Cruising the Aegean Sea

The Louis Cristal awaits the return of passengers at Kusadasi in Turkey.

ATHENS, Greece — I sailed on a regularly scheduled cruise out of Athens that took me to several Greek islands.

Independent travelers have the alternative of traveling to the islands by ferry, but the structured cruise has the advantage of allowing the first-time island-hopper to sample several choices in a fairly short time.

I had seen Athens a few times, but never the islands. So I agreed to sail with a small press group aboard the 1,200-passenger Louis Cristal, operated by the Cyprus-based Louis Cruises.

The Louis Cristal awaits the return of passengers at Kusadasi in Turkey.

The weeklong trip in the Aegean also included three port calls in Turkey, which were not new to me, but I especially love revisiting Istanbul.

Ours was a well-rounded itinerary of the type that is typically available each year in the cruising season, which generally runs from mid-March to early November.

We boarded the ship at Piraeus, the Athens port, in the morning. This process involved a security check much like that for getting on an aircraft. Also, the cruise line held our passports for the duration of the journey, which I found a little unsettling.

Our embarkation day offered quite a bit of time for getting to know the ship. I first became acquainted with the spa by having an hourlong massage and then, as if determined to undo the relaxing benefits of that, I carried my laptop to the only Wi-Fi

The quieter section of the Rendez Vous Lounge on the Louis Cristal.

hotspot known to me, in the Rendez Vous Lounge, an activity and entertainment hub.

Aboard the Louis Cristal, the Rendez Vous Lounge, setting for live entertainment, trivia quizzes and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

I checked e-mail against the background of singers who offered their “dancing and listening melodies.” On another occasion, I checked e-mails with a trivia quiz in the background, resisting the temptation to shout an occasional answer.

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Shore Excursion to Picturesque Mykonos

Shops and restaurants in Mykonos Town are alight for the night’s business.

MYKONOS, Greece — I had been in Athens a couple of times but had had no real experience of the Greek islands until I stepped off a cruise ship at Mykonos in late March 2012.

View of Mykonos’ hillside houses, all painted white.

The ship was the Louis Cristal, one of a fleet operated by Cyprus-based Louis Cruises. Sailing into the Mykonos port in the late-afternoon sun, we got a good look at the island’s oft-photographed brightly trimmed white houses. The island’s iconic windmills were not that easy to spot from a distance, but they came into view later.

Just the same, Mykonos looked like the travel posters — a very satisfying discovery, I might add. The island, part of Greece’s Cyclades group of islands, measures only 30 square miles and is home to about 10,000 people.

Typically for a cruiser’s shore excursion, we were allotted four and a half hours at the destination. The cruise line provided shuttle buses for the short rides between our dock and Mykonos Town. [Read more…]

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