There is just no way to sugarcoat the fact that Athens is not the tourist-friendly city it was as recently as one year ago. The visitor to Athens is not going to be in any danger. The crime rate in Athens, while growing, is still lower than that of many popular European cities and even the worst of Europe, has crime stats that would make many US cities envious. But the scene has changed in Athens. In a recent article in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristtof points out that many of the city’s traffic lights no longer work. Just over a quarter of a million Greeks are receiving their only meals from churches and shelters with dwindling supplies.
Travelers who have selected Athens for a pre-cruise stay will find the city’s best hotels surrounded by burnt-out shops. Beggars are now fixtures around tourist sites and tourists heading out for a nice meal at a local taverna may pass the homeless searching through the garbage bins in a nearby alleyway. Already, one out of every five adults is unemployed.. No one knows what will happen in Athens when the sharpest of the austerity measures are implemented. Already there are reports that hospitals and schools have drastically cut back their services.
The visitor walking around Athens can still take in the Acropolis. The ancient ruins of Athens have not changed and the food is as good as it ever was with restaurant prices shrinking and wait time s reduced to nothing. But walk around Athens on a sunny day and you will see the results of the rioting, you will see a surprising number of homeless residents of this once proudest of all the world’s cities. Traffic is chaotic and you may be in a taxi that suddenly veers off to drive the wrong way on a one way street.
So, should visitors planning a Greek islands cruise postpone their trip? Absolutely not. The Greek islands still sparkle in the Mediterranean sun. Istanbul is still magnificent as a cruise beginning or disembarkation destination. But Athens-bound tourists who feel they would like to stay out of the fray may want to consider a property out of the center city but accessible to the sites. The best option would be the Arion, an upscale spa property set within the Astir Palace complex.