Horizon Cruise Review by HappyKatya
- Sail Date: September 2018
- Destination: Greece
Pullmantur is based in Madrid; 90% of clients are Spanish. Horizon's an older ship; sun loungers, cabins, furniture could use an upgrade. But for the price we found it fine. We've been on Regent and other ultra-luxe venues and while they're glorious, trips like this cost 3 or 4 times as much--some for a lesser itinerary. [Photo 1: Pullmantur Horizon from dock] [Photo 2: Horizon Pool & Sunset
We used the money saved to book a whole second week in Greece on land--in Naxos and Athens--plus two great private excursions from Athens, before and after sailing. Before sailing on Sep 17 we visited the Temple of Poseidon & Cape Sounio Beach, 45 minutes south of Athens, and on Sep 24 we saw the Corinth Canal.
We boarded Horizon at 4 pm in Athens' port of Piraeus after a wonderful morning at Cape Sounio Sep 17. Check-in was a breeze. We walked out of our cabin 1058 and steps away found an ocean view aft lounge on Deck 10. Then, right upstairs on Deck 11, delicious snacks and drinks awaited in the ship's buffet and aft Ocean-view Grill.
In fact, there were ocean-view rear decks on all four top decks 9 thru 12, with quiet sitting space, sunsets or moon rises--often empty except for us. [Photo 3: Deck 10 Aft Lounge] [Photo 4: Deck 11 Aft Ocean-view Grill]
At 8 pm we sailed for Mykonos, Volos, Chania (on Crete), Santorini, Nafplio (aka Nauplion), and back to Piraeus. Kudos to Pullmantur for a great schedule: each port was more stunning than the last. We'd go ashore, say “We want to stay here a week, it's so gorgeous,” then at the next port, we'd say it again. By Day 4 we were in “beauty overwhelm.”
On Horizon, with only 1,820 guests, we always found loungers. Maybe not at the pool Deck 11, but there was always both shade or sun on the large wrap-around Deck 12 (if starboard was in the sun, port was in the shade, etc.) With fewer cruisers, it was easy and relaxed to disembark and re-embark. Yes there's only one pool; I prefer that larger space. But yes, it's a European ship, so people smoke almost everywhere outdoors (never indoors). Yet with so much open deck, we always found loungers away from the smoke. Whatever seating you want, just keep walking around Deck 12 and you'll find it.
European set dining room times are late: 7:30 and 9 pm. But from 5 to 7 pm, drinks at the pool bar and buffet bar flowed, and we always found food at the aft Ocean-view Grill, Deck 11.
Did I mention “all-inclusive”? Our ocean-view cabin with large window (not a port hole), all-inclusive dining, unlimited beer, wine, cava (good dry Spanish champagne), well drinks, coffees and all gratuities, came to $3,000 grand total for two, as a special from Vacations to Go. So we sprang for the highest level of trip insurance, another $396, which also covered airfare. [Photo 5: Our cabin #1058, Deck 10, Superior Oceanview, Midship]
No one ever asked for our drink cards or any payment, and no tips. We tipped anyway because the staff were so kind, helpful, and honestly friendly; 98% spoke good English. Most staff were from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Our cabin steward Dorian Gusman was terrific, and I loved our Mauritian waitress and Brazilian sommelier; I really regret losing my notes with their names
Yes, Pullmantur announcements are in Spanish, and incomprehensible English. Yes, entertainment is in Spanish. No, excursions were not included, and no guarantee of English on any excursion–but we heard from English speakers that their guides happily translated for them. Anyway, we usually do our own excursions; more fun. And we just had no time for night life.
We needed our sleep to rise early, visit the extensive breakfast buffet with all sorts of egg and cheese dishes—and love those chocolate croissants—and take it to the ocean-view Grill to eat (why stay inside?) Then get on with our day.
Horizon had solid Spanish food in the formal restaurant and the identical fare at the buffet: lots of grilled meats and seafood. Plenty of veggie dishes, too. It's not haute cuisine; for that, one pays the luxe lines or specialty restaurants on larger ships. But we didn't care. We'd have a huge breakfast, never felt like lunch (busy running around port or sunning on deck), then enjoyed a large dinner with wine. Note: Horizon only had Greek food on the last night. So we bought "take out" dinners of moussaka in Mykonos and "lamb kleftiko ("stolen lamb”) in Chania, to take back to the ship.
Destinations hopefully follow below. Tip: Before any Greek Island cruise, check each port's website and WhatsInPort to see how many ships will be in port, then do the advance homework to plan around any crowds or just stay on the ship at the pool. [Photo 6: Replica of Jason's Argo, Volos] [Photo 7: Fast Line to Oia, Santorini]
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Crete (Heraklion)On Sep 21 Chania was glorious; Pullmantur again got us there with no other ship in port. Chania Old Port is full of historic Venetian buildings and ruins that glittered like gems against the cobalt sea. Here we heard from seasoned Viennese travelers that Crete is full of dreamy destinations with warmer weather than most of Greece (it's half way to Egypt). We saw at least two large sailboats from Germany and Austria docked in Chania; you can sail all the way down the Danube to the Black Sea and then to Crete.View All 12,792 Crete (Heraklion) Cruise Port Reviews
We loved the delicious “stolen lamb” we got at Remezzo Cafe right at the entrance to the Old Venetian Harbor. We took it back to the ship and ate at the Deck 11 Aft Oceanview Grille with wine, a wonderful Greek meal.
View Cruise Critic's Crete (Heraklion) Cruise Port Review
MykonosOur first port Sep 18 was Old Port Mykonos, of Onsassis-Jackie fame, as pretty as reputed, and not so crowded in September. Tip: if your ship docks in the new Tourlos cruise port, avoid the drive to Old Port (aka Chora, Hora, or Old Town) and take the “Sea Bus” right from your ship to Old Port dock. You'll be in town in under 15 minutes for 5 euro. Sea Bus runs both ways reliably every 20 minutes until late.View All 12,792 Mykonos Cruise Port Reviews
Then we walked up the hill, then walked around the entire Old Port, and loved it. From the Sea Bus dock, we started at A Touch of Art because it's near Iordanou St and Pillakiou St which go uphill to Boni's Windmill where the views of Old Port are grand. Then we walked along the entire hilltop path.
Finally we walked all the way to Old Port's Paralia Megali Ammos Beach which is lovely and has tavernas on the water. Then we saw the Four Windmills, and walked back through town where we got moussaka to go at Kadena Cafe right at the port near the Sea Bus dock. Wow, real Greek food! Delicious!
View Cruise Critic's Mykonos Cruise Port Review
NafplionNafplion Sep 23, our final port before return to Athens? Kudos again Pullmantur! We walked all the way around the Nafplion peninsula on the Nauplion Arvanitia Promenade.View All 25 Nafplion Cruise Port Reviews
Must-do in Nafplion: Nafplio City has posted a Virtual Walking Tour with incredibly beautiful photos, maps, and audio tours of the Promenade and a dozen other wonderful places to visit at nafplio-tour, gr. Three samples are Nauplion (aka Arvanitia) Promenade; The Shore; and Constitution Square.
We started the Nauplion Promenade right at our ship's tender dock; turning right at Il Porto Restaurant, we were on the harbor side of the Promenade. We saw the scenic island Bourtzi Fortress in the middle of the harbor; the 16th century Five Brothers cannons on the hill above the harbor; and kept on promenading all the way around the Akronauplía Fortress, gazing at the sea. We reached Panagitsa church at the peninsula's tip, then Arvanitia Beach beyond, and enjoyed a swim.
Next we climbed the first 120 steps of the Venetians' giant Palamidi Fortress, where views of the Akronauplía Peninsula below and the harbor were stellar. Then we walked around the city center; and walked back to the tender dock, all in time for drinks on the ship at 4 pm.
Our last evening back on Horizon: finally Greek Night at dinner, the first Greek food which we didn't bring onto the ship ourselves. Delicious moussaka!
View Cruise Critic's Nafplion Cruise Port Review
SantoriniHorizon's ports were Sep 18 Mykonos, Sep 19 Volos, (Sep 20 Sea Day, an all-day pool party), Sep 21 Chania, Crete, Sep 22 Santorini, Sep 23 Nafplio (aka Nauplion), Sep 24 back to Piraeus.View All 12,792 Santorini Cruise Port Reviews
At Santorini Sep 22, Pullmantur did a great job: they got us there when not a single other ship was in port. That's a miracle in this tourist mecca where 8 or more ships often bring 10,000 or more guests to swarm the island. Santorini is where an ancient volcano blew, leaving the half-moon rim of a volcanic caldera 950 feet above sea level. At the top, the much-photographed white villages of Oia at the northern tip, Fira at the center, and others were built,with fantastic views of the sea below.
We left Horizon by tender boat to Santorini's Fira (aka Skala) Old Port at sea level. Next, the challenge was to get up the cliffs to the towns and views at cliff-top. Photo 17 shows the cliffs. Most people ride donkeys or walk the zig-zag path (slippery with donkey poo), or take the cable car which carries only a few per trip so can be a long wait. Scaling the cliff from Fira Old Port can take over an hour, then finding a bus or cab to Oia—crowded by noon--can take another hour.
Instead, on reaching Fira Old Port, we switched right to the Santorini Dakoutros speedboat “Transfer (aka Fast Line) to Oia.” In 25 minutes we were in Oia Upper town. l For advance tickets try to email them but we just paid cash on the spot.
We beat the crowds to Oia's Byzantine Castle Ruins with the best overview of Oia and got great photos which won't upload here. And we had time for a snack with fantastic caldera view at the beautiful and very reasonably priced 218 Degrees Cafe Restaurant.
We also had time to walk the Santorini Caldera Cliff-Top Path with its glorious ocean vistas, also called the "Hiking Tran Fira Oia-Santorini." The speedboat ticket included a bus ticket back from Oia to Fira. So we got off the bus north of Fira at Imerovigli Bus Stop and walked the cliff path downhill from Imerovigli south to the Fira cable car. (You must request this to the driver before he leaves Oia.) It's a 25-minute walk non-stop, but we had almost 2 hours to stroll and stop for lots of photos.
Back on Horizon, the views of Santorini were spectacular (see Santorini cliffs photo in Horizon review)
View Cruise Critic's Santorini Cruise Port Review
VolosNext stop Sep 19: whoever heard of Volos? Not me, but kudos to Pullmantur: Volos is a lovely town where we discovered a fantastic full-scale replica of Jason's Argo and other gems of history. We were the only ship in port and had Volos to ourselves. [Photo 6: Replica of Jason's Argo, Volos ] There are blocks of lovely sea-side restaurants and cafes with Volos specialty food and drink. We even saw sailboats from Delaware USA docked in Volos, and several large beautiful churches.View All 12,792 Volos Cruise Port Reviews
It's also great to rent a car in Volos to drive the nearby Pelion peninsula, Mt Pelion, Milopotamos Beach, and mountain villages. Search 'Pelion' on youtube, any video will convince you of its beauty.
View Cruise Critic's Volos Cruise Port Review