After tying the knot on August 3rd, 2008, we boarded a flight on August 7th, 2008 to Athens, Greece. We were excited for our honeymoon to begin: a cruise to the Greek Isles, where we had always dreamed of going, and then to the Turkish Isles, which seemed exotic and unique, all on a luxury ship. A cruise seemed like a natural choice to us, so we would be able to see many places and relax at the same time. The entire trip exceeded all of our expectations.
We scheduled a day in Athens before the cruise departed, so we could get to enjoy this magical city. Despite our red-eye flight, we were awake with adrenalin, and determined to make the most of our day. After checking into our hotel, we were able to navigate the subways in the city quite easily, and arrived at our first destination: The Acropolis. We hiked to the top right at noon- the time when all the locals say it is far too hot to hike in August. We decided it would be our first challenge as a married couple- and we got to the top and started on our tan all at once! We spent the afternoon exploring the Plaka; quaint, beautiful pedestrian streets of Athens with restaurants and shops. After a Greek dinner, we spent the night relaxing at our hotel, which had a rooftop pool with a perfect view of the Acropolis.
The next day, we took a taxi to the port, where we boarded our ship. We had both been on large cruises previously, and had decided that we wanted a more unique honeymoon. After finding Traveler's Joy and deciding that a honeymoon registry would be perfect for us, we decided that we could spend a bit extra, and our cruise would be on a magnificent sailboat. At just over $3,000 a piece, we decided that the memories would be well worth the price. We booked our cruise through Windstar, and our ship was the Wind Spirit, holding about 150 passengers. (More details about the ship can be found at http://www.windstarcruises.com/cruises-home.asp). Our cabin was very large (for a ship), and there were even chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us in the room! As we set sail, we enjoyed a gourmet meal, and exploring the sailboat. Dramatic music played as they raised the sails for the first time, and we were on our way. This boat also had a pool, jaccuzi, casino, library, formal dining room, and more. There was even an i-pod dock and dvd player in every room, and free dvd rentals in the library. In addition, they brought on local performers at several of the ports, so we got a true cultural entertainment experience. The ship was spectacular, and we truly felt pampered throughout the cruise.
Our first day in the Greek Isles was spent in Mykonos. We set out to find the famous windmills, and on the way, twisted through the beautiful side streets of the village. We took our time passing through the area they call "Little Venice" and loved how the restaurants have "wet seats" where the Aegean sea splashes up on you while you have a drink. We enjoyed some shopping and relaxing on a beach near the port, and couldn't wait to see more of the Greek Isles.
The next day we were tendered below the cliffs of Santorini, and this is where we were looking forward to the most. Yet again, we were not let down. Santorini was all we had hoped for, and more. We visited the highest point on the island with a view of the whole caldera, and then drove to the village of Oia; which is where all the typical "Greek Isles Paradise" pictures are taken. The blue domes, white houses built into the cliffs, and clear blue water was breathtaking. One of our favorite memories of the whole honeymoon was sitting in a café overlooking this scene, sipping Greek coffee and eating Baklava in paradise. The cable car down the cliffs back to the ship was bittersweet; we want to return to Santorini as soon as possible.
The last day in the Greek Isles was in Rhodes, a city divided by "old" and "new". The ship docked in the old city, which was walled and looked much like a giant castle. This city was rich in culture, with many historical monuments, intermingled with quaint shops. Eventually, we left the old city and entered into the "new" city; a completely different world after simply crossing the street. This half of the city was modern, yet just as interesting and fascinating.
On day five of the cruise, we arrived in Bodrum, Turkey. This day was a highlight of the trip for us for a unique reason. In booking the cruise, we had browsed the excursion catalogue, and came across our dream day. It involved a 7 1/2 hour private gullet ride (a traditional wooden Turkish boat), complete with an authentic lunch, and swimming and snorkeling in secluded bays and inlets. This excursion cost $599, and we could never have splurged for that on our own, but we thought we would put it on the honeymoon registry just for fun. We were shocked when our family-friends bought us the excursion as a gift, and our romantic day on the gullet was spectacular, and all we had hoped for.
On day six, we docked in Kusadasi. Although we are not huge history buffs, we were told that the ancient city of Ephesus was not to be missed, and so we got a taxi and spent the day among the ruins. We truly felt like we were in the past, walking among these century-old buildings and artifacts. The celsus library and the giant amphitheater are so well preserved, and we even sat on the ancient toilets! On the way back from Ephesus, we got to see the remnants of the Temple of Artimis- one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Our day ended up being rich in history and culture, and a day we will never forget.
The seventh day was spent relaxing at sea on the sailboat, cruising through the Dardanelles. We were even allowed to go into the bridge of the ship as the captain pointed out each monument we were passing. We arrived in Istanbul the next morning, and set off on a whirlwind tour, determined once again to see everything we could in the short time we had there. We went to the Hippodrome first, and then to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia, which were both stunning. Then we took a tour of Topkapi palace, and ended the day in the famous bazaar! The bazaar was truly an experience not to be missed, with crowded stalls of carpets, leathers, and jewelry, and bargaining going on all around. After a busy day, we checked into our hotel, and spent the remainder of our time in Istanbul swimming in the pool, and exploring Taskim square. We returned home on August 18th 2008 with memories to last a lifetime.
We had the honeymoon of our dreams, and we would recommend both the Windstar Cruise line and all of our destinations within Greece and Turkey without hesitation. When it was all said and done, including the cruise and flights, our honeymoon came to about $10,000. It never would have been a possibility for us without Traveler's Joy. As we said on our original Traveler's Joy webpage, we'll take memories that last a lifetime over a toaster any day!