Cruising Through Greece

Cruising Through Greece

Photos: Christopher J Davies, Darcy Davies, Royal Caribbean, and Acropolis museum.

Life during a global pandemic is brutal for a seasoned and frequent traveler – it feels like my wings have been clipped! Even simple domestic travel has become difficult given the recent virus outbreaks and wildfires. Hopefully, conditions will improve in 2021 once we have tamed this beast with better containment and a proven vaccine.  In August 2016, we had the pleasure of celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary by traveling to Venice and departing on a Royal Caribbean Cruise to Greece. We boarded the Vision of The Seas for a 7-day cruise. 

Day One: Venice, Italy. Departed at 5:00 p.m.

Our ship departed Venice’s cruise terminal at 5 p.m. It was slowly tugged through the Venetian Lagoon past the Isle of Giudecca, Venice’s iconic port, and The Basilica of St. Mark. This was indeed a “Kodak Moment” as the afternoon light emitted a warm glow. Our perspective from the ship’s eighth level was stunning!

We passed San Marco’s Vaporetto platforms, where the city’s efficient waterbuses transported residents and tourists to their next destination. The private docks along the basin were awash with lavish yachts. We soon passed by the Giardini ex Reali, the city’s former royal gardens, which opened to the waterfront via iron gates. 

The accommodations we received were nothing short of luxurious. Our junior suite was well appointed and comfortable. It featured a queen-size bed, spacious living room, and an outdoor balcony. Our suite’s bathroom was roomy and equipped with both a shower and a bathtub. 

After several hours of passing Venetian islands, we watched the sunset blaze across the blue horizon and had our first onboard dinner. We booked a reservation at the ship’s specialty Japanese restaurant, Izumi, located on the top level of the vessel. There was no advertised surcharge for this restaurant, but we were surprised to find that only the edamame was complimentary. All sushi, seafood dishes, and steaks were priced à la carte. The ultra-fresh seafood and tempura were to die for. There was also a tasty variety of wines by the glass that we could order with our premium beverage package. 

Overnight, we crossed into the Adriatic Sea. By the time we had woken up, the ship was cruising smoothly, hugging the idyllic coast. At around 10 a.m., we began to see the small coastal towns of Croatia. On the top deck, DJ’s were blasting euro, trance, and techno music by the outdoor pools while the bars were hopping with happy party guests. 

Day Two: Kotor, Montenegro Tender. Docked from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

At 2 p.m., we tendered at our first port, Kotor, Montenegro. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Montenegro was independently reformed in 2006. Admittedly, we did not venture from the ship that day. But after reading up and learning that the Venetians built this fortified town with its winding roads and picturesque sites, I wished we had taken a shore excursion. 

Kotor, Montengro

Day Three: Corfu, Greece. Docked from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

On the third day, our ship docked in Korfo, Greece. It was a sunny day, and we had pre-booked a package at the Dassia Beach Hotel. After embarking our boat, we met our tour guide (aka babysitter) and boarded an air-conditioned luxury motorcoach with panoramic windows. The twenty-minute ride to our beach hotel went through the heart of town, which was surprisingly well-populated and littered with various businesses and small shops. After arriving at the hotel lobby, we were led down a back stairway and out to the beach, which had numerous beach chairs and umbrella setups. Small, shed-like houses were used as changing rooms. The beach was beautiful and the water warm. However, it was quite rocky, so I would advise wearing rubber sandals if you plan to go out into the water. The pleasantly lukewarm Ionian Sea was motionless except for an occasional wake caused by a passing jet ski. 

We also got to experience the hotel’s pool and poolside bar. The hotel’s fancy ocean-view restaurant, Amalthia Restaurant, had closed down its breakfast service and was regretfully closed for lunch. 

While beachside, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at the Grill House. It is a delightful snack bar where we had typical Greek Gyros and French Fries (5E). They served local Greek wine by the glass (6E). 

Ikos Resorts Dassia Hotel
Dassia Bay, Corfu 491 00, Greece
Phone:+30 2661 097100
https://ikosresorts.com/resorts/ikos-dassia/

By the ship’s final “all aboard!” at 2:00 p.m., we had returned to our suite.

I sat down on our balcony and took in the beautiful view of the port. Tugboats approached the ship to prepare for maneuvering the vessel back out onto the open sea within thirty minutes.

Below, the crew was waving to pedestrians in the distance who were carrying bags of cheesy souvenirs. It was comical to view several tardy passengers frantically running back to ship before the cables were untied. When we departed, the captain’s voice bellowed from the ship’s intercom system, playfully shaming the tardy passengers from the fifth deck! We later learned from our favorite lady bartender that cruise ships are subject to hefty fines if they stay docked beyond their scheduled departure time. 

Back out at sea, we decided to get some sun on the top deck. While most of the lounge chairs were occupied or had towels draping over them, we scored open lounge chairs near the bow of the ship.

Later that evening, we ate at another specialty restaurant called Giovanni’s Table, an Italian trattoria that requires a $25 dining fee per person. The upgrade was certainly well worth the price. The food portions were massive enough to sink a ship. I loved the lamb chops with polenta. Darcy enjoyed the Tagliatelle with wild boar ragu. The wines by the glass list were also wonderful. We selected a Chianti Classico DOCG that was $16 per glass, which required that we paid a $4 upcharge under our premium beverage package ($12 by the glass limit).

Day Four: Athens, Greece. Docked from 12:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

On the following day, we arrived in Athens at noon. Our online research revealed that the cruise port was about 30 minutes away from Athens’ main attractions, so we decided to book the Athens “On Your Shore Excursion” at $59.75 per person. 

When we disembarked from the ship, we boarded a luxury motorcoach marked with our excursion number. Onboard, we were greeted by a friendly, English-speaking tour guide who provided tips and valuable information on the city. Our motorcoach let us off in front of a statue of Melina Mercouri, a Greek actress, singer, and politician. The figure was across the street from the Temple of Zeus. Our tour guide recommended that we purchase an Athens Multi-Site Ticket at 30E per person. It provides access to six archaeological sites but does not include the Acropolis Museum (5E). 

Visiting the Temple of Zeus was jaw-dropping, especially considering the fact that its massive 68-foot tall columns were created in 457 BCE. 

Our pre-trip research led us to the highly starred Modern Rooftop Restaurant in the AthensWas Design Hotel. This luxurious hotel is located on the famous tree-lined pedestrian strip of Dionysiou Areopagitou between the Temple of Zeus and the Acropolis Museum.

The Modern Rooftop Restaurant is located on the sixth floor of the hotel. To get to the restaurant, you take an elevator to the fifth floor and then a marble stairway up to the sixth floor. The restaurant and bar are modern in design and petite in size. The rooftop patio was even smaller, with about eight tables. Luckily, we were seated in a two-top with a terrific view of the Acropolis on the horizon. 

We ordered a bottle of dry white Greek wine recommended by our waiter. 
2015 Vorinos White Wine by Silva Daskalaki Winery (22 E). 
Organic-Biodynamic, Vintage 2015, PGI Crete, Grape: Vidiano 100%, Alc. 13%

The wine had a golden straw color, with floral notes and citrus flavors. It was a perfect match for our lunch. http://www.silvawines.gr/en/products_view/3/4/1/Vorinos_White

For starters, we had a raw salmon salad on romaine with olive oil dressing. 

The salmon was purple, a first for us! It was fresh as it had been caught earlier that day. 

Our waiter brought us a basket of assorted Greek pieces of bread. Some had dates, olives, and various seeds, including sesame. One pretzel-shaped bread was called Koulouri was encrusted in sesame and oats. 

For our entrées Darcy ordered: Pork Tenderloin and Spinach Petal Shaped Pasta with Garlic, Capers & Tomatoes

I ordered:
Black Squid Ink Risotto with Shrimp, Clams, and Calamari.

The presentation and flavors were outstanding! Not to mention a fantastic view of the Acropolis, the most significant Greek antiquity of all time! 

4.5 out of 5 Stars! Well worth the price!
The Modern Rooftop Restaurant
Athens Was Design Hotel
Dionysiou Areopagitou 5, 
Athina 117 42, Greece
Phone: +30 21 0924 9954

https://www.facebook.com/modernrooftopdining/

After fueling up, we headed towards the Acropolis museum. We passed many shops and restaurants with street-side tables under tents or umbrellas. There were several cart vendors selling bags of nuts and dried fruits. 

The Acropolis Museum is located in the historical area of Makriyianni, southeast of the mainstay of the Acropolis, on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens. It is a spectacular modern building spanning 150,000 square feet. 

The route to reach the museum entrance takes you above archeological excavations. The museum has three levels of exhibits highlighting ancient sculptures and statues. The building was designed to allow natural light to provide light for the displays. 

The museum is designed as a three-dimensional loop, which helps maintain the flow of more than 10,000 daily exhibitors that pass through each exhibit area. 

Main permanent exhibits: 
•The Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis
•The Archaic Gallery
•The Parthenon Gallery
•The Propylaia, the temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion.
• 5th century BC to the 5th century AD

The Acropolis Museum hosts two shops and a restaurant. 
This is a must-visit and well worth the 5E admission!

Acropolis Museum,
15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street,
Athens 11742
http://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en

While we had planned to visit the Acropolis, the walkways to the actual site take up to 30 minutes each way from the gates. Due to the walking time, combined with massive crowds and our ship’s tight schedule, we decided to change plans. We visited some shops and found an outdoor restaurant where we could enjoy a light snack and a glass of wine. 

On schedule, we met our motorcoach back at the statue of Melina Mercori at 6:30 p.m. 

With rush hour traffic thinning, we were returned to our ship at 7 p.m. The ship was set to depart at 8:00 p.m., so we were happy that Captain Slaby wouldn’t taunt us for being late. 

Our dinner reservation was at 8:30 p.m. at Chops Grille ($30 per person), Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse. 

Upon arrival, we treated like royalty. The décor was modern, and we had been sat at a private table that had a window looking out towards the tranquil sea. 

There was an extensive selection of seafood and meat dishes. The portions were sizeable.  We were happy to see a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley on the wine list by the glass. It was only a $2 upcharge for those on the Premium Beverage Plan.

For starters, we ordered: 

Lobster Bisque, which had generous pieces of sweet lobster meat and cognac, resulting in a velvety smooth and creamy, rich bisque. 

Dungeness Crab and Shrimp Cake with Rémoulade sauce. The sweet taste of the crab paired well with the Rémoulade. 

For Entrees: 
Grilled Alaskan Halibut with fruit salsa and caramelized orange drizzle.
Filet Mignon – 10 ounces of a thick and flavorful cut from the tenderloin.

The restaurant offers four different sauces to accompany your steak! 
Sauces:
Cabernet Reduction
Classic Béarnaise
Green Peppercorn Sauce
Chimichurri Sauce

Sides:
Creamed Spinach
Sautéed Wild Mushrooms
For dessert, we ordered glasses of 15-year-old Tawny Port. 

Day Five: Mykonos, Greece. Tendered from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Mykonos is the island of wind! It is one of the thirty islands of The Cyclades, an island group in the southwestern region of the Aegean Sea. It is best known for its party atmosphere and for being a favored playground for the rich and elite. 

Darcy and I decided to book the “Mykonos and Assimomitis Wine Tasting Excursion” ($89.75 per person). Since the ship was tendered offshore, we took a five-minute shuttle boat from the ship to the dock at the front of the harbor. This is where we met our friendly English-speaking tour guide. She distributed earpieces to our tour group. 

We were led past Mykonos’ Little Venice district, where seaside restaurants specialize in Italian cuisine and fresh seafood. We then took a walk to visit the historic windmills that once used wind power to grind local grains and barley into flour. The large conical shape, long wooden blades, and straw of the windmills’ capped tops make them a photographer’s favorite. 

We then took a stroll through a maze of alleys that wound past residences and small shops. At the center of these alleys, we came across Matoyianni Street. It was littered with posh shops, art galleries, boutiques, nightclubs, and featured the world-renowned fashion house Louis Vuitton.

Our guide brought us to the designated meeting point for boarding our motorcoach. The tour would take to our next destination – the Mykonos Vioma Farm and Vineyard! The coach pushed through winding and hilly terrain of almost desert-like land. Twenty minutes later, we hopped off near the front gate of Maou’s former old monastery vineyard, Ano Mera. Today, the farm produces wine, honey, vegetables, and dairy products.

When we entered the gates, we passed by a bush-style vineyard, which has no trellis system. The vineyard is farmed to the most natural organic & biodynamic practices. As Mykonos receives less than 16 inches of rainfall annually, the vines are dry-farmed without any irrigation.

Nikos Asimomytis’s former bank inspector saw an opportunity to return to his native soil and established Mykonos Vioma in 1994. He leases 3.6 hectares of vineyard land where he grows the grapes and has 20 beehives. Several wild farm animals, including dogs and a celebrated donkey Giakoumis, are free to roam the property. 

We were led to a tasting room with an outdoor covered deck. Our group of almost 50 guests were instructed to take a seat at long tables. In front of our place settings were wine glasses and platters of cheese, olives, and tomatoes to accompany the wines.

A friendly English-speaking employee personally led our tasting, pouring tasting portions while she discussed the wines. Another assistant covered the other end of the tables, pouring samples for appreciative guests.

Wines Tasted: 

#1) ΠΑΡΑΠΟΡΤΙΑΝΟ-White Wine
Varieties: Assyrtiko and Athiri
Comments:
Dry, smooth with citrus flavors.

#2) ΠΑΡΑΠΟΡΤΙΑΝΟ-Red Wine
Varieties: Mandilari and Agiannitis
Comments: 
Dry, fruity, medium weight.

#3) HELIOPHILOS- Naturally Sweet Red Wine
A late harvest wine made from grapes that have been sun-dried for ten days. 
Comments:
An elegant non-fortified wine that is perfect for pairing with cheese and Foie gras. 
The tasting was fun and informative. I purchased a bottle of white wine to take home. The cost was a surprising 5 Euro! 

Mykonos Vioma Farm and Vineyard
GPS COORDINATES: N37.45946° E25.40811°
Before visiting the vineyard, please call at:
+30 22890 71883 & +30 6974 120069
Email: mykonosvioma@gmail.com
Visiting hours: Daily 11:00 – 16:00
http://www.mykonosvioma.gr/mykonos-vioma.html

We boarded our motorcoach and were transported down the bumpy, wavy terrain to our drop off point near the harbor. 

With almost two hours free before returning to the ship, we explored the area, intent on finding a restaurant for lunch. We settled on Salparo Mykonos Seafood Taverna. The menu was extensively seafood, and they had a beautiful outdoor covered terrace on the edge of the harbor below. 

We ordered a bottle of local dry white wine (15E). 

The waiter spoke excellent English. His friendly assistant was a native of New Jersey and whose parents were of Greek descent. He helped recommend the restaurant’s specialties. 

For appetizers, we ordered: 
Shrimp Turnovers with hot and sweet red chili sauce

Fried Anchovies Sundried Octopus with hummus seasoned with olive oil and thyme, 

For the main, we shared: 
Fried Seafood Platter with Jumbo Shrimp, Calamari, and Chips. 

The freshness of all of the dishes was stupendous. The view from our table could not have been more picturesque. On the harbor, swimmers were passing us by below.

Our cruise ship, Vision of The Seas, was tendered about a mile away in the distance. 

It was a sunny day with a big blue sky. The weather was warm, but the ocean breeze made it much more bearable. 

5 out of 5 Stars!
Salparo Mykonos Seafood Taverna
Kaminaki, Paralia Mykonos
Míkonos
Tel. 30 2289 078950

https://www.facebook.com/SalparoMykonos

Day Six: Argostoli, Greece. Docked from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Argostoli was our last stop before returning to Venice. 

Argostoli is a harbor town on the Island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands. 

There were several shore excursions available. Since this would be our last opportunity to visit a beach in Greece for a while, we choose the “Makris Gialos Beach Transfer” ($29.75 per person). 

Our motor coach departed the port at 12:45 p.m. The ride to the beach was less than 15 minutes. Our coach dropped our group off in a parking lot above the beach. Our English-speaking tour guide did not provide any information about the island or town. She did let us know that the beach had a restaurant and that she could be found near the bar if we needed anything. 

We walked down the path to the beach, passing tall pine trees and shrubs. The waters were crystal clear, and the beach was packed with big straw-covered umbrellas and wooden reclining chair sets (4E). There were a dozen white cabanas with canvas roofs and four-sided privacy curtains (15E) available for rent on a first-come basis. Luckily we found one open. 

The beach was spotless and had a bank of bathrooms and outdoor showers for the public’s comfort. The water was lukewarm and slightly wavy due to all of the motorsport activity in the harbor. 

Waiters from the restaurant worked the beach to take drink orders. We ordered Greek Chardonnay that was delivered in small airline-style bottles (6E). After taking a swim, we headed to the restaurant for lunch. 

The selection of traditional Greek dishes was excellent. They offered gyros made with beef, lamb, or chicken with French fries. Fresh pre-made Greek salads, olives & tapenade dishes were also available. There were many indoor tables available for dining. The staff was friendly and engaging. The restaurant accepted credit cards for payment, which was surprising since it was located on a beach. 

4.5 Stars out of 5!
Taverna Makris Gialos 
Argostolion 281 00, Greece
Tel. +30 2671 023494

We returned to our ship at 6 p.m. After getting dressed, we enjoyed cocktails at the bar with our favorite bartender, “Sophie.” She was excited to tell us that she was getting a promotion to work on a new ship that will cruise from St Petersburg, Russia, and Scandinavia Cruise. 

Our dinner that evening was in the Aquarius Dining Room. We choose the open seating plan. That allowed for the flexibility of time, and we always got seated upon our arrival. For the entire cruise, we were sitting in our assigned wait staff section to boast familiarity. 

The servers were friendly and always engaging. At this point in the cruise, they had remembered our habits and favorite wines. The dinner menu seemed to change daily. There was a wide selection of meat and seafood dishes. 

That night we enjoyed: 
Escargots de Bourgogne
Rock Shrimp Cocktail
Horseradish-Crusted Filet of Atlantic Salmon
Aged Hand-Cut Manhattan Strip Steak 

Final thoughts: 

The cruise experience on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of The Seas was outstanding. The cleanliness of the ship, the quality of the food and beverages, its features, attractions, and the accommodating staff went out of their way to tend to guest’s needs. 

Cruising for seven days through Greece gave us just a small glimpse of these destinations and their offers. We are now itching to go back to Athens and Mykonos and stay several days so that we can discover more on a more laid-back schedule. 

Royal Caribbean International 7 Nights Mediterranean Cruise- 4.5 Stars! 

Departing Venice, Italy, to Greece. 

Cost Breakdown: 
Junior Suite with Balcony: $4,000.00
Premium Beverage Plan (2): 600.00
Shore Excursions (3): 358.50
Gratuities plan & additional: 700.00
Total Including Tax $5,658.00

The price above does not include round trip airfare to Venice and water transportation between the airport and the cruise terminal. 

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With COVID-19 disrupting the travel industry, most operators are now promoting 2021 cruises. The industry has taken a significant hit, and rates are deeply discounted moving forward. 

We found that Royal Caribbean offers a similar itinerary with balcony rates starting at $999 per person, beginning in May 2021. 

For itineraries and dates click here:
https://bit.ly/2Q1N7WL

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