Cruising to Santorini? Here is what you need to know.
Santorini gets from 780,000 up to 900,000 cruise passengers a year. It is a lot, I know. If you are one of them and you are coming to Santorini this year on a cruise ship, here are my answers to the most common questions you might have.
Feel free to drop any questions you might have at the comments section below.
First things first.
Are you docking at the Port of Athinios or in Fira?
Check with your cruise line.
In most cases, it will be Fira. That practically means that you will stop just outside Fira, which is the capital of Santorini.
Here is Fira on the map:
You will have to get on a tender that will bring you to the Old Port. This is just below the town of Fira. You then need to come up to town. To do that, you have three choices:
Take the cable car
Walk the steps
Ride a donkey
In my opinion the cable car is the best way. There are 580 steps (too many to walk especially in the summer) and as I have said before, I am against donkey rides. Especially since this is 2018 and there is a cable car right next to the donkeys. #stopanimalcruelty
The cable car will cost you 6 euros (one way ticket). You will have to wait in line and that can be a long line especially in high season. Depending on how many cruises are in, the wait could take up to 1 hour so do factor that in when planning your day. Once you are in the cable car, it should be less than 5 minutes to get to Fira.
Walking up should take you about half an hour to 35minutes. The donkey ride is about 20 minutes long and usually costs 5 euros.
If you are docking at Athinios Port, then you only have to take a tender there. If you are visiting Santorini on a day cruise from Crete, then you will be coming straight into the Port.
See the port on the map:
How long will I have on the island?
In most cases you should have about 5-6 hours to spend in Santorini. That is without the time you will spend tendering, waiting for the cable car etc.
Should I book a tour?
If you ask me, yes. Going on a tour is really the best way to see the island in such a limited time.
Why should I choose a private tour?
Because it will be more flexible. You will be able to plan the day with your tour guide. Most companies provide basic day plans but you can also customize your own and plan the perfect day. If it is the cost that worries you, you could always find some fellow passengers to split the cost with.
Here are the best tours of Santorini I would recommend:
Where will I meet my tour guide?
Your tour guide will meet you at the exit of the cable car. After you take the cable car to come up to Fira, you will see them holding a sign with your name. They will not be waiting for you at the Old Port.
Should I choose a cruise line tour?
Cruise lines usually offer priority to passengers going on their tours. So you will leave the cruise ship first. However do check the schedule, because in most cases the plan is limited to two or maximum three places. These will be Fira, Oia and the black sand beach. If you want to see more, you will need a private tour.
What if I want to go around and explore?
You can rent a car or an ATV. I would go for the car for safety reasons. The rental company will meet you outside the cable car and deliver the keys. Just make sure you have planned your day in advance and know where you are going in order to avoid wasting time trying to find your way.
What about local buses and taxis?
The taxi station and the local bus station are both situated in Fira. You can see them on the maps below.
Find the bus station the map:
Find the taxi Station on the map:
You can also read more about getting around here.
I would suggest avoiding taxis and buses if you want to make the most of your time (and your money).
What are the must-see places I should not miss?
Oia (of course). I would recommend starting from Oia. This is the best way to make sure you are back on the cruise ship on time. Oia can get quite busy and traffic can be bad. So start from there to see how long it takes you and then continue with the rest of your day.
Black Sand Beach
You should visit one of the black sand beaches. I would choose Perissa or Kamari. There is plenty to do on both places.
You can see all the beaches on the map below:
This place offers unique panoramic views to the whole island. You can see all the way from north to south. The unique shape of the island will make more sense from up here. On a clear day, this is the closest thing to heaven.
Santorini is famous for the wine. There are 15 wineries to choose from and one of them will definitely be on you way (it has to be). Pop in and try a glass of the famous Asyrtico Wine. Or a sweet Vinsanto.
If you are not into wine, visit the local brewery and taste the “yellow donkey”. Or the “red donkey”. Or the "crazy donkey".
You can find the wineries on the map:
Plus: If you have more time, do visit the red sand beach. It is quite impressive and different from what you are used to. I would not recommend it for swimming since it is a narrow beach and there is nothing to do there. But it is worth seeing and taking a picture (or two).
Will I get to see the sunset in Oia?
This is usually a no with cruise passengers- with a few exceptions of course. The main reason is because cruises usually depart early. You should also take into account that you need about half an hour to get back to Fira from Oia (plus you never know how much traffic there is going to be) and then you need to wait in line to get on the cable car and get back on the tender.
However, the sunset will be beautiful from the ship as well.
What time should I be back in Fira?
I would suggest being there about 45 minutes to 1 hour before your last tender. Especially during high season. If you are visiting off season and there is no other cruise ship in, then you will not need so much time.
How will I know if it is going to be a busy day?
You can check the cruise ship calendar here. If you see 4-5 ships… you are in trouble!
That’s all I can think of. Feel free to comment with any questions you might have- I would be happy to answer!