There are certain spots around the world which have attractions you simply have to see when visiting. You can’t go to Paris, France without going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. When in Rome, you not only do what the Romans do, you swing by the Colosseum. And in Athens, Greece, the must-see spot is the Acropolis.
The word acropolis is Greek for “upper city” and has come to mean a city or fortress built atop a hill with steep sides, all the better to hold off potential invading forces. And the world-famous Acropolis was just one stop on the Panoramic Athens Tour, booked through Cruising Excursions, which I’m reviewing today.
Before Booking The Tour
When looking for a shore excursions, you really have to take into account both what kind of traveler you are and what you’re wanting to get out of the day. And if you’re booking for a party, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page. The last thing you want to do is book an excursion that involves a lot of walking or hiking when someone in your party isn’t going to be able to keep up.
In the case, we were looking for something to do in Athens that would let us see the sights and experience the city without being rushed. There were several excursions offered through the ship, but none really ticked all the boxes for us. Plus, when comparison shopping, the cost was sometimes double (or even more) what we’d pay booking through an outside company.
The Panoramic Athens Tour from CruisingExcursions.com boasted time at the Ancient Acropolis, Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of Athena, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and time in the Plaka, an amazing village which is usually described as being “in the shadow of the Acropolis.” It seemed to combine just about everything we were looking for, and the price was right at $70 per person, so we booked it and began researching the places we’d be visiting.
It’s important to note that when you buy the tour you’ll receive a voucher that you need to print; this is your ticket to the tour, so be sure to bring it with you!
Docking in Athens
Upon arriving, your cruise ship doesn’t actually dock in Athens but a little ways away at Piraeus, which is actually one of the busiest shipping ports in the Mediterranean. Here, there are a lot of ferry boats, container ships and multiple terminals for cruise ships. The cruise terminal itself was very easy to navigate (which is always a concern when you’re in another country!), and we made our way to the front of the terminal, where we saw a line of buses. There was someone from Cruising Excursions holding up a sign that said Panoramic Athens Tour, which meant we’d found where we were supposed to be! Once the rest of our fellow passengers arrived, we jumped on the air-conditioned motor coach and were given an itinerary.
As we made our way to the first stop, we were given a sightseeing tour of Greece’s capital city and got some historical context for both the sites we would soon see and the country’s current state of affairs. We then arrived at the ancient Panathenaic Stadium, the only stadium in the world build entirely of marble. The stadium was an architectural marvel, holding over 60,000 spectators and constructed out of 85,100 metric tons of marble. (That’s a whole lotta kitchen counters!) Fittingly, the stadium was used during the 2004 Olympics, hosting the archery competition and serving as the finish line for the marathons. It’s also here that the Olympic torch ceremony takes place before the flame begins making its way toward the chosen host city.
Walking Up The Acropolis
A bit later, the tour arrived at Acropolis rock. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the bus parking lot to the top… although truth be told, it could be much quicker were it not for the crowds. This is an incredibly popular spot, so there’s almost always a large group of people exploring! Once we’d reached the summit, we were given time to roam around and explore the ruins on our own. It’s hard to tell which is more awe-inspiring: The feeling of being at a place where so much history unfolded, or the breathtaking views.
Highlights include the Parthenon (which was the temple devoted to Athena, the Goddess of War, whom the people of Athens considered their patron); and the Theater of Dionysus (which was devoted to the God of plays and wine).
Another site of note: Next to Acropolis Rock sits Mars Hill, where Paul the Apostle preached his sermon on the identity of the Unknown God.
Dining and Shopping in Plaka
Next, we went to the shopping district of Plaka, where we had a chance to wander around and explore the local culture, shops and restaurants. The first place we visited was a little square so that we could grab some lunch… exploring ancient ruins, you work up an appetite! We ordered grilled vegetables and tzatziki sauce. There were a handful of restaurants to choose from, but we opted to play it safe by eating where the tour guide recommended. A major plus: People working in the establishment spoke English, meaning I didn’t have to break out Google Translate and hope for the best!
One thing which really surprised me was just how affordable many of the shops in Athens were. Basic souvenirs like mugs and magnets were inexpensive, and so were many of the local handmade crafts. We were able to pick up a bottle of olive oil for just a few dollars.
Heading Back to the Ship
The ride back to Piraeus, where the ship was docked, took around 30 minutes. Dropped off at the terminal, you could tell that everyone had enjoyed the day as they discussed what sites they’d seen and shared pics with one another.
The Panoramic Athens Tour was the perfect excursion for those looking to get a taste of the city without having to spend too much time in one place. It didn’t feel at all rushed, and yet we covered a fair amount of ground. It was also a nice combination of guided tour and time to independently explore. Our guide, who spoke English (which can be very important when you’re in a foreign country in which you don’t speak the language) was friendly, helpful and happy to answer questions or share historical points of interest.
You can read more about the Cruising Excursions tour here: Panoramic Athens Tour
Cruising Excursions is one of my podcast sponsors, and gave me this excursion in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.