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Newbie to Cruising - Wind Star Greek Isles tendering, towns and more


NYJoe
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Hi everyone,

 

I have done some searches and have learned a lot from this forum, but have a few questions about a Greek Isles cruise on the Wind Star I have booked for July on a bit of whim.  I'll be traveling with my partner, and we know little about cruising, but I had always wanted to be on a ship of this size, and we had both always wanted to visit the Greek Islands. 

 

So, I now know what tendering is, for example, but have some questions:  

 

-- Will the Wind Star tender at places on the Greek Isles cruise (itinerary here: https://www.windstarcruises.com/cruise/overview/greece/athens-greece-to-athens-greece/treasures-of-the-greek-isles/?pkgid=330827) that will allow us to explore on our own, or will we be arriving with the larger cruise ships and have to compete with them? (This seems like a big issue at Mykonos and Santorini from what i have read)

 

-- Does Windstar provide local transportation from those tendering ports to other places (such as a town) if one is NOT on a Windstar shore excursion?

 

-- If we are to explore a place on our own, can we choose to return to the ship at any time, or are tenders limited to certain hours timed with the excursions?  We are not early risers, for example, and will not want to be on a 9am tender if we can avoid it 🙂

 

-- Is it possible to take a packed lunch from the ship to go hiking, for example, on our own?

 

We're not anti social, but really want to move at our own pace, and hate being rushed. 

 

Any suggestions about how to tackle Mykonos and Santorini for a few hours on our own would be appreciated as well.

 

I'm sure I'll have plenty more questions, but I thought I'd start small...

 

Thank you!

 

Joe

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Santorini is tightly controlled by the local ship unions.  Only ship excursions are allowed to tender to the port of Athinios, the only one where tour buses can meet the tender.  [Taxis could too, theoretically, but independent passengers are not allowed to take these tenders.]  

 

Independent guests must tender to the port of Skala, where you have only five options:  (1) take the cable car to Fira, from which you can take a taxi or bus to Oia; (2) ride a mule up the hill to Fira, etc; (3) climb the stairs to Fira (stepping on mule dung), etc; (4) stay in Skala – which is like saying you visited Rome after walking around Civitavecchia...; (5) take the earliest tender in order to get on the local boat to Oia – this is my preferred choice because the included bus gets you up the hill to Oia before the vast horde of tourists.

 

You are lucky that Windstar stays in port later than the mega ships, so on your return from Fira to the tender port the line for the cable car will have dwindled.  [But sunset isn't until half past 8, so even with your late 9 pm sail time you can't stay in Oia for that magical display.]

 

Santorini is really wonderful – especially Oia – and you should do whatever you must to explore it.  I was going to suggest that you take a ship tour to avoid the transfer hassles, but I see that they are all listed to start at 8:15 am.  😱  

 

For a leisurely day (I sympathize as I am also a late riser), take a later tender to Skala port, the line for the cable car up should be fairly short, explore Fira, take a taxi or the local bus to Oia and enjoy a leisurely lunch in a beautiful place, taxi/bus back to Fira, and if the mega ships have departed the line for the cable car down should be short.

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Mykonos Old Town is pretty but will be very crowded.  The main option is the ferry to Delos, a very interesting archeological site.  In 2016 we took the 10 am ferry and it was already hot on Delos.  We took the 1:30 return ferry to Mykonos and had plenty of time to explore the famous church, 'little Venice' neighborhood and the famous windmills.

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General:  I suggest you get Rick Steves Greece book to research all the ports on your cruise.  It will show you the high points that you may want to visit, as well as helping with logistics and timing.

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If you like traveling without crowds I suggest you go on Tours are Local. Find a driver/guide especially for Santorini. Both islands, the crowds are unnerving. We were greatly disappointed in Santorini because we did not get a guide and we stayed in Fira, we were mad at ourselves. Mykonos was even more crowded, you get nice views of the Windmills  from the ship, we got a taxi, agreed he would also pick us up as well, he did he was  very nice and told him to take us to a nice uncrowded beach within the relative area. He took us to a great beach with chairs and  umbrella  to rent had the perfect long morning. I wish WS, which we love, 30 times, would stop at lesser known Greek islands, they are more beautiful and interesting. Ephesus was incredible, we were lucky no ships that day. Tenders run the entire time on, a regular basis, you are there and the last tender to the ship is 30 minutes prior to departure, you have to be punctual. Think you can get a sandwich on the ship to take ashore, why do that the little markets have amazing food to munch on in Greece. On most of our cruises with WS we do our own thing, we are not that interested on what the world tells us to see we love art, food culture, we love to swim,  love culture, we love to explore the unexplored, hate standing in lines and crowds. WS Cruises allows for all that easily. Have a wonderful time. Bring protection from the heat. Happy Sailing

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Posted (edited)

Thank you, Host Jazzbeau and Strenz - this is incredibly helpful! We definitely want to do our own thing and so this is exactly the kind of knowledge that I'd hoped for!   

 

Yes, I had some fears about the crowds in Mykonos and Santorini, so we will seek out a guide / taxi for both. 

 

Besides Santorini, Ephesus, and Mykonos (per your responses), do you know if there are regular tenders from the ship to Nafplio and Patmos?  

 

And does the dinner at Ephesus negate the need to go there on an excursion / tour?

 

Any other tips or advice about the islands?

 

Thank you again.

 

Joe

 

 

Edited by NYJoe
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When we were on this cruise many years ago, they did the on-deck BBQ the evening we were docked in the caldera of Santorini.  Hopefully, they are still doing this.  It is so beautiful the see the lights of the city as you are sailing away.  This was my first Windstar cruise and haven't cruised on another line since.  You will love it.

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22 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

Santorini is tightly controlled by the local ship unions.  Only ship excursions are allowed to tender to the port of Athinios, the only one where tour buses can meet the tender.  [Taxis could too, theoretically, but independent passengers are not allowed to take these tenders.]  

 

Independent guests must tender to the port of Skala, where you have only five options:  (1) take the cable car to Fira, from which you can take a taxi or bus to Oia; (2) ride a mule up the hill to Fira, etc; (3) climb the stairs to Fira (stepping on mule dung), etc; (4) stay in Skala – which is like saying you visited Rome after walking around Civitavecchia...; (5) take the earliest tender in order to get on the local boat to Oia – this is my preferred choice because the included bus gets you up the hill to Oia before the vast horde of tourists.

 

You are lucky that Windstar stays in port later than the mega ships, so on your return from Fira to the tender port the line for the cable car will have dwindled.  [But sunset isn't until half past 8, so even with your late 9 pm sail time you can't stay in Oia for that magical display.]

 

Santorini is really wonderful – especially Oia – and you should do whatever you must to explore it.  I was going to suggest that you take a ship tour to avoid the transfer hassles, but I see that they are all listed to start at 8:15 am.  😱  

 

For a leisurely day (I sympathize as I am also a late riser), take a later tender to Skala port, the line for the cable car up should be fairly short, explore Fira, take a taxi or the local bus to Oia and enjoy a leisurely lunch in a beautiful place, taxi/bus back to Fira, and if the mega ships have departed the line for the cable car down should be short.

Great information.  Is my understanding correct that even if you take a ship tour, at the end you will be deposited in Fira and will have to make your way down the hill to the port of Skala to catch a return tender to the ship?

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I believe that used to be the case, but Windstar’s descriptions say your tours will return to Athinios port and tender back from there to the ship. 

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I try to check a website that will tell you how many ships are in port, how many people are on them, and the hours they are in port. I think I use cruise time table - here is a link to the Santorini page https://www.cruisetimetables.com/santorini-greece-cruise-ship-schedule.html Find your date and see what the situation is. When I was there a couple of years ago we got off the ship quickly, took the cable car up, and then took the bus to Oia. (Tom's Port guides, maybe Rick Steves, I think has a good page for that but I don't have it bookmarked) Later a mega ship arrived and the line for going up the cable car was horrifically long. Be aware of when the mega ships leave so that you don't get stuck in a long line at the top.

 

Patmos - there is a downhill earthen trail from the Chora that passes the religious cave and then through the woods to the town below. I walked this with my sister and it was very enjoyable. Once in the town we headed towards the waterfront, stopping for a meal at a neighborhood restaurant. There was a sign stating that the government is promoting several walking trails. If this is your kind of thing you can google to see if there is information on the other ones.

 

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12 minutes ago, MNgardens said:

I try to check a website that will tell you how many ships are in port, how many people are on them, and the hours they are in port. I think I use cruise time table - here is a link to the Santorini page https://www.cruisetimetables.com/santorini-greece-cruise-ship-schedule.html Find your date and see what the situation is. When I was there a couple of years ago we got off the ship quickly, took the cable car up, and then took the bus to Oia. (Tom's Port guides, maybe Rick Steves, I think has a good page for that but I don't have it bookmarked) Later a mega ship arrived and the line for going up the cable car was horrifically long. Be aware of when the mega ships leave so that you don't get stuck in a long line at the top.

 

Patmos - there is a downhill earthen trail from the Chora that passes the religious cave and then through the woods to the town below. I walked this with my sister and it was very enjoyable. Once in the town we headed towards the waterfront, stopping for a meal at a neighborhood restaurant. There was a sign stating that the government is promoting several walking trails. If this is your kind of thing you can google to see if there is information on the other ones.

 

Thank you so much, MNGardens - much appreciated!

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Ephesus and especially the terrace houses are great if you are a history buff.  In July it will be hotter than Hades. If you are not big into history you will get a sense of the place at the evening event.

 

Because it will be so hot in July consider getting a laundry package. I would come back to the ship, take off all my sweaty clothes and put them in the laundry bag for the steward to pick up that evening.

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One more thing about Santorini – there is a hike from Fira to Oia, with some lovely views across the caldera from changing viewpoints (like the Grand Canyon Rim Trail).  DO NOT DO IT.  It is much harder, and hotter, than the descriptions on the internet.

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Nafplio is a beautiful small town and easy for walking around on your own from the tender location. Quite a number of charming shops.

There is a castle on the top, and you can walk up to it and down from it. Thew views are great. When I was there, there was a hotel just below the fortifications, and their elevator took me back to the middle of the town.

 

In Patmos, I remember taking the local bus up to the monastery which was the highlight for me. The local bus was close to the tender spot. I just don't remember how I paid for the bus, but then I operate in Euros in daily life.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It looks like no one has mentioned Monemvasia.  The tender drops you off in the new town.  There is a bus that takes you over, for 1 euro, to the old walled fortress town where no cars are allowed.  It is a great place to explore on your own.  Be adventurous and hike to the top for a panoramic view and take a photo of the Wind Star anchored in the bay.  We were there in October and it was hot.  Bring plenty of water if you hike to the top

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