Cruises to Santorini in 2023

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by Santorini Dave • Updated: November 20, 2022

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Cruise to Santorini, Greece

A view of the Santorini caldera and hotels from a cruise ship. The best hotels in Santorini are perched on the caldera cliff in the villages of Oia, Imerovigli, Firostefani, Fira, and Akrotiri and look down on the volcano.

Cruises to Greece in 2023

Yacht cruise to the Santorini volcano.

One of the best activities on Santorini is a caldera boat tour and a trip to the active volcano – but neither are possible when you visit Santorini on a cruise ship.

Santorini Cruises

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 magnificent Greek islands. 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.

Cruise ship to Santorini caldera.

Cruise ships visiting Santorini do not dock in port. They wait in the caldera and passengers are slowly tendered ashore by small boats.

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 great 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 2023 and 2024.

Cruise ships near Oia, Santorini.

Few cruise passengers to Santorini get to visit the village of Oia at the far end of the island. Cruise ships near Fira are just visible in the distance.

What cruises are going to Santorini this year? The following ships and cruise lines are scheduled to visit Santorini in 2023 and 2024: Celestyal Olimpia, Viking Sky, MSC Sinfonia, Silver Moon, Mein Schiff 5, Norwegian Jade, Crystal Serenity, Regal Princess, Artania, Seven Seas Explorer, Seabourn Encore, MSC Lirica, Azura, Oceania Insignia, Mein Schiff Herz, Silver Spirit, Star Clipper, Oceania Sirena, Star Pride, AIDAblu, MSC Musica, Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Edge, Odyssey Of The Sea, Star Flyer, Wind Star, Oceania Riviera, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Gem, ms Nieuw Statendam, Azura, Brilliance Of The Seas, Celebrity Beyond, Celebrity Constellation, Oceania Nautica, Celebrity Reflection, Rhapsody Of The Seas, Azamara Onward, Vision Of The Seas, Marella Explorer, SeaDream II, Coast Deliziosa, Seabourn Sojourn, Costa Deliziosa, Disney Magic, ms Oosterdam, Azamara Journey, Resilient Lady, SeaDream Innovation, ms Europa 2, Wind Surf, Star Legend, Jewel Of The Seas, Mein Schiff 6, Norwegian Epic, Azamara Pursuit, ms Volendam, Seven Seas Voyager, Norwegian Star, Viking Venus, Crystal Symphony, Enchanted Princess, Oceania Marina, and Norwegian Breakaway.

What are the best cruises to Santorini? The worst cruises are the Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Epic, Odyssey Of The Seas, and Disney Magic, all of which dump nearly 5,000 visitors at the Santorini Old Port. It’s truly awful.

Large cruise ship in Santorini caldera.

The Norwegian cruises are among the worst of the Santorini cruise ships. Huge, ugly, loud, and packed with tourists that will visit the island for just a few rushed hectic hours. Yuck.

The best cruises to Santorini are the SeaDream II (112 passengers), Star Flyer (170 passengers), Star Clipper (170 passengers), and the Wind Star (178 passengers).

What months do cruises visit Santorini and the Greek islands? Santorini is now a year-round destination and cruises visit the island from February to December. January is the only month that doesn’t have any cruises to Santorini.

Recommended travel agents for Greece: Fantasy Travel is good for planning trips to Greece and the Greek islands. You can read more about travel agencies for Santorini vacations here.

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

View of Santorini caldera and cruise ship from winery.

One of the highlights of a Santorini vacation is visiting one of the fantastic Santorini wineries – which is very hard to do if you come to Santorini on a cruise.

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 its most beautiful. Sunrise – and the morning quiet – is also a wonderful time (before the cruise ship passengers arrive).

Breakfast with caldera view.

Breakfast at a caldera view hotel.

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.”)

Caldera view of cruise ship.

View of the caldera from a Santorini hotel.

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 much more fun, relaxing, and 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?

Small Cruise to 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 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.

Small ship cruise to Santorini, Mykonos, and the Greek Islands.

Yacht cruise of the Greek islands. Eat on board, swim and snorkel at private beaches, and sail around the Greek islands at your own pace.

(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

Returning to your cruise ship from Fira.

This looks fun! Cruise passengers enduring the long lines to get the cable car back to the tender boat and then back to the ship.

MSC cruise to Santorini.

The dreadfully ugly MSC Sifonia ruins the caldera view.

Tender boats to Santorini cruise port.

Tender ferry boats to take tourists from the cruise ships to the Cruise Port. From there it’s a long walk or cable car to Fira.

Tender boat at Santorini cruise port.

The view from a tender boat approaching the Cruise Port. There’s usually a long line to get on the cable car up to Fira.

Cruise port to Oia transfer.

Sometimes there’s a boat that runs from the cruise port to Oia. But these are notoriously unreliable and I wouldn’t count on there being one.

Donkey in Santorini.

View of the cruise port from Fira.

Cable car lineup in Santorini.

Tourists waiting in line for cable car down to the Old Port (cruise port).

Cruise ship passengers returning to cruise port by cable car.

The line-up for the cable car can stretch far around the corner. 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.

Cruise excursion group in Santorini.

Here they come! A shore excursion from a cruise ship.

Cruise excursion in Santorini.

Are you in group 20?

Cruise excursion in Santorini.

Or maybe it’s group 32? Oh my god, shoot me.

Cruise ship excursion.

At least you get a sticker.

Cruise ship excursion to Santorini, Greece.

More cruise-ship fun. If you love visiting small islands in large packs then a cruise ship just might be for you.

Cruise ship below Fira, Santorini.

The view from one of the luxury hotels in Fira of the volcano and cruise ship in the caldera.

Sunset view from Santorini.

Quiet sunset view from Santorini (after the cruise ships have departed).

View of caldera from a Santorini winery.

View of the caldera from a Santorini winery. Most cruise passengers will not have enough time to visit a winery.

The Oia-Fira caldera hike.

The hike from Oia to Fira is a highlight of Santorini. This is the Santorini you get to experience when you stay on the island and enjoy it at your own pace.

Caldera views in Santorini.

Breakfast with a view at a Santorini hotel.

NCL Amsterdam cruise ship in Athens.

Hundreds of cooking-cutter cabins on a cruise ship docked in Athens.

Star Clipper cruises to Santorini.

The Star Clipper ships are smaller and more unique. (I still don’t recommend them, but much better than the monstrous cruise ships.)

Protest against cruise ships in Europe.

Most locals hate cruise ships. Protests like this one against cruise ships in Venice, Italy, are becoming more common throughout Europe.

Croatia and Santorini, Greece Cruises.

Croatia is another destination people have a fondness for ruining with hulking cruise ships. Please, no. Dubrovnik is a wonderful city but not on a cruise.

Cruise ship in Mykonos.

Cruise ships are just as ugly and awful when they visit Mykonos.

Map of Santorini

Map of Santorini Cruise Visit

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  1. Oia Sunset

    Hi Dave!

    Agree absolutely with your points! I’m trying to plan to avoid the cruise crowds when visiting Oia this October. I had the impression many of them make up the Oia sunset crowd, but I noticed their departure timings are usually 1-2 hours after sunset. How do they make it back in time? They’ll need to inch their way out from Oia castle along the narrow streets, wait for the local bus (for those who didn’t pay for the cruise excursion and didn’t have chartered buses), sit on the bus ride back to Fira, queue and wait for the cable car (or walk 600 steps) down to Old Port to take their tenders. Or do only those on cruise excursions able to afford to risk watching the Oia sunset?

    I’ll probably book a dinner reservation at Kastro, but even then, I’m concerned of the crowd spilling over near there and affecting the beautiful mood and view, because I actually prefer an outer table with a view of the Oia buildings as well.

    Thanks for a great informative site!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Oia can (and will) be busy during sunset, but if you have a reservation for a table at Kastro you’ll be fine. It’s still enjoyable even with the crowds. Sort of fun and festive, actually.

  2. Santorini Cruise Critic Forum

    I have been reading the cruise forums and there are many reports of people missing their cruise (or almost missing their cruise) due to long lines at the cable car. Are the cable car lines always long? How far in advance should we line up?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Yes, it is very common for cable car lines to be long, and they’re usually longer going down. I have no idea what to recommend for lining up. You have such little time in Santorini that it would be a shame to spend it in line. But, of course, it would also be bad to miss the last tender boat to your ship. I’m guessing that 90 minutes in advance will be long enough most of the time. That said, I’ve heard of two-hour waits for the cable car. Yes, you can always walk down but it’s a long walk if you’re not used to doing stairs. Going down sounds easier than up – and it is – but it’s not effortless. I hope that helps. Good luck.

  3. Avoiding Cruise Ship Crowds

    We will be on Santorini, staying in Fira, September 4-11. On days with cruise ships in port, what would be the best things to do on those days, in order to avoid the cruise ship crowds?

    Joe Bevelhimer

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      The good news is that the cruise ship masses don’t really get anywhere interesting. They stick pretty close to the caldera paths in Fira and Oia. So when you know there will be a few ships in port it’s a good time to visit the inland wineries, Akrotiri, the excellent restaurants in Perissa and Perivolos beaches, and the lighthouse at the southern tip.

  4. Mary Davidson

    Excellent website, very true and funny.

  5. Mykonos and Santorini Holiday from UK

    Hi, my daughter and her friend would love to visit Santorini and Mykonos in early March. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. They are wanting to spend around 7 days in total in Greece before heading back to the UK. Any info on flights/transport you can offer would be great. Thanks

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      In early March there will not be any direct flights flying from the UK to Mykonos or Santorini. Nor will there be direct ferries between Santorini and Mykonos. If they want to visit Santorini and Mykonos on the same trip it’s much better that they wait until late March (when there should be ferries running between the two islands) or April/May (when there will be direct flights between London and Mykonos, and between London and Santorini). If they do travel in early March then a trip to Santorini and Naxos or Santorini and Paros would be better.

  6. What is the best Santorini Cruise?

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

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      They all suck.

  7. 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 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.

  8. 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 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.

  9. 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 Dave The Hotel Expert

      Island hopping is always the best way to go (the most fun and relaxing).

  10. 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 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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