April 29,  2010

Trip Description:
    After a lot of searching, we decided to take a Gate 1 'Turkey and Greece' tour that includes a cruise to several Greek Islands. Though we had never been with this company, their ratings and prices seemed good.
    Overall, we'd recommend them. Most tours are made or broken by the guides, and theirs were all superb. Louis lines left a bit to be desired however. While reasonable priced up front, be prepared to pay dearly for all the accessories. Phone calls, wi-fi, safes, drinks, and bottled water were all exorbitantly expensive. Plus they won't let you have alcohol in your room or bring a bottle aboard... guess why.
    Istanbul was a pleasant surprise, cosmopolitan, westernized (except for the religion), clean, and full of antiquities. Athens was a bit depressing, but it's sights are worth visiting. The Greek islands like Mykonos, Patmos, and Santorini are little jewels. On Santorini and Mykonos in particular it was tough to choose among my photos, as I had so many. Every alley or turn brought another charming or breathtaking view. The others like Rhodes and Crete, while not quite as quaint, offer more historically or archeologically.
Greece is a poor country with about 60% of the population living in Athens. It's mostly farms and towns with a few interesting ancient sites in scattered areas. You do a lot of sitting on the bus, so bring reading material for the in between areas, as most of the passing landscape could pass as rural poor parts of America.
    In hindsight, if you're older, not so mobile, or like to have everything taken care of, this is the tour. Plus you can usually make friends while traveling with others. If we ever come back, it would be only to Istanbul, and some of the islands. We'd spend a few days on each island (as opposed to a few hours) so we could be there when the tour boats were not, as they turn the towns into miniature Disneylands. We found many people speak English and most are friendly, so getting around shouldn't be a problem. Tourist offices are ubiquitous and tours can be had locally. If you can't find one, many taxi drivers serve as ad hoc guides at reasonable rates, but settle charges first.