Day 91 April 4 (Santorini, Greece)

Wow! What scenery! Beautiful place. I had a tour scheduled which included a hike up an active volcano and then a chance to swim in heated sea water near a volcanic "spring" which was said to produce as warm as 37ºC water (that converts to about 98ºF).

This was the only port we have visited which required us to use their tenders. This seemed like an inconvenience until we found them to be more comfortable than our own. All complaining stopped at that point. Our tenders are just our bigger lifeboats and have molded plastic seats without any cushions. These local tenders were nicer and did have pads on the seats. They also had a fair amount of wood trim which looks nicer. I suspect they often have several cruise ships anchored in the caldera (ancient collapsed volcano center which forms the circular island group that is Santorini) and don't want tender pilots from different ships running into each other trying to get to the docks first or something like that. Anyway, it worked out in our favor.

We tendered in to the island's docks and then immediately boarded another boat to go to the volcano. This was actually located in the center of the caldera. The volcano is still active and after the first collapse has created several newer cones of lower height which have poked up in the middle of the caldera. Some of these have in turn collapsed back under the water level. The live volcano we visited is the latest of these. It is truly still active although no serious activity is threatened any time soon. In fact, when we hiked up we eventually arrived at the "smoking vents" and it was not real exciting. Sort of like me trying to photograph my breath in Sevastopol. You could see the smoke but it didn't show up on my still pics. I hope it is visible on my video but I haven't had a chance to look at it. The climb was a bit of a challenge for many of our geriatric set. The path is well defined but is covered with several inches of gravel (made from volcanic rock). It was sort of like walking on a loose sand beach with the added complication that we were climbing a several hundred meter high hill. Not a climb for the impaired (it was marked as challenging physically in the brochure). In fact, by the end of our hike the new passenger in our group (teenager - high school junior whose grandmom invited him to join her on the last part of our cruise) was commenting that his legs were tired by the end of the hike. Heh, heh. My legs were just fine thank you. All that running paid off.

After the volcano we sailed to another area where there was obviously a sulfur spring at the edge of the lagoon. Only problem...we had to swim from where the boat anchored to the hot water (a distance of about 100 yards). Oh, sorry. One other problem. The "hot" water wasn't always 37ºC. Just in the summer which this wasn't! Your's truly knew that the water temperature in the nearby water where the Amsterdam was anchored was 53.9ºF this morning. It is barely spring here and if you think I was going to jump into icy cold water (ok, I know it was not "icy" cold but I also know I don't like 70º water when I go to the beach in the summer!) ... So I wimped out. Sue me. Maybe I'll come back some summer and give it a try. It was the volcano climb which really interested me anyway. If I want hot sulfur springs I can always go to Yellowstone right? Work with me here!

So, after about 9 hardy souls jumped in and swam to the "hot" water and returned (reporting it was not really "hot" of course) we returned to the populated part of Santorini. I took the Finicula to the top to save time because I wanted to have some food and walk around the area on top and we had to be back at the dock in about two and a half hours or we would be left behind. They only wait if you are on a HAL tour. I found nice open air lunch place. Had a lamb pita gyro and a Mythos beer. Both were quite good. I started walking after lunch and almost immediately one of my Tai Chi classmates called to me and asked if I wanted some free internet time. She and her husband had not used about 30 minutes of what they had purchased and it would go to waste.... That is when I sent my email to those of you who got it. Hope it was all of you. If not, this contains most of what was in it if not all.

After using about 20 minutes of internet I had to get going. I was not certain of the last shuttle time we had to make. I figured better safe than sorry (translate sorry to stranded). I had thought about walking down the path instead of using the Finicula but decided I might not have time. Besides, the footpath is also the donkey path (they will - for a fee of course - put you on a donkey and give you a ride up and/or down the footpath) and the donkeys are sort of like the Indians of Mumbai and don't seem to need private bathrooms so I understand the path can get slippery if you don't watch where you step.

I didn't write down what I did after returning to the ship but I think I just had dinner and went to bed a little early (probably skipped whatever show there was). If anyone has a burning desire to know shoot me an email. I have saved all daily programs and if I go back to that one it will remind me of what was going on and I'm sure I'll remember. Otherwise, I don't have time tonight. (I'm writing this on April 7th after two days in Venice and we have Split, Croatia tomorrow so I need to get on with this.)

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