As the tide of cruise-ship travel rises, major cruise lines have not been slow to lift new ships into service. This year saw the introduction of Holland America Line’s 2,650-passenger ms Koningsdam, its first new vessel since 2010 and largest ever, with solo and family cabins a fresh option. Royal Caribbean International’s new 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas also set sail straight into the booming China market this year, complete with such novelties as a skydiving simulator, onboard bumper cars and “virtual balconies’’ for inside cabins. Regent Seven Seas Cruises took to the waves with its first new ship since 2003, the 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer, “the most luxurious cruise ship ever,” with the highest space-to-passenger ratio in the industry. Viking Cruises cast a second ship into the ocean-going fray in 2016, the 930-passenger Viking Sea, a vessel that remains true to Viking’s river-plying origins with extensive deck space, including a wrap-around promenade. And come this December, Seabourn is slated to launch its largest ship ever, the all-suite, all-balcony, 604-passenger Seabourn Encore.
The Saronic or Argo Saronic Islands of Greece call travelers to explore its seven small islands and islets brimming with history, natural sites and more. With most easily accessible by boat, the islands’ proximity to ports of Athens make the Saronic Islands an ideal destination for those preferring shorter boat rides. In fact, trips from Athens ports to the islands take only between 10 minutes and two hours, depending on the island you choose, making them perfect for day or weekend trips. From Piraeus port, you can access Hydra, Spetses, Aegina and Poros directly. Come explore these stunning islands with us and find the inspiration to plan your next trip to these islands. Hydra Hydra town curves around a slope overlooking the Argosaronic Gulf like an amphitheater and is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Greece. Most unique to the island is its lack of vehicles. People on the island get around on mules and donkeys as well as water taxis, making for a peaceful and laid-back day. Hydra lies a two-hour ferry ride from Piraeus port in Athens.
The Greek islands are so iconically picturesque, families seeking fun in the sun sometimes overlook Athens. At first glance, it’s easy to see why. Yes, Athens boasts the wow factor of the Parthenon and the Acropolis, but it’s also a big, crowded city full of traffic and noise, especially compared to the serene beauty of islands like Mykonos and Santoríni. But like most world-class capitals, Athens also features a cluster of neighborhoods, each with its own personality and style, which could make a perfect match for your family. Parents with young children looking to explore the city know their family dynamics best, but generally a little common sense prevails when choosing the right activities. I wouldn’t drag a toddler around archaeological sites, but school-age kids, teens and young adults who like mythology might have to be pulled away from some of the eye-popping examples of ancient art and culture. And because few of us live by culture alone, inviting beaches and plenty of nightlife spark this urban visit. Start at the city center, Syntagma Square, in front of the Old Royal Palace that now houses parliament. Traditionally attired Evzone guards patrol the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, marching in stiff-legged formation with rifles slung over their shoulders. While crowds usually stand by to snap photos of the changing of the guard ceremony, the throng is, thankfully, nothing like the mobs in front of London’s Buckingham Palace. Syntagma Square is not the place to be during political activities such as the demonstrations that took place here during the Greek debt crisis in the summer of 2015; however, each time, the unrest was short-lived and tourists came back in full throttle the next day. The charms of this neighborhood include the shops on nearby Ermou Street, a nearly mile-long pedestrian street with stores ranging from ubiquitous franchises like Zara and H&M to small, individually owned boutiques like Melissinos Art – The Poet Sandal Maker for custom-made Greek sandals. Not only a destination in its own right, Ermou Street winds along some of the other most interesting neighborhoods in the historic center. Save time to browse the shops and flea market stalls in Monastiraki, especially fun on Sundays, where unique vintage finds and historic architecture are sprinkled among the T-shirts and souvenirs.