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We decided that a cruise ship was the best way to get around, since the ferry system seemed to require lots of time and patience. Especially early in the season, schedules tend to be unreliable, and transit times are long. Another option was to fly between the islands, but we thought it would be nice to spend time on the water.

We chose Renaissance Cruises, because they visited the ports we really wanted to see, and the price was very reasonable. We would have liked to have spent more time in Greece, but that wasn't option since the cruise also included charter flights to and from New York. We also liked that all of the Renaissance ships are completely non-smoking, and no children are allowed. We also considered Windstar Cruises, Orient Lines, and Radisson Seven Seas Cruises.

We wanted to see more of Greece than just Athens, so we rented a car from Budget and drove ourselves around the Peloponnese. Driving in Athens was a little scary, but once we got out of the city there were plenty of signs in both the Greek and Roman alphabets and it was easy to get around.

The cruise included three nights hotel before and after the cruise. We stayed at the Athens Hilton for one night after we returned from our trip to the Peloponnese. It had a nice big bathtub, but was otherwise pretty generic. The bar on the top floor has a great view of the Acropolis and a very 60s decor. We also stayed at the Hilton in Istanbul. It's located in the business district, about 10-15 minutes by cab from the Sultanahmet district where we spent most of our time. We would have preferred to stay closer to stuff we wanted to see, instead of having to take cabs every day.

Overall the cruise was nice, but we think we're just not cruise types. Although there were plenty of choices in the dining room every night, they were always American style -- never the local cuisine we would have liked to try. We thought their suggested tips were much too high ($17 per person per day), so we tipped as we would have for similar service in a land-based resort (about half as much). We really enjoyed our private balcony -- it was nice to be able to lounge around and watch the coast go by or read a book.

Before leaving for the trip, Kimberly read several books to get a better sense of the history of the area. Paul is still planning to read these "soon."

We brought the Frommer's Greece guidebook with us, and it had very good descriptions of most of the ancient sites we visited. We also brought the Rough Guide: Turkey. For some reason, we thought the information was confusingly arranged; several times we couldn't find information on some site that we knew we'd read about before. The Istanbul city map from Lonely Planet was great. It had everything we wanted to see clearly marked, and had several maps at different scales.