“So, where all are you folks from?”
“From Canada, from Calgary.”
“Calgary, is that near Toronto?”
“Fairly near.Just four hours away by plane.”
“Oh, well, we’re from Florida.”
We arrived at the wind-swept islands of Santorini after cruising for a day and a half across the Ionian Sea. We had hoped to take some pictures on the ship during the sea voyage to give you an idea of what all we can do when we don’t have Wi-Fi and can’t leave the ship for a day. But the journey was so bumpy, with 40-mile-an-hour head winds and 15-foot waves slamming up against the bow (Is that the front of the ship? I can never remember) that we decided to leave the pictures for another time.
The ship was parked in the volcanic crater (caldera) created during an eruption about 3,600 years ago. Technically, we should have been at anchor but the caldera is so deep that the anchor would never have actually reached the bottom. So instead the ship kind of free-floated while we piled into locally-operated tenders to get to the shore and back.
We were told by our cruise director that the local tender operators were “fiercely unionized” and so might decide to take a rum break during our journey across the water from the ship. But, in fact, these guys with “Union Boatmen” emblazoned on their jackets were wonderfully helpful as we got on and off the boats during an exceedingly windy morning.
We were also told by our cruise director, and also by our local guide, that we were better off taking the cable car back down to the pier after our visit to the hilltop Santorini capital of Thira rather than risking a ride down the mountain on one of the many donkey rentals available for such a trip. “Not recommended,” they said. That made me think that perhaps the donkey-ride operators should have a union as well.
The wind was so strong that it wasn’t possible for us to comfortably stand at the look0ut points on the rim of the volcano’s crater to take pictures of the villages located at the top of the black rock cliffs. Besides, it was a very misty day, so the pictures wouldn’t have amounted to much anyhow. So instead we settled for a couple of personal shots of us having Greek coffee and hot chocolate at one of the few cafés that was open at the top. The tourist season here doesn’t officially start until May so most of the restaurants and shops (aside from the jewelry stores!) aren’t open yet.
Tourism is obviously a mainstay of the local economy in most of the places we have visited on this cruise. English-language signs are everywhere and the serving staffs are fluently multi-lingual. Many of them seem particularly happy that Viking has a cruise ship visiting them this early in the year because that extends the tourist season for them, and amounts to much-needed money in the bank.