And it’s something that we’re incredibly proud of.
As such, I’ll be introducing you to a number of the hotels we work with in various cities throughout the world, so you can see for yourself. Just like our “All Aboard” series, this “Bedroom Abroad” series will give you a little taste of the standards that we expect from our hoteliers.
In keeping with this week’s Greek theme, first up is the four-star Titania Hotel in Athens, Greece. The Titania is a true urban oasis, nestled in the historic and commercial center of Athens. Located between the city’s major squares, Syntagma and Omonia, the hotel has been a paragon of Greek hospitality for over 30 years. Recent renovations set this Athenian institution apart aesthetically, technologically, and functionally.
The majestic lobby with its marble floors and intricate mosaics depicting Hellenic themes, the comfortable and modern guestrooms, the award-winning restaurants, the newly renovated shopping arcade, and the unrivaled views of the Acropolis are just a few of the features that make the Titania Hotel one of the premier places to stay in Athens. Not to mention, Titania’s prime location in the heart of Athens puts the city’s historical sites, cultural attractions, shopping venues, vibrant nightlife, and public transportation within easy reach.
As for the Titania’s recently refurbished 385 guestrooms, they can best be characterized as comfortable, elegant, and functional.Tastefully decorated and thoroughly equipped with every modern convenience, all rooms feature air-conditioning, high-speed internet access, satellite TV, mini-bar, and safety deposit box. The luxurious en suite bathrooms come stocked with toiletries and a hairdryer. Non-smoking rooms are also available.
Onsite dining includes La Brasserie, a cozy venue serving lunch, dinner, and light snacks. For fancier fare, the Titania’s elegant rooftop Olive Garden Restaurant serves gourmet cuisine in an upscale, yet subdued setting. The award-winning Olive Garden Restaurant has won the admiration of food critics for its wide array of superb dishes from all over Greece and the Mediterranean, in addition to its exclusive international wine list.
For more information on the Titania Hotel, please feel free to contact anyone from Friendly Planet Travel, or have a look at the Titania Hotel’s Web site. I’d also be happy to put you in contact with a Friendly Planet Travel vacationer who has stayed at the Titania.
In my last All Aboard blog post, I gave you a little tour of the M.S.C. Sinfonia. Today, let’s take a stroll down the deck of the luxurious M/V Aquamarine, the cruise ship that vacationers on our Athens and Greek Isles cruise have the opportunity to enjoy.
The Aquamarine, a member of the Louis Cruise Lines’ fleet, is considered one of the best vessels for cruising the Greek Islands. Her sleek design and medium size make her ideally suited for navigating the waters of the Aegean Sea, while her upscale amenities and services create a comfortable floating base that makes it easy to explore the beauty of the islands.
With 525 spacious staterooms and suites, the Aquamarine has capacity for more than 1,200 passengers. Her 339 outside staterooms — most with large windows and some with balconies — and 186 inside staterooms — all above sea level — are tastefully decorated and fully equipped with an array of modern comforts. Cabin amenities include adjustable climate control, TV, radio, direct dial phone, personal safe, and private bathroom.
The Aquamarine also features two spacious, full-service dining areas and several comfortable bar and lounge areas for cocktails, coffee, and light snacks. As vacationers sail between ports, there’s an array of leisure facilities to enjoy, including a swimming pool, sun deck, fitness center, massage/sauna facilities, basketball court, casino, and more.
I have a feeling that if it weren’t for the beautiful sights and sounds of the Greek Isles to lure them off the boat, we’d have a hard time getting the passengers aboard the Aquamarine off the ship. The full list of amenities include:
Adjustable climate control
Direct dial telephone
Two dining rooms
Duty free shop
Onboard medical assistance
For more information on the M/V Aquamarine or any of our cruises, please contact us. And stay tuned for the next cruise ship in our “All Aboard” series.