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Santorini from cruise ship: Is there a minimalist plan?

I had been hoping to go to Santorini. However, after booking the cruise, the horror stories of huge crowds and long lines scared me. My kids are good walkers, but I don't see them standing in line for 1.5 hours for the cable car.

What's the minimalist plan for our stay of 7am-7pm (more like 8am-5:30pm) in early June? There will be 5 ships at the port on that day, three arriving at 7am and two arriving at 2pm.. I still want to spend a couple of hours in Oia, but can skip everything else and don't mind an early return to the ship. Really appreciate your ideas!

Posted by
2416 posts

If you have the $$$ the best bet is to sign up for your ships pricey land tour ... because those people are place in the FIRST tender boatload going in (maybe even the 1st 2)... the common folk have to wait until all the tour-folk get ashore, and by that time the cable-car has a huge line. Capitalism reigns; money matters. WIthout the do-re-me, it could take you more than 1.5 hours just to get to the top, in Fira Town.

Once your tour gets bussed to OIA, you don't need to follow the guide with the 'brella ... you can go on your own. Just be sure u know when the tour-group bus will leave OIA, if you want to take it. Otherwise u could take public bus back. Be sure to allow enough time before ship-departure... if y ou wait until just 1 hour before departure, those long lines for cable car will be there again. Of course you CAN walk down the s tairsteps to the Old Port ... I've done it... wear sturdy sneaker and beware not onl of the donkeys, but the donkey poo that is on each step.

Posted by
35 posts

Interestingly, the only tour offered by our ship (RCL) is a Spanish-speaking tour. But even with the early departure, the tour ends in Fira, which means we still have to line up for the cable cars. Is it possible to skip Fira altogether?

Posted by
2794 posts

Take the tender boat to the dock below Fira. Buy tickets for the next available water taxi to Amoudi Bay below Oia. Make your way up into the village. Afterwards take a bus or a taxi back to Fira or wherever else on the island you might want to explore. But return to Fira at least 1.5 hours before your ship is scheduled to depart to make sure you do have the time to get back aboard. Sorry, but there's no possible way for you to avoid Fira. And......please don 't be tempted to ride the poor abused donkeys!!!

Posted by
35 posts

Lee: the itinerary you mentioned is the one I have in mind. Do you think elementary school aged kids can handle the trip?

I’m hoping that, by spending very little time in Fira, we can get down Fira with the cable car ahead of the crowd and get back to the ship for lunch. Is that realistic?

Posted by
1008 posts

We were on a cruise with a 1 day stop in Santorini a couple of years ago. There are a couple of boat shuttle companies at the base of Fira where your Tender will let you off. It will be crowded and disorganized; we were told our boat would leave in 10 minutes....1/2 an hour later our line shifted from one dock to another several times before we were finally underway. It just seems to be the way that Santorini is. Once you get off the boat in Oia, you'll walk uphill for a few minutes to a shuttle bus that will take you into town. Our boat included a bus ticket from Oia to Fira that left every hour and you'll get on the bus at the same place as the shuttle from the boat dropped you off. Keep in mind that that getting onto the bus to go back to Fira was confusing as well. The driver spoke no english and just hopped on the bus with no warning and everybody tried to cram on at once...no line, just a mass of people pushing onto the bus.

It will be crowded in Oia but If you get off the main path you may have some success in wandering with a bit less of a crowd. My wife is 5' tall and so hates crowds because she can't see above them so your kids may be frustrated. As I proof-read what I've written I realize I have made it sound fairly negative, and at the time it was frustrating. Oia and the views are beautiful and worth a visit, but you will battle crowds. Our plan is to go back some day when we can spend a couple of nights after the cruise ships have left.

Posted by
35 posts

Allan: I've seen experiences a lot more negative than yours.

The problem is that if one wants to see Oia, there is only one route back to the cruise ship, exacerbating the congestion.

Posted by
2794 posts

Do I think elementary school aged kids can handle the trip? Yes. The water is usually very calm and it only takes about 15 minutes for the water taxi to reach Amoudi Bay. I suppose after that the walk up to the shuttle bus might be a challenge for them if they're not very physically active, but hopefully the newness of being there will cancel that out. It's true that it will be very crowded in Oia in June, so you'll have to deal with that. But if you want to see Oia it's unavoidable.

Posted by
1008 posts

Jenny. Even though it was crowded and frustrating, I would still recommend visiting Santorini. It is beautiful. Getting back to the ship will be easier and you do have the option of the stairs back down if the cable car is crowded. We were on one of the last tenders back and so the cable car wasn't as busy going down. I don't know if you're a morning person but I'll always recommend getting an early start.

Posted by
173 posts

We stayed in Oia for 6 days last summer with our 4 and 6 year old kids. If there is a water taxi that takes you from Fira to Oia take it..... The buses from Fira to Oia get full real fast. There are only 29 taxis on the entire island and getting one can be a challenge given the amount of people coming of the cruise ship.... The cost is about 50 euros one way when it's busy time. Take the water taxi climb up the 300 steps and you will be in the heart of Oia. Do not miss it, you will love Oia. If you get back on the boat early then you will for sure miss the sunset but atleast you will experience Oia. Have fun...

Posted by
35 posts

I am the morning type. The rest of the family less so, but they will be on that day. :-D

I am even thinking of buying RCL's Key program just for the early tendering, but the cost is too high for the whole family.

Posted by
182 posts

I am really surprised that your cruise doesn't have English speaking tours of Santorini. I was on a RCL cruise that stopped there this past Oct., and they definitely had the tours available. You could contact RCL and ask them about this. I had a question and they got back to me promptly. That being said, I didn't use any of their tours. We were able to get on the cable car up after a short wait. Then we took the public bus to Oia. We had a much longer wait for the cable car down, but it wasn't too bad. There were at least 2 cruise ships that day. By the way, the official sites indicating which ships will be at the ports isn't always accurate. I checked them right before I left, and our ship was supposed to be the only ship at 2 places, but there were actually 3 ships.

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you for sharing your experience. October should be much better, crowd wise, than June. The ship may have tours later, but right now the Spanish one is the only option. I’ll send them an email.

Also, I heard many passengers are frustrated by the Santorini tours and seek refund if they end up spending most time in traffic or lines. A possible reason why ships may be hesitant offering tours.

Posted by
13930 posts

I was on Santorini for 3 nights last month, 13th-15th. On the day I went to Oia, I think there was only one cruise ship. It wasn't overly crowded in late morning/early afternoon. But if I multiply by 3, my guess is that it will not be pleasant. There's one small area where the famous photos are taken (and just about everyone stops to take photos along the way) and the lanes are narrow with lots of steps. BTW I was pickpocketed there (I was somewhat casual about my backpack, not having been warned).

Posted by
573 posts

Think i am right in saying Santorini has introducted a max number of cruise boat visitor per day, think it was 8000. And its starting 2020. They just couldnt cope with the large volume of people, rubbish etc...

Posted by
2794 posts

"There are only 29 taxis on the entire island.............."
Unless something has changed there are 40 official taxis on Santorini.

Posted by
18 posts

Santorini is beautiful and worth seeing. Crowds, yes. Unpleasant, no. Someone suggested taking the stairs down rather than the cable car. FYI - 588 steps and they are numbered! Your cruise ship can give you insights to navigate the crowds so that you can still enjoy yourselves. If you like ancient sites/ruins, Acrotiri in Thira is a tour that your cruise ship probably offers. It is amazing - the Pompeii of Greece without the bodies. This site is thought to be the lost Atlantis. Oia is breathtakingly beautiful. There is also a schooner ride around the island. Please don't cheat yourself out of a wonderful experience because of the "noise" that you hear.

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you, gouzounis! We'll definitely go to Santorini. Just want to go with a fool-proof plan.

It was my idea to cruise around Italy & Greece, and I am getting nervous after seeing all the negative coverage of over-tourism in that part of the world. Frankly the New Zealand White Island incident is not sitting well with me either, knowing that Pompeii and Santorini are both sitting on live volcanoes. (I know it's ridiculous to think about the small probability events, but feelings are not rational.)