Everyone says if you visit Santorini you have to go on a sunset cruise. Since I love both sunsets and boats, it was of the first activities on my list. However, when it came time to plan out our weekend, this proved to be a challenge. While reasonable prices had appeared months before, a month out, there were no trips available that weekend that were within our budget. So we decided to wait and see if our luck was better when we arrived or perhaps forgo the adventure this trip.
We got lucky. After arriving by plane and collecting our rental car, it was too early to check in to our Airbnb, so we decided to explore the island a bit. Seeing a sign for the port, we headed down a windy (think multiple switchbacks) road that ended in a parking lot at a small port. One of the storefronts advertised catamaran and yacht cruises, so we went in to inquire. We were offered a fair price that fell within our budget and signed up for a sunset cruise the following day.
At the appointed time, a driver for Spiridakos Sailing Cruises arrived to pick us up (included in the price) and we headed to Marina Vlihada, on the south end of the island. There we were met by the crew and after removing our shoes and tossing them in a laundry hamper, invited aboard “Happy Day.” In all, there were 15 passengers: our group of three, two men from Sri Lanka, a family from Brighton, England and a group from China (some of whom had studied in the U.S) and a crew of three: Captain Isidoro, Vagelis and Eleonora who were all friendly, engaging and professional. As the catamaran got underway, we chatted and got to know each other. When the boat hit open water, we were invited to move up to the bow area of the boat and offered beer, wine and soft drinks.
Traveling along the coast, our crew pointed out the red beach, warning us to be careful if we decided to venture there as there have been recent instances of rocks falling on the trail. There was a brief stop for a swim, (snorkels provided) then we cruised past the “white beach, which though not really a beach at all, is strikingly beautiful. The journey was relaxing and since this side of the island is cliffs, the approach from the water is the only way to get to see the unique geology hidden beneath.
Our cruise then took us around the lower tip of the island, past the lighthouse and then on to the Nea Kaeni volcano and hot springs where once again, anyone who wished to jumped off the boat for a swim. The water was reportedly “refreshing” which was enough to convince me I had made the right decision to stay onboard and take more photos. The hot springs were said to be warm, but according to one passenger, not as warm as the water coming from the hose the captain used to wash them off (keeping the yellow sulfur in the water rather than on their suits and in the boat). The tranquil scenery (including the Church of St, Nicolas at the water’s edge) held my interest while some of the others spent time in the water.
While this activity was going on, the crew was preparing dinner, both in the galley of the boat and on a grill set up on the rail. Dinner was served at two tables, inside and out, and was a delicious collection of fresh food: grilled chicken filleted fried fish, grilled jumbo shrimp, spaghetti with tomato sauce, a Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumber, feta) and bread with tzatziki or a yummy feta spread. As we finished eating, the tables were cleared and leftovers and scraps were dumped into a large basin. When the cleanup was complete, the captain announced it was time to feed the seagulls and tossed the contents of the basin overboard and we enjoyed the show as seagulls made repeated dives to collect our leftovers.
With happy full bellies and constant beverage refills, we began our journey back to the marina, still chatting with our new “friends.” The sun was setting behind us and though I took several looks back (and took a few pictures), the more compelling view was in front of us: the full moon high above the cliffs.
We got back to the marina, collected our shoes and were herded to the waiting “party bus” to take us back to our respective hotels. This ride was much noisier than the subdued one there – we had gotten to know each other a bit and some were still experiencing the effects of free flowing beverages. Being the first to be dropped off, we received an exuberant farewell from our fellow passengers. “Everyone” was right – this was a highlight of our trip.
Note: no compensation was provided for mention of any company here. The opinions are solely those of the writer.