Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 31 – Halloween – Mykonos and More Port Changes



With the change in itinerary we are docking in Mykonos very early and we are here all day and into the evening until 11:30.


They weren’t sure if we would have to tender in or we would dock but we are glad to see we have docked.

Bernie and I wake early and head to the coffee bar around 6 am just when it opens – it is not open 24 hours on the Island Princess.


Still can’t get any internet – so I just write up my blog and will post it later.  Everyone is complaining to the very very patient internet guy.  But it isn’t his fault.   He is so patient with everyone and trust me people want him to know everything, including every device that is brought to him and also their phone plans, which is impossible to know.


We head to the dining room for breakfast and we are sat at a table for two – boy it is quiet in here.  Guess people are not up yet or they are up in Horizon Court.  I enjoy the scramble egg with swiss cheese and asparagus.

Back in the cabin we relax for a few hours before I head out to get some pictures of the area.  The weather seems to be cooperating, but it is very windy.

When I am just about to get back to the cabin the Captain comes on the speakers and wants everyone’s attention.  Oh you know something is up.

This is what he says (cause it comes in the form of a letter later) “I wish to advise you of an additional change to our scheduled itinerary.  We have learned that the towage union has planned strikes in multiple Greek ports for two days next week, which we cause the ports to be closed.  As this would affect our planned call to Piraeus for Athens on Tuesday, Nov 3, we have arranged our port order to avoid the strike.  We will now visit Piraeus on Sunday Nov 1 and move the Santorini to Tuesday November 3.”

So now our itinerary is as follows:
Sunday Nov 1 Piraeus for Athens 7 to 5:45
Monday Nov 2 Kusadasi 8 to 5
Tuesday Nov 3 Santorini 7 to 4

We are good and we can adjust to this change very easily.  One thing about travelling we have learned a long time ago is you have to go with the flow.

We dress and head ashore.  A wind breakers is necessary.





Thanks to my friend Roy who told me about the water boat shuttle for 2 E each way and it takes you right downtown.  

The ship’s shuttle is 7 E each, return, and is via the bus and it doesn’t even drop you off downtown.  You still have quite a distance to walk if you take the ship’s shuttle.  The walk is doable to and we are told it is about 20 minutes.  But we take the boat and the ride is quick and easy.  Thanks Roy!  



Also where the boat drops you off you can take a boat right there to Delos for 20E each total. 





 Once ashore it is very noticeable that many shops are closed.  Sure many of the clothing, jewelry, souvenir shops are open – or I would guess about 50% of them are open.  


Only a handful of restaurants and bars are open, with the majority being closed.  Their season is over and it is very obvious.


We walk along the shore and to the windmills and then up the hill and along the road.  


We walk for about an hour and then travel along the narrow roads and see this little bakery that looks very promising.  A couple of steep steps in and we see this is a very old working bakery.  In fact it has been a family business for 200 years.  


The bakery is called Gioras Wood Baker.  We just place our order when we see Bonnie and Jim come in.  Bonnie searched this place out ahead of time and wanted to stop here.  Too funny!  We enjoy a lovely coffee and baklava and cookie.  Very good.  We also purchased a small bottle of Ouzo for a toast later.





Bonnie and Jim - a Lovely Couple

We walk and walk and stop in some stores but we found it very expensive here and we really don’t want to buy more things for home cause we are trying to get rid of things. 

After about 3 hours ashore we wander back to the boat transfer – buy our tickets and head back to the ship.  


Overall we liked the island but we know we would of loved it if we could of experienced it to it’s fullest.  Heck even if the weather would have been warm it would have been a great beach stop.  Although I know I would hate cruising the busy Mediterranean in the hot summer.  I can’t imagine more than one ship in port and we are not even a big ship.


Back on board for three pm we agree we need some down time and we both pick up our books and read for a long time.  Nothing better than relaxing and reading while on board, and no distractions.

Bernie heads to Trivia and while he is gone John and Karin stop by for a visit.  It is nice to catch up with them again, and we always laugh our heads off when we see them.


Off to the Platinum Elite Lounge – tonight’s drink is the Japanese Slipper and Bernie gets his Cosmo.  Today would have been his Dad’s birthday so we raise our glass in his honour, cheers!

We meet up with Carol and Judy and catch up with them.  The lounge is decorated for Halloween, there is an outline of a body in the carpet, my oh my… scary.  Many of the crew are in costumes (although they have to buy their own).  The ship is decorated all over with cob webs, spiders, rats, pumpkins, ghosts, goblins and grave markers. 

Bernie hands out Halloween chocolates to the crew that are dressed up.  So fun!  We did not bring any type of costume, we thought about it but just didn’t want to buy anything and lug it for just a few hours on one day.

Dinner is up in Horizon Court and they are doing a Mongolia Grill.  You pick the veggies, protein, sauces and then whether you want noodles or rice.  They give you a ticket with a number and they bring it out to you when it is ready.  It was very very good!

Me and Mable
Bernie is so tired, he is tells me he doesn’t want to do anything tonight and so he heads back to the cabin to watch tv – The Shining is showing! I pick up some wine glasses from Crooners from Mabel and return them to the cabin for the wine we have from the wine card.

I then head to the library for some quiet space and the hopes of getting this posted online.  Still can’t get a signal in my cabin.  So please be patient.

Happy Halloween everyone. Great cruise so far, great crew, great ports, and great weather. 


Tomorrow we are in Athens and I am looking forward to it.  

Friday Evening – Sea Day – Formal Night

 



After a very restful nap we shower and get dressed for the evening.  The Captain’s Welcome Aboard Show is happening.  The Atrium is busy but manageable, but the sight lines are difficult but I do get a few pictures.


They are handing out the champagne and the Norman Love Chocolate pops!  Yummy.

We run into Antonio and we meet with Sheila and say hi to her from Monika and Rick – she says hi back.

Everyone looks lovely and many are posing for pictures. 

This is a great sight, families, couples – young and old, children, friends all smiling and creating memories.  Isn’t that what life is all about, and what better way to do it than on a ship.



Tonight we are dining at the Bayou Café.  I love this venue.   Right beside it is a small bar and a dance floor and the band Pastime Duo who are from Brazil.  They are perfect for ballroom dancing, but we find out they are getting off in Venice and not sure who will be replacing them.  Listening to live music while you dine here only adds to a great evening.

Bernie's Catfish
We meet up with Antonio who joins us for a meal.  We start with some champagne to toast the evening.  Then a bottle of wine – sorry didn’t get the name. 


Marvin is our waiter – also known as Marvelous Marvin – and we remember him as he served us in Alfredos the other day at lunch.  He gives us his recommendations and he continues to surprise us with treats throughout the meal.




My appetizer is sausage grillades, Bernie had the seafood gumbo, for my entrée I had the filet and for dessert the Normal Love Peanut Butter Bar.  Marvin served us gator ribs to start with too and grilled prawns as well.



Everything was great, even better than what I remember.  Service was top notch and attentive and Marvin can sing and he performed and had the whole restaurant singing along and clapping.  What could be better.

It is around 10:30 when we leave and the ship is quiet.  They are setting up Halloween display in the Atrium.  Looks amazing!


Entertainment going on around the ship this evening:  Jewish Sabbath Service, Latin Fiesta with DJ Tin Tin, The Music of Frank Sinatra with Cosmic Band in the Wheelhouse, Movies Under the Stars is Jurassic World, 50th Anniversary Love Boat Trivia, Showtime in Princess Theater is An Evening with Celine Dion staring Tracey Shield, Majority Rules Game Show, Who Sang What Series: Motown Edition, and Wild Bunch Party in Explorers.

October 30 – Finally a Day at Sea



The thought that we get a sea day gets us so excited.  We so need it!  And we are not the only ones seems everyone we run into needs a break from this port intensive itinerary.

And we do sleep in. 

When we wake Bernie runs out to get coffees/teas (love that our cabin is so close to the Atrium) and we sit and enjoy the morning show and sip our drinks.

Bernie wants to head up to get breakfast in the Horizon Court and I am good and just ask for a croissant when he returns and I sit on the balcony and enjoy it.  

We shower and head out and it is still early – around 8 am and the ship is quiet, well quieter than most days at this hour. 

Today we have no set plans except for the meet and greet gathering from cruise critic at 10 and then dinner in the Bayou.

Around 9 am we hear the bing bing bing and the Captain comes on reading the following “due to security concerns and potential civil unrest arising from the General Elections in Turkey, we are taking precautions for the safety of our guests and cancelling our scheduled call to Istanbul on Sunday November 1.  Instead Island Princess will add a call to Santorini and extend our call times in Mykonos and Kusadasi.”

We always knew this could be an issue from when we heard that it was election day the day we were in Istanbul. We are disappointed but we know these decisions are not made lightly.

Originally we were scheduled for Mykonos on the 31st from 7-2 and now we are there 7-11:30 pm; Istanbul on the 1st from 8-6 and now we are going to Santorini from 7-6; Kusadasi Nov. 2nd from 1-8 and now we are there 8-5.

We had no firm plans in Istanbul but we do have a private tour booked for Kusadasi to Ephesus that originally had us being picked up at 1:30 so I quickly shoot off an email to Anil from VIP Ephesus Tours and he responds right away that they will pick us up at 8:30 instead.

Most people on board are fine with the changes and understand.  We will just have to plan another trip to Istanbul.  We do see a $35 credit for the cancelled port for the port fees.

The meet and greet is at 10 in the Wheelhouse Bar and it is very well attended and many of the officers attended too. It was nice to put a face to a name.

We finally make it into the dining room for a meal – we head there for lunch as soon as the dining room opens and we are sat at a nice table for six.  I had a Russian Salad and then the Goulash.  Very good! 

Since we are dining mainly in Horizon Court at night and we bought the wine package and the HC has limited selection of wine we decide to order four bottle while we are in the dining room and take them back to the cabin to take up to the Horizon Court when we dine.  Also when we dine at the HC we sit with our food then order wine and often the wine doesn’t arrive until we are almost finished so this will work better.  


We could have had the wines delivered to our cabin but we just take them back ourselves since the cabin is so close.
We love the location of our cabin, we are on Emerald and just forward.  Close enough to get to things quickly and far enough that we have lots of peace and quiet.  Also the ship is a great ship in size – it is manageable.  Sure it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the Royal/Regal has but it shines with personality and true ship feel.  There are numerous intimate areas where you can curl up and look out at the sea.

In the afternoon we relax in one of those areas on the ship and read.  The weather has kicked up and the seas are a little rough – well not bad for me, in fact there is slight movement but I know for some this would be very rough.  

They have closed off the Promenade deck for people’s safety.  When we try to get out on our balcony the sea spray comes up and gives us a facial.  I love it!  I love feeling like I am at sea.  Cruising is not always about calm seas, gentle breezes and full sun, you have to take the winds, the high swells, and the bumps.

I call our friend Bonnie who is in one of the new aft suites on Lido deck to see if I can come over to get some pictures and see for myself how bumping/noisy it is.  I get a bunch of pictures and take some video so people can see for themselves.  

video

During the meet and greet we met many people who have these new aft cabins and we got a mix of comments.  Some said that it was horrible and would never book in them again, and some said they had no problems at all.  Maybe it depends on what deck you are or how far back or how sensitive you are. 

I did hear from a reliable source that they are bringing someone on board to try and do a fix.  So stay tuned.
Back in the cabin we are trying to find out what to do for Santorini…. The tv has shows about the history and sites to see in many of the ports that we find very helpful.  The port lecturer (Lyndon Jolley) also has his talks televised but I find his talks so darn monotone and boring that it puts me to sleep.  And well guess what both Bernie and I can’t keep our eyes open and we crash for two hours!  Love those sea days.

But there were tons of things happening during the day. Here is a list of things:  Zumba, Line dance class, on board outlet sale, trivia, martini demonstration, Advanced Digital Photography Seminar, Art at Sea, the Art of Collecting Art, Bingo, Shark Week Game Show, Horizon Court has a Mexican Buffet, Majorica Pearl Presentation, Basketball Shoot Out, Concertina Accordion Class, Enrichment Lecture Howard Peters on Food for the Gods – Chocolate, Passenger Feud Gameshow, Champagne Art Auction, Merengue Dance Class, Afternoon Game Show – In It To Win It, Afternoon Tea, Book Club - Following the Tides, Movie Now You See Me, Singles Meet and Greet, Friends of Bill W Gathering.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday October 29, 2015 – Naples, Italy


We wake at around 8 am and we are already docked.  We shower and head ashore right away.  There are two others ships in port with us.  A Crystal and Costa Ship.  The weather is overcast and it rained overnight and there are light showers right now but it looks promising and in fact it did get quite nice later.  We brought a light wind breaker that needed to be removed after a half hour cause it just was way too warm.


Today we are following Rick Steve’s two walking guides.  We start at Caffe Gambrinus where we order two cappuchinos and two sfogliatella (crispy scallop shell-shaped pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese) and drink it at the bar.  This place is beautiful!


Now loaded with some sugar and caffeine we are ready to go.  Walking up Via Toledo we can’t stop looking everywhere, left, right, forward, up, left, right, forward, up repeat.  There are so many things to look at.  So Italian, just what you think of when you think of southern Italy.  We LOVE it. 



We walk all the way up to the Archaeological Museum – entrance was 13E each and you have to check any big bags (free locker) and we skip the audio guide and use Rick’s book as a guide of the sites.

This place is huge, it is quite muggy out and it isn’t very busy, a few school groups and tourist groups but that is not bad.  I sure would hate to see this on a busy summer day when it is really hot.

Now if you want to see ruins from Pompeii this is the place to go. 


Highlights are the Secret Room which contains erotic art from Pompeii.


yup these are in the Archeology Museum - the sex room - all from Pompeii


The Mosaics – especially the Battle of Alexander.





rather light crowds







We spent about an hour here in total and once outside we head back towards the old town going along back streets towards Piazza Gesu Nuovo and the stunning Church of Gesu Nuovo which is really nothing to look at from the outside, but boy it takes your breath away once inside.




 We enter the Sale Moscati who was a doctor (Giuseppe Moscati) who was famous for helping the poor.  In 1987 he was the first modern doctor to be canonized.  We touch his hand for good luck. 



Across the street is the Church of Santa Chiara but we don’t visit we are churched out and getting hungry.


 We wander down the many narrow streets again with our mouths handing open cause there is just so darn much to see.  After wandering for about a half hour we decide on a small pizzeria called Donna Sophia on Via Tribunali 89.  You can find them at www.pizzeriadonnasophia.it



Bernie order the Margharitta and I order the Toro pizza, we get two beers and can of coke and one water.  Everything was amazing, very very good and way too much food for us, we should of just split a pizza but I know Bernie loved it and finished every bite of his.  The total bill was 24 E – not bad.

We leave and find a little gelato place and we each get a cup – somehow we have room for that. 

Wandering some more we walk all the way back to Via Toledo and check out some of the shops but neither of us wants to buy anything so we just decide to head back to the ship.  We arrive back at 3:30 and we are tired. 


Overall we loved Naples, it has character, it is gritty and what I would call soul.  It isn’t all fancy and glamorous – but it’s people are what really make it.  Everyone seems to smoke, everyone seems to talk loudly and with their hands. 
But they are caring, proud, hard working people and I can relate to them.  We would definitely like to come back here someday.

Looks like we got back in just enough time cause as soon as we are in the cabin the clouds come in and the lightening and thunder hits and we are entertained with a light show in the sky.