Author Topic: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel  (Read 7026 times)

Offline zagguru

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Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« on: September 08, 2018, 11:58:36 PM »
I joined this site several years ago and it has made a tremendous difference in my life. It is time I contribute back. I thought a TR to Greece is very much needed to do the limited info here on the forums. Im really not sure why Greece is not a more popular destination among DDFers. Maybe after this it will be :)

Its going to take me some time to write this trip report and it prob wont be completed till after some of the holidays, but I figured if I dont start now, I probably never will. Feel free to nudge me throughout to push me to finish or to ask any questions if you have an upcoming trip here.

I am going to start with the overview, and then i will expand on each in upcoming posts.

Flights:

Monday: Delta 5:05 PM flight from JFK arriving in Athens at 9 AM Tuesday - booked in business class using Virgin Atlantic -  50K + $5.60
Weds: Aegean ATH-HER (Crete) 6:45 AM (1 hour flight) - paid for using cash. I believe it was around $65
Friday: BOAT from Crete to Santorini using Hellenic Seaways (now Minoan Lanes). Departed around 9 AM and arrived at 11AM - around 65 Euro
Monday: Aegean JTR (Santorini) - TLV 10:45 AM arriving 12:45PM. Paid for. About $200.
following Monday: EL AL TLV-JFK 4:30 PM flight arriving 9:30PM in economy (I know, I tried, but nothing...) using 42K Qantas points

Hotels

Athens: O&B Athens Boutique - around $100 paid for using Expedia Travel Voucher
Crete: Domes of Elounda - 45K points a night
Santorini: Vedema: 10K (SPG) + $180 a night
Tel Aviv: Sheraton: 6K (SPG) + $110 a night
Jerusalem: Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem - 3 Free Weekend nights



.....To Be Continued


Online mmgfarb

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2018, 12:31:03 AM »
Nice! Looking forward to the TR. (I really should start mine one of these days  ::) )
"JS [is] a fetid cesspool of unvarnished linguistic manure, with lots of useless drivel and post-padding." -Moishebatchy

Offline mochjas

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2018, 05:44:01 AM »
Nice! Looking forward to the TR. (I really should start mine one of these days  ::) )
i think you've opened enough new threads for now

Offline ludmila

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2018, 05:38:22 PM »
I joined this site several years ago and it has made a tremendous difference in my life. It is time I contribute back. I thought a TR to Greece is very much needed to do the limited info here on the forums. Im really not sure why Greece is not a more popular destination among DDFers. Maybe after this it will be :)

Its going to take me some time to write this trip report and it prob wont be completed till after some of the holidays, but I figured if I dont start now, I probably never will. Feel free to nudge me throughout to push me to finish or to ask any questions if you have an upcoming trip here.

I am going to start with the overview, and then i will expand on each in upcoming posts.

Flights:

Monday: Delta 5:05 PM flight from JFK arriving in Athens at 9 AM Tuesday - booked in business class using Virgin Atlantic -  50K + $5.60
Weds: Aegean ATH-HER (Crete) 6:45 AM (1 hour flight) - paid for using cash. I believe it was around $65
Friday: BOAT from Crete to Santorini using Hellenic Seaways (now Minoan Lanes). Departed around 9 AM and arrived at 11AM - around 65 Euro
Monday: Aegean JTR (Santorini) - TLV 10:45 AM arriving 12:45PM. Paid for. About $200.
following Monday: EL AL TLV-JFK 4:30 PM flight arriving 9:30PM in economy (I know, I tried, but nothing...) using 42K Qantas points

Hotels

Athens: O&B Athens Boutique - around $100 paid for using Expedia Travel Voucher
Crete: Domes of Elounda - 45K points a night
Santorini: Vedema: 10K (SPG) + $180 a night
Tel Aviv: Sheraton: 6K (SPG) + $110 a night
Jerusalem: Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem - 3 Free Weekend nights



.....To Be Continued
Delta flies direct from my home airport IND to CDG, i did find space in J using Virgin miles for 50k one way. But Athens is like TLV with no option on the Virgin site? How do you look up ATH on Virgin? Or did you search on Delta and call? Is TLV the same? search on DL and call?  TIA
I was the Best,still the Best, and will always be the Best.
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Offline zagguru

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2018, 09:04:18 PM »
Delta flies direct from my home airport IND to CDG, i did find space in J using Virgin miles for 50k one way. But Athens is like TLV with no option on the Virgin site? How do you look up ATH on Virgin? Or did you search on Delta and call? Is TLV the same? search on DL and call?  TIA

Must call

Offline ludmila

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2018, 12:43:57 AM »
I was the Best,still the Best, and will always be the Best.
Pele Good,Maradona Better, George Best.

Offline zagguru

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2018, 06:44:13 PM »
Monday evening:
 - Our flight was scheduled for 5:05 PM and we made it to the gate in about 15 minutes thanks go the combination of Delta One and TSA precheck, I never had a better experience checking in (I also never had a worse experience checking in on the return flight - more on that later)

 - We went to both the Delta Skylounge and the Priority Pass Lounge. Delta skylounge was beautiful and if I wasnt keeping kosher i would have had a blast. Its great for drinks, but as far as kosher food goes, all they will give you is there kosher airline food. Skypriority lounge on the other hand had a nice selection of kosher products. They gave us a binder with a list of which products were kosher.

Untitled by

Untitled by

Priority Pass Lounge


 - The flight itself was really good. I wasnt able to get much sleep because of the time of the flight, but the lie flat and service was incredible. The foot itself actually was pretty good.

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

Tuesday:
 - we landed in Athens around 9AM. We arranged from the hotel for a pickup and the driver was waiting for us with our name. It was only a few Euro's more (I believe 44 compared with 38 if we got an uber), it it was worth having this rather than dragging luggage to find a taxi.
 - The hotel we chose was O&B Boutique. We really only got this hotel because we had a $100 expiring Expedia voucher, and because we knew we wouldnt be at the hotel at all since we were flying the next morning to Crete.
 - There really isnt much to say about the hotel other than that it was a nice small room, very friendly staff, and a 5 minute walk to the Chabad Restaurant Gostijo.
 - We got to the hotel at around 10-11ish. We put our bags down and were out by noon. Our first stop was Gostijo for an early lunch since we were starving. The food there did not disappoint. Very large portions, so order accordingly.

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

 - We went to the Jewish Museum followed by the Acropolis. The Jewish museum is nice, it was interesting to know how much Greece was actually impacted by the holocaust and how strong the jewish community was prior to the war.

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

 - The Acropolis to me was nothing special, i wasnt interested in greek history at all so to me this stuff wasnt fascinating. If you go in the summer, be prepared to be very, very hot. The entire walk to the acropolis is up hill and not so simple. We ran out of water and when we got to the top, there was only one place to buy and it was 12 Euro a bottle. Entrance to the acropolis was also around 35-40 Euro per person.

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

 - At this point it was around 5pm and my wife wanted to spend some time at the luxury stores. The prices were better than the US. So it made sense if you were interested in something. Some stores will give the full 21% tax back to your credit card in a few weeks, others go thru the airport which comes out to around 12% after commission

 - We went back to Gostijo and had dinner and then walked around the main area nightlife. (I forgot the name). Nice place to walk around, see the town, and pickup souvenirs. Considering it was a monday night, it was packed and felt like a Saturday night in times square.

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

Untitled by , on Flickr

We went back to our hotel and were in bed by around 10 since we were exhausted and had an early flight at 6:30AM.

Bottom Line: I feel like Athens is a waste, we only did it since we were landing into ATH anyways and figured why not just spend 1 day (which was more than enough). The best part of Athens was the Chabad's Restaurant

To be continued...
 - Up Next: Crete and Domes of Elounda
« Last Edit: September 17, 2018, 07:10:08 PM by zagguru »

Offline Dawie

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2018, 06:53:23 PM »
nice! thanx for sharing!

Offline tzifanya54

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2018, 08:05:36 PM »
Great writing style. Really liked the summary at the end, very helpful.

Offline ludmila

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2018, 08:50:12 PM »
I was in Greece quite a few times, never spent more than 2 days in Athens, spent time in the islands , Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Rhodes , each is nice in its own way.
I was the Best,still the Best, and will always be the Best.
Pele Good,Maradona Better, George Best.

Offline zagguru

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2018, 09:35:50 PM »
I was in Greece quite a few times, never spent more than 2 days in Athens, spent time in the islands , Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Rhodes , each is nice in its own way.

I think Athens is a place you visit one time and never visit again

Offline ludmila

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2018, 10:50:27 PM »
I think Athens is a place you visit one time and never visit again
Agreed, same about many other cities, I use Athens as a starting point to the islands.
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Offline moisheyb

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2018, 09:25:00 AM »
Agreed, same about many other cities, I use Athens as a starting point to the islands.
I think Athens is a place you visit one time and never visit again
Agreed its definitely overrated 1 day is definitely enough for Athens proper, Unless you like Greek history.

Most cities there is more to see and do then you can usually fit in on a regular trip.

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2018, 09:32:27 AM »
Nice.

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Offline @Yehuda

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2018, 02:23:55 PM »
Thanks! Please keep going on the islands.

Offline zagguru

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2018, 02:41:13 PM »
Thanks for the bump. Ill update it today or tomorrow.

Offline zagguru

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2018, 04:06:35 PM »
Dont want to hijack your TR but how long ago was it? I cant seem to find any direct flights from NYc area to ATH other then on Emirates

Aug 2018. Delta flew two daily flights. Not sure if they stop for the winter

Offline ludmila

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2018, 04:30:00 PM »
Aug 2018. Delta flew two daily flights. Not sure if they stop for the winter
They stop for the winter.
I was the Best,still the Best, and will always be the Best.
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Offline zagguru

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2018, 08:23:05 PM »
Crete and Domes of Elounda

Weds morning:


We woke up early (actually pretty much didnt sleep all night since we were very jetlagged). We left the hotel at around 4:30 to make the 6:45AM flight. The hotel was nice enough to prepare us 'breakfast boxes' to go since our stay included free breakfast. Obviously, nothing in the box ended up being kosher aside from the apple and banana. It was the thought that counted.

The taxi to the airport was 42 Euro. There is no uber in greece and everything is a set fare. Be aware also, that from Midnight to 5AM the cost for a taxi is significantly more, i believe around 60 Euros. Again, this is a set fee, so even if the driver wanted to, he could not lower it. The price is based on arrival time, NOT pick up time.

I recommend paying for your bags online, as with Aegean and Olympic Air the price is about double online. We paid for 32kg bag and a 25kg since it was only like 10 euro's more or so for the 32kg and we didnt want to have to deal with any overweight issues.

Upon landing, we first went to Knosses Palace which is about a 15 min drive from the airport. We rented a car at the airport through our hotel. We needed an automatic car, and the hotel was the cheapest price for 2 days (Around 130 Euros). Knosses place reminded me of Athens. Allot of walking and historical sites. Not what I enjoyed. The lines were really big to get in and it was very, very hot outside. If you are a student, bring your student ID since the price will be much cheaper. We left after about an hour since the place didnt interest us. After this, we were done with historical site seeing for the rest of our trip.

Domes by

Domes by

Domes by

The drive to the Domes of Elounda is about an hour and half to two hours. Although it was a long drive, parts of it were very scenic and we stopped to take some pictures

Domes by zagguru 2,

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

And finally we arrive.

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

As soon as we pulled up and the gate opened, there were bell boys waiting to take our car with all the suitcases. The check-in process was the best that I experienced. Although there is a front desk, they bring you to there outdoor terrace, sit you down with a drink, and someone comes to you with all the papers you need to check in. They take your passport and credit cards and to the front desk for you and process everything. It was the most relaxing check in experience I have ever had. We were platinum members, so we got free drinks at checkin, 1 free dinner at the restaurant (no limit - but does not include drinks), and of course breakfast.

This is where we sat and our view while we were being checked in

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

I cannot stress how incredible the entire check-in process was. As soon as you enter the hotel and you see the views, you will be amazed. Its simply nothing I have seen before.



Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

The hotel is entirely on a hill. Everything is spread out and all the rooms are outside. The grounds are so big that it would take way too long to walk from your room to the lobby or room to pools. Therefore, the hotel has golf cars and drivers who take you around. You simply dial concierge from your room, and someone is there to pick you up within 10 minutes. The rides were fun too and added to the experience.

We were upgraded to a 2-bedroom villa with private pool. They said it would be about an hour and a half for our room to be ready since it was only around 10AM. We were exhausted at this point so we just hung around and toured the hotel

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

The room was really nice and modern. Everything up to date and electronic. The pool was private enough from us. There was a separation between our room and the next, but if someone were to climb over, then you can see. I overall thought the privacy was great. The only negative, and this would apply to all of greece, the pools arent heated. Some hotels will heat for a crazy fee of 100 euro +. In Aug, there isnt as much of a needed to be heated, but it still would have been nice.

For the rest of the day as well as the next day, we spent most of the time by our pool and the beach and just relaxed. The grounds also features a really nice tennis court which we used as well.

A hotel like this, you are not going to want to leave. We only had two days here and did not want to sacrifice another one by touring the island. I hear there isnt much to do unless you want to check out historical sites, and we did not. The hotel grounds are amazing and we wanted to make the most of our time on it. Two days was enough, but another day would not have hurt. I dont think I can ever get bored or ready to leave this hotel


The beach was not your typical beach, and I liked it more than the standard beaches you find. Very little sand, and not your regular white sand. It was more of a black sand feel. The water was shallow and pretty warm. The scenery around was nice since it was surrounded by mountains. Water was calm. No real waves. Was very nice to go for a dip, swim, and walk around. The hotel has beach chairs and beach beds. Beach beds were included with platinum status.

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

As far as meals. Breakfast, the F&B Manager made arrangements with Chabad to get us kosher breakfast.

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

They got us kosher bread, cheese, and also bought a brand new frying pan and spatula and made us eggs with oil from Chabad of Athens. They even got us Chalav Yisrael milk.

As far as dinner, we had one free dinner and the hotel was also very accommodating. They double wrapped salmon with vegetables and threw it on the grill and everything was brought out in paper plates. They also gave us fresh fruits for deserts. The second night we had Sea Bass double wrapped. Couldnt ask for anything more. The hotel will accomodate in any way they can your kosher requests. You could have turned on the fire and watched them cook it as well.

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

The hotel also has Kosher wine available.

Platinum status also included an hour and half pass to the spa where they had different baths and tempered rooms. We took advantage of it

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Domes by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Some more photos of the hotel grounds

Untitled by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Untitled by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Untitled by zagguru 2, on Flickr

Untitled by zagguru 2, on Flickr


Bar at the lobby
Untitled by zagguru 2, on Flickr

There also was another big pool together with a kiddie pool, we didnt go there since we spent time at our private pool and the beach.


Bottom Line: I think that after reading this you will realize how much I loved this hotel. This one was def one of the highlights on my Greece trip. I highly recommend staying here.

To be continued
 - Up next: Santorini and Vedema


Offline sam28

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Re: Zagguru's Summer 2018 Trip Report to Greece and Israel
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2018, 05:47:23 PM »
looking forward nice pictures .