The beautiful islands of Greece beckoned us for our October cruise aboard the Norwegian Star of the Norwegian Cruise Line. Venice, Italy was our starting and ending point with six stops: Kotor (Montenegro); Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Argostoli (Greece); Dubrovnik (Croatia); and lastly, Venice (Italy). We looked forward to exploring the Greek Isles, as well as making time for tennis, during our travel adventure!
Norwegian Star – tennistravelsite.com
The Norwegian Star
We departed the misty port as our grand cruise ship made its way through the channels to the open water, amidst the beautiful architecture of Venice, Italy. The picturesque dramatic lighted buildings popped against the contrasting darkness of the evening. We had flown the morning of the cruise , so this was our first breathtaking Venice experience (travel tip: red eye flight on arrival day is risky, most travel 1-2 days early). On our cruise, we selected a suite stateroom for our voyage! The view from our balcony was spectacular, as our room was directly beneath the captain’s bridge. Our suite was very large with a sitting area, large walk in closet with dressing area, with a large bathroom. Our deck was large with two resort size chaise lounges and two accompanying chairs. We spent many hours decompressing, reading and enjoying the Mediterranean sun on our fabulous, private deck. We could not wait to explore Venice following our week long cruise.
Our first cruise port was Corfu, Greece, where we planned our tennis excursion along with sightseeing around the island. The original schedule of our ship had us stopping in Montenegro first. However, due to Venice’s cruise ship departure schedule change, they moved our departure time until later in the evening, which resulted in our ship skipping the first stop in Kotor, Montenegro! The day at sea allowed us to adjust to the different time zone and prepare for our first taste of the Greek Isles.
The allure of the island of Corfu were the stunning forts and architecture, overlooking Ionian Sea. Our taxi drove us through Old Town, which was close to our tennis club (travel tip: taxis are available outside the port). The Tennis Club of Corfu was the oldest tennis club in Greece. It was set in a quaint neighborhood, near the Old Town. The tennis court surface was carpet and sand, which replicated a clay surface. It was very slippery! It was similar feel to playing on a clay; however, the slide on this surface was different. We found our tennis pro through an excursion site, prior to our cruise. Our Tennis Teaching Pro, Pensos, was an excellent tennis player, so we had a great hitting session (travel tip: pre-book an one hour hitting session for 68 Euros per hour). We loved talking to him about his teaching tennis career and aspirations in Corfu, Greece!
After tennis, we walked through Old Town and purchased tickets for Corfu’s Hop on Hop off bus, to see the best sites on the island. The beauty of a Hop on Hop off bus was you could stay on the bus the entire time, or hop off at a place that you want to explore. We enjoyed the beautiful day and scenic tour of Corfu on top of our double decker bus! The Hop on Hop off bus had a stop at the cruise port, so it was easy to walk back on the cruise ship. To end the day, our cruise ship floated into the sunset towards our next destination.
Our next stop was Santorini, Greece, built high on the side of a volcano, overlooking the Aegean Sea. We spent our day on a wine tour (Santos Winery) which included a stop at the beautiful town of Oia, Santorini (travel tip: excursion purchased through United Cruises). We had to tender from the boat to the port of Santorini, in the town of Gialos. From the port, there were a few choices to make your way to the top of Santorini. The choices were to walk of up the windy trail to Fira (top of the volcano. Travel tip: the trail has a lot of donkey doo, which could ruin your shoes), hire a donkey ride up the trail, ride the funicular up the side of the mountain (most popular), or you could take a short boat ride from the old port to the tour bus (to drive up the back side of the island). Our excursion had us taking the boat ride to our awaiting bus. The famous views of Oia, Santorini were spectacular! The town of Oia’s white buildings with blue roofs, along the top of the hillside overlooking the sea, made for simply spectacular, romantic viewing. We explored Oia, Santorini ending at a lovely rooftop restaurant, Terpsi en Oia Restaurant (travel tip: very friendly restaurant with great food and views), which allowed us the best view of the sunset, as we enjoyed Greek wine and an appetizer. After sunset, our bus dropped us at our last stop, in Fira, Santorini, where we shopped before taking our cable car ride (travel tip: funicular – six euros per adult, three euros per child, each way) down to the old port of Santorini, and then back to our cruise ship.
Santorini, Greece – tennistravelsite.com
Next on our cruise agenda was the island of Mykonos, Greece! We toured the island of Mykonos on a guided bus tour. We traveled around the island to a lovely chapel, stopped at a coffee shop for Greek coffee and pastries, and then off to the lovely beach of Mykonos. We put our feet in the Aegean Sea and enjoyed the wonderful weather. The common theme we found on all the islands is that there were a number of cats basking in the sun, and roaming around. They were definitely the focus of many photos throughout our travels. We ended our tour of Mykonos in the old town of Chora, along the port, for an opportunity to visit the many shops and restaurants, before boarding our ship to experience another beautiful sunset!
Each night on the Star was “date night.” Our cruise ship hosted parties, and activities (something for everyone: shows, music, games, gambling and much more) throughout the day and evening. We chose to dine in the specialty dining rooms and the main dining rooms a few nights, followed by listening to our favorite pianoman at the Martini Bar each evening. Our first night we dined at Le Bistro (French restaurant). Other nights, we dined at Tepanyaki (Japanese) and Cagney’s (steak house). Our suite gave “priority guest” restaurant privileges in Moderno’s and Cagney’s for breakfast and lunch, a relaxing and private dining option. Our personal concierge made sure our cruise was smooth, from priority disembarkment for excursions, to restaurant reservations and more. Our cruise was nothing less than spectacular.
Our stop was the island of Argostoli, Greece, which was a much anticipated tennis excursion at the Argostoli Tennis Club. We found a taxi directly outside the port. Our taxi driver was great. Our friendly taxi driver proudly showed us around the island as we drove to our destination, including where we should visit for lunch, after our tennis, and a brief history of the island and area. We were off to a great start, we thought; however, even the best plans call for quick thinking! Our friendly taxi driver dropped us off at the wrong tennis courts (travel tip: double check the address). Immediately, the teaching pro on the courts stopped and asked us who we were looking for. We told him who we were looking for Dinos and he immediately told us we were in the wrong place and that we needed to travel five minutes away by taxi. We quickly decided to try to call a taxi (thankfully, we upgraded our cell phone to international calling); however, before we could order our taxi, a local woman, finishing her morning walk, offered to drive us back into town so we could easily find a taxi. We took her up on her offer. She then drove us to the center of town, right to an awaiting taxi. We jumped in the taxi and drove to our tennis club, just in time for our hitting session.
Our Teaching tennis Pro, Antonio, was fantastic. The Tennis Club of Argostoli was located on the beach front property of the Mediranee Hotel, in the Lassi area of Argostoli, Greece. We had booked our tennis session with Dinos Christopoulos, who set us up with Antonio prior to our cruise. We worked on our tennis game for an hour with our fabulous tennis Pro, Antonio, who was an amazing tennis player and coach. We were very pleased to have been on the court with such a high-level tennis player, who helped us bring out our best tennis game. After our tennis, we walked down to the beach and enjoyed the morning. The beaches were beautiful in Argostoli. The resort was on the water, so would be a great place to stay and play tennis and enjoy a beach vacation! After we finished, we called for our taxi, and headed to the De Bosset Bridge (travel tip: $10 Euros ride to most parts of the island, 2 Euros more if you call for a taxi, rather than hail a taxi on the street).
For lunch, we stopped at the De Bosset Bridge in Argostoli, the longest stone bridge over a sea. The bridge was a popular tourist destination, filled with people hiking across the to the other side, and taking photos of the beautiful island and surrounding water! We dined, overlooking the water and the bridge, at the Aristofanis Restaurant. We found it to be relaxing, with gorgeous views and was reasonably priced. We enjoyed a lite Greek lunch with Greek beer and Greek Wine. After lunch, we decided to walk through town to shop, before returning to our cruise ship, just a mile away!
Our last stop on our Greek Isle cruise was Dubrovnik, Croatia. The Port of Dubrovnik was interesting to us because it was where the Game of Thrones filmed the scene of the Red Keep! We had booked a Games of Thrones Walking Tour excursion through Viator.com. Our tour guide was fantastic. She kept us going at a rapid pace through the tour. Be prepared to walk up many steps of the amazing stone fort! Our tour guide gave us references to the Game of Thrones scenes as we walked all around the property! We ended with an iron throne photo opportunity (at a local shop)! We spent every minute available on this excursion, as there was so much to see at this lovely, historical port, our last stop before Venice!
Our cruise returned to Venice early in the morning, through the canals, with the aid of tugboats. Venice was not quite awake as we made our way through the misty canals. We disembarked from our cruise ship en route to the Gritti Palace, (a Marriott Bonvoy property), steps away from St. Mark’s Square, on the Grand Canal. Water taxis and waterbusses were the most popular ways to get around the waterways of Venice. We were able to secure a water taxi, who dropped us off at the dock of our hotel, the Gritti Palace, on the Grand Canal! Location was everything! We enjoyed our day, walking through the cobblestone streets of Venice. We spent a lot of time at the Dogi Palace, an amazing museum. It was definitely a must see (travel tip: buy your tickets in advance, it saves time waiting in line). We spent the rest of our time shopping, and sightseeing, a trip to the Rialto bridge, and then lunched at a local Italian restaurant. We finished our day of Venice excursion with a romantic gondola ride along the canals. Our farewell to lovely Venice ended with a romantic dinner at the Gritti Palace, on the terrace restaurant, as we took into the lovely lights of Venice. Our hotel room was lovely. The best part of staying at the Gritti Palace was the location and excellent service. In the morning, as we prepared to leave for home, a couple next to us were also going to the airport, so we ended up sharing a water taxi ($110 euros total for a water taxi to the airport). It turned out they were on our cruise, and they had met in Venice many years before. We were sad to leave this magical, romantic city to return home.
The Greek Isle Mediterranean cruise aboard the Norwegian Star was a fabulous, warm weather, fall vacation! We were successful in including tennis opportunities into our well planned itinerary, yet still enjoyed all the islands had to offer. It was an honor to spend time in Venice, Italy, the romantic city on the water, a truly unforgettable experience. As they say in Greece, Yamas!
Camera roll from our Greek Isle Cruise aboard the Norwegian Star:
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