- Coronavirus Update: Many cruises to Santorini and the Greek islands have been canceled for 2021 though there are now some in operation for July, August, September, and October. Flights and ferries to Santorini are almost back to normal levels and visitors should have no trouble island hopping around the most popular destinations.
- Santorini Cruises 2022: Hopefully there aren’t any cruises to Santorini in 2022 and this awful and corrupt industry will disappear from the Greek islands forever.
- Sign our petition to ban cruise ships from Santorini.
Please, don’t do a cruise to Santorini. They’re bad for the citizens, the environment, and the local economy, and they’re a lousy way to see the island. On a cruise, you only get a few hours to see Santorini – and it’s busy, hectic, and packed with tourists whenever a cruise ship is in port. All of the best things to do in Santorini are hard to enjoy on the limited time you get on the island if you visit on a cruise. The best Santorini boat tours are day trips you do while staying on the island – but you won’t have time to do a volcano boat tour if visiting from a cruise ship.
If you really want to see what makes Santorini the most magical island in Greece, you’ll need to stay overnight. The best Santorini hotels are some of the most awesome and incredible places to stay anywhere. Sleeping in a cave and waking up with views of the caldera out your window is a very special experience. Five to seven days is what I recommend for most visitors to Santorini, but even a one-night stay is better than visiting on a cruise.
Santorini is a year-round destination. If you’re into wine, great food, and sightseeing the best time to visit Santorini is from April to early June and late September to early November. In recent years Santorini has been limiting cruise ship access to the island. The restrictions should increase in 2021 and 2022.
What are the best cruises to Santorini? If you absolutely must do a Santorini cruise then book a Greek sailing tour on a small yacht (listed below) – the best type of cruise in the Greek islands. If you are already booked on a cruise, these are the best Santorini shore excursions.
But you don’t need a cruise, tour, or travel agent to visit Santorini. Use our Santorini Travel Guide to plan your own visit. It’s more fun, more authentic, and more memorable.
Cruises to Santorini and the Greek Islands
7 reasons not to do a Santorini cruise:
1. You get a very limited amount of time on the island (just 3 to 8 hours when you account for getting up to the top of the caldera).
2. You only see the island when it’s densely crowded with other cruise ship passengers (your shipmates).
3. You won’t be around to see the sunset, when Santorini is at it’s most beautiful.
4. You won’t have time to do any of the best Santorini tours: a catamaran tour of the caldera, a boat tour to the volcano, a winery tour, a photography tour, a fishing tour.
5. You’ll only visit the most crowded and touristy locations on the island and miss out on Santorini’s charming traditional villages like Pyrgos, Emporio, and Megalochori.
6. There is only one access point from the cruise ships to the island – the old port of Santorini. This tiny port gets absolutely overwhelmed with cruise ship passengers and makes for a terrible introduction to the island.
7. Cruises are floating Petri dishes of disease and illness. (From the Wall Street Journal: “Early in March, the world’s cruise-ship operators had ample evidence to believe their fleet of luxury liners were incubators for the new coronavirus. Yet they continued to fill cruise ships with passengers, endangering those aboard and helping spread Covid-19 to the U.S. and around the globe.”)
After the shore excursions have returned to the ship and the cruises have departed, Santorini returns to a calmer and more tranquil pace. If you can stay a few nights on the Santorini, you’ll see a completely different side of the towns, restaurants, and attractions. It’s just much more fun, more relaxing, and more beautiful on the island after the cruise ships have sailed away. And if you arrived on this page after watching the absolutely awful Santorini show by Rick Steves – just ignore everything that guy recommends about seeing the Greek islands. I bet any local would tell you the same.
What are the best sailing tours in the Greek islands and Santorini?
As I said above, visiting Santorini on a cruise is not ideal. You only get to spend a few hours on Santorini and those hours are when your entire ship is also touring the island – you don’t get to see the magic of what makes Santorini so special. And you don’t get to stay overnight and see the island in the morning when it can feel almost deserted – even in high season.
But sailing tours (small ship tours, yacht tours, or private sailing tours) are different. On the sailing trips I list below, you meander around the Greek islands and make stops in a number of different places that are wonderfully off the beaten path. You start or finish your trip in Santorini so you get to spend 1 or more nights on the island to see how it really is.
The Best 2021 Yacht Cruises for Santorini & the Greek Islands
All of these sailing tours are with G Adventures – a fantastic company that offers unique boat tours of the Greek islands on 15m charter yachts. A skipper/captain/tour-guide is on the boat the entire trip. There’s a kitchen and 3 bathrooms, safety vests, and snorkeling equipment. Some meals onboard, some on land. These tours sell out quickly so book as early as possible. Dates vary by tour but most begin sailing in late April or early May and run until mid or late October.
(If you want a private yacht charter of the Greek islands then just book all 8 spots on the boat.)
- Santorini to Mykonos – 8 Days, $1499, Starts Sun, Tue, Wed, or Sat. An awesome 8 day tour of the Cycladic islands that starts in Santorini and takes in Folegandros (great for hiking), Sifnos (untouristy with wonderful beaches), Ios (the best beaches in Greece), Antiparos (tiny island with great beaches), Paros (beautiful), Naxos (mix of history, local culture, and beaches). This on a real sailboat that sleeps about 8 so it’s a very small group. The itinerary is flexible and stops are made wherever guests show the most interest.
- Mykonos to Santorini – 8 Days, $1499, Starts Sun, Tue, Wed, Fri, or Sat. The tour begins in Mykonos and sails through the Greek islands to Santorini. Essentially, the same tour as above but in the opposite direction. Personally, I would rather start in Mykonos and sail into the Santorini caldera to end the tour – but obviously, there isn’t a huge difference. There are international flights to both Mykonos and Santorini so as far as coordinating travel, that shouldn’t be an issue.
- Athens to Santorini – 15 Days, $2749, Starts Sun, Tue, Wed, or Sat. This one begins in Athens (which deserves a day or two to explore) and finishes in Santorini 14 nights later. Along the way you’ll stop in Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Antiparos, Ios, Sifnos, and Folegandros – similar to the above trips only you have more time to wander and explore. There are also Santorini to Athens sailing tours.
- Mykonos to Athens – 8 Days, $1429, Starts Sun, Mon, Wed, or Sat. On the surface, this doesn’t sound as compelling (what? no Santorini?). But remember, you can visit any islands you want before the tour begins. Fly directly to Santorini, spend a few days there, then take the direct ferry from Santorini to Mykonos and begin your sailing tour. Finish in Athens and fly home from there. Perfect! The islands you visit on this tour are less touristy (and have fewer idyllic beaches): Kythnos, Kea, Aegina, Hydra, and Syros. There are also Athens to Mykonos yacht sailings.
- Santorini to Santorini – 10 days, $1849, Starts all 7 days. This one begins and ends in Santorini which makes planning easier and gives you one more chance to see this magical island. On the flip side, you do re-trace your steps, so for most people, I would recommend a tour that starts and concludes at different destinations – but it’s still a great trip.
Santorini Cruises – What to Know
Map of Santorini