Let the Cruise Begin: Santorini… A Magical Greek Island

Buildings cascade down the cliffs on the Greek island of Santorini located in the Aegean Sea.

Churches, homes, shops and hotels cascade down the cliffs on the Greek island of Santorini located in the Aegean Sea.

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.

Our ship, the Crown Princess, anchored in the caldera located off Santorini.

Our ship, the Crown Princess, anchored off Santorini. The island behind it is a small volcanic island.

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.

Cruise ships sell luxury and visits to exotic locations. This is an inside view of the Crown Princess.

Cruise ships sell luxury and visits to exotic locations. This is an inside view of the Crown Princess.

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.”

A post card type photo of a church in the town of Oia on Santorini

A post card type photo of the Church of St. George in the town of Oia on Santorini

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.

Excavated ruins of the ancient city of Akrotiri on Santorini are a candidate for the lost city of Atlantis. If so, this mural taken from the ruins may show a resident of the Lost City.

Excavated ruins of the ancient city of Akrotiri on Santorini are a candidate for the lost city of Atlantis. If so, this mural taken from the ruins may show a resident of 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.

Looking up toward Fira our options were to take the tram or follow the zigzag trail.

Looking up toward Fira our options were to take the tram on the left or follow the zigzag trail in the center of the photo.

We wisely chose the tram.

We wisely chose the tram.

Looking back down the donkey trail toward the dock from the tram.

Looking back down the donkey trail toward the dock from the tram.

NEXT BLOG: The Santorini town of Oia, a photographer’s paradise.

12 comments on “Let the Cruise Begin: Santorini… A Magical Greek Island

  1. I have been missing in action for about a week here and there and need to go back to some of the Peace Corps posts…but what a grand way to start off your blog about your vacation! The first photo of the “skyline” was surely an eye-catcher!

  2. Spoil sport!!! The donkey ride was much more entertaining!! And when I got back to the ship, I walked straight into the shower, clothes and all! You were right about smelling like donkey! I loved Santorini and the village of Oia. If anyone is wondering how to pronounce Oia, I’ll give you a hint…it sounds like the noise a donkey makes when pronounced correctly 😉

    • Thanks for dropping by, Christine, and hi to your mom. I rode a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon once and vowed I would never again use that mode of transportation. I realize a donkey is different… but not that different. (grin) ee-ah.

  3. Well, you got your photos up first! Thank goodness…..I started going through our 4000 photos and deleted about 3. I think this just might take a while so I will continue to enjoy reliving our adventure through your blog…..grin.

  4. WOW… That ship! It’s like a city on the sea. And such a beautiful location. Those colors are brilliant. I’d love to visit someday… How lucky for you guys!

  5. Well I do declare.. You do live “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” This all looks just fantastic. Greece is such a gorgeous country.. Oh my goodness how my Mother always wanted to go there.. Looks like you are off on another great adventure 🙂

    • I may live the lifestyle of the rich and famous Lynne… but it stops there. (grin) Actually, for Peggy and I it is all a matter of priorities. We can’t think of a better way to spend what we have than by traveling. In my younger years of being footloose, I would earn just enough to survive for a year and then hit the road.

      • I know, I’m just messing with you.. I’ve spent most of my life raising children and there is so much I want to see.. I plan to start traveling more once I get moved then watch out world, I’m coming to see you !!

      • Good for you Lynne… I wasn’t being sensitive… just a smart ass. (grin) I know there is more to life than escapism… Damn, I just forgot what it was.We have kids to… It’s there job to support in out old age. (Just kidding)

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