May 15, 2024

May 14 - Piraeus (Athens), Greece

The Athens port is quite large, the layout more typical. Leave the ship walk through a terminal building with a handful of shops and then on to the waiting tour bus.  I can see Holland America's Osterdamm nearby. I am not sure which other cruise ships are here today.

The standard process for most tours is to get your bus number sticker and wait as a group in the theater, then bus group by bus group be led to deck 2 to exit the ship, walk through the terminal, and eventually on to your bus.

I get our bus assignment and then head out 15 minutes before the others. Not only does this usually get us to the bus first, it avoids  the crowds, and  also prevents me from holding up the others as I do walk slower than most. At first some shore excurion staff had a problem with this, but have since become accustomed to my ways. 

The "photographer", actually company manager, that was with our tour in Rhodes is here.  He spends a lot of time talking with the other guides, I assume in Greek, but does not join our tour.

We see many of the same things that I saw years ago when I was here. The big difference was that this time  we walk up and over the hill and down into the city center instead of being driven by bus. It was a tough walk, but again the tour guides were very accomodating. The actual tour itself was not nearly as good as the one in Rhodes from the same tour operator.

As a side note it the same scaffolding surrounds the Acropolis as when I was here 7 or 8 years ago. Nothing has changed.

At the city center we were given a take out gyro sandwich at a local restaurant. More importantly this also gave us access to bathrooms in the basement.

No saganaki here, but I do grab a gelato. OK, but not as good as in Florence. The same shop also is selling pastries. They not only looked good, they were enormous. A glazed donut was probably 7 inches across and a inch and half thick. Too big for me.

Probably not much different than most major cities the city center area was quite dirty. We were warned several times of the proliferation of pick pockets, and there was an obvious police presence. 

In all the areas we rode through there were many vacant buildings. One did not get the impression that the economy was doing very well. On the plus side, the saharan dust that turned the air red two weeks ago was not a major issue. The air was much more polluted than we find in Florida, but most people could breathe without difficulty.

The headliner show tonight was the "Tap Factory". A combinations of tap dancing and percussion. Once they began, I realized I had seen them before, but I am clueless to say how long ago. Probably several years at least.

Across from us there are 5 tug boats waiting to assist if called upon. Further out at sea there are many commercial vessels awaiting either dock space or a load of cargo.

Tomorrow will be a sea day as we head to Naples, Italy our next port of call.

May 13 - Santorini, Greece

Santorini is a tender port. We are one of four major cruise ships visiting today. Being the largest we hold our position closer to the tender terminal for the stairs and cable car to Fira than the other ships.

Initially I had no plans for Santorini. With about 12,000 visitors the lines for the cable car up the hill to the city will be very long. Climbing the path with it's 800 or so steps is not even worth a mention.

Several days ago a shore excursion employee told me that the shuttle bus to do Fira on our own would drop us off at the city center, and that the area there was flat and easy walking. I booked it. What a mistake.

The bus did not let us off at the center of town, but a long ways out of town on the opposite side from the cable car. The walking was some of the worst I ever encountered, not cobblestones, but randomly round stones about the size of baseballs, but only half submerged in concrete. Foot stability was non existant.

There were several of us on the bus that had difficulty. The tour guide was very accomodating and after taking the rest of the group the rest to the top, led us to a local restaurant that would provide us refuge until it was time to return to the  bus. 

Of course I had to try the local saganaki. It was OK but not as good as in previous ports. The table overlooking the street was good for us in that we could watch the street activity, and good for the restaurant in that we made the restaurant look more busy. A win for everyone.

Santorini is well known for its charm. Personally I don't quite get it. Nearly everything must be imported including drinking water. There are grapes that grow here and several wineries bottle a local wine.  The grape vines grow only to a few inches above the ground, and get thier water from the morning dew. The economy is almost all tourism, and many of the workers must travel to the island daily to serve the tourists. Lots of stores, but nothing locally made.

With very little rain, everything is very dirty and dusty. Yes, I was  unimpressed.

The fair amount of polution in the air did result in a bright red sunset.

Tomorrow we head to Piraeus, (Athens) Greece. 

May 12 - Rhodes

Our arrival in Rhodes is unique. No terminal, no customs, no security barriers.

We step off the ship onto the dock. Our tour bus is 25 feet away.  For those passengers that so choose, a walk across the pier and you face one of the many ancient walls that surround the city. By far the closest I have ever seen a cruise ship dock relative to the destination of the passengers.

My kids really laughed when we booked these, but this is the first of our "selfie" excursions. It was great.  We not only had a driver but 2 guides and an photographer.  Those that wanted were loaned selfie sticks, I brought one so I could learn its functions at home.

We were taken to a number of photographic sites around Rhodes before entering into the city itself. The tour was easy paced, and all 4 of the escorts helped guests with the best places to take pictures and how to do it with or without the selfie stick.

Rhodes itself was fantastic, the only difficulty I encountered was that since we were there on a Sunday, no one would take credit cards as the banking system was closed.  The good side of this is that I am sure this cut down on the amount of traffic, both vehicle and foot, that we had to deal with.

The bus driver had flown in early this morning from Athens. One guide was originally from Chile, but has lived in Rhodes for probably 40 years. The other guide from Poland. All were very understandable in english and knew the history and sights very well. It turns out that the "photographer" is also the manager for the shore excursion tour company in all of the Med. He is really on a mission to see that the season is getting off to a good start. It was.

In the center of Rhodes we had saganaki, again.  Yes every time it was different, and so far the saganaki in Rhodes is the best.

By the time we were back on the ship we were too tired to go to the Coastal Kitchen for dinner and settled for a quick bite in the Windjammer.

Tomorrow we head to Santorini.