But quite unlike other island groups, these rocky outcrops were at the core of the ancient world, and every shimmering bay or wind-swept ruin is filled with history, myth and legend: this is what makes travelling in this region extra special.
Core to almost every Greek islands cruise itinerary, the Cyclades nurtured the earliest maritime routes where trade went hand in hand with new thoughts on art, mathematics and philosophy. You can spend time in super cosmopolitan Mykonos, then hop over to tiny Delos, whose remarkable ruins speak of extraordinary power and significance as centre of the Delian league. In Santorini you remember tales of the Argonauts, and even the lost city of Atlantis. Islands such as Paros, Sifnos, Amorgos and Folegandros each offer their own magical contrasts, some so isolated you feel as if you have stepped into another world, and some buzzing party centres for all the beautiful people.
For something far more remote, check out a couple of rare itineraries with SeaDream which take you to the Sporades to the north east, where the lovely islands of Skiathos and Skopelos will be familiar to you as the setting for 'Mamma Mia'. Despite their newfound fame, these quiet islands maintain a refreshing authenticity - the perfect example of unspoilt island life with unpretentious food, deserted beaches and green, mountainous interiors.
Crete, with its breathtaking wild natural beauty, also has an extraordinary history, and is considered to be the starting point of civilisation in Europe dating back to 3000 BC. Palace ruins and the mythical lair of the Minotaur will captivate, and tales of Theseus and Ariadne, Daedalus and Icarus, Poseidon and Zeus are alive in the hills. Crete's unique location means that you will find influences from all over the Mediterranean, including Egypt and the Near East. In the Middle Ages the Venetians flourished here, and more recently, Crete played a significant role in World War II.
The verdant Ionian islands can be found to the west. Dominating the Adriatic trade routes with their strategic location, here you will of course find strong Venetian influences, along with lush green scenery, as you visit Corfu, Cephalonia, Zakynthos and more.
In the Dodecanese, scattered along the Turkish coast, the hotter, drier climate creates a much more spartan countryside. The buildings speak of multiple influences, with medieval castles and Byzantine churches found alongside ancient archaeological sites. On Rhodes, the Street of the Knights and Palace of the Grand Masters reveal Byzantine and Ottoman influences, and the island has an important place in the great history of the Crusades and the Knights Chevalier of St John.
When creating your Greek islands cruise holiday, don't forget to include magical Athens; the city's extraordinary wealth of art and architecture would justify a trip all on its own. A couple of nights will give you time to visit the Parthenon, art museums including the Acropolis Museum, the Temple of Poseidon, and the captivating Plaka area before joining your ship in Piraeus.
Whether you are looking for myth, history, ancient ruins, crystal clear seas, welcoming locals, excellent food, swimming, fishing, monasteries or gentle hours spent people watching, the Greek islands are the perfect choice.