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Cruising the Greek Islands with Norwegian Cruise Lines

In September 2022, my travel Wishbook opened once again after a COVID hiatus with my long-awaited cruise visiting several Greek islands, and, oh, how marvelous and breathtakingly beautiful it was! Certainly, well worth the wait!!

Since we had a significant cruise credit from our cancelled French Polynesia cruise, we decided to spoil ourselves and upgrade to a Haven Suite on board the NCL Jade. This older, smaller ship doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the newer ships have, but it is perfect for sliding into the smaller ports of call on their Greek Island itinerary. Our upgraded suite came with our own butler and concierge, access to a private area of the ship that could only be accessed by Haven guests, access to our own private breakfast and lunch venue and access to our own private pool and hot tub. Yes, it was just as nice as it sounds! I may be a spoiled cruiser now! There were significant perks to this upgrade suite category. We were greeted at check in and brought up to our waiting stateroom before the other cruisers arrived. Our butler took care of any of our needs and our concierge ensured that all ship activities were taken care of for us.

NCL Jade
Living Space
Sleeping Space
Bathroom Space

One of the nicest perks came at end of the cruise as everyone was disembarking at the same time. Our concierge service allowed us to have a blocked elevator, whisking us through disembarkation! Very nice!!! The Jade, being an older ship, went through a dry-dock refurbishment to allow for the Haven to be built. Up on the 14th deck, the inside cabins were removed, creating our private space. Other than dinners, shows, nighttime entertainment and the day we spent on board, we spent most of our time at “our” pool area and “our” sun deck on the 15th deck. The ships public areas are very comfortable with plenty of activities during the evening to enjoy. The pool deck is quite large allowing for 2 separate areas for pool time lounging. The food and beverages were definitely improved. And, of course, the service on board was excellent. The staff are all genuinely happy to see us sun seekers and explorers back and cruising again.

Main Pool Area
Sports Deck

We had 2 changes in our original itinerary. The first cancelled our stop at the island of Patmos (fortunately, we had been there before at another visit to Greece as this would have been an important island for me to visit), and our stop at Kusadasi was changed to Izmir. These changes in itinerary are important to recognize on any cruise itinerary. Weather, port security, timing, and docking issues are just a few reasons as to why you could see your cruise itinerary change.

Izmir, Turkey

Our cruise departed from Piraeus, the port of Athens, Greece and overnight we sailed to Izmir, Turkey. My reason to go into Turkey was the ruins at Ephesus and the visit at the House of Mary. Unfortunately, with the change in ports came a much longer drive for us to experience that excursion. It reached 34 degrees during the day, and I wasn’t too excited about the 1.5-hour drive to Ephesus from Izmir and the exploration of the ruins of Ephesus in the heat, so we opted to just stay onboard and enjoy the amenities – we had a really good day! I know that we’ll be back in Greece and it’s a very short ferry ride from the island of Samos to Kusadasi. I’ll save the Ephesus explorations for my next trip to Greece.

Very Large, Modern City of Izmur, Turkey
Plentiful Ferries Crossing the Port Inlet


Departing from Izmir our next stop was the island of Rhodes. This is the largest of the Dodecanese islands. It has amazing beaches with resorts, some perched high above the beach with amenities right at the water’s edge. It’s ancient ruins and remnants of the occupation during the crusades are an integral part of this island’s history. There is a strong Venetian influence on this island as well. Historically, Rhodes was famous for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We chose to explore the Medieval Old Town, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. I absolutely loved strolling the cobblestone streets and alleys. Sadly, this island has experienced its share of earthquakes and much of the city was destroyed in 1481. It’s whitewashed homes, villas and resorts dot the landscape and overlook the stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters.

Beach on Windward Side (Turkey in Distance)
Tour Guide Explaining Symbols
Ruins in the Port


Mykonos. We all have images of this Greek Island engraved in our minds. The landscape is barren, the water is so clear it’s hard to imagine and the beaches await. It is an island of the rich and famous with luxurious hotels, designer boutiques, restaurants with award winning chefs at the helm, and a youthful party scene. You can access it via ferry or fly into its international airport. Here, I loved “getting lost” in Little Venice in Chora, the main village. The walkways of Little Venice are winding with many dead ends where you will encounter a charming local shop or an amazing little “restaurant” to enjoy the local cuisine. We were told that the streets are so convoluted so they would confuse any pirates that were wanting to loot the island. Yes, they are very convoluted! At the end of the journey through Little Venice comes your reward – the windmills of Mykonos. There are many tourists that visit these windmills. The walk up is a little steep, but doable. Probably the most popular of excursions are those that go to Delos, where you can explore the great historical importance of the ancient past. At the small uninhabited island of Rhenia you will discover the interwoven past with Delos.

Port of Mykonos
Bay Filled with Yachts
Sandy Beach on South Side
Tour Boat in Clear Water at Beach
Dry Countryside
Little Venice
Windmills in Mykonos


Our next port of call was the port of Argostoli on Kefalonia. Argostoli is the capital of the island and is full of historical and cultural landmarks. It’s beautiful. There’s plenty of restaurants and shops just a short jaunt from the ship. There is a large town square where we managed to stop for a drink and a snack. If you are lucky enough, you will even see the caretta sea turtles! The waterfront walk is excellent with lots of stops for shopping, dining or a quick snack. The locals are very friendly and will stop in chat with you if given the chance! There are beautiful beaches on Kefalonia. The main excursion here are the beaches and the boat ride out to Melissani Lake Cave. Its roof collapsed thousands of years ago due to an earthquake. When the sun comes through the opening, you are witness to the incredible blue waters and the multi-coloured cave walls and the illusion of the “blue cave”. It has 2 caverns and the wait times to enter can be long, but it is worth it if you have the time and patience!

Arriving at Argostoli, Kefalonia
Docked with Impressive Yachts Alongside
Beautiful Waters in the Port Inlet
A Caretta Sea Turtle Visible from the Cruise Ship


Leaving Kefalonia we were on our way to Corfu. It’s very metropolitan and modern and feels more “Western” than Greek. In the Old Town, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, palaces, fortresses and Venetian style buildings highlight the stop here. There are a considerable number of churches, the most prevalent being the Church of St. Spyridon, the island’s patron saint. You will find his relics kept there. It’s here that Ulysses met Princess Nausicaa in one of the Homer’s Odyssey scenes. What’s particularly striking about Corfu is how green and lush it is. It’s idyllic beaches beckon and its quaint villages invite you to stop and stay awhile. We chose to take a taxi into town, and I managed to do some retail therapy here! This island is a food lovers dream!

Old Towne from the Cruise Port
Many Ferries Stop in Corfu
Charming Narrow Streets in Old Towne
I’m on a Retail Mission
Mission Accomplished
Exiting the Corfu Port – A Favourite Place to Set anchor


Before arriving back into Athens, our last port of call was the showstopper for me – Santorini. Don’t stay on the ship in this port! And get out on deck as you arrive. We cruised into the caldera and witnessed the incredible scenery of this group of islands known simply as Santorini. You can clearly see the volcano ash and can even go volcano hiking if you wish! And if you are wondering – it’s not snow that caps the surrounding volcanic hills – it’s the tell-tale white of the buildings for its four major towns and it’s remarkable. It’s very hilly – one side of the volcano goes up and the other down – so the beaches are on the “downside” (eastern slope) and the high cliffs of Santorini on the other (western slope) and facing the caldera. Here the beaches are beautiful, black and red sands from the volcanic soil. and just when you think you can go up and further, you can! Be prepared for a lot of walking on cobblestones and up! Fira and Oia, Firostefani, and Imerovigli are all worth exploring. From the cruise ship, there are many excursions to choose from that allow you to experience as much of this island as possible. We passed through three of them and ended the tour with a delicious dinner and traditional Greek dance presentation. It’s only 6 km wide, so you actually can see both sides of the island at the same time from the right vantage point.

A Windstar Cruise Ship with Fira Atop the Cliff
Fira with Winding Path to Old Port (take the tram)
Famous Blue Domes of Oia
Looking Downwards from Oia
Vineyards on top of Santorini

What Did I Think?

So, what did I think about cruising the Greek islands onboard the NCL Jade? All in all, I loved it – and again, I must admit in part due to the upgrade to the Haven Suite. The ship is older but has been spruced up and offers a wonderful cruising environment and amazing service. Don’t expect all the bells and whistles – this cruise is about the ports (islands) visited more than it is about the ship. The scenery on route is incredible and I have my favourite and least favourite islands that we visited. I probably wouldn’t visit the same islands (well, maybe a couple) but I also wouldn’t hesitate to visit new islands either on another cruise or simply by island hopping on the ferries.

Was it worth it? Yes, is most certainly was! Did the NCL Jade disappoint? No, it did not. Go. Explore. Uncover. Discover. A cruise through the Greek Islands is a magical experience.

My trip to Greece and Paris is broken down into 4 Chronicles posts (including this one). I hope you enjoy them:

You can also check all my photos from the trip in my Gallery.

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