The town of Oia exemplifies Greece in many ways, with pristine white buildings and churches capped in blue. Credit: Tim Fatato
It’s impossible not to become an Odysseus wannabe among the bleached-white houses and blue-domed churches dotting Greece’s Mediterranean landscapes. In fact, it’s easy to take on a touch of Homer while traveling his terrain — there are mythically gorgeous vistas and unforgettable meals. But ultimately, it’s Homer’s own currency — stories — that make each moment of a trip like this come to life. This is a place where the rich history means everywhere you go, there’s a story in it — and knowledgeable locals will help you understand if you’re interested in knowing more.
With so much to see, opting to visit Greece and Turkey by sea is a convenient way to take in the many, many sights and sounds (and not to mention the meals!). On ships like the 686-person Azamara Journey, travelers don’t have to worry about getting lost on the ship — they can put their energies into getting lost on shore. And when everything is steeped in centuries of ancient history, cruising can help organize a kaleidoscope of beauty into one memorable voyage. It’s no wonder Odysseus wanted to go back so badly.
Postcard-perfect Oia When people say “Oh, I would love to visit Greece,” the town of Oia, on the island of Santorini, is usually the image in their mind. The traditional whitewashed structures — with churches capped in blue domes — are poised on the edge of a slope that leads to a perfectly azure ocean. The view is tough competition for even the most delicious Mediterranean meal.
When in Greece ... While you’re already hopping the flight to the Mediterranean, there’s no reason not to extend your sea voyage to get more time on land. And if you’re willing to forgo room service — and overpriced fare — taking a shot at living like a local has a romance about it that’s hard to deny. A $150 Airbnb rental will get you a penthouse overlooking the Acropolis, complete with a roof deck framed by rose bushes. A major reward for renting a home and having an adventure also is that you’ll get to stock your fridge, which is its own pleasure. Bonus: Gesticulating wildly about various kinds of olives will get you some samples, and they will be well worth the trip.
Adventure by night in Mykonos
Part of the Azamara experience is getting the chance to explore after the sun goes down. Sometimes, that can mean an impromptu jaunt to a restaurant like Hippie Fish, where the sardines are fresh and Greece’s national drink, ouzo, makes it very easy to forget that the ship does, in fact, depart. Racing through the maze of shops and restaurants in the Mykonos town to get back on the ship is only part of the adventure. And if you stop to take a photo with the town’s resident mascot, a pelican named Petros (the second, or third depending on whom you ask), the only thing that really matters is that you make it on the ship.
A side of Turkey, with classical and cats
Traveling on what is essentially a floating building can mean small destinations are overrun with people who just hopped off the same ship as you did. Azamara tries to change that, offering excursions built into the cost that are a little dip into something special. At the ancient ruins at Ephesus in Turkey, an archaeological gem goes cultural. As the cats of Ephesus (the cutest and least effective security guards ever) skitter around the Odeon, guests take in the sunset to the sounds of a quartet playing familiar, gorgeous Bach and Beethoven.