I am normally not the cruising type; it’s too social, crowded and regimented for the part of me that demands solitude, wide-open spaces, and independence. Still, when my brother-in-law, John Dallen, sent my wife Peggy and me an itinerary of a 32-day repositioning cruise he was planning to take with his wife Francis, I was intrigued.
The cruise included visits to a number of Mediterranean ports I had always wanted to see and a voyage across the Atlantic I had never made. It sounded like an adventure. It also took place during our Twentieth Anniversary and Peggy, unlike me, loves to cruise. It seemed like a great way to celebrate. We signed on the dotted line and sent off our deposit.
Over the next couple of months I will blog about the journey we just completed. Join us as we visit the Greek islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Corfu, stop off at the historic sites of Pompeii and Ephesus, scale the walls of Dubrovnik, and explore the cities of Athens, Venice, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Cannes and Lisbon. I’ll conclude with our brief stopover on the Azores Islands and trip across the Atlantic.
I will also describe shipboard life where food was served 24/7, our bed was always made, and entertainment was just a few floors away. Be warned, though, the trip wasn’t all four-course meals plus dessert; there was also the Noro-Virus that reached red alert status and forced employees to wear rubber gloves, rolling seas that threatened to dump us out of our bed, the guy who dropped dead in our dining room, and the daring Coast Guard rescue off of Louisiana.
I am going to start this series with the Greek island of Santorini rather than Rome where we began our cruise. Santorini is more personal, easier to comprehend, has an intriguing history, and is exactly what I imagined a Greek island to be. In 2011 Travel and Leisure magazine declared it the World’s Best Island. Rick Steves, the renowned travel expert on Europe, said, “If you can’t snap a post-card quality photo here, it is time to retire your camera.”
Santorini is located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea southeast of Athens. Once upon a time it was a huge volcano, now the island is part of a large caldera. When Santorini blew its top somewhere around 1600 BC, it was one of the largest volcanic explosions in the last 5000 years. Effects were felt as far away as China where crops withered. The resulting tsunami destroyed much of the Mediterranean’s Bronze Age Minoan civilization. Legend is that this destruction included Atlantis. In fact, the ruins of Akrotiri on Santorini are considered a prime candidate for being the Lost City.
Arrival in Santorini by ship quickly reinforced that we had sailed into a caldera. Everything was up. Fira, the islands administrative center, was perched above us on top of daunting cliffs a thousand feet high. Getting to the top involved hiking, riding a donkey or taking a tram. Riding the donkeys sounded romantic except we would end up smelling like donkeys and not able to sit down for a day. Walking had more appeal but then we would be dodging Donkey poop. We opted for the tram. Once on top, we were prepared to explore.
NEXT BLOG: The Santorini town of Oia, a photographer’s paradise.