Saturday, 4 June 2011

The busiest June ever

Santorini will be busy this June

This month, Greek cruise ports are going to welcome more cruise ships than every other June. In fact, June's traffic in ports may be comparable to last year's July.

Cruise traffic might become quite inconvenient on small islands like Mykonos or Santorini. You will be among the myriads who will be walking around the small villages, searching for the right spot to take a good snapshot. You must face it though; we are in high season and those islands are among the world's most popular destinations.

Beaches in Greece are less crowded in June than in July and August. In case you go ashore on your own, don't underestimate the probability of being seduced by one or two of them on your way. Carrying or wearing your swimming suit is always advisable on Greek islands.

At Piraeus/Athens there are no such problems. On some weekdays you may see more than 5 or 6 large cruise ships docking along with yours. Don't panic though; the Port Authority has recently added shuttle buses to the port exit, while the Hop on - Hop off buses now make a stop there. Life has become easier than ever for cruise passengers visiting Athens.

The HoHo buses now take you from the cruise port to the center of Athens

If you happen to be at Syntagma Square, you will find out that many people have set up their tents there. This is the epicenter of the huge peaceful -spanish style- protests that take place every night at many different squares in Greece. If you walk between the tents and the stands, you will hear people talking about  the current debt crisis. Of course, you don't know Greek, but you will certainly feel the vibes of a place that is being closely watched by everybody in the World.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Getting around Corfu Town and its surroundings

Corfu Town panorama

Corfu has for centuries been  under the strategic and commercial influence of Venice. In some way, strictly in cruise terms, it still is. Most of the cruise ships that stop in at Corfu embark at Venice, the cruise capital of the Eastern Mediterranean. A very large portion of cruise travelers speak Italian. Some of its monuments recall the passage of Italians and Venetians of the past.

The cruise port of Corfu offers enough convenience to travelers as they can walk in only 20-30 minutes to the Town. They can alternatively take a shuttle bus and then another one to the old part of the city, or get there by taxi, paying 8-10 euros per ride.

Having reached the town, you soon realize that you can easily spend your whole day there. Within short radius you can reach many sights, shopping and souvenir streets, cafes and restaurants. The 16th century fortress that dominates the city consists of many narrow streets. Around every corner you may find churches, old mansions and secret little squares.

The Spianada Square with Liston

The Spianada Square is the largest square in Greece. At its length you will see some of the most important monuments of the town such as the monument of the Ionian Islands union  with Greece. Liston is situated at the northern part of the western side of the square. The Town Hall Square, the Square of the Saints, the Ionian Academy and the Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George are some interesting buildings situated within short distance.

Shore excursions: There is a vast variety of shore excursions on offer by all major cruise companies. However, for those who are first-timers in Corfu, excursions with short travel time are preferable. Trips to Paleokastritsa, Perama and Acchilleion Palace are always a must for sightseeing.

Achilleion Palace

However, groups of 3 or 4 people may find it cheaper and more convenient to reach these destinations by rented cars. There are plenty of beautiful beaches along the coast so nobody can guarantee that your appetite for swimming won't open.

Glyfada beach: Glyfada beach is situated 16 km away from Corfu Town, on the west coast of the island. It is one of the most popular beaches on Corfu due to its green surroundings and its long sandy terrain.Swimmers can find there every kind of shop, sun beds, umbrellas, water sports facilities etc. A taxi ride to Glyfada beach from the cruise port will cost you no more than 25 euros. As always on Greek islands, better arrange your return pick up time with the taxi driver.

Glyfada beach

Before you head back to your ship don't forget to taste two of the island's well known specialties: Pastitsada (beef cooked in a rich tomato sauce and served with spaghetti) and Sofrito (veal or beef escalopes sauted in a skillet and served with an accompanying sauce).

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Spectacular rise in cruise ship arrivals all over Greece

More than 150.000 cruise travelers have visited the port of Piraeus between January and March 2011, marking a spectacular rise of 58,1% compared to last year’s data regarding the same period. 

Other major destinations like Rhodes, Santorini, Katakolon, Corfu have also received much more passengers than last year, with unofficial estimates ranging between 20% and 30% compared to the same trimester of 2010.
Estimates for the summer period are also very optimistic. The port of Piraeus is scheduled to receive more than 7 cruise ships (at least 20.000 passengers) in some days during the high season of July – August. Ports of Santorini, Rhodes and Mykonos will also have busy time and local authorities have been preparing to deal with it.

The Greek government has recently lowered taxes and fees for cruise ships, but the rise in cruise ship arrivals is also a product of the unrest in North African countries that redirected cruise routes to the north of the Mediterranean Sea.

This rise is going to give a very much needed bust to Greek tourism, the sole reliable industry in the country. It is estimated that the lowest spending per cruise traveler in Greek soil is 50 euros.

Source: "Imerisia", To Vima"

Friday, 20 May 2011

Going HoHo in Athens: Dos and Dont's for cruise travelers

The Athens Hop on Hop Off red line

This summer season Athens has effectively reorganized some of its tourist infrastructure. One serious change affecting cruise travelers is getting the Hop on - Hop Off bus lines from the Piraeus cruise terminal. In theory, that means you can hop on an open air bus in the morning, go to the center of Athens for sightseeing and return to Piraeus with one single ticket.

So, is this the best way to get to Athens? Well, that's not a simple answer. Several practical factors have to be taken into account: Traffic conditions in both Piraeus and Athens, travel cost and proximity of bus stops to the top attractions.

Traffic: The port of Piraeus is not far from the center of Athens, but that distance may appear longer in the morning due to heavy traffic in rush hours. For cruise travelers, time is valuable in Athens, as they need to get the most out of the city in only a few hours.

The bus ride to the center is scheduled to last 30 minutes, but in case you come across lots of traffic your trip may be extended. The same goes for your return trip that has to start a little bit earlier in order to be sure that you will be back to your ship on time.

The red and yellow bus station
Cost: The Athens City Tour (yellow bus) costs 15 euros p.p. (8 euros for children) while the Athens Sightseeing Tour (red bus) costs 22 euros (9 euros for children). Supposedly you are a family of 4, it may cost you between 50-70 euros aller-retour, while a taxi may cost you 30-40 euros for the same trip. In addition, catching the 853 bus (to Piraeus metro station) and then metro line 1 (to central Athens) will cost you only 2,80 p.p. aller-retour. Compared to the low cost of the metro, the HoHo is not a saver at all.

Proximity to top attractions: Most of the  main sights of Athens are situated in a pedestrianized area, so the HoHo buses can't get close enough. Furthermore, antiquities and tourist attractions around Acropolis are within walking distance. You will probably not need any other transportation before you head back to the ship.

The yellow HoHo at Syntagma Square

A joyful, relaxing ride with no worries of planning ahead
In case you are not in a hurry to catch all the action in Athens, the HoHo offers a pleasant ride. It passes through Marina Zeas (Passalimani) and Mikrolimano, two picturesque little ports filled with yachts, cafes and taverns. You can hop off there for a promenade by the sea and then hop on again heading to Athens. 

Kids, who are not usually in a rush, would love to sit on the top deck and watch Piraeus and Athens from above, while grownups won't have to worry about searching for bus or metro tickets, changing metro lines, etc. 

Solo travelers, couples and families with children with no budget worries and no rush to reach Athens quickly are now offered a third alternative to get to Acropolis and  its surroundings. The HoHo bus fills a gap serving that special category of cruisers.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

'Mariner of the Seas' at the port of Piraeus

On Saturday, May 14th, Royal Carribean's 'Mariner' made its stop at the port of Piraeus. It was a sunny day, the hottest so far in Athens. 
Cruisinggreece was there!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Away from the masses, close to nature: Kaiafas Lake and Beach

For cruise passengers who are not willing to follow the masses to the Ancient Olympia archaeological sites, Katakolon provides a really interesting alternative. This option combines both swimming in one of the best beaches of Peloponnese (long and sandy) and a marvelous natural landscape in the surroundings.

Kaiafas Lake and beach are situated approximately 40 km away from Katakolon (40-45 minutes drive) giving you the chance to combine swimming with hiking in one of the most unspoiled parts of southern Greece.

Although a big part of the scenery was destroyed by the disastrous fires of 2007, the place still preserves its uniqueness. Moreover, the Thermal Springs of Kaiafas offer a geological formation that includes a spring where tepid to warm water emanates from deep inside the earth’s crust and flows up to the surface.

Due to its proximity to the mountainous area, the sea and the forest, Lake Kaiafas attracts many nature lovers, especially in summertime.

It was formed by the great earthquakes of the 6th century AD, with landslides which dug out the lake and created the rocky formations rising from the “key” spot to the east. 

The nearby beach is vast and many kilometers long. It has crystal clear waters while a part of it is a well known nudist area.

You can make a deal with a taxi driver who can drive you there and bring you back to the cruise port. Of course, additional cost for waiting time is added (

Other ways to get there are by renting a car ( or by booking  a private taxi tour in advance :

Monday, 9 May 2011

Piraeus planned to undertake a leading role in the Mediterranean

Piraeus aims at taking gradually one of the leading roles in the Mediterranean cruise market. Up to now, its strategic position on the map has not been capitalized from the Greek authorities. However, new planning is set to convince some of the major cruise companies to choose Piraeus as their home port for many of their itineraries in mare nostrum.

By 2014, the largest port of Greece will reach the capacity of six big cruise ships altogether, also upgrading its supportive infrastructure. The plan includes a mall for cruise visitors, a 5-star hotel and a conference center, along with a monorail which will transfer cruise visitors quickly to the metro going to Athens center. It will be funded by private companies, the E.U. and the Greek state.

“MSC”, “Carnival” and “Royal Carribean” have already expressed their interest to get their own exclusive docks in the port, acknowledging that such a move may give them a tactical advantage against their competitors.

Source: “Ta Nea”