Greece Aegean Sea Cruise

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Our cruise ship, the Celestyal Crystal

The Crystal is small as cruise ships go. I think we have about 600 passengers and 400 crew.  We have a suite and we both are enjoying the smaller size of this ship.  There is lots to offer, restaurants, theater, casino, spa, pool. The welcome fruit tray and champagne on ice was a nice touch!

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I was quite surprised by how serious the safety drill was taken, this was not just a wander down to your muster station but a full drill, with sirens, everyone in their life jackets with the Captain and first mate coming to all the muster stations to inspect.

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Day 1  Mykonos Island

img_2689We booked a tour of Mykonos Island.  This is the first Cruise and tours of the season so there were a few logistics to sort out but we just went with the flow.  I was glad for a hoodie and wind breaker as it was bloody cold with a strong wind.  The tour was a great way to see a lot of the Island.  It is small, taking the bus only 20 minutes to  cross from one side to the other.

Most of the Mykonos people have given up their traditional lively hoods such as farming and have turned to tourism.  But we did get to see a cheese making operation that has been making cheese for generations.  No chemicals or preservative here, we were able to try the 100% pure yogurt and one of the soft cheeses.  Their milk comes from cows, goats and sheep depending on the type of cheese they are making.  The yellow roadside flowers you see here grow like our daisy’s and dandelions all over Mykonos.

Here are a few shots of the countryside as we drove across the Island. There are no fences, the fields are divided by low rock walls.

We visited the Monastary of  Panagia Tourliani  established in 1542,(originally know as the presentation of the Virgin Mary).  This is a Greek Orthodox Church attached to the monastary.

You know where the people spent their money just look inside this church.  The back iconostasis (alter screen) is made of wood, covered in gold leaf built in Florence in 1775 and moved to Mykonos.

I especially was drawn to the simpler lower wall panels that are very old wood painted with designs.

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Our next stop was to see the famous windmills of Mykonos, they were used to grind flour for bread.  Today they are not used but maintained as monuments.  It was very windy, they definitely chose thier location well for windmills!

Mykonos is most know for it’s beaches and night life, we stopped at one of the beaches and while it was beautiful, we have our Vancouver Island beaches like Long Beach so weren’t as wowed as many of our tour group. The kids had a great time with the waves.  As far as night life goes, that’s way past my bedtime.

A treat for west coast gardener’s eyes was the bougainvillea blooming on many entrance ways.  Average winter temperatures for these islands is between 8 and 12 degrees so they get an early start.

The streets are winding and very narrow, this we learned was for protection. Invaders and pirates would get lost in the maze of streets allowing the people to escape.  The buildings are rounded because of the high winds that blow through, rounding the corners stops the whistling of the wind.

Day 2 Milos

The cruise ship does not dock in Milos, rather it anchors off shore and people are ferried to the dock by “tender” which is the name for the ships life boats.  I always wondered what it would be like to be in a life boat and this was a much safer way to try it out than in a real emergency.

Peter and I loved Milos, it has only recently started to become a tourist island and is far more natural and culturally intact.  Our tour was focused on how the geology of the island has impacted it’s history.  Our guide was a young man of Milos who clearly loved his island and was passionate about the tour’s topic.  He really was excellent. One of the hi lights of this tour was a walk to an inlet of pure white stone sculpted by volcanic eruptions called Sarakinio.  It looks like a moonscape against the turquoise Aegean Sea.

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One of the sea caves that pirates would use to hide in.

Another place that we went was the ancient ruins of Melos and its Roman amphitheater with seats cut into the rock slope. At one time it could accommodate 10,000 people.  This location is also the place that the Venus de Milo (now residing in the Louvre in Paris) was discovered in 1820.  The country side was stunning, we have been told that we are very fortunate to see so many flowers as this is most unusual and is due to the record rainfall they have had this spring.

The village of Plaka is 250 meters above the sea with original architecture and incredible views of the sea.

Milos is a place that I could see us coming back to for a longer holiday.  Hopefully it can maintain its essence despite the approach of heavy tourism, time will tell.  Our guide told us that while the children of Milos must leave  the island for high school and higher education, they always return.  There is work and they love their island and way of life.  There are no movie theaters, or shopping malls.  In the winter the people enjoy live plays, concerts and community time in the squares.  There is some hunting and sport fishing.  If they want a change they have a weekend in Athens or do some travelling.  Such a different life from ours. The olive trees on the islands always stay within the family. When a son is born his father plants a small grove of olive trees and they remain his for life.  So a family plot of land will have olive trees that belong to the son, the father, the grandfather and on and on.

A small grove of olive trees
I came across these stone fresco’s in the courtyards. They are so pretty that I didn’t want to walk on them but I suppose millions of people have. Some are very old and some newer.Some final shots of charming Milos.
Days 3 & 4 Santorini

Getting off the ship to go to Santorini is again with a small boat.  In Santorini the boat union has the job so no life boats this time.  Santorini is of course very beautiful and iconic.  It is also very commercialized for tourism.  Prices are hugely inflated and there are lots of “rubber tomahawk” shops as Peter calls them.  We did find some interesting little local shops and enjoyed seeing where the rich and famous stay on holidays.

The island gets no rain from June to September in yet. the island produces large amounts of grapes for their wine production.  We saw plots of grapes everywhere.  The secret we discovered is how they grow the grapes.  In the fall at pruning time the vines are woven into what looks like a basket low to the ground.  In the spring/summer the leaves grow up and over the woven basket forming an umbrella for the grapes.  This protects them from the sun, heat and dust.  They are totally dependent on humidity and dew for water and this system gives the plants the most use of the moisture available.

Our second day at Santorini was very windy, crew that had been working here for over ten years had not seen it like this.  Our trip to the island on the small boat was an adventure on it’s own!  The boat rocked a rolled all the way to dock side, crew were very careful to help everyone on and off as you had to time it just right – boat to ramp mid wave.

Yesterday we had begun the day delivered to the new harbor that has a road wide enough for the tour buses, then took the tram down to the old harbor to go back to the ship.

Today we would start at the old harbor and could take the tram up, ride a donkey up the steps or walk.  We had decided to walk the 587 steps up to the village.  My family that like to do the stairs at home for exercise you will be impressed with us!  We took the stairs down at the end of the day too.

Santorini was fun and interesting and a Check off on the old bucket list but we are finding some of the other islands more to our liking.  So glad to have been here.)

4 thoughts on “Greece Aegean Sea Cruise”

  1. Time to chime in. Awesome job of sharing your wonderful vacation. What a beautiful cabin. Home many square feet? I’m hoping you are now seeing some birds. You might keep your eyes peeled for those still migrating north as they cross the Aegean. We experienced them landing on our cruise ship. Enjoy…ha ha ha of course you’ll enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

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