Daily Mail presents the best Mediterranean cruises for 2017 with Greek destinations prevailing in an article entitled “From admiring the whitewashed churches of Santorini to partying in Mykonos: The best Mediterranean cruises revealed”
The British newspaper notes that “Europe’s greatest sea is a dream destination for a voyage. Here are the best Mediterranean cruises…”
The Ionian and Aegean Seas are wonderful contexts for cruising. Begin in Greece, on Corfu, with its epic Renaissance palaces.
Then make for Santorini, where whitewashed churches teeter on the edge of plunging cliffs.
Next, Bodrum, in Turkey, is a party town dotted with ancient sites, including the remains of the Tomb of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Then it is back to Greece and on to Syros, one of the prettiest of the Cyclades islands — before Chania and its glorious old town offers a doorway to Crete.
The next stop, Argostoli, is a gateway to the monasteries and beaches (including the breath-taking Myrtos Beach) of Kefalonia — before Corfu beckons again.
Top tip: As you sail from Corfu to Santorini on your second day, sit on the left of the boat. The Peloponnese, the heartland of ancient Greece, will be readily visible to the east as you move south.
Land ahoy: On Crete, visit the Samaria Gorge — a steep-sided wonder, accessible from Chania, where the island’s mountainous interior rears above you.
Greece is home to so many islands that it is never difficult to find lesser-known treasures. Not least on a cruise that actively seeks them. Sail from Athens to small, mountainous Poros, then to the tiny island of Poliegos, which is celebrated for its beaches.
Next, Folegandros is a Cyclades delight, its capital Chora perched on a cliff. Then go to dramatic, volcanic Santorini.
Paros and its smaller neighbour, Antiparos, have a variety of ancient ruins and later Venetian buildings. Party in Mykonos and revere the ancient gods on the sacred island of Delos. End with Syros and Kythnos, two of the quietest of the Cyclades.
Top tip: This cruise uses the Motor Sailer Galileo. This is a charming ship but, with only 25 cabins, it is not for those who like ocean megaboats.
Land ahoy: On Santorini, see the Minoan site Akrotiri, the Greek Pompeii, buried by volcanic ash circa 1627 BC.
Sail Back in Time
There is an undoubted charm to a cruise on a tall ship, such as Star Clippers’ splendid Star Flyer. With sails fluttering in the wind, it offers a form of travel reminiscent of ancient times.
Casting off from Athens, you head for Turkish shores and the exceptional early Christian site of Ephesus.
Next, Patmos, an unspoilt Greek island, has the Cave of the Apocalypse, where St John supposedly drafted the Book Of Revelations. Amorgos is a lovely shard of the Cyclades.
Then it is on, via the glamour island of Mykonos, to Monemvasia, a Peloponnese town packed with Byzantine churches before a return to Athens.
Top tip: Channel your inner Lord Nelson and climb the mast to take in the view from the first yardarm.
Land ahoy: On Amorgos, visit the monastery of Hozoviotissa — tottering on a cliff edge, it offers some of the finest views in the Mediterranean.
You do not have to go south from Athens. One route sailed by the Majestic Princess is unusual in that it flits north to the mainland port of Volos — which was once home to Jason (of Argonauts fame).
Then it is time for Turkey and Istanbul, before the ship heads to the Greek island of Chios, the ancient home of the poet Homer, and on to Rhodes.
Top tip: This is a voyage for families. Third and fourth guests pay from £475.
Land ahoy: From Volos, visit the Meteora — dramatic rocks topped by medieval monasteries.
Small is Beautiful
Smaller vessels provide an air of luxury and suit those who prefer the small-scale approach. SeaDream describes its voyages as ‘yachting, not cruising’ — and offers a route that takes in the lesser known Greek islands of Hydra, Sifnos, Spetses and Paros, while also calling at Mykonos and Patmos, and crossing to Turkey for Ephesus.
Top tip: Watch out for extra taxes and fees, which can amount to as much as £459 pp on top.
Land ahoy: From Nafplio, visit Corinth, one of the greatest, but least visited, Greek cities, which boasts a vast agora (meeting place) and a Temple of Apollo.
Spirit of Luxury
Cruise passengers can enjoy luxury without breaking the bank. Silversea sails a route on the elegant Silver Spirit, starting and ending in Athens, which calls at the lovely Peloponnese town of Monemvasia, before ticking off Agios Nikolaos on Crete and Marmaris in Turkey.
After Ephesus, the voyage continues to the lively island of Mykonos. Then it is over to Mytilene on Lesbos, which is packed with ancient sites before the Silver Spirit returns to the Greek capital.
Top tip: Make sure your camera is charged for Mytilene. The Lesbos capital is especially photogenic.
Land ahoy: Little Venice in Mykonos is a legacy of Venetian rule on the island. Its Italianate restaurants and houses sit on the edge of the sea.
A Month at Sea
For those who really want to escape, nothing quite beats a lengthy Mediterranean cruise. Saga offers a voyage that stretches to four weeks. Sailing from Southampton, it is suitable for those who dislike flying.
The first week is largely taken up with sailing, with stops in Malaga and Malta, before you reach Athens. You then cover much of the Aegean, taking in Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes, as well as Cyprus, Antalya and Istanbul. On the return leg, this winding journey goes via Cartagena in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal.
Top tip: As you’ll be at sea so long, bring lots of books and entertainment. Luggage porterage is free.
Land ahoy: Don’t miss the great Ottoman castle at Limassol, Cyprus.
Turkey and Greece specialist Celestyal Cruises offers the greatest hits of the Aegean plus some unexpected highlights. So you can see the classical treasures of Ephesus, the bars of Mykonos and the volcanic majesty of Santorini. But you will also tour out-of–the-way islands, such as Kalymnos, Samos, Syros and Milos.
Top tip: If you want a particular focus on Greece, with Greek food specialities, this is the cruise for you.
Land ahoy: Drop into the Samos Wine Museum and discover the wines of the Aegean.