The start to the second half of the cruise was clouded by a duplicate port stop in Kusadesi, Turkey (been there!) and an averted port stop in Mykonos due to a gale weather system. Mykonos was supposed to be our first true Greek Island experience; white stucco buildings with blue roofs perched on a cliff above the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. This port turned sea day (what cruisers call days spent on the boat) made us extra nervous about getting to see Santorini, our last chance at a Greek Island…the whole purpose for the cruise. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and we got to be one of the first groups up the donkey trail to the main town of Fira.
The island is set on the rim of an extinct volcano. The ship dropped anchor in the center of the volcano and we were boated to the nearest port, Skala. From there we had the option to take a cable car, a donkey ride, or share the path with the mules and ascend on foot. The donkey was automatically out of consideration due to our newly established policy of not riding anything that even remotely resembles an equine. There was a fee to use the cable car and a long line of slow movers, so that took care of that. The 4 Euro price sounded pretty good later on as we constantly removed layers of clothes, negotiated piles of manure and avoided the oncoming herds of unpredictable animals as we labored up the donkey path.
Once we cooled down, we immediately hopped on a public bus over to the less commercial (although not much) town of Oia, pronounced Ee-ya. We couldn’t have planned it any better. It was picture perfect.
Our fate was set: a stroll around the town to take in the bougainvilleas, try to find Brad and Angelina’s villa, select a rooftop to consume a bottle of the local wine varietal of choice, Nykteri, and then eat a gyro or two to offset the effects of the wine. What we didn’t expect was to also find Joshua’s wedding ring at a local artist’s boutique, and that was before we started drinking! Gotta love it when the trip coincides with the end of the season discounts! I can’t think of many tourist destinations that actually exceeded my expectations, but Santorini is definitely one of them.