Like many ports, where the ship actually docks in Athens is not the famous city, but nearby Piraeus, about 10 kilometers distant. On the MSC Lirica tickets to catch a hop-on-hop-off (aka HOHO bus) at the port for $20 euro per person were distributed to the cabins the night before, with a note saying if you chose to purchase it to take the yellow bus. The stop at the port exit held many yellow busses, which were operated through Greyline, as well as a blue bus and a standard red HOHO bus. We didn’t take any of them, but if the price for all three was similar the best bet would be to take the one that made the most frequent stops at each pick-up point to save long waits for the next bus when disembarking – which in this instance would likely be the yellow ones recommended by the cruise line due to the sheer amount of them, but it never hurts to check around. After all actually having room for everyone waiting to get on when the bus arrives might be easier on a less-crowded option. People can also get to Athens by subway, city bus, train, or taxi. Subway and city bus are the cheapest, and the subway is way faster than the bus.
At that stop there is also a train tram that does local tours around Piraeus for 5 euro each. We stayed in Piraeus for a few days prior to a different cruise several years back. The little train was included free with one of the hop on hop off bus companies, but I don’t recall which. We took the train back then and it looped around all the main points of interest in Piraeus, and was also hop on hop off. Having been both there and Athens before we just walked around for a bit to get some exercise this time.
The port at Piraeus stretches along the waterfront for quite a distance. The slip in the main port area where the Lirica docked was probably a couple kilometers distant from the one out on the very end where we boarded Carnival Vista several years ago. Going the opposite direction from Lirica as to where the Vista docked, once past the cruise ship terminals there are ferries. All sorts of ferries going out to Santorini and many other places.
Piraeus is one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the busiest in the world. It is one of the most important in continental Greece due to its proximity to the capital city of Athens. Piraeus has been the Athenian port since ancient times. It is made up of several smaller ports expanding into the inlets of the Akti peninsula. The biggest of the three inlets is Kantharos which is used as a commercial port. The middle sized one, Zea is used as a yacht marina, and the smallest, Microlimano is mostly used by fishing boats with the area around it lined with cafes, shops, and seafood restaurants.
There’s not a whole lot of touristy stuff in Piraeus, but there are lots of bakeries and coffee shops, plenty of other stores, and if you go far enough you’ll find a lovely seaside walkway and the marina by the fishing boats with the touristy area next to it full of shops and restaurants. There’s also a couple museums and here and there some small ruins. We happened across some ruins on our walk that were different from the two places where we found some on our last visit.
We also found several parks and green spaces in near the port that we did not see on our last visit.
The cruise terminal has free wifi, and the terminal where our ship docked had a little cafe that also had free wifi, which was different to what the port provided. There were quite a lot of people using the port wifi, so we went to the cafe. The internet was not too slow at first when there was just one other person there. It got slower as time progressed and more people came in. Likely faster than the port’s wifi though since there were a lot more people using that one. The price of a coffee for John and a tea for me was well worth it to use the cafe’s wifi. We did have an internet package on the ship, but besides ship’s internet always being excruciatingly slow, on this ship it was not unlimited usage so we took advantage of a chance to catch up on things while in port.
Port security on the way back to the ship had a big dog sleeping lazily on the job in the middle of the walkway. He didn’t stir as people walked by. Another dog was awake and just hanging around the security staff, but neither made any effort to sniff us or our belongings. Perhaps they come to life if they smell a banned substance or if one of the security staff thinks something looks suspicious and wants them to investigate.
Between the screening area and the ship there’s a duty free shop. Our ship did not screen anyone coming onboard as they had already been screened in the port so anything (like booze) bought at the duty free shop was home free for use onboard, unlike bottles purchased onboard which are held until just before disembarkation.
Last time we were in Greece their economy was in some sort of crisis and everything was incredibly cheap, but they must have sorted things out now because most things cost considerably more this time. Still reasonable in price compared to a lot of other places though.
There are a lot of stray animals in Greece, and Piraeus is no exception with a population of both stray cats and stray dogs.
There were also some homeless people. Perhaps they make use of some of the many orange trees growing along the streets.
Walking around Piraeus there are some interesting things to see. Besides the waterfront and small ruins, there are some buildings with interesting architecture, particularly the churches. Independent of Athens, Piraeus itself is one of Greece’s larger cities. The weather is generally warm and dry. Money in Greece is the euro, which is worth a bit more than American dollars.