Saturday, July 5, 2008

Monarch cruise - Heraklion, Santorini

Today is the 3rd and last day of our Monarch cruise. Our first port of call was Heraklion, the capital of Crete and we docked at 7am. We went ashore after the buffet breakfast to explore the town of Heraklion. This was the most tourist unfriendly among the islands that we have visited so far in the sense that we have to walk about 15 minutes before we reached the main touristic street of the town. This is probably because Crete is the biggest of the Greek islands and there are many other towns besides Heraklion unlike the smaller islands where the port of call is the main town and it needs to capture the tourists right away. Anyway, not many shops were open since it was a Sunday and we learned later, it was also Pentecost day (in the Greek Orthodox calendar), a major religious holiday. The main attraction of Heraklion is the Palace of Knossos nearby that is the largest of the Minoan civilisation. Well, we gave this a miss since the ladies were more interested in modern shopping than ancient civilisation! We did pass by the Venetian fortress in the old harbour so we have taken in some history. Below are some views of Heraklion.

The next and last island on the cruise is the island of Santorini, often called the most romantic island of Greece, if not the world. As we approached the harbour of Scala in Santorini, we were advised to be on deck to take in the spectacular view of the volcanic cliffs.

As soon as we reached land, we headed for a coach tour of the island and the wonderful, wonderful village of Oia. This is a photographer's dream come true. I have seen many beautiful photos of Santorini (actually of Oia) and had wished that I could take similar photos and now my wish came true. Everything that I've seen previously in photos is real and is right in front of my eyes. So folks, feast your eyes on the photos below and let your mind wonder in this dream world.

From Oia, we wen to the town of Fira, the capital of Santorini. It is a bit like Oia but after seeing Oia, anything else is second best. Still, there are some beautiful views too as captured below.

From Fira, we took the cable car down to the pier of Scala and we boarded a tender back to the cruise ship in time for our formal dinner tonight. Tonight's dinner was an international affair and after that we attended a gala show. Thus ended our last night of the cruise and we sailed back to Piraeus from dreamy Santorini.

Ronald Kwok

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