The Greek Island Hopping You MUST Do On Your Cruise!

Blogged while enjoying a raspberry mojito and dreaming of Mediterranean beaches.

Halfway through my study abroad trip last year, we took an educational cruise through the Greek islands. Originally, I was going to include this in my previous post regarding our stay in Athens, but there is just too much to say! I figured it would be best to work our cruise into a list of 5 must-see islands. Let me know what you think of it!

I'll start off by saying that the part where they called it an "educational" cruise was about 20% true.  It was educational in the sense that there was a required tour that we had to attend on one of the islands...and that we had to journal about our days. Overall, it was the most relaxed that most of us had felt since the trip started. We spent our days lounging on deck, buying fancy drinks, and adventuring on some pretty amazing islands. And like the photo above clearly indicates...I enjoyed my fair share of free coffee.

Pro Tip:  Cruises aren't for everyone. I'm not even sure if cruises are for me.  Not that I would ever tell anyone to avoid going on a cruise altogether, I would give some helpful pointers in deciding whether or not that type of vacay is your cup of tea.

Advantages: Obviously, the best part of a cruise is that you get to port at a bunch of different islands/countries depending on what type of cruise you're on.  It's a pretty easy way to get around, seeing as you really don't have to do any thinking for yourself once you board that ship. They will constantly remind you of where you're headed and when it's time to get off the ship and explore. Hungry? No problem, free restaurants (free as in, it was part of your ticket). Bored? Sign up for an excursion at one of your ports, learn to salsa dance with a bunch of other drunk randos, or lay out on one of their many, many chaise lounges and get your tan on. Oh, and there are endless fruity drinks.

Disadvantages: You only have so much time at each stop. Depending on your cruise, the amount of time will vary. On mine, we had 2 or 3 hours at each port. That was the perfect amount of time for some stops, but I could have LIVED on  some of these islands and did not want to get off. Hungry? Feel free to select one of the restaurants serving mediocre offerings in buffet style or "high end" (same quality as buffet, but prettier and smaller portions). But for some, that's heaven as long as it's free and plentiful. I am admittedly a food snob. Next, be sure to bring your Dramamine. Our cruise ship was actually quite small compared to most. The smaller the ship, the more you feel it rocking on top of those massive waves at night. I almost fell over on multiple occasions in my 5x10' cabin shared between myself and two other friends. Is 5x10' an exaggeration? I'm not really sure. Cramped does not even begin to cover how crowded that room was. I only felt seasick on the first night, but I took my handy dandy Dramamine and fell right asleep. 

But really, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The things we saw are sights I'd always dreamed of seeing (thanks Kardashians, for your dramatic yet epic family trip to Mykonos). Each island was different in its own way and by different I mean ahhhmazing. With that said, I highly encourage you to visit each and every one of the islands on my list. Just trust me, it's worth living off buffet food for a week to see these jaw-droppingly beautiful towns floating in the middle of the Mediterranean. My only regret is that my iPhone 6 camera couldn't do these places justice!

Mykonos (Greece)

My first and favorite island. In my head, it would be white-washed buildings with brightly colored accents, windmills, and beautiful scenery. I can happily announce that this island lived up to my expectations (more on who didn't live up to them later). I don't know if I was just in awe that I was actually there or if it really was as perfect as I remember it. Either way, I have photographic proof to show that Mykonos is as gorgeous as they say it is. This is one island I would love to return to and stay a while. I will  always love a world where it is perfectly acceptable to paint your window shutters lavender. Even though it's obviously an island that's heavily reliant on tourism, you still get to experience the relaxed and beachy vibe that's expected.

Kusadasi (Turkey)

Kusadasi is part of Turkey.  Due to its close proximity to the Greek islands, it's often visited by those cruising the isles as well as those who want to visit the ancient city of Ephesus. And it is gorg. As a fair-weathered Catholic, I remember that name. Ephesus is supposedly the last known city that Mary lived in.  Yes, that Mary, the holy mother of Christ Himself. Also, the Apostle Paul visited Ephesus briefly and literally wrote "Letter to the Ephesians." John supposedly spent the latter part of his life their as well. Can't get more biblical than that. Also notable, the Terrace Houses are really cool, it's like the ancient version of MTV Cribs. Nowadays, those houses would have belonged to billionaires. The most beautiful and best preserved building has to be the Library of Celsus (top photo, I'm standing in front of it). 
Leaving Ephesus, we got a tour of the establishment that they make fancy, thousand dollar rugs out of silk. It was my first (but not the last) experience of apple tea!  Also - apparently cat-calling is socially acceptable in every way, shape, and form in Kusadasi!  Lucky us. That and phrases like, "Oh, you dropped heart."

Crete (Greece)

To be honest, I don't think we saw all there is to see in Crete. I say this because Crete is so gigantic that it basically could be the size of its own county. Our port was at Heraklion, Crete, which is the biggest city on the island.  Lots of boats were docked here. Our tour guide told us that her family lives in Crete and that other parts of it are far more gorgeous. I would love to go back and travel around a bit more! Anyways, we got fish pedis, it was cray. They last about 20 minutes and for the first 10 I was uncomfortably ticklish. The second 10 were a lot more relaxing. That was a bucket list thing, though. Lastly, we did what all basics do when they visit a foreign country, run back to what's most familiar - Starbucks.

Patmos (Greece)

Hats off to Patmos. This was by far the most chill stop for me on our cruise. A group of us sat on the beach, swam in the Mediterranean, and ate some crepes before hopping back on the cruise ship. Also, Patmos is said to be where John wrote the Book of Revelations. Lots more white-washed buildings and cute shops.  Apparently Forbes voted Patmos as one of Europe's Most Idyllic Places to Live and I totally second that decision. You're welcome, Forbes.

Santorini (Greece)

Now, you know the place. Santorini is beautiful beyond measure, that much is for sure. That postcard-perfect blue domes scene you always think of when you think "Santorini" or even Greece in general. Maybe you saw it on Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and were like, girl, I gotta go see this. Well, I will tell you, although the town of Oia is beautiful, it is not nearly as picturesque as you imagined when there are 15 cruise ships pulling up per day and parasols galore in your line of vision.  Want to see those blue domes? Better push the lady in front of you with the giant sunhat out of the way. But I digress, it is still magnificent. You truly do have to see it for yourself. I started to get a little claustrophobic and hangry, so we stopped at Lolita's. LITERALLY the best gelato of my life, and remember we had just been to Italy. I got a scoop of coconut and a scoop of pomegranate and it hit. the. spot. They also had great wifi. We ventured into Thira (by bus) and it felt much less crowded than it did in Oia, which made me happier than you know. Crowds are not my thang. We even took the cable car back down to where our boats were docked. I'm not usually scared of heights, but when you're dangling from what appears to be a very thick and wobbly rope, it'll make it a bit more nerve-wracking.

Whether you're a fan of cruises or not, or have yet to find out, you need to make your way to these islands at some point in your lifetime. I kept imagining what it would be like to live there and work in one of the little boutiques in Mykonos, meeting tourists from every country. The different vibes and cultures of the islands will only make sense once you're able to experience it for yourself. 

Stay tuned for the final leg of the journey, Istanbul!

And if you missed it, here's the link to the video I made that highlights moments from my entire Europe trip!