Trip log, day six. Making the most of our day in Santorini, Greece.
8-Night Silver Anniversary at Sea Greek Isles Cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
June 17, 2023
Guests Ashore: 7:00 am Guests Onboard: 8:00 pm
Personal Navigator – Day 6
Good news, we made it to our tendering spot in Santorini where it was a lovely mostly sunny morning in the low 70’sºF. The afternoon forecast showed a high of 75ºF with a chance of showers. We booked one DCL Port Adventure and it was originally a 7:30am meeting time, but was changed to 11AM. Emily made her way up to the gym since we had a bit more time this AM and there was still no news on our 11AM Port Adventure, so we stuck to the original plan in order to meet at our designated spot onboard. The timing wasn’t ideal as we prefer to visit places early in the day in an attempt to beat the crowds, but it is what it is when you book an excursion.
Since the port adventure meeting location was onboard, heading ashore was not an option at this time which left us with a few hours of free time. I took the opportunity to take pictures of the other cruise ships from the back deck of Meridian. We were joined by Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of The Seas, and Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager.
Stopped in Cabanas for a quick breakfast. The offerings in Cabanas have been meh, with not much variety in the daily specials. However, we should be able to find a nice place for lunch to compensate for the less than stellar onboard offerings at breakfast and dinner.
Welp, the writing was on the wall following the announcement last night. The message arrived that our land based Port Adventure was cancelled due to rough seas. This is a result of the tendering process and our proximity to the Athinios dock which is used for excursions as ground transportation can pick guests up steps from the pier.
Dear Guests, please be advised that your Port Adventure for Santorini has been cancelled by the tour operator due to rough seas. A full refund will be applied to your account and will be reflected within 24 hours. We do apologize for any inconvenience caused. Thank you, Port Adventures Team.
Ok, now for plan B…. Well, we didn’t have a plan B as we booked the Port Adventure and didn’t really do any homework on the logistics of touring Santorini on our own. I decided to take a swim in the sea of aggravated passengers at the Port Adventures desk to see if they had a port area map or a least one of those port shopping guides to use as a shortcut for coming up with the plan for today. The fine folks provided the following map, which wasn’t helpful in the moment, but it was extremely helpful in better understanding the reason the tour operators cancelled most excursions. Port Adventures tender from the ship to Athinios where guests board ground transportation. The excursion ends in Fira and then you tender back to the ship from the Old Port. Given the distance the Disney Dream was to Athinios and the sea conditions, the tendering process to Athinos was the root cause of the cancellations.
The only way for guests to go ashore for all 3 cruise ships is to tender to the Old Port. The Old Port is located at the base of a 1,312 feet high caldera created some 3,600 years ago during the Minoan eruption.
Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. What looks like a road on the map is actually a staircase with nearly 800 steps. There are 3 ways to the top if you wanna explore Santorini: Chair Lift, Donkey Ride up the stairs, or walk up the stairs. Awesome, let’s go!
However, this is where the day seemed like was going downhill, and started to feel like it was about to become a scenic day at sea. There was an announcement to inform guests tendering was halted due to backup at pier chair lift. The line for the chair lift was somewhere between a 2 and 3 hour wait. With passengers from 3 cruise ships tendering, this created a massive line on the pier which caused the tendering process.
At this point we had no idea if were are going to get ashore, but we decide to stay ready so we could head ashore as soon as there was an announcement that tendering resumed. For now, we choose to see what we can see from the upper decks. We can all this way, at least we can see Oia in the distance.
One of the activities we enjoy as a family often when sailing on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy is mini golf! A noticeable difference was the change to wooden golf balls popularized in Scotland in the 14th – 17th centuries which are more environmentally friendly when they inevitably end up in the water hazard.
Post round we resumed our walk around upper decks. May as well soak in the sights if we end up being stuck onboard today.
The 25th Anniversary flag was flying along with the Bahamian and Greece flags on the forward radar tower.
Synergy when it counts! About quarter after 10AM, Hercules was just beginning to play on Funnel Vision!
Do my eyes deceive me? Are those tenders tendering? To our knowledge, there has not been any ship wide announcement about the resumption of the tenders. LET’S GO!!!!
We headed down to get in line for a tender. The line was just up the first set of stairs from deck 1 confirming my suspicion that there was no announcement. While there was no guarantee the line was moving, we joined in at approximately 10:40AM. MOVEMENT! A tender arrived, loaded guests, and we were able to move down to the deck 1 landing. I did not see the name tags from my vantage point, but there were Port Adventures crew members stationed outside the elevators directing guests without accessibility needs to go back up, and join the growing line on the stairs. This was awesome, as it prevented line jumping.
At 11 AM we boarded the tender. By the way, there was a lack of onboard guest communication as there still hasn’t been an announcement over the PA, or in the app alerting guests onboard that the tenders resumed service. We will find out later in the day that a lot of guests did not get off the ship because there was never an announcement that tendering had resumed.
Ahoy, we’re tendering, a dream come true.
As we were making the 15 minute journey to the pier, we could see the chair lift line..
Ok, so cross off the chair lift. We still had two options – saddle up, or walk! We opted for the adventurous option and got in line for the donkeys.
The line for the donkeys was about 45 minutes, roughly a little longer than estimated to walk up the stairs or so we were told.
The line was not bad, most of the wait was in the shade and there were provisions available. I opted for a Yellow Donkey from the Santorini Brewing Company. The guy working in 588 Cafe Bar was great, not often you encounter a business alerting customers they that they picked the most expensive beer pointing out cheaper alternatives on the sign. I figured if I am in line to ride a donkey, in Santorini, I should enjoy a local beer with donkey in the name.
While in line, we strolled past the Donkey Souvenir Station gift shop that could possibly spark an impromptu birds and the bees conversation.
Mistakes were made. The idea crossed my mind, but I didn’t think it would work… However, one gentleman had the genius idea to walk up to the front of the line and overpay for the €10 donkey ride thus bypassing the line. Consider it the Genie+ knockoff, Donkey+.
The wait did yield this fun view of the Disney Dream.
It was time to take the express route up the stairs.
The donkey ride up took about 20 minutes, well my donkey did it in 20 minutes. Emily and Isabelle’s donkeys stuck to the pack and arrived at the top about 5 minutes later.
Here is a video of the donkey ride up the Karavolades stairs.
The view from the top was dreamy.
It was now 12:30 PM and something wasn’t right. Just when I was starting to lose all hope, we spotted one… A CAT!!!!
I took a picture of this map for reference, but ended up just using the maps app on my phone. I blurred out the QR code on the sign because the url directed to a page under construction and who knows if it will be legitimate or not once it is live.
The plan was to head over to the taxi area and get a lift over to Oia, but first we needed to stop at a bank ATM for some Euros. Greece has been a bit of a change for us, we are encountering more and more places that prefer cash or simply do not accept cards. As we walked over towards the taxi area, we spotted a sign for a bus station.
There was a bus leaving for Oia in about 15 minutes with tickets €1.60 per person. Taxi, what taxi?? If you are interested in learning more about the bus options click over to Santorini Public Buses.
Fun story, bus was standing room only, but it was dirt cheap and a small price to pay for the 30 minute ride on a somewhat air conditioned motor coach.
About 1:30 PM we departed the bus in Oia and set out to find a place for lunch of which there were plenty of restaurants to pick from. Within 15 minutes, we were seated at Skala Restaurant.
Once again, another amazing lunch in Greece. Yesterday in Athens, a women at a nearby table ordered what appeared to be a lasagna dish which I discovered was Moussaka. It looked interesting and when I saw it on Skala’s menu, I jumped at the opportunity to try it. It was special, but not the best dish to have on a warm day walking around Greece. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious. Unlike the version served at Athina in Athens, this Moussaka was baked in a mini clay pot with a rich and creamy béchamel layer atop the mixture of minced beef, eggplant, and potato. It would make for a perfect cold weather meal when the temps dip below 70ºF in Florida.
It felt a like salmon swimming upstream at time navigating the crowds walking around Oia, but we managed to walk around the various pathways and found our way to a number of the blue domed churches.
If you squint, you can make out the Disney Dream in the distance from the primary walkway in Oia.
Santorini Oia Saint Artemios Church
Santorini Oia Resurrection of the Lord Holy Orthodox Church
Another one of those artsy photos of flowers with the Dream in the background.
If you didn’t take a family selfie in Oia with the blue domes did you even visit Oia?
FINALLY!!! An Oia cat, resting inside an air conditioned shop.
Unfortunately, these signs were needed to request Oia visitors to respect their homes. The website on the sign is not active, but the Facebook page is online and highlights some of the more egregious guest behaviors such as climbing on the rooftops to get that social media photo just right. Additionally, there are private walkways with clear signage asking visitors to stay away, but we saw a lot of what Save Oia would consider disrespectful behavior.
Santorini Oia Church of Panagia Akathistos Hymn
Santorini Oia Blue Domed Church
While the shopping wasn’t on our agenda, we did pass a few shops including one with a couple of wooden Pinocchio dolls, and another shop with a massive sand castle molds.
Overall, I am glad we made it over to Oia to see the sights, churches, and eat lunch, but other than that, there was not much else to do outside of shopping.
It was approaching 3 o’clock, so we made our way back towards the bus stop. The tickets are purchased with cash and coins right outside the bus. There really isn’t a line, just a mob situation. They were requesting exact change for tickets, and after missing the Donkey+ skip the line pass, Emily handed the ticket seller €5 (for the 3 €1.60 tickets) and said keep the change allowing up to skip past the folks digging in their pockets for exact change. The bus departed Oia for Fira at 3:15PM.
The ride back to Fira seemed much quicker probably because we had seats this time.
Arriving back in Fira with a little over 4 hours before our all aboard time meant we had more than enough time to casually walk around before making our decent back to board the tender in the Old Port.
The morning cat was now relaxing on the patio outside the same building we walked by in the morning.
I’m #1!, Oh Mickey… that isn’t very nice. This hat certainly is not available to buy onboard.
There were some opportunities for some framed ship pictures, but just like Mykonos, the Disney Dream was not in the right spot while we in the area.
Regardless, the walkway up in Fira does offer an excellent photo opportunity.
While we were walking around the shops, we checked on the chair lift line and while it was manageable, we ultimately decided to just walk down.
I was not sure what to expect walking down the Karavolades stairs after seeing the how pedestrians were at times squashed against the walls by the donkeys, but it wasn’t busy at all. I think a lot more folks take the donkeys up the stairs than down.
The decent was uneventful, it took 25-30 to decent while taking careful steps not to slip on the stone. Isabelle beat us down by at least 10 minutes. I was not interested in hurting myself in an attempt to keep up.
We made a quick pit stop back at the 588 Cafe bar for some stateroom provisions.
There was a short wait, and we boarded the second tender at 5 o’clock to head back to the Disney Dream.
I stopped off at the District Lounge for a beer after the shower pecking order was established.
So proud of the family, we managed a quick turnaround and made it Royal Palace by 6PM for dinner tonight was from the Captains Gala menu.
Originally our PA was scheduled in the AM, but then moved to 11a which would have brought us back right around all aboard time. As a result, we were not planning on going to dinner tonight and told our server this early in the cruise. However, since we were back onboard early, I was impressed by our serving team who didn’t miss a beat. They have been excellent. Isabelle decided to order a baked potato for her appetizer, which was a brilliant move on her part.
I almost forgot to look for the Disney Wish on the mural behind guest services. Initially, I thought the Wish was slightly different, but the more I look at this picture, it would appear the ship was a duplicate of the Dream-class marker. Is there a difference?
The evening started with a trip to the laundry room which thankfully had availability!
Emily and I returned to Bon Voyage for the Porthole, which was an infusion made with Blanton’s. It was no longer the 2019 version that I remember. When we last ordered The Porthole in Alaska on the Disney Wonder, we were served the entire Porthole infusion along with a Rekorderlig Cider as a topper. It is now about $6 more, and we were served a 1/3 of the offering we enjoyed on the Wonder. I still have The Porthole infuser on my wish list if anyone is looking to get me something nice. JUST KIDDING.
Once again, standing room only in Pub 687 for trivia. The Disney Dream really needs a bigger venue for trivia.
We bounced from trivia after realizing we had not chance at Movie Quotes trivia and were rewarded with a gorgeous sail away from Santorini from arguably the best seats on the ship.
One fun fact about deck 4, it is not uncommon for characters to pass by on their way to and from a meet and greet.
The Deck 4 experience never disappoints. If you are ever looking for me, there is a good chance I’m in one of the lounge chairs.
I think the DCL Navigator App server had the remainder of The Porthole on an empty stomach. The notifications were all over the place when it came to information on the washer and dryers. Of note, we never did any laundry on Deck 2…..
After picking up the clothes from Dryer ? in the default laundry room, it was time for bed to rest up for our final port day, Chania.