Day 3 / Monday August 22nd / Santorini Greece
It was now our second full day of our Regent Seven Seas Explorer cruise! Today, we were going to explore the island of Santorini, Greece. I always think of “Santorini” by Yanni when I think of this island, and in fact I’m listening to the song again as I write this :).
The Santorini tour was an early morning one at 8:20am. Santorini is a tender port. This means you can’t just walk off the ship. You have to take a small boat from the cruise ship to shore.
Thank goodness we actually got SOME sleep last night so we could be ready. We had a quick meal (fruit pieces for me) and then went down to the two-level theater to muster. The theater was STUFFED overfull with people. This was the one and only time that it actually felt like the ship had people on it. To be fair, though, people only sat in the ‘edge seats’ of rows. The inner seats were all empty. Also, for some bizarre reason, there was practically NO room for people to get past people on a row. The rows were enormously tight front-to-back. So, really, if someone was in an edge seat, there was no way to wriggle past them to get to an inner seat. I know ships want to keep space tight, but the theater row spacing was fairly extreme. Especially when you take into account mobility issues many of the elderly passengers had.
The way theater tour processing works, you are given a ticket in your cabin. You then go to the theater with it. You would bring your ticket down to the front area of the theater to trade that ticket in for a specific bus number. A single tour (like ours to Santorini) might have so many people that multiple busses made up the group. It’s important, if you’re in a group, to get your bus tickets together. Otherwise you could end up on separate busses.
Once the appointed time comes around (or often, quite a while past the appointed time) the crew members call groups by number, in order. Eventually they got to our group 15.
We went down the stairs to level 3 which is where the tenders were gathering up people. Tenders are small boats that transport you from the cruise ship to the dock, in situations where the ship can’t make it up close itself. Crew members help you onto the tender. It can be relatively dicey depending on the weather, crossing from the “hole” in the side of the cruise ship over to the deck of the small rocking transport boat.
Then it’s a short 5-minute ride or so to land.
We all got onto the tender boat. The crew members who help you across the gap are generally burly and well used to doing this.
Once we landed, we got onto the indicated bus. This landing area was a narrow land strip with just a few little shops and cafes. We were at the bottom of a VERY steep mountain with back-and-forth roads that the bus had to navigate to get up. It was very challenging for the bus to make the turns, but of course it managed it. Often the bus had to wait at a turn for other cars to wriggle in between, to leave space for us.
Soon we were up to the top of the cliff. Where our time on Mykonos was mostly down at sea level, our time on Santorini was mostly up in cliff-edge towns.
We drove through fairly quiet rocky landscapes. Along the way our guide strongly warned us that we were going to a tourist market town. There were going to be pickpockets. He warned us quite strenuously to not wear wallets in back pockets. We had to keep them in zippered purses. The purses had to be kept in front of us. The guide was born in Santorini and felt strongly about keeping us safe during our trip.
We reached the market town. The bus parked in a lower parking lot. It was a long steep walk to get up to a plaza area. We were brought to a ‘corn stand’ in a plaza. We were told to take photos of this area and to meet up in an hour in this same spot. Then he walked us a short distance further up the hill to show us the beautiful ocean overlook. Again, he told us to meet in the lower plaza area once we were done shopping.
From this upper area, there were two main paths – left and right along the overlook – to look at shops and items. That was really all this was – a shopping area with little shops along the cliff top. It was extremely hot and humid.
Mom and I walked around a bit, took some photos, and we stopped at a pharmacy to get something for Mom. Back near the meeting spot, I finally found some cats and owls to buy. It turned out the shop owner used to be a ship captain and had been to Boston many times. He said the people on Cape Cod were not very friendly :).
Then Mom and I returned to the meeting place. We found a bench to sit on.
Nearly everyone gathered fairly quickly after we got there. However, there was a woman missing and nobody knew where she was, even her husband. The tour guide was worried. The husband provided the phone number, but she wasn’t answering her phone. I said to Mom that everyone should have given the tour guide their phone number ahead of time and he could just ‘watch our dots’ in case someone got lost.
Finally we found that this missing woman was back at the bus. So we could move on.
On we went to a winery for tasting. It is a cooperative winery that allows all the Santorini grape growers to work together. Like on our previous Canary Islands cruise, the wine vines here are short bushes, kept short to avoid the strong winds. They manage the volcanic rocky soil. This was not a ‘formal wine tasting’ situation. We all sat at random small tables along the cliff. For us to eat, there was a tiny buffet just with cheese, tomatoes, and little pistachio rolls which were soon all gone. We could go up to get, one at a time, three glasses of wine. There was no ‘information’ provided about the wine.
There were restrooms. And then it was time to move on.
However, at the bus, a couple said that they realized that they’d lost their wallet. I thought at the time they meant someone at the winery had taken it, which was strange, because it was a fairly open space with a relaxed atmosphere at the winery. It was definitely not a ‘pickpocket’ kind of environment. Nobody got anywhere near anyone else in the patio area.
It turns out the wallet had actually gone missing back in the dense-packed shopping alleys of the town, which makes much more sense. The woman first thought she just left it at the pharmacy. But with the tour guide’s help she called the pharmacy and they didn’t have it there. It became more clear that it was actually stolen after her pharmacy visit.
The tour guide was very upset by this. He’s a local and has done tours for ten years. He had never had anything stolen from one of his people. He had done everything he could to make it VERY clear to us to watch our wallets. He made grumpy comments about Albanians and such coming to his island and causing trouble. I thought that a little iffy – what if someone in our group was Albanian? He could hardly know the thief was an Albanian. But he clearly blamed the ‘invasive Albanians’.
We went on with our tour. The woman would have to report the theft at a police station at our next stop.
The third stop was – yup – another shopping town to explore. The bus again stopped in a fairly distant parking area and we all had to get out. We walked up a long steep road to get to a plaza area. We were told we could explore town as long as we wanted. When we were done we’d have to take a cable car down as the easiest route. The other two options were a donkey ride or walking steep stairs. I.e. there was no direct way back to the ship. We were on a cliff top. To get to the ship you had to get to the cliff bottom, and the bus was NOT an option.
I’d heard MANY horror stories about the donkeys scraping your leg hard against the cliff as it went down. The donkeys were NOT an option for me.
Mom wanted to get right for the cable car, as did pretty much everyone else. We did poke into a church for a minute before heading over to the cable car line. It was a ten minute walk through dense crowds to get to the cable car line. This was a VERY long line that snaked through the streets. We got into line at 1:42 and were at the cable car embarkation area at 2:08. So 24 minutes in the hot sun. This was the only option other than walking down.
The actual area where you get onto the cable car is a bit risky. It is a steep set of stairs, where the cable cars come in. I.e. the cable cars are on a “sloped line” when they come to rest. So you have to stand on steep stairs waiting for the cable cars to come to a stop to climb in. It could be very easy to trip and fall on those stairs. I wish there was another option for people to get back to the ship, other than these cable cars. Certainly I would not recommend the donkeys or walking for elderly people.
I helped Mom into the cable car. It holds about 5-6 people each on two opposing metal benches.
On the cable car ride, we could see the donkeys. The people with us in our cable car with us told us they’d personally heard horror stories about the donkeys scraping peoples’ legs against the cliff. I tell you, avoid the donkeys.
We disembarked at the bottom.
Once we got out of the cable car facility, the Regent dock was right there and a tender was waiting. We climbed onto the tender and very quickly we were heading back to the ship. We were helped on board and were set!
Mom went to listen to a lecture, so I went over toward the gym to experience the 6pm guided meditation. I love yoga and meditation and was thrilled our schedule let me give this a try.
The gym is at the back of the ship next to a bunch of cabins. It turns out all the cabins on both left and right were blocked off, marked quarantine. Hmmm.
I had to go down to the spa entrance on the floor below, and then go up through internal stairs to get to the gym. It turns out I was the only one there for the meditation. When I went up, a pair of very bulky men was using the meditation room for weight lifting. My meditation man came up and scolded the weight lifters (crew members, I think) in Greek (I think) for being there. They said something unhappy in return and he snapped something probably meaning “she is a guest, get lost.”
The two men wiped up most of their sweat and left.
The meditation man put a yoga mat for me right next to the remaining sweat pools :). As directed, I laid down on the mat.
He put on typical meditation-type music. He told me to breathe in deeply, then out a few short breaths. Then he said nothing. I kept breathing. I could hear lots of strong grunting from the weight-lifters in the next room.
About five minutes later he said something about breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Then nothing.
A while later, he had me sit up and breathe-hold-release. Then nothing. Then he had me stand and make ten arm circles. We were done, after a half hour.
I wouldn’t quite call that a guided meditation. I won’t be going back for that :).
My mom thought there was Chinese food tonight on the Veranda, but no, it was Italian again. So we went over to the main dining room. They put us into the exact same seat at the first time, which is sort of a shame. One would sort of like to see different things. Mom really wanted to see the sunset, but the sun set ‘over a mountain’ on a nearby island and she was sad that it didn’t set on the water itself. I showed her a map that we are inside a volcano caldera and the sun can’t set on the water in here.
I had seared tuna over veggies and then filet mignon. Chocolate mousse for dessert. It was all nice, although the meat is tougher than I’d expect. Also, these first few nights, they only gave us butter knives. Very strange. They gave us actual meat knives later in the trip.
Instructions had been broadcast to the rooms to please bring copies of your Turkish visas to the reception desk sometime today. So, after dinner, I stopped by the reception desk to drop off my Turkish visa. They made a xerox copy of it. While there, I heard that at least two different people had had their wallets stolen in Santorini. So it is a place to be cautious.
Tonight was my teen writing group I run online. I went to the computer area and fortunately they have US plugs so I didn’t have to deal with my converter. I did a test zoom with my boyfriend Bob. Near the end I had (ahem) gastric distress. I wonder if it was the tuna that did it. It was the only time during my trip I felt unwell (thank goodness).
After my Bob-Zoom session, I went back to the room and took a nap. Then I returned and ran the class from 12 midnight to 3am. The connection hiccupped a few times due to the satellite signal, as we were sailing between Santorini and Crete at the time, but it always came back, thankfully.
Then off to bed!!
Step count: 8354 steps