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8 of the best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

Cruise Advice

The Greek islands are amongst Europe's most appealing cruise destinations, home to dazzling white sugarcube villages, gorgeous beaches, enticing tavernas and the sun-baked ruins of ancient civilisations. Read on for our pick of the best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands.

A cruise is the perfect way to experience the best of Greece, allowing you to hop from island to island without worrying about ferry timetables and hotel reservations. Not all Greek island cruises are created equal, however.

Popular islands such as Santorini and Mykonos feature on the itineraries of all the main cruise lines, and although they undeniably have their charms, they can be overrun with day-trippers during the summer high season. A small ship cruise, on the other hand, allows you to visit the smaller, quieter islands that the big ships can't reach, places where you'll have idyllic beaches and stunning ruins almost to yourself.


Most cruises focused on the Greek islands will be round-trip itineraries from Athens, but you'll also find voyages that combine Greece with Italy, Croatia and the Adriatic, using Venice or Rome as turnaround ports. Some cruises also include the Holy Land or pass through the islands on repositioning voyages towards the Middle East, while others include ports on the Aegean coast of Turkey, with some voyages beginning or ending in the wonderful city of Istanbul.

 best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

The season usually runs from May to October, with July and August the busiest (and hottest) time to visit. On a cruise visiting the smaller islands you'll almost always be tendered ashore, and each island has its own appeal, whether you're interested in history, cuisine, beaches, nature or all of the above.

Our clients are often surprised to discover that the number of Greek island cruises on offer each summer is quite limited, so it pays to book early. Here is our guide to eight of the best small ship cruise lines visiting the Greek Islands.

Best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

1. SeaDream Yacht Club

A firm Mundy favourite, the intimate yachts of SeaDream carry just 112 lucky guests, with a laid-back, al fresco style that is perfectly suited to exploring the sun-kissed Greek islands.

Itineraries include the glamour destinations of Mykonos and Santorini, as well as smaller islands such as rugged, fertile Naxos and the upmarket island of Patmos, where Saint John is said to have written the Book of Revelations.

best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

2. Windstar Cruises

The small ships of Windstar Cruises are particularly popular with first-time cruisers, as well as those who prefer a more casual ambience on board, and their destination-focused itineraries visit many of the Mediterranean's smaller ports.

The 148-guest Wind Star and Wind Spirit as well as 342-guest Wind Surf all operate a number of round-trip voyages from Athens, calling at islands including Rhodes, Crete and Santorini, with the ship's marina ensuring you can enjoy the complimentary watersports when anchored in the Greek Islands' hidden bays and tiny coves.


3. Ponant

French cruise line Ponant has undergone significant expansion over the last few years, and their chic Explorer Class yachts as well as their slightly older, beautiful Sister Ships both offer an extensive Greek islands programme.

An Athens round-trip ticks off the big hitters like Mykonos and Santorini, while more unusual itineraries call at sleepy Symi, reachable only by smaller cruise ships, traffic-free Hydra and off-the-beaten-track Limnos.

best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

4. Sea Cloud Cruises

For those who love the romance of sail, Sea Cloud Cruises is the perfect choice. These magnificent three- and four-masted ships are a throwback to another age, and are a true sight to behold as they sail through the warm waters of the Mediterranean, showcasing the fascinating spectacle of hoisting all the sails by hand - a process that can take a full hour to complete.

You'll be the envy of other cruisers when you arrive at islands such as Paxos, Spetses, Patmos and Milos, and with a maximum of 136 guests the ships are able to visit those smaller ports that the bigger vessels can't reach.

best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

5. Silversea

Silversea pioneered the all-inclusive luxury cruise concept, and are renowned for their personal service and varied itineraries. Their 'classic' fleet ranges in size from the 296-guest Silver Wind to Silver Spirit, which accommodates 608 guests, and they offer a number of Greek island itineraries.

Silversea tend to stick to the better known islands such as Rhodes, Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos on Athens round-trips or culminating in Venice, on itineraries of varying lengths between 7 and 14 nights.

best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

6. Seabourn

Seabourn's fleet of small ships is the most modern of all the ultra-luxury lines, with three 458-guest sister ships and Encore and Ovation, both of which carry 604 pampered travellers.

Seabourn is a great choice if you're looking for a longer Greek islands cruise, with 14-night voyages that include Skopelos, Naxos, Santorini and Kos, as well as calls in Malta and Sicily. There are also some itineraries that combine Greece with Croatia and Slovenia, and occasionally you'll find even longer cruises that carry on to Dubai and beyond.

 best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

7. Crystal Cruises

Multi-award-winning Crystal Cruises are one of the best in the business, with a luxury all-inclusive product that includes fabulous dining, sumptuous accommodation and the very highest levels of personalised service, which has been enhanced since their relaunch in February 2023.

Their two newly-refurbished ships, the 606-guest Crystal Symphony and 740-guest Crystal Serenity, will visit the Med between April and August this year and next, with itineraries calling at islands including Mykonos, Paros and Patmos, home to fabulous beaches and upmarket restaurants and bars.

best small ship cruises to the Greek Islands

8. Emerald

To combine a luxurious cruise with the Greek islands' history and culture, look no further than Emerald Cruises. Their yacht-like Emerald Azzurra is one of the most luxurious ships at sea, alongside an intimate, relaxed style as well as an infinity-style pool, al fresco Sky Bar, wellness area and marina at the back of the yacht, allowing you to hop straight into the bright blue coves surrounding the Greek islands with a host of water toys.

Itineraries visit key sites of historical interest such as Delos and Rhodes, as well as big hitters like Mykonos and Santorini and smaller, unspoilt islands like Lefkada's yacht-dotted Nydri and the classic whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches of Paros, with lots of options to extend your trip with pre- or post-cruise stays in Athens.

small ship cruises to the Greek Islands
Meet the author

Claire is Marketing Manager at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for nearly a year and in travel for over 8 years. Most recently she's cruised on Seabourn and has also sailed with Ponant and Uniworld. Her favourite destination is Sweden however she's also enjoyed cruises in the the Galapagos, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Northern Europe, Greek Isles and the Far East. When she’s not travelling she loves weekends away in the countryside.

More about Claire

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