Small ship cruising in Greece

A small ship cruise is a chance to embark on your own personal Greek odyssey, dropping anchor at the kind of secluded coves that bigger cruise ships couldn’t dream of reaching. With small numbers of passengers, a skipper and a cook to deal with the basics, there’s little for you to do but focus on dolphin spotting, swimming in azure waters, relaxing on deserted beaches and immersing yourself in ancient cultural heritage as you make your island discoveries.
Greek cruising and sailing itineraries are as diverse as the islands themselves. Most start in Athens, but from there the opportunities are almost endless. You could delve into the verdant Ionian Islands, full of olive groves and forested hills; make for the Peloponnese to discover ancient archeological sites and coastal towns rich in history; head for the Cyclades, for the beaches and the great outdoors, including wonderful walking trails; or nudge up to the Turkish border to explore the Dodecanese, whose largest island, Rhodes, has fantastic walking options that lead you away from the crowded resorts.

Cruising and activity vacations

Exploring the delectable underwater world by swimming or snorkelling is one thing, but the Greek Islands are a wonderful place to work out your land legs too, so always pack your hiking boots as well as your swim gear. There’s a good diversity of landscapes on the islands, and walking unveils many of the myths and legends that make Greece such a magical place. Hike on the volcanic Cyclades, follow coastal paths in the Peloponnese or go mountain biking on Corfu. Or combine diving with exploring the Cyclades islands on a liveaboard dive vessel.

Ancient sites

Small ship cruises don’t just explore Greece’s watery world, but also the world of the ancient Greeks, Venetians, Byzantines and Romans. Several of our vacations allow you to combine island hopping with historical hotspots, before returning to your boat deck to soak up the sea breezes.

Where should you head for? The Peloponnese has beautiful ancient sites in just about every port. Discover the legendary cities of Mycenae and Messene and the Venetian seaside town of Pylos, or take an excursion to Olympia, one of the most important sites of the ancient world. Or there’s the Acropolis of Lindos in Rhodes, the ancient theatre on Delos in the Cyclades, plus dozens of smaller, lesser known sites besides.

Combination small ship cruises

You don’t have to stick to the Greek Islands when you’re on a small ship cruise in Greece. You could tag on a visit to neighbouring countries, too. Some tours begin in the Turkish seaside town of Bodrum, cruising the country’s Aegean coast in a gulet before heading down to the Greek islands. Or you could take a whistle stop tour of the Adriatic, spending eight days exploring the dazzling waters off Croatia, Montenegro and Albania before finishing your journey in Greece.

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Greek Island cruising vacation

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Family cruising

Cruises on a traditional Greek motorised sailing boat are a wonderful idea for a family vacation; and we do offer tours specifically designed with families in mind, with a minimum age of seven, cruising around the Cyclades Islands for a week. Friendships with other children onboard develop easily, and electronic devices will be put down in favour of activities such as swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. Itineraries are pre-planned but as with many small group trips, there is potential for flexibility and free time together as a family, too.


Small ship cruises carry between four and 50 passengers, and vary in style and type of vessel, from gulets and working sailing yachts, to elegant motor yachts complete with bars, sunbeds and a Jacuzzi on deck. Their small size allows them to navigate their way around the tiny channels of the archipelago and moor at the islands’ lovely small harbours. However, there’s still plenty of deck space for relaxing and taking in the views. You’ll have a private cabin with either an en suite or shared bathroom, depending on the size of the ship and your budget, and in some cases you may have your own porthole or large windows. Solo travelers may have to pay a supplement for a private cabin or can opt to share with a fellow passenger of the same sex. In all likelihood, though, you’ll spend the majority of your time up on deck in the company of fellow passengers, and if the weather is warm enough, perhaps even sleep there too.

On dedicated sailing vacations, group sizes range between eight and 17 passengers and take place on a yacht, which is usually on the simple side when it comes to facilities, with shared shower rooms, small living quarters and no Wi-Fi in sight, though this is all part of the fun. You’ll have an experienced skipper and crew and while you don’t need prior sailing experience, some tours take a ‘hands on’ approach, giving you the chance to learn as you sail.
If you really want to travel light for your small ship cruise, you could pretty much get away with a swimming costume, some shorts and a T-shirt, as many boats provide everything from towels to snorkelling equipment. Do bring sturdy footwear, though, for shorebound excursions and activities.
Small ship cruises usually happen from mid April until mid October, when the islands are all open for business, and last for around eight days, or fewer if they are added on to the end of a walking and cultural tour. The food on board is fresh and delicious and will be locally sourced as much as possible. You’ll likely have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, local lamb and fish pulled straight from the sea, with beach barbecues laid on and trips to local tavernas, too, ensuring that you get a real taste of Greece during your trip. Many boats have a professional chef onboard to prepare meals, and most dietary requirements can be catered for if the operator is advised beforehand.
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Alex Antoniadis] [Topbox: Bernardo Taveira] [Combination (Croatia): Sergei Gussev] [Practicalities: Ben Ramirez]