Day 12 - Santorini (Port of Fira), Greece
We made arrangements with Shane, the Cruise Director, to get under-the-table tender tickets for the first tender off the ship today. They used the boat's tenders to get people with shore excursions off the boat to a different port first thing, then about an hour later the port of Santorini sent tenders over to take us to the bottom of the cliff at Fira - the main port town. Our activity for today was a sailboat cruise around the back of the island. We were to meet the sailboat representative at the top of the cliff at Fira. Even with catching the first tender over, we were about 15 minutes late meeting our guy. Apparently there was another group who missed getting that first tender and missed going on their sail, as they finally left without them. Pat was with us today (I asked him how he was feeling this morning, and he said instead of being able to walk 50 yards like yesterday, he was probably up to about 75 yards today ). They had a taxi waiting for us at the top, but we couldn't all fit in one, so they sent for another one. Meanwhile, Jim and I watched all kinds of crazy traffic, including a bus going the wrong way on a narrow one-way street, and plenty of tourists renting cars and motorbikes and 4-wheelers to try to get around the island - seemed like fun (until we experienced the driving in the taxi). The port was on the opposite side of the island - the leeward side from where the boat was docked. That back side of the island was beautiful, with white and black and red rock formations and beaches to match. We stopped to swim, then tried to motor around to the front of the island where the crater is. The wind picked up and was gusting 40 mph - creating a very bumpy and wet ride as we were heading into the wind. The other boats in front of us turned around, and after a few minutes, we gave up and turned around too, retreating into the shelter of a beautiful natural harbor. Noah and Jim swam to shore and to a rock formation with a tunnel to swim through, and as the wind picked up, the current picked up too (so the swim back was more difficult). They reported that the beach, which was packed with people, was just rocks (Noah brought back a fist-sized one that he said was one of the smaller ones). The crew fixed us lunch - Greek salad, tzitziki, grilled calamari, grilled pork, grilled shrimp, grilled vegetable salad, and local white wine and beer. It was a very pleasant way to spend a day, even if we didn't get a chance to put up the sails because of the strong winds (we started to, but it was too much).
We got back to the dock, in the midst of confusion about one-too-few taxis. They kicked a group of people out of a taxi so we could try to make it to the boat on time, and we piled an extra person in so we'd all fit, then we raced back to town and drove past the do-not-enter signs to get Pat as close to the tram as possible. The tram line to the bottom of the cliff was extremely long and the last tender to the ship was in only half an hour. We took Pat to the front of the tram line, and he and Sally got on. We had a choice of waiting in the line and missing the tender or walking down the steps (or taking a donkey down but that didn't seem either faster or safer). The steps were slippery in flip-flops, so I picked my way down them while the kids ran down and got in line for the tender. There were two other large ships in port and a couple of smaller ships, so the town was crowded and the only ways down were clogged, making it hard for us to get back to the ship. We made it in time. Our impressions at the top were not of a beautiful city as in the pictures, but of a busy, crowded and dirty town (but we didn't get to see much of it). We talked to several others who were not impressed by the town or their shore excursions either. In fact, it wasn't until a few days later that we finally found someone who had thoroughly enjoyed the town - she ended up at a hotel for lunch overlooking the harbor. The town seems to have outgrown its quaintness, and with all the cruise ships in, the crowds and logistics were stressful. The buildings, too, were not as pretty as Mykonos, where they had strict regulations about construction and painting.