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The Europe Adventure (Part 2) || Santorini, Athens, Ephesus, Crete

If you missed Part 1, you can catch up here. After boarding the Jewel of the Seas and having a beautiful day at sea....

Day 9: We sailed into a dream come true. Santorini, Greece. Hot, arid, bare. Beautiful.

From our ship, we had to tender into port which was actually a very quick and smooth process. Upon arrival at port, we were bombarded with "boat to OIA!" vendors and signs, "CABLE CAR!" advertisements, and "FAST BOAT TO OIA" shouts. The cable car is a popular option to get from the sea level up to Thera (the town), or you can walk up the donkey route. Or you can pay €15 per person for a "fast boat" to the town on the north coast, Oia.

Unfortunately, we thought the latter of those options was the best. Boy, were we wrong.

"The next boats leaves in 10 minutes!" we were told. We bought our tickets, hopped on the little double-decker speed boat, and waited.... and waited.... and waited.... for the boat to fill up. They wouldn't leave on a regular schedule; they would leave when the boat was sold out.

FINALLY, after sitting in the 95 degree Mediterranean sun for 25 minutes, enough people had boarded and we began to leave port for the 15 minute ride up to Oia.

Suddenly, the boat turned around and headed back for shore.... and LOADED MORE PEOPLE. We were appalled, hot, frustrated, and angry.

To make a very long story short, our "fast boat to Oia" trip took 90 minutes.... we wasted 90 minutes getting to the beautiful pristine town out of a very short stay in port. For future reference: DO NOT use NSTravel "Fast boats to Oia". Bad idea.

But.... our sweat and anger was rewarded when we stepped for the first time on "main street" in Oia overlooking the Santorini caldera and the Meditteranean sea, with it's white-washed buildings, blue dome roofs, and marble streets.

We were concerned with getting our bus ride back to Thera, so we only had 90 minutes in Oia which was a shame. It was so beautiful.

The bus ride was uneventful, 20 minutes back to Thera. We found the top of the cable car and decided to get gelato and walk down the donkey route. The views were jaw-dropping and the donkeys were so sweet.

Finally back on our tender to the ship, we were SPENT. Hot, tired, gross, and desperately wanting cold adult beverages, we bee-lined back to the ship and to the pool to cool off.

We enjoyed yet another unbelievably beautiful sunset over Santorini....

Day 10: We woke up in port in Kusadasi, Turkey. (koo-sha-da-si)

Our goal for this region was to walk in the footsteps of a small portion of the Biblical holylands. We purchased a cruise excursion that would take us to ancient Ephesus, to the places where the Apostle Paul lived and taught.

It was awe-inspiring.

I'm not terribly into history, but this was such an incredibly humbling experience. To see the amphitheater where Paul did he teachings, walk the streets to the Library of Celsus, and see where day-to-day life happened in the early years was an experience of a lifetime.

First stop.... House of the Virgin Mary. According to the Catholic Church, this home was where John brought Mary after Jesus was crucified and lived out the rest of her life. It's now a World Heritage Site and a place of pilgrimage for many people.

Next was ancient Ephesus. According to scholars, an estimated 240,000 people were residents of Ephesus. What's left of the 1100-year-old city are a set of ruins that are still be discovered and excavated.

We walked down a white marble avenue, saw the Library of Celsus, historic baths, and the main theater that was estimated to seat some 24,000 people. The theater is believed to be the largest in the ancient world.

Library of Celsus (below)

Reported burial tomb of St John (below).

Traditional carpet and rug creation process presentation in downtown Kusadasi.

Day 11: Athens, Greece. We arrived in port before dawn and woke up to the city sounds of bustling Athens. It was like a concrete version of Manhattan; every building was a tan earth color built from stone instead of metal.

We booked a tour through Royal Caribbean to see the highlights of Athens. Our bus tour included stops at the Acropolis (Parthenon), original track stadium built for the modern Olympics, and a drive to the south coast of mainland Greece to the Temple of Poseidon.

Brian actually ran a lap on the track :)

Day 12: Crete, Greece. We hopped on the local public bus and rode across the island to a small beach for a few hours. The crystal clear blue waters and soft sands were exactly what the doctor ordered.

Day 13: Day at sea.... on of our favorite parts of any cruise are the days at sea. When the biggest decision we have to make is when to eat and what drinks to try.

We also love dressing up for "formal night"! It's a great excuse to enjoy gowns and suits for no particular reason.

Coming soon: ROME!

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