We had been to Santorini twice before, so the challenge for this trip was to plan something a bit different. Our choice was a morning tour of the archaeological site of Akrotiri. With the assistance of hindsight now we can say we made a great choice - but let's not get ahead of the day's story.
After breakfast we finished getting ready and made our way to the Cabaret Lounge to be assigned a tour group and from there without much delay we were heading to the gangway to get on a local tender. Santorini is one of the ports of call that doesn't allow ships to provide their own tender service. A niche business in a popular cruise ship destination. We met our tour guide once we reached the shore and boarded our bus bound for Akrotiri. Before reaching the archaeological site we did make a stop to look over the caldera across to Fira and Oia on the other side of the crescent shaped island. A good photo opp. By now the early morning gloom was clearing and it looked as if it would be a nice day in Santorini albeit a bit on the windy side.
Akrotiri is classified as a Minoan Bronze Age settlement that was destroyed in 1627 BC in a massive volcanic eruption that turned Santorini into the island we see today. The volcanic ash that buried the settlement also preserved much of the art and objects as well as the broken remnants of some amazing frescoes that were once on the walls of many buildings in the settlement. Much of the objects & art have been removed from the site, but some of the pottery has been left behind in the excavated buildings. The excavation site is impressive and our group had the advantage of a good and passionate guide to help unpack what we were seeing. One thing that came through clearly through the visit is that not much is actually known about the people who once lived here. Most theories are just that - theories. No human remains have ever been found - which in itself has generated many theories. One would be able to safely take from that fact is that probably the people of Akrotiri had enough warning of the eruption to leave the island before it happened. It would also lead one to presume that they also removed the remains of people who had died prior to the eruption - unless at some point archaeologists unearth a cemetery in the area. Even the name Akrotiri is a name assigned to the settlement in modern times - the actual name is not known. What is known, or surmised, comes from the art that has been uncovered. The flavour of the interpretation has varied slightly over the years based on whoever is leading the archaeological studies of the area. Whatever the actual truth or name, Akrotiri is an amazing place to visit. This was actually our first opportunity to visit the site - in 2005 they had built a large roof structure to protect the archaeological site and a portion of the roof collapsed just before it was officially finished. No damage was done to the excavation, but the site was closed to visitors until 2012. Our previous trips to Santorini were in 2006 & 2009. We are glad we had the opportunity to visit it this time.
The bus took us back to Fira with the drop off spot being close to the Prehistoric Thira Museum. From there the tour guide would be leading the group on foot to the cable car for the ride back down to the small port where local tenders were waiting for the return trip to Azamara Journey. We weren't planning to head back so early, so instead we set off on our own and figured to start with the museum. Entrance to the museum cost us €6 each and as soon as we were inside we wondered why this wasn't included in the tour of Akrotiri - it was the perfect conclusion to the tour. It brought the site to life. The museum contained so many of the art and objects from the archaeological site. Getting to see the frescoes alone was amazing. We were so glad we had made the choice to visit this museum. We had noticed that only one other couple from the tour group decided to visit the museum - we thought it unfortunate that so many in the group missed this experience after visiting the archaeological site. Like we said, this should have been included in the tour.
Next on our agenda was finding a good spot for lunch. We did a bit of reconnaissance and settled on a restaurant that turned out to be an excellent choice. We enjoyed good food and service with a beautiful view from high above the caldera. A memorable lunch indeed. For the rest of the day we wandered around Fira to take in the sights and do a bit of shopping along the way. There certainly are some nice shops in Fira along with plenty of tacky ones too, though. We did happen on a shop that advertised quality art inside, so we took a look and found some items that really to us - reproductions of portions of the frescoes from Akrotiri. There was one in particular that we really liked that wasn't too big so that we'd have an easy time getting it home - and that all added up to a purchase of a nice keepsake. We did a bit more jewellery shopping along the way as well. By late afternoon we decided to make our way back to the ship so we took the cable car down to the small Skala Port and after a short wait took a tender ride back to Azamara Journey.
One of the nice changes made on Azamara Journey since our last time onboard was a revamped area called the Patio on the open but covered area of Deck 9. It was a great place to grab a light snack and glass of wine. Glass being the operative word - getting one from the Pool Bar or one of the waiters around the pool meant it would be served in a plastic glass whereas the Patio not too far away served drinks in real glass. It was becoming a favourite spot of ours already and was nice to sit and relax here for a bit after our day in Santorini. We had dinner around 8:00pm in Discoveries Restaurant and had a great meal with an excellent waiter for this evening. If we could have arranged it, we would have had this fellow serve us at every dinner. He was outstanding. Our timing for dinner meant we'd miss being on the open deck for sunset, but we figured it would be a bit of a bust this evening based on the growing grey & cloudy conditions. What we could see through the windows of the dining room did support that theory. It was incredibly humid out on the open deck after dinner and Santorini looked eerie to be sure - the night sky lit up by the lights from Fira and glowing in low lying clouds hanging over the island. We opted for a more relaxed late evening this time so we returned to our room and Gary caught the Hungary-Belgium game from the 2016 Euro. A relaxing end to a nice day in a beautiful setting.
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.