Ancient mariners surely had quite a task when they first explored the more than 6,000 islands that comprise the Greek Islands. For the modern traveler, cruises make the experience easy by providing a comfortable floating hotel and maximizing what you see without the need for ferry schedules and multiple flights. Today only 227 of Greece's islands are inhabited, and they're generally divided into seven groups. Most cruises visit the Cyclades group (56 islands, including Mykonos and Santorini) and the Dodecanese (14 islands, including Rhodes). Their structured routes and shore excursions help you make the most of your trip, whether your goal is to explore ancient archaeological sites, hike along dramatic seaside cliffs, or enjoy authentic moussaka in a quaint taverna.
For fitness buffs
Try: Star Clippers' seven-night Northern Cyclades cruise, round-trip from Athens, visiting Mykonos, Delos, Samos, Patmos, Sifnos, and Kusadasi, Turkey. From $2,075 per person.
On board: Your home for the week is the 170-passenger, 360-foot Star Clipper yacht, built in 19th-century style but able to reach speeds of more than 19 knots. If you want a hands-on experience, you can help the crew hoist the sails, climb the main mast for a view, or take a class in knot tying.
Top stop: Mykonos is one of the few spots in the Aegean where you can dive (in most other ports the sport is forbidden to protect undersea archaeological sites). The experts at the Mykonos Diving Center at Paradise Beach take snorkelers and divers to underwater spots such as Prasonisia, where you will find an abundance of sunken antiquities.
For food lovers
Try: Seabourn's seven-night cruise between Athens and Istanbul includes stops at Mylos, Rhodes, Symi, Khyos, and Kusadasi, Turkey. From $3,449 per person.
On board: The Seabourn Odyssey pampers 450 passengers in all-inclusive luxury. Chef Charlie Palmer helped create the ship's menus.
Top stop: Among Rhodes' many dining gems:
- Dinoris, a taverna located in historic harborside Old Town, offers classic entrées, such as fresh grilled prawns served with lemon and olive oil.
- At Kioupia (011-30-22-4109-1824), try Chef Michael Koumbiadis' trahanas, a Greek wheat-and-cheese soup or a slice of carrot bread.
For history lovers
Try: Celebrity Cruises' 10-night excursion on the Solstice, round-trip from Rome with stops in Athens, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini (as well as Kusadasi, Turkey, and ports in Italy). From $1,299 per person, double occupancy.
On board: This floating resort includes a casino and a plethora of activities and entertainment offerings.
Top stop: Since there's so much to experience in Athens, one of the world's oldest cities, we recommend taking the ship's bus from the nearby port of Piraeus and exploring on your own. The bus leaves you at centrally located Syntagma Square.
For artistic treasures, head to the National Archaeological Museum. Its collection contains finds from all over Greece, prehistory to late antiquity.
Wander the grounds of the Acropolis, and you'll quickly learn that photos don't do it justice, especially the striking marble columns of the Parthenon, dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of the city. Descend the steps of the hill and visit the narrow streets of nearby Platka, a neighborhood that melds ancient ruins with modern open-air cafes.
- Getting there: Because of the nuances of making cruise reservations, we recommend working with an experienced cruise travel agent. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) provides a directory of agents.
- Climate: Cruising season in Greece typically runs from May to October. The hottest months are July and August, when temperatures can reach 100 degrees. Travel before mid-June or after mid-September, when temperatures are cooler and more comfortable.