Photography Tips for Cruising the Mediterranean and seeing Santorini

Let me set the stage. Mediterranean cruise. Bluer water than you can believe. Bluer sky than you can imagine. I’m talking blue like the best of the best inside Crayola Crayon’s box of 152 ct Ultimate Box of colors (yes, that’s a thing). Sunshine for days to tan the skin and warm the soul. And ports of call in some of the most incredibly historic, stunningly beautiful cities across Greece, Sicily, Italy, Spain and Croatia. Who could ask for a better vacation? It truly was the stuff a photographer’s dreams are made of, with a few lessons learned for the next time I set sail!

When cruising the Mediterranean it’s hard to really go in depth at any one stop. I had the opportunity to sail on the Oosterdam with Holland America on a 10 day Mediterranean cruise and I had to really manage my expectations ahead. I was certainly excited to get a taste of this part of the world, but I knew it would be just that – a taste. A brief glimpse to walk the cobbled streets and soak in the culture before, too soon, moving on to the next destination. If photography is important to you, like it is to me, you definitely need to consider that a cruise might not be the best choice for capturing the best images at every city since you don’t have any control over your schedule. Some of the most stunning photos tend to be around sunrise and sunset, but often times you are still sailing at sunrise, docking by noon, and sailing away before sunset.

If however you are keen to unpack only once, have a predictable schedule that you can plan in advance, and guaranteed food service 24/7, then cruising can be a delight, if you choose the right company.

Regardless of when or why you choose to sail, you likely still want to photo-document your journey. As such, here are some things to consider when focusing on photography while cruising:

Tips for focusing on photography while cruising

  1. be on deck as you’re pulling into and out of the ports of call to capture some of those best lit moments. Often cruises dock in the wee hours or pull away just as the sun is setting. Run, don’t walk, to the best vantage points.
  2. get started in your port of call as early as possible and stay as long as possible, without missing the boat of course : ) Consider customizing an excursion if they offer the ability to do so. Or choose an excursion that highlights the location at the best times of day.
  3. Speaking of excursions, consider booking ones that really focus on street photography and local living if you’re constrained to the middle of the day. Street photography tends to lend itself better to action and movement and candid moments and those can be great in harsher light, or when converted to black and white!
  4. find indoor locations like churches at the hottest, brightest parts of the day, and look for outdoor areas with open shade (think near tall buildings or under groves of trees). Indoor window light or shaded environments can still have some great photo ops.
  5. If it’s just too hot or too bright, don’t be afraid to put the camera away and simply enjoy the moment and live in the now.

And now, on the star of the show – Santorini!

This city built on a volcanic island in the middle of the Aegean sea was everything I wanted it to be, and I want more. And my, oh my, it really was as blue as every photo I had ever seen. This was the longest port of call I had when actively cruising…so what does one do with only one full day on a beautiful Greek island? MAXIMIZE.

Go by ATV

One way to see the whole island on a budget is to rent an ATV. They are legal to drive everywhere and allow you access to off the beaten path places. And they’re tons of fun. We went to Fira, Oia, Pyrgos, and back again.

Find the Wineries

Spend some time drinking wine with a view (ok, easy enough, since there is a view everywhere!) I chose Santos winery – twice. Once for a quick tasting and then back again for an sunset. Speaking of wine, I had no idea before visiting Santorini that they grow their own grapes on the island. The wine that they make is called Assyrtiko. Interested in learning more? Check out Greek Wine for Beginners at https://winefolly.com/review/the-beginners-guide-to-greek-wines/

Seek the Black Sand Beaches

The volcanic black sand beaches beneath Oia is the perfect reprieve when it gets too hot to breathe, and taking a much deserved swim in the Mediterranean waters, while maybe not cool in temperature in the summer, is still ultimately relaxing and refreshing.

Eat feta cheese.

Feta is a cheese made from sheep and goat’s milk that hails from Greece. I had a lunchtime salad at a café with a sea view that had the most delicious hunk of feta cheese I’ve ever had on top of it. It was literally the equivalent of a whole grocery store package on the salad. And I ate every bite.

Look for all the color.

Look for all the color. The blue topped buildings against the blue ocean are so striking and postcard –  perfect, but there was color everywhere – from the laundry hanging on the lines to the bright and vibrant colors gracing every door, gate and flowerbox. Truly delightful.

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Go. Then go again.

It’s been awhile since I had the pleasure of experiencing Santorini, but looking back through my photos from this trip made me move it to the top of my “travel soon” list because it was truly amazing.


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