05 July 2007

Greece!

July 2, 2007
Fira, Santorini Island, Greece


Our second day on board the luxurious Legend of the Seas was our first actual "port day." Look at me and the cruise lingo. We arrived at Santorini Island a little before 9am. The island is small, and the ship is large. So there was nowhere for us to actually dock. This is how I became familiar with the tendering process, and how it can go terribly wrong.

Tendering is when the ship sends ferry boats to get you and bring you to your intended destination. It sounds like a fairly simple process. And maybe it is. But on this day, and on this ship, it was not.

The first thing one does when one is "going to tender," (as it is verbalized) is get a ticket. Our first tender was at 9am. In order to get this aforementioned ticket, everyone who does not have a scheduled tour (and estimated 1500 people) is asked to go to deck four at 8:45. Now I know not ever tender on every cruise ship requires people to meet on deck for at 8:45 but in 100% of my cruising experiences that is the case. And for this example, that will be a truth.

So at 8:45 on deck four, there was a man backed up to a piano with hundreds of people grabbing at the slips of paper in his hand. Jesse and I were not there for the beginning of this event, but our friend (Lucy's special friend) Ryan was. Here we are at breakfast. Thanks to him, we were on tender two.

Tickets in hand, we made our way down to the line heading off the boat, where were not allowed to exit. Apparently tour groups get off the boat first. Great for them. We were sent back up to deck four to wait for the tender boarding announcements. However Jesse and Ryan wanted to go back up to deck 9. As far as I could tell, it was just to be defiant. So we went. Along the way, we were assured tendering announcements would be made over the loudspeaker. So all we really had to do was wait.

Waiting is a lot harder than it sounds when you see Greece practically a stone's throw away. As we waited, we watched other people go to Greece. Boats came, loaded up, and left. There we sat, with a great view of the action. We watched the cable cars zip up from the shore to the top. And there we sat. Donkeys rides were hustled up and down the walkway and there we were... just sitting. Just look at all those boats. Would you believe we weren't called down for any of them?

Ryan went scouting. He was told our tender was about to board in 15 minutes. So much for the announcements promised just 90 minutes beforehand. We scurried down to deck one, then back up to deck two to find the end of the line. There we went a lovely family from Northern Ireland. Jesse and I talked to them for another half hour, while Ryan scouted some more.

At this point, tempers were flaring. I know the staff was moving as fast as could be, but that was just not fast enough. The winds were high in Santorini. That meant we could only use one side of the ship for tendering, effectively doubling the tendering time. Still, knowing that did nothing to those who just wanted to get off the ship and be in Greece. Even worse: Jesse had to cut his shore excursion short anyway for a 3pm seminar. At 11:25, his time to see Santorini was running out.

Ryan to the rescue again. He talked to the cruise director (who is truly a hardworking and dedicated person) and she got us on the next boat heading to shore. That was a little after 11:30. Part of Jesse's day had been saved.

We had planned to walk the 580 steps to the top but we were short on time. So we hoped on the cable cars for 4 euros. These are the steps we would have taken.

The cable cars were quite fast and in a matter of moments there we were with Greece before us. Look at it. It's great isn't it. We walked through a shopping area, then stopped to try and figure out where we were. Normally we can get by just fine with a map. But maps in Greece and written in Greek. They can't be read by people who don't read Greek. We stopped at a little bar to get our bearings. Jesse drank a Greek Beer out of a frosted mug. He said it was good. But it was pretty hot there. So maybe any beer out of a frosted mug would have been good.



We walked around Fira until it was time for Jesse and Ryan to go back for their seminar. They had decided to ride donkeys down to the tender. Fortunately for me, I was staying on the Island and spared the pleasure.

I did walk a little with them to send them off though, and to take their pictures. Once they were well on their way, I walked back up and watched them ride off to the sea on donkeys. And then I was off on my own adventure.