Getting on for 20 years ago, a generous friend treated us to day-trip tickets to Santorini, and oh, what a memorable excursion that was.
The leaflet we were given said the boat left Rethymno harbour at 7.30, but as we drove up to the dock at 7.10, it was casting off. Abandoning the car, we had to long-jump onto the rapidly retracting gangway.
Up on the top (and only) deck, we found all our fellow passengers had grabbed two plastic chairs apiece – one to sit on, one to rest their feet on while they stripped off and settled down to sunbathe. There were no plastic chairs left, no other seating and no shade.
We retreated into the other public area - a dingy, windowless red plush ‘lounge’ reeking of cigarette smoke like a 1950s cinema. From there to the dining room and the breakfast (included!) which sticks in the memory like the chewing gum on the ripped upholstery of the seating. Watery, saccharine squash for juice, rock-hard rolls,, and scrambled eggs made, hours before, from powdered egg.
Three hours passed, very slowly, with brief forays up aloft to look at points of interest, which mostly consisted of sea, until finally we arrived at scenic Santorini.
I had read that it was a tourist rip-off, which it was, and had marked up the one tavern which the Rough Guide reckoned was good and reasonably priced. After trailing interminably round alleys filled with tourist tat and failing to find it, we settled, starving, for being ripped off. Things brightened up when we found an interesting museum in a cool and beautiful Venetian mansion but we had no sooner paid our admission when they told us they were closing for the afternoon break. We could use our tickets again though, for the evening session. Which started half an hour after the boat was due to set sail for Crete.
More trailing round the lanes, until one’s companion fell in love for some reason with a large and hideously expensive model boat which we couldn’t afford and for which we had no room in a small flat. Words were had, but the boat was purchased and carried around with some difficulty and a terse silence for the rest of the mercifully short stay.
Back on our rust-bucket boat, a dinner of dried-up, brittle pasta dolloped with a kind of watery red soup, and followed by slimy slices of melon was abandoned by mutual consent, as was a brief visit to the lounge with its swirling clouds of cigarette smoke – the deck having been abandoned as night fell and turned chilly. Never been so glad to see Rethymno, never had to lie so outrageously as we thanked our benefactor the next day.
I’ve no doubt it’s a totally different experience these days but I haven’t quite got the stomach to find out.