Friday, November 15, 2013

Celebrity Equinox Mediterranean ports of Santorini and Naples: stressand repose

By Jane Feehan
Check labels for additional Celebrity posts on this blog.

The Equinox pulled into the Greek isle of Santorini, along with four other ships on the same day. I’m told this doesn’t happen often. About 9,000 people made their way on tenders at nearly the same time like an invading army to the shores of this picturesque port. To see anything, visitors must make their way to the top of this volcanic island via cable car or donkey. We didn’t pay for a ship excursion, which runs about $90 to $345 per person. The $345 tour takes visitors to a volcanic site, another port and a wine tasting—not worth it. Many told us before our cruise that few take excursions on Santorini.

So … we were on our own, along with most of  9,000 others. Locals offer a 20-minute boat trip as an option (for 12 Euros) to the very long wait for the cable cars to another part of Santorini where a bus took us to the beautiful village of Oia. There, we wandered through narrow streets amid brilliant white stone buildings for about 45 minutes before hopping a waiting bus for a 15 minute ride to Fira.

There are many stores in Fira, some operated by Americans, all targeting tourists. Small caf├ęs with spectacular views abound. We lunched at a place we picked at random where we took in a spectacular, panoramic view. The food—Greek salads and fish—was nearly as good as the view.  It made up for the ordeal to come.

Literally thousands waited in a line for six cable cars to catch their tender to the ship. We decided instead to walk down a cobble stone donkey trail (rides are five Euros one way) picking our way over smelly mounds of manure through hundreds of tethered or wandering animals. It took an interminable 45 minutes in warm weather; it was extremely stressful. One woman collapsed at the bottom of the cliff and was placed in a wheelchair. The descent diminished our Santorini experience. Thankfully, we had a day at sea to recover before a stop in Naples.

Though steeped in history, and a chief port in Italy, Naples is not a tourist destination. But the ruins of
Pompeii lie a few miles away as well as the beautiful Amalfi coast, Positano and Sorrento. We weren’t up for a nine-hour day on this stop (too much night life) so chose a five or six hour Sorrento excursion ($50 each). Other excursions to Pompeii and the Amalfi coast ran $135 to $345 per person.

We relaxed on an hour and a half drive along the coast, took photos and spent two free hours in this pretty town for a couple of hours. This was a Sunday and plenty of locals (who look so stylish even in jeans) and tourists were out walking about enjoying the good weather and Christmas decorations. Sorrento is known for producing fine wooden lacquered boxes, olive oil, and lemon soaps. Tip: don’t buy anything at a store the guide steers you to to as a meeting place; it’s twice as expensive than others with the same merchandise because they get a commission.

We arrived back at around 2 p.m.—ready for another night of culinary glee, fine wine and good music. Our last stop: Rome. Check labels for additional Celebrity posts on this blog.

Tags: Celebrity Equinox Mediterranean cruise, Sorrento, Santorini

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