Classy Destinations had the privilege to lead a group from Macon and surrounding areas to Greece for a scenic cruise of their beautiful islands. Oh, what fun we had!
We arrived a couple of days ahead in Athens to have a day to see the sights there and eat some delicious Greek food. Our first night’s dinner was at the swanky Grand Bretagne rooftop restaurant where we had a view of the city of Athens and the lit-up Acropolis with the Parthenon in the distance! It was a wonderful start to our Greek adventure!
The next day we had a private tour of Athens beginning with the Acropolis. Acropolis means top and the Parthenon on the Acropolis was built for Athena, the goddess of wisdom, 2500 years ago, in the golden age of Athens. Parthenon means house of the virgin and it is an optical illusion because it contains no straight lines and no right angles, a true feat of Greek Architecture. We also saw Mars Hill which is where the Apostle Paul preached about false gods in Acts 17:16-34. After touring the museum holding artifacts from the excavations, we saw the changing of the guard at the monument of the unknown soldier in Syntagma Square and other areas where they are excavating even more in ancient Greece. This day was topped off by a wonderful dinner at the rooftop restaurant, Tudors, of the King George hotel with another stunning view of the Acropolis.
Because a marathon was blocking all the streets around our hotel, we had a little trek to get to our transfer to the ship! It’s all about the story and when you are in a group these stories make you really bond. We all are still laughing about lugging our luggage to the metro to meet our transfer. At the port we showed our vaccination card, got rapid tested for Covid, and boarded the ship ready to go.
Our cruise ship was only at 60% capacity - this meant there was almost one crew member per person. They called it the Great Cruise Comeback and they want to keep cruising, so they were serious about keeping us safe and we appreciated it. Every morning when you walked into breakfast the smiling crew member would say “Washy, washy, handsy, handsy” before you ate. They were so thankful to have us onboard and we were thrilled to be there.
Our first stop was the island of Crete - the largest island in Greece. Some of us in the group chose to do the hop on hop on bus to see the sights. We highly recommend this wherever you may go. It is the best way to get an overview of the place you are visiting. Crete had many fun treasures to buy too that we all discovered!
Next was the island of Rhodes, which is famous for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We went to the top of the island to the Filerimos Monastery. It was fascinating to see the ruins dating back to the 3rd century as well as where the monks lived. We walked a long path with beautifully carved stations of the cross leading to a 15-meter cross with a view of the gorgeous blue Aegean Sea.
On to the beautiful island of Mykonos with the bright white buildings with blue roofs. The government in Mykonos has made it a law that all houses must be painted white. Originally, they began to paint them white to cool down the interior and then with a breakout of cholera it was mandated that all houses be painted white because the paint contained limestone - a powerful disinfectant. The roofs are mostly flat because there is very little rainfall and so they would have cisterns on the roof to catch the rain and store it for later. In addition to all the beautiful sights, Mykonos has amazing shopping!
Back to the mainland of Greece and on to Olympia where the first Olympics began. Did you know they competed in the nude? We saw the Olympic stadium which seated 50,000 people in the grass, and they didn’t run in a circle but back and forth. Next, we visited a family-owned winery where we got to sample their wine and some Greek snacks. The family stayed behind in the fire from August 4th to save their vineyard. You could see the line where the fire stopped. Unfortunately, they lost a lot of their olive trees.
In Corfu we went to sample kumquat liquor - the specialty of the island and then to the Achillean Palace which was built for the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and it is where the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only was shot. We passed Mouse Island as we headed back to the Old Town for some more great shopping.
Our last and best excursion was on the beautiful island of Santorini that our entire group enjoyed together. You must take a tender from the boat to the town of Fira built into the hill and then either ride a gondola or a donkey to the top. We chose the gondola! Eleana, our wonderful guide from Santorini, met us at the top and narrated as we toured in our Mercedes sprinter van. We were driven to the town of Oia where we took pictures of the iconic white buildings and blue roofs. Unlike Mykonos, they now paint their houses white because they want to, it is not a law. We were able to tour all over the island seeing the red beach with a monastery on top and we had a wonderful lunch under the trees on the black beach. We loved the local Greek wine and Santorini salads with tomatoes that are known to be some of the world’s best because of the volcanic soil.
Our trip was wonderful from start to finish. Traveling during a pandemic has some advantages…. fewer crowds at all the sites and everything is clean, clean, clean! Everyone is so thankful that tourism is starting to return that they couldn’t be any nicer or more grateful! Our group kept saying they were so glad we went, and we are ready to go again!
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