We don’t buy into the hype about Santorini. This is only because it is cherished above almost every other Greek Island – island-hopping cruises gush that Santorini will be the “most amazing island you’ll ever see” and travelers to Greece always display the iconic blue and white house-dotted hillsides of Santorini in their homes and as their Facebook cover photos to show people how truly beautiful their Euro-trip was. We lived in Greece for 6 months and traveled to Santorini, Kefalonia, Aegina, Mykonos, and Syros, and we have to say that while Santorini is indubitably unique and beautiful, it is not by far the most beautiful island we’ve traveled to. Frankly, the level of tourism that Santorini receives depletes some of its magic, unless you are able to find those more out-of-the-way spots to enjoy your vacation and really enjoy what this lovely island has to offer (article on that coming soon!)
Summers in Greece are almost always crowded. The locals invariably fill the cafes, laughing, eating, and smoking till midnight (we loved this about Greece!) Add to this the tourists hitting the islands on stop-over cruises, honeymoons, or week-long party vacations. This coupled with the heat and the sky-high prices that the increased levels of tourism bring about, you could wind up with a vacation on the more inauthentic, expensive, and superfluous end.
This being said, we had one of the most memorable days in Greece while in Santorini. The best way to catch those famed Santorini sunsets is not to fight your way to the main streets of Oia. Seriously, no – stay away from there during summer sunsets – read our article on Exploring and Avoiding the Crowds of Santorini for superb alternatives!) Rather, treat yourself and invest in a cruise with Spiridakos Sailing Cruises.
I planned this day cruise as a birthday gift for Christian (following up with a day-cruise in the south of Portugal a year after!) and it turned out to be one of the best days we’ve ever had. Online searches for day-cruises in Santorini yield a number of companies online, but I decided to go with Spiridakos as it was the most receptive and professional in answering the series of organizational questions I had for them. Spiridakos also offers online discounts periodically, if you ask for them. The full day trip (around 6 hours), including pick-up and drop-off, cost us 90 euro* each, and this included an incredibly scrumptious buffet, alcoholic beverages, snorkeling gear, and hotel pick-ups and drop-offs. Needless to say, this is an extremely reasonable price for the experience we had. Tipping, as usual, is a personal choice – we usually tip when the service is as expected or better yet, exceeds expectations (as this did!) Do make sure though that you discuss all details via phone or email before the trip – payment, hotel pick-up etc. And as always, be on time when being picked up from your hotel!
We were picked up at our hotel and driven to Marina Vlihada where our Catamaran was moored. Note that it takes about an hour to pick up the rest of your cruise members, and a cruise usually includes around 8 couples. These cruises were advertised as Couples cruises, and our cruise only had couples aboard, but Spiridakos of course provides cruises for everyone! Santorini being the romantic honeymoon destination it is, there is a higher likelihood of meeting couples on board, but we strongly encourage any and every one to try out this experience! (Seriously. This shouldn’t even be an issue).
Note that a waterproof camera would come in very handy for this trip, as a few of the beaches are only accessible by swimming there!
Your day of complete relaxation starts once you board the Catamaran. The sea air and sun shining down on you as you lay out watching the beautiful cliffs and beaches of Santorini breeze past you, is an incredible way of seeing the true beauty of this island. And best of all, you’ll be floating on the Aegean Sea, away from the throngs of tourists shuffling to buy souvenirs and take photographs of marble walkways and white stone churches. In addition, taking a cruise around Santorini is one of the only ways to see the Red beach, White beach, towns of Fira, Oia, and Imerovigli, and the island if Palia Kammeni from the water. You also get to snorkel in volcanic hot springs – but more about that below!
Once aboard the cruise, you are asked for your preference of beverage – note that hard liquor is not allowed on board. Beer, wine, and soft-drinks are aplenty though, and we found them the perfect companion to a day of cruising.
One of our first concerns was the size of the Catamaran – would it be big enough to hold 8 couples and the skipper and his helpers comfortably? But the Spiridakos Catamarans are comfortable and spacious – we were able to lie out in privacy while enjoying the view. Note that the bathroom, located below deck, was also extremely clean and comfortable.
Passengers are given a briefing on safety protocols, and from then on the skipper moves between interesting information about the culture and geographic formation of the islands, to contemporary music (he plays it, doesn’t sing it :D).
The Catamaran pauses at the Red Beach, White Beach, and a few islands for pictures, and snorkeling – indeed, they’re pretty flexible on where and how long you can snorkel for.
We loved the unscheduled stops to relax and take everything in. And if you’re a wimpy swimmer like me, life jackets are available!
Our favorite part was the swim to the volcanic hot springs. Take care – if you have any jewelry on you, from earrings to belly button rings, you’d better leave them on board unless you’d want them all to be corroded in a matter of days. We loved that the beaches we visited were quieter and less populated than those we’d accessed by land earlier, and the waters themselves were not crowded with other sail boats and cruises. Remember to take LOTS of sunscreen with you – the Santorini summer sun is pretty strong!
Following the snorkeling and swims to the various beaches, lunch is served. From the rice, to the chicken, to the enormous quantities of seafood and salad, it was all delicious. It was an amazing experience, dining on fresh, delectable food while chatting with other travelers (in our case, mostly 20-35 year old American couples) aboard a Catamaran cruising the Aegean Sea.
Our tour was scheduled from 10:30am to 3:30pm (we did a day-time cruise for the tour of the island and the snorkeling, but Spiridakos also includes sunset champagne cruises). However, we ended up watching the sunset from the Catamaran as we arrived back at Marina Vlihada (and this is not a bad thing!)
We spent almost a week in Santorini, but this was by far the best sunset view we had. We actually felt sad as we headed back to the Marina, as this incredible day was coming to an end. We’ve been on our fair share of amazing yachts and cruises but this trip, appreciating the beauty of Santorini with guidance from a local veteran skipper indubitably tops the day-cruise list.
If you’re headed to beautiful Santorini this summer, you really can’t miss out on this adventure. If there’s one thing you plan on doing in Santorini, let it be this! (It was for us, everything else we usually play by ear!) This really is the most idyllic way to get away from the crowds, celebrate a birthday/honeymoon/anniversary, and appreciate the beauty of Santorini in a way you’ll never forget.
Find out more ways to explore Oia, Fira, Imerovigli, and beyond, in Exploring and Avoiding the Crowds of Santorini (coming soon! Follow us to stay updated!)
Note that we broke away from the format of Do’s and Don’t’s that we use on our articles when writing this piece. We only have 6 do’s for this experience: Do: Book the tour, Do: Be on time for pick-up, Do: Take LOTS of sunscreen, a towel, and a swimsuit and cover-up, Do: Budget the whole day for the trip if doing the day-cruise and Do: Enjoy yourself!
*Prices may differ.
Been to Santorini? Planning a trip there? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Share your stories with us below!
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