There were six ships in the harbor at Santorini Celebrity, MSC, Azamara, Holland America, and Saga. Azamara was definitely the smallest with just under 700 passengers, but the Celebrity Equinox more than made up for our size. So it was probably over 6000 people descending on the city for the day. In response, the port officials had to stage all of the tender operations so as to not completely overwhelm their ability to welcome people to their city. Meaning, the gondola ride to the top and the poor donkeys carrying people not willing to wait in line for the gondola.
One of the many nice things about the Azamara line is that we stay in port longer than anyone else. Whereas most cruise lines will arrive at a port around 8AM and leave by 5PM Azamara will stay until 10 or 11PM. This has many great benefits in that you can stay ashore much longer, and even have dinner on shore if you like. Or if you have dinner on the ship you are doing it while the ship is anchored! It also goes a long way to reducing the stress around getting out and back from a shore excursion.
Nevertheless, when we arrived on shore the line to take the cable car up the hill stretched across the port. It looked like it was going to take two hours just to get into town but in the end the lined moved fairly quickly and it was only 30 minutes.
The island of Santorini is really just the rim of an ancient volcanic caldera that sticks up above the water. Its easy to see the outline of the circle in this picture:
Our goal for the day was to escape the crowds in the city by hiking from Fira to Oia a five mile walk along the rim of the caldera. Through all of the white villages with their shops and hotels. It sounded pretty easy and it didn't even look like a very long walk when we were starting out. But it felt a lot longer as there was no breeze and the temperature got up to 32 C or about 90 F. The title of this post is a bit dramatic, as it was not that bad of a walk, and although in a few places we walked through volcanic gravel that insisted on getting in our shoes we had 3 hours of amazing views.
When we arrived in Oia we badly needed a shower, or a dip in one of the many pools we passed on the way. Instead we found a nice little shady restaurant and revived ourselves with some carbonara and a glass of wine. We had escaped the crowds of Fira, seen a lot of beautiful scenery, and worked off a few calories hiking in the heat. It was a great day. Yes, it felt like a forced march a few times along the path to Oia in the heat, but as part of life's journeys this was worth the effort.
Meanwhile, back on the ship is was Azamara's white night night. Everyone was out on deck dressed in white and the crew was serving a great dinner. They had the webber kettle going and there were some great greek kabobs and other good food. To top off the evening we watched another great sunset over the rim of the volcano.