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Athens on your own ?


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Extremely easy. We spent three days in Athens in September, all DIY, using information downloaded about Athens from the Rick Steves' website. (His new guidebook, "Athens and the Pelopennese", is due for publication in May.)

 

The first day, we still had an overnight on board our cruiseship before disembarkation, so we took the metro from Piraeus to the National Archaeological Museum (five minutes from Victorias metro stop) and back. Great Mycenae artifacts (much gold) and other lovely ancient items. The next day we disembarked, took a taxi to our central Athens hotel, and then proceeded to immerse ourselves for two full days in Classical Greece. Purchase your 12 Euro pass which covers seven of the sights, including the Acropolis and Agora, and is good for either several days or a week. Visit the Acropolis first thing in the morning (before 9 AM and the arrival of the cruise tour buses). The ancient sights are all very close to each other, and there are now a lot of lovely pedestrian-only streets (since the 2004 Olympics), so walking is much better than the horrendous car traffic.

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Very doable. Here's my trip report:

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=791796

 

Susan, thanks for the link. I enjoyed reading your well-written report. As I posted above, we ended our September cruise in Athens, so we were able to spend over five hours at the Nat. Archaelogical Museum and, indeed, it is super.

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Susan, thanks for the link. I enjoyed reading your well-written report. As I posted above, we ended our September cruise in Athens, so we were able to spend over five hours at the Nat. Archaelogical Museum and, indeed, it is super.

 

Absolutely! I think it may be one of the most underpriced museums in the world, and one of the most underrated. Athens guidebooks that I've read do mention it, but don't always rate it as a must-see. I think that this museum is second only to the Acropolis in significance.

 

I expected the Greek collections to be excellent, and they were. What really blew me away were the Egyptian collections. They had works from 5,000 B.C. I couldn't believe I was looking at wooden carvings more than 7,000 years old.

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Extremely easy. We spent three days in Athens in September, all DIY, using information downloaded about Athens from the Rick Steves' website. (His new guidebook, "Athens and the Pelopennese", is due for publication in May.)

quote]

 

Thanks CintiPam for the suggestion on downloading this section about Athens.

 

Joe

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Extremely easy. We spent three days in Athens in September, all DIY, using information downloaded about Athens from the Rick Steves' website. (His new guidebook, "Athens and the Pelopennese", is due for publication in May.)

quote]

 

Thanks CintiPam for the suggestion on downloading this section about Athens.

 

Joe

 

You're welcome, Joe.

 

Per your signature, did you know that Jimmy Buffett is so incredibly popular here in Cincinnati that his annual summer concerts sell out in minutes?

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Is doing athens sightseeing on your own doable with a good quide book? Has anyone done this and could you give me details. We will be on the Navigator July 26th sailing. Thanks this board is a great wealth of information. Kim

 

Don't waste your money taking a tour here. Get a good book, see what interest you and chances are you can get there quickly and easily on the Metro.

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Is it easy to use the metro to get from our hotel to the cruise ship pier in Piraeus or do you recommend using a taxi? We'll have a couple of pieces of luggage each.

Thanks.

 

We've visited Athens twice and have done the Piraeus-Athens metro without luggage. It depends on which hotel you are staying at in Athens (how near it is to a metro stop) and whether you'll be walking or taking a taxi from the Piraeus metro to the pier. We often take our luggage on public transportation, but in Athens with a couple of pieces of luggage each, I would probably opt for a taxi due to the ~20 minutes walk (without luggage) from the metro to the pier in Piraeus. Our hotel in Athens posted taxi prices from their hotel to various locations...they seemed fairly reasonable (sorry can't remember exact amounts), but worth looking into once you are at the hotel.

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The Antiquities Promenade in Athens covers all the major antiquities and is very walkable by yourself. If you want piles of detail about every stone, then hire a guide, but for an overview there are many good guidebooks.

 

Check out our report and pictures of the Antiquities Promenade at

http://www.elite.net/~thehalls/athens.html.

 

Personally I would never try the Metro with luggage. A private transfer to the ship is luxurious and not very expensive. There are lots of taxi drivers recommended on this board.

 

Have a GREAT cruise!

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Our trip: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=601845 (Though it looks as though I didn't review Athens too much - it was pre-cruise.)

 

We spent 2 days pre-cruise touring Athens on our own. Loved walking the streets, taking the metro, etc. Bonus: water is extremely cheap at the local stands.

 

Since we had 1/2 day, a full day, and 1/2 day, we took it easy. However, I think we could have done most of it in one full, busy day.

 

Tips:

*plan your route before you go

*use the Athens all-in-one ticket to see several sites

*drink lots of water

*don't bother with a tour at the sites - just use a good guidebook (Rick Steve's wasn't out, but we found a Frommer's or something else that was good)

*bring lots of memory for the cameras!

*stop for a local lunch/dinner - had some great food at a couple of stops

 

Getting to the port, we used a taxi. I think, with tip, it was around 20-25 Euros. We could have done it via metro, as we did coming in, but it would have required a walk & a couple of transfers, I think. With luggage, the taxi was easier. (If you're just stopping on a ship, it may be cheaper w/out luggage. It may also be much easier w/out the luggage as well.)

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I am going to differ with the previous posters on this thread.

 

We have visited Athens three times now...and toured three different ways.

 

The first visit to Athens, we toured on our own...saw the Acropolis, the museum and a little of the Plaka...got horribly lost...got taken 17 blocks out of our way by a taxi driver with whom we had a language problem apparently...and left in the middle of a remote residential area with no method of cummunicating and had to walk those 17 blocks to catch a bus...

 

I am certain that, with a lot of planning...and especially if it's a pre- or post-cruise multiple day stay, you can adequately tour quite a bit...But a one day port visit in Athens can get very difficult...traffic is bad...

 

...and here's the other key: My guess is that a lot of folks who like to tell you just how adequately they covered a port "on their own" really don't know that they did...They haven't tried some other methods. People here on Cruise Critic tend to be "married" to whatever form of touring they typically do. Of course, it really matters little how you spend your port day or how much you see or don't see so long as you've had a good experience and have seen whatever you want to see...In that case, an "on your own" visit to the Acropolis, the Museum and the Plaka makes for a very nice day...

 

After our first visit, despite the logistical snafus, we were very pleased with our experience...

 

Our second visit was a port stop on the Celebrity Millennium in 2003. This time, we opted for a Shore Excursion to the Acropolis and Cape Sounion...It seemed a good way not to deal with the logistics and to see something outside of Athens proper...and the cost in 2003 was a mere $99 per person, including admissions charges and lunch...We were picked up right from the ship and were brought right to the Acropolis with guide, skipped the lines and ticket booths and had a nice tour and some time in the Museum, then a visit to the Presidential Palace, a drive past Olympic Facilities and other sites, some shopping time in the Plaka, a VERY GOOD lunch then the very scenic drive out to Cape Sounion, some time wandering the old ruins there, some free time to get a coffee or beer in the local cafe...and the drive back to the ship...All in all a VERY GOOD excursion...We saw more in the morning alone than we were able to cover in a full day on our own...and it was EASY...Only negative was that we had to wait for 30 or so people to get on and off the bus at each stop--we would have cut the shopping time and the free time a little shorter...

 

When we got back to the ship, one of our tablemates told us of how they went on their own--walking to the metro, dealing with a very crowded and difficult Metro system, visited the Acropolis and Museum and back to the ship and their day was over...

 

Our third visit, we hired a private guide...Having seen the Acropolis twice already, we were ready for much more...We took a route OUT of the city and into the Pelopennese...Visited Mycenae, Corinth, Nafplion, Epidaurus and more...we fit so much into the day that it was incredible...the sites OUTSIDE of Athens actually blow away anything IN Athens save, MAYBE, the Parthenon...It cost us a mere 250 euros for the full day tour for two...We didn't have to deal with any logistics, directions, bus or metro systems...nothing...We controlled our itinerary...if we were "done" with a site, we told our driver/guide that we'd seen enough and it was back in the car to another site...

 

So, IMHO, yes, you can "do" Athens on your own...BUT, if you really want the best experience, hire a guide...There is just so much to see and do in and around this port that you are only going to get a brioef snippet on your own...of course, though, that may just be enough for you...

 

...but certainly don't jump to the conclusion that this is "an ideal port to do on your own"...

 

That's merely one of a few options--all of which have their pluses and minuses. Really depends on what you want out of the port...also, what you are willing to spend.

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Thanks BruinSteve for the info about touring outside of Athens--having been there in November, I want our stop this year to not include the city. Can you give me the contact info for your guide?

 

Having said that, this is what we did, on our own, and we had a great day. Took a taxi from the ship to the metro station for 10 euros. Had about a 15 minute, non crowded ride to Monastiraki stop. Climbed the hill and enjoyed the Acropolis (free, because it was Sunday). Walked around the other sites on our way back to the Plaka, did some shopping, had a great Greek lunch (yum!) and took the metro back, then only a 5 euro taxi ride to the ship. Very easy, and cheap, and we saw what we wanted to. By the time we reached Athens, on about Day 11 of a 14 day cruise, we were pretty pooped and the easy pace of the day was perfect. No, we didn't see the changing of the guard (saw it on ship's TV) or the museum; we did see the new Olympic stadium from the metro, and then a LOT of concrete. Athens is not the most beautiful of cities, nor a model of urban planning, to say the least. One place on our trip where I really feel that "been there, done that" is totally true. So we will be heading out into the countryside this next trip.

 

And to the OP. especially going in summer, I HIGHLY recommend getting off the ship as early as possible and heading straight to the Acropolis. It will be cooler, and you will avoid the huge crowds that congregate when the tour buses arrive--this is really a critical part of enjoying your day! And bring water!!!

Cathy

Edited by CathyCruises
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There is just so much to see and do in and around this port that you are only going to get a brioef snippet on your own...of course, though, that may just be enough for you...

 

Steve, normally I agree with your advice, but not this part of your post.

Many of us have done Athens on our own and have seen more than a brief snippet in a day. It requires advance planning, a good guide book, a map and lots of energy.

 

On our first visit to Athens (a port day from 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.) we did the following:

  • Walked to the metro in Piraeus and took it to the Acropolis
  • Spent approximately 1.5 hours at the Acropolis
  • Walked through the Ancient Agora, seeing some of the highlights there, including the Temple of Theseion
  • Had lunch in the Plaka
  • Walked to the Roman Forum & Tower of Winds
  • Walked through the National Gardens to the Olympic Stadium
  • Back through the gardens to Syntagma Square to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • Took the metro to the National Archaeological Museum where we spent an hour seeing some of the highlights (per Rick Steves info).
  • Walked to and up Lykabetus Hill (hadn't planned to walk up, but ended up on the other side of the hill from the funicular, so hiked up a trail).
  • Back down Lykabetus to the metro, and returned to the ship by about 7:30.

 

It was an incredibly interesting day and we enjoyed Athens so much during that visit that we stayed for 3 days post cruise on our next trip there.

Edited by Susan-M
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I appreciate everyones information. It will be our first trip there so I'm sure it will all be a wonderful experience. I do prefer to do private tours rather than ships mostly to avoid the crowds however this is our first European trip and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. :confused: KIM

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We have visited Athens three times now...and toured three different ways...

 

My guess is that a lot of folks who like to tell you just how adequately they covered a port "on their own" really don't know that they did...They haven't tried some other methods. People here on Cruise Critic tend to be "married" to whatever form of touring they typically do. .. .

 

Steve, your remark is very true. Many people here on Cruise Critic do have a "favorite" way of touring and tend to be in love with it.

 

In my particular case, that is not true. We normally have a mix of ship's excursions and private tours on our cruises, and sometimes (but rarely) do something "on our own". Athens is, in fact, one of the few places I recommend this -- IF the antiquities are your main interest. The wonderful antiquities promenade and museum are worth a full day and can easily be done. Check out our review and pics at http://www.elite.net/~thehalls/athens.html.

 

On another trip to Athens, we did indeed hire a guide (not just a driver) and did all the normal "tourist" things plus a winery visit. It was very interesting, but essentially duplicated tours we have done in a dozen other European cities. Check out our review and pics at http://www.elite.net/~thehalls/med.html.

 

 

As always, it is necessary in every port to consider all the available options and decide which is right for you. The exchange of ideas on this board is a very valuable way to do this, but in the end it is what YOU want to do that will decide the best way to do it.

 

Have a GREAT cruise!

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As always, it is necessary in every port to consider all the available options and decide which is right for you. The exchange of ideas on this board is a very valuable way to do this, but in the end it is what YOU want to do that will decide the best way to do it.

 

Mike I could not agree more.

 

As you can likely tell, we tend to do a mixture of every kind of touring...For us, it depends a lot on what it is we may want to see, whether we've visited the port before and think we know it well enough, how close or distant the attractions are to the pier and many other factors. Often, for us, there is the financial considerations--but everyone's financial situation differs as well. Luckily, we are in a position where we don't have to skimp on cost, but we do like to get value for our money--I'll shell out $500 for a nice day of touring, but I want to get something special for that.

 

But, the real issue is that there is no "right way" to do every port for every traveller...

 

Some folks are experienced, capable and comfortable striking out on their own...they do their research, hopefully even know the port, have a plan, are able to deal with contingencies for unexpected occurrances...

 

Other folks are best served by using the ship's excursions...they don't need to know much or prepare much, they have the safety of a tour planned for them and the comfort of knowing someone is responsible for getting them to sites and getting them back to the ship (except maybe if they get the guide we did in Gdansk last July--who lost half of the tour participants somewhere along the route).

 

And still others are willing to pay the freight and have a well organized and personalized private tour set up for them...They like the efficiency of having someone with local knowledge getting them to and from various sites without waiting for local buses, trains or subways.

 

And different ports lend themselves more to one method or another. We have been to ports, like Kusadasi, where private tours for two cost less than shore excursions and the tourist sites are far from the dock and public transportation questionable. Or ports like Mykonos where there's not much a tour can show you and everything is fairly close.

 

In many ports, your specific choices as to what you want to see will dictate how you do it. Athens, I believe, is one of them...If you are satisfied with seeing only the sites within the city proper, "on your own" can work--though, for me, I would likely still take a tour of some kind. You need to be very well organized--the city is crowded and urban and it is not that easy to get around. The pier is not that close to the Acropolis. If you want to see the city and also get out of town--say, to Cape Sounion, a shore excursion actually works best. If you want to visit the various sites in the Pelopennese, note that they are a fair distance from the port and scattered...having a private guide or driver at your disposal really works for that.

 

But then, also consider the style with which YOU prefer to travel...and what you are willing to pay. Everyone is different. Consider your options carefully and in the context of what it is YOU want.

 

Whenever someone starts a thread asking if one port or another can be done "on your own", all of the "on your owners" tend to jump on and tell everyone how easy it was to see EVERYTHING on their own. But, most of them really haven't seen everything--they MAY have seen the things they planned to see...and were satisfied. It doesn't mean the experience will be the same for you. Consider also the experiences of those who have used different methods of touring...and consider what YOUR needs, requirements, budget, etc. are.

 

For Athens, ask yourself:

1) What do you want to see? The Acropolis and Plaka and maybe a few other sites in the immediate area? Cape Sounion? The incredible archaeological sites of the Pelopennese? If you don't know, google Athens, the Acropolis, Cape Sounion, Mycenae, Epidauras, Corinth, Nafplion et al and think about what appeals to you.

 

2) What sort of budget do you have?

 

3) How comfortable are you with using public subways and buses in a country where the language and customs may not be familiar to you? Or do you prefer to have someone pick you up at the ship and organizze it all for you?

 

4) Do you prefer to strike out on your own? Are you comfortable with a busload of fellow passengers? Can you put together or join a small group of fellow passengers? Do you, perhaps want the comfort of your own car and driver and are willing to accept the expense?

 

Actually, do this to some extent for ALL ports.

 

For our upcoming cruise (most of the ports are either new to us or it has been some time since we visited), as it is working out, we are taking ship's excursions in 3 ports--they offer what we want and my wife appreciates the safety...one of the three is a short day and getting back to the ship would be a concern...In four ports, we have private tours organized and are trying to put together roups for three others...In our starting port, Barcelona and our ending port, Istanbul, we have been to both before and will do Barcelona on our own, but take at least one tour in Istanbul (spending the rest of a four day stay on our own) to visit some things we haven't seen before...Last time there, we had a guide--and, thought he city can easily be done "on its own", we appreciated the incredible insight into the local culture only the guide could supply--thought he was well worth the money...

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We are only in Piraeus Port from 08:00 til 14:00. We prefer doing our own thing and were looking at using Greek Taxi to tour Athens. Because we are here only a short time, would we be better taking a ships tour?

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BruinSteve, still looking for the name of your guide for your out-of-town day trip from Piraeus. Thanks, Cathy, fellow UCer/ex-SF Valley girl

 

Our guide's name was Fotios...We actually booked with Spiros--***--but Oceania changed the order of ports the last minute, switching Athens for Santorini--and Spiros was booked on the new date so he handed us off to Fotios...Fotios was okay, but I am guessing, from reviews on here, that Spiros himself would have been better...But that is one of the risks in booking guides...

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Our guide's name was Fotios...We actually booked with Spiros--

***--but Oceania changed the order of ports the last minute, switching Athens for Santorini--and Spiros was booked on the new date so he handed us off to Fotios...Fotios was okay, but I am guessing, from reviews on here, that Spiros himself would have been better...But that is one of the risks in booking guides...

 

How can I contact Fotios?

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