Greece has been on my bucket list for a while, so when an opportunity to explore Greece became available, I was ready to go! Cruising the Greek Isle's is an ideal way to explore multiple islands. You only have to unpack once and you get to visit many ports. Plus this cruise included Istanbul! This was my 2nd trip to Turkey, as my last trip was in 2001, so it has been a while. Plus 2001 was when I purchased my first digital camera. I remember not taking too many photos as they were $1 each to get printed. Now I had the opportunity to take as many photos as I'd like!
Arriving into Istanbul, I heard the powerful call to prayer between the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia. The call to prayer happens 5 times a day and is dependent on the time of the sunrise & sunset.
Visiting the Grand Bazaar is another experience in itself. Sixty-one covered streets of shopping! The architecture is fascinating but it is hard to enjoy with the crowds. I didn't even make it down one street. I will need to go back to have more time to explore. Luckily the ship docks near the Spice Bazaar, so I was able to walk there before we sailed away. It is much smaller than the Grand Bazaar, so it is easier to explore the wonderful aromas and colors that filled the stalls.
We had one more stop in Turkey before heading to Greece. We stopped in Canakkale, which is near the archeological site of Troy and the legendary city from Greek mythology. I couldn't miss an opportunity to see the Trojan Horse!
Our first stop in Greece was about 3 hours north of Athens, Volos, which is located on the mainland. This stop was to visit the hanging monasteries of Meteora. These are amazing structures built in the 14th Century. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore these wonders of ancient architecture.
We sailed on to Crete and visited a traditional Raki distiller who also makes their own wine. The Raki was not for me, but of course I had to bring some back just in case. It is supposed to cure everything!
Santorini was next on the list. Traveling in October is less crowded than the summer months. The top "photo" sites were crowded but nothing like what I have seen during other times. It is a beautiful view in Oia, looking over the whitewashed buildings with the blue domed church. That evening we sailed into Mykonos for dinner. It is a magical place at night, all lit up and hearing the waves crash against the buildings. You can easily get lost in Mykonos wandering down the narrow paths.
Our cruise came to an end back in Athens. We spent the final days touring the Plaka district and visiting the Acropolis. This was the longest line we had to endure on the entire trip, but it was worth it. Beautiful view from the top and so much history.
Celestyal Cruises offers an immersion to Greek culture on and off the ship. It is a small ship, which ensures you are not touring with thousands of other guests.
Updated Oct 2020: Celestyal purchased a new exciting ship - Celestal Experience - that will begin sailing in 2021.