Some information and comments are provided by SeaLetter Publisher Sharon Jackson.
Princess offers 5 official "shore excursions" while in Athens.
While these exact tours may not be offered on your cruise line/ship, and while the prices may vary a bit, this should give you an overview of what to do/see in Athens, Greece on your Europe/Med cruise:
1. City of Athens & Acropolis - Approx 4 1/2 hours - $38 per personThis is an in-depth, guided tour of Athens monuments and the Acropolis. It is pretty similar to all Athens "city tours" offered on most cruises or land stays in Athens.
Acropolis: You need to be a "good walker" for this as you will walk up many steep OLD steps to the upper city entrance through the Propylea. Adjoining the entrance is the temple of Athena Nike or Wingless Victory. On the highest part of the hill is the PARTHENON, built between 447 and 432 BC and dedicated to the Virgin Athena. North of the Parthenon is the ERECHTHEION, a temple honoring both Athena and Poseidon, the god of the sea and king of all CRUISERS.
The Princess shore excursion booklet notes a bit of history for you:
Over the years, the Acropolis has undergone many alterations at the hands of conquerors. The Parthenon and the Erechtheion were converted into churches during the Byzantine era. The Turks used the Erechtheion as a harem and the Parthenon as a mosque. They also stored powder there, until lightning struck one fateful day.
You may also get to make a "photo stop" at the marble OLYMPIC STADIUM built for the first Olympic Games, and a "shopping opportunity" near the Acropolis.
Other sites you will see on this tour: Hadrian's Arch, Statue of Lord Byron, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Constitution Square, Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Royal Palace, National Gardens, the Academy and the University Library.
If you are taking this as a shore excursion from your cruise ship (rather than from a land stay in Athens), you will most likely be given the chance to stay in Athens after the tour. Transportation back to your ship in Piraeus will then be at your own expense. Cabs are NOT plentiful and can be hard to "flag down". Leave yourself plenty of time!
2. Leisurely Athens - Approx 3 1/2 hours - $29 per personThis tour is for those of you who cannot climb the steps to the Acropolis or have difficulty walking. The major points of interest noted above will be pointed out from your bus on the way to PHILOPAPOU HILL, from where you will be able to view all the majestic monuments of the ACROPOLIS.
The hill has a great view of the rest of Athens, too.
3. Athens, Acropolis & Cape Sounion - Approx 8 1/2 hours - $89 per personYou'll do and see the same "stuff" as in Tour 1 above and then travel to CAPE SOUNION to view the TEMPLE OF POSEIDON, which is high on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. Again, you'll climb up some rocky steps to the temple which was also built in the 5th Century BC.
LUNCH (yes!) is included at Cape Sounion (buffet-style).
Other sites on this one: Plaka (19th century shopping district near the Acropolis), Agora, Mount Lycabettus, Theater of Dionysus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Hill of the Muses.
4. Ancient Corinth and Canal - Approx 4 1/2 hours - $36 per personThe Corinth Canal is approx 60 miles from Athens. The canal is an engineering feat, but only dates back to the 19th century. Many tried before (as far back as Nero) but none succeeded until then. It is 76 feet wide (No, the Grand Princess cannot fit through this canal), 26 feet deep and separates the narrow causeway joining the Peloponese to the mainland. You can see a great view of the canal from a 200 ft high bridge which spans it.
The ancient city of Corinth boasted a forum larger than that of Rome back in its "power days". It is also the site where St. Paul tried to bring Christianity to this area - documented in the bible in the Epistles to the Corinthians. View remains of the 6th century BC Doric Temple of Apollo and the 25 foot wide Lechaion Road.
A visit to the Corinth Museum (where many of the displays are "Roman" in origin as Rome destroyed Corinth in 146 BC and made the area a Roman colony), and a shopping stop are included.
Along the way: Bus takes the modern highway from Piraeus past Eleusis and the Sarconic Gulf coastline - beautiful views. Approaching Corinth, you'l see the ACROCORINTH, the mammoth citadel that guards the ancient ruins.
5. The Spirit of Athens - Approx 6 hours - $67 per person"Highlights" Tour which includes same stuff as Tour 1 with about 90 minutes of "shopping time" in the Plaka and a traditional Greek "lunch" in one of the Plaka restaurants.
After climbing all those Acropolis steps and shopping, you can restore yourself by chowing down on the lies of Tzatziki, Mousaka, Greek salad, Ouzo and UNLIMITED LOCAL WINE.
You will probably run into Alan Walker on this tour.
GENERAL NOTES ABOUT ATHENS:Restoration is going on continuously at all the monuments most of the time. On occasion, you may not get as "close" to something as you'd like and you will see some scaffolding impeding your "views" from time to time.
Flash photography is not permitted in the Corinth Museum.
The "Plaka" district with all of its wonderful TAVERNAS is the place to go "after dark" for food and entertainment.
Taxis are at a "premium" and hard to come by. If you are planning to get back to the ship in time to sail, leave yourself plenty of time. Rates are good and "fair" and tipping is not expected.
Athens has a definite SMOG problem - if you are very sensitive to air pollution, you might want to choose one of the bus tours which gets you out of the city or up on the "hills" where the air is better. The city was designed for around 400,000 residents but now has 4,000,000 - with the accompanying AUTOS.
If you are staying in Athens either before or after your cruise for a few days, you might want to consider taking an excursion to either DELPHI or ARGOLIS. Most hotels can book you on these and a number of other excursions.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please