We arrived at Santorini, Greece, another of the Greek Isles. Now I’m going to give away the punch line up front here. Santorini for us–not so much. Neither of us would return there, but more on that later. The description of Santorini from the Daily Cruise Compass (which I mentioned before was our little daily magazine) said, “Black sand beaches, crystal clear waters and white washed villages that cling to volcanic cliffs make the island of Santorini a wonder to behold. Santorini’s spectacular caldera is a vestige of what was probably the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history, believed by some to have been caused by the disappearance of Atlantis. Make sure you stop at a Santorini wine producer and enjoy a glass of wine” (that part looked promising). We were excited about Santorini, but as I said, “Hmm, Santorini for us, not so much.”

We tendered over to Santorini where we boarded our excursion which was entitled “Pyrgos Village with Mezes and Wine.” It was to be a three hour and thirty minute excursion and we thought that was great because that way we had time to explore on our own afterwards. The night before, we watched the video and it told us “whatever you do, don’t take the donkey path.” The donkeys go from the bottom by the dock up to the top (Fira Town) where the shops and hotels are located. The donkeys have been doing this for centuries and they “own” it… it’s theirs. Apparently, the path was very smelly and slippery and the donkeys play with each other along the cliff. That’s all we needed to hear. We’re not risk takers. One of the passengers on the ship was a little girl whose family decided they did not want to wait for the cable cars to come down, so they walked. As she walked down the donkey path, her sandal got stuck in donkey… well you know. And as she took the next step forward, her foot stepped into… yep you guessed it. She was still crying when we later came across her and her family. We decided that the video had, once again, given us very good advice.

So back to our excursion . . . we boarded a bus and it took us up to the village of Pyrgos, which was a small village that had once been the capital of the island. The view of Santorini from the bus as we climbed the hill and arrived at Pyrgos was really beautiful. The climb up was a little hair-raising though, because the roads are very narrow and twisty-turny and as the bus turned a corner it would cross over into the other lane. The other traffic would stop and let us by, but we thought, “One of these times somebody’s going to come around that corner and cream us.” Fortunately everybody knew the rules of the road. We were very glad that we hadn’t opted to do it on our own, for example by renting a car, because neither of the three of us could have handled that driving or would have wanted to.

Remnants of a Venetian fortress overlooked the village. I have to say that was very, very beautiful. There was also a historical monastery in the Profitis Illias area. The excursion book said that it was closed to tourists, but in fact when we got up there we were able to get in. We took a little time to explore it and it truly had the feeling of a sacred space. Coming down from the monastery, the views of the caldera, our cruise ship and the villages below were spectacular. Once we came down from Profitis Illias, we went back to Pyrgos, a traditional village with old houses and the remains of the Venetian Capital.

It was a hot day again and on our walking tour we climbed up, up, up, but the views were worth it, with the white-washed buildings, the blue sky, the various colored Bougainvillea and all the small churches. It was a postcard picturesque and a photographer’s dream. Our guide explained to us that there were small little chapels all over the island because many of the men who live on Santorini had been or were sailors. They would build these chapels to pray for safe travels and for their safe return. Many of the families owned small, private family chapels and they were beautiful. As I’ve said, it was very much postcard picturesque. I was surprised because it was not at all how I had pictured the Greek Isles. I’d pictured them as fishing villages with boats and nets– more quaint– not bright white with the blue roofs.

After that walking tour we indulged in one of our favorite activities, eating and drinking. We went to a place called Pyrgos Tavern, appropriately named after the city of Pyrgos, where we had a delicious snack. Now I have to point out it was a bit early in the morning, maybe 11:00 a.m., but that didn’t stop us from indulging. We had tomato fritters, fava puree, cheese pies, meatballs, local cheese, tomatoes, and olives. Our cheerful waitress also provided us unlimited wine. It was early, but what the heck, while on vacation, might as well enjoy. It was a nice place, clean, with excellent service, and unlimited wine. Need I say more?

We returned to the bus which headed into Fira Town the shopping district which housed a beautiful cathedral. Rather than shop, we decided to walk around and take pictures because there were so many beautiful vistas. After that because of the heat, we decided to stop and have a little bit of lunch. We went to a restaurant with a great view of the ocean, but terrible food and terrible service, which began our issues with Santorini. It started when couldn’t even get anyone to come to our table to take our order. Once they’d done so, it took a very long time for our food to come. No one never once came back and asked us if we needed anything and our servers had an attitude about collecting our money. That was not a good start.

But more than that, as window shopped the stores in Fira Town, the shopkeepers acted as though they could care less that we were there. They were very disinterested in asking us if we needed anything or if they could help us. Our experience was very, very negative, but what we were later told is that the shopkeepers were very upset because of the number of cruise ships docked there all at once. They preferred it when tourists are spread out over the week. Whatever the issue, the three of us decided that Santorini would not be on the top of our list of places to return. The incident that capped our feelings about it, even though it was beautiful and even though we got great pictures, was this. As we were waiting in the hour and twenty minute line to board the cable car to go back down the hill, we got some cool drinks. There was a pile of garbage and so Marjorie added her cup to the pile of garbage. Well, a shopkeeper came out and yelled at her to remove her cup because that was his pile of garbage and he had the right to have his own garbage, which we thought was, well, garbage. To make a long story short, Santorini, no thanks. We found it to be snotty and unfriendly based on our experience. Maybe we caught it on a bad day.

We were very happy to get up to the front of the line to take the cable car back down to board a tender to the ship. Even I, who have a pretty strong fear of heights, felt it was worth it to experience the cable car. The cars seated six people and I kept thinking, “I hope we are not over the weight limit with our six people.” We invited two skinny people to get in to make sure that we would be fine with the weight limit. I faced backward looking up the hill rather than looking down and that was fine. It was over sooner than you knew. Carol, the engineer in the group, was very calming for the lady sitting next to me also had the same anxieties. Carol talked us through the wonderful engineering feats of the cable car and why we were safe, and that helped a lot. From there, we stood in a thirty-minute line to board a tender. When we got up to the front of the tender line, we saw a table with cool bottles of . . . nope, they had run out. It was torture because we thought there was an oasis, but it was dry. We asked them about it and they said, “Oh, we’re bringing some more cups from the ship,” but by that time, we had boarded the tender.

After dinner, I don’t think there was a big show in the theater. From 8:00-9:00 p.m., the Royal Caribbean singers performed an evening of jazz. That was awesome. If you’re like jazz standards, you would have enjoyed that performance. It was very relaxing after a long hot day in Santorini (never to return). Later that evening we went to watch the “Love and Marriage Game Show” which was a hoot. The activities crew selected newlyweds, people who had been married 10-20 years, 20-30, all the way up to 50 years to participate in a game show similar to the newlywed game. It was hilarious. The couple that won had been married more than 20 years. The questions were quite personal. I can’t believe that people went on stage and shared their business like that, but we were glad they did because it was very entertaining.

Some of the questions were things like “What’s the most unusual place you and your partner made whoopie?” The winning couple’s son was in the audience and he looked to be about 12. The husband said, “Yikes, I don’t want to answer this because my son is out there, but it was on the balcony of our cabin,” The crowd went wild and the son stood and jumped up and down. It was pretty funny. The couple who had been married 60 years was asked the same question. The husband said “in the hammock” and when the wife returned to the stage she said, “That wasn’t me. That must have been somebody else,” and the crowd went wild again. I have to admit, it was pretty funny. It was surprising how much personal information those passengers shared, but we were really glad they did because we really enjoyed it. Following the game show there was a pool side toga party, but we decided “Hmmm, not so much,” and we went to the disco for a little while but then turned in early. That was o.k.; we’d had a pretty full day.