Our week-long, late-booked cruise on board the Royal Princess, operated by Princess Cruises, came to an end in Athens from where we would be flying out. With the flight not taking place until the late afternoon we took advantage of a disembarkation tour provided by the cruiseline.
Whenever we’re flying back from a cruise we always try to arrange the flights late so that if these sorts of excursions are available we can get a last bit of sightseeing in and know that our luggage is being taken care of at the same time; we’d rather not have the hassle of trying to sort out getting ourselves and our cases to the airport and we’ve got no problem with sitting around and reading while waiting for a plane back home so we’d rather extend our holiday time by a little bit than be rushed or simply get off the ship and head straight back to the crushing reality of having to work for a living.
We left the ship early (sad, naturally, despite the problems we’d had on board (see: Review: The Royal Princess Cruise Ship)), picked out our luggage from the terminal, made our way onto the coach, and with everyone else on board soon after headed off for a short drive through Athens. In hardly any time we had arrived at the parking location near the base of the Acropolis and the moaning from fellow passengers had started as some realised that when the excursion mentioned there would be walking up slopes and steps to get to the Greek landmark they hadn’t realised that meant there would be slopes and steps they would have to walk up. An easy mistake. Nevertheless, most persevered (some stayed behind to explore some shops) and we headed up to the historical site.
The walk up allowed for a number of stops to examine some of the stone walls and arches visible on the approach, give the less-mobile-but-determined members of our excursion the opportunity to catch up, and allowed some of us to take some shots outwards and towards Athens from a higher elevation.
The Acropolis is a citadel comprising a number of ruins of buildings of importance to the ancient Greeks. Situated above the capital it is easily seen from miles around and naturally a very big tourist draw. Fortunately, thanks to our early arrival it wasn’t too busy when we got there and there wasn’t a long wait before we got inside for a proper look around.
Our tour guide gave us some history of the main buildings, including of course, the Parthenon temple which was covered to some extent by scaffolding. This was due to the necessary replacement of supporting metal that had been placed in the temple in decades past but which was rusting and in danger of causing more damage. Tip: if you want to see the Parthenon without scaffolding then you ought to wait about a decade. We didn’t think it detracted too much although it makes for slightly less appealing photographs. The important thing is being there and seeing it, though.
On the walk around the Parthenon there were plenty of chances to take advantage of the commanding views over Athens. There was a little haze in the distance as the temperature was starting to rise. One thing we spotted was the Theatre of Dionysus which my wife recalled visiting on a school trip when she was younger. Both of us had been to Athens before – her on the aforementioned school trip and me, passing through for a flight home after hopping around some of the Greek islands with some friends in my late teens – but neither of us had been to the Acropolis itself prior to this excursion.
One of the other, more attractive temple ruins on the Acropolis was the Erechtheion and its Porch of the Caryatids with columns formed from the figures of women.
We continued looking around the various temples and other buildings on the Acropolis as time permitted but with the rising temperature came the realisation that we hadn’t brought any water along and had packed our suntan lotion in our suitcases. There was little we could do about the latter issue as shade was severely limited on the citadel but there were a number of public water fountains dotted around the Acropolis so the need for water was curtailed. I would recommend bringing water with you, though, as it’s far more convenient than the fountains, useful though they are.
Before we headed back down to the base of the Acropolis where we were due to meet up and head towards the coach I grabbed a few more shots looking out across the city towards some of the other ruins in the distance. There is certainly a lot more to do than just the Acropolis in that small area of Athens but our time was limited out of necessity. Opposite the entrace to the temples were a few places selling food and drink so we grabbed some ice-cold slushies and wandered back to the meeting point.
As we waited for everyone to arrive we got talking to some fellow passengers. For some it was their first cruise, for others it was their first Princess cruise, and there was one older couple who were elite passengers and had been in a suite on board. There was a definite split in opinions as to how our time on the Royal Princess had been with those new to the cruiseline and cruising in general thinking it was incredible and those of us more experienced having serious concerns about the service we’d had on board and the ship’s design decisions. At some point we’ll return to a Royal-class ship and see if things improve because sometimes you just have a bad experience.
There would be one more stop before reaching the airport: a photo opportunity at the olympic stadium.