After a relaxing day at sea it was an early start for this day - up early enough to be on the Sunrise Deck of Millennium at 6:30am to watch the ship’s approach into Santorini. Our arrival was from the south, passing Aspronisi Island as well as the volcanic lava masses known as the Kameni Islands (Palea and Nea) on the port side of the ship as we approached the main island of Santorini, or Thira, on the starboard side. It was surprisingly cool and windy as the ship ventured into the Caldera - what remains of the Santorini after the eruption of the volcano in 1650 BC. The towns of predominantly white buildings lined the the tops of the Caldera cliff face on Santorini as we past it and the sight looked increasingly more beautiful the closer we got. The sky steadily changed from early morning greyish-blue to a brilliant blue.
The ship anchored in the Bay of Fira, near the tiny port of Fira. The town of Fira itself was well above the port - accessible by cable car, donkey ride or walking the stepped path used by the donkeys. You can imagine the perils of sharing a path with many donkeys that just walked up and down all day long. Nowhere else to “go”, as it were. Once the ship anchored, and endless procession of small Greek tenders approached the ship to take passengers to Fira Port.
We had an excursion booked, and we had chosen to go on one that left a bit later, so we had time to get ready and have breakfast before we left the ship. Unlike the usual arrangement of meeting in the Celebrity Theater, this time the excursions met in the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 4 midship. From there we boarded a tender and were taken to Athinios Port - south of Fira. The reason for heading to this port was that vehicles could reach the port, so excursions using buses to tour Santorini, such as ours, would start there. Our tour first took us to the Boutari Winery in Magalochori. Driving there we saw the typical white buildings of Santorini, mostly with domed roofs. The white colour is a home-made white-wash of limestone and seawater - painted yearly. The landscape was rough and jagged - a mixture of black and red volcanic rock topped here and there with a layer of white pumice. There is very little vegetation in Santorini - it only rains about 20 days per year. At the winery we saw how they attempt to grow grapes in this climate - by cultivating the vines to grow in a small round “basket” form to protect the grapes from the sun and wind. The volcanic soil is fertile, and the soil and climate combination produces fairly strong tasting wines. Inside the winery we toured the facility and then tasted three different Boutari wines - the last of which was very interesting: a sweet dessert wine called Vinsanto. From the winery we traveled north to the town of Oia (pronounced EE-ah). We had free time to walk around Oia, mostly along the main street - which is only big enough for pedestrian traffic. We loved Oia - quaint and picturesque, and never more that about five steps away from a jewelry store!
After Oia we went to Fira - which is bigger and busier than Oia. At this point the tour ended and we were on our own to explore Fira. Our ship was due to leave Santorini at 11:00pm, so there was no hurry. We had a late lunch at the Sphinx Restaurant - sitting on the terrace with a beautiful view of the Caldera. It was a very enjoyable lunch. We strolled around Fira, it was lovely - beautifully picturesque, but not with the quaintness of Oia. We were glad we were able to spend time in both of the towns. We did purchase some of the local jewelry in Fira - jewelry made from coral and black lava.
We decided to head back to the ship in the early evening - the Ship had a special “Greek Island Dinner Night” buffet around the Riviera Pool that we thought would be enjoyable. Deciding against the donkeys, we took the cable car down the cliff face to Fira Port. Once back on the ship we changed and went for dinner - there was lots of choices for food and the atmosphere was festive. After dinner we found a quiet spot on the Sunrise Deck to watch the sunset. Was very pretty.
At 10:00pm we took in the show at the Celebrity Theater - Bob Arno, billed as a “Master Pickpocket”. The show was thoroughly entertaining, with Arno first arriving walking through the audience...and taking items from a number of men (he only targeted men). After that he had some men on stage and he took anything and everything he could from them. It was very funny, but also a bit alarming how easy it all seemed. The show was still going when the ship set sail at 11:00pm back in our room later in the evening we were now more on the open sea and the water was choppy - so for the first time we could feel the motion of the ship. It wasn’t bad, just noticeable. It was the end of a very good day - Santorini was a wonderful place to visit and would be a great romantic getaway destination anytime.
WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.