Thursday, July 9, 2009

Santorini - Mykonos, Greece - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise – Celebrity Solstice

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 Continued – Formal Night

We are still trying to get seating in the Dining Room – we have to wait until everyone else is seated and then we get was is left over. We do get a table for two tonight and we look great in our formal wear

formal night 1

Showtime tonight is the first production show - “Ghost Light: Spirits of Broadway” performed by the Solstice Singers and Dancers. The four lead singers are great and the dancers are OK – the show consists of highlights from “Hairspray, West Side Story, Wicked, Miss Saigon, Carousel, My Fair Lady, Rent, and a few we didn’t recognize. It was a bit loud but entertaining.

After the show, we took in the terrific group, SoulD Out, performing in the entertainment circle (too small for the crowd that gathered). Before the place got too packed I did manage to get a picture of the singers

SoulD Out

Happy feet time – we get two comp tickets for the “Pyrgos Village” excursion in Santorini – the excursion gods continue to smile on us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 – Santorini, Greece – 87F – Sunny

We are scheduled to anchor at the beautiful Greek Island of Santorini around 1 PM. Santorini has about 16,000 permanent residents but like all tourist islands, it gets about 100,000 visitors annually.

Because of the late arrival, my second talk is scheduled for the awkward time of 11:30 AM – I am not sure what kind of attendance I will have because I am competing with the Buffet and people are getting ready for their excursions.

The talk - “The Science of CSI” is attended by about 45 people but I lost about 5 minutes or more to double announcements from the Captain and Cruise Director, Dru Pavlov. So I barely made it in the required 50 - 55 minutes – people started to leave as soon as it was over to get to lunch and be on their way. It’s OK.

The Solstice is anchored in the middle of the Caldera (see explanation below) with a terrific view of FIra Town on the cliff top.

Fira Town Santorini

At 2:45 PM Ellen and I are both in the Solstice Theater to pick up our tour groups – about 45 in each bus – for our Tour: “"Pyrgos Village”. Soon we are on our way in a very comfortable ACd bus with our guide Kostas (very knowledgeable and fluent in English). Our first stop is at the Mount Profitis Elias Monastery (only three monks are still holding down the fort:

Mount of Profitis Elisas Monastery

From here, we can see the Akrotiri Peninsula to the South, famed for its archeological discovery of villages wiped out by volcanic blasts in the past (no Pompeii bodies have been found)

akrotiri sourthern peninsula

Akrotiri in the distance

Speaking of volcanoes, Santorini is actually the remains of a huge volcano, which underwent a monster eruption around the sixteen century BC ejecting half the landmass of the island and forming the harbor (actually the caldera of the volcano). I am sure that I heard somewhere that this eruption may have been the scientific basis for the biblical plagues of the Exodus (e.g. darkness, and fiery hail, at least).

From the monastery, we head to the quant town of Pyrgos, situated on another hill on the island. The town is typical Greek, with narrow streets and whitewashed structures.

Pyrgos from Tavern

There is hardly any water on this island (desalinization and rain provide the water) but the main industry – besides the tourists – is winemaking. The vineyards are watered primarily through dew that is absorbed by the volcanic pumice soil. Amazing.

We take a brisk walking tour through Pyrgos (narrow, uneven streets, no shade) ending up at the top of the town (a church). There was one unusual site at a nearby abandoned home site – an Israeli-American artist constructed a piece of sculpture. He then divided the piece into seven segments and 0placed these items at seven sites around the world – one of these sites in this abandoned slab in Santorini and here is the work of art – you decide.

Israeli American Art - 1 of 7 pieces

Our final destination is Fira Town, the capital of Santorini. We tried to find an internet cafe (the island has free wireless for its inhabitants but an i-cafe could not be found. You could tell by the homes and restaurants that Fira Town and Santorini cater to an affluent crowd. For example, check out this cliff side restaurant in Fira Town

fancy restaurant in Fira Town

Fira Town had some great views of the Caldera and nearby islands including this one of the Solstice in front of Mea Kameni Island.

Solstice from Fira Town

By this time, it was getting late and we still had to get back to the port below. There are only three ways to get down from Fira Town: Donkeys (yeah, sure); walking 597 steps (right); and the aerial tram cars (cable cars, they are called) (a series of six cars each with six passengers) that move down the steep cliffs like a centipede.

The cable car lift

While I had some trepidation about these cars, the ride was fun (in wind it might be too much fun) and I did get a picture to document my trip down

view from Cable Car going down

We finally got back to the ship around 7:30 PM, grabbed a very tasty dinner in the buffer (ironic since we finally got a permanent table in the Dining Room) and went to hear comedian David Deeble in the Solstice Theater. This guy can’t seem to buy a laugh – maybe this is part of the act.

Thursday, July 9, 2009 – Mykonos, Greece – 86F – Sunny

The ship has already dock by the time I get up to the buffet. The weather is beautiful – not a cloud in the sky. We don’t have a tour today so we are taking the Shuttle Bus to Mykonos Town to shop and sightsee. Right now we are the only cruise ship in Tourlos Harbor.

Factoid: The term “Cruise Ship” actually was coined during the crusades - “Cruise” comes from the same root as “Cross” – the first ships to venture out into the world carried the cross on their sails (on their way to the crusades). Didn’t know that, did you?


Mykonos Town (Chora)

The bus ride was short and soon were walking the streets of Mykonos Town. We were trying to find an internet cafe and our journey took us all through the town (you would think that you could find places easily in a small town) – harder than it looked. We eventually did find our internet cafe but it was pretty much where we started our trek. The issue was the heat made all that more acute due to the white buildings reflecting the sun’s heat. There were some interesting sites in the town – a small beach


A series of windmills with no sails

Windmills Mykonos

There are also the quaint narrow streets one associates with Greek villages (and Ellen)

Mykonos Street

And scenic harbors (yes, that’s me).

HMT Mykonos Harbor

One thing that we didn’t expect: While looking for a spa to get a relaxing Greek Massage, we noticed a fellow wearing a “Massage Experience” shirt and asked him where his place was. He decided that a short free massage right there on the street was the best endorsement for his place. The price was right but the ship was leaving before we would be able to get over there – maybe next time.

Free Massage for ET

Too much heat – so back to the ship. The Solstice crew has ice soaked towels waiting for returning passengers – a real nice touch. We had a very nice lunch in the buffet. Just a note, the brand new Ruby Princess is now anchored in the bay setting up a “Clash of the Titans” of super cruise ships.


I should mention that we did meet a local celebrity while in Mykonos Town. He is Petros II, the town mascot


a huge pelican and successor to Petros I, who was run down by a car 10 years ago. No, I did not get his autograph.


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