A visit to the Mykonos and Santorini isles
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - September 18, 2017 - 4:00pm

Royal Princess at Sea: One thing they don’t tell you about taking a family cruise is that the cruise ship industry has not yet caught on the free Wi-Fi craze where even the most modest hotels or hostels give you free Wi-Fi. Well, I guess it is because you are a captive client so they charge $64 for the use of their Internet, which is very expensive. So the only time we get Wi-Fi is when we stop at any of our ports of call. So this vacation also means a vacation from the use of our cellphones or laptops.

Tours on each destination also cost an arm and a leg… but the resourceful in us found better and cheaper ways. For instance instead of paying $89  per person for a guided tour to Katakolon, the port of call for the town of Olympia, the site of the 1st Olympic games, we found a taxicab would charge us only $180 for the 40-kilometer trip back and forth to Olympia and back to port. That’s exactly what we did and we had a great time seeing the ruins of what used to be Olympic game facilities complete with a gymnasium, baths and a track and field. It was in the year 776 BC in Olympia 3,000 years ago when they held their first Olympic games.

There were only two cruise ships that docked in Katakolon port and that meant nearly 7,000 tourists visiting Olympia and the whole place was crawling with tourists. Traveling to Olympia from Katakolon meant passing lonely traffic free roads lined with olive trees or grape vineyards. The only traffic you would encounter are the tour buses that service the cruise ships.

Olympia was once the sanctuary of Zeus the Greek God, and legend has it that this was the birthplace of Apollo, one of the gods in Greek mythology. When the Greeks fell under the Romans and an imperial edict was made to stop the games, and in AD 426 the Romans destroyed Olympia and the destruction made complete by an earthquake in the 6th century. If you ever planned to do a Mediterranean cruise, I suggest that you brush up on your Greek mythology so you will understand whom those statues represent.

After Katakolon, the Royal Princess sailed at night and in the morning docked in the port of Mykonos, another iconic Greek port. It was a short eight-minute ride from the cruise terminal to the old port of Mykonos. We were lucky that the Municipality of Mykonos had a golf cart available for free to bring us from the bus parking lot to the old part of town. One thing unique with Mykonos are all their buildings or homes are colored white. The tour guides would tell you that it is to ward off the heat of the sun. But I think this is one aspect of Greek tourism that makes these places beautiful to look at.

The streets of Mykonos are so narrow, even a wheelchair would have difficulty passing. But I guess this is the charm of Mykonos, which is why so many tourists are here. Nope, Mykonos isn’t cheap, our simple lunch cost us 49 euros, but then this is a tourist haven and the view was spectacular to say the least. They had those iconic windmills that have been featured in many paintings sold all over Mykonos.

While all structures are colored white, there are structures with blue domes and they tell you that these are churches or should I say chapel, as they are as small as our chapels back home. But a stone’s throw from our restaurant was a Catholic Church and it gave us some time to pray for a safe voyage and for our sick friends. Fancy seeing a Catholic Church in a place run by the Greek Orthodox.

Our next visit to the Greek isles is on the famous island of Santorini. During the Age of the Minoans, Santorini was a huge volcanic island. The Minoans were famous for being an advanced civilization. They even had flush toilets in those ancient times. Then Santorini erupted in one of the world’s largest eruptions that produced what is known as a volcanic winter. What was left in Santorini is the caldera, similar to what you can see in Tagaytay, but it is probably twice as large.

Our guided tour in Santorini brought us to the highest point in Santorini for wine tasting. Then we drove to the town of Thira (Thera) and to Oia the largest town around the edge of the caldera. It gives you one of the most spectacular views in the Mediterranean. If you didn’t know, Santorini was suspected to be the fabled City of Atlantis that sunk into the sea. Of course that has never been proven. The tour ends at the Catholic Cathedral in Oia, which is beside the cable car ride that brings you down to the small port below where boat tenders are waiting to bring you back to your cruise ship.

Didn’t we mention to you that 50 percent of the crew in the Royal Princess are Filipinos? You really feel at home taking a Princess cruise… where Filipino cooks even cook a chicken tinola or our famous adobo dishes. But most of our Pinoy crews think that Filipinos who take cruise ships come from the USA. They were surprised that our group all came from Cebu City.

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Email: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com


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