Pylos is near Methoni, and the Hebridean Spirit passengers rode coaches the 7 miles across the countryside to see the famous Methoni 15th century fortress. Methoni also has a lovely sandy beach, and several of our group spent their free time swimming in the Mediterranean. It was a warm day, and the water did look very inviting! The well-preserved Venetian fortress at Methoni was a wonderful example of military architecture, and there was some interesting flora around the grounds. The entire castle was quite romantic, and you could almost picture the crusaders using the fort as a stopover point on their pilgrimage to the Holy Crusades. The medieval town inside the fortress was the first and longest-held Venetian outpost on the Peloponnese. If you visit Methoni, be sure to walk the short distance to the Bourtzi castle on an adjacent island.
Santorini was our next port of call, and its volcanic caldera is one of the most spectacular harbors in the world to sail into. Approaching this island via ship is a lifetime memory for anyone. I could sit for hours and look up at the red cliffs topped by the sparkling white buildings of Fira or Oia towns. Santorini is located in the Aegean Sea and is one of the Cyclades Islands of Greece, and the Hebridean Spirit sailed overnight from Methoni in the southwestern Peloponnese to reach Santorini by early morning. Santorini is the only port where we used a tender, and passengers also had to ride a cable car to reach the top of the ancient volcanic crater. We drove around the island, stopping at a small village to wander the narrow walkways. We also went to a wine tasting at the Santo Winery before returning to Fira at lunchtime. Most of the passengers chose to ride the cable car and tender back to the ship for lunch, but mother and I decided to dine al fresco in Fira at one of the numerous restaurants lining the clifftop. After lunch, we joined back up with the Hebridean Spirit passengers to ride coaches to the picturesque village of Oia on the northern tip of the island. We spent about an hour exploring Oia, but we could have spent much longer. Our ship stayed at Santorini until after dinner so that we could enjoy the twinkling village lights dotting the cliffside as we sailed.
Crete was the last Greek island on our cruise. We sailed overnight from Santorini to the port of Agios Nikolaos on the northeastern coast of this large island. Agios was once a thriving fishing village, but today the town lives on the tourist trade. Its narrow streets, good shopping, and sparkling aquamarine seaport attract cruise ships and land tourists. We were in Agios Nikolaos primarily to travel the short distance to the historical island of Spinalonga. It was a beautiful day, and we boarded a small ship to sail the 45 minutes to Spinalonger. Along the way, we saw several marvelous resorts along the coast. No wonder so many package tours come to Crete!
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