Crete was selected as a replacement port when Celebrity decided Istanbul would be too dangerous. We weren’t sure what to do there until I looked on Pinterest and saw the pink sand beach of Elafonisi. Bingo! To get there, we would need to rent a car.
Someone on Cruise Critic mentioned using Sixt because they would pick us up right at the port. So I ordered a “midsize automatic car,” which sounded like the average car an American would drive. The agent picked us up at the cruise ship in a tiny little Fiat-like car, and drove us, another couple, and a single man to the rental car pick-up place. Yes – there were SIX of us in a Fiat.
Our rental for the day.
We pulled up and he pointed at the Mercedes and said, “that one is yours.” It was at least twice the size and three times the cost of any car in Greece. We laughed and said, “we’ll take it!” I signed a contract that was entirely in Greek (is that legal?). The agent said, “you declined the insurance, so if anything happens to the car, you will pay in cash.” We were handed a map – all in Greek, and drove off. As I set the navigation for the beach, Adam said, “your American Express card covers any damage to the car, right?” I responded, “well it would, but I used my Master Card to avoid the foreign transaction fees.” He said, “so let me get this straight – you risked having to spend 40,000 Euros just to save $13.” Well when you put it that way…
We stopped at a cute roadside store that was selling “red wine” and “white wine” in what appeared to be old used water bottles. How could we resist? We bought some and drove on.
We kept passing tons of tiny little houses and churches on poles or platforms – kind of like a mailbox, but very ornate and not always in front of a house. They appeared to have religious iconography and little bottles of liquid inside. I told Adam that I dared him to pull up to one and drink whatever was inside. Ha! He declined. But we made a game of spotting them and found them fascinating.
When we approached the downhill road to the beach, both of our mouths dropped open. Is this Jamaica?! I never expected Crete to have anything so beautiful. The water ranged from crystal clear to bright neon turquoise and the sand was rosebud pink at the water's edge!
We found loungers and cracked open the “red wine” which Adam called “swill” and then promptly “poured it out for the homies” into the sand.
After a few hours of sun, it was time to leave paradise to drive an hour back across the island and return to the ship. We passed a bunch of wild goats. I called this one LeBron James because he’s the GOAT (greatest of all time). Adam wasn’t amused.
An entire herd cleared the road as we rounded a bend and we joked that the lead goat warned the others by saying “caaaaar.”
Listening to Siri give directions in Greek was comedy gold. “Turn right onto Eparidia Odiolodi Kaloudianon Chrisoskalitissas,” she said. Ha!
We passed lots of little beautiful roadside stands selling olive oil and honey. We stopped to buy honey, and the vendor talked us into also buying Raki and carrot jam. Raki is the national beverage of Turkey, and is booze made from raisins that tastes like gasoline. Carrot jam, however, was surprisingly good!
Oasis, which sits on the edge of a cliff looking down into a gorge
We stopped for lunch overlooking a deep gorge at a place called Oasis. I kept looking down and telling Adam it was “GORGE-ous.” They served Cretan food, but it was all Greek to me.
At the end, they brought us a gift of yogurt topped with carrot jam and a tiny bottle of raki! The waitress was very sweet, and when I tried to give her 3 euros for a tip, she refused to take it. She said it was her pleasure to serve us. Crete is the best!
The car made it back in one piece, and we returned to the ship. The captain started his sail away announcement the same way he does every day – “Hello. It is me again. Your captain.” Then he told us that there had been an earthquake at 11:30 am in Crete, but not to worry, because there was no Tsunami warning. Greaaat.
We did sail away on our balcony, had a drink in the World Class bar (hint: if you buy drinks there, they will give you 50% off coupons for next time!) and headed to dinner. By now, we were kind of bored with the main dining room and buffet so we decided to try one of the premium restaurants (that means you pay $35 each) and went to Silk Harvest. It was NOT worth $70. If you live in a city that has decent Thai restaurants, the meal we had was worth about $15. I recommend skipping it. But that’s ok – because we had a lovely day in Crete.
Tomorrow: Let’s Talk Turkey