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Old May 15th, 2007, 06:46 PM
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NCL Jewel - Virtual Cruise Report
May 15 - Santorini, Greece

The Jewel was scheduled to arrive to anchor off Santorini at 8 A.M. I woke up for a minute at 6:30, and saw we had already arrived, and we were just getting into position at anchor. We had not booked a tour here, and those in tour groups were tendered to shore first. They had been told when and where to meet on their tour tickets, and it was pleasant not having to listen to announcements about disembarking tours on deck. The entire process seemed to have gone very smoothly, because by 8:30 they were already announcing calls for those with tender tickets not on tours, and by 9 A.M. they announced open tenders.

(Santorini from the aft deck in the morning)

We left the ship shortly after 9, and it worked out perfectly. As we reached the dock there was a very short wait for the cable car to take us up the mountain, to the town of Fira. The Cable Car costs $4 Euro per person, and they do not sell return tickets.
One can also do the climb on the famous donkeys for the same $4 Euro per person.
I took video of the ride up in the cable car, but will have to wait until I get home to share it, as the file is too large to send from here.

Holland America’s Veendam and Westerdam arrived after us, but the Jewel seemed to have the superior anchor position, closer to the docks, and the exit from the tenders was right at the base of the cable car entry/exit. We were told once the passengers from the HAL ships began landing the cable car got quite lined up.

Later in the day, as we were set to return to the ship, the lines to get on the cable car for the trip down were extremely long. I had thought we should ride the donkeys down anyway, just for the experience, and earlier Mrs. Kuki had hesitated. Now, rather than walk down, she relented. The ride down was actually fun, and a bit of an adventure, as you trusted the burrows to climb down the slick stairs with slipping. They were surprisingly obedient to the man leading them down. At the bottom, looking back up the mountain to town, it was amazing to see how smoothly our descent had gone.

(This is me getting off at the end of the ride down)

The only thing is the donkey’s REALLY stink. No one wanted to sit near us on the tender back to the ship. We arrived back, and headed directly to the shower.

Later we did overhear conversation amongst other passengers about having to walk down the long winding steps to the dock because the cable car lines were so long, and some weren’t really in condition to be doing so.

But.. Back to the beginning of the day. As we exited the cable car, we began to stroll down the first side street we came across, and stopped at the first car rental spot we saw. With full insurance a 4 door automatic costs us $60 Euro for the day. The system all the rental car companies here us, is the vehicles only have the amount of gasoline in them that the previous renter left. After walking over to where the cars were actually kept, and signing the paper work, we saw the gas tank was almost empty. They told us there was a gas station just 2 Kilometers in either direction. So, we chose a direction and put in $10 Euros worth of gasoline. Therefore, the cost of the vehicle for the day was $70 Euro for the four of us.
If we had walked a few blocks farther there was many rental agencies along the street, and we may have found a less expensive agency.

Almost by accident we found the longer route to Oia (pronounced Eya), the town we wanted to visit. But the routes are quite well marked, so it would be tough to get lost. Taking the longer route worked out well as we got to see some of the countryside. Here’s some of my favorite pictures from the Oia. More can be found in the photo galleries.

Santorini is an amazing volcanic island. The entire center of the island sank during an enormous eruption 3500 years ago, and smaller islands consisting of black volcanic rock are visible just off the shores of today’s Santorini.
At the time of the eruption a tidal wave was created that virtually wiped out the Minoan Civilization on Crete. Aside from Fira and Oia there are 9 other villages on Santorini. The beaches and resorts of Santorini are located on the opposite end of the island, from Oia, and with our limited time in port we didn’t make it down that way.

By the way, Santorini is the only port on this itinerary where tendering is required.

Mrs. Kuki and I got a VERY special treat this evening as Captain Constantine Fafalios invited us to visit the bridge during the sail-a-away from Santorini. This Master of the Vessel is an Athenian, and truly a delightful personality. He most certainly demonstrates the wonderful hospitable Greek spirit I spoke about in yesterday’s report. And ladies with plans to sail the Jewel, he’s single!

Being on the bridge as they hoisted the anchor, and sailing past the tall walls of volcanic layers, with white buildings hanging on the edges of the cliffs offered us visually stunning views.

Captain Fafalios explained that there is only one anchor position at Santorini, and the other ships in today couldn’t drop anchor because there locations had seas to deep, therefore they had to maintain their positions all day by using the ship’s engines. The Jewel got access to the anchor position because the Master of the Vessel is Greek.

While on the bridge Captain Fafalios and I discussed the recent sinking of the “cruise ship? off of Santorini. He pointed out the location of the incident, and gave me binoculars to get a better look at the site, relatively close by. He then showed me the depth and position charts on the bridges computers, and explained why this incident occurred. Basically it seemed to me from the explanation that the small Greek owned ship got much too close to the shore, in an area that was simply not deep enough for it to transit safely. The Captain said the ship now lies at the bottom of 140 meters of sea.

As we spoke, and I was busy taking pictures, the Captain offered to take a picture of Mrs. Kuki and I, as we sailed past the hills, with Oia (the village we visited earlier in the day), on the edge of Santorini. It was a really nice offer, and we were chuckling as he took the picture taking assignment very seriously; getting down on his knees to get just the right angle. There was obviously no pretentiousness in this Captain. He really is, simply put, a nice guy!

We were also joined on the bridge by the Jewel’s Hotel Director, Armando De Silva, from Madeira Island. We loved stopping at Madeira on two previous transatlantic sailings we’ve done, so we had lots to talk about, and Armando told some great stories, and gave us some interesting history on the island. It really I a hidden gem on Mediterranean itineraries, and if you every get a chance to visit, no doubt you’ll agree.

Later in the evening we dined with Armando, and the Food & Beverage Director, Denis Prugda (who we’d previously sailed with on the Dawn). We met in the Star Bar before dinner, and had such delightful and animated conversation that I think our 8 PM reservation at Cagneys got closer to 9:00. But, dining with these two, I knew our table wouldn’t disappear. Dinner, was of course, outstanding, and the staff actually remembered our preferences from our previous two visits. Though tonight I crossed them up, and had an excellent Veal Chop instead of the steak. We lingered over dinner for quite some time, until both Armando and Denis had to go to work to check on the late night deck party.

Bridge tours are unfortunately not part of the “normal? cruise experience these days. We were allowed on the bridge because of CruiseMates relationship with NCL, and I’d previously done a “behind the scenes story? with Denis Prugda, not because we’re anyone special. We’re just known not to be any type of security risk.

I wanted to share the story with you because I think it’s important to know how very nice these people are, how dedicated they are to their professions, and how friendly and approachable they are. If you’re fortunate enough to sail on the Jewel with any of them, don’t be shy about walking up and saying hello!! They’ll most certainly be happy to take the time to talk to you. Tell them you’ve read all about them at CruiseMates. And if you’re onboard, I won’t be, so tell them I miss them, and look forward to the next time we can sail together.
Tomorrow is the last Greek port of call on this cruise, Mykonos. Captain Fafalios tells me it’s one of his favorite islands, and we should check out Paradise Beach, so that’s on our agenda.
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