We are huge fans of private tours. Cruise line shore excursions are fine, but they are expensive, regimented and often crowded. In short, it is not the best way to see a city, certainly not a great city like Athens. Of course, when you opt for a private tour of a city, who do you trust? Athens Custom Taxi Tours is not only highly rated on TripAdvisor, but we have personally used the service on a recent cruise to Athens.
We first met Dimitris Stamatelatos in 2008 when we were in Athens to board a Regent[end] Seven Seas cruise. Dimitris met us at the Athens airport and provided a transfer (http://www.stargroup.gr/) to the ship in Piraeus. The transfer gave us time to get to know him and we have stayed in touch through Facebook ever since. We knew that whenever we returned to Athens, we would like to take advantage of Dimitris' private taxi tour service (athenscustomtaxitours.com).
I contacted Dimitris a few weeks before our cruise aboard Paul Gauguin Cruises' m/v Tere Moana, which disembarked in Athens, to arrange a private taxi tour. As promised, Dimitris was at the cruise terminal in Piraeus to meet us as we exited the terminal building. Dimitris escorted us to his Mercedes taxi, which has been impeccably maintained. His taxi even is equipped with free Wi-Fi, so you can check your email or update your Facebook page during your tour!
Before leaving Piraeus for Athens, we stopped at a great place to see the huge marina located here. One thing you will soon learn, Dimitris loves to take photos for his own Facebook page (@dimitris.stamatelatos). When I contacted Dimitris about the private tour, I mentioned that we had already visited The Acropolis during a visit in 1998, so we really did not need to visit it again. This is another huge advantage of a private tour, it can be tailored to your specific interests. Dimitris has more than a dozen different tour packages on his website that range from 1/2-day tours to multi-day tours. And, he offers tours specifically designed for cruise ship passengers who have to be back on board their ship at a certain time.
After a short drive to Athens, thanks in part to the fact that this is Saturday and traffic is much lighter than normal, Dimitris drives us to one of the highest points in Athens. We have a great panoramic view of the city, including the Acropolis. Along the way, Dimitris takes time to identify historical points of interest. And, since this is a private tour, any time we had a question, all we had to do was ask. And by the way, Dimitris has an answer for everything!
We drove through town where Dimitris pointed out "The Trilogy", The Academie, The University and The Library. The historic architecture with Greek columns is impressive.
Good fortune had us passing the Parliament just as the changing of the guard was about to occur. Dimitris pulled the taxi over and parked so we could get out and watch the ceremony. Again, try doing this on a motor coach tour with 45 of your cruise buddies. It ain't gonna happen.
What really made the day special was when Dimitris presented us with a hand-painted stone that his daughter made for us. That was very special indeed!
After a short drive through Plaka, the old city of Athens, we asked Dimitris if he could take us to a local Greek restaurant. We did not want a "touristy" place, but one where the locals like to eat. That did not take long. Soon, Dimitris was double-parking in front of a local restaurant and were enjoying an incredible meal of Souvlaki (thin sliced pork, tzatzki, french fries, tomato, and onions in a pita bread roll), Greek beer, fried potatoes and Tzatzki (Greek yogurt with garlic, lemon juice, onion, cucumber and dill), followed by a platter of deliciously sweet watermelon. The meal was amazing and one that you will only get if you know a local Greek like Dimitris! He did all the ordering for us in Greek, so it pays to have a friend that speaks the language.
After the delicious lunch, Dimitris returned us to Piraeus port in plenty of time to board our next cruise on SeaDream Yacht Club. This was a great way to spend an afternoon in Athens. Of course, any time you cruise into or out of Athens, you should plan at least three days to really see the city. Whether you are spending a week in Athens, or if you just have a few hours before you have to be back on board your ship, there is only one way to see Athens, and that is by private taxi. Dimitris offers a variety of city tours tailored to fit any traveler's interests and schedule.
While many cruise ship passengers where shuffling through long lines, getting on and off a motor coach, we were enjoying our day in Athens from the leather seat of an air-conditioned Mercedes with Wi-Fi! Before your trip to Athens, contact Dimitris through his website or Facebook page, and tell him you read about him on CruiseReport.com!
You can check out his website at athenscustomtaxitours.com.