The best time for a cruise in Greece

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With cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, cruises in Greece are both more comfortable and more rewarding in the fall. Here are some of our favorite picks.

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Eearlier in September, while cruising in the perfectly blue waters of Greece, our ship, the 600 passengers Seabourn Ovation, landed on the uninhabited Cycladic island of Delos, off Mykonos. There, my brother and I walked through the ruins of a millennial trading port to the mythical birthplace of Apollo, the Greek god of light. The timing could not have been better: as autumn approached, the crowds of tourists were scarce. And the temperature had already gone from the high 90s of summer to more comfortable 80s, better for exploring the island.

With fewer passengers on board than usual due to pandemic limitations and lower off-season demand, our shore excursion group had fewer than a dozen guests for our outing from Mykonos port. . The privacy of our group gave the local guide, Amaryllis, the opportunity to provide more in-depth explanations and narratives.

We happened to visit Delos on the same day that famous Greek composer (and Marxist rebel) Mikis Theodorakis passed away at the age of 96 (an event marked by sorrow and memories across the country), and I shared that I interviewed him once for a magazine. since. Amaryllis replied that it was no accident that our conversation about Theodorakis took place in Delos., “The island of light”, which some consider to be a spiritual place. “He talks to you and knows that it’s important to share this with me,” she said, tearfully.

Visit the uninhabited island of Delos in relative seclusion on an autumn cruise in Greece.

I have found that traveling through Greece later in the season increases your chances of making these meaningful and memorable encounters. It’s the more personal type of experience you can get away from the crowds of July and August.

What to do and see in Greece in the fall

Greece can be sweltering in the summer – temperatures this year have reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But Athens cooled to a more comfortable lower 80s in the first week of September, a much better time to climb up to the ancient Acropolis.

In October, temperatures typically drop to 70, with the chance of rain increasing later in the month. The Aegean Sea stays warm until October, so swimming is still an option, as is enjoying alfresco dining and sightseeing with gentle breezes. On a small ship like the Seabourn ovation, which has its own water sports platform, you can swim in the water directly from the ship, borrow water sports equipment such as kayaks or take a fun banana boat ride, all always perfectly enjoyable to autumn. Beaches and sunbathing are also options.

Catch the fall colors in the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus.

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There are other advantages for Greece in the fall. From mid-August to October, you can watch the harvest on islands such as Santorini, Rhodes and Crete. Winemaking is a tradition that dates back to the ancient Greeks. If you book a hiking excursion, such as the Seabourn Cyprus Hike to Explore the Troodos Mountains as part of its partnership with wellness guru Dr Andrew Weil, you may be able to catch some fall foliage. In the small village of Elos, in western Crete, autumn is celebrated with a chestnut festival with chestnut-based dishes, live music, traditional dances and homemade liqueurs made from grape and honey.

What is it like to sail in Greece right now

I have been to Mykonos in previous years when it was sometimes difficult to walk the narrow streets as they were very crowded with tourists, but this was not the case on this trip. There was no scrambling to enter the designer boutiques or the tables of the seaside restaurants. And you can pause and take photos of the quaint whitewashed houses, windmills and churches. with a blue dome without being photobombed.

Avoid summer and you will also avoid the crowds of Mykonos.

In Rhodes, my brother and I visited the halls of the Palace of the Grand Masters, built by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, which occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523, with only a handful of other visitors in sight. Some summer days, with normal tour groups, the place is so crowded that you can’t even see the mosaic floors.

There’s also the fall advantage that locals, who are recovering from the generally busy summer season, get back to life. The people we met were universally welcoming and openly expressed their gratitude that we chose to travel to Greece.

Nafplion, the capital of Greece from 1823 to 1834, is one of the most charming towns in the country with its old cobbled town with red roofs, neoclassical mansions, squares and parks. My brother and I hiked almost 1000 stone steps and up to 700 feet to the imposing Palamidi Fortress for amazing views of the city and the sea, then we rewarded ourselves with mezes (out- Greek artwork) such as grilled sardines, stuffed eggplants and dips at the Arapakos seafood restaurant on the harbor. In a beautiful display of Greek hospitality, our server thanked us with a complimentary fruit platter and a very big smile. We were among the few customers there.

Hike to the imposing Palamidi Fortress in Nafplio in the comfort of cooler fall weather.

The best fall cruises in Greece

The great advantage of sailing around the Greek Islands by boat is that you can easily travel around the mainland coast and to several islands without having to worry about ferries, local flights or finding decent accommodation – the ship is your house. And what better home (albeit temporary) than an ultra-luxurious ship such as the Seabourn ovation, where everyone stays in a spacious suite, where champagne flows freely and where you can order caviar whenever you feel like it?

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Due to the pandemic there were only 230 passengers on our sail, not enough to make it seem like we were sometimes on our own private yacht, but also enough that we could always find at least a small one. dancing party at night. The 415-person crew memorized all the passenger names and served excellent restaurant selections of sushi, aged steaks and Thermidor lobster in the ship’s Thomas Keller steakhouse, dishes featuring black truffle, caviar and other gourmet ingredients in the restaurant, and personalized dishes. craft designed cocktails. A favorite meal was a sumptuous buffet of Indian cuisine at the Colonnade, the ship’s casual dining venue.

This could be your home for the week as you cruise Greece with Seabourn.

The Seabourn ovation is in Greece until October with rates for a seven night cruise from $ 4,500 per person. Another ultra-luxury option is Regent Seven Seas Cruises with rates starting at $ 5,800 per person for Greece cruises on the 750 passengers Regent Seven Seas Splendor (the ship is sailing in Greece until mid-November). Premium range focused on destination Azamara has ships sailing in Greece through November with fares starting at around $ 1,500 per person on the 694 passengers Azamara Quest. If you miss these fall 2021 crossings, Seabourn will return to Greece next year with cruises on the 450 passengers. Seabourn Encore from April to November 2022, with rates of approximately $ 4,800 per person.

COVID health protocols

On May 14, Greece became one of the first countries in the European Union to reopen to American visitors. At the time of going to press, fully vaccinated travelers are not required to present a negative PCR test upon arrival. (You will need a test for your return flight to the United States) All of the cruise lines mentioned above require that guests be fully vaccinated.

For the Seabourn cruise, passengers had to be vaccinated and present a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours of boarding the ship. In addition, all guests underwent a rapid antigen test at the jetty before boarding. After completing the test (it took about 15 minutes to get the results), guests were taken to a separate check-in area next to the pier and offered their first glass of chilled champagne.

All of the ship’s crew have been vaccinated and tested regularly. While the crew wore masks, passengers were able to move around without a mask. It was as if the cruise had pre-pandemic. And with everyone on board vaccinated and tested, it also felt, in many ways, safer than in some restaurants and hotels ashore. In Greece, there are masking rules in museums, on public transport (including the crowded ferry we took to Delos) and in some companies, but not in uncrowded outdoor areas. Before visiting Cyprus about 20 passengers including my brother were randomly selected for further testing at the pier.

We were also tested towards the end of the cruise and received the required proof of a negative COVID test result to re-enter the United States from overseas.

>> Next: Which Greek Islands are right for you?


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