Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mediterranean Cruise Day Eight: Santorini -- Is This Real Life?

I was kind of dreading writing this post about Santorini because I’m not sure I can find the words to even do it any justice. Adam and I are cynics and curmudgeons, if you haven’t noticed. Yet we both agreed that Santorini is without doubt THE most breathtaking place we have ever been.

We woke up, grabbed buffet breakfast, and headed to deck 4, where we had to get tickets for a tender ashore. The line went fast, and we got Tender Boat 16. By 9:30, we were aboard and grabbed the first seat near the exit so we could run straight to the cable car station and buy tickets to the top.

That's Fira, way up atop the cliff

Santorini’s two villages, Fira and Oia sit on the edge of a cliff. The island is crescent shaped because it used to be one giant volcano that blew its top four millennia ago. The center, once the lava was out, collapsed and filled with water. So the villages are built on the edge of what remains, and looks down into the caldera, or collapsed volcano center. That means when you get off the tender boat, you must figure out how to get to the top of that very high cliff. You can either walk up the stairs (not a chance), take a donkey (I felt bad for the donkeys), or take the cable car for 5 euros (sold!). We waited in line, again, to buy tickets and board. But thanks to our Amazing Race skills, it wasn’t too bad. We were at the top by 10am. WOW. I mean honestly, just WOW. Our cruise ship looked like a Matchbox boat down in the caldera and the village of Fira tumbled down the cliff side like thousands of spilled sugar cubes.

We hadn’t seen anything yet. We found the taxi station (RUN there, Santorini has very few cabs) and hopped in a cab to Oia, 25 minutes away. We passed the backside of the island, with vineyards and farms along the sea – also pristine and beautiful. By 10:45, we were in Oia, which was the Greece of my dreams. My eyeballs couldn’t even take it all in. 

We wandered off the main tourist path into the cobbled lanes that wind down the cliff and found magical photo opportunities around every bend. We saw donkeys picking up luggage at hotels, happy dogs and colorful flowers everywhere. We walked all the way to the very end and climbed up to the view point. The sea was unbelievably blue against all the white buildings.

The view from our lunch table

We stopped for lunch at a place called Lotza, with a view over town and the caldera. We chose it purely by smell. The cinnamon honey smell wafting out was amazing. I had chicken souvlaki in honey and mustard. Adam had a greek-spiced hamburger with melted feta and pita. He said it was the best lunch he had ever had in his life. The view was stunning and the food was delicious, which made for a memorable experience.

After lunch, we walked the main drag and I bought turquoise pottery and a painted donkey bell Christmas ornament. The jewelry here was unlike any I have seen before. The bead work was incredible.

But about those views...

Sadly, it was time to head back to Fira. We caught a cab, which we shared with another couple from LA who told us they had spent an entire week here, exploring the island on four wheelers.

Back in Fira, we had some frozen Greek yogurt and did some wine tasting. The local wine tasted like raisins, and not in a good way. We passed on buying any.

It was time to head back to the ship. I thought of buying a chain and attaching myself to the nearest tree, but Adam promised we would return one day and spend a week here.  The line for the cable car was RIDICULOUSLY long. It was the easiest way for 2800 people to get down the cliff to the tender boats. So we decided to take the stairs. How hard could it be? We would be going down! Um….

It is 596 steps down, and they are slippery, uneven and each step angles downward. I was wearing sandals with no traction. My toes kept sliding off the front of my shoes. About halfway down, I thought I was going to die. It was hot, smelled like donkey poop, and I kept losing my footing. I had to hold onto Adam so I wouldn’t fall. But it was too late to turn back, so we trudged on. When we made it to the bottom, both of our calves were quaking. Santorini should consider installing a giant slide instead.

After visiting a half dozen Greek isles, we decided that Greece can keep the rest of Greece. But Santorini is a treasure. Even with all those steps.

Back on board, I needed to soak my legs in the hot tub in the solarium. There I met Julio from Cuba and had a great long conversation about visiting there last December.

We ate in the dining room, then retired early so we could wake up and watch the Cavs win their way into the NBA finals. It truly was the perfect day.

Tomorrow: Fun Day At Sea!



  1. Nice.... I can't wait to visit!

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  3. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy reading your travel posts. I'm so happy you both had such a magical day...something you'll never forget.

  4. Wow! I want to visit there now based on your review and photos. Breathtaking!!