Greece › Santorini-Mykonos › Greek Cruises
by Santorini Dave • Updated: May 25, 2023
- Where to Stay in Santorini
- Where to Stay in Mykonos
- Where to Stay in Crete
- Where to Stay in Rhodes
- Where to Stay in Athens
Cruises to Greece in 2024 & 2025
- Are Greek island cruises worth it? While Greek island cruises can offer cost-savings and convenience, they are a poor choice if your goal is to experience the beauty, history, magic, and charm of the islands.
- Greek Cruise Update: Cruises to Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Athens, and the fantastic Greek islands are slowly returning to a normal timetable after the pandemic disruption, though there remains much local hostility to the cruise industry. Most cruises for 2024 will run in May, June, July, August, September, and October when the weather is ideal. Santorini restaurants, museums, wineries and ferries from Athens to Santorini are operating normally and visitors should have no trouble island hopping in Greece around the most popular destinations.
- Santorini Cruise Ship Schedule for 2024: No cruise ships dock at the Santorini ferry port. Instead they stop inside the caldera and passengers are slowly and methodically tendered to the Santorini Old Port. From there it’s a walk or cable car ride up to Fira. I post the cruise arrival schedule here so that prospective visitors can arrange their itinerary to avoid the cruise ship crowds.
- Santorini and Mykonos Cruises: While cruises to Santorini and Mykonos can seem convenient, they come with several drawbacks. Large cruise ships contribute to overcrowding at these popular islands, detracting from their idyllic charm and impacting the local environment. Cruises limit your time in each destination, with tight schedules that restrict opportunities to immerse yourself in each islands’ history, dining scene, and local culture. Travelers will find the all-inclusive nature of cruises to be impersonal, lacking the freedom and flexibility that independent travel provides.
- Santorini Cruises Last Year: 686 cruise ships arrived in Santorini last year and the number of passenger arrivals was 826,602. For Mykonos 608 cruise ships arrived and the number of passengers was 685,918. The most popular ports for Greece cruises are (in order of ship arrivals): Santorini, Mykonos, Piraeus, Corfu, Rhodes, Heraklio, Patmos, and Katakolo.
- 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 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.
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 2024 and 2025.
Are Greek island cruises worth it?
Cruises may seem like a good all-inclusive option, but their limited time on each island, crowds during peak tourist season, local resentment, environmental impact, and lack of flexibility make them a less than ideal choice for exploring the breathtaking Greek islands.
What cruises are going to Santorini this year? The following ships and cruise lines are scheduled to visit Santorini in 2024 and 2025: 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.
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
10 reasons not to do a Santorini cruise:
1. Limited time onshore: Cruise itineraries typically allow only a few hours to explore Santorini, which is not be enough time to fully experience the island’s beauty, culture, and attractions. (Tendering ashore and getting up and down the caldera takes an hour in each direction at least.)
2. Crowds and congestion: Cruise ships bring a large influx of tourists to Santorini, particularly during peak season. This leads to crowded streets, long lines at popular attractions, and difficulty finding quiet spots to enjoy the island’s charm. You only see the island when it’s densely crowded with other cruise ship passengers (your shipmates).
3. Missed local accommodations and dining: Staying onboard a cruise ship means you miss out on the diverse range of accommodation and dining options available on Santorini. The island boasts stunning cave hotels, traditional guesthouses, and local tavernas that offer a more immersive experience than cruise ship facilities.
4. 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).
5. Lack of flexibility: Cruise itineraries are usually fixed, with little room for customization or spontaneity. Travelers who prefer to have more control over their schedule and explore destinations at their own pace may find the structure of a cruise limiting.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.”)
10. Environmental impact: Cruise ships have a significant environmental footprint, contributing to water pollution, air emissions, and waste generation.
Summary: 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.
Top Cruise Lines for Santorini:
1. Royal Caribbean:
Royal Caribbean’s Mediterranean itineraries often include Santorini, and the line is known for its impressive array of onboard activities, dining options, and entertainment. One downside is that its larger ships can exacerbate the already crowded ports and tourist hotspots, making it harder to enjoy Santorini’s attractions during your short time on the island.
2. Celebrity Cruises:
Celebrity Cruises, a premium line known for its stylish ships and exceptional dining, also visits Santorini on its Mediterranean itineraries. While it provides a luxurious experience, it may not be the best choice for budget-conscious travelers, as the fares and additional expenses can be higher than other cruise lines.
3. Norwegian Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) features Santorini on some of its Mediterranean cruises. NCL is known for its relaxed atmosphere and “freestyle” approach, which offers flexible dining and no dress codes. However, some travelers may find this laid-back style less appealing if they prefer a more structured cruise experience with formal nights and traditional dining.
4. Carnival Cruises:
Carnival Cruises, popular for its fun and lively atmosphere, occasionally includes Santorini on its Mediterranean routes. While the line caters to families and younger travelers, the bustling onboard atmosphere may not suit those seeking a more tranquil or sophisticated experience.
5. Holland America Line:
Holland America offers a range of Mediterranean cruises that stop in Santorini. Known for its premium amenities and sophisticated atmosphere, the line caters to mature travelers. However, this may not be the best choice for younger passengers seeking a more vibrant onboard experience or families with young children, as Holland America’s entertainment options might not be as extensive as other lines.
6. Princess Cruises:
Princess Cruises, known for its elegant ships and diverse itineraries, also features Santorini on some of its Mediterranean cruises. The line’s focus on enriching experiences and destination immersion could be appealing to many travelers. However, Princess Cruises may not have as many activities or entertainment options geared towards children or younger passengers compared to other lines.
Greek Cruise vs Greek Ferries
When traveling between the Greek islands, you have two main options: taking a cruise or using the ferry system. Both options have their advantages and drawbacks, depending on your travel preferences and interests. I strongly prefer travelling by Greek ferry.
• All-inclusive Experience: Cruises offer an all-inclusive vacation, with accommodation, meals, and entertainment typically included in the price.
• Comfort and Convenience: Cruise ships provide a comfortable way to travel, with various amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, restaurants, and bars on board.
• Guided Tours and Excursions: Many cruises include guided shore excursions at each port, allowing you to explore the highlights of the islands without the hassle of planning.
• Limited Flexibility: Cruise itineraries are predetermined, which means you’ll have limited time on each island and may not have the opportunity to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations.
• Flexibility and Independence: Ferries allow for more flexibility in planning your trip, as you can choose the islands you want to visit and how long you want to stay on each.
• Lower Cost: Traveling by ferry is often more budget-friendly than taking a cruise, especially if you’re willing to stay in budget accommodations on the islands.
• Authentic Experience: Ferries offer a more authentic Greek island-hopping experience, as you’ll be using the same mode of transportation as locals and have more opportunities to explore lesser-known destinations.
• Less Comfort and Amenities: Ferries are less luxurious than cruise ships, with limited amenities on board and sometimes crowded conditions during peak season.
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 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
- The Best Hotels in Santorini
- Maps of Santorini
- Videos of Santorini
- Best Tours & Things to Do in Santorini
- Best Wine Tours in Santorini
- Best Volcano Tours in Santorini
- Best Beaches in Santorini
- Best Time To Visit Santorini
- Best Hotels on Mykonos
- Best Things to Do in Mykonos
- Best Santorini Shore Excursions
OMG Santorini Dave! I absolutely loved reading this. My husband and I have been to Greece several times before we had kids and would agree with every word of your post until we had kids (and will again when we are not traveling with kids). With kids the convenience of the ship (Disney, on your worst list) is a lifesaver at the end of the day when they can run off and hang out with other kids and we can sit and relax. We did a med cruise with them prior to covid and I have to agree that the group tours are truly horrible. On one of the best days we took an Uber from the port to Eze, France and once the tour bus with the ship people arrived, we left. OK – now to my question. When the tender boats drop us off at the Santorini port what would you suggest we do? My husband I spent 7 days on Santorini before kids and so just want to do something simple (like lunch and walking around Fira) but memorable that we can do on our own in our limited time. Our boys would love to ride the mules to the top but do the tour groups take them all? We will most likely walk down.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Excellent website, very true and funny.
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
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.
Between all the Santorini cruises on Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, MSC, Holland, Viking, and Disney Cruises – do you recommend any cruise line?
They all suck.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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?
Island hopping is always the best way to go (the most fun and relaxing).
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?
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.