By: Lin Humble, Vice President
My oldest son has a newfound fascination for Greek history so we decided it would be great for him to personally experience Greece for himself and deepen his knowledge and understanding of Greek history and the role it has played in Western Civilization. So my husband and I, along with my two young boys ages 8 and 10 and my mother, decided to take the plunge and travel to Greece. We opted to travel with Adventures by Disney because of their renowned reputation for service and product excellence. Our Greece Adventures by Disney experience met and exceeded any and all expectations.
After the long flight from Houston, we arrived in the Athens airport and were delighted to find an Adventures By Disney representative awaiting our arrival who quickly gathered our belongings and took us to our hotel. In the lobby we were greeted by two very friendly Disney tour guides. Having two dedicated guides for each tour is one of the hallmarks of the Disney experience and another feature that sets Disney apart from some of the other luxury tour operators. One guide is focused on the children, keeping them entertained and involved with a host of fun activities. Another guide is on hand and is incredibly knowledgeable with the country, the language and the national and regional history. We learned that Disney guides go through a rigorous interview process to make sure the guides’ services are top notch. As we were to discover throughout our time together, Disney guides are the crème de la crème!
On our first evening at the hotel, we gathered for a private reception and dinner – a sort of meet and greet to get acquainted with the staff and other guests. My boys wasted no time in reaching out to some of the other children on the tour who they hoped would share some common interests. And they did indeed make some new friends along the way. But now, after the long trip and the flurry of welcome activities, it was time for a well-deserved rest.
The following day our Greece Adventure by Disney really began! We first visited the Panathenaic stadium, site of the first modern Olympic games, and toured it in depth. We were taken deep inside to where athletes gathered before the games. The children had the opportunity to compete in a mini track and field race. Awards were given on the Olympic podium. After the stadium, we toured the Acropolis of Athens. Here, our guide Maria, a local Greek herself, provided us with some of the history of the site. She was an absolute wealth of information and the ruins of the Acropolis are amazing! Our first day was a great start to our Greek odyssey.
The next day on our Greece Adventures by Disney trip, we took a 2-hour bus ride to Delphi. Our guide Chris, who had the most vibrant and friendly personality, kept all the children entertained on this long bus ride while the Maria shared her extensive knowledge of Greek history in general and Delphi in particular. We visited the Delphi Oracle, the temple of Apollo and an ancient theatre. For those thrill seeking a little more adventure, our guide Chris led a fairly steep and challenging hike to the ancient stadium. For those who chose to stay on more level ground, Maria served as an escort to the site’s museum where guests were able to view the famed bronze Charioteer of Delphi. On our way back to Athens, we stopped at Patrikomas for a lunch in a cozy, family-run eatery. The restaurant was located in a 19th century stone building that overlooked the Gulf of Corinth! We savored both the views and the authentic (and scrumptious!) Greek feast. After lunch we headed back to Athens. On the drive back the children enjoyed an original Disney movie which made the return trip quick, quiet and enjoyable.
The following morning, day three, we departed the hotel after breakfast for our flight to the island of Santorini. Our two tour escorts, Maria and Chris, took care of all our travel needs and our luggage magically appeared in the Santorini hotel. When we arrived in Santorini, we were taken to a local vineyard for a lunch and wine tasting. While the adults enjoyed the wine tasting, Chris took the children outside for fun and games. After lunch, all adventurers enjoyed “grape stomping” and a visit to the on-site wine museum. We then visited the town of Fira with charming cobblestone streets lined with lovely shops and cafes. Here we had time on our own to enjoy the town. We enjoyed ice cream on a cliff-side café with stunning views of the Caldera and the typical blue and white domes you see in every photo depicting Santorini. That night we had dinner at Kallisti Taverna in the mountain village of Pyrgos. The meal was typically Greek and offered selections made from fresh, local products. Once again, we were gifted with beautiful views as the sun set and then it was back to our luxurious hotel for a night’s rest.
On day four we rose to find that our Greece Adventures by Disney trip had chartered a boat just for our group and it was ours for the day. After breakfast, we crossed the azure waters of the caldera and hiked the volcanic island of Nea Kameni, located in the center of the basin. From the top of the island we enjoyed amazing views of Santorini. The hike to the top was once again for the more physically adventurous but it was great fun. Those who did not want to hike were able to enjoy longer time on the chartered boat which was stacked with refreshments provided by Disney. After the visit to Mea Kameni we were taken for a dive in the Aegean Sea and afterward enjoyed a refreshing bath in a therapeutic natural spring. What could be better than having this “spa treatment” at the close of a busy day. Following the day’s active adventure, we were taken in our chartered boat to a nearby fishing village on the island of Thirasia to dine on the water’s edge in a family run taverna. We had the rest of the day and evening to enjoy on our own!
The fifth day of our tour we visited the archaeological site of Akrotiri. These are the ruins of “Minoan Pompeii”. Here we learned, from our erudite guide, Maria, about the volcano’s eruption and how this Minoan Bronze Age settlement was buried in volcano ash. Following this educational stop, we were taken to the stunning black sand beach at Kamari. Here we enjoyed seaside lunch and a dip in the Mediterranean’s clear waters. After our day’s adventures, we boarded the high speed ferry to Crete, where Disney had packed a lovely dinner for all of us to enjoy in the first class section of the ferry. Again, magically, all the luggage was transported and arranged by the Disney staff. We didn’t have to worry a bit about luggage! We arrived at Crete in the evening to find a five-star beachfront resort where we once again enjoyed the rest after a fun-filled day.
Day six found us on another private boat headed to Spinalonga fortress, a medieval ghost town. Here we hiked to the top of the mountain for great views of the town and the ocean below. The balance of the day was “at our leisure” so we met with many of the other young adventurers on the beach. The children played in the ocean and the pool while the adults relaxed with a chilled beverage in hand. The evening found us in giddy expectation of the private junior adventure night that happens on all Greece Adventures by Disney itineraries. This night was well needed. The children all gather with the two guides and play games, eat dinner and watch a private Disney movie while the adults enjoy “date night” out in the town. The guides plan and arranged dinner for us on at sushi restaurant on a jetty with glass bottom floor that offered spectacular views of the ocean, sunset and fish below. Transportation and dinner arrangements were all planned by our two awesome guides. Brilliant!
The next day, our seventh, we were taken to the Palace of Knossos. This place is woven into Greek mythology so the boys had anticipated this day since the beginning. Our knowledgeable guide Maria, took us through the ruins and gave us the history of this extraordinary place. After this visit we enjoyed a private lunch in Arolithos and learned to make tzatziki, a spicy yogurt and cucumber dip. The children were dressed like chefs and prepared this tasty appetizer for the adults with the help of the chef. It was delicious! We then learned how to make Komboli “worry beads” which have been used in Greece for centuries to relieve stress. Afterwards, we returned to the resort where the children enjoyed the pool and beach time with their now close friends.
Our eight and final full day was spent at a Cretan Mountain village with a leisurely walk through picturesque olive groves. Then we headed over to Karouzano Village in the Cretan country side where we learned how to make cheese pie with honey and brew our own Greek coffee. This was one of my youngest son’s favorite days. We ended the day with a traditional Cretan lunch and then it was back to the resort for our final day of beach fun with our new friends.
Finally, our last morning arrived and our guides had every detail planned for our transportation home. They even prepared a sacked breakfast for those who left too early to enjoy lunch at the hotel. Greece Adventures By Disney left no detail unattended and we enjoyed our Greek adventure tremendously! Disney once again proved that they are the masters at creating the settings that build lifelong memories and we will have Greece forever.
By: Lin Humble
Vice President, AffordableTours.com