The first days of the cruise were spent at sea. “Sea Days” tend to be my favorite days on any cruise, allowing me to relax completely without creating a minute-to-minute itinerary for thoroughly exploring a new city or island in just a few hours.
My sea days on the Celebrity Silhouette were long and lazy. I’d sleep in, order breakfast on my balcony and then head to the quiet Solstice deck on level 15 for some intense summer sunbathing. I caught up on my favorite magazines in the Library Lounge and participated in a workshop or two that piqued my interest– like the Riedel Wine Workshop, which demonstrates how the shape and quality of a wine glass can affect the taste and smell of various wines, and the Imovie workshop, so I could finally learn to use this useful application on my Mac. Throw some casino time in, gym time, lots of sipping, even more eating, late night dancing and some special events with the Captain – I probably would have been more than content with 12 “sea days.” But alas, Greece was calling; and Santorini is an experience not to be missed.
I took the first tender off the ship to get a head start up to the cliff tops of Fira, Santorini’s main port city. I wanted to climb the massive zig-zagged staircase; but after a few dozen donkeys nearly decapitated me and I slipped on an unavoidable mound of donkey doo, I opted for the easier cable car option (an animal rights advocate, I didn’t have the heart to ride the donkey in 100 degree heat). Once on the touristy hilltop, I rented a car at Hertz for 65 Euros, grabbed a map, and Santorini was my oyster. I traversed most the island in a single day, spending the majority of time in the north, at Oia, the postcard-perfect town you see in every ad for Greek tourism. Blue capped, whitewashed buildings stacked along the mountainside peering over vibrant aquamarine waters, flanked by bustling tavernas and colorful small fishing boats. This is the Greece of timeless romance and unwavering culture – somehow frozen in time despite the pressures of globalization. I gorged on the best meal of 2011 at Taverna Kristina – a small restaurant on the waterfront, serving the classics better than ever– tzaziki, grilled calamari, eggplant salad, Greek salad – the works. I asked the jolly and stocky owner if she had a website to share for this blog posting, but it was soon clear that nobody on this old school pier had probably ever used the internet …
A day in Athens and another sea day, and the Celebrity Silhouette was soon approaching Israel. With three nights docked in Israel, I organized an overland itinerary to see as much as possible in my first voyage to the heart of the Holy Land. With a jam-packed schedule from Haifa to Akko to Tiberias to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and a fabulous tour guide by my side, it was time to immerse myself in the breathtaking, all-inspiring and often misunderstood epicenter of cultural, political, and historical warfare – incredible Israel.