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Athens and Greek Islands Cruise aboard Celestyal Journey

11days from
£2,399*per person

Overview

11 Days - Ocean Cruises

This Grecian adventure transports you back to ancient times, visiting sites synonymous with legendary tales of Greek gods and the amazing journeys detailed in Homer's famous works. First, we'll wander through the Acropolis in Athens. Then, we’ll visit the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey and tour Knossos - the birthplace of the first civilisation and fabled site of the Minoan maze that housed a mythical minotaur. In Greece's cultural capital, Thessaloniki, there are not one but 15 UNESCO-protected sites to explore. And in the quintessentially Grecian streets of Mykonos, Milos and Santorini we can experience the country's laid-back vibe as we leisurely sail from island to island (with Poseidon’s blessing, of course). Finally, we'll relax on the coast with a two-night stay in our resort hotel, enjoying the nearby beaches and exploring the local area as you wish. This holiday is ideal for history enthusiasts and those with a penchant for Greek mythology.

Itinerary

  • Arrive in sun-soaked Athens and transfer to the hotel for our overnight stay.  Sitting just five miles from the Bay of Phaleron, an inlet of the Aegean, Athens is the setting for many myths and legends. It's one of the world's oldest cities. Once the centre of Ancient Greece, landmarks such as the Acropolis and Parthenon - which date back to the fifth century - are inescapable. It doesn't matter where you go, you'll still spot their imposing figures high on the hill in the distance. There's no better introduction to Greece than Athens. Its warm Mediterranean ambience promises an unforgettable adventure, igniting your passion for exploration. So, as you spend the rest of the day at your leisure, you can begin to explore the vibrant and cosmopolitan capital’s houses and modern neighbourhoods. There's a wealth of archaeological sites and museums just waiting for you. Enjoy a glass of retsina with your fellow explorers or chat with the locals as you watch the sunset over the ancient landmarks and look forward to the next 10 days exploring this fascinating country. 
  • This morning we'll journey through time back to Ancient Greece on a tour of Athens, including a visit to the legendary Acropolis. Those with an interest in Greek mythology will know it was on top of Acropolis Hill that Athens received its name. You'll be enthralled by the majestic ruins, where the Parthenon - an ancient religious temple the Athenians built for the Greek goddess Athena - stands testament to Greece's long cultural heritage. Its blindingly white columns and perfect symmetry dominate the skyline as we travel up the steep slope of Acropolis Hill. There's so much to see, from the Porch of Maidens - which supports the southern part of the Erechtheion - to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. And, because we know it's not enough to just see these ancient wonders, we'll head to the Acropolis Museum to learn more. Devoted to the Parthenon and surrounding temples, the museum houses over 3,000 famous artefacts and features a glass floor displaying the ancient houses and streets below.  Then you're free to wander through the narrow streets of Plaka below the Acropolis at leisure, soaking in the traditional charm and indulging in authentic Greek cuisine at local tavernas. This afternoon, we'll say goodbye to Athens and hello to the Celestyal Journey, our home for the next seven nights. Here we'll join more like-minded travellers on a journey across the Aegean Sea. The rest of the day can be spent exploring the ship - head down to our Martini Bar and enjoy one of the exclusive Signature Cocktails, catch the evening show or dine in one of seven restaurants on board. Then settle into your newly refurbished room for a good night’s sleep - the first of many on board the Celestyal Journey.
  • After a relaxing first night on board the Celestyal Journey, we'll explore Thessaloniki - Greece's cultural capital. Athen's might have the Acropolis, but Thessaloniki is Greece's real cultural capital - and the second largest city in Greece. There are no less than 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites and 29 museums celebrating everything from archaeology to avant-garde Russian works. Today, we'll spend time at leisure in the city so you can decide for yourself what to see. Maybe you'll choose to wander through its ancient ruins, including the Rotunda - the oldest of Thessaloniki's churches and one of the oldest Christian churches in the world - the Arch of Galerius - the city’s Byzantine Walls, several churches, the Vlatadon Monastery and the Byzantine baths. You could experience the city's bustling atmosphere with a stroll along Aristotelous Square. If you're a follow-your-stomach kind of traveller, you should head to the Ladadika District. As Greece’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Thessaloniki is famed for perfect pastries, spicy meatballs, wine, frappés and local specialities reflecting a rich cultural heritage - and if you stumble upon one of the many traditional tavernas here, it's well worth a stop. Be warned: dishes, like Bougiourdi, are a bit spicier than in the rest of Greece (and oh, so tasty). We hope you can handle the heat. And end your visit by watching the waves lap against the promenade from a waterfront cafe before you head back to the ship.
  • Walking through Ephesus this morning on a guided tour, you really get a sense of what life was like in the second century. If you did nothing else here but gaze up in wonder, it would still be time well spent. Luckily, you have a guide to point out the finer points of this incredible feat of construction. Curious about what a toilet looked like in 2 BC? Prepare to have your curiosity satisfied. In this open-air museum, history comes to life at every turn. The crumbling facade of the two-storey library glows with a golden hue in the sun. While only parts of the structure remain, it was once thought to hold around 12,000 precious scrolls - which makes it the third-largest library in the Greco-Roman world, behind Alexandria and Pergamum. The ruins stand as a testament to the architectural brilliance of the Roman era. We'll wander through the streets of Ephesus to see the enormous amphitheatre that once echoed with the cheers of thousands of spectators. You can also bear witness to this once highly sophisticated society where opulent houses boasted marble-lined halls, exquisite mosaics, and stunning frescoes. The ruins are still being excavated and you're left with the sense that there's so much more to be discovered. Before we depart Kusadasi in the early evening, don't miss a chance to stroll through the picturesque Turkish seaside town and along the promenade or feel the thrill of haggling at local shops.
  • Join our guide this morning for a tour of the ancient city of Knossos, said to be the birthplace of the very first civilisation in Europe - the Minoans. Sitting just outside of Heraklion on the island of Crete, Knossos has been called the oldest city in Europe, with a human presence since 7000 BC. In the (somewhat disturbing) Greek myth, when King Minos of Crete failed to sacrifice a bull to Poseidon, the god cursed his wife to lust after the animal. By it, she conceived the man-eating Minotaur, with the head of a bull and the body of a man, which was confined in a labyrinth that - legend has it - was built underneath the Palace of Knossos. While no minotaurs roam the complex these days (or so we're told), it is still quite the maze with five acres of multi-story ruins to explore. As you stand among the marble and crumbling limestone masonry of the Central Court, grand staircase and throne room, you can't help but be struck by the sophistication of the construction. Timeworn murals and paintings still hang on some walls. We'll see the ruins of the Palace apartment and tread in the footsteps of the Minoan civilisation who resided here all those thousands of years ago. This afternoon will be free to explore Crete's capital, Heraklion, at leisure. In ancient times, the city served as the port where the Minoans traded their valuable wares, such as gold, ceramics and saffron - a precious spice and dye. Today, if you catch Heraklion at the right time of day, it smells of cinnamon and indistinguishable sizzling meats. In the background, you'll hear the ice cream vendors by the harbour yelling over the music played in local cafes and bars. While modern Heraklion is a maze of painted concrete, the old city is not hard to find (despite poor street signs that are rarely in English). In the old town, you'll hear a buzz of voices as you pass the busy cafes and tavernas that line the streets. The city is easily walkable and, as you explore, you'll stumble across beautiful architecture, old churches and Turkish fountains. If you're hungry to learn more about the Minoans, the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is also in the old town, displaying even more ancient artefacts from Knossos. For those looking to relax, you could soak up the Greek sun on a stroll along the re-developed waterfront, stopping at one of the beautiful beaches in and around the city, or simply linger in a local café and watch the world go by. Top tip: Crete is known for its excellent food, so be sure to try some delicious meze dishes with a glass of Cretan raki - a pomace brandy distilled from grapes harvested on the island.
  • If you’re up on deck early enough this morning, you will be able to watch the ship glide into Santorini's vast caldera - the crescent bay formed by a volcanic eruption that took place over 3,500 years ago. When you imagine the Greek Islands, Santorini immediately springs to mind - and for good reason. The multi-hued, sheer cliffs rise above the sea, crowned by the blindingly white cubist architecture that is so typical of the Greek Islands. Join a guided tour of the island, stopping at the unspoilt village of Megalochori - a warren of white-washed buildings and blue-domed churches, pretty squares flanked by tavernas and hidden lanes. The village is surrounded by vineyards and wineries famous for producing sweet red Vinsanto wine. We'll then continue east to Oia - one of the most photographed places in Santorini. You can spend time here admiring the view and browsing the marble-paved alleys and shops. Many artists in Santorini create unique artwork inspired by the region’s natural beauty, so finding a souvenir here should be easy. For the superstitious among you, the symbol of the evil eye - known as "kako mati" in Greek - is commonly found on souvenirs in the Greek islands. It is believed to offer protection against negative energy (although how on earth there could be negative energy on such a beautiful island, we cannot say). This belief dates back to Classical antiquity and still holds significant value in Greek culture today. Our tour's grand finale is a visit to the traditional buildings carved into the rocks in the settlement of Ammoudi at the foot of the caldera. There'll be ample time to explore more of Santorini, as the ship doesn't sail until late this evening. It’s the perfect opportunity to sample local cuisine with dinner ashore in one of the local tavernas. We dare you to try something new.
  • This morning, we'll embark on a guided tour of Mykonos and its capital, Hora, where cobbled lanes and whitewashed houses provide idyllic photo opportunities. We'll stop in Alfekandra (lovingly known as Little Venice), with 18th-century homes featuring wooden balconies that hang above the sea and overlook the southwest and the island’s famous windmills. These magnificent houses originally belonged to rich merchants or captains - with little basement doors that provided direct access to the seas - and have now been transformed into unique restaurants, bars, shops and nightclubs.  This afternoon, enjoy time at leisure to explore Mykonos as you please. The maze of lanes and blue-domed churches beg to be explored and, as you wander, you'll happen upon a few sea views to stop you in your tracks. If you're looking for a more leisurely afternoon, you could relax with a drink or bite to eat in one of its numerous tavernas, bars and cafes. Or you could spend the afternoon basking in the Greek sunshine on one of the island's beautiful sandy beaches.
  • Today, you can put your own plans into action to get the most out of Milos with a full day at leisure on this stunning Greek island. As the southwesternmost of the Cyclades islands, Milos offers a range of beautiful landscapes. You could visit the white volcanic rock formations and turquoise waters of Sarakiniko beach - a lunar landscape that's straight out of sci-fi – or stop at a quaint fishing village with amazing views. You can soak up the island’s laid-back charm or discover more of its history with a visit to the 13th-century Venetian Castle fort and finds from ancient Phylakopi at the archaeological museum. Maybe venture to the amphitheatre and catacombs as well as the Plaka area, renowned for its local pastry shops and homemade sweets. Not sure what to do today? No problem, your Tour Manager is on hand to recommend popular sights and some top-secret local spots.
  • After 7 nights at sea, we'll put our feet firmly back on dry land today as we disembark Celestyal Journey and head to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. According to myth, this is the spot where Aegeus, King of Athens, fell into the sea - giving the Aegean Sea its name. Built on the highest point of the hill, with 15 marble columns still standing. From the highest point of the hill, there are spectacular vistas out to the Aegean and Saronic Gulf. You can imagine ancient seafarers and warriors turning back for their last look at home before heading out on an adventure - or their first look after a long journey home. And so it was on Cape Sounion that the Athenians built a temple to appease Poseidon, god of the sea, to ensure the safe return of their ships. Although the Persians destroyed the original temple in 480 BC, it was reconstructed 40 years later, and remnants of the temple can still be seen today. Top tip: Look out for a famous name graffitied on the columns here - the infamous Lord Byron, a serial offender, has etched his name onto historical structures throughout Europe. We'll continue to our hotel located on the Athens Riviera and spend the rest of the day at leisure to settle in and explore the local area.
  • After nine days of non-stop adventuring across the Aegean Sea, you deserve a chance to put your feet up and bask in the sunshine - and that’s exactly what’s in store for you today. Our hotel is located in the picturesque town of Brauron on the eastern part of Attica. It’s graced with idyllic Grecian character and unforgettable views of the beachfront – we'll have private access so you can stroll right from breakfast to the beach. You could lay claim to one of the sun loungers in the gardens or on the terrace and crack open that book you’ve been meaning to read. Unwind in the spa or, for those who refuse to sit still, you could take advantage of the hotel's fitness centre and tennis courts. And, if you’re still hungry for more history, there’s plenty to see in the local area. Just a 20-minute walk away is the ruins of the Sanctuary of Bauronian Artemis, home of the Cult of Artemis at Brauron. Also nearby is the Archaeological Museum, with exhibits of artefacts found in Brauron, Anavissos, Perati and other parts of Attica. Both are great places to visit to get more of a feel for the local history. Today will be completely up to you, so throw away the itinerary and go with the flow.
  • Our Grecian adventure comes to a close. You'll leave Athens and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

What's Included

Holiday Highlights

  • Step back through time to ancient Athens on a tour of this historic city, including visits to the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum. 
  • Discover the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey’s Central Aegean regions and marvel at the amphitheatre and the impressive façade of the Library of Celsus. 
  • Uncover the fascinating ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos, thought to be the birthplace of the first civilisation of Europe. 
  • Explore the seaside city of Thessaloniki and the beautiful Greek Islands of Mykonos and Milos independently with time at leisure. 
  • Marvel at the views from the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, before spending two nights relaxing at your resort hotel on the Attica Peninsula. 

Our Price Includes

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin/double room and cabin. The price includes:
  • Return flights to Athens 
  • 1 night hotel pre-cruise in Athens and 2 nights hotel post cruise in the Athens Attica region. 
  • 7 nights in your choice of cabin on Celestyal Journey 
  • All visits and excursions mentioned, including sightseeing in Athens 
  • Breakfast at hotels and full board on the ship 
  • All port charges, on board gratuities, airport taxes and overseas transfers 
  • Selected drinks with meals on board 
  • Attentive service from an English-speaking crew and knowledgeable local guides 
  • Services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager 
  • One item of checked luggage per person 
  • ABTA, ATOL and IATA protection
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Price from:£2,399
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Accommodation

Wyndham Grand Athens -

★★★★★

This superb central hotel located next to the Metaxourgeio metro station is the ideal base to explore this magnificent city. All the air-conditioned rooms are smartly furnished in a cool palette of contemporary tones with safe, minibar, satellite TV and tea and coffee-making facilities. The hotel also features a restaurant serving Mediterranean and international cuisine, bar, outdoor pool and rooftop terrace to take in the far-reaching views over the city and Acropolis.

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Other Information

Holiday code

R581

Holiday provided by Riviera Travel

BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: change your booking for free, Covid-19 cancellation protection included as standard and 100% protection with ABTA & ATOL. This holiday is sold and operated by Riviera Travel (ABTA V4744, ATOL 3430). These ABTA and ATOL bonds mean that, when you book a Riviera Travel holiday, you can be 100% sure that your money is safe.

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