Although we joined the ship at 1.00 pm on Thursday we didn’t sail until lunchtime on Friday.
What a departure as we sailed along the Grand Canal past St Marks’ Square. The weather was perfect, the passengers on the ship were friendly; we all shared good spots for the taking of just one more photograph of Venice.
Approaching St Mark’s Square (top picture) and passing St Mark’s Square
Our first port of call would be Istanbul in Turkey. My last visit to this city was in 1965, and it would be my wife’s first visit.
As we watched the sunset during our pre-dinner drink the Captain spoke to the passengers and ship’s crew over the loud speaker.
The Greek coast guard had requested the Island Princess to divert, because a small vessel was in distress.
Because the law of the sea demands that all ships will go to the aide of those in distress that Captain didn’t have a choice.
We watched some of the crew make ready a fast tender, while donning life jackets and preparing the tender for launch.
As the evening light turned to darkness we waited, but couldn’t see anything as full night arrived so made our way to the dining room.
After dinner we checked again and little had changed re the crew and the fast tender, so we went to bed.
During the night (which we slept through) the ship had stopped in the Ionian Sea to pick up 117 Syrian refugees from a small sailing boat. I did hear later that the small boat sank shortly after the refugees were rescued due to the increase in the wind and the waves. Our new passengers were confined in the aft area and were given food and hot drinks after their ordeal.They were kept under guard by the ship’s security.
We then sailed to Katakolon, which is a sea port near Olympia, where we were met by military and coast guard vessels.
The Island Princess lowered two tender boats (each able to carry 150 people) and waited for instructions from the port authorities. We remained at anchor in the bay for most of the morning.
The picture of the tender boats was taken from our balcony.
Later I found out that the delay was due to the refugees refusing to leave the Island Princess and it was a mixture of persuasion and force that resulted in them all being sent ashore.
Our diversion to rescue the refugees meant that we would not be able to visit Istanbul because we had run out of time, and we had to maintain our schedule. While at anchor off the Greek coast we waited for information of our replacement destination. In the afternoon we were told that we would be visiting Santorini instead of Istanbul. This would allow us to return to our normal schedule of destinations. It was unfortunate that we would miss Istanbul, but the safety of those in distress had to take precedence over everything else. We can try again next year, the refugees, if their boat had sunk with them still on board, would not have had a next year.
The following morning we steamed slowly to an anchorage off Santorini, we had company.
Local tender crafts came out to the Island Princess just after 9.00 am and disembarkation took place of those passengers who wished to go ashore. The whole operation was very efficient, yet friendly.
Once ashore we bought tickets for the cable car to the top of the cliffs. We could have used the zig zag trail and walked up via 500 steps, but even though it was only 10.00 am it was already getting quite hot. The alternative to walking up the 500 steps was riding on the back of a donkey, which we didn’t fancy. We’d also been warned of the donkey ‘eggs’ (droppings) making the wide steps slippery.
View from our cable car
The cable car cost Euro 5.00 each way and it didn’t take long before we were at the top and walking around the various shops. Some of the restaurants, with spectacular views, ripped off the tourists when charging for drinks. A small glass of local beer in a bar with a limited view was Eu 3.00, (AUD $4.30), but in the bar with the view it was Eu 7.50 (AUD $10.70). There were plenty of viewing spots where we able to take photos of the views, so our custom with the rip off merchants was limited.
Shopping streets in Santorini
The sea around Santorini seemed destined to be filled with various types of sailing vessels. The chance to sail around the islands, under sail, is obviously very popular. I only wished that we were there longer so that I could have experienced one of the short sailing cruises.
The colour of the sea was such that one never tired of looking and photographing – it was as blue as any picture post card in a travel agents window.