As the Greek government closed banks and restricted ATM withdrawals following stalled bailout negotiations last week, travelers said they were still able to enjoy the popular Mediterranean archipelago as long as they had sufficient cash or credit cards on hand.
Anita Dunham-Potter of ExpertCruiser.com, cruising on the Rhapsody of the Seas in Greece last week with her daughter and daughter's friend as a graduation trip, said she had no trouble using her credit cards while sailing among the islands. That was good fortune, since the ATMs were out of cash.
"Vendors really pushed us to use cash for material purchases, but I stuck with credit cards for those and cash for cabs and beach chairs," she said, adding that she notified her credit card issuer and ATM bank card provider that she was traveling to Greece so her cards wouldn't be frozen. Dunham-Potter said she had used an ATM when the ship stopped in Istanbul and took out enough euros to last her the rest of the trip.
Stewart Chiron of CruiseGuy.com, who was cruising on the Seabourn Odyssey and the Queen Victoria in Greece last week, said that Athens was "eerily quiet" and that there were long lines at the ATMs.
"The feeling in Athens is much different than in the islands," he said. "Many restaurants and shops were not accepting credit cards. ATMs in Athens went dry, but they have cash in the islands."
But even on the islands, making withdrawals and purchases with credit cards appeared to be a bit haphazard, Chiron said.
"In Santorini, ATMs were inoperable, but [they were] fine in Katakolon," Chiron said.
Cruise lines and tour operators last week said they were continuing to operate in Greece as normal. Several cruise lines with itineraries that include stops in Greece said they continued to sail those itineraries without substituting alternate ports. They included Silversea Cruises; Prestige Cruises, a division of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings that includes Oceania Cruises and the Regent Seven Seas luxury brand; and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which owns Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.
The U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) said that its tour operator members with Greece travel programs were taking a "wait and see" approach.
"[They] told us that they don't anticipate any major impact on their tour and travel business to Greece," said Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO.
He added that many tour operators were advising clients to bring euros with them. The U.S. State Department last week issued a travel alert for Greece encouraging U.S. citizens to carry more than one means of payment and to make sure they had enough cash on hand to cover emergencies. Should Greece withdraw from the eurozone as a result of the referendum vote on July 5, there could be adjustments in pricing and exchange rates that could be favorable to Americans, according to USTOA members.
Johanna Jainchill and Tom Stieghorst contributed to this report.