I can’t wait for next Thanksgiving. A couple of years ago, we sailed on the Island Princess through the Panama Canal from Ft. Lauderdale to San Francisco. This year, we had planned a two week cruise to Hawaii with Princess Cruises, and well, it was our last vacation to be cancelled because of Covid-19. I’m optimistic that cruising will begin again soon, and have booked three cruises for 2021. The one that I’m most excited about is a return to the Mediterranean! Next Thanksgiving, we’ll be aboard the Island Princess again for a cruise to Greece, Turkey, Israel, Malta & Cyprus!
With the new cruising rules that will go into effect when cruising begins (and will likely change many times before I actually embark a cruise ship), I’m beginning to plan & confirm my shore excursions now, hopefully to avoid any disappointment later. You can watch a short video here to see how Princess plans to handle health & safety in the future.
I’ve been to Athens before. I was on a cruise to Greece & Italy aboard the Norwegian Spirit in November of 2017. The weather was perfect. It was sunny, cool, and the ports weren’t full of other cruise ships making the port cities much more easily manageable. There is a definite plus to sailing off-season! When we visited Athens, the thing that I really wish I had done was to actually see the Acropolis. We went there, but it was only a photo-stop for pictures at the bottom of the hill. I really wanted to climb that hill and get some up close shots, and see the Parthenon & the Erectheum. This time, I’m choosing a more detailed excursion where I’ll get to actually visit this symbol of Greek history!
I’ve booked the Ultimate Athens tour, which is a Discovery Exclusive with Princess Cruises. Here’s what it entails:
Board your air-conditioned motorcoach for a 30- to 40-minute scenic drive into the heart of Athens.
Considered one of the great museums of the world, the New Acropolis Museum, an ultra-modern showcase located at the foot of the Acropolis, displays a dramatic collection of artifacts and statues from the Pantheon, the Porch of the Caryatids, and surrounding sites.
The word Acropolis means “high city” in Ancient Greek, and your next destination sits on a rocky perch over 500 feet tall. A sacred place for Athenians since Mycenaean times, the Acropolis is a symbol of Greek history, democracy and the ingenuity of the ancient world. Your guided walking tour begins as you climb the 80 steep steps through the Propylaea, the monumental gateway that extends 150 feet across the Acropolis’ western side.
Beyond the Propylaea, on the highest point of the Acropolis, stands the Parthenon, one of the greatest monuments of ancient civilization and one of the most recognizable. Dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena, the white Pentelic marble temple was built 446 – 437 B.C. Its architectural sophistication has captivated visitors for centuries.
Beyond the Parthenon lies the Erectheum, situated on the most sacred site of the Acropolis, where Athena and Poseidon are said to have held a contest to decide who would be Patron of the city. When Poseidon thrust his trident into the ground, water burst forth, but when Athena touched the ground with her spear and an olive tree grew, she was named ruler of the city. The building itself contains the graceful Porch of the Caryatids, with its exquisite, delicate row of maidens. Legend has it that when Lord Elgin removed one of the original six statues for his Scottish mansion, the remaining five maidens could be heard crying in the night.
The Ancient Tastes Restaurant, located just outside of central Athens, is the setting for a feast of dishes prepared according to ancient recipes. During the lunch, enjoy a Greek dance performance. After lunch, you will travel to Plaka, a lively marketplace located in one of the oldest areas of Athens.
Picturesque Plaka is home to cobblestone lanes and petite shops filled with antiques, jewelry, and handicrafts. Many of the streets have been closed to automobile traffic, so browsing the area is a delight. Small local museums include the Museum of Greek Folk Art and the Jewish Museum of Greece. An hour is provided to explore this area independently.
Your guided motorcoach tour then continues through the streets of Athens. Have your camera ready for photo opportunities, including the magnificent Old Olympic Stadium, the Parliament Building, and Syntagma Square for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you are lucky you will see the hourly ritual changing of the guards called Evones. Snap a picture of their unique costumes, complete with pom-poms on the toes of their shoes.
If you’re interested in joining me on this amazing itinerary, give me a shout! I’ve arranged special amenities for those that book with me!