Trip log, day five. A purrrrfect day in Piraeus (Athens), Greece.
8-Night Silver Anniversary at Sea Greek Isles Cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
June 16, 2023
Guests Ashore: 6:00 am Guests Onboard: 8:00 pm
Personal Navigator – Day 5
The Disney Dream docked in Piraeus, and the forecast for the day was promising with morning temps in the mid-70’s with the afternoon expected to reach 82ºF with partly cloudy skies. Emily headed to the gym as it opened to continue her routine. The all ashore time was 6:00 AM, but we chose to wait for the morning crowds of passengers going ashore to dissipate while we had breakfast in Cabanas.
Today, I cobbled together a breakfast sandwich with available parts from around the buffet to fuel me up for the adventure ahead. Turkey & Cheddar Melt on English Muffin + Ham, Cheese & Spinach Omelet = more than enough fuel to walk and climb around Athens.
The cruise terminal is not in Athens, however, Piraeus is considered the gateway to Athens. As a result, to visit Athens to explore the historic Acropolis area, home of the Parthenon you must choose a way to transit the approximately 6 miles from the port and while we have 14 hours in port, spending 4 hours walking to and from was not an option.
The most popular way to visit the Acropolis is to book a Port Adventure with Disney or a private tour with a third party. Today, we were headed out as a group of 3 to conquer Athens as a family and wanted to have the flexibility to bob and weave through the sea of tour groups. We arrived with the plan to take the Athens Metro Train which had a terminal within walking distance of the port, however, not the port that we docked at. Once we were ashore we saw a line of taxis sitting outside the terminal and considered an alternate plan to get us there quicker.
Thankfully, the International day plan was active on my phone and google quickly warned me not to take a local taxi as they often manipulate passengers into a half day tour around town. While I was quickly googling options, Emily asked a port police officer who happened to be nearby. He pointed right across the street to a bus stop which offered express service from the port to the Acropolis!
The bus stop was steps from the cruise terminal, literally across the street within the port area and just ahead of the line of taxis. When you cross the street the taxi driver hard sell begins, just turn left and walk to the bus stop. For a mere €4.10 ($4.60 USD) per ticket you can take the X80 bus from the Port of Piraeus to the Acropolis and back!
The X80 “Piraeus – Acropolis – Syntagma EXPRESS” bus line was created in order to provide the best service possible to passengers and visitors – tourists of the city.
The routes of X80 bus line are operated from May to October (the exact dates are announced), connecting the cruise ship terminal station of OLP in Piraeus (Xaveriou Coast and Miaouli Coast) to Acropolis and downtown Piraeus to downtown Athens, while, on returning to Pireaus, it goes by the “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center”.
The X80 bus line covers, on a circular route, in about 60 minutes a distance of 27 km, that is, in half an hour the passenger may get downtown Athens from the port of Piraeus and vice versa.
It consists of 16 stops in total, showing up areas of Pireaus and Athens with a special tourist appeal, such as the Acropolis Museum, the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus, the Planetarium, the Municipal Theater of Piraeus, the Modern Art National Museum and the “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre”.
Indicatively, there are stops at both exits of the cruise terminals, downtown Piraeus, at “Neo Faliro (Karaiskaki Stadium) metro station, at Syggrou-Fix metro station, at “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center”, at Acropols and at Syntagma, with separate boarding – disembarking sites.
Routes are operated daily per 35 – 40 minutes, from 7:00 to 21:15 (with departure from the starting point on Xaveriou coast).
Routes are operated daily per 35 – 40 minutes, from 7:00 to 21:15 (with departure from the starting point on Xaveriou coast).X80 Piraeus-Acropolis-Syntagma Express bus line as of June 16, 2023
With 3 X80 bus tickets secured, we boarded the next bus which arrived outside the terminal around 9:45AM. Of note, we boarded with several other folks from our ship.
I would love to hear the story behind the “Be nice to the bus driver, it’s a long walk home” sign posted on the bus.
We made it to the Acropolis stop after about a 40 minute drive, and driver told us we can pick up the return X80 bus directly across the street. The Acropolis bus stop is near the intersection of Dionysiou Areopagitou and Vasilissis Amalias right outside the wall of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
We made a quick stop in Φαρμακείο Ακρόπολης (Acropolis Pharmacy) along the main road Dionysiou Areopagitou which leads to the Acropolis.
Less than an hour after leaving the port, we saw our first view of the Parthenon strategically located on the top of a limestone hill.
In mid-May, we purchased skip the line tickets from Tiqets. Basically, “skip the line”, eliminates the need to stand in line to buy a ticket at both locations. Highly recommend doing this, however the cancellation policy and rescheduling policy closed at the end of the day on June 14th. This would be problematic if the ship had to skip or rescheduled to another day. This is a risk we take when going out on our own without a Disney Port Adventure.
Admission for the Acropolis from Tiqets totaled $72.18 USD for the 3 of us ~roughly $24/person. There are two entrances to the Acropolis, we entered on the south slope.
We started our tour of the Acropolis by walking around the south slope area archeological sites.
In a way, the walk around the historic grounds featured a number of smaller archeological spots. Since we were working toward the top to see the Parthenon, this was kinda like a scenic queue theme park queue. The following points of interest map for the Acropolis of Athens will be used for reference noted below as (#00). The south slope entrance not on this map as located we entered the site via the
Sanctuary of Dionysos (#24) was founded in the second half of the 6th century B.C., at the time of the tyrant of Athens, Peisistratos, is the earliest complex of monuments on the South Slope. Dionysos was honored here as Eleuthereus, because his worship had been introduced into Athens from the Boeotian city of Eleutherai. The god’s most brilliant festival, the Great or “City” Dionysia, was celebrated in the Sanctuary. During the Dionysiac rituals, the believers, disguised as Sileno and Satyrs, the god’s attendants, danced the “cyclical dithyrambic dance”, which was the nucleus of the ancient Greek drama.
Located between the Sanctuary of Dionysos and the Theater of Dionysos, is a statue of Menander. Menander was a Greek dramatist and the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy. He wrote 108 comedies and took the prize at the Lenaia festival eight times, but most of his works were lost in the Middle Ages with only fragments found in the 20th century.
Thee Theatre of Dionysos (#23) is the largest monument on the south slope, but most of the complex has been lost over time. The auditorium represents just a small portion of the original structure.
Our first cat sighting caught us by surprise as I was not expecting to find a cat on the Acropolis grounds.
Temple of Asklepios (#22) served as a medical center of sorts, fitting given Asklepios is the god of medicine. It should be noted that the grounds are very uneven and you are traversing on gravel/dirt. In fact, we helped up a lady who fell as her grandchild ran in front of her and cut her off – she was left with a few scrapes on her arm and legs. We were amazed at the footwear that some chose for touring – flip flops and sandals are not recommended her at all.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus (#20) is hard to miss when walking the grounds. The open air amphitheater was built in 161 AD. The venue was renovated in the1950s and is now used for a live performances. You can view sample of the events held in the venue during the Athens and Epidaurus Festival here.
This is where the crowd level began to ramp up with a mix of Disney Port Adventure groups, third party tours, and randoms like ourselves all converging at a side entryway inside the Beulé Gate (#19) near Temple of Athena Nike (#7). Arriving on the south side not only provided a tour of the grounds, but also bypassed the line of folks entering from what I’d consider the front door, or main entrance marked on the map.
I couldn’t help but notice the DCL-ish colors of the stone walkway.
By now, we were in a serpentine line of people ascending the stairs and ramps leading to the Propylaea (#6) which is Greek for a monumental gateway. The Proplaea separated the secular and religious parts of a city. In modern times, it’s a pinch point.
A quarter past 11, we reached to top. Once you get out in the open, the crowd disperses allowing for a more enjoyable sightseeing.
All around the Acropolis site, you will find informational signs. Pro tip, take pictures of these signs when traveling, it helps identify random photos when you get back home and start are still writing a trip report a month after the cruise ended.
Leading up to a trip, there are things that instantly come to mind that you hope to experience, well today, it was seeing The Parthenon (#1) which like EPCOT is still under renovation.
Not a bad place to take a Christmas card photo.
The Parthenon which originally took 10 years to build in 447-438 BC has been undergoing modern restorations since 1983.
From atop the Acropolis of Athens, off in the distance, the Disney Dream. Always a reassuring sight to see your cruise ship when you are off exploring a port.
We could also see our next destination, the Acropolis Museum. The big building pictured below with a rectangular top floor.
The Greek flag flies high on a flagpole on the western side of the site along the wall near (#16 & #34) directly across from Temple of Augustus and Roma (#17).
Surrounding the Parthenon, you will find piles of marble for safekeeping during the renovation project. Near the construction office, there was a cannon in a box that appeared to have exploded. Not sure if the cannon ball in the forward area near the crack was placed there after, or if this was the cause of the cannon’s demise.
Two birds, one stone. If you climb to the top of the Acropolis you can see over the wall that was next to the X80 bus stop allowing you to see the Temple of Zeus. A renovation project was also underway.
On the northern side of the hill was the Erechtheion (#4). Also know as the Temple of Athena Polias, an ancient Greek Ionic temple-telesterion dedicated to the goddess Athena. The Erechtheion was built between 421 and 406 BC.
As we completed our walk around the Acropolis, we headed back to the Propylaea to begin our decent down the mountain.
WAIT JUST A MINUTE! Another Acropolis cat! A tuxedo cat napping in the shade as thousand of guests pass through the gateway.
For the most part, I tend or at least try to take photos with a few people as possible. Well, here is one to show the line of folk coming and going. It may not look like it, but this is two way foot traffic. The only other place that we have visited with more visitors than this is the Vatican.
As we descended around high noon we caught a glimpse of the Temple Of Hephaestus juxtaposed with modern buildings beyond.
We exited the site by the main entrance ticket center and the museum shop. There was also a water closet in vicinity.
Looking back up at the Propylaea, we knew our decision to visit this are first was correct as the line of folks heading in only grew bigger. Also to note, it was very good to just have the 3 of us versus being part of a large tour group. This allowed us to move around much easier.
Next stop, Acropolis Museum, just a short 7 minute walk.
We managed to arrive at the Acropolis Museum at a decent time, as there was just 1 tour group staged outside waiting to enter. The tour groups had a separate entrance, which meant that we could get in the very short line for security. Below the entryway, you can look into an archaeological excavation.
As I mentioned earlier, we purchased skip the line tickets from Tiqets for the museum at the same time as the Acropolis. Admission for the Acropolis Museum from Tiqets totaled $59.07 USD for the 3 of us ~roughly $20/person.
Upon entry and after passing through the security screening, we walked over to the complimentary bag check area. Backpacks are not permitted in the museum. There is a rest room down the back hallway from the bag check area which did not have a line. Pro-tip, skip the line when you first pass through security and walk to the bag check area if you are looking for a water closet.
Around 12:30pm, we scanned our printed tickets and started our self tour. I did get an email from Tiqets to add on a self guided audio tour, and I bet there are probably some other similar resources available if that is your thing. I’m more of the casually ‘walk around and see what I see’ kinda person when it comes to museums, while at other times more like Clark Griswold when we toured the Louvre. Today, it was somewhat in the middle.
Some areas within the museum prohibit photography, but signage was not easy to spot. Thankfully, museum employees were cool about it and kindly provided the boundaries of the Archaic Acropolis no photo zone which is noted on the map on the museum website.
A considerable amount of items on display are in various stages of rehabilitation. There are some items have only small remaining original fragments which artisans have recreated the entire sculpture in plaster, or echoed out an original design on steel with overlayed stone fragments.
We ended our tour of the museum around 1:30 and set out for lunch. Just around the corner from the museum we passed the Metro train terminal.
About 5 minutes later, we were seated at the Athena Bistrot restaurant on the corner with offering a lovely view of the Acropolis.
This restaurant was the 3rd place we ran into folks on a Disney Port Adventure, those numbered globe stickers are easy to spot, which I’m guessing this was part of the free time to explore the area before retiring to the bus, or perhaps it was a restaurant that was part of the a ‘lunch included’ tour. Anyway, no ragrets, I’m loving the freedom of time and the ability take it all in since we still have over 6 hours to get back to the ship.
CAT!!! Isabelle spotted a black cat across the street from the restaurant.
The lunch was delicious. I am sure we could have found great Greek food elsewhere for a less, but just like a waterfront restaurant, you pay more because of the view. So yes, it was worth the extra to see the cat.
Our casual lunch ended around 3PM, which allotted us more than enough time to check out the stores as we walked back to the bus stop for the 3-something pickup. Did I say shopping, I meant it gave us more time to visit with the black cat.
While Emily and Isabelle shopped, I enjoyed a cold Mythos from a cooler at a shop next to the pharmacy we stopped at earlier in the day for €2.50.
Goddess Artemis is my kind of person.
Someone mentioned espresso at McDonalds for €0.50 in Italy so I walked inside, in Greece it was €1.50.
Moving along, we arrived at the bus stop around 3:20p and waited, and waited, and waited.
It was comforting to see another family as well as some crew members from the Disney Dream waiting. It would appear either the bus was really early in the 3 o’clock hour, or simply didn’t run during that hour. The consensus with the others waiting was the bus just didn’t come during that hour. There was even a taxi driver that pulled up that said the next bus won’t be coming for at least 45 minutes. At that point, I went back to the fridge for another Mythos.
I returned quickly as I did not trust the schedule on Apple’s maps which showed a 5:02 PM pickup.
Hello X80! The bus pulled up to the stop at 4:35pm.
Here is a bit quick video showing our trip from Athens back to Piraeus.
We made it back to the cruise terminal at 5PM with 3 hours to spare!
Before we get back onboard, lets break down our day and compare to a comparable Port Adventure which is roughly the Essential Athens, the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum (PI32) at $129 per person. However, this does NOT include lunch or time for shopping. Ultimate Tour – Acropolis, Acropolis Museum & Ancient Agora (PI35) at $174/person is close approximation to our day. While not identical the excursion visit the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum includes a lunch as well as a stop at another ruin, the Agora.
In summary, our day was roughly $80 USD per person which is between a 40 and 55% savings compared to similar full motor coach tours if we picked one of the mentioned Port Adventures. By no means am I sharing this information in an attempt to steer you way from a Disney Port Adventure, rather my intent is to break this all down to share an option for those comfortable touring on their own avoiding a big tour group and having more flexibility during the day to allocate more time here or there as you see fit. Additionally, for readers that may book a similar cruise in the future, and end up with very limited excursion options when their booking window opens there are alternatives. Basically, if your port adventures are booked up, there may be another way to experience the key things you want to see in port. The caveat is you need to understand you NEED to be back ahead of your all aboard time, and it may require a bunch of micro payments and other travel logistics that a Disney excursion would typically handle.
Just a little past 5 o’clock with time to spare to take some pictures of the Disney Dream.
Such as the Disney Dream next to a fire boat and a close up of the starboard anchor.
Captain Mickey on the bow.
As I was walking back onboard, I strolled through The District and noticed the Pub Grub menu in 687 was on display. Earlier in the cruise, this was not visible and we didn’t see anyone ordering food and figured it was no longer offered. Possibly a spot to eat lunch on our upcoming sea day? Hmmmm……
We successfully managed the quick turn around from a day ashore to ready for dinner on time making it to Enchanted Garden just after 6pm.
Tonight was Pirate Night on the ship, which mean the Pirates in the Caribbean menu was served in all 3 restaurants. We were actually pleasantly surprised that the falafel was soft & moist.
Emily’s dessert was good, but the fruit cobbler was….well….I will just leave it at ‘if you can’t say anything nine, than don’t say it at all.’
There was a pirate display at the Guest Service desk featuring a framed photos of the Flying Dutchman from its time at Castaway Cay.
After dinner Isabelle disappeared to VIBE, and we decided to order a Porthole from Bon Voyage, but they were out. The bartender said to come back tomorrow and he’d make sure a new batch was ready. Since we’re here, a sparkling Sommelier bin please! Love when we can get a glass of champagne at the $13 price point!
It was a lovely evening and it was nearing the all aboard time of 8PM. We found a couple of loungers on Deck 4 to take in the sunset views as we departed Piraeus.
Watching the pilot disembark from the ship, even in calm conditions, never gets old.
It was now Friday 8:45 PM, 10:45 AM in Los Angeles, let’s watch some round 2 coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pub 687……Since sports were not playing in the sports pub, I used the International data plan and Peacock streaming so that we could watch this major.
It was a long day ashore, and another exciting day on the horizon. At this point, I am as tired as this blanket on our bed after walking all over Athens, I believe it was somewhere about 8 miles, down 2 from the 10 or so we walked in Mykonos.
Tomorrow we are tendering in Santorini. There have been a couple announcements this evening about weather issues, but they have been difficult to hear. Isabelle said the scuttlebutt in Vibe was that we might have to skip the port due to weather. It would be nice if a replay or at least a summary of all ship wide announcements were available in the app. Regardless, I think we got the idea that there is a chance we may skip the port, may tender elsewhere with port adventures impacted, or we may end up at Castaway Cay instead. Anything is possible at this point I guess. We did receive a tendering letter with turndown service referencing the Old Port and the Port of Athinios where the local day tour operators are set up. So we’ll play it by ear.