Athens to Istanbul

By Lorilee Larsen, Travel Designer

I've just returned from a wonderful trip to Greece and Turkey where I sailed from Athens to Istanbul aboard Windstar Cruises.  I also spent a few days in Athens and Istanbul before and after the cruise.  I traveled with another lady and being single females, new to these countries, we weren't sure what to expect.

 Shortly after checking in to our hotel in Athens. This is the rooftop terrace at our hotel. We were not prepared for the iconic view or being able able to hear the concert performing at the Herodes Atticus open air theatre, outside the Acropolis.

Shortly after checking in to our hotel in Athens. This is the rooftop terrace at our hotel. We were not prepared for the iconic view or being able able to hear the concert performing at the Herodes Atticus open air theatre, outside the Acropolis.

 It was a pleasant surprise. As is often the case, what you see on the news, does not accurately depict everyday life in these countries, particularly from a tourist perspective. Everywhere we went, we experienced graciousness, hospitality and unparalleled service. Both the Greeks and Turks made every effort to speak English where possible. Their nature is to want to help and assist.  We were in Athens while there were peaceful demonstrations in front of government buildings.  We never felt unsafe.  In spite of their economic problems, the Greeks are very united and passionate in their love for their country.

 This photo was taken on Istiklal, the well-known pedestrian street in Istabul.

This photo was taken on Istiklal, the well-known pedestrian street in Istabul.

 One particular advantage we were grateful for in our travels, was confirming private transfers and private tours before leaving home.  Arriving at airports and hotels in a foreign country can bring challenges, so it was nice to have someone lead the way, negotiating the shortcuts, all the while, providing commentary along the way.  At busy historic monuments, I knew the guide was worth his weight in gold when he lead us past long line ups, handed us our entrance tickets and escorted us through the venue entrance.

 My favourite dream location in Santorini.

My favourite dream location in Santorini.

 At the airport, we were met by someone holding a sign with our name on it.  The transfers were non-stop and drop service.  In each city, the guide ensured our check in went smoothly and that we didn't have any further questions before leaving us.  Upon return to the airport, the guide came in, handling the majority of the luggage, leading us to the check-in ticket counter and accompanying us through the first part of security, to the point where a passport was required.  I actually felt rather 'spoiled' at the 'airport'; those words seem like an oxymoron. Never have I sailed through airport check-in and security with such relaxed ease, I knew my guide had everything under control!!