Crete and Santorini

Trip Start Dec 27, 2012
Trip End Mar 26, 2013

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Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Thursday, March 21, 2013

Today was the first day we didn't have a morning tour or somewhere to be in a hurry, so we could sleep in!! It was nice to have a rest and a lazy breakfast and then later we met up as a group and walked the 20mins or so into the main shopping area of Crete. Crete is the biggest Greek island and is somewhere ill definitely have to visit again. It is famous for the Temple of Knossos and the story of the Minotaur but as I said we didn't go on the tour (because we were told the story is good but its a boring sight) and so we missed the ancient part of the island. And as we were also only there for four hours we didn't get the opportunity to see any of the beautiful beaches that the island has. All we honestly did was shop and I didn't see anything I wanted so for me it was just a wander in town.

We then got back on the boat and it set sail for our last island stop, Santorini. In the sailing time we started packing our bags as we can put them outside our rooms tonight and they will have them off the boat back in Athens tomorrow morning when we disembark and I wanted to enjoy tonight as much as possible, so better to do it early! We had our usual group lunch and today it was really really rough. Weirdly I didn't feel sick but the boat was rocking so much that you sort of had to hold onto walls or chairs to stop yourself from crashing into stuff.

I took more motion sickness tablets just in case and then we had a meeting with Courtney where she gave us tags for disembarking and all the information we needed for the rest of the tour. She also gave us little envelopes so that we could write her a note and tip her (if we wanted). Randomly as we were sitting there and finishing off our meeting the cruise director came over and asked if any of the boys wanted to enter King of the ship. We nominated Adam and hilarious went she went up to call the contestants she accidentally said Alex and so he had to go up! Obviously Harlen willingly entered and there were two other contestants and they old had to participate in 4 rounds. There was a muscle showing section, a kissing girls on the crowd section, a body balloon popping one and finally the best dressed woman! Alex won which was awesome and we instantly went to our usual deck and cracked open his champagne prize.

Then it was time to disembark in Santorini. Here the while lot of us were on the tour so it was nice to have our last afternoon as a group. Before we could start the actual tour though we had to catch our first tender boats of the trip. These are basically little ferries that took us from the cruise ship (that was anchored out to sea) into the shore. This only took like 10mins and then we were all aboard the tour bus. Our first stop was supposed to be a lookout area so that we could look out over the whole island but there was heaps of low lying cloud and we honestly couldn't see anything. The story of the island of Santorini was very interesting though; technically Santorini is the name of the group of islands and the main one that people are usually referring to is Thira. The islands that make up this little group though are basically what was left after a huge volcano erupted many years ago. So it was one island that now is a few islands that are all around this big lagoon of water known as a caldera. There are some little islands in the centre which essentially rose up out of the sea due to underwater volcanic activity. All this means that the sides of the islands facing the caldera are these magnificent steep cliffs and all the rocks are different colours and patterned depending on how the rock cooled. It also means Santorini use to have a huge pumice export industry! Today little villages are perched on many of the cliff tops and the town we are stopping at is Oia, pronounced 'eeya'. On the way here was when the guide gave us all this information and we did also pass through another perched town, the capital of the island known as Fira. Santorini is part of the Cycladic island group and so like Mykonos it is famous for its white and blue houses, which we would see when we arrived in Oia. We did also pass cave style houses on the way and these are literally hollowed out sections of rock with front entrances that vaguely resemble an actual house. Very cute, but only the front rooms get any natural light!

Going back to the history that we got from the guide, the volcano here is one the most active in the world and the eruption that made the caldera (and wiped out the civilisations that were here at the time) was one of the largest volcanic eruptions recorded in history. This occurred 3600 years ago and as well as taking out the local people they believe a tidal wave caused by this eruption is responsible for destroying the Minoan civilisation on Crete. There is also a theory that either this eruption or another eruption from the same volcano was responsible for sending the city of Atlantis to the bottom of the sea. Our guide told us that this is a hugely popular theory but none of the recorded eruptions line up with the dates Plato described when writing about Atlantis. There are lost cities being discovered on Thira though and we saw a few excavation sites as we drove around. The interesting thing about what they have found so far is that all the buildings are very packed up, with the personal belongs of the people being in boxes and things. Historians believe the locals new the volcano was going to erupt and may have been planning to leave and return to their homes later. Whether or not the people escaped is not actually known, they may have been victims of the tidal wave the volcano caused.

When we arrived in Oia it was crazy, crazy windy! In all the photos we took our jackets are all puffed up and our hair is blowing like straight up in the air. Still it was a really beautiful town, we saw the famous domes on the church that is in like every Santorini photo, we saw a donkey delivery suitcases to a hotel and we had an awesome view back towards the town of Fira. We had a couple of hours here and we basically walked through the town, stopping frequently to take photos and in little shops. Courtney directed us to the lookout at the end of the island and to the best viewing spot for the blue domes. This would be an amazing place to spend a few hot summers days!

We then basically repeated the lap back out of town and to the bus. Courtney also told us that on some tours the bus stops in Fira and you can spend time there and then either walk or catch a donkey down the crazy steep cliffs to the other port (ie not the one where the buses picked us up) but because it was so windy and getting dark our bus took us straight back to the waiting tender boats. Once back on board the Orient Queen we all went straight to our last group dinner. We had a lovely long slow meal and we even had a little show put on for us by the waiting staff where they turned off all the lights and they weaved through the tables swinging napkins and carrying big icecream cakes! We then headed back to our rooms to do our final pack for the night and we left our bags outside the room to be collected. We met up as a group in the reflections lounge where I ran into Harlen who told me the wonderful news he was in the talent show so all of our group when into watch. He pretended to play the bazuki and then he tried stand up comedy. It was basically hilarious because it was so bad. Then for our last night we decided to be different and go back to our usual spot on the top deck. We were then drinking and mucking around as a group until about 230am which was probably a bad idea when we were disembarking at 7am.
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