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Tendering in Santorini


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Hello, everyone! I'm asking this here instead of the Greece forum because I'm sure every cruise line handles tendering differently. We'll be in Santorini on June 30 from 8 am-6 pm and obviously want to take as much advantage of the day as possible. Fortunately, we are the first ship to arrive. (The second ship arrives an hour later, and the third ship doesn't arrive until 1 pm.) Does anyone have experience with how HAL handles tendering in Santorini? Is it first come first serve and wait in line, come at an earlier time for a tendering ticket, etc? I know this might be early to ask these types of questions, but I am a planner and have wanted to go to do a cruise like this for quite some time and just really want to have realistic expectations of how things will go down. At the moment, we are interested in doing the hike from Fira to Oia, or perhaps an abbreviated version, so we're not interested in getting priority tendering with a HAL excursion. I just want an idea of what our timeline will be as far as getting off the ship, onto the finicular, and into Fira. We considered taking one of the boats at the dock over to Oia and doing the hike in reverse, but we would like to spend a little time in Oia and don't think getting a later start on the hike is necessarily a good idea that time of year.

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We were in Santorini on the Westerdam in 2017.   There are 2 docks used by the tenders.   The one dock, Athinios, is the only dock on that side of the island that has a road that goes down to the dock.   If you are on a ship's tour, you will take special tenders to that dock to start your tour.   If you are doing a private tour or DIY, then you will take the regular tenders to the dock at the bottom of the cable car ride up to Fira.   

Also, at that dock, you can purchase a ferry ticket that will take you to the other side of the island to Oia.  The 25 Euro ticket includes the ferry ride, a short bus ride up to the town of Oia, and a bus ride back to Fira.

No matter what you do, all tours end in Fira and you MUST take the cable car down the mountain to the Fira dock, or walk down the 800 feet via the steps.   They also have donkey rides down but people are avoiding them because of cruelty to animals.   If you walk down the steps, watch for donkey kaka on the steps.

With a lot of big ships at anchor, the line to the cable car boarding station can be 60 to 90 minutes long.  The line conveniently winds through the town of Fira and right past all the shops. I think it's all planned that way. 

With only 3 ships in port, it won't be too bad for the lines.

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Not sure what @TAD2005 means by "special tenders". The ship's tenders aren't used at Santorini...it is required to use local tenders, which are, generally, larger than the ships, which allows for people to get off faster. Otherwise accurate. Last we were there, tender tickets were used.

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36 minutes ago, CruiserBruce said:

Not sure what @TAD2005 means by "special tenders". The ship's tenders aren't used at Santorini...it is required to use local tenders, which are, generally, larger than the ships, which allows for people to get off faster. Otherwise accurate. Last we were there, tender tickets were used.

Do you remember when tender tickets were handed out and how that process was handled, by any chance? I’ve done my research and am familiar with my options once getting onto shore but am trying to figure out what I can expect for actually getting to shore via tender. The earlier time we can get to tender the better. Just trying to establish some expectations for that process. 🙂

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11 hours ago, calebandjess said:

Do you remember when tender tickets were handed out and how that process was handled, by any chance? I’ve done my research and am familiar with my options once getting onto shore but am trying to figure out what I can expect for actually getting to shore via tender. The earlier time we can get to tender the better. Just trying to establish some expectations for that process. 🙂

No, I don't, as we were in a suite, and thus don't need to get tender tickets. But it will be announced what the procedure is.

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Thanks, to the OP, for asking this question on the HA site.  We will be on the Veendam this coming September and have read all the Santorini posts on the port forum.  But, it is nice to hear about those who have sailed on HA and their experience in Santorini.  Although I am excited to see this beautiful island, I can’t help but be concerned about “the crowds” that seem to ruin the experience for many.  We are considering taking the ships excursion which tenders you to Athinios, then transfers you to Oia.  We would have time in Oia on our own and then are bussed to Fira.  We then (like everyone else) will stand in line (want to avoid walking down ) for the cable car after some time in Fira.  Has anyone had experience taking this “on your own” excursion with HA?  It is priced at $59PP and I am attracted to the fact that the transportation around Santorini will be one less thing to worry about.  I do wonder, however, how much time we get to spend in Oia.  Any info is much appreciated!  

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Greetings from Sunny Arizona, BKMat!  I had the opportunity to do this HAL tour (transfer) a few years back.  It worked out great.  If I recall we had plenty of time to walk through the very scenic shops before the bus went to Fira.  There was a guide on the bus that gave a nice overview of Santorini.  I had plenty of time for lunch and a walk through the town before heading back to the ship.  The line was long for the cable car but seemed to move along.  I have to say, if your knees or okay, the walk down was a great experience and I will do it again when I return this next Fall. Also, I have to add— the coastal hike between the two towns looks fantastic and I would love to do it if I can find some fellow cruisers to opt in! 
Happy Cruising!

Karen

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18 hours ago, calebandjess said:

Hello, everyone! I'm asking this here instead of the Greece forum because I'm sure every cruise line handles tendering differently. We'll be in Santorini on June 30 from 8 am-6 pm and obviously want to take as much advantage of the day as possible. Fortunately, we are the first ship to arrive. (The second ship arrives an hour later, and the third ship doesn't arrive until 1 pm.)

June 30 is high season and I doubt that there will only be three ships at anchor.

 

We also checked for the number of ships for  Santorini on our cruise last summer.  We checked various port sites and thought we would be the first ship in and that there would only be four ships for the day.

 

Wrong, two ships were already anchored when we arrived and we counted eight ships during our stay (not all at once, some departed and others arrived).

 

Be prepared for the narrow passageways in Oia to resemble one of the circles of Hell as depicted in old wood cuttings of Dante's Inferno; a mass of people trudging up shoulder to shoulder from the bus parking area and throughout the town.

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35 minutes ago, Homosassa said:

June 30 is high season and I doubt that there will only be three ships at anchor.

 

We also checked for the number of ships for  Santorini on our cruise last summer.  We checked various port sites and thought we would be the first ship in and that there would only be four ships for the day.

 

Wrong, two ships were already anchored when we arrived and we counted eight ships during our stay (not all at once, some departed and others arrived).

 

Be prepared for the narrow passageways in Oia to resemble one of the circles of Hell as depicted in old wood cuttings of Dante's Inferno; a mass of people trudging up shoulder to shoulder from the bus parking area and throughout the town.

According to this website, only three ships will be anchored: https://www.cruisetimetables.com/visitingsantorinigreece-30jun2020.html (Note that there are five listed, but three are actually the same ship.) I'm hoping that it is correct but will be prepared for possible inaccuracies and more crowding. I've read plenty about the crowding in Oia and am prepared for it and refuse to allow it to ruin a trip to such a beautiful island. We don't actually plan to spend a significant amount of time in Oia (just enough for a "taster") but do want to go down below to Ammoudi Bay for cliff diving/swimming followed by lunch at one of the fish taverns right on the water. Ideally, I think I'd like to end our visit of that part of the island there and pay the extra expense to have a taxi return us to Fira. (I've read that restaurants in Ammoudi Bay are happy to call taxis for customers, so hopefully this plan works out.)

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We were very lucky this fall on the Koningsdam as we were the only ship that could visit the port because of the wind and sea  conditions.  It has dynamic positioning so whereas other ships couldn’t safely maintain position as you can’t anchor there.  So a positive about the new technology on the K.  

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23 hours ago, CruiserBruce said:

Not sure what @TAD2005 means by "special tenders". The ship's tenders aren't used at Santorini...it is required to use local tenders, which are, generally, larger than the ships, which allows for people to get off faster. Otherwise accurate. Last we were there, tender tickets were used.

By "special tenders", I meant they are setup to drop you at a different dock,  Athinios, rather than the dock below Fira.   They are all tenders operated by the Santorini Boatmen, a union that has total control of transporting cruise ship passengers to and from the ships.   You must be on a ship tour to use the tenders that take you to Athinios.   If not, then you will use the tenders that take you to the dock below Fira.  The Shore Excursion staff will direct you to the boarding platform at the proper time.

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7 hours ago, KarefreeKaren said:

Greetings from Sunny Arizona, BKMat!  I had the opportunity to do this HAL tour (transfer) a few years back.  It worked out great.  If I recall we had plenty of time to walk through the very scenic shops before the bus went to Fira.  There was a guide on the bus that gave a nice overview of Santorini.  I had plenty of time for lunch and a walk through the town before heading back to the ship.  The line was long for the cable car but seemed to move along.  I have to say, if your knees or okay, the walk down was a great experience and I will do it again when I return this next Fall. Also, I have to add— the coastal hike between the two towns looks fantastic and I would love to do it if I can find some fellow cruisers to opt in! 
Happy Cruising!

Karen

Thank you, Karen, this is just the type of info I was looking for.   Really appreciate it!

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To answer the question about tender tickets, this was our experience last May on the Veendam in Santorini. An announcement notified us when the tender  tickets would be distributed. I don't remember the exact time, maybe 7:30. People who wanted to take the first tender (like us because we were meeting a private tour guide) began lining up half and hour before the distribution time.The ticket indicates which group you are in, and each group is announced by number over the PA system when it is time to board. The tenders were quite large, and we easily got on the first one though we weren't near the front of the line for  tickets. Once on shore, we bought tickets for the cable car and got on with little or no wait. To get down on the cable car in the afternoon, we had to wait 30-40 minutes.   

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28 minutes ago, Maya_C said:

To answer the question about tender tickets, this was our experience last May on the Veendam in Santorini. An announcement notified us when the tender  tickets would be distributed. I don't remember the exact time, maybe 7:30. People who wanted to take the first tender (like us because we were meeting a private tour guide) began lining up half and hour before the distribution time.The ticket indicates which group you are in, and each group is announced by number over the PA system when it is time to board. The tenders were quite large, and we easily got on the first one though we weren't near the front of the line for  tickets. Once on shore, we bought tickets for the cable car and got on with little or no wait. To get down on the cable car in the afternoon, we had to wait 30-40 minutes.   

Thank you so much for sharing! This is the information I was looking for!

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On 1/8/2020 at 1:56 PM, calebandjess said:

Hello, everyone! I'm asking this here instead of the Greece forum because I'm sure every cruise line handles tendering differently. We'll be in Santorini on June 30 from 8 am-6 pm and obviously want to take as much advantage of the day as possible. Fortunately, we are the first ship to arrive. (The second ship arrives an hour later, and the third ship doesn't arrive until 1 pm.) Does anyone have experience with how HAL handles tendering in Santorini? Is it first come first serve and wait in line, come at an earlier time for a tendering ticket, etc? I know this might be early to ask these types of questions, but I am a planner and have wanted to go to do a cruise like this for quite some time and just really want to have realistic expectations of how things will go down. At the moment, we are interested in doing the hike from Fira to Oia, or perhaps an abbreviated version, so we're not interested in getting priority tendering with a HAL excursion. I just want an idea of what our timeline will be as far as getting off the ship, onto the finicular, and into Fira. We considered taking one of the boats at the dock over to Oia and doing the hike in reverse, but we would like to spend a little time in Oia and don't think getting a later start on the hike is necessarily a good idea that time of year.


We did this a few summers back. They hand out the tender tickets in the center of the boat below the atrium. We got there an hour early to be the first group to get tickets and off the boat. There were plenty of people waiting. While you don’t seem too concerned about off the boat I will warn you that there are only 3 ways up the hill, funicular, donkey or walk. The most popular is funicular and it only holds 30 people at a time. So you can imagine with 3 boats in port and thousands of people it is hard to get up the hill. So my advice is to be the first off the boat.

 

we did an amazing wine and photo tour with a private company. It was only $70 a person and held about 6-8 people in a luxury van. Those bus tours are crazy! The streets are not wide enough for them and it takes them forever to get around the island. For this port do something special not on the bus tour! It is still my favorite port of any cruise. We went in the height of the season and totally felt taken care of with our tour guide. We saw the whole island, had wine at 3 places, lunch and shopping. It was a perfect day! My number one advice is to get of the boat in the first set of people so you can get up the hill without riding those poor donkeys. 

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6 hours ago, nicole.n.m.t. said:


We did this a few summers back. They hand out the tender tickets in the center of the boat below the atrium. We got there an hour early to be the first group to get tickets and off the boat. There were plenty of people waiting. While you don’t seem too concerned about off the boat I will warn you that there are only 3 ways up the hill, funicular, donkey or walk. The most popular is funicular and it only holds 30 people at a time. So you can imagine with 3 boats in port and thousands of people it is hard to get up the hill. So my advice is to be the first off the boat.

 

we did an amazing wine and photo tour with a private company. It was only $70 a person and held about 6-8 people in a luxury van. Those bus tours are crazy! The streets are not wide enough for them and it takes them forever to get around the island. For this port do something special not on the bus tour! It is still my favorite port of any cruise. We went in the height of the season and totally felt taken care of with our tour guide. We saw the whole island, had wine at 3 places, lunch and shopping. It was a perfect day! My number one advice is to get of the boat in the first set of people so you can get up the hill without riding those poor donkeys. 

We will wake up as early as we need to in order to get first tender tickets, for sure! And I agree...I am definitely not interested in a bus tour. We may just use public buses for transportation at times if taxis aren’t available. I definitely think this port would be worth splurging on private transportation though. 

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Our experience on a HAL Mediterranean cruise paralleled what TAD2005 described in post #2. We were very satisfied with the 25-Euro package TAD2005 mentioned. 

Somebody mentioned a coastal hike between Fira and Oia. I am unaware of such. Our bus took a decidedly inland path that was not particularly scenic, as I recall it now.

The queue for the funicular on the descent was not memorably long or tedious.

The most satisfying and memorable visit to Santorini was not on HAL but a smaller and shabbier European line called Louis Cruises. We visited in the afternoon and did not set sail out of the caldera until well after nightfall. Sunset seen from on top of the bluff overlooking the caldera was magical. Our small group of 3 joined three young women, an engineer and two management consultants, each from a different Middle Eastern country, for cocktails on a rooftop lounge. Taking the funicular at leisure and then sailing away from the lamplit cliff face. . . . Wonderful memories to savor.

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8 hours ago, Petronillus said:

Our experience on a HAL Mediterranean cruise paralleled what TAD2005 described in post #2. We were very satisfied with the 25-Euro package TAD2005 mentioned. 

Somebody mentioned a coastal hike between Fira and Oia. I am unaware of such. Our bus took a decidedly inland path that was not particularly scenic, as I recall it now.

The queue for the funicular on the descent was not memorably long or tedious.

The most satisfying and memorable visit to Santorini was not on HAL but a smaller and shabbier European line called Louis Cruises. We visited in the afternoon and did not set sail out of the caldera until well after nightfall. Sunset seen from on top of the bluff overlooking the caldera was magical. Our small group of 3 joined three young women, an engineer and two management consultants, each from a different Middle Eastern country, for cocktails on a rooftop lounge. Taking the funicular at leisure and then sailing away from the lamplit cliff face. . . . Wonderful memories to savor.

The only problem we had with the 25 Euro tour, purchased on the Fira dock, was the return buses from Oia to Fira.  There were only 3 return times you could select, and the last one was 1:30 PM, which was way too early for us.  we wanted to enjoy a relaxing lunch and then explore the town.   So we ditched the return bus ticket and took a taxi back to Fira when we were ready.

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8 hours ago, Petronillus said:

Somebody mentioned a coastal hike between Fira and Oia. I am unaware of such. Our bus took a decidedly inland path that was not particularly scenic, as I recall it now.

 

The hiking path from Fira to Oia is discussed frequently on the Greece board.

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