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In this section, we describe the ships offering cruises with predominantly Greek islands itineraries; that is, itineraries where at least half of the port calls are in Greece and Turkey. We've broken the offerings up into two categories, based on ship size: Mega- and midsize ships (more than 400 passengers), and small and yachtlike vessels (anywhere from 40 to 400 passengers).

Working with travel agents Sherrie and Charlie Funk, owners of Just Cruisin' Plus (tel. 800/888-0922; www.jcp.travel), we present a sample of the actual prices people are paying for cruises aboard all the ships in this section (as opposed to the often-inflated brochure or cruise-line website fares). We priced summer 2012 cruises in June 2011, and fares are based on two people sharing a cabin, unless otherwise noted. With a few exceptions, most of these rates were quoted in U.S. dollars.

The itineraries we list are also for the 2012 season unless otherwise noted. Both prices and itineraries are subject to change.

We've listed the sizes of ships in two ways: passenger capacity and gross registered tons (GRTs). Rather than describing actual weight, the latter is a measure of interior space used to produce revenue on a vessel. One GRT equals 100 cubic feet/2.83 cubic m) of enclosed, revenue-generating space.

Note that we've listed Athens as a port of call for many cruises, but in most cases you'll actually be calling in Piraeus, the port city for Athens. Other popular embarkation ports include Istanbul, Turkey; Venice, Italy; and Civitavecchia, Italy, about an hour's drive from Rome.

Azamara Club Cruises

1050 Caribbean Way, Miami, FL 33132. tel. 877/999-9553. www.azamaracruises.com.

Azamara and its two midsize gems, Azamara Journey (built in 2000; 710 passengers, 30,277 GRTs) and sister Azamara Quest (built in 2000; 710 passengers, 30,277 GRTs), were originally built for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. The twins straddle the mainstream and luxury segments of the cruise biz -- somewhere between Celebrity and Crystal or Regent, though closer to the luxury end and geared to adults (there is no formal kids programming). Fares include complimentary house wines at lunch and dinner, free gratuities, free specialty coffees and bottled wines, and a good number of overnights in port and high-end excursions. The mood is casually elegant. On the Pool Deck, enjoy a quiet jazz trio and a harpist plays in the cafe, and overall, service is tops, from the butlers who attend to all cabins to little touches such as the cold towels offered at the gangway after a hot day in port. Dining feels high end and is open seating at the ships' three restaurants for optimal flexibility. Activities run from the usual (bingo, napkin folding, team trivia) to the unusual, including poetry reading/writing get-togethers and seminars on etiquette and art. Evenings, catch a cabaret, comedy or magic act, or enjoy a late-night movie or drinks and conversation.

Azamara Quest Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Kos, Rhodes, Santorini, Chania, Nauplion. July 8. Rates: From $1,999. Seven-day Athens to Istanbul cruise calls at Hydra, Santorini, Mykonos (overnight), Patmos, Lesbos, Istanbul (overnight). July 15. Rates: From $1, 999. Eleven-day Athens to Venice cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Mykonos, Santorini, Chania, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Kotor (Montenegro), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Hvar (Croatia), Venice (overnight). Rates: From $2,899.

Azamara Journey Eleven-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Sorrento (Italy, overnight), Capri (Italy, overnight), Amalfi (Italy), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Siracusa (Sicily, Italy), Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Mykonos, Athens (overnight). October 4. Rates: From $2,699. Eleven-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel, overnight). Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt, overnight), Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Mykonos. October 15. Rates: From $2,699. Ten-day Athens to Sokhna (Egypt) cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Kos, Rhodes, Paphos, Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Avia (Ashdod, Israel, overnight), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Suez Canal. October 26. Rates: From $2,299.

Celebrity Cruises

1050 Caribbean Way, Miami, FL 33132. tel. 800/437-3111. www.celebrity.com.

Celebrity's got some of the industry's most stylish and chic ships, vessels that successfully marry innovation (from real grass lawns up on deck to glass blowing studios, art collections and craft beer bars) with gorgeous design, all for a decent price. Considered a premium U.S. operator (along with Holland America and Princess), Celebrity offers eastern Mediterranean itineraries that for the most part operate on Equinox (built in 2009; 2,850 passengers; 122,000 GRTs) and newer sister Silhoutte (built in 2011; 2,850 passengers; 122,000 GRTs). The pair are part of the line's newest and biggest class of ship; a sophisticated mix of ultramodern and classic, spacious, and sleek, but not superflashy. Both are outfitted in muted woods, beiges, and artistically applied bold color accents. The ships have panoramic ocean views on nearly every cabin, and most staterooms have a veranda. The ships have plenty of spots in which to relax, including the lawn, spa, elegant bars and lounges, or the Oasis pool, with its retractable roof. If you're splurging, book a Sky Suite on Deck 12 for their extra large, 17 sq. m (179-sq.-ft.) balconies. The Constellation (built in 2002; 1,950 passengers; 91,000 GRTs) is a smaller but equally attractive ship, recently renovated and it now offers a new Tuscan Grille steakhouse, martini bar, bistro and a martini bar with a permafrost bar top. Also, don't miss a gourmet meal in the Ocean Liners restaurant, a classic alternative dining venue that boasts artifacts from a variety of historic liners.

Service and cuisine are key with Celebrity. Little luxuries include chilled towels when you return from a day of port exploration and once per cruise, complimentary sorbets at poolside. The line, long known for its culinary focus, offers several specialty restaurants on its ships as well as a main dining room where you can choose to dine in the traditional early or late paradigm, or take advantage of a flexible program, where you can make a reservation for the time that suits your party best.

Celebrity Silhouette Thirteen-day Civitavecchi) to Venice cruise calls at Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Catania (Sicily, Italy), Valletta (Malta), Mykonos, Athens, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Santorini, Chania, Venice (Italy, overnight). May 5, July 17. Rates: From $1,749. Twelve-day Rome (Civitavecchia) to Venice cruise calls at Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Catania (Sicily, Italy), Mykonos, Athens, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Santorini, Chania, Venice (Italy, overnight). June 12. Rates: From $1,849.

Celebrity Equinox Ten-day round-trip Civitavecchi cruise calls at Messina (Sicily, Italy), Athena, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos, Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy). May 11. Rates: From $1,299. Ten-day round-trip Rome (Civitavecchia) cruise calls at Chania, Santorini, Athens, Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Mykonos, Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy). June 1, June 22; July 13; August 3, August 24; September 14, October 5, October 26; November 16 Rates: From $1,119.

Celebrity Constellation Twelve-day round-trip Istanbul cruise calls at Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Marmaris (Turkey), Rhodes, Bodrum (Turkey), Rhodes, Mykonos, Athens, Santorini, Chania. September 19. Rates: From $1,459. Twelve-day round-trip Istanbul cruise calls at Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Bodrum (Turkey), Marmaris (Turkey), Rhodes, Santorini, Athens, Mykonos, Chania. October 1, October 13. Rates: From $1,279.

Costa Cruise Lines

Venture Corporate Center II, 200 S. Park Rd., Hollywood, FL 33021. tel. 877/88-COSTA (882-6782). www.costacruises.com.

Fun and full of passion, Costa is an Italian line tracing its origins from 1860 and the Italian olive-oil business. Today it's among the most modern lines out there. These days Costa is owned by Carnival Corporation, parent of Carnival Cruise Lines, and you may recognize the colorful, flamboyant interiors. Many of both lines' ships were designed by interior designer Joe Farcus. However, aboard a Costa ship, Italy shows through in nearly everything, from the food to the Italian-speaking crew (although many are not from Italy), to the mostly Italian entertainers.

The line's ships represent one of the newer fleets in the industry, sporting blue-and-yellow smokestacks emblazoned with a huge letter C. And the fleet is growing fast: the past decade has seen seven new ships. The product is popular in the U.S./Caribbean market but is not designed strictly for a North American audience, and therein lies the charm. In Europe, the ships attract a good share of Italian and French passengers, so don't be surprised if your tablemates speak limited English.

Entertainment includes Italian cooking and language classes. The line also offers an activities program for kids and teens.

Costa Classica (built in 1991; 1,308 passengers; 53,000 GRTs) is a downright cozy breath of fresh air in the mega-world of giant ships, with public rooms and decks inspired by and named after iconic elements of Italian heritage.

Costa Deliziosa (built in 2009; 2,260 passengers; 92,000 GRTs) is an exciting ship with avant-garde style interiors incorporating marble, wood, mother-of-pearl, Murano glass and lots of art. High-tech features include a 4-D cinema, in-line skating track, golf simulator with putting green, and a Grand Prix race-car simulator.

CostaFortuna (built in 2004; 2,720 passengers; 105,000 GRTs) is a glitzy, modern cruise vessel that offers cabins with balconies; multiple bars, lounges, and eateries; swimming pools; a large kids' play area; and a themed decor -- in this case, the great Italian ocean liners of yore. Public rooms are named after legendary Italian ships, such as the Rex Theater and the Restaurant Michelangelo. Check out the miniature fleet of Costa ships affixed to the ceiling of the bar in Fortuna's atrium.

Costa Magica (built in 2004; 2,672 passengers; 102,587 GRTs) is the sister ship with similar appointments.

Costa Mediterranea (built in 2003; 2,114 passengers; 85,619 GRTs) was designed to reflect Italy's 17th- and 18th-century palazzai and castles, and it does feel palatial.

Costa Pacifica (built in 2009; 3,000 passengers; 114,147 GRTs) manages to be elegant and opulent without going over the top. It offers an abundance of bars and lounges all with a musical theme. Some unusual amenities include a music studio, Grand Prix simulator, and Virtual World that offers PlayStation games.

Costa Romantica (built in 1993; 1,356 passengers; 53,000 GRTs) is the sister ship of Costa Classica with similar appointments.

Costa Serena (built in 2007; 2,930 passengers; 114,500 GRTs), a sister of the Pacifica, is flamboyant with a fun space-age design that's whimsically merged with every architectural theme in the book, then candy coated with a hodgepodge of rainbow hues that make Antoni Gaudi seem conservative.

Costa Classica Seven-day round-trip Trieste cruise calls at Ancona (Italy), Mykonos, Athens, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia). May 19, May 26, June 2, June 9, June 16, June 23, June 30, July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4, August 11, August 18, August 25, September 1, September 8, September 15, September 22, September 29, October 6, October 13, October 20, October 27, November 3, November 10, November 17. Rates: From $649.

Costa Deliziosa Eight-day round-trip Civitavecchia (Italy) cruise calls at Savona (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Valletta (Malta), Tunis (Tunisia). December 20. Rates: From $959. Eight-Day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Valletta (Malta), Tunis (Tunisia), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy). December 21. Rates: From $879. Eight-day round-trip Civitavecchia (Italy) cruise calls at Savona (Italy), Naples/Capri (Italy), Tunis (Tunisia), Olympia/Katakolon, Athens. December 28. Rates: From $1,139. Eight-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Naples/Capri (Italy), Tunis (Tunisia), Olympia/Katakolon, Athens. December 29. Rates: From $1,099

Costa Fortuna Ten-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Naples/Capri (Italy), Messina (Sicily, Italy), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Limassol (Cyprus), Marmaris (Turkey), Santorini, Olympia/Katakolon. September 12, September 22; October 2, October 12, October 22; November 1, November 11. Rates: From $1,029.

Costa Magica Ten-day round-trip Marseille (France) cruise calls at Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Athens, Izmis (Turkey), Rhodes, Valletta (Malta). April 21; May 1, May 11; September 13, September 23; October 3, October 13, October 23; November 2. Rates: From $1,299.

Costa Mediterranea Eleven-day round-trip Civitavecchia (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt). April 3; May 30; July 15; August 6, August 28; October 24; November 15. Rates: From $979. Thirteen-day round-trip Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Savona (Italy, Olympia/Katakolon, Mykonos), Izmir (Turkey), Constanta (Romania), Odessa (Ukraine), Yalta (Ukraine), Athens. May 17. Rates: From $1,999. Eleven-day round-trip Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Savona (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Rhodes, Limassol (Cyprus), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt). June 10. Rates: From $1,699. Eleven-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy). April 4; May 31; July 16; August 6. Rates: From $1,259. Thirteen-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Mykonos, Izmir (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey), Constanta (Romania), Odessa (Ukraine), Yalta (Ukraine), Athens, Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy). May 18; July 3; September 9. Rates: From $1,969. Eleven-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Rhodes, Limassol (Cyprus), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Rome (Civitivecchia, Italy). June 11; September 22. Rates: From $1,579.

Costa Pacifica Eleven-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy). March 28; April 19, April 30; October 4, October 15, October 26; November 6, November 17. Rates: From $1,239. Eleven-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy). April 8; September 12, September 23. Rates: From $1,279. Eleven-day round-trip Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Savona (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt). April 18, April 29; October 3, October 14, October 25; November 5, November 16. Rates: From $1,239. Eleven-day round-trip Civitavecchia (Italy) cruise calls at Savona (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt). April 7; September 22. Rates: From $1,279.

Costa Romantica Eleven-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Bari (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Santorini, Izmir (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Volos, Athens, Split (Croatia). April 15; May 15; June 21; July 25; August 28; October 1. Rates: From $1,599. Twelve-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Bari (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Yalta (Ukraine, Odessa (Ukraine), Constanta (Romania), Istanbul (Turkey), Corfu, Split (Croatia). May 29; July 13; August 16; September 19. Rates: From $2,019.

Costa Serena Eleven-day round-trip Civitavecchia (Italy) cruise calls at Savona (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Izmir (Turkey), Athens. January 7. Rates: From $869. Eleven-day round-trip Civitavecchia (Italy) cruise calls at Savona (Italy), Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt). February 23; March 5, March 16. Rates: From $1,079. Eleven-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Izmir (Turkey), Athens, Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy). January 8. Rates: From $919. Eleven-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy). February 13. Rates: From $1,019. Eleven-day round-trip Savona (Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Izmir (Turkey), Athens, Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy). March 6. Rates: From $1,199.

Crystal Cruises

2049 Century Park E., Suite 1400, Los Angeles, CA 90067. tel. 310/785-9300. www.crystalcruises.com.

Crystal offers a cultured, elegant atmosphere and unobtrusive service aboard its pair of midsize ships that afford passengers the best of everything -- space and intimacy. Its parent company, NYK, is a Japanese firm, the cruise line itself is based in Los Angeles, and you can see a kind of upscale, tranquil, and elegant California-influenced design to these ships, especially in the feng shui-designed spas, the Japanese cuisine (chef Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu restaurant fame designed the menus in the ship's sushi restaurants), and some of the more modern interior looks of the Crystal Serenity (built in 2003; 1,080 passengers, 68,000 GRTs).

This operator offers luxury, but on a slightly larger scale than lines like Silversea and Seabourn -- and beginning in spring 2012, Crystal will begin including all alcoholic beverages in its fares as well as soft drinks. The line still preserves a traditional, two-seating dining pattern in its main restaurant and hosts formal nights. Crystal has invested heavily in education and enrichment. During the daytimes, passengers can take a financial planning class or pick up a new recipe or two. Cabins are spacious; the ship's upper-level penthouse suites (especially the top-of-the-line Crystal Penthouses) are top-notch.

Crystal Serenity Seven-day Civitavecchia (Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Sorrento (Italy, overnight), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Bodrum (Turkey), Mykonos. June 5. Rates: From $3,470. Seven-day Athens to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Venice (Italy, overnight). June 12. Rates: From $3,450. Twelve-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Monte Carlo (Monaco) cruise calls at Istanbul (overnight), Mykonos, Athens, Nauplion, Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Sorrento (Italy, overnight), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Monte Carol (overnight). July 1. Rates: From $5,946. Twelve-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise overnights in Athens and calls at Nauplion, Mykonos, Samos, Odessa (Ukraine, overnight), Yalta (Ukraine), Sochi (Russia), Istanbul (overnight). September 6. Rates: From $6,210. Twelve-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Venice (Italy) cruise overnights in Istanbul and calls at Mykonos, Athens, Nauplion, Corfu, Kotor (Montenegro), Zadar (Croatia), Venice (overnight). September 18. Rates: From $5,418. Twelve-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Ravenna (Italy), Kotor (Montenegro), Corfu (Greece), Mykonos, Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Athens (overnight). September 30. Rates: From $4,541. Twelve-day Athens to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Santorini, Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel, overnight), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt, overnight), Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Venice (overnight). October 12. Rates: From $5,418. Twelve-day Venice (Italy) to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu, Cephalonia, Athens, Nauplion, Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight). October 24. Rates: From $4,541. Twelve-day Barcelona (Spain) to Athens cruise overnights in Barcelona and calls at Catania (Sicily, Italy), Santorini, Rhodes, Limassol (Cyprus), Beirut (Lebanon), Damascus (Syria), Athens (overnight). December 9. Rates: From $7,255. Fourteen-day Athens to Barcelona (Spain) cruise calls at Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel, overnight), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt, overnight), Valletta (Malta), Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Naples/Capri (Italy), Valencia (Spain), Barcelona (overnight). December 21. Rates: From $7,255.

Holland America Line

300 Elliott Ave. W., Seattle, WA 98119. tel. 877/SAIL-HAL (724-5425). www.hollandamerica.com.

Holland America is a premium-level line that offers a more traditional cruise flavor onboard new, modern cruise ships. The line takes pride in its Dutch heritage -- the tradition of naming its ships with a "dam" suffix goes back to 1883 -- and in offering good service in a refined setting: teak deck chairs around the promenade deck, classical music in the Explorers Lounge after dinner, formal nights, and a collection of art and artifacts from around the world. Still, Holland America stays on the top of current trends as well. As part of the line's "Signature of Excellence" program, over the past few years the fleet has been enhanced with numerous fresh amenities, from culinary arts centers where passengers can go for cooking classes to bigger-than-ever children's facilities, a specialty Pinnacle Grill restaurant on every ship, big, comfortable internet cafe-cum-lounges that encompass computers, the library, game room, and specialty coffee shop.

The Niew Amsterdam (built in 2010; 2,104 passengers; 86,000 GRTs) is the latest and greatest Holland America beauty and features private cabanas on upper pool decks, a culinary arts center offering interactive cooking demonstrations, and a coffeehouse complete with an extensive library.

The Noordam (built in 2006; 1,848 passengers; 85,000 GRTs) is extraordinarily spacious, with large standard cabins, glamorous two-level dining rooms, and distinctive specialty restaurants. The best of old and new, the ship's decor mixes classic wine reds, dark blues, and earth tones with just a hint of zany, such as the silver-framed benches on the elevator landings and in the Pinnacle Grill and Pinnacle Bar.

Nieuw Amsterdam Twelve-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Kotor (Montenegro, Athens), Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Split (Croatia). April 30; June 5; July 18; August 23, October 5. Rates: From $1,799.

Noordam Ten-day round-trip Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu, Olympia/Katakolon, Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Athens, Messina (Sicily, Italy). May 18; June 7, June 27; July 17; August 6, August 26; September 15; October 5. Rates: From $1,599.

Louis Cruise Lines

8 Antoniou Ambatielou St., Piraeus, Greece. tel. 210/458-3400. www.louiscruises.com.

The Cyprus-based Louis Group has been in the passenger shipping business for more than 75 years, with its Louis Cruise Lines division dedicating two ships to the Greek islands in 2012 for shorter 3- to 7-night cruises out of Athens.

The Louis Majesty (built in 1992; 1,800 passengers; 40,876 GRTs) and the recently acquired Cristal (built in 1992; 1,278 passengers; 25,661 GRTs) are the line's main ships in Greece for 2012.

The bulk of Louis's fleet consists of older, more classic-style vessels that have been rebuilt and refurbished. The ships aren't as flashy or as new as the ones used by the major U.S.-based cruise lines, so you won't find state-of-the-art amenities or rows of balconies, though the Cristal is a newer, more modern vessel. However, these cruises concentrate on the destination: The itineraries are port intensive, and the ships will sometimes visit more than one island in a day. Embarkations are somewhat flexible, as Louis permits cruisers to pick up the ships in Mykonos, or disembark early in order to stay a few days on Santorini or Crete. Its ships fly the Greek flag, and its officers are Greek, but Louis also is increasingly designing its ships, cuisine, and entertainment to appeal to an American market: 60% to 65% of its clientele is North American.

Tragedy struck in 2007 when Louis ship the Sea Diamond sank after scraping its side on a volcanic reef in Santorini; all passengers were evacuated except for two, who were reported missing and whose bodies were never found. The company, however, has continued its commitment to the Greece market, spending $49 million to acquire the Cristal as a replacement to the Sea Diamond and maintaining a two- or three-ship deployment to the region.

Louis Majesty Three-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Istanbul (Turkey), Izmir (Turkey). March 16, March 23, March 30. Rates: From $429. Four-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Santorini. April 6, April 13, April 20, April 27; May 4, May 11, May 18, May 25; June 1, June 8, June 15, June 22, June 29; July 6, July 13, July 20, July 27; August 3, August 10, August 17, August 24, August 31; September 7, September 14, September 21, September 28; October 5, October 12, October 19, October, 26. Rates: From $446. Four-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Rhodes, Crete, Santorini. March 19; Marcy 26, April 2, April 9, April 16, April 23, April 30; May 7, May 14, May 21, May 28; June 4, June 11, June 18, June 25; July 2, July 9, July 15, July 23, July 30; August 6, August 13, August 20, August 27; September 3, September 10, September 17, September 24; October 1, October 8, October 15, October 22, October 29. Rates: From $639.

Louis Cristal Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Izmir (Turkey), Patmos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Heraklion, Santorini. March 30; April 6, April 13, April 20, April 27; May 4, May 11, May 18, May 25; June 1, June 8, June 15, June 22, June 29; July 6, July 13, July 20, July 27; August 3, August 10, August 17, August 24, August 31, September 7, September 14, September 21, September 28; October 5, October 12, October 19, October 26. Rates: From $1,223. Three-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Istanbul (Turkey), Izmir (Turkey). November 2. Rates: From $429. Four-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Rhodes, Heraklion, Santorini. November 5. Rates: From $639.

MSC Cruises

6750 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309. tel. 800/666-9333. www.msccruises.com.

MSC Cruises, a line with Italian heritage and a subsidiary of shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Co., is one of the fastest-growing cruise lines. A few years ago MSC was an up-and-coming player, mixing a fleet of older, classic-style ships with mostly midsize vessels. These days the line is adding megaships to its fleet that compete on size and amenities with the biggest cruise companies, has made a big push into the U.S. market, and has established itself in the contemporary cruise market.

The line's "classic Italian cruising," focuses on service and on playing up its Italian ambience -- Italian actress Sophia Loren is the godmother to four MSC Cruises ships. The line is trying to "Americanize" some aspects of the voyages in order to make the Continental vibe seem more familiar to U.S. passengers, such as offering coffee along with dessert (instead of afterward) and adding more items to the breakfast buffet. Still, the passenger mix is more international than many other lines. Itineraries are port-intensive, and the onboard experience friendly and fun.

The MSC Magnifica (built in 2010; 2,550 passengers; 89,600 GRTs) and sister MSC Musica (built in 2006; 2,550 passengers; 89,600 GRTs) are a good example of where MSC Cruises has been heading, hardware-wise: They've got room for a minigolf course, a sushi bar, an Internet cafe, a solarium, yoga classes, a wine bar, and a children's playroom in addition to all the usual activities you'll find on ships (a casino, gym, sauna, and so on). Nearly 830 of the 1,275 suites and cabins have private balconies. The MSC Armonia (built in 2001; 1,566 passengers; 58,625 GRTs) is a bit older and offers fewer amenities.

MSC Musica Seven-day round-trip Venice cruise calls at Bari (Italy), Corfu, Athens, overnights in Mykonos, Katakolon, Dubrovnik (Croatia). Musica cruises are offered weekly departing on Saturdays. April 4 through October 3. Rates: From $999.

MSC Armonia Seven-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Ancona (Italy), Corfu, Santorini, Athens, Argostoli, Kotor (Montenegro). May 11, May 18, May 25; June 1, June 8, June 15, June 22, June 29; July 6, July 13, July 20, July 27; August 3, August 10, August 17, August 24, August 31; September 7, September 14, September 21, September 28; October 5. Rates: From $619. Seven-day round-trip Ancona (Italy) cruise calls at Corfu, Santorini, Athens, Argostoli, Kotor (Montenegro), Venice (Italy). May 12, May 19, May 26; June 2, June 9, June 16. June 23, June 30; July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28; August 4, August 11, August 18, August 25; September 1, September 8, September 15, September 22, September 29. Rates: From $ 799.

MSC Magnifica Nine-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Bari (Italy), Rhodes, Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel, overnight), Athens. January 5, January 14, January 23; February 17, February 26; March 6, March 15. Rates: From $799. Nine-day round-trip Bari (Italy) cruise calls at Rhodes, Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel, overnight), Athens, Venice. January 6, January 15; February 18, March 7. Rates: From $799.

Norwegian Cruise Line

7665 Corporate Center Dr. Miami, FL 33126. tel. 866/625-1166. www.ncl.com.

Many mega-cruise lines operate with dinner seatings at set times and offer an alternative restaurant or two for a change of pace. Not so NCL; this company pushed the envelope a few years ago with a concept called Freestyle Dining: Pick one of several restaurants and make a reservation for dinner or stroll in whenever, just as you would at a shoreside restaurant. NCL started building its ships to take advantage of the Freestyle concept, and the result is a fleet of new ships that offer about 10 restaurant choices. Another difference: No required formal nights.

The Norwegian Jade (built in 2007; 2,380 passengers; 93,558 GRTs) is among the fleet's newest ships and among the most fun megaships today, offering a super-social atmosphere, creative decor, and onboard music and pop culture references tailored to folks in their 20s to folks in their 50s. The Bliss Ultra Lounge juxtaposes bordello decor with a four-lane, DayGlo bowling alley, while the nightclubs and atriums feature furniture out of Alice in Wonderland. The Jade's Garden Villas spread out up to an astonishing 500 sq. m (5,350 sq. ft.), and feature private gardens, multiple bedrooms with mind-blowing bathrooms, living rooms, full kitchens, and private butler service.

Norwegian Jade Fourteen-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Olympia/Katakolon, Venice (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Split (Croatia). April 28; May 12, May 26; June 9, June 23; September 8, September 22.Rates: From $1,379. Fourteen-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia), Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Split (Croatia), Venice, Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Olympia/Katakolon. May 5; June 2, June 16; July 7; September 1, September 15, September 29. Rates: From $1,429. Ten-day round-trip Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Izmir (Turkey), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt, overnight). October 31; November 21; December 12. Rates: From $709.

Oceania Cruises

8300 NW 33rd St., Suite 308, Miami, FL 33122. tel. 800/531-5619. www.oceaniacruises.com.

This cruise line has grown quickly since its 2003 debut. It now boasts three ships, and it has orders in for two new 1,260-passenger ships. The current vessels are identical in layout, and their sizes, at 680 passengers each, make them cozy and intimate but able to stock a lot of amenities like multiple restaurants and big spas. Oceania straddles the line between the small luxury players and the larger, though less pricey, premium cruise lines. It tries to offer a reasonably priced yet intimate, casual, upscale experience.

Four ships hit the Greek Isles. The brand new Marina (built in 2011; 1,258 passengers; 65,000 GRTs) and sister Riviera (built in 2012; 1,258 passengers; 65,000 GRTs) are the line's newest and greatest, at twice the size of the Regatta and Nautica (built in 1998-2000; 684 passengers; 30,277 GRTs). The emphasis on all four of these ship is on casual, so you won't need to dress up (or even bring a tie or fancy dress). On Marina and Riviera, almost all of the cabins have balconies, while a good number also boast them on the older two ships. Public rooms, too, are of the big-but-not-too-big mold, and there are nice touches throughout the ships like teak decks and DVD players in the cabins. Private cabanas at the very top of the ship can be reserved for the day or for the whole cruise, and come with a dedicated attendant and food and beverage services. Alternative restaurants include the Polo steakhouse and Toscana Italian trattoria (plus two more, an Asian and a French venue, on the newer ships), fine complements to the main restaurant.

Marina Ten-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro), Corfu, Monemvasia, Crete, Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Delos, Mykonos. April 22. Rates: From $2,699. Ten-day Athens to Barcelona (Spain) cruise calls at Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Amalfi (Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Marseille (France). May 2. Rates: From $2,549. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Lesbos, Delos, Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Marmaris (Turkey), Antalya (Turkey), Rhodes, Crete, Athens (overnight). October 12. Rates: From $2,949. Ten-day Athena to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Limassol (Cyprus), Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight). October 22. Rates: From $2,749. Seven-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Dikili (Turkey), Volos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Crete, Athens (overnight). November 1. Rates: From $2,199.

Nautica Ten-day Athens to Barcelona (Spain) cruise calls at Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Amalfi (Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Marseille (France). May 14. Rates: From $2,549. Ten-day Barcelona (Spain) to Athens cruise calls at Marseille (France), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Amalfi (Italy), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini. October 26. Rates: From $2,749. Ten-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Jerusalem/Tel Avia (Ashdod, Israel), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Limassol (Cyprus), Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight). November 5. Rates: From $2,424.

Regatta Ten-day Barcelona (Spain) to Athens cruise calls at Marseille (France), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Amalfi (Italy), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini. June 25. Rates: From $2,999. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Lesbos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Monemvasia, Olympia/Katakolon, Athens (overnight). July 17. Rates: From $2,849. Twelve-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel, overnight), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Alanya (Turkey), Rhodes, Patmos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight). July 27. Rates: From $3,399. Twelve-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Rhodes, Alanya (Turkey), Limassol (Cyprus), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel, overnight), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt). August 30. Rates: From $3,399. Ten-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Nauplion, Olympia, Monemvasia, Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, Delos, Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight). September 11. Rates: From $3,199. Twelve-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Jerusalem/Tel Avia (Ashdod, Israel), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel, overnight), Alanya (Turkey), Rhodes, Patmos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight). October 1. Rates: From $3,449. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Athens, Valletta (Malta), La Goulette (Tunisia), Trapani (Sicily, Italy), Sorrento (Italy, overnight). October 13. Rates: From $2,749. Ten-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Monte Carlo (Monaco), Marseille (France), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Sorrento (Italy), Messina (Sicily, Italy), Argostoli, Monemvasia, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey). October 23. Rates: From $2,749. Ten-day Athens to Barcelona (Spain) cruise call at Olympia/Katakolon, Messina (Sicily, Italy), Naples/Capri (Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Monte Carlo (Monaco), Marseille (France), Barcelona (overnight). November 2. Rates: From $2,424.

Riviera Ten-day Barcelona (Spain) to Athens cruise calls at Marseille (France), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Amalfi (Italy), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini. April 14. Rates: From $3,799. Twelve-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Santorini, Marmaris (Turkey), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel, overnight), Alanya (Turkey), Rhodes, Patmos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight). April 24. Rates: From $3,149. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Lesbos, Sphesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Mykonos, Athens, Argostoli, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Split (Croatia), Venice (overnight). May 6. Rates: From $2,549. Ten-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro), Corfu, Monemvasia, Crete, Santorini, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Delos, Mykonos. May 16; October 4. Rates: From $2,799. Ten-day Athens to Barcelona (Spain) cruise calls at Santorini, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Marseille (France). May 26. Rates: From $2,549. Ten-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Monemvasia, Argostoli, Messina (Sicily, Italy), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy, overnight), Marseille (France), Monte Carlo (Monaco). Rates: From $2,749.

Princess Cruises

24844 Ave. Rockefeller, Santa Clarita, CA 91355. tel. 800/PRINCESS (774-6237). www.princess.com.

Forever connected to its Love Boat past, American premium line Princess has grown up and evolved into a multidestination, multimegaship line that blends California-style casual with elegance and sophistication. Still, the line keeps the theme of love alive, with special promotions at Valentine's Day and occasional appearances by "Captain Stubing" (actor Gavin MacLeod).

Princess's signature vessels, the Grand-class ships, were so ahead of their time when they debuted in 1998 that the design of sister ships isn't significantly changed. Though the vessels give an impression of immensity from the outside, inside they're well laid out, easy to navigate, and surprisingly cozy. The "cozy" aspect carries over to public rooms like the dimly lit Explorer's Lounge and Wheelhouse Bar, whose traditional accents recall a grander era of sea travel. In the elegant three-story atriums, classical string quartets perform on formal nights and during embarkation. Throw in good-size kid and teen zones and a plethora of show lounges, bars, and pools, and you've got ships that can keep you busy for a week, never mind the destination.

Crown Princess (built in 2006; 3,080 passengers; 113,000 GRTs) and Ruby Princess (built in 2008; 3,080 passengers; 113,000 GRTs) are slightly larger versions of the original Grand-class concept, with amenities including the Sanctuary, an adults-only, top-deck hideaway of cabanas, healthy snacks and soothing music, plus an international cafe, a wine and seafood bar, a piazza-style atrium with a street-cafe vibe, a giant movie screen on deck, and a steak and seafood restaurant. The newer Ruby Princess added some fresh experiences: a British pub at lunch on sea days (no charge), a range of cheeses to go with the wine and seafood snacks available in Vines, and the Ultimate Ship tour, a truly behind-the-scenes look at how a ship operates.

Ocean Princess (built in 1999; 680 passengers; 30,277 GRTs) and Pacific Princess (built in 1999; 680 passengers; 30,277 GRTs) are small, but comfortable ships. They're traditional, sedate, and geared to adults, with an emphasis on intimate spaces -- just like Princess's larger ships, but here it's the real thing. Like a European boutique hotel, they're decorated mostly in warm, dark woods and rich fabrics, and offer a small-scale, clubby feel that larger ships can only hope to mimic.

Ruby Princess Twelve-day Barcelona (Spain) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Monte Carlo (Monaco), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Athens, Venice (overnight). May 30; June 23; July 17; August 10; September 3, September 27. Rates: From $1,990. Twelve-day Venice (Italy) to Barcelona (Spain) cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Athens, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey), Mykonos, Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Monte Carlo (Monaco). May 18; June 11; July 5, July 29; August 22; September 15. Rates: From $2,040.

Crown Princess Twelve-day Venice (Italy) to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise overnights in Venice and calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu, Olympia/Katakolon, Athens, Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Santorini, Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy). May 24; June 17; July 11; August 4, August 28; September 21; October 15; November 8. Rates: From $1,790. Twelve-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Monte Carlo (Monaco), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Santorini, Athens, Mykonos, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Split (Croatia), Venice (overnight). June 5, June 29; July 23; August 16; September 9; October 3. Rates: From $1,990. Twelve-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt, overnight), Mykonos, Istanbul (Turkey), Epheusu/Kusadais (Turkey), Athens, Venice (overnight). October 27. Rates: From $1,790. Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Santorini, Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Mykonos, Athens, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Venice (overnight). Rates: From $1,690.

Ocean Princess Fourteen-day Barcelona (Spain) to Athens cruise calls at Carcassonne (Sete, France), Portofino (Italy), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), La Goulette (Tunisia), Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Itea, Argostoli, Santorini, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Crete. September 2. Rates: From $2,598. Twenty-one-day Barcelona (Spain to Athens) cruise calls at Carcassonne (Sete, France), Portofino (Italy), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), La Goulette (Tunisia), Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Itea, Argostoli, Santorini, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Crete, Athens, Mykonos, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Korcula (Croatia). September 2. Rates: From $4,347. Seven-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Itea, Argostoli, Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Crete. September 9. Rates: From $1,399. Fourteen-day Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Itea, Argostoli, Santorini, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Crete, Athens, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Korcula (Croatia). September 9. Rates: From $2,498. Seven-day Athens to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Mykonos, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Koper (Slovenia). September 16. Rates: From $1,299. Seven-day Venice to Athens cruise calls at Koper (Slovenia), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu, Olympia/Katakolon, Mykonos. September 23. Rates: From $1,299. Fourteen-day Venice (Italy) to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Koper (Slovenia), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu, Olympia/Katakolon, Mykonos, Athens, Crete, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Argostoli, Itea. September 23. Rates: From $2,398. Seven-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Crete, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Argostoli, Itea. September 30. Rates: From $1,299.

Pacific Princess Twelve-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Ravenna (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Patmos, Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Avia (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey). April 30; June 5; July 23; August 16. Rates: From $2,840. Twelve-day Venice (Italy) to Athens cruise calls in Split (Croatia), Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Nesebur (Bulgaria), Constanta (Romania), Odessa (Ukraine), Yalta (Ukraine), Volos. June 29. Rates: From $3,090. Twelve-day Athens to Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) cruise calls at Patmos, Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy). May 12; October 3, October 27; November 20. Rates: From $2,740. Twelve-day Athens to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Patmos, Ephesus/Kusadasi, Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Ravenna (Italy). June 17; July 11; August 4. Rates: From $3,090. Twelve-day Athens to Venice cruise calls at Volos, Yalta (Ukraine), Odessa (Ukraine), Constanta (Romania), Nesebur (Bulgaria), Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Korcula (Croatia). August 28. Rates: From $2,940. Twelve-day Rome to Athens cruise calls at Naples/Capri (Sorrento, Italy), Patmos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Avia (Ashdod, Israel), Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Santorini. September 23; October 15; November 8. Rates: From $2,840.

Pullmantur Cruises

2 Mahonia St., Madrid, Spain 28043 tel. 092-09-5512. www.pullmantur.es.

Built for Celebrity Cruises, the Zenith (built in 1992; 1,500 passengers; 47,255 GRTs) is now a part of the Spain-based Pullmantar fleet, whose parent company is Royal Caribbean. The ship is midsize with attractive tiered decks at the stern and everything you'll need for a cozy cruise of the Greek Isles, from a kids playroom for ages 3 to 11 to an elegant, one-level oceanview dining room, gym, spa and plenty of entertainment venues. Most guests will be European, the majority from Spain, with the languages spoken being Spanish, English, French and Portuguese; prices onboard are in Euros. Two seatings at dinner are offered, the early at 8pm and the late seating at 10:15pm. Fares include all meals and all alcoholic and soft drinks.

Zenith Seven-day round-trip Athens cruise calls at Santorini, Marmaris (Turkey), Izmir (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey), Mykonos. April 2, April 23; May 14; June 4, June 25; August 6, August 27. Rates: From $881. Seven-day Athens to Ravenna (Italy) cruise calls at Mykonos, Santorini, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Venice (Italy). April 9, April 30; May 21; June 11; July 2, July 23; August 13; September 3. Rates: From $642. Seven-day Ravenna (Italy) to Athens cruise calls at Venice (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu, Olympia/Katakolon, Santorini, Mykonos. April 16; May 7, May 28; June 18; July 9, July 30; August 20; September 10. Rates: From $642.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

1000 Corporate Dr., Suite 500, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334. tel. 800/285-1835. www.rssc.com.

Founded by Radisson Hotels Worldwide in 1992, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is one of the cruise industry's ultraluxury cruise lines. The Seven Seas Mariner (built in 2001; 708 passengers; 50,000 GRTs) was the first all-suite, all-balcony ship, followed by sister Seven Seas Voyager (built in 2003; 708 passengers; 46,000 GRTs). On both, many cabins have sizeable suites and bathrooms with a tub (unusual on a cruise ship). The spacious ships have an abundance of art on the walls and the decor successfully combines classic furnishings with modern accents. The ship's size means it's easy to get around to the different restaurants and bars. Outdoor deck furniture has a South Beach feel, and alcoholic beverages as well as all soft drinks are included in the rates. The four restaurants onboard both ships (five if you count the Pool Grill) include Signatures, operated by Le Cordon Bleu of Paris.

Seven Seas Voyager Seven-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Santorini, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Mykonos, Kavala/Philippi, Istanbul (overnight). April 16. Rates: From $3,399. Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Athens, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Kotor (Montenegro), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Ancona (Italy), Venice (overnight). April 23. Rates: From $5,599. Seven-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Kavala/Philippi, Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Crete/Heraklion, Santorini. October 17. Rates: From $3,899. Seven-day Athena to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Crete/Heraklion, Santorini, Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Kavala/Philippi, Istanbul (overnight). October 24. Rates: From $3,899.

Seven Seas Mariner Ten-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Mykonos, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Athens, Zakynthos, Corfu, Kotor (Montenegro), Dubrovnik (Croatia) Venice (overnight). May 10. Rates: From $4,999. Ten-day Rome (Italy) to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Sorrento (Italy), Trapani (Sicily, Italy), La Goulette (Tunisia), Valletta (Malta), Athens, Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (overnight). June 16. Rates: From $6,499. Seven-day Istanbul (Turkey) to Athens cruise calls at Kavala/Phillipi, Mykonos, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Rhodes, Crete/Heraklion, Santorini. June 26; July 13; August 23. Rates: From $4,799. Seven-day Athens to Venice cruise calls at Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Olympia/Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Venice (overnight). July 20; August 30. Rates: From $4,799. Ten-day Barcelona (Spain) to Athens cruise calls at Marseille (France), Monte Carlo (Monaco), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Taormina (Sicily, Italy), Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey). September 26. Rates: From $5,999. Fourteen-day Athens to Istanbul (Turkey) cruise calls at Rhodes, Alanya (Turkey), Limassol (Cyprus), Nazareth/Galilee (Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (Ashdod, Israel, overnight) Cairo (Port Said, Egypt), Cairo/Giza (Alexandria, Egypt), Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Patmos, Istanbul (overnight). October 6. Rates: From $8,399.

Royal Caribbean International

1050 Caribbean Way, Miami, FL 33132. tel. 877/202-1520 or 800/327-6700. www.rccl.com.

Heard about those megaships with the rock-climbing walls? Those are the vessels of Royal Caribbean International, which has made its unusual onboard features -- ice-skating rinks and self-leveling billiards tables, for example -- a benchmark for other cruise lines. Royal Caribbean sells a reasonably priced, big-ship, American-style experience. And they do it very well: The line's ships are consistent and well-run, and there are a lot of things to do, from wine tastings to climbing the ubiquitous rock wall. Royal Caribbean cultivates an active, fun image, most typified through advertising that urges would-be cruisers to "get out there."

The Serenade of the Seas (built in 2003; 2,100 passengers; 90,090 GRTs) is one of four Radiance-class ships, some of the most attractive vessels at sea. Sleek and spacious and a great size, the nine-story atrium is surrounded by glass for great views of the Greek Isles. The pleasing decor, a mix of dark-wood paneling, caramel-brown leathers, and deep-sea-blue fabrics and carpeting along with modern art and sculpture, is the backdrop for spaces like the Viking Crown Lounge up top to Singapore Sling's piano bar, Champagne Bar and many other attractive spaces. Voyager of the Seas (built in 1999; 3,114 passengers; 142,000 GRTs) was groundbreaking when it first launched, introducing amenities the world was shocked to see on a cruise ship, but which are now much more commonplace, from a full-sized ice-skating rink to an outdoor in-line skating track, mini golf, a full basketball court, and much more. The much smaller Splendour of the Seas (built in 1996; 1,802 passengers; 70,000 GRTs) is a Vision-class ship that can't hold a candle to her newer fleetmates, but if the price is right, amenities like the indoor-outdoor Solarium pool, nautically-themed Schooner Bar, 18-hole minigolf course and the Viking Crown Lounge observatory-cum-disco will do just fine.

Serenade of the Seas Twelve-day round-trip Barcelona (Spain) cruise calls at Cannes (France), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Athens, Epheusu/Kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini, Naples (Salerno, Italy). May 5, May 29; June 22; July 16; August 9, September 2. Rates: From $1,119. Twelve-day round-trip Barcelona (Spain) cruise calls at Cannes (France), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Mykonos, Naples (Salerno, Italy). October 3. Rates: From $1,299. Twelve-day round-trip from Barcelona (Spain) cruise calls at Cannes (France), Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy), Athens, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Chania, Naples (Salerno, Italy). October 27. Rates: From $1,099.

Splendor of the Seas Seven-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Bari (Italy), Corfu, Mykonos, Athens, Dubrovnik (Croatia). May 19; June 2, June 16, June 30; July 28; August 11, August 25; September 8, September 22; October 6, October 20; November 3. Rates: From $549. Seven-day round-trip Bari (Italy) cruise calls at Corfu, Mykonos, Athens, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Venice (Italy). May 6, May 20; June 3, June 17; July 1, July 29; August 12, August 26; September 9, September 23; October 7, October 21; November 4. Rates: From $974. Eight-day round-trip Bari (Italy) cruise calls at Corfu, Santorini, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Athens, Olympia/Katakolon, Venice (Italy). July 14. Rates: From $1,204.

Voyager of the Seas Ten-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia), Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Athens, Chania. May 11; June 22; July 13; August 3, August 24; September 14; October 5. Rates: From $999. Eleven-day round-trip Venice (Italy) cruise calls at Dubrovnik (Croatia), Rhodes, Ephesus/Kusadasi (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey, overnight), Athens, Chania. May 21; June 11; July 2, July 23; August 13; September 3, September 24. Rates: From $1,199.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.