Heraklion

Atmospheric old alleys
Massive Venetian walls
The Palace of Knossós

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Heraklion/Crete

A striking view

The best way to arrive in Iráklion is from the sea on an MSC cruise ship. It’s the traditional approach and is still the one that shows the city in its best light, with Mount Yioúhtas rising behind, the heights of the Psilorítis range to the west and, as you get closer, the great fortress guarding the harbour entrance and the city walls encircling and dominating the oldest part of town.
 
Iráklion has superb fortifications, a fine market and atmospheric old alleys to visit when you alight from your MSC cruise. Virtually everything you’re likely to want to see lies within the north-eastern corner of the walled city. The massive Venetian walls, in places up to 15m thick, are the most obvious evidence of Iráklion’s history.

Though their fabric is incredibly well preserved, access is virtually nonexistent. El Greco Park, to the right as you approach Platía Venizélou, is crowded with cafés and bars, while opposite, on the left, are some of the more interesting of Iráklion’s older buildings including the church of Áyios Títos and the Venetian city hall with its famous loggia, both almost entirely rebuilt. Just above this stands the church of San Marco, its steps usually crowded with sightseers spilling over from the nearby platía.

Knossós, 5km south of Iráklio on a low, largely artificial hill, was by far the largest of the Minoan palaces, thriving more than three and a half thousand years ago at the heart of a highly sophisticated island-wide civilization: it’s an excursion not to be missed on any MSC Mediterranean cruise to Greece.

As soon as you enter the Palace of Knossós through its West Court, it is clear how the legends of the labyrinth grew up around it. Even with a map and description, it can be very hard to work out where you are.

Must see places in Heraklion

  • The palace of Knossos

    The palace of Knossos

  • Minoan artefacts in the museum

    Minoan artefacts in the museum

  • Rethymnon village

    Rethymnon village

Discover our excursions

5 results found

  • FODELE VILLAGE & RETHYMNON TOWN

    CITY TOUR

    IRK05

    Leave the port and drive along the northern coastal road to the charming village of Fodele located in a pretty valley full of orange groves. The village is the birthplace of the famous painter El Greco who was born here in 1541. You can take a short walk through the village before continuing to Rethymnon. With its aristocratic XVI century buildings and fascinating mix of Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains, this town exudes a charming air of faded grandeur. Rethymnon is a mixture of Venetian and Turkish influences and is dominated by a Venetian fortress; you will have time to wander the narrow streets, admire the architecture and browse the local shops.
    • Wheelchair and disabled-friendly tour – Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.

    • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

      Difficulty Level
      Easy

    • Duration
      5 h

    • Adults$79.00Price per person

    • Children$59.00Price per person

  • KNOSSOS AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM

    CULTURE AND HISTORY

    IRK08

    From the port of Heraklion, you will drive to Knossos the ancient capital of the great king Minos. The original palace of Knossos was constructed around 1.900 B.C.. Some two-hundred years later, it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt on a grander scale. The final catastrophe occurred around 1.500-1.450 B.C. with the eruption of the volcano in Santorini. Despite this blow, people continued to live there for another fifty years, until a fire swept throughout the city circa 1.400 B.C. Upon reaching the outskirts of Heraklion, you will visit the renowned archaeological site of Knossos. Your guided tour will take you through the fantastic ruins of the ancient palace complex, which served as the administrative and religious centres for the whole region. The restoration undertaken by Sir Arthur Evans, though criticized by some for its modernity, helps the tourist to both visualize the palace as it was and understand its labyrinthine complexity. The living quarters of the king and queen and members of the royal court, rooms for state occasions, theatre area, storerooms and potters' workshops are all within the palace complex. The Archaeological Museum houses a unique collection of artefacts from the Minoan civilization. The displays of idols made of terra cotta, marble and alabaster, collections of gold, jewellery, ivory, figurines, sarcophagi and frescoes will give you an insight into this artistic-minded civilization and complement your visit to Knossos. Please note: this tour is not suitable for guests with walking difficulties or using a wheelchair. Availability of this tour on 25.12.2015 will be reconfirmed during your cruise.
    • Limited seats

    • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

      Difficulty Level
      Moderate

    • Duration
      4 h

    • Adults$79.00Price per person

    • Children$59.00Price per person

  • KNOSSOS PALACE AND SHOPPING

    CULTURE AND HISTORY

    IRK02

    You do not need to have an expert’s knowledge of Greek history or Cretan civilizations to appreciate the fabulous Minoan Palace of Knossos. More than just a collection of stones or ruins, the Palace structure is still visible and visitors can wander the maze of rooms. The Palace was reconstructed by a British archaeologist, Arthur Evans, who led the excavation of the site in the 1900s. Pictures on the walls help visitors gain a sense of the scale of the Palace – which was originally 20,000 square metres - and an idea of life here during the late Bronze Age. The Palace of Knossos is built on the ruins of a larger Neolithic settlement and of the supposed 1,300 rooms that made up the five-storey Palace, 800 are left today. After the visit, we will drive to Heraklion for free time exploring and shopping. Please note: a helper to get on/off the coach must accompany wheelchair guests. Wheelchairs must be foldable, as the coach has no ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements. Availability of this tour on 25.12.2015 will be reconfirmed during your cruise.
    • Shopping

    • Wheelchair and disabled-friendly tour – Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.

    • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

      Difficulty Level
      Easy

    • Duration
      4 h

    • Adults$69.00Price per person

    • Children$49.00Price per person

  • EXPLORING CRETE

    SCENIC ROUTE

    IRK03

    Come and pay homage to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine-making and revelry ! Leave the port and drive southwards through ancient vineyards that have flourished here since the Minoan period, around 1,600 BC. Our first stop will be at a modern winery to see how wine is produced today and to taste the flavoursome, sherry-like Cretan wine. We will continue exploring the island, travelling through Crete's picturesque villages before taking a break for photographs at Vathypetro. This Minoan country house and archaeological site is one of the oldest farmhouses in Crete. The tour continues through the island's hilly countryside which is rich in olive groves and vineyards before arriving at the village of Archanes, just 10 km south of Knossos Palace. Enjoy free time in this lovely village which has been named the 2nd best-restored village in Europe and sample the local food and drink. We will take the scenic route back to the ship via the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Please note: wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.
    • Snack included

    • Wheelchair and disabled-friendly tour – Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.

    • Best seller

    • Limited seats

    • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

      Difficulty Level
      Easy

    • Duration
      4:30 h

    • Adults$72.00Price per person

    • Children$52.00Price per person

  • CRETE’S ANCIENT TRADITIONS: POTTERY & WINE

    SOMETHING SPECIAL

    IRK10

    This enjoyable half-day tour offers a chance to touch base with two of Crete’s proudest traditions – pottery and wine making – at the villages of Thrapsano and Peza, both of which lie inland from Heraklion. A scenic 45-minute coach ride to the southeast through Crete’s varied interior will see you reach your first stop, the hillside village of Thrapsano. Life revolves around pottery here, with a main emphasis on making the giant jars known as pitharia, easily as tall as the average woman. You’ll get to visit one of the workshops and watch potters plying their time-honoured craft. Part two of the tour will then take you to Peza, a village with a long tradition of wine making. In fact, the surrounding region is responsible for producing around 70% of Cretan wine. A visit to a winery is scheduled here, along with a look at the vineyards and a chance to sample some of the delicious produce. The tour then ends with your return to the ship. Please note: a helper to get on/off the coach must accompany wheelchair guests. Wheelchairs must be foldable, as the coach has no ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.
    • Tasting included

    • Wheelchair and disabled-friendly tour – Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.

    • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

      Difficulty Level
      Easy

    • Duration
      3:30 h

    • Adults$29.00Price per person

    • Children$26.00Price per person

The excursions in the program above are intended to provide MSC Guests with an idea of the different tours that can be arranged in each port of call; this program is merely a guide and confirmation of each excursion and its description and prices will be made during your cruise.
Shore excursions programs and itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour.

 

Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The guides are guaranteed in English. Only for South America cruises, the guides are guaranteed in Brazilian Portuguese. Narration in other languages depends on the availability of guides. Please note that the final language of the tour will be confirmed on board during the cruise.

Greece

Under the protective wing of the gods
Under the protective wing of the gods

It would take a lifetime of island-hopping to fully appreciate the 227 inhabited Greek islands scattered across the Mediterranean Sea.
With sapphire water lapping at rocky coastlines sprinkled with secret coves and sandy beaches, they are the stuff of dreamy travel posters, the very definition of the eulogized Greek summer of sun, sea and sand.

For anyone with a cultural bone in their body a cruise to the Greek islands cannot fail to inspire. Every culture has left its mark, and almost every town or village has a link to the past, whether it’s a delicately crumbling temple to Aphrodite, a forbidding Venetian fort or a dusty Byzantine monastery decorated with exquisite frescoes.
But the call to cultural duty will never be too overwhelming on a Greek islands holiday. The hedonistic pleasures of languor and warmth – swimming in balmy seas at dusk, talking and drinking under the stars – are just as appealing.
Sprawling, globalized Athens is an obligatory, almost unavoidable introduction to Greece: aside from the show-stopping Acropolis it offers a truly metropolitan range of cultural diversions, from museums to concerts; well-stocked shops; gourmet restaurants and stimulating clubs.

 
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