Hello again fellow explorers, and welcome to the Santorini chapter of our whirlwind European vacation with me, Alex, my wife, Erika, and our three lively kids, aged 7, 5, and 1. Our adventure took us through five countries in just three weeks – from the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre to Venice’s canals in a private water taxi and now a Greek island paradise.

With this blog and YouTube series video we hope to provide a sneak peek into our travel highs (and lows), practical tips, and the nitty-gritty details of our itinerary. If you’re toying with the idea of a similar journey, hopefully we can help with some ideas! Or if you’re just along for the entertaining ride, we’re happy to have you!

Disembarking at Santorini

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We start the day docking in the port of Santorini, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. After being cooped up on the cruise ship for the last day and a half, everyone was eager to stretch their legs on solid land again and the mood was jovial aboard the tender. We disembarked at the old port of Santorini (Skala Pier) and immediately headed for the cable cars.

Six Facts About Santorini
1. Santorini, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, is famous for its iconic white-washed buildings with blue-domed roofs. The buildings are painted white to make the houses cooler and the white paint contains limestone which doubles as a disinfectant
2. The island's breathtaking sunsets, witnessed from the charming village of Oia, are considered among the most beautiful in the world.
3. Santorini is the only inhabited caldera (a large volcanic crater) in the world. The island was round before the volcanic eruption of 1600 BC, which is thought to be the largest in recorded history.
4. Many believe that the legendary island of Atlantis, mentioned by Plato, was actually Santorini, having disappeared after the volcanic eruption.
5. The local Assyrtiko wine, cultivated in the island's volcanic soil, is renowned for its distinct taste and is a must-try for wine enthusiasts.
6. Fira, the capital of Santorini, boasts a vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars and restaurants overlooking the Caldera.

Santorini Cable Cars

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We made a beeline for the cable cars, which took us up the hills to Fira, the main city in Santorini and the first stop of all cruise passengers arriving at the old port. There are alternatives to the cable car to get to Fira – mule rides up the hill are available and the more adventurous can even walk the winding hillside paths taken by the mules. Bear in mind it is a tough hike up-hill, recommended for the physically fit. The cable car trip itself offers breathtaking views of the island and the surrounding caldera sea, as you can see from the photos above.

Santorini Travel Tip - Avoid the Queues for the Cable Cars!
When arriving in Santorini via cruise ship tender, I recommend boarding the cable cars as soon as you hit shore to avoid the lengthy queues that inevitably form. Don't be distracted by the restaurants and souvenir shops in the old port itself, make your way to the cable cars as soon as possible. The cars will take you up-hill to Fira, from where you can explore the rest of the island.

Meeting Our Tour Guide in Fira

Once we made it to Fira we met our friendly travel guide, Amani of Golden Ibex Tours, who was waiting for us. Tour arrangements had been made in advance online and we immediately started the tour after introductions with the tour guide were out of the way. Booking in advance is highly recommended especially when travelling with a group who may have different needs. Erika’s parents, who were with us on this vacation for their 50th wedding anniversary, had limited mobility. Because we booked in advance our tour guide had the time to fine-tune the tour to cater to their specific needs. This extra attention is something you will never get when hiring a random tour-guide off the street on your cruise ship stop.

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Santorini Travel Tip - Arrange Guided Tours in Advance
Guides offer valuable insights, historical context, and local knowledge, enhancing the travel experience. Arranging travel guides in advance saves time, reduces stress, and allows for a deeper exploration of the destination. Pre-booking also guarantees availability, especially during peak seasons - it can even save you money on occasion! 

Amazing Views of the Santorini Caldera in Oia

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We kicked off the tour with a minivan ride to Oia on northern tip of the island. Oia showcases the beauty of the Santorini Caldera. Amani shares details about the island’s size, population, and its unique geological features. The charming town of Oia with its white-washed buildings and narrow streets overlooking the caldera sea is the image that always comes to my mind whenever I think of Santorini.

As we walk towards a vantage point in the street that perfectly shows off the ‘C’ shape of the caldera the Santorini islands make. We obviously stopped to take plenty of photos amid this stunning panoramic backdrop. Some of the vantage points were jammed with tourists so we picked a few spots that were not as busy and still offered some great views.

Santorini Travel Tip - Beware Overpriced Tourist Shops!
Seafront shops in Santorini, while very picturesque, are considered relatively expensive. The island is a popular tourist destination, and the shops in the most popular areas, such as Fira and Oia, cater to high-end tourists. Prices for souvenirs, clothing, and other items can be significantly higher than in other parts of Greece. Budget conscious visitors to Santorini can save a bit of money by dining and drinking in the non-seafront facing establishments across the street.

Taking a Break & Enjoying Homemade Ice-Cream

And now the part of the tour our kids liked the best: an ice-cream break! Our guide brought us to a homemade ice-cream establishment to cool down and sample some of the local frozen delights. Amidst the laughter and banter, we dig into various flavors of coconut, strawberry and chocolate and recharge our batteries for the next leg of our Santorini tour. Needless to say, we had such a fantastic day in Santorini I not cover everything in one video/blog. Stay tuned for part 2 of our Santorini adventure!

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Here’s Day 10 of our travel series where we explore Europe with three young kids – our first full day at sea aboard the Carnival Pride. We have a themed breakfast with the kids, take part in some ship-board activities, enjoy a great dinner at a steakhouse and take in some stand-up comedy before calling it a day. As you will see, a lot of these activities are a lot more enjoyable and rewarding when done with family and friends.

Dr. Seuss Themed Breakfast on the Carnival Pride

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We started our day with a Dr. Seuss themed breakfast that our two boys seemed to enjoy – Emma, our baby, was too young to understand what was going on, but I like to think she appreciated the colorful insanity. There were additional activities during breakfast where the kids were given autograph books that they could collect “signatures” from various characters in Dr. Seuss books.

I took Ethan and Aiden, our two boys, to a quick walk at the back of the dining area where there was a viewing area of the ship’s stern. The boys and me marveled at the white caps of the wake created by the ship’s massive propellors trailing behind as we moved forward. A fun little aside after breakfast – and an example of how there’s always something to see and do on a cruise-ship even outside of the officially-sanctioned pre-planned activities.

We explored the ship some more after breakfast, I checked out the laundry services on offer and the kids had their sights set on the arcade.

Cruise Ship Travel Tip #1: On-board Laundry - Self or Full-service?
Cruise ships typically provide both self-service and full-service laundry options for their guests:

1. Full-service laundry is a convenient option for passengers who want to avoid the hassle of doing laundry themselves. Passengers simply place their dirty laundry in a bag provided by the cruise line and leave it outside their stateroom door. The laundry will be collected and washed, dried, and folded, and then returned to the passenger's stateroom. Full-service laundry is typically charged per item or per bag.

2. Self-service laundry is a more economical option and is basically a coin-operated laundromat on a cruise ship. Self-service laundry facilities are typically located on each stateroom deck and include washing machines, dryers, irons, and ironing boards. Detergent and fabric softener can usually be purchased on site.

During this trip we went for the full-service option despite it costing more because I found the self-service laundry facilities to always be busy and full.

Arcades, Ping-pong & Bingo Halls on the Carnival Pride

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Like many modern cruise ships, the Carnival Pride has an arcade filled with games and attractions that my kids could not stay away from. They insisted we visit the arcade as soon as they saw it when we were exploring the ship. Of course they wanted to try every single game in the room and I had to remind them of the virtues of moderation which they immediately ignored and ran to their mother for arcade tokens.

Erika, being a softer touch than me, decided to let the boys indulge themselves at the arcade, and we both joined in the fun. Despite not winning anything (no big surprise there – I did warn the boys the arcade game prizes are notoriously difficult to win) we had a good time. After the arcade Erika went to play some bingo (she loves her bingo!) and I took the kids to play some ping-pong. Quick bingo tip from Erika: if you play bingo on a cruise ship only once, play later in the week when the jackpots are bigger!

Cruise Ship Travel Tip #2: Cruise Ship Activities
On a Carnival cruise ship, guests can take part in a variety of indoor recreational activities. From gaming in the arcade and bingo to arts and crafts, indoor sports games and even and captivating theater performances, the ship offers endless entertainment options. There is always something to do and someone to do it with on a cruise ship.

Photo Portraits & Steakhouse Dinner on the Carnival Pride

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As the day turned to night, we prepared for an exquisite dinner at the ship’s upscale steakhouse. Ensuring our attire met the dress code standards became a humorous yet necessary part of the pre-dinner preparations. The boys grumbled at having to dress up for dinner, but they were in good spirits. We spent some time in the ship’s atrium and listened to the captain address to the ship, after which we went to take some pre-dinner photos at their photo booth – might as well since we were already dressed to the nines. We got some great photos, as you can see above and I ordered a bunch of prints which was well worth the extra cost.

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The steakhouse dinner was culinary haven, offering dish after wonderful dish. The photos of our meal speak for themselves and we all enjoyed ourselves. The presentation was great, the restaurant ambiance was luxurious and elegant. And most important of all, the food was great too.

Cruise Ship Travel Tip #3: Dining Options on the Carnival Pride
Carnival Cruise ships boast a diverse array of restaurants, catering to every palate and preference. The Carnival Pride, the ship we were on had a wonderful variety of dining options - both free (as in food cost included in your ticket) and paid a-la-carte or paid per-head. Some of the free buffets and themed restaurants are open 24 hours a day, which is wonderful when travelling with groups or families. To top it all off they have 24-hour room service as well! You will never go hungry on-board a cruise ship.

Late Night Show & Saying Goodnight

After our meal we took in a comedy show, which we all enjoyed except for Erika’s parents you slept through most of it. Amid much joy and laughter, we said our goodnights and retired to our cabins. It was an average day on a cruise ship. Unlike the previous day on board, nothing spectacular happened, no major drama, but we all had a great time just enjoying the cruise ship activities and food and spending time together as a family.

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Here are some final take-aways from Day 10 in Europe with three kids:

  • September to October is our favorite time to cruise. It works well for us because the kids have fall break and there are fewer kids on a Carnival Cruise ship in Europe during those months, which is nice for Ethan and Aiden since they have the whole ship to themselves.
  • You may have noticed an inflatable pool in the background in some of our travel. The blow-up pool is something we have used a lot when traveling with kids younger than 2. We usually buy one for each new trip we take. It can serve as a bathing option for our youngest kids and as a fun play-pool in port at the beach or wherever.

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