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Greek isles: What to see, do and eat in Santorini, Corfu & Mykonos

Greek island cruises are on the bucket lists of many avid travelers thanks to the picturesque beauty, vibrant history and delicious cuisine of the region. So, what cruise shore excursions can you enjoy there?

Greek island cruises are a wonderful way to pack in the delights of Greece all in one trip without ever having to worry about getting from one hotspot to the next.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) offers 10 days brimming with culture and cuisine onboard cruise ship Norwegian Breakaway, stopping at nine ports along the way.

The NCL vessel boasts 25 dining experiences plus three dedicated seafood venues as well as dazzling stage performances. Other highlights include The Waterfront – a quarter-mile oceanfront promenade lined with restaurants, bars and fab views – and The Aqua Park & Sports Complex, complete with five multistory waterslides.

Norwegian Breakaway’s Greek islands cruise from Rome (Civitavecchia) calls at Santorini, Corfu and Mykonos as well as a brilliant selection of Italian destinations, too.

We’ve taken a look at these three gorgeous Greek islands and what you can see, do and eat there on 2023 shore excursions with NCL (don’t read if you’re hungry!).

Santorini

Picture perfect

What to do in Santorini … for culture

The Greek island of Santorini is as picturesque as they come (just ask the influencers who flock there for the perfect sunset selfie) but its appeal isn’t just skin deep. As with the vast majority of vacation destinations in Greece, there’s rich culture and history to be found on Santorini.

On the NCL shore excursion ‘Go Local – Santorini’s Musical Heritage’ of this Greek islands cruise you’ll meet local craftsmen making traditional Greek musical instruments and visit the island’s former capital (and the largest preserved village on Santorini) Pyrgos, known for its 13th-century Venetian castle.

For further history, there’s the ‘Ancient Akrotiri & Wine Tasting’ outing. Bronze Age settlement Akrotiri was one of the most pivotal Minoan urban centres and ports in the Aegean, connecting to mainland Greece and as far as Egypt and Syria.

The town met its untimely devastation following a catastrophic volcanic eruption on Santorini in the 17th century BC which destroyed the island’s Minoan civilisation and left Akrotiri covered in ash. Today it is the most important prehistoric settlement in the Aegean and boasts fascinating excavations.

What to do in Santorini … for adventure

Santorini is a volcanic island – indeed, the caldera here is one of the biggest active underwater volcanoes in the world.

To sate your thirst for adventure on Greek islands cruises, NCL offers a ‘Volcano Hiking’ excursion – take a boat ride to an active volcano and hike its gravel terrain on a steep and fast-paced 30-minute, 3/4 mile walk to the crater.

What to do in Santorini … for food & drink

Fava – a yellow split-pea purée usually served warm with olive oil and lemon – is probably the most famous dish in Santorini, but do also try the small, sweet Santorini tomatoes, apochti – seasoned and cured Pork loin often used to accompany fine wine, chlorotyri – a local goat’s milk cheese, as well as capers and white aubergine.

A number of Norwegian Cruise Line shore excursions include food and drink but to really immerse yourself in local cuisine opt for the ‘Greek Style Celebration – Opa!’ trip to the picturesque, clifftop village of Oia (above) on which you’ll enjoy the food, wine and dances of Greece at a lively Greek celebration. ‘Charming Oia & Winery’ is another alternative – visit a quality winery and taste some of the best wines in Santorini.

What to do in Santorini … for relaxation

If you’d rather soak up the sun and do very little on your Greek island cruise vacation – easy! NCL’s ‘Perivolos Beach Transfer’ will whisk you off to the longest black beach in Santorini and the crystal-clear water of the Aegean Sea on the island’s southeast coast.

Mykonos

Archaeological treasures

What to do in Mykonos … for culture

From Mykonos you simply must visit the neighboring island of Delos (above), it’s the mythical birthplace of the Greek gods Artemis and Apollo and was one of the most sacred places of ancient Greece, attracting thousands of pilgrims from the 8th century BC onwards.

Interesting fact: the Athenians who dominated the island on and off for almost five hundred years initiated two “purifications” of Delos, the second of which, in 426/5 BC, forbade births and deaths on the island (seems tricky to control if you ask us). Unfortunately, Delos never recovered from Romans razing the island in 88 BC – the population dwindled, ancient ruins were plundered and, during Ottoman occupation, it became a pirate stronghold.

Excavations of the archaeological site of Delos began in 1873 thanks to The French School of Archaeology and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Look out for statues of the lions dedicated to the Sanctuary of Apollo (above right), The House of Dionysus and The House of the Trident with their impressive mosaics, and the ancient theatre of Delos to name a few highlights. Join NCL shore excursion ‘Delos: Birthplace of Artemis & Apollo’ on Greek islands cruises to learn all about the famous site.

What to do in Mykonos … for food & drink

Mykonos’ rustic sausages are renowned here. They’re seasoned with a Greek savoury spice known as ‘throubi’, typically have a higher lean meat content than fat and are often paired with local wine or traditional ouzo.

For cheese, there’s tyrovolia (a fresh soft cheese used in various recipes), kopanisti (soft, fermented, spiced and often spread on bread) and ksinotiro (a sour-tasting option often used for pasta).

Mosta is a common meze dish in Mykonos consisting of barley rusks, kopanisti, tomato, olive oil, oregano and salt while Melopita (a sweet tart made with fresh tyrovolia cheese, honey and cinnamon) is one of the most popular pies on the island.

The ‘Mykonos On Foot’ shore excursion with NCL takes you through the streets of the island so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to pop into shops and stock up, plus a snack is provided.

What to do in Mykonos … for relaxation

For a chilled beach day, sign up for ‘Mykonos Beach Transfer’. Just a short drive from your ship are golden sandy beaches, transparent waters and a whole lot of you-time. The perfect opportunity to get stuck into that airport thriller you picked up.

Corfu

Royal connections

What to do in Corfu … for culture

Norwegian Cruise Line has a wealth of Corfu shore excursions that will ensure vacationers get their fix of culture – you’re spoiled for choice!

On the ‘Old Fortress & Gourmet’ outing, guests will explore The Old Fortress of Corfu (above), one of the most impressive fortifications in Europe. It was built by the Venetians in the 15th century on the site of a former Byzantine castle and later added to by the British in the 18th century. The Public Library of Corfu, once the barracks, is located here and hosts rare manuscripts and editions. The fortress overlooks Corfu’s Old Town and offers stunning views.

Alternatively, join the ‘Mons Repos Palace & Corfu Town’ shore excursion. Mons Repos – a neoclassical mansion built in 1831 – was famously the birthplace of Prince Philip. Nowadays it is a museum and visitors can explore the 258-acre park bursting with exotic plants.

On this trip you’ll drive along the coastal road of Perama and stop for snaps of pretty Mouse Island (or Pontikonisi) – so-called due to its diminutive size (although according to mythology, Pontikonisi was the ship of Greek hero Odysseus before the God Poseidon turned it to rock); you can’t miss the 13th-century Byzantine church of Pantokrator which dominates the islet. Travelers can then stroll through Corfu’s Old Town to see the historical sites.

What to do in Corfu … for adventure

If you think four legs are better than two, try the ‘Horseback Riding & Beach’ excursion to soak up the scenery of Corfu’s northern coast or, if you’d prefer wheels to hooves, there’s the ‘Mountain Bike Expedition’ on which you can explore the beautiful and picturesque villages of Corfu by bike accompanied by a guide.

Alternatively, put your name down for the ‘4×4 Adventure’ to admire the countryside, olive groves and the glistening Ionian Sea from the comfort of a vehicle.

What to do in Corfu … for food & drink

Sofrito (veal cooked in wine sauce, garlic and white pepper) is famous on Corfu and fresh fish is excellent – try some fried with Greek spicy sauce savoro! Tsigareli is a common veggie option – boiled leafy greens cooked with chopped onion, garlic, red hot pepper and salt – and Kataifi and Baklavà are among the popular cakes to taste if you fancy something sweet.

To enjoy traditional food on the island, the ‘Best of Corfu’ tour is a great shout. Not only will you tour the island but you’ll also tuck into a traditional lunch with live entertainment at a local taverna.

Meanwhile, ‘Scenic Island & Flavors’ ensures you sample local favourites and visit a traditional Koum Kouat distillery. The fruit was imported in 1850 by the British and is today used to produce the island’s famous liqueur.

What to do in Corfu … for relaxation

Yes, there’s a beach excursion put on by NCL but why not embrace the regal vibe of the island and join the ‘Catamaran Tour in Corfu’? You’ll sail between Corfu and the mainland, stop for swimming opportunities and tuck into an onboard feast all to the backdrop of the region’s beautiful scenery.

Right, we’re off to buy some feta from Sainsbury’s and watch Mamma Mia.

Set Sail

10-Day Greek Isles & Italy: Santorini, Mykonos & Florence from Rome with NCL

Duration: 9 nights

Where: Rome  (Civitavecchia), Italy | Santorini, Greece | Athens (Piraeus), Greece | Mykonos, Greece | Corfu, Greece | Valletta, Malta | Messina (Sicily), Italy | Naples, Italy | Florence/Pisa(Livorno), Italy | Rome, Italy

Ship: Norwegian Breakaway

Price: From £2,169 pp (based on a balcony cabin on August 4, 2023, sailing)

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Published 10.01.23