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Cruise #14 :May 14 - 24, 2010

10 Night Eastern Mediterranean Cruise   Onboard Celebrity Equinox

Cruise Itinerary
DAY DATE PORTS-OF-CALL DOCK OR TENDER ARRIVE DEPART
FRI 14 MAY ROME (CIVITAVECCHIA), ITALY D 6:00PM
SAT 15 MAY SICILY (MESSINA), ITALY D 10:00AM 7:00PM
SUN 16 MAY AT SEA
MON 17 MAY ATHENS (PIRAEUS), GREECE D 7:00AM 7:00PM
TUE 18 MAY MYKONOS, GREECE T 7:00AM 5:00PM
WED 19 MAY EPHESUS (KUSADASI), TURKEY D 7:00AM 7:00PM
THU 20 MAY RHODES, GREECE D 9:00AM 6:00PM
FRI 21 MAY SANTORINI, GREECE T 7:00AM 6:00PM
SAT 22 MAY AT SEA
SUN 23 MAY NAPLES/CAPRI, ITALY D 7:00AM 6:30PM
MON 24 MAY ROME (CIVITAVECCHIA), ITALY D 4:00AM

 

 


 

Sicily Corinth Corinth Canal Mykonos Delos Kusadasi Rhodes Santorini Naples Herculaneum Equinox

 

 

 

Cruise Log

Thursday May 13 to Friday May 14 -- Travel Day

 

Karen was too excited to sleep!  We got up at 5:00AM and went out for bagels for breakfast -- and for the freezer. We got to the bagel place 15 minutes before they opened!  We sat in the parking lot waiting.  We got bagels and brought them home because we had smoked salmon at home. Lou got French Roast coffee, and Karen got a bottle of milk so she could drink tea at home.

 

Sam seemed bummed that she wasn't having a bagel.

 

We took Sam for a walk, and then when we got home, we still had hours to wait for the limo.  We started watching the second episode of Happy Town, but we weren't enjoying it so we killed it and switched to Merlin.  We puttered around doing the final packing. Karen decided not to bring her raincoat. Then Karen glanced out the front window and saw the limo parked there.  She waved the driver to the driveway. We had a nice ride in, talking to the driver. He asked what we thought of the president, and Lou was diplomatic.

 

We got in line for the skycaps at the airport, and the lady behind us complimented us on our cool silver luggage. When we got the front of the line, we found out that we could not use the skycap because we had an international final destination. We went in and did not have to wait long at all to check in our bags. We had seat assignments on our first flight to Atlanta, but not on the second flight to Rome.  The ticket agent told Lou that the second flight was oversold. We had a blast rolling our new suitcases through the airport. They are very sturdy and roll easily. There did not seem to be a lot of people e lined up at security but it sure took awhile.  Lou beeped and was led away. Karen had a little trouble gathering up all the carry-on stuff as it came out the x-ray machine, but she got everything and had Lou's shoes waiting for him when he passed inspection.

 

We had lunch at the airport, at a BBQ restaurant.

 

Lou tried to move us to business class or first class, but there were no seats available. He did manage to get us sitting together, in almost the last row.

 

We had a great first flight, a little bumpy.

 

We landed in Atlanta, which is a great airport, but we had to rush to an E gate from terminal A. There was no time to enjoy anything.

 

We got great seats on the long flight to Rome: together in row 11, F and G. There were equipment boxes under the seats in front of us, taking up some of our legroom and room for our small carry-ons. We each had our own movie screen and the movies and games were free.

 

We tried to sleep but the best we could do was doze. The flight was like 4pm to 1am, but the time difference made it 8am in Rome. Man that is tough. We got off the plane pretty quickly because we were very close to the door. We had a lot of trouble in passport control because it was a complete madhouse, and we ended up trapped in a line that did not move. It was super irritating because the line next to us was flying by. The immigration guy for that line waved most people through without even looking at their passports, while the woman at the head of our line moved like a turtle.

 

Eventually we got through and went looking for our luggage. We could not find it. We did find a celebrity person, who told us that we need to go to carousel 9. We found our bag already off the baggage carousel and set in a line of bags. It was really easy to see our new silver bag -- it stood out a mile away.

 

Then we headed to another Celebrity person, who took all our bags from us. The bags would be brought to the ship by truck, and screened, and then brought to our cabin. We decided to give her all three suitcases, even though that meant we would not have bathing suits or camera. It turned out to be a great decision, because we got on to the ship around 10:45 AM, and we were not allowed access to our stateroom till 1:30. We saw many people rolling their suitcases around, and we were glad we did not have to do that.

 

We had not been able to pre-pay for the transfer to the ship, but we just had to get to the bus and they would charge the room. But the guy could not find us on his list of Celebrity guests based on flight number! But it was no big deal, we just filled out a order form with our name and cabin number.

 

We went to the very back of the bus and Karen put her feet up. The new compression stockings had worked well, and her ankles were only moderately swollen. Then we looked over to the other bus, where every seat was taken before it drove away. That meant that we would be jammed in with three other people onto the last seat -- so we moved.

 

We had to wait around for awhile for the bus to fill up. When like eight more people got on we clapped and said thank God you are here. The guy said something funny about how we would have been happy to see anyone at all.

 

The bus ride took about an hour, and Karen finished her first book. The second book was stuffed in Lou's backpack and inaccessible, so she fell asleep. Lou listened to his book on tape.

 

The check in process went pretty fast except that there were no guest cards ready for us. We had to wait till they printed some for us. But after that we got on to the ship pretty quickly. So quickly in fact that the buffet restaurant was not yet open!

 

We ate lunch in the buffet which is called Ocean View. It is great. The food stations are spread out, with a lot of space between them. So you are not constantly bumping into people. The only tricky thing is that you have to wander around first to see what is available.

 

The tea that is available in the buffet restaurant is fantastic. There are little teapots and fancy tea bags. Karen was pretty happy.

 

Then we wandered around the ship. We had been disappointed when we checked in because all we got was one pathetic sort of map that did not show where things were -- it just listed what was available on each deck.

 

We checked out the lawn, which is pretty cool.

 

We explored the ship and got oriented. There are amazing diagrams everywhere that clearly show where you are and what is on the deck. It is so easy to get around, you do not need a map.  Each display had both a vertical and horizontal diagram which is a lot easier to read than what we have seen on other ships.

 

There are glass elevators in the middle of the ship, which is open from Deck 3 to the roof. You can see into the library and other venues as you zoom up and down. There is a tree that seems to float in the middle of the space in a huge glittery vase.

 

We love our cabin! The room seems huge, but the square footage is actually a little smaller than on Princess. The balcony (veranda) is awesome. There is an overhang to protect us from the sun.

 

We met the butler, Rudolph, who is in charge of getting us food in the room. For example, he will be the one to order our fancy dinner in the cabin, from the dining room menu, on both formal nights. (This is a cruise on which we will NOT be getting dressed up.)

 

We were so exhausted yesterday. Karen was completely zonked. We did not make it to the evening entertainment. We were in bed and asleep almost immediately.

 

 

Saturday May 15 -- Messina, Sicily

 

We slept like 10 hours! Some sunlight sneaks around the edges of the drapes, and the light woke Karen up at 6:30am. We both slept great. Lou often brings Karen tea in bed, and we joke that Karen never reciprocates because she is never up before Lou. So on this cruise, Karen popped out of bed, threw on some clothes, and went to the Cafe al Bacio to get Lou a cappuccino and Karen a latte.  Adrian is the barista. He is very charming. The coffee shop does not open till 7:00am, so Karen hung around. We get free premium coffees and teas because we purchased a beverage package on the first day.

 

There are also teeny tiny pastries at the coffee shop.  Chocolate croissant seems to be Lou's favorite.

 

We drank coffee in the room and then went to the sit down breakfast in the Silhouette Dining Room. It is a very pretty room. We skipped dinner there the first night because we could not stay up that late. We sat with couples from New York, Seattle, Connecticut and Maryland. The couple from Maryland were on their very first cruise. We teased them that they were starting at the top and would be spoiled for any other ship.

 

After breakfast we tried to fix Karen's beverage package. We needed to upgrade it because she can't get Perrier (boo hoo). The Guest Relations desk sent us to a bar, but the bar sent us back to guest relations luckily with a guest relations steward. After awhile we were told that only the bar manager could refund one package and purchase another, and that he was not on duty till after 11:00.  So we left it unresolved.

 

We ended up back at Guest Relations to purchase some Euros so we would have cash. The TV said that the exchange rate on shore would not be favorable and the shops and restaurants might not take other currency.

 

We rushed to the Equinox Theater 5 minutes late, got stickers up on the stage for our tour, and then sat and waited. There was apparently someone signed up who came very late, and so we waited and waited while other busses left. Finally we headed out to the bus.  We got fabulous seats right behind the driver.

 

A guy got on the bus, very late and very angry.  He sat in the seat directly behind us. He started speaking very angrily to whoever was in the seat next to him. The person had apparently left the ship without him, and he had been looking for her and ended up holding up the entire tour. At first, we though the guy was speaking to a child.  He was giving orders like, "You will NEVER leave somewhere if I have told you to wait for me."  Kind of like, if your kid runs into the street, and you are so freaked out that he almost got run over, and you want to make sure that it never happens again. But then this women started talking, really calmly, but pretty rudely about how it was all his fault because she had asked him several times to get her a sticker so they could board the bus, and that she had not spent hours in the internet choosing excursions for him to make her miss them... The guy was furious, and Lou was sure he was going to hit her. He was thinking about what he ought to do if the guy did start hitting her, but then the tour guide started talking and the angry couple fell silent.

 

Then the bus started rolling, and right away we could tell that the tour guide Joe was not that great, because he droned on in a monotone that was impossible to listen to.

 

We drove for about an hour and a half with no stops to get to the Silvestri Craters, and the tour guide blathered on and on in almost a hypnotic monotone.  People fell asleep. When we got to the crater, it was completely fogged in with clouds, it was really cold, and there was a shocking wind. We tried to be good sports though and started up the easier trail to one of the craters. The ground was all black rock and black sand.  Lava rock.  But about half way there, the wind kicked up.  All exposed skin was pricked by like a million needles as the sand beat at us. That was okay till it got into our eyes. We were both immobilized and then our eyes started watering furiously and we knew we had to quit and head back to the restaurant.

 

The people who own the restaurant own the craters. It was so crowded, too many busloads of people at once.  The line for the ladies room was LONG. There was no line for the men's room. Lou stayed with Karen however. We chatted with the ladies in line. Candace in front of us was very unhappy. She was completely carsick and angry that we had come to the crater when the weather in no way permitted a walk to the crater. We offered to swap seats with her and her husband, and she accepted.

 

After about 25 minutes, Karen got to a bathroom. then we got into another line to get a cannoli and a coffee. They ran out of cannoli just as we got there, but the lady in front of Karen offered hers to Lou. He gratefully accepted. The other choice was a light fluffy chocolate cake that was super. The coffee was black or latte, and super delicious.

 

Because we could not go to the crater, we were all ready to leave 30 minutes earlier than planned.

 

On the bus, we sat in the back. Candace's husband handed back Karen's yellow hat. in the back, we sat near the lady who offered Lou her cannoli, and near a very attractive young couple who look as though they are on their honeymoon.

 

We drove for another hour to Taormina, an ancient walled city (or mall, Lou insists). We got to spend two hours there. We escaped from the group and the annoying tour guide as soon as we could. We went to a sidewalk cafe and ate ham, cheese, and tomato pannini, yum yum yum. We were near a sidewalk artist guy on a box who sort of attacked people as they walked by. He had popped Karen on the head as she walked by. Lou kept saying, "Don't make eye contact."

 

Then we basically just wandered around and Lou used his fantastic new camera.

 

When it was time to go, we went back to the first square and then Joe the awful tour guide without counting us or anything, started back to the bus.  We were two people short. Karen and Cannoli Lady both said, "The young couple," at the same time.

 

Joe made some snarky comment and then walked out of the parking garage. They showed up maybe ten minutes late. The girl was very upset. She told Karen that they were at the square on time but everyone was gone already. They ran to the parking lot too. Anyway when Joe had found them, he was rude. She was wicked upset.

 

When we got off the bus, we did not tip Joe. He was Australian. He was a jerk, not what you expected. There were some people on the bus who seemed to be in love with him and hung on his every word. We found him boring and sarcastic.

 

We got back on board and went to guest relations to finally correct Karen's beverage package.  Karen got to talk to Anna and Bernardo (from Mexico) the young couple. They were very nice. 

 

It seemed to take forever to find the bar manager, so the guest relations lady suggested that Karen have a seat. She rejoined Lou at the bar, where he was drinking something like Red Tide. There was an excellent band called Headliners. They are from the Philippines. We need to go listen to them more.

 

We wanted to go swimming before dressing for dinner. We headed back the cabin. We found that our butler, Rudolph, had delivered to us a few cookies and canapés for tea. They were waiting for us when we got back from our excursion today, and we gobbled them up.

 

We went to the Solarium (enclosed adults only pool area) and swam in the pool till one of the hot tubs emptied out. The pool water was cool, and Lou made a huge effort to get Karen to dunk her head. So the second that a hot tub was free, we hurried over, Karen shivering. There was just a teenaged girl still in the hot tub  when we got in. We said hello but she ignored us.  then an older lady joined us, and we had a nice chat.  Then it was time to dress for dinner at Silk Harvest.

 

Silk Harvest was fantastic!  We were hesitant to try the sushi because the sushi in the buffet is always lame. But not in this restaurant. The entire dinner was fantastic. We booked another night there.

 

We wanted to go to the 60s dance party but instead we walked a couple of "laps" on the Promenade deck. (Promenade does not allow you to do a full lap -- there is only a walkway along each side, the connecting tunnel at the front and back of the ship is crew only. So we walked back and forth a few times. We stopped at the Ensemble Bar for water and a drink for Lou.  The guy mistakenly thought that we had an alcoholic beverage package and was not going to charge us for the double Bombay Sapphire and tonic. Karen called him over.  He thanked us for catching his mistake. It was hysterical though because the drink was $16 and Karen said we should have stayed quiet and the guy laughed and agreed. We also got water and came back to the room so Karen could write this record of everything that had happened so far.

 

We had to turn the clocks forward one hour, so it was ten minutes before 2:00am when we finally went to sleep.

 

 

Sunday May 16 -- At Sea

 

Our first day at sea!  There are only two days at sea on this cruise, so it is a busy busy busy cruise. We need to relax today. Our mission today was to determine whether it seemed crowded on the ship. It did not. There were free chairs near the pool in the Solarium all day.  It stinks if you cannot get a seat near the pool.

 

At 8:30 Karen made the arduous trip to the coffee shop to bring Lou coffee in bed. Adrian said "You're late!" But the ship was still pretty quiet. Losing an hour overnight was tough. While the coffee was being made, Karen also checked out the menu at the Bistro. The waiter came right up and tried to get her to come in. The menu looks great, the cover charge is $5, so I think that we will go there eventually.

 

Around lunchtime, in the hot noon sun, we walked 8 laps (one mile) around deck 14, which is the balcony deck overlooking the pools. There is a red path marked out and called the jogging track. But with all the people and the deck chairs encroaching it is not a carefree walk. We got behind a few people, a few different times, and it was much easier to let them clear the path and set the pace.

 

At 1:30, we got dressed up a little and went to the Captain's Club party at Sky Lounge. (When we left the room, we discovered that our next door neighbors are Anna and Bernardo!) W e shook a lot of people's hands on the way into the lounge, including the captain.  We spoke to the Chief Engineer and the Environmental Engineer as well.  We had sushi and roast beef, and listened to great music. The captain made a speech and warded red roses to two ladies who had been on 32 cruises on Celebrity!  Wow!

 

We sat in the Cafe al Bacio for awhile.  Lou had a coffee and Karen tried the Jasmine Green Tea.

 

We sat on our balcony for awhile. Lou listened to his book, and Karen read Laura Bush's book.

 

Rudolph left us the dinner menu for the main restaurant, and we chose what we wanted. Karen got quail and Lou got lamb. Around 4pm, there was a knock on the door, and it was Rudolph with a cart, brining us afternoon tea in our stateroom! We got little sandwiches and treats, and Lou had coffee, while Karen chose tea. One cup of tea, instead of endless cups of tea. And Rudolph took away our dinner selection.

 

We were looking on pay per view for a movie (about $12 each) but it turned out that we did not finish dinner till 9pm.  Karen was too tired for a movie.

 

We walked 8 more laps before dinner. Most people were gone, and so it was much easier and more pleasant. We kept a good pace. On our first lap, a lady called out hello.  It was the woman from breakfast, the couple who were on their first cruise. We asked if she had been reading her book on Med cruises, but she had not found time. We had a nice long chat. She WON the cruise from work for having high sales at Hunter Douglas.  Maureen and Richard.

 

We found Celebrity Central.  It is a small theater.  There was bingo at the time. We were looking for it because that is where they play movies, and we had an idea that we might see the "new" Star Trek movie again.  But that did not work out.

 

Lou wanted to smoke a cigar. However, smoking is prohibited on the balconies! Instead, we went up to the lawn, near the Sunset Bar. There is smoking allowed on the starboard side. Lou sat in a very comfortable rattan chair and watched guys playing bacci. 

 

Around 7:15pm Lou jumped in the shower. Karen went to talk to Servio. She asked if we could have our turndown service at any time from 7:30 to 8:00pm because we were having dinner in the room and staying in all night to watch a movie.  Servio sent his assistant to clean the bathroom and turn down the bed.

 

Dinner was amazing. Lou had suggested simply bringing all the food out to  the balcony because it had warmed up (the wind stopped). But when Rudolph arrived, he brought a white tablecloth and set the table just as beautifully as though we had been in the main dining room. He started us off with our appetizer and soup. He left our salads in the room, and promised to come back in a little while with our entrees.  Fantastic!  There was actually steam coming off the soups when we got to them.

 

Our entrees were very good.  The quail was better than the lamb. We had dessert and then collapsed onto the couch. Then bedtime.

 

 

Monday May 17 -- Athens, Greece

 

Our wakeup call came at 6:00AM.  We needed to be in the main dining room at 7:15AM for the excursion. We had filled out a card for breakfast in our stateroom, and we chose 6:30 to 7:00AM. We had hoped that it would arrive closer to 6:30 but it did not.  Time was ticking away, and we were wondering if we would have to go to the buffet instead. Then at ten minutes before 7:00 Rudolph called to announce that it was coming. He brought in a white tablecloth again!  He set up the table beautifully again!  Then luckily he left because we had to wolf it down.  Lou said that his omelet was very good.  Karen had cottage cheese and oatmeal and toast.  We did not finish our tea and coffee because there was no time.

 

We went to the dining room and got stickers for bus 2.

 

A couple from Scotland sat with us, but got pulled into conversation with an English woman at the next table.

 

We got on the bus, in the third row, not too bad. The bus was held up when one of the men realized he had forgotten his wallet and asked if he could run back to the ship for it.

 

Our tour guide was Nasia. She was pretty good.  She had a pretty accent.

 

We drove to a restaurant next to one of the bridges over the Isthmia Canal.  We walked out on a bridge to look down and take pictures. Then we decided since we had time to get a coffee.  As we entered, we saw the Scottish couple with coffee. We joined them and had yummy coffee.  (The coffee has been amazing on this trip.)  The waiter left us a bill for 5,50 Euro.  We had a nice chat and some laughs with the couple.  I do not remember their names.

 

We drove to Corinth then. Karen realized that the people who live in Corinth are the Corinthians -- and remembered St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians.

 

At Corinth, we went to a museum and then wandered around an archeological site.

 

In the museum, there were many statues with no heads. Turns out, statue bodies were "mass produced" and then all you had to do was commission your face!

 

Lou got a photo of Julius Caesar's head.

 

Corinthian pottery, lots of it, in the museum.

 

We saw the ruins of a temple with Doric columns. It was ironic that the columns were Doric and not Corinthian.

 

We saw the Bema which was probably where St Paul was brought in front of a magistrate by the local Jews for teaching unapproved things about God, but the Roman magistrate had no jurisdiction so he drove them out.  Nasia read to use from The New Testament (Acts 17).

 

The Leicion Road linked the ruins to the port (about 2 miles). At first it was dirt but later it was paved with stone. Karen took a couple of pictures of Lou on the road. We had wandered away from Nasia who was lecturing about the water supply. Good thing we did because we left right after that.  No one else in our group got to stand on that road.  Karen did not.  she stayed on the walkway so she would have a good vantage point for shooting the pictures.

 

We piled back into the bus.  we stopped at a store to kill time before the canal cruise.  Too bad we did not stay at the archeological site for that additional 30 minutes.

 

The boat was not there when we arrived but all the people from bus 1 were there.

 

Karen started to feel bad so we ate lifesavers.

 

Soon the boat came and we all piled on.  We got on almost last but there were still plenty of seats available.  Lou got a great spot at the very front of the boat.

 

We went into the canal behind a pretty sailboat, the Moon Bird.  All black, including the mast. It was windy.

 

Karen bought a diet Pepsi for Lou and a peach juice box for herself because she felt pretty bad. After drinking the juice, she felt better immediately.

 

 

A guy on the moon bird went up via ropes about halfway up the mast.

 

it looked as though the mast was too high to fit under the bridges but it fit

 

Then we went downstairs and inside for mezze (snacks) and ouzo. Lou sat down, and Karen waited in the line to get food. It took awhile. The snacks were interesting, fried sardines and French fries and sliced of tomato...

 

We fell asleep on the bus ride back.

 

When we got back on the ship, we went for coffee and tea, and Karen brought her laptop and recorded more events in the trip log.

 

We found a good spot to watch the ship leave port, up on Deck 15 Forward.  Lou hung out at the rail while Karen walked a mile on Deck 14. There was a lot of traffic, so we left a half hour late. Using thrusters, the Captain spun the ship away from the dock and got us underway.

 

We ate dinner in the buffet and then got some Euros.

 

Tonight Karen noticed that there is 4 hours in the bus for the tour we chose for Turkey, but the cancellation deadline was 8pm tonight.

 

 

Tuesday May 18 -- Mikonos and Delos

 

We got up at 6:15AM, and breakfast was delivered to the room around 6:40AM. Rudolph suggested that we eat breakfast on the balcony, so we did. It was lovely. Then Karen checked email, and Lou had a work issue to resolve.

 

We were late again to the sticker for the tour, and we ended up on the last bus again. Paul and his family were on that bus too.

 

There was a dolphin at the dock, and we got our pictures taken with her.

 

There was a football argument while we were waiting to walk to the ferry. A guy from Gainesville said that Tim Tivou (not related to the Tivo enterprise) was the best player in college football and that it was odd that he was drafted 25th. This was in response to Lou saying that he hoped the NFL did not go to his head (because he is a great guy). Then this other guy piped up with, "No way is Tivou the best player in college football. I can think of at least 25 guys who are better."  The Tivou fan kept saying, "Name one player who's better than Tivou," and he was like a dog with a bone.

 

The ferry ride to Delos was a little rough. We sat near Paul and his wife.

 

Our guide told us to call him Adonis, even though his real name was Antonio. He was GREAT.  He was well informed and charming and funny. It was easy to keep listening to him. He knew how to hold your interest.

 

We wandered all over the island of Delos.  It was easy to navigate. The ground was mostly flat dirt or stone.  We walked on the original roads. We started with the commercial area and the main road to the temple.

 

There were 5 lions out in the open, guarding the Sacred Lake. Originally there were many more lions, perhaps as many as 19, but many were stolen. There is one in Venice where they have stuck the head of a dog into the lion body, because the lion's head was lost during transport.

 

We had coffee, which was just OK.

 

We wandered up the hill into an area with nicer shops and mansions and the theater. In this area, there was no question about whether what we were seeing was restored or original -- it was all original. What had happened was that second stories had collapsed into first stories, and then time and weather and nature covered the rubble with dirt and vegetation. The archeologist simply removed all the dirt, vegetation, and second story rubble (which was used to build the dock) and simply revealed the streets and first levels of homes.

 

We jumped back on the ferry. The ferry did not bring us back to the ship. They dropped us off in town, sort of near the shuttle buses to take us back to the ship. It was irresistible to go into town.  We wandered through a maze of alleyways. Everything was painted white. The alleys were twisty and narrow to make it impossible for the town to be invaded. You were supposed to expect to get lost, which we did.  But Lou got us back on track, and then we settled in to the Nikos Tavern for a late lunch. We had awesome chicken soup. Karen had a Greek salad, and Lou ate spicy meatballs with rice and fries.

 

Then we walked just a short distance, and we were at the waterfront (which is where we needed to be for the bus).

 

A woman made a big production of saying hello to Karen but Karen had no idea who she was.

 

Once we got on the bus, smart alec Lou said, "This is the last bus," and the woman in front of us panicked. He told her she was just kidding.

 

We got back on the ship very quickly. Now we are in the coffee shop and Karen is writing this trip log.

 

We got a lot of great pictures today. Karen wants to change the picture on her desktop at work from the lion on the bridge near Big Ben in London.

 

We need to buy gifts for our pet sitters but nothing so far has jumped out at us.

 

Tonight, the plan is:  comedian at 7:15PM, dinner at the French restaurant at 8:30PM, and then go to bed!  We have one more early day tomorrow, then the excursions are later.

 

We have decided to cancel the freaky volcano and hot springs excursion in Santorini. We'll just explore on our own instead. We always book too much!  And then wear ourselves out.

 

This has been the best cruise ever, and that is saying a lot.

 

The only thing that could be improved: the hot tubs have no place for your feet. Plus too much chlorine.  And the pool is too shallow.

 

 

Wednesday, May 19 -- Kusadasi Turkey

 

We were a bit worried about today because one of the flyers said the trip home would take two hours. We tried to cancel the tour, but we had missed the deadline. The shore excursion woman told Karen that we would be allowed to switch to a different tour, but not cancel.

 

So, after another lovely breakfast on the balcony, we got on bus 28. Bulent, our tour guide, was funny and interesting, and we thought that we had struck gold. We drove out to Sirince, and hear a lot of interesting stuff about how fabulous Turkey is.  How it is first, second, or third producer in the world in a whole bunch of things, like fruit, olive oil, jewelry, etc. The miles flew by because he was so good.

 

Then we got to the Artemis Restaurant in Sirince. The Clintons ate there.  Ooooh.  Anyway, we looked out over the countryside and listened to Bulent talk about farming and the ancient village. Then we went into the restaurant and saw a traditional Turkish sofa (a sectional with three sides) and a huge tray in the middle with plates and hookah pipes. Families eat here.

 

We also saw a lady making a special thin bread.

 

Then as a sort of afterthought, he suggested that we might taste some wine produced locally from fruit.  Lou was not thrilled, since it was 9:00am. He had a tiny sip of peach, blackberry, and pomegranate wines. They were okay, very sweet, nothing Lou would want to buy. A bottle (in a cute burlap sack) was six Euros, but no one purchased any.

 

At this point, the tour went to hell. We moved over to the gift shop and stood around for 20 minutes while people looked at crap and eventually bought some. We started our tour through Sirince, but Bulent did not tell us anything. He just basically walked though a shopping area slowly so people could shop. We passed a very interesting looking building with a tall skinny tower. Karen thought that he would explain what it was, but he did not. He got a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, and some people on the tour did too for 2 Euros each.

 

Eventually Karen asked about the building.  It was a mosque. The Imam goes up the minaret to call the people to prayer 5 x day.

 

Bulent was carrying the Celebrity sign for bus 28, but he was not holding it up in the air so you could see it. That meant you had to stay near him or else you could not find him.

 

It was boring and pointless.  Karen did buy some neat olive oil soap.

 

Then we got on the bus and went to Tire. Bulent did not even bother bringing the bus 28 sign with him. This was a bad idea because we were on narrow streets, turning corners, and you had to stick close or get lost.  (Some guy did get lost.)  Karen thinks that Bulent was just LAZY not to carry the sign.  No other tour guide ever has been that lazy and irresponsible.

 

We walked through cobblestone streets and stood outside a Turkish Bath and saw some house in disrepair. We walked through more shops and saw a demonstration of how they make felt crafts.

 

Then we got back on the bus and Bulent said it was time for lunch. We pulled up in front of a building in Tire, and he announced that this was the museum that we were supposed to see, but did we want to see it or go to lunch?  People said yes they wanted to see it.  We wandered through and he talked a little about the artifacts.

 

We got back on the bus and drove for a really long time. We were seeing some of the sights again from the morning, and I said to Lou, we are almost back where we started in Sirince. Then the bus abruptly did a U turn.  No explanation was given for awhile, although everyone was awake and wondering. It was also getting late, around 1:00, and everyone was hungry.

 

So Bulent got on the mike again to explain that there had been a mix-up about which restaurant we were going to for lunch. There are two restaurants of the same name, and the phone number that they gave him did not work, so he decided that it must be the one near Sirince... We had driven 25 km the wrong way, and now we were headed back.

 

Bulent went to the back, without a mike, and talked to people there. Karen heard him say that the travel agency would not allow us to switch to a different restaurant, that they were making us drive back. There was a woman who had been very afraid on the mountainous roads, and he was reassuring her that we would not have to go that far. 

 

Lou and I ate life savers because were pretty hungry. Breakfast had been five hours earlier...

 

We went way back to Tire practically!  It was awful, and then suddenly the bus driver did another U turn!  A collective groan went up.  What was happening?  We were lost.

 

Eventually we got to the place.  Everyone rushed to the bathrooms.  the ladies room was filthy, only one stall seemed useable. 

 

Lunch was okay. The bread was good.  this English couple later said that they were worried that the kitchen could not be clean since the bathroom was not clean.

 

We actually had a nice time talking to people at lunch. It started to drizzle, which broke up lunch almost as soon as the chunks of fruit arrived as dessert.

 

When we got back on the bus, rainwater was leaking out of one of the air conditioning vents onto a lady.  Not just one or two drips either. It was quite a torrent.

 

We started driving, and someone had asked if we could skip the rug demonstration because they wanted to go shopping on their own, and so much time had been lost. At first Bulent agreed, but then we pulled in to the rug place. He asked if he could have 25 minutes for the silk and dye demo. Well, we were there for an hour.  No one bought anything, even the people who wanted to, because the prices were too high.

 

Lou and I refused to go in. We sat at a picnic table in the shade. We asked for coffee, and the waiter was nice but the coffee never ever came.  Everyone in the tour got a drink, so we eventually went back and asked again for Diet Coke.

 

Karen waited till neither the tour guide nor the cruise escort was around, and she tipped the driver.

 

We filled out a questionnaire about how bad the tour was.

 

When we got off the bus we had to wander through stores again to get back to the ship. Karen took Lou's photo near a Starbucks sign!

 

And now we are having coffee in our favorite spot.

 

We decided to walk around and take pictures of Deck 5, while there were few people about, but we got distracted because Celebrity Destinations was open with no passengers being helped.  What an opportunity!  So we chatted with Mikki and ended up booking a Holy Lands cruise in October 2011 on the as-yet-unbuilt Silhouette (another Solstice class ship just like the fabulous Equinox).  We will overnight in Alexandria Egypt!!!  Oh my God how awesome.

 

We wandered a little around Deck 5 taking pictures, and then went to dinner at 8:30PM.

 

We ended up in the buffet and met a nice couple from LA, Lela and Robert.  She uses CruiseCritic.com to find private excursions to take in port. That way they are not trapped on a bus. A lady in a Mercedes Benz drove them around Kusadasi yesterday. Lela says that this has worked for them a few times. The trick is that she makes sure that she reads reviews and only books a private excursion if the reviews are all favorable.  Sometimes you see things like, "The guide did not speak English well enough," or "The driver got us back to the ship an hour late, and I was very nervous that we would miss the ship..."  Avoid those tours!

 

 

Thursday May 20 -- Rhodes Greece

 

Ah, finally a leisurely morning!  Lou woke up and sat out on the balcony reading his camera instruction manual and enjoying the ocean. Karen woke up around 8:15 and ran down to get frothy caffeinated beverages.

 

Breakfast was delivered to the cabin, and then we docked at Rhodes.  We are lucky to be on the port side so we can see the walled old city and Lou can take a million pictures.

 

Our walking tour starts at 10:15.

 

Karen is wearing lipstick because a few people have called her "Sir" on the trip.

 

We dropped off our complaint form to Shore Excursions this morning.

 

The tour guide was Nina, and she did a great job. We wore "whisper" audio devices so she did not have to shout. She carried a green umbrella that was easy to follow.

 

We walked down the busy street and entered the walled city. We started at the remains of a Catholic church called either Madonna of the People or Mary of the People. The stone of that church and of the wall around the Old Town is toufa (or toupha) and is rough and tan colored.

 

Nina told us all about all the various nations that conquered and ruled Rhodes.

 

We walked through the streets and saw a couple of fountains, which were not grand but rather cute.

 

We toured the hospital of the Knights. We saw the infirmary. There were rather tiny windowless rooms along the infirmary wall, and there is some debate whether those were closets or small rooms where the terminal patients were kept. The hospital served the men who fell ill or were injured on their way to or from the Crusades.

 

We walked along the Street of the Knights, up hill on an interesting kind of stone street, where thousands of round flat rocks are held sideways and upright in cement.

 

At the top of the hill, it was breezy and lovely. Karen got her picture taken with a pirate.

 

We toured the Palace of the Grand Master. It was rebuilt after an explosion. The exterior dimensions are the same as the original, but because no plans survived, they had to guess at the interior. The floors are covered with many amazing mosaics. Those mosaics were taken from early Christian buildings on the island of Cos.

 

The explosion was caused when the Turks invaded, and the Knights hid all the remainder of the ammunition in the church basement, and then years later lightening struck the church tower and the whole church and palace blew up.

 

When the tour ended, Lou got a picture of Karen and Nina. Then we headed off through the twisty narrow streets to look for lunch.

 

We wanted to have lunch in a restaurant on a roof, and we were almost back to the square where there were several to choose from, but then Robert (and Lela) called out hello. They were seated at a sidewalk cafe and had just ordered. We joined them and had a great lunch. Karen fed a stray cat a bunch of swordfish.

 

Then we wandered through the streets.  Karen bought some embroidered hankies.

 

We founded ourselves back at the main gate and decided to return to the ship.

 

We drank coffee and tea in the coffee shop. We got refills and ended up taking them to go.

 

We bought a photo of Lou hugging a huge stuffed dolphin.

 

We also got a summary of our ship account. We saw that we are being charged $15 per day in gratuities, but that is no good since we are not eating in the dining room.  We plan to tip several people in cash. We got a list of the recommended tips guidelines for each person per day. For example, the butler gets $3.50 per person per day ($70).

 

Later we headed to Sky but it was closed for a private function.  So we ended up in Molecular Bar (Karen keeps called it Microbiology Bar) where barista Adrian works. He explained that this is a very special bar, established by Junior Marino, where fabulous and rare juices and liquors and spices are used to create amazing drinks. Lou tried Adrian's recommendation: Dragonfly. He liked it. The final step in creating a Dragonfly is to pour in some liquid nitrogen, which sends off plumes of cold mist and freezes the top of the drink. Then Adrian poked a hole in the ice so Lou could drink.  Lou also tried Cazzarita, which he also liked. That leaves ten more drinks to test.

 

We ate in the buffet at 9:00PM.  Lou loved his salmon and roasted vegetables.

 

Now we are in our room, in our PJs.

 

 

Friday, May 21, 2010 -- Santorini Greece

 

This is the island Lou has been most looking forward to!!!  It is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous.  We do not have a tour, but will wander on our own.

 

The weather did not exactly cooperate with us today. We were completely socked in with clouds, and we even had a downpour! 

 

We ate breakfast on the balcony, admired the view, and then headed down tot he tender around 9:00AM. It was a good tender ride, no seas sickness. We jumped on the cable car and then started looking for the taxi stand.  Jay, one of cruise staff, had shown us where on the map to get a taxi or a bus. He had warned us that it would be very easy to get a taxi to Oia -- but that it would be much more difficult and expensive to get one coming back to Fira.

 

Well we took a wrong turn somewhere and could not find the taxi stand.  But lo and behold a taxi just drove up to us!  We struck a deal and headed to Oia.

 

The TV and paperwork all emphasized that the best views, the most beautiful sights, were in Oia.  All postcards and movies are of Oia.  So we had to see it.

 

We stopped on the way to Oia (pronounced Eee-ah) to look over an overlook at a Catholic Church and at the caldera and our ship. Then we zoomed to Oia. He walked up a narrow alleyway with steps up to a great vantage point. If only it had been sunny!  The view would probably have knocked our socks off.  As it was, the sea and the mountainside were pretty.  Lou got some great pictures anyway.

 

Someone handed us a sesame snack treat, in the hope that we would then buy one. It was pretty good. But we were not in the buying mood.

 

We walked back to the taxi. He wanted to take us to the beach for a couple of hours, or to a restaurant where we could have munch... but no way. We didn't want to spend that much. So we went back to Fira and were dropped off in a great location, next tot he Museum. And we started wandering.

 

Lou wanted a light colored hat, so we were on a  mission. And we eventually found one that he liked.

 

A few raindrops fell, reminding us of Seattle.

 

Coffee time.  We sat in a sidewalk cafe and enjoyed a coffee and people watching. But then it really started to rain. Right above us, two canopies met -- and there were leaks!  We decided to move inside and up stairs. Then the skies really opened up. We weren't going anywhere. Lou suggested lunch. It didn't seem like a fabulous restaurant, but the rain made the decision for us.

 

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush -- as we sat there, several couples came up the winding staircase and had to go back because all the tables were full. At one point, there was even thunder!

 

Lou ordered a chef's salad, and Karen got stuffed tomatoes. Both were very good. We also got bread, at a nominal additional cost. It was a great lunch. We talked nonstop but cannot recall anything we talked about ;^)  Oh yeah, we were trying to determine whether Patsy and Omer would like this trip or not.

 

The waiters rushed up and down the circular winding staircase a bunch of times. Once when there was a long line of diners slowly going down, one waiter skipped down the super narrow end of the steps like a gazelle.

 

Eventually the rain stopped.

 

We wandered through the maze of stores, and then decided to call it quits. We found the line for the cable car, and it was probably ten minutes to ticket window, five minutes to cable car, and three minutes to the bottom. Not bad!

 

We tendered and got back to the room where we dropped off our stuff, talked about tips, and then headed tot he coffee shop with Veronica.

 

Tonight we have a reservation at Tuscan Grille, Celtic music, the Celebrity 20th anniversary toast, and then Liar! Liar! at 11:15PM.

 

We can stay up as late as we want because tomorrow is a sea day.

 

 

 

Saturday May 21, 2010 -- Sea Day

 

 

 

Sunday May 22, 2010 -- Naples Italy

 

 

Monday May 23, 2010 -- Travel Day

 

We set the alarm clock for 4:45AM because we were due off the ship at 6:00AM for a bus to the airport. We went to the buffet for breakfast, then went back to the room for our bags. The process of getting off the ship went smoothly, and we got onto a bus for a long quiet ride to the airport. But when we got to the airport, we were told that our flight to JFK had been cancelled.

 

A lot of people were on this flight -- it was a full flight. So the line to the ticket agent was huge.

 

A little old lady came over to Karen and asked if she could cut the line. She wasn't speaking great English, so it wasn't immediately clear what she wanted. But once Karen knew, she said NO WAY and pointed to the end of the line which was far afar away.

 

No one looked happy as they walked away, but when we finally got up to the agent, we got great service. We were placed on a USAir flight that was leaving just like 30 minutes later than our original flight. Fabulous news!

 

So then we got in line for the initial security screening, and then we got in line for checking bags, and then we got in line for the normal security screening.  Then we popped out of security into a room with doors to the outside world but no gates. There was hardly anyone there.  We were mystified.  Then Karen suggested that we would be boarding a bus.  So we went closer to the door.  And eventually a bus came.  It brought us to the G gates.

 

At the G gates, there were loads of shops and bathrooms and gates.  We used up the rest of our Euros buying one last delicious coffee and pastry, plus beverages to carry onto the plane.

 

Karen got a migraine, but had Immitrex handy in her carry on.

 

Karen also ran into Lela and Robert and got their email address.

 

We hung out at the gate after unsuccessfully trying to upgrade our seats. Then we got in line to board, went down several flights of stairs, and were stopped at the bottom by a lady who told us that the bus was full and we needed to wait.  Another bus?!  What, are we driving to the US?!

 

We got on another bus that took us directly to the jet.  We got out onto the tarmac and climbed the stairs into the plane.  It was so big, there were stairs at the front and back.

 

We had good seats, not too far from the kitchen area in the back, which is good because we seriously spent time back there standing up.

 

Karen slept for a couple of hours then the migraine was gone and she could read and watch movies.

 

Lou listened to his book on tape.  The woman next to him kept moving around, fidgeting and bumping him. Karen offered to switch seats but he declined.

 

Anyway, it was not a bad travel day, and we were thrilled to land in Charlotte and then in Raleigh.

 

 

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