I never considered taking a cruise before. I envisioned them as either too family-friendly with kids running around, screaming, being in the way or full of old, entitled people, playing bingo and white washing the culture in all of their destinations.
I was mostly wrong.
As part of my trip to Greece through a group tour company, we ended our stay in the country by taking a cruise around several of the islands:
What do you notice first? The gorgeous, white buildings that backdrop the harbor, providing a beautiful contrast to the vibrant blues and purples of window shutters and flowers. The pleasantly arranged seafood platters at each restaurant that tries to ensnare you from your first step off the boat. Or do you go straight for the maze of walking streets that take you from one bougie store to the next, juxtaposing your life into that of a Kardashian’s for but a few moments.
We meandered through some back alleys to bypass some of the busier sections, but ended up behind homes of the local workers and business owners, subject to the law forcing them to keep their homes the white and azure blue you picture when thinking of Greece.
I split a delicious seafood feast with a friend, enjoying calamari, clams, and more, while escaping the 95-degree weather for a bit. We were on a tight schedule and had to be near the ship for boarding to the next destination.
The next stop for the cruise ship was actually Kusadasi, a beach resort town in Turkey. For reasons I’m still not positive on, no U.S. citizens were allowed to disembark the boat for this stop. I’m guessing it was related to Turkey’s involvement with Qatar or the 2016 coup d’état attempt. Still not sure, but it cost me an evening in the country. Luckily, I had purchased the all-inclusive drink plan right after boarding, so I explored the ship seeing which bar had the heaviest pour.
The next morning, we ventured onto the island of Samos. The Archaeological Museum of Pythagorion had a great collection of statues, busts, and trinkets from the island’s past. Just south, near the port, is the Tower of Lykourgos Logothetis, a residence/defense tower used by the island’s leader during the Greek War of Independence.
We continued along the beach and followed a trail made by a Jeep to a restaurant, the Pegasus Tavern. The owners were beyond hospitable, immediately letting us sit wherever and provided excellent service. The combination of a tall lager and the shade from the grape vines helped fight off the heat until we got closer to boarding time.
When our group all met back up at the port, our tour director, Ally, gifted me a bottle of wine for my birthday which was a few days prior. I didn’t open this until we were back in the U.S. The label was all in Greek, so I had no idea what to expect. Not my favorite, to be honest. Some Google and reverse-image searches later and it turns out it was church communion wine.
My favorite thing about the Greek islands is how each one has its own personality. Mykonos was about luxury and partying, Samos shared its history and had easy-shopping. Patmos was a laid-back beach island. We had arrived mid-afternoon, but hardly any shops were open, so we easily strolled to a stretch of beach recommended by Ally.
The beach itself was nice. It was completely empty except for us, leaving plenty of room to lay out our towels on the sand. There was a short border of rocks and shells as you entered the water before coming out to sand. The water was surprisingly cold until you mustered up the courage to dip all the way in.
We were soon joined on the beach by the happiest labradoodle who ran circles around us in the sand, leaving only to go pee in the ocean. “Max,” called a man approaching from one of the buildings behind the beach. In decent English, the man explained who he and his dog were and how he ran a beachside business here. He grabbed some folding chairs for us to use so we didn’t have to lay in the sand.
The man continued down the beach until he reached a speed boat, apparently his. He came and offered some thrilling water activities to us. For some reason, I did not participate, but two of my friends did, strapping onto an inflatable raft that he began to drag behind his boat. It was really funny watching them bounce around on the waves as he whipped them around at high speeds over the water. I always regret missing the experiences more than paying the cost to do them.
A short while later, we returned to the ship and stayed up a little too late waiting for last call.
This was an early, early wake-up call. Between the lack of sleep and the lingering hangover, a good portion of me wanted to stay in bed all day. But, we’re here. We have to at least visit.
Most of our group felt the same way about skipping this island, opting to sleep in while two of us ventured onto the biggest island in Greece. It was a full-on city, but rather empty. We easily walked around, snapping pictures of some of the cooler buildings (most of it looked like any other city – office buildings and apartment complexes.) I would love to get a chance to come back and visit the Knossos Palace.
I grabbed a gyro for an early lunch and we returned to the ship.
After a much needed mid-day nap, lots of water, and some reawakening, I was prepared for the afternoon destination – the beautiful island of Santorini.
Formed around the caldera of an ancient volcano, the cities sit at the top of a cliff that can be reached via cable car or stairs. The way up offers a gorgeous view and when you reach the top, no words can describe it.
We wandered into the town, stopping in shops looking for the perfect souvenir to reflect on our journey here. There was plenty of jewelry to try on, a sex shop that welcomed our middle-school aged boy maturity, and a wall art shop that I stopped in to grab a Crazy Donkey brewery t-shirt. I was half-tempted to lose myself in the alleys, hiding from the inevitability that I would have to leave this perfect paradise in just a couple hours.
The hunger hit us quickly and we found a rooftop restaurant to stop into. I ordered some bread, another calamari dish, and a carafe of the house white. I thought one of the five other people with me would have had a glass, but nope… I
got to had to drink the whole thing to myself.
This trip was before I took an interest in photography, opting for the “live in the moment” style of travel, but I really wish I had taken some more pictures to look through. The important moments are easy to remember, but its the small intricate details that really let you delve into a memory.
As we approached the cable car station to ride back down, we noticed the line was extraordinarily long and we had a brief window to get back to the ship. We decided to take the 800+ stairs down the face of the cliff instead, a tiring walk when you’re finishing a long day.
Don’t ride the mules.
I cannot wait to go back and explore the islands again, on my own, to really get a chance to take them in at my pace. I got to witness their beauty, now I want to go back and see what they really offer.