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Taking a Greek Cruise as a Family

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Last Updated on March 27, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

For those wanting to visit Greece and enjoy the beautiful, ancient islands of the world, taking a family can present some challenges.  Each Greek island, of which there are hundreds, sits a considerable distance from its neighbors.  For example, a ferry ride from Athens to Santorini can last 10 hours or more.  Since we usually have a gaggle of kids in tow when we travel, this gave us pause as we planned to visit the amazing country of Greece as a family.

In addition to the long ferry ride times, the ferry cost is substantial, with many rides clocking in at around $100 per person.  As a family of seven, it didn’t make much sense for us to cart our family around by ferry, move from hotel to hotel every few days, and have to figure out the transportation on each island with all our luggage.  

We researched various Airbnbs, which demanded high prices in the summer months of our visit.  Economically, we didn’t know how to visit Greece as a family.

The ultimate way to see Greece is by private yacht, which allows you to enjoy the crystal blue waters and explore the islands away from the tourist groups during off hours.  However, economically, this was also out of our price range.  We initially got some quotes for $30,000 PLUS gas. The gas for these private yachts can be as much as the rental cost itself, and the weather can prevent them from making the long treks between islands.  We were left wondering what was the best way for our large family to visit Greece?

Ultimately, we settled on a Greek cruise with Celebrity Cruise Lines.  We have a wonderful travel agent, Deb, that we use almost exclusively when we want to travel by cruise.  The world of cruising delves into a world of its own, with the need to understand the timing, the boats, the dock restrictions, the room accommodations, and more.  It’s not a world we are all that familiar with, so we find using a travel agent to be immensely helpful in this situation.  If you are also new to cruising, consider using a travel agent (or comment below for Deb’s info!).

Taking tender boat on our way to a Greek Island from the cruise

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When To Do a Greek Cruise With Children

There is good news and bad news about the timing of Greek cruises.  Summer offers the best weather and temperatures and coincides with your kid’s school break.  Bonus!  However, in summer, Greece gets 90% of its substantial tourists, and everything is crowded.  When I say crowded, I mean packed.  Waiting in line at a cruise terminal on Santorini can take upwards of three hours.

Most Greek islands shut down outside of the May to October time frame.  The islands are empty of people, restaurants shut down, and hotels shut their doors.  This doesn’t mean you cannot visit during these times, but your experience will likely be very different (and surprisingly chilly at times) compared to the blazing and glorious summer months.

The best times to do a Greek cruise are on the fringes of high seasons, such as late May or mid-September.  However, this is close to the beginning and ending of the school year and can be challenging for trip planning.

We went in the thick of the high season in late August.  It was gorgeous and absolutely packed with people.  I’ll be honest: We have zero desire to return to Greece at the moment, and much of this is due to the horrible crowds.  In Santorini’s picturesque port of Athinios, it was wall-to-wall people on the ancient, narrow streets and bodies pressed against bodies.  Forget trying to get a picture; we could barely even see the city itself among the crowd of people.

However, Rhodes was perfectly magical and crowd-free, and we loved the ancient city wall, the vibrant markets, and the awe-inspiring history.  We also loved our quick stop in Athens and craved the amazing Greek food we had there.  There can be some give and take when it comes to visiting Greece.  

Breakfast on a cruise, anyone? We loved the views from our Celebrity Cruise in the Greek Isles

Pros and Cons of Taking a Greek Cruise With Kids

Pros of a Greek Family Cruise

1. No packing up.  The biggest perk of a cruise, Greece or not, is seeing multiple places without packing up and moving your stuff.  Your hotel moves for you, and your room stays the same.  Any parent knows what a time suck it is to set up and take down your home base when traveling, especially with little kids.  Pile on the emotional energy required to figure out check-out times, luggage storage, transportation coordination, and the kids’ emotional well-being, and it’s exhausting!

We’ve traveled to nearly 50 countries with our five kids, most of which was accomplished through slow travel as we traveled full-time.  Settling in for 3-4 weeks is much easier than settling in for 3-4 days, which is often required to fit into school breaks.  

As our kids have gotten older, we’ve done some “fast” travel when we’ve switched lodging every one or two nights.  The kids get worn out quickly from the packing (even with only carry-ons) and the constant changes.  During our whirlwind Eurail train trip, we all got excited when we could stay in a hotel for three nights in a row.  We’ve done it, but it takes some serious energy and dedication.

Dipping into relaxation in this hot tub aboard our cruise ship

2. The on-board entertainment.  In addition to being your floating hotel, a cruise ship can also be your mobile resort full of entertainment.  With kids, we’ve done mid to large ships with at least pools and kid clubs available.  One massive plus about a cruise journey is the ability to stay aboard the ship and entertain the family easily. Our kids loved the kids club on the Greek cruise and would beg to go as soon as we returned to the ship.  This gave the adults some time to relax by the pool or nap before dinner.

A cruise is also a closed bubble, and teens can easily meet up with new friends on board, roam the ship, and have fun in a way that would be impossible in a hotel on land.  

If your cruise ship is large enough, there can be nightly entertainment such as magic shows, theater productions, dance parties, and more.  If you are someone who might pay to go to these kinds of events anyway (like myself), this will satisfy your desire for entertainment without extra cost.

3. Savings on your food bill.  With many mouths to feed, we rack up large food bills wherever we are.  Eating out in Greece clocked in at a minimum of $100 per meal for our family.  Being able to eat a large breakfast on board, explore, and come back for the included lunch and dinner was a big plus for us.  We could buy some snacks or local favorites without having to break the bank on food.  

4. Avoid planning fatigue.  Being the main travel planner and executor in my family, burnout from planning and keeping up with schedules does surface from time to time.  I love the simplicity of a cruise itinerary that is printed and put on my bed each night.  I don’t need to do hours of research and can instead sit back and enjoy the schedule provided by the cruise itself.

Fun family dinner at Le Petite Chef on board our ship

Cons of a Greek Family Cruise

1. So many people.  The top reason why many people avoid cruises in the first place is the sheer amount of people crammed into one boat.  It can feel claustrophobic, for sure.  Eating can be challenging without reservations at specialty restaurants, and the buffet can get old quickly after 6-7 days.  Additionally, the ports in Greece are small and often require a tender boat.  This means getting up early to get a tender boat number, waiting in line, waiting to get back to the boat, and waiting to access some of the hot spots. 

2. Lack of a “real experience.”  For us, even more than the crowds of a cruise ship, the inability to really see a place when you are coming off a cruise is disappointing.  Cruises often offer tours through their trusted partners, but these operators are often selling you something on the tour and getting kickbacks from the other vendors they take you to.  It can feel very commercial and fake.

Unless you arrange your guide in a port, you will not be getting a good feel of the city you are visiting.  We currently live in Lisbon, which welcomes thousands of cruise passengers each year, and we know the small glimpse of Lisbon these passengers are getting is nothing like what we see living there.  Thousands of people belching out of the boat for a few hours is a limited method of seeing a city.  

However, I will say that in Greece, some of the islands are quite small, and a few hours in port may be all you need!  My parents, who traveled with us, arranged private tours in each port through GetYourGuide that matched up with the hours our ship would be in port.  We took private vehicles with locals and were able to see a LOT more of Greece this way.  I’d definitely recommend this to other families.  I’ll link some examples below of tours that can work with cruises.

3. Environmental impact.  It’s hard to ignore the massive impact cruise ships have on the environment and the oceans they sail.  We always take a heavy amount of guilt with us on our cruise journeys.  Just thinking of the human waste alone that must get dumped into the oceans is enough to make anyone a bit nauseous.  

4. Lack of flexibility on dates.  Cruises have set dates over a year in advance.  Travel days are set with no room for flexibility or emergencies.  If you miss a port for any reason, you have to get yourself to the next destination on your dime.  

Stray cats welcomed us as we walked in Delos, an ancient civilization now visited by ferry boats.

What You Need To Know About Greek Cruises as a Family

  1. You cannot visit all the islands, but you can see the popular ones.  It would be beneficial to try to visit some of the off-itinerary locations, either on Greece’s mainland or other islands, on either side of your cruise. 
  2. Overall, Greece has a depressed economy.  We were a bit surprised by the overall conditions in Greece.  It was sometimes a bit depressing and always felt run down or rough around the edges.
  3. Dishonesty is fairly high.  We were ripped off by more than one taxi driver in Greece.  Pickpockets are rampant, and you can even find yourself in some unsafe situations, especially in Athens. Be aware, and don’t be out after dark.
  4. Greeks LOVE kids, and it’s very family-friendly.  Kids are welcome at all restaurants, cafes, and venues.  Don’t stress about having the kids!
  5. Cats are everywhere.  In many ancient ruins, such as Ephesus, there are actually resident cats.  Many tourists think they are strays and tell their kids to avoid them, but this isn’t true or necessary. The cats are vaccinated and fed by the staff.  One cat even has his own social profile on IG! We all loved the friendly cats in Greece.
  6. I got some great advice from a follower to buy all your souvenirs in Athens before your cruise, as you’ll see all the same stuff on the islands at a higher cost.  I second this!  We didn’t buy much on the islands after getting our initial souvenirs in Athens.
  7. Book restaurants, if available on your cruise, well in advance.  This provides some fun nights with dinners out and a change of pace on the food. 
Exploring Ephesus in Turkey with kids for a day. Temps can get very high in the summer!

Our Family Greek Cruise Itinerary With Notes

This is our actual itinerary in 2023, with notes on what we did or liked in each port.

Aug 20: Thessaloniki

Tendered 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

We booked a GetYourGuide self-guided scavenger hunt here that was initially fun but burned out quickly as the heat and day wore on.  Thessaloniki is small but rich in history, like all the islands of the ancient world.  We liked seeing ancient Roman ruins, attending church, and learning about the White Tower.  The boardwalk next to the ocean is also a lovely walk.

 Aug 21: Mykonos

Tendered: 9:30 AM to 8:30 PM

Having shown our kids My Big Fat Greek Wedding in preparation for this trip (Which I wholeheartedly recommend!  They loved it!), we were excited to see Aunt Tia’s homeland.  Mykonos is gorgeous and maybe my favorite island.  Wander the gorgeous blue and white streets and get lost.  You’ll always be able to find your way to the ocean and back to the ship, but don’t make it too structured.  We had a wonderful lunch and did some shopping, although we found the prices insane and didn’t buy much. 

We also booked a tour to Delos Island to see the ancient city of Delos.  The kids kinda hated it, but it was fascinating for the adults.  Bring lots of water, as the island has none and has zero shade. We were scrambling for water by the end and even giving some to the museum cats, which lapped it up happily.  You can hike here to the top of the city/mountain, so bring appropriate footwear and clothing.  An umbrella can be used for the sun as well.  Everyone should have plenty of sunscreen and hats.  

Discovering the history behind this terraced house in Ephesus

Aug 22: Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey

Docked: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Ephesus was a huge draw for us, and we can’t wait to return to Turkey. It’s an amazing country! Ephesus could be explored for days and days. It’s mind-blowingly cool. If you are a fellow Christian, you will love standing in the theater where Paul stood and hearing the fantastic acoustics.  

My family of seven booked a small group tour through the cruise company that included the interior apartments that had been uncovered.  My parents spent a lot less on a private GetYourGuide tour.  I’d go their route next time.  They could go at their own pace, see what they wanted, and leave when they wanted.  On the other hand, our guide didn’t even like kids, was snippy with the kids and us, and then hard-sold everyone at a Turkish rug shop later on.  While the rug factory was kind of cool, they were hard-selling and were almost angry when we didn’t buy. It was not something we liked.

We liked walking a bit around Kusadasi and getting some Turkish ice cream (a must with kids, although you should barter for sure before you get started, as they will overcharge you).

Serenity meets seaside charm in Kusadasi, Turkey

Aug 23: Rhodes

Docked: 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Rhodes was another favorite of our group.  The old city is amazingly preserved.  Again, we booked our own experience at the 9-D movie about Rhodes, which really brought the island and its history to life.  The kids loved it!  You can easily shop, wander and enjoy the city.  You can also bathe in the water right off your ship!

Each stop is an opportunity to capture beautiful views. The red sand beach on Santorini is impressive.

Aug 24: Santorini

Tendered: 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Oh, Santorini… what a mixed bag.  I was most excited about this stop, but unfortunately, I was highly disappointed.  There are some important things to note here:

Cruises and private ferry docks are located at different spots.  Cruises must dock and use tender boats to the funicular up the side of the cliffs.  This funicular can have massively long lines, so we woke up early (thanks to my stepdad for getting in line at 6 am!) for early tender boat numbers.  We made it super fast to the island and up the funicular (which is an extra charge).  We walked for about 30 minutes in the cool morning to get that iconic picture from Santorini.  We were treated to amazing views and dozens of women in their long, flowing gowns taking photos.  It was hard to even enjoy the scenery with so many women posing everywhere!  

We then walked back and met a private guide to tour the island.  This was much nicer than only staying near the port, but it was still hot, dry, and kind of boring for the kids.  The other port city (for ferry boats) was horribly packed with people and miserable.  We saw the black sand beach only from a distance and were all excited to return to the boat.  

When we went to return to the boat, the lines from the funicular were insane, and the wait time was 3 hours!  We decided to walk the donkey path down.  This is a 45-minute or so walk down a set of stairs carved into the side of the cliff, and it is free to walk up or down.  Donkeys are offered for rides, but we were informed by some other passengers ahead of time that these donkeys are not treated well.  We can attest to this.. their treatment is horrific.  They are often bleeding in their restraints, being whipped, deprived of water in the extreme heat, and sometimes drop down dead.  

Additionally, the ancient path is made of worn stone and is VERY slippery.  Even in proper footwear, I fell twice.  Many others fell as well.  There is donkey poop and pee and hay everywhere, along with hundreds of people trying to get back down to the tender boats.  It was honestly a horrible experience.  My mom was separated from our group and got lost in the massive crowds.  We couldn’t reach her and were trying our best to get the kids down without injuries.  Everyone was soaked through with sweat in the relentless sun…. Ugh.  I have no desire to ever go back to Santorini on a cruise journey!

Aug 25: Hydra

Tendered: 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM

This island is fairly small, and to be honest, we didn’t even get off the boat.  After the horrors of Santorini the day before and the kids’ absolute lack of desire to see yet another ancient ruin or do another tour, we stayed on board and enjoyed the pool instead!

Fun tricks come along with this Turkish ice cream

Family-Friendly Tours That Can Work With Cruises

  • From Mykonos: Ancient Delos Tour – includes a visit to Agora, the Sacred Way, the Temple of Apollo, the house of Dionysus, the house of Cleopatra, and other notable homes.
Timeless majesty of the library in Ephesus

Where To Stay In Greece With Kids

  • Soak in the sea views while having your breakfast at Makedonia Palace. Located in Thessaloniki City Centre, this hotel also offers its guests some outdoor excitement, like hiking and biking trails.
  • Perfect for a beach getaway, Santa Marina Mykonos is a hotel on the beach and has two outdoor swimming pools. Kids can spend free time at the playground or plan a visit to the Windmills of Mykonos and the Church of Panagia Paraportiani.
  • Spoil yourself with a massage at the Atlantica Dreams Resort in Rhodes. The hotel also offers beachfront views and six onsite restaurants featuring Italian cuisine and more.

Greece is packed with history and views to capture. Be sure to plan your cruise and make the best out of your stay with our tips and tricks.



Catch great fare deals from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a family-friendly hotel in Greece from Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover more of Greece while having fun through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car to navigate the city? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a family photo shoot while traveling in Greece? Check out flytographer!

Capture your best travel memories in Greece as we do with a GoPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

Tourist Car Lease In Europe

17 Crazy Cool Things To Do in Singapore With Kids

What to Know When Visiting Athens, Greece With Kids


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