Cruises to Santorini

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by Santorini Dave • Updated: November 19, 2018

  • Don’t do a cruise to Santorini. They suck. You only get a few hours to see the island and it’s busy, hectic, and packed with tourists whenever a cruise ship is in port. The Best Santorini Cruises are day tours you do while on the island.
  • 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 ship.
  • If you want to see what makes Santorini the most magical island in Greece you need to stay overnight.
  • The Best Santorini Hotels are some of the most awesome and incredible places to stay anywhere. 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 but even a one night stay is better than visiting on a cruise.
  • If you absolutely must do a Greek island cruise then book a Greek sailing tour on a small yacht.
  • 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.
Should you take a cruise to Santorini? How to decide between staying in Santorini and visiting on a cruise ship.

The view of a cruise ship in the caldera from the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Fira, Santorini. (Staying in Santorini is much better than visiting on a cruise.)

See Also

Cruises to Santorini and the Greek Islands

Santorini is a popular cruise destination but I don’t recommend visiting Santorini on a cruise ship for three reasons:
• You get a limited amount of time on the island (just 4 to 8 hours)
• You only see the island when it’s crowded with other cruise ship passengers (your shipmates)
• You miss out on staying in one of the magical Santorini hotels on the caldera.

After the shore excursions have returned to the ship and the cruises have departed, Santorini returns to a calmer and more tranquil pace. So 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 Rick Steves Santorini episode – just ignore everything that guy recommends about seeing the Greek islands. He’s clueless.

Santorini Cruises – Tips and Info

Cruises to Santorini, Greece

Cruise ships in the Santorini caldera – great to look at but cruises are a lousy way to experience Santorini. Please, if you want to come to Santorini don’t do it on a cruise.

Tour group with view of caldera and volcano.

This is what visiting the island is like when you come to Santorini on a cruise: You walk around the busiest parts of the island as part of a large group. You’ve got limited time and can only see a few spots in Fira and Oia.

Tour group on day trip to Santorini from cruise ship.

Here’s one of the large tour groups from a cruise. Are you in group 20?

Tour group in Greece with visit to winery.

Maybe you’re in group 22?

Day tour group on Santorini cruise ship.

Or maybe it’s 32? Regardless: this sucks.

Cruise tours and shore excursions to Santorini.

The good news: you get your own sticker. Holy fuck. Shoot me.

Group returning to cruise ship in Greek islands.

This looks fun: waiting for the cable car ride back to the cruise port.

Cable car group tour from cruise ship in Fira.

This is just a small part of the line – it can stretch far back and around a corner. Occasionally cruise passengers will be left behind on the island because they can’t get back to the ship in time. They then have to arrange their own transportation to another island to meet-up with the cruise. Certainly this is rare, but it’s always in the back of your mind: what time is it? – we can’t miss our departure time.

Small group tour of Oia.

Oia is a great town, but everyone staying on the island knows: don’t go mid-day because it’s packed with tours from the cruise ships.

Best attraction in Santorini with day tour group from cruise.

This is the Santorini you get to experience when you stay on the island and enjoy it at your own pace.

Morning tour with donkeys in Santorini.

Get up early and there are more donkeys on the streets than people.

Breakfast restaurant with views of caldera.

A quiet breakfast view in Imerovigli.

Quiet lunch with views in Santorini.

When the cruise ships have departed even a popular restaurant can be quiet and relaxing. And the views just seem better when there aren’t mobs of people.

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10 Questions and Comments

  1. What is the best Santorini Cruise?

    Between all the Santorini cruises on Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, MSC, Holland, Viking, and Windstar Cruises – do you recommend any cruise line?

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      They all suck.

  2. Santorini Cruise from Athens

    We want to avoid doing a cruise but would love to have an ocean-going experience from Athens to Santorini. What would you recommend? Looking to see the sights as we’re onboard. Is this even possible? (Some friends said you can’t even get out on the deck and views are lousy.)

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Your friends likely took a high-speed catamaran with Hellenic Seaways or SeaJets. On these boats you can not access the deck except when the boat is in port and windows are often caked in sea salt. The ship you want is the Blue Star ferry. It’s a little slower (takes 8 hours instead of 5 from Athens to Santorini) but has large open-air decks that you can walk about on. Views are great and it’s a spectacular entrance to Santorini. Since it’s larger than the catamarans it also has a less bumpy ride and is less likely to cause sea-sickness.

  3. Santorini Cruise Port

    We are trying to decide between going from the cruise port to Oia or from the cruise port to Fira. We have 5 hours in Santorini and want to do the the hike between Oia and Fira. Do you think we have enough time? And should we go to Oia first or Fira? Thanks!

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Go to Oia first, mainly because boat taxis between the cruise port and Oia are inconsistent so you wouldn’t want to rely on them to get you back to your cruise ship. Assuming you can get to Oia within an hour (including tender to shore, waiting, and boat ride to Oia) and allowing for an hour’s wait to get back down to the port on the cable car then you’ll have 3 hours to do the walk. That won’t allow for much stopping and sightseeing but it is doable if you walk a good clip. If you get back to Fira and are running short on time walk down the stairs to the port instead of waiting for the cable car as the line will likely be long.

  4. Greek Cruise or Island Hop?

    Hi Dave
    Great informative website!
    We have booked 7 days on Santorini at Agnadi Villas and would like to go on a cruise of about 7-10 days as an add on to our Greek trip – any suggestions? By the look I think a smaller cruise boat would be best – do you agree, or should we island hop?
    Thanks Joady

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Island hopping is always the best way to go (the most fun and relaxing). But if you did want a cruise/tour of the Greek Islands then G Adventures is pretty darn good.

  5. Best Time of Year To Do a Santorini Cruise

    We have heard similar thoughts from friends. Santorini is beautiful but not so great as part of a cruise. We’re in our late 70s and love to walk and do tours, but not so much beaches. If we visited on a ship or on our own – when would be the best month to go to Santorini?

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      If you want nice weather (for walking, exploring) but don’t want or need hot beach weather then the months of May, June, September, and October are perfect. Late March, April, and early November can also be good but can be chilly with a bit of rain.

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