Back to the Med Greece/Turkey in 2013! Complete!
A pre-trip report for The Med already? Yup. I figure that if I dont start one, Ill drive my family nuts for the next 499 days. So, where to begin?
Hi! Im MinnieDiva and I have a bit of a Disney obsession. I refuse to believe that I need a 12-step group, but I do think I need an outlet for my OCD-tendencies. Besides the coffee pot (which was cured by buying a Keurig) and the garage door obsessions (always think I drive away leaving it open), Disney, specifically my next trip involving something Disney-related, constantly percolates in my brain. After referencing many other peoples trip reports, Ive decided to funnel some of my energy here! I havent done this before, so hopefully some of you all will actually read this and find it interesting&
My family is booked on the June 15, 2013 Mediterranean Cruise (Greece itinerary). Our party consists of myself, my DH, my DD (who will be 10 when we go), and my dad. The 3 of us went on the August 18, 2010 10-day Med cruise; we booked that one 22 months out on the 1st day they were released. That was our first cruise, DCL or otherwise (my dad has done a Celebrity cruise about 13 years ago). Last year, we went on one of the Alaska cruises. See a pattern here?
My goal with this trip report, other than to channel some of my energy, is to hopefully get some of you out there as excited as I was while planning our last Med cruise. My husband so did not get the boards, other than the fact that I quoted them almost daily. And, he totally did not understand the fact that the people on the cruise meet thread were becoming friends! He gets it now&..
So heres how this trip got booked:
Early January: With DCL rumors in full swing, I call my dad and ask if hes interested in going to the Med with us. I explain that I have NO idea what the itineraries are going to be, but that we were hoping for some new ports to change up the itinerary that DCL has (IMO) done to death. I launch into an explanation about booking, cabins, rates, and how I was going to book the 1st day I could and that he needed to commit one way or another. I told him he had about 2 weeks to think it over. I think hes used to me by now, but I do sound like a nutcase, dont I?
January 22-ish: Informed dad that current rumors had itineraries being announced 1/24/12.
January 24th: (my husbands b-day, by the way&happy b-day honey, Im about to spend a sh*#-load of money). Itineraries announced. Boy, talk about a bit disappointed that I had to choose between Venice/Dubrovnik and Greece/Turkey. DCL couldnt do it all in one? Sigh, ok, press on. It is what it is. Discussions with the family, discussions with dad, all agree that Greece wins. So what date? Having done the Med in August, I wanted to go as early as possible. Take DD out of school the last week of 4th grade? Sure. Not like they learn anything the last week anyway! Far more educational to go on this trip than to stay to help clean the classroom or do talent day or&.who knows what. My window for being able to do this is rapidly shrinking, so Im going to take advantage of it while I can. Besides&we live in northern WA State. Were closer to Canada than Seattle. We rarely hit 80 degrees in the summer. A shock to go from here to the Med in August? Absolutely! But more on that later. So, June 15th it would be.
January 26th: :scared1: Shock and despair hearing reports of how much a cabin was going to cost us (silver CC member&couldnt book until the 27th). Two cabins, actually, since my dad is coming with us. We briefly entertained the thought of a suite&..but 1. They sold out, and 2. No WAY I was going to spend $20k or higher. So, rush to look at what other lines would cost us and look at other itineraries, yada yada&.oh, and I feel the need to mention here that it wasnt just our family on this emotional roller coaster, it was our good friends Mindelmouse and Bigbootee. We met them on the last Med cruise&but more on that later, too. By looking at other lines, I felt like I was cheating on my best friend! It was horrible!
January 27th: Our TA knew what we were looking for, and I had a quote ready for me by 9am PST. To my surprise, my quote for a 9B (same cabin type I had the last MED cruise) was LESS than what I paid for 2010! :banana: Ok, yes, I did transfer a dummy date over, but still, it would have been dead even, including 2 additional days!!! Hallelujah!! And the quote for the 2nd room (no OBB transferred) for my dad wasnt awful either! Connecting rooms&.were on our way!! Then, to convince our friends that they needed to come with us! Didnt end up being all that hard to do&.:)
Ok, now what? Deposit paid, excitement level way up! Popped in on already-started meet thread, new itinerary with port times and map printed and taped to the wall by my computer&.Is it time to go yet?????
Thanks to Tinkerbelltwins, here is a list of links to various trip reports and informational threads that are far more current than the 2007 sticky on the trip reports section:
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2870617 [Thread: Barcelona Hotels Precruise]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2868221 [Thread: If you have done the Med Cruise before with Disney]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2868499 [Thread: Questions for past Med cruisers]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2663068 [Thread: Med planning in 2011]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2288346 [Thread: lots of great planning links]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2653459 [Thread: Villefranche on your own]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2653459 [Thread: Cinque Terre on your own]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2663068 [Thread: Med Ports on your own]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2485312 [Trip Report: DisneyFalcon's First Med Cruise - Our Excellent Adventure]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2435876 [Trip Report: Magic in the Med: Dicecatt and Dicedawg's April 24th Voyage]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2487593 [Trip Report: Sayhello's ABD Trip Report for the Med 2011]
http://thewhitehouseblog.weebly.com/index.html [Trip Blog: Anal Annie's trip report/blog of Med cruise and trip beforehand to Paris]
http://thefairygodblogger.blogspot.com/ [Trip Blog: Bibbidibobbidibecky's DCL blog which has her Med cruise in it]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread....&highlight=med [Video Trip Report: Phil, Emma and Ben's Med Cruise]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2746104 [Trip Report: Janey2000's Magical Med Cuise June 2011]
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2761025 [Trip Report: Lornak's Med Cruise 2011]
http://www.wdwinfo.com/disney-cruise...iterranean.htm [Magic in the Med: Disunplugged in the Med 2010]
And a blog with navigators from 2011 as posted on our meets thread by mehaul:
And this TR off cruise critic...this isn't Disney, but has many of the same ports and does several excursions with RomeinLimo:
Found another interesting site:
And a compilation of the planning sites/companies I used (though you'll find then in the body of the report as well):
Barcelona Day Tours: http://www.barcelonadaytours.com
Rome in Limo (for La Spezia and Rome): http://www.romeinlimo.com
Magical Steps Tours (Ephesus): http://www.magical-steps.com/ephesus-tours
Hellenic Private Tours: http://www.hellenicprivatetours.com/
***FYI, dates are released for booking at midnight Rome time. For me, that was 3pm PST, so when my date was released I could book at a decent time of day! Sundays will cause a skipped released booking day***
Coliseum/Forum/palatine Hill: http://www.ticketclic.it/database/B2...DefID=170&LN=1
**Tickets for Pisa are released as above for Rome...but you can only book between 20-12 days prior to your desired visit date.**
La Sagrada Familia: http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/?lang=0
Google Map I created: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid...60256,0.822601
****We are now at the point where I am filling in trip details. Please skip forward to read about my OCD planning over the course of the last year and a half**** (6/13/13)
hold for travel day to Barcelona: June 12-14, 2013
The plan: Fly from home to CA, stay overnight with dad and head up early the next morning to SFO to fly to Barcelona!!
June 12th: Ecstatic to start our vacation! I woke up at 6am to a cat pounding on a door. So, I got up and enjoyed a leisurely morning before DD got up and Dh got home from work. We had some packing to finish, DH had to mow the yard, and had errands to run. To add to this, Mindy pointed out that we needed International Driver's permits in order to rent the Go-Cars that was our plan for our day in Barcelona. 8 people in little yellow cars toodling around the city? Yeah, you know that's gonna be a great picture!! What surprises me is that I forgot about this. Not a detail I would usually miss. So in the midst of last-minute preparations and Mindy constantly messaging me because she was at work and didn't want to be there, I figured out that we could stop by a AAA office on the way to the airport. They do same-day permits and do have the ability to take pictures there. A form is available on line and I had all that pre-filled out so that the process would be quicker. Some fabulous friends offered to take us to the airport...this is no small drive, either!! It's a solid 2-hour drive to SeaTac. It was very nice of them, and I'm trying to figure out what to bring home for them!!!
We get to SEA and get thru security, take the tram to the gate...............and find out the flight is delayed. By 2 hours. Grr. So we wandered back to the main terminal and had a lovely dinner at Anthony's.(yummy seafood place local to this area). Finally got on a plane (the issue was we had to get a new one due to mechanical issues) and arrived in San Jose about 9:30 pm. Long day. We had a nap...had to get up at 2:50 to make a 3:45 Super Shuttle (which was 15 min early!!!) and zipped up to San Francisco. Security was light, as was the ticket counter (did I mention we're 1st/business??) and had to wait until 5am to get into the lounge. Where I am now. :).
We board in about 30 minutes for our flight to JFK. Based on the weather report, I'm thinking we'll be delayed there for a while...Mindy is in NJ and is flying out of Philly today and tells me it's pouring :(. Many on our board/FB page have had issues. Saturday looms lie the pot at the end of the rainbow!!! More later...
We got onto the plane at JFK and.....got texts (after we were seated) that our plane was delayed. What? A text? Yeah. And the flight crew and captain of the plane were asked about this and they didn't have any knowledge of this yet. Amazingly...the texts were correct and we sat there waiting to take off. I think it was about 7pm that we finally made it to the top of the queue and headed out. Turbulence was pretty light the entire flight, IMO. We were tired, but hngry and all of us eagerly awaitied dinner (and a bit of wine) so we could sack out a bit. I want to say that I maybe got a 3-hour catnap, which is an improvement over most of the times I travel. I guess that whold sleep deprivation thing from the previous night kinda paid off :). They started doing a breakfast service about an hour and a half before landing, but I wasn't hungry and just drank a bunch of coffee and water. I have some lovely pictures from the plane that I will insert at a later date!
Seing as how we were an hour and an half delayed on our start, we only landed about 45 minutes late. Customs was a breeze and we headed down to baggage claim to get our luggage. In the meantime I went to call the apartment. This was interesting. First of all, I've never dialed an overseas number, so I had to ask an employee which series of numbers to call. I'm sure they thought I was an idiot, but there it is, right? And the phones are strange. Nowhere could I see how much a call was. I had 2E coins, and they really give you a limited amount of time, as I got hung up upon. More on this experience in a bit.
Taxi experience? Easy-peasy! Walked out, no line at all and people directing customers to taxis. We went in a little van...so 4 people, 4 large pieces of luggage, 3 carry-ons, and 2 camera bags. Showed the address of the apartment and off we went. Total cost $30E (rounded up from 29E). Included in this was the time we spent waiting in traffic
hold for pre-cruise Barcelona tourism: June 14th, 2013
The plan: We're scheduled to arrive early am, 7:30-ish. We have an apartment reserved, originally for 2 nights, but was able to change it to 1 night as our original flight plans changed with an incredible American Airlines deal. Was thinking of keeping both nights so that we could check in and have someplace to store the luggage and shower if needed, but the company was willing to work with us to have an early check in and just do that one night. Our plan is to rent Go-Cars: http://www.gocartours.es. We figure that will keep us awake and engaged thru the day.
Tickets have been booked for entry to La Sagrada Familia here: http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/?lang=0
You are asked to reserve a time slot. We chose 12-1, to ensure there would be no issues with flight delays.
The only issue we had with the apartment was that there was no one to answer the phone number provided. I called the other number and someone said that there would be someone available after 9am. Really? So the moral of the story is be clear about early check-in arrangements. However, all worked out ok as we got to the apartment...just before 9...and they had an office there!! Yea! So a potential issue became a non-issue!!
The room was very nice (reminds me that I need to take pics before we leave...) and wi-fi was included and fast! There was a complimentary bottle of wine, a bottle of water (big one) and a Nespresso machine. We ended up using the washer and dryer (in response to the board post that the dryers on 6&7 are broken) and while functional, they are noisy and slow. But....clean clothes for all.
Pics of the apartment:
After a shower, we met Mindy and family at La Sagrada Familia and wandered around there for an hour or so. I mentioned this somewhere, but Mindy and I ran into each other last time at this location, so funnily enough, we ran into another family we've gotten to know on here and FB....in fact it was the family that is going on the Rome and Athens excursions with us!! I'm so used to her real name from FB that I'm not sure of her name here...I think it's wvflu? Any way...hi Lisa!!!
So off to hydrate and caffinate at Starbucks, to Mindy's hotel so they could get rid of stuff and take their luggage to the room, then we were going to take a taxi to the go-car location.....until we walked right by an alternate office right by the hotel/Sagrada area!!! They were able to rent us the cars from there, saving us time and effort. Or so we thought.
So.....here's my thoughts on the cars. DON'T RENT THESE. Mindy will lambast them in her own post, but my 2 cents are the following: they suck. Ok, let me elaborate. The GPS is inadequate. I was routed to a plaza (that I knew from the 2010 bike tour). No cars are there except taxis in a very limited area. A tolerant policeman tweeting his whistle and pointed my the correct direction. Rolling his eyes, I'm sure. We all got separated, so dad and I went back to the place we rented them and waited, calling Mindy's phone to let her, at least, know where we were. DH and Mindy's son came back to wait on everyone, so Dad and I went back out to at least recoup some of the cost of the tour. Horrible. Routed down 1-way streets, completely lost....traffic. Ugh. There will be a you-tube video of me getting stuck in an intersection yelling back obscenities at rude drivers. While we eventually did get a tour around town, I expressed my displeasure (after Mindy going ape.... on them) and got half my money back. Wait till you hear her version. It tops mine.
So we ended up back near our apartment for dinner. The kids (and adults) were soooooo tired. We had Spanish food (paella and other stuff) and Sangria (YUM!). Then: bed. That needed to happen in the worst way. All but me slept thru the night. I woke up about 1 am, but went back to sleep. Dad slept until we routed him out of bed at 0830 after we got back from Starbucks. Last load of laundry in the dryer now...need to go get water and wine to stash in the carry ons. The plan is a 10 am taxi to the port.
hold for day 2 Barcelona and embarkation: June 15, 2013! The day I've waited 499 days for! Embarkation day shirts for 8 people made and ready to go! What a picture that will be...
The plan: Nothing specific, and as we're on our own to get to the port, we'll play it by ear. Taxi!
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual
Menu: "Let the Magic Begin"
Dressed and ready to go to the port in my shirt! We saw another couple at Starbucks who were dressed in matching DCL shirts!!!
To say I'm a bit behind on this is a bit of an understatement!! :) At no one time the whole cruise did I have either the time or the internet connection to be able to post updates. So here I am, sitting at the airport, waiting to go home :(.
Embarkation day: We woke up plenty early enough....we got dressed and went out to the Starbucks that was literally across the street from our apartment in hopes of a cup of coffee and some breakfast. Sadly enough, it didn't open until 8am, but the good news was that it was 7:45....so we went for a walk. One of the reasons I was interested in this particular apartment was that it was around the corner from Casa Batillo. We stumbled upon it as we were killing time. Pictures will come later, but it was so odd yet graceful looking all at the same time. We also ran into a few other DCL cruisers....we could tell by their matching polo shirts. By this time, we had already showered and the 3 of us (dad was still sleeping) were wearing the embarkation day Mickey shirts, so we kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. Nothing says tourist like matching shirts.....
Breakfast acquired, we went back to the apartment to rout dad out of bed. The evening before we were all sooooooo tired. We had powered out the entire day....no naps! While dad got ready and had the breakfast we got him, DH and I headed out to look for a market to acquire water and wine. We found a little shop around the corner and bought 2 6-packs of 1.5L waters and 3 bottles of local-ish wine.....$15E. Yep. That's it. Remember.....nearly $45-50 to buy the case of water on the ship....plan ahead for luggage space and take it in your carry-ons. We also added in 4 little individual bottles to pour the water into for daily use.
Fluids acquired, luggage packed, taxi arranged for 10:30 and ready to go. Taxi on-time, got checked out and paid the nominal tax on our room ($2E, maybe?) in coins and we were off to the port to meet Mindy and fam. On our way, we got that first AWESOME view of the Magic...nothing can top that!! But as our luggage was taken away by the porter, I realized dad had failed to dress properly. In spite of the 3 of us wearing our shirts, he somehow did not clue into the fact that he wasn't wearing his. Of course, I didn't catch it either (insert frowny face here). So, while the embarkation day pic was good and we hid dad behind the crowd of us, you could still see his blue collar.
On the topic of shirts, as we sat in the port building, we were approached by many who had recognized us by shirts alone !!!!!! It was very cool!
We had had so much in the way of build up for this cruise both here on the boards and on FB that we were abble to fill the downtime at the port with so much socializing! The port building: boring. Giant warehouse, that's about it. NO WIFI. Grr. While our check-in time was 1100-1130, we didn't actually board until about 1230-1300. Not really having any need to tinker with Palo or spa rezzies, we went to Parrot Cay for some lunch. I love the Magic, but I will not miss Parrot Cay after dry dock. It's still dark and dated. Food was fine...the usual buffet fare, but at least there was plenty for DD to choose from. She tried to be adventurous the previous evening, but their pasta was a bit off her liking, so she was hungry.
It wasn't quite time to head to our rooms after lunch, so Mindy and I went to the spa...we wanted to see if there was any chance to get the girl's hair done on formal night and to see what we could do with some of our preexisting reservations. We managed to get appointments for the girl's hair with some convincing (they were down a hairdresser for the length of the cruise....) but that was about all that we accomplished. at this point we were off to our rooms. Our party was in connecting rooms....2602 (us) and 2604 (dad). Port side, midship classification, but closer to aft elevators than midship ones. This room was backwards from previous rooms we stayed in, so it took a bit of adjusting. We unpacked what we could, as a few bags had arrived, but then we headed out to the Promenade Lounge for out meet and greet! I think we monopolized the entire space, frankly. There were at least 60 people there, at a minimum. It. Was. Awesome. The kids went to the side and played a bit, giving the adults time to socialize a bit. We got to get caught up on all the travel drama...it was crazy how many of us had travel issues. There were 2 sets of travelers who took the cake tho. I'd mention them here, but can't remember their DIS names. They know who they are, tho ;). One set took 43 hours to get from home to Barcelona. The arrived at the airport and went straight to the ship. Talk about nerve-wracking!!!
We headed for the lifeboat drill...I have a good pic to insert here later as well.
Then, it was back to the room for some unpacking. Ok....magnets......Mine stuck for the first week. They then started to curl and fall. Mindy was closer to the aft deck on 7, and we're wondering if maybe hers started falling sooner due to moisture in the air?? Don't know, but it was kind of disappointing.
The tuxes were NOT already in the rooms. I called and was told they'd be delivered by 5pm. It was actually more like 7pm before we got a knock on the door. There were plenty of hangers in the closet and the velcro that held the door closed was very sticky :). Our cabin did have a trunk for more storage, so we were not lacking in the least. Most everything got unpacked prior to sail-away, but I didn't want to miss that, so off we went to deck 9/10 to pack ourselves amongst the rest of the sardines on deck.
Which leads me to this observation/information. The staterooms were sold out. However, there were low levels of children on this cruise as there were many adult couples on this cruise without kids. This would be why the spa and Palo reservations were so difficult to come by. This being said, however, the sail away party was PACKED. I didn't get there early and didn't have a great viewing location. Sigh. I eventually meandered toward the front of the ship and ran into pxlbarrel and her brother. This time (as opposed to 2010), we were actually sailing away after the sail-away party! I was able to get pictures and video of this!! Last time it wasn't until about 8:30pm that we left....
Ok...back to it! We managed to unpack and make it to the show that evening. Showtimes and dinner times were 6:30 and 8:30 for the entire cruise. "Let the Magic Begin" was a variety show featuring a group that was on Britain's Got Talent: Junk. The did a bit piece this night and was the main show the next evening, I believe. They were entertaining...kind of a mix between the Blue Man Group and Rent. Before the show started, Mindy's DH had already been to the shops and had scored the new pins. So after.....I went and got mine! There was one generic "Mediterranean" pin and one Greece-specific one. That was it. There were several different shirts, 2, I think, with Greece and then generic Med ones, as well as a Vinylmation, shot glass, scrapbook, and page inserts. Yay!! Love the scrapbooks!! No pics of it yet but will take them of both the books and pins to post.
BTW....no photo or video AT ALL anymore in the shows.
Another note on merchandise: Everything was Greece-specific. No Turkey references. Kind of odd if you ask me....we were wondering if it was intentional as the strife in Istanbul was still in full swing or whether it was something else. Never found out an answer to that....
Dinner!! We started in Parrot Cay and our team was Vitor (Portugal) and Yazmin (Mexico). Timing was a bit off that night as they got to know us, but by day 2 we had our beverages either awaiting us or delivered soon after...Today was Mindy's b-day and we had champagne and she had cake:
At this point, our crew was all tired....we went back to bed. Awaiting us in our stateroom were 2 gifts:
I had heard that previous Inaugurals were given such gifts but had never been on one myself. I had no expectations, but it was certainly nice to receive the litho and coasters!! It was now time to go to sleep, as we had a DCL excursion in Villefranche the next day!
Link to Barcelona Navigators:
Villefranche: June 16, 2013 Tendered Port
The plan: Originally thought we'd do it on our own. DCL's Value Package: Nice & Monaco excursion mirrors what we wanted to do. It spoon-feeds us, but takes the hiking up hills equation out of the picture for my dad.
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual
Menu: Show Dinner (Lumiere's)
We had an 8:30 meeting time in Rockin Bar D. So did a thousand other people apparently. We got there right on time and the 8:15 excursions were still being dealt with. To say this morning was unorganized would be an understatement. It took us until nearly 10 to get off the boat and onto a tender. Not sure why exactly this was an issue this morning, but we were all worried about the following day when we would have to tender but on our own, not as part of a DCL excursion. Yikes....
In booking the Value package, I had figured that there would be little to no guiding at all, but we were wrong about that. Once off the tender, the guide met us and walked us over to the bus area. We had to walk up and around that fortress wall:
On the way to Nice, she narrated as we drove, which was expected, but once we got to the town she actually walked us around a while before letting us have free time. For us, this meant heading to the market so that my DH could experience Socca...a local chick-pea flour based treat. There were a lot of shops to wander around as well, so there was no lack of things to see or do. We never did do either the Matisse or Chegall museums :(. This would have been the place to shop, but the socca line was a bit lengthy!
Market fare: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...psbb60bb94.jpg
The public toilets for which you paid $1E (maybe 50 cents..): http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps6508d629.jpg
We actually spent more time in Monacco. The drive from Nice took 1/2 an hour, maybe? The entire time we got commentary and guidance...we headed toward the palace area first. At this point, my dad chose to sit in a square and people watch, as his knee was bugging him. In this square was the yellow submarine. Why? No clue. Not sure if this is a Beatles reference or something to do with the aquarium, but here it is:
The cathedral where Princess Grace is entombed:
http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps819e357c.jpg http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...psdb364514.jpg http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps37cc4f7a.jpg
This was at the entry of the cathedral and cracked me up so much I just had to include this:
We headed over to the Palace. We paid something like $8E each and did the audio-guided tour, which was worthwhile. After we exited, we heard that we missed the prince driving up and thru the gates :(.
We couldn't take pics inside the palace...
More in a bit...
Back, but pics for the following will come later...
Ok, so after meeting back up with our guide, we headed over to the casino area...you know....that famous casino that is all the movies?? James Bond...??? We unloaded near a Japanese Garden, where my dad hung out as we were told there was going to be a bit of walking involved. We headed up a hill, thru a mall, and over a plaza area to get to our destination. As were were walking, we had the road the Monaco Grand Prix raced on pointed out to us. I'm not a race car enthusiast by any means, but it was pretty neat to see those hairpin turns!! We got some time to take pictures in this area and around the casino, and those who were properly dressed (dress pants/collared shirt for men and something that was not shorts for women) could pay $10E (husband thinks $25, but I think he's wrong...heehee) to get thru the door to try. Mindy's husband went to the less-famous casino and placed a $10E bet and got a 60 cent credit that wasn't worth cashing out. So...a souvenir, I guess. We ran into some of the Shutter's photographers there and got a group shot.
We met back up with the guide and headed back to the bus. The bus ride took us by Eze.....lovely scenery!!! We took a different way than we had last time we were there, it seemed, but I'm also directionally inept, so who knows...?? I feel as though I got to see the town from a different angle. Back at the port, we hopped on a tender after the hike from the bus parking area and we headed back to the ship. Having gotten back there early, we had a little down time before dinner. As socca was our "lunch", DH and I headed to Cove Cafe to get coffee and some yummy snacks before dinner. I have a good pic of our afternoon there that I'll put up later.
At this point, I'm going to break off here as I don't have navigators in front of me to tell me what the show was, so to be continued...ok..it was Villians Tonight! I did not go to see it, as I was otherwise apparently engaged by Cove Cafe! After returning to our stateroom before dinner, our host knocked on our door and DD got her own personal towel animal folding class!!
Later on in the cruise during a sea day, it was our host that was doing the class in the Promenade lounge. He was so helpful...the first night we were onboard we'd mentioned needing wine glasses and an opener, and they were in our room when we returned from the show!!
It was an early night as we had to get up early for another tender. Our Navigator had a special insert with info about tendering in La Spezia. It gave clear instructions to meet in the Buena Vista theater with your entire party starting at 0745. It was a relief to see that there was a specific process in place...
Link to Villefranche Navigators:
hold for La Spezia: June 17, 2013
The Plan: Private tour for 8 arranged thru Rome in Limo for Pisa and Lucca. As this is the day the Patron Saint of Pisa is celebrated, we opted to change our climb in Pisa to the afternoon. In case you're interested, the Patron Saint is Ranierius. Likely, what will end up being closed is the baptistry and cathedral during a celebratory mass (as per Rome in Limo). Link to tickets to climb the tower: http://boxoffice.opapisa.it/Turisti/.
Tickets purchased using above link at the 20-day mark. FYI, the website loads the next day at midnight Pisa time...so for me, the day before at 3pm PST. We booked for 2pm to climb the tower. The price was $18E pp with the Cathedral included. You can also "add-on" other buildings if you like, with all the rest of the sites being another $9E, I believe. I booked a Cathedral-only pass for my dad for $5E, as he doesn't intend to climb the tower.
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual
Menu:Show Dinner (Animator's)
The navigator listed out the meeting spot (Buena Vista Theater) and the need to have your entire party gathered so as to obtain entry on a tender for tours that were not DCL-sponsored. So we met at 0745 and headed in after getting the ok from the cast member. We waited maybe 10 minutes before we were guided out to get on a tender. WAY different experience than the day before!! The tenders here were bigger, so I guess that made the difference?? Once you get to the dock in La Spezia, you see the signs looking for the parties, but you had to walk a ways to get to the van. Stefano from Rome in Limo was waiting for us as we exited the tender. We walked to the van and off we went to our 1st stop of the day: Lucca!!
I want to say that the drive was maybe 45 minutes. Stefano was our driver, not an official "guide" (you'll eventually get to the dissertation about the difference later on if you keep reading my diatribe), but we ended up finding out that he was the best kind of driver....a local!! He LIVES in Lucca!!! More on that tidbit in a bit...He took us to the walled town of Lucca, got us the maps from the TI office, and pointed out the sites we should make an effort to see in the town itself. It would have been amazing to be able to wander this town all day long. All the streets had that picturesque scene that you envision little European towns should have. And in spite of the fact that it was hot and there was a Pisa climb later that day, 5 of 8 of our group headed up another tower that was in that town, giving me lovely pictures from the top!!! We had a meeting time and had to hustle to get there in time, as we kept lookey-looing all over!!
The Walls: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...pse6dd4b33.jpg The Plaza: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...psb6fe0c15.jpg
Stop for drinks: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps40bca3e2.jpg A CHurch: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps7f1f25af.jpg
Top of tower: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps22e94f55.jpg
We headed from Lucca (the walled area) thru the greater Lucca area. My DH had really gotten into asking about the local foods and wines, and it turns out that Stefano had his own little bit of land he did a bunch of growing on. He took us thru his neighborhood....to a store so that we could get bread (he shopped there!), and took us to a restaurant that he frequented....we were the ONLY tourists there, The lunch was FABULOUS!!! And cheap! It ended up being maybe $10E per person!! We had wanted to do a winery tour as well, but as we'd been advised to do 2pm Pisa tickets, the timing was all off. So a word of advice....press the email contact and whatever agency you use to actually consult with the driver/guide to get their input as far as timing. We seriously considered blowing off the tower.....but the kids were there with us and we supposed it wasn't all about the parents. Right??
View outside Lucca with Stefano and my DH:
The restaurant and food porn: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...pscc5f0ae3.jpg http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...psc24a2f9f.jpg
So in our dawdling around Lucca, we were inevitably late to Pisa. We were advised as to go to the ticket office and tell them there was an issue with the taxi. We were readily accommodated, but had to split into 3 groups...we went from 7 people climbing at 2pm to 2:45, 3, and 3:15. It worked out just fine!! We all got into the cathedral and got our silly pics, tho didn't see the Shutters photographers....
ok....more details and pics later....
http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps44b72272.jpg http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps6a7b20c4.jpg http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ps09c38f8f.jpg
It was really hot that day, so add the heat to the fact that we were all battling jet lag and you can figure that most of us dozed in the van on the ride back to port. The trip from Pisa took about an hour. Payment for all these tours I'd arranged all had us paying in cash at the end, so after we gave Stefano our money, we walked back over to the tender....we just missed one and sat down on the one that was ready and waiting. There were plenty of other people we'd already met onboard, so we go to chitchat while waiting to take off. I sat at the end and just enjoyed the sun. Living up here in the Pacific NW, I miss the sun. I cumulatively tried to stock up on my Vitamin D for the year, I think :)!
I love the picturesque town of La Spezia. I have many pics from out last trip, and made the effort to get out with my camera just before sunset to try and get some nice views to tinker with on our return. I'll post these soon...
I'm pretty sure I took the opportunity to go to the gym and get in a quick cardio workout. I don't do well when I'm sedentary. Yes, I climbed Pisa, but I really need a bit more than that on a daily basis in order to get in a really good stretch. It's timed well so I can take that shower before the show and dinner. The show was "Junk"...the group that did a bit part the first night. Dad opted to nap, and I have no doubt that DD was out with her friends. BTW, I was able to sign a waiver so that she could go into the Edge in spite of the fact that she isn't eleven yet. Believe it or not, she rarely went in there after all that effort to convince me that I should let her do this. Go figure. Too many ready-made friends, I guess....
Link to La Spezia Navigators:
hold for Civitavecchia: June 18, 2013
The Plan: Private tour arranged with Rome in Limo for 12; private guide to accompany all day. We have pre-purchased tickets for the Forum/Coliseum/Palatine hill here: http://www.ticketclic.it/database/B2...DefID=170&LN=1
If you choose to buy these ahead of time, be aware that you need to print them immediately. The email that is sent to you confirming the purchase doesn't have the tickets attached to it, but does have a link if something goes wrong with your attempt to print (run out of ink, printer dies, power failure...you know).
Link to Vatican tickets: http://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/...sita=26&step=2.
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual
Menu: Island Dinner (Parrot Cay...but not for us!!)
We have Palo dinner reservations this day.
Ahhhhh.....Roma! So very excited to return here! We got off the boat and were met by Serena, our guide. All 13 of us (Mindy and fam, us, Lisa and fam, and Serena) all got on the shuttle bus that took us outside the port area. Plenty of busses here, and the distance to walk is a bit much considering how much walking you'll be doing here later. Easier just to hop on and press on.
Serena was lovely....pleasant and easy to understand (keep reading forward for our recount of 2010 to understand why this is important). She also was very, very good with the kids and made accommodations for my dad's knees.
I didn't mention this in yesterday's post, but DD was up in the middle of the night throwing up. I hadn't thought much about it, as she's sensitive that way, and usually it's a one-and-done sort of thing for her if she's hot, tired, or eats too much junk, all of which were feasible at this point in our trip. However, after the 1 hour bus ride from the port to Rome, we got off the bus and made our way to the Coliseum and Ashleigh just throws up in the street. Sigh.....I see our day in the toilet hanging out with the driver, right? We encouraged her and everyone else to move on, but Ashleigh actually felt better afterwards and crying "why me?" (so pathetic and cute all at the same time) and wanted to go on. Maybe the bus ride? Could be. No fever, able to keep fluids down after. Poor kid. Anyway, we pressed on and that was the end of that for that day.
We started off in the Coliseum this time. As we had the tickets and the guide, there was absolutely NO waiting to get in. Wading thru the crowds was a different story, tho. It was WAY more crowded that last time, and we were there VERY early. It was also the hottest and most humid day of our trip. We missed out on the forum, but I think due to the crowds and heat we were all ok with that. We kept bouncing from shady spot to shady spot.
The Trevi fountain was up next. Lovely as always, it actually did not seem as crowded as in our last trip. Did I mention that it was hot, though? We were doing a lot of walking, as apparently the rules about where tour vans can and cannot park have been changed in the last few years.
We walked to the Pantheon, which did not have any renovation going on this time!! I was able to get a picture without scaffolding!!!
Then we ambled over to the Piazza Navona before heading to lunch. We went to a little place off the piazza, and were not disappointed. Dad and I got a yummy salad, DH got some sort of pasta with peppers, and Ashleigh had bread. Lisa and her DH split a caprese salad, but oddly...in Italy there is no basil on it. I had many versions of something with tomato and mozz over the trip and I have to say that there is a quality that just can't be matched at home.
Our afternoon was all about the Vatican. One observation I need to make here is that during this entire day, even though we were seeing all the same sights as last time, we went about this in a totally different way and I feel that this was a completely different experience than last time....different views, more info...I don't know...but I do not feel that I was shorted in any way.
There was a HUGE line out side the Vatican...that we had no part of :)!! We walked in, were able to pay for our reservations with credit cards, and went on our way. Serena made sure that dad and I went on our own little tour down a hallway that would result in less walking and less in the way of stairs for my dad. She gave us a time frame that we needed to keep to make it to the Sistene Chapel to meet the rest of the group there. It worked out well....we got there 10-ish minutes before the rest of the group, allowing my dad to have a bit of a sit before we pressed on. We did A LOT of walking that day. Jim's fitbit had us at something like 7 miles at the end of the day. Did I mention it was hot and humid??
Serena walked us out and around to the the Basilica, guided us to Pieta, and then up for pics before heading out past the Swiss Guards and back toward the van pick up spot, a bathroom , and a water stop. She was not going to be accompanying us to the port, so it was a bit awkward at this point to suss out just how to render payment. We'd been given a set amount for the entire tour, not split driver versus guide. So....I just laid it out there. She was pretty outspoken, so I figure beating around the bush would be counterproductive. We were to pay her and she'd take care of the details with the company. So...we gathered up our Euros, tip included, and handed it over. She actually looked shocked at the total. We'd all budgeted a 15% tip...10% guide and 5% driver...so it was a healthy amount over the total for the tour. She asked us if it was correct....and we explained our thought process. We actually thought she was going to cry...we were profusely thanked. I can only think at this point that most travelers don't really conceptualize exactly what a gratuity is supposed to entail. She over and above earned her tip. In this country she would have been a solid 20%...if not a bit more...she was THAT GOOD. The driver...got us where we needed to go. Unlike Stefano the previous day, he had no need to really talk with us as we were constantly getting commentary from Serena.
Our drive to the port was another hour. I'm pretty sure we all napped. Hot, tired, sweaty, we needed to go get ready for Palo. That night was our choice as we wanted to avoid Parrot Cay. Don't get me wrong...the food at Parrot Cay is fine, but the atmosphere is so dark, dated, and in need of overhaul. So...back we went for showers and preparation for a yummy dinner. We'd walked enough to earn our meal tonight, and dad got to experience it for the first time!!! The kids headed to Topsiders for dinner...which worked out well! I got a call from the Parrot Cay manager and they wanted to know if they could seat another group at our table as they'd returned late from their tour. Everything works out in the end, right?
3 years ago, our group of 10 (i believe) had the center table at Palo and had Andrea from Croatia. She was fabulous then, and just as fabulous this time. And...she remembered us. Not just Jim...who knows everyone, but Sean and I. We got there earlier than Mindy and Jim and it was us that she singled out. That's what I love about DCL cast members...
ok... more later..gotta go put kiddio to bed...
The show that night (that we didn't see) was Paul Zerdin. He's a comedian and ventriloquist. We've seen him before and he's very funny. In spite of the fact that we didn't have to get up early, we opted to not do any of the adult stuff and went to bed. I need to note that IMO, the late night entertainment was lacking. There were little in the way of theme nights, and at the end of the cruise, there was NO PUB SHOW. While the pub show we found out has been removed fleet-wide, I have no idea why the rest of the nights were lacking. Anticipation that people would be exhausted and just got to bed? Poor planning on DCL's part? Not sure. But again, this is just my perception. You may feel differently when we get the navigators in here. I'm having issues with my scanner....
Link to Rome Navigators:
hold for Sea Day 1: June 19, 2013
Our crazy FB group has several meets today. We ordered some group t-shirts and will do a picture in the Atrium, then break away girls vs guys for various social activities.
Suggested dinner attire: Formal Night
Menu: Prince/princess Menu'
Show: Twice Charmed
After a day plus of travel, 1 day in Barcelona, 3 days in pots, and jet lag to contend with, a sea day was most welcome. Up to this point, I'd had no trouble waking up early to get to what ever it was that we had to do, but at this point, I was ready to sleep a bit. There was supposed to be a group run that morning that we'd dubbed "olympic event #1" where whomever was so inclined to meet on deck for for a quick 5k would do so. I went to bed the night before with the thought process that I'd run if I woke up in time, but there was no way I was going to set an alarm. I think I'd even had all my stuff set out and ready to go so that I wouldn't make noise. That may have actually been the following day. What ever the case, I don't think I woke up until after 9. I was elected to head to deck 9 (lol...I volunteered, tho DH was supposed to do the same the following day) and get beverages and some light breakfast fare. I ran into another FB/dis'er up on deck 9 wondering where I'd been. :). Sorry!! Sleep muy importante!!!
Snack eaten, I was up to the gym, as by this time the weather was a bit too warm to run for my taste. Remember...I live in a cool environment year round!! So indoor exercise equipment was the name of that morning's game! After a shower, I donned appropriate cruise attire......my swimsuit.....and the requisite t-shirt and went on with my day.
***We had to hand in our passports this day due to Greek immigration regulations. We got a receipt for them and picked them back up on the 3rd sea day.**** FYI...the did not stamp them :(.
The t-shirt I was wearing was for our 1pm in the Atrium. Mindy started the t-shirt initially for our small party of 8.....one of our group has his own business of printing/car wrapping/t-shirt design graphics stuff. Puredata did an awesome job with the logo and between he and Mindy this was opened up to the whole FB/Dis board group and we agreed to convene for a photo! So I inquired with Shutters if they could come take a shot of us thinking that they would get a bunch of people buying the picture, but they were going to charge us a sitting fee. Really? Are you kidding me? So pxlbarrel went and got her tripod and we did it that way. We were going to do it with a timer, but some poor person volunteered to take the shot. Now...We made quite the sight...a large flock of people...2 males of whom were wearing dresses. WHat? you ask..yes. Dressed. The meet AFTER the photo for the men was a "princess tea party". So...a father son combo decided to make good on that...tiaras and all!!! These guys were on a few excursions with us, and nicer people you could never meet. I feel truly blessed to have met so many awesome people from this cruise.
So the men were off to the pool bar. Dad joined them there for a while before heading back inside. I had the wave phone and was the contact of the day with my daughter, who was at the pool most of the afternoon. The women were off to one of the staterooms....I do not know what her Dis name is.....if she even has one....but they wanted to host a meet and they had planned ahead with Cava!!! There were either mixed drinks (cranberry or OJ) or straight Cava. I had never had sparkling wine with cranberry juice, but it is yummy!!!
I had a 2:30 appointment with the front of the ship and the strait of Messina!! Pxlbarrel and I headed to deck 10 far forward and proceeded to sit right at the front of the ship. We were joined by ame and Mindy not too long after. We'd run into an officer who confirmed that we were going to go thru about 3:30 pm. So...we sat. It progressively got more and more crowded as we went thru the Strait. Some really, really obnoxious woman thought it would be appropriate to save a spot with her book and coffee and completely griped (use a different word, tho) out a poor man who was trying to walk by and inadvertently kicked over her coffee. She either didn't hear my snarky comments about her behavior or she ignored me. Go figure. The sail thru was beautiful! But as we approached 4pm, I'd had enough of sitting in one spot and decided that it was time to be done.
I'm pretty sure I headed to the pool deck at this point to get some sun! I forgot to mention that the evening before I ran to the laundry room right after we'd gotten back from Rome and had immediately scored a washer, so I was caught up at this point and didn't have to worry about laundry :). The adult area was packed. Remember all those rooms that didn't have kids? We could get loungers by the family pool, but not the adult area. And an observation...there were an awful lot of people trying to reserve chairs. BAD etiquette. The last sea day (it was so cold and windy), I was trying to tough it out and there were many chairs reserved with stuff but no people around to back up those holds. Rude.
It was formal night, and as I'd mentioned, Mindy and I had managed to get our daughters hair appointments. Mindy's DD went first and then mine. The hairstylist, Emma, was from Scotland and was so pleasant to listen to her talk. She was great with the girls, mine who was grumpy and thought that I was going to let her do her version of a bun for formal night. Yeah. Not so much. Lately it's been a battle to get her to do anything but pull it into said bun. It didn't help that the ship water was doing nothing nice with the texture of her hair. I wasn't having much of an issue with mine, but I have in the past. So DD went to the salon dressed and ready to go, knowing that we'd go to the show after the hair appt and that then I was going to inflict family photos! The horror!!! All the men had tuxes, so we wanted to go all out! The line for the pictures was not all that bad, so we had some time to kill and headed to the Promenade Lounge for a drink and there was a DJ, so DD and DH did some dancing! The Captain's reception was in the Atrium, but the drinks weren't too great, IMO.
Dinner as always wasn't bad, but nothing sticks out and as I usually don't do food porn I have no idea what I ate. (But in looking at pics to add in here is the menu!!) And no...I cannot make it any bigger...I can barely read it in full size on the computer:
I know that after dinner I was ready for bed in spite of sleeping in that morning. Besides...I was done with walking in heels...2 nights in a row was plenty....
Link to 1st sea day Navigators:
hold for Sea Day 2:June 20, 2013
Early am photo shoot with Pixelbarrel arranged for this day. I've admired her pics for a while and cannot wait to meet her in person :)!
Spa appointments and an alcohol tasting today as well (wine??).
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual
Menu: Bella Italia
There was no sleeping in this sea day! Pxlbarrel had declared that the photo meet would occur at 15 minutes prior to the posted sunrise time. That time....was 5:53am. Ouch. Alarm set for 5:30 and clothing set out so that I could do photos then hit the gym. I seriously considered ignoring that alarm.....but I did not and was rewarded with a lovely sunrise!!
The ship just before sunrise:
There were 4 or 5 of us hearty souls out there! We had a nice time and I really enjoyed the fact that it was daybreak, outside, and I wasn't freezing! I'm sitting here typing this and my fingers are cold, I'm wearing socks, and have a sweatshirt on :(.
I headed to the gym and locked up my camera, then got in a nice workout. By this time, I wanted a cup of coffee and headed to Cove Cafe, got both DH and I cups and headed back to the room, figuring that he'd be up by then. Not so much. So I grabbed my book and went to deck 4 to read for a while. Now THAT was a decadent luxury!! Coffee done and it was approaching 9am. Time to route the fam out of bed. They were actually up by then, and DD once again persuaded me to get her breakfast. Specifically, apple juice and a donut. LOL!!
Both Sean and I had hot stone massages set for this day. I love hot stones! As my daughter says; "pats on the back and rocks that are hot". Works for me! Mine was first, and I enjoyed every minute!! When done, I had time to kill and after sunscreening up, I hit the pool deck for some sun. DD was there, so I could interact with her a bit. DH's massage was about 2-ish, as we had Mixology afterward. That's why he got the later appointment...he can shower faster!
Mixology...was awesome! Mindy had pre-arranged tastings shoreside so that we'd be our own group. There was a 40-person cap on the groups. If you drink alcohol, this is worth doing. I'm more of a wine drinker but still enjoyed our experience. I think there were 5 drinks we tried in all. They'd ask questions and people with correct responses would get to go up and try their hand at making a specific beverage. DH walked in late and answered that the glass was empty to the bartender's question and got to make a Bahama Mama. Mindy got to make something but don't remember what. My dad went with us and sat back looking very relaxed:
See Mindy behind the bottles?? http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...cs/file-27.jpg
After the tasting, several of us headed to the not-so-secret aft deck on 7. We collectively brought wine, cava, cheese, and bread, and just hung out and talked! We had such a nice time in a quiet location getting to know more about our new friends. We discovered that it really is a small world after all! In fact, we were there so long that we completely missed the show that evening. This was the "relaxing" part of the vacation!!
Link to 2nd sea day navigators:
Hold for Athens: June 21, 2013
We opted to reserve a private tour after seeing how fast the "rent-a-van" option thru DCL went. After contacting a few different companies and doing research on all the applicable websites, we decided to go with Hellenic Private Tours: http://www.hellenicprivatetours.com. A party of 12 for Athens and Cape Sounion AND a guide all day is $580E. Entrance fees and lunch is not included with this price.
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual
Menu: Greek Menu
Show: The Dream Goes On
I was curious about if there was to be any fanfare to our arrival in Athens....we were greeted by toga-wearing citizens handing out olive branches. I did not, however, get a picture of them. Thank you pxlbarrel for reminding me of this!! We saw this sign, though:
We departed the ship and walked thru the port building and looked for our welcome sign. We were met by the owner, who initially was scheduled to be with us, but due to something or other, he greeted us and introduced up to our crew. Yeah...should have written down their names, but I'm willing to bet Mindy has them :). Each of us were given a little bag with a small tour book and postcards in them! I don't have pics of them at the moment, but will do so. It was a nice touch! Our crew of 12 boarded the tour bus and we were off. The port of Piraeus is nothing to write home about, but we got from there to the Acropolis area in 20-30 minutes. It was very strange (to me) that something so iconic and historical as the Acropolis was accessible in such a high density neighborhood. I guess Rome is very much that was as well, but it didn't seem quite the same.
We started out by walking around the Museum area. None of us were really into going inside, though I've heard that it was pretty amazing! The glass flooring on the outside of the building allowed us to see some excavated areas:
As you turn away from facing the museum, you see the magnitude of the Acropolis and the sheer height we were about to go up.
The walk wasn't bad, but I can imagine that my poor dad was looking at it in dismay. But up we went, with our guide telling us in detail about what we were seeing. This was the best part....it wouldn't have meant as much (to me) without the narrative! It turns out that she was an Athens native. She opted to take us up the opposite (back? less traveled?) side...her rationale was that it was less crowded. She was right. By the time we got to the top and headed toward the other side to head down it was very, very crowded. It was hot that day, but it was a dry heat and there was quite a breeze. At the top by the flag there was an outpost that you could go up to to over look the city, and it was almost too windy for me to stand up there. I didn't have a hairband, either, to ponytail up the hair. I was very cool to look down on the city, especially later when we went down to the temple of Zeus and took pictures looking up to mirror the ones I took looking down. Hadrian's Gate is right there by the Temple of Zeus.
Looking toward the Temple of Zeus: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ens/file-8.jpg
Looking back up from the Temple of Zeus:
Temple of Zeus: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...ns/file-13.jpg
I might have the order a bit wonky, but we went to watch the changing of the guard at the Parliament building. It was a high noon, too!! That was really neat! I took a bunch of pics, but I think I got video as well. I'll post it if I can figure it out. The guards have an escort that follows them. After the ceremony and the guard change, the escort ensures that their uniform is in the correct spot and whatnot, and answers the questions the crowd may have as the guards are not allowed to speak for an hour. They will make some sort of movement or click of the heels if a tourist gets too close, tho. You can take pictures with them but cannot get too close. We ran into the owner again at this stop and he came over to ensure we were enjoying our tour....
From here we were off to the Olympic Stadium. You can pay a fee and work out here. While we were there, there was a male gymnast doing cool handstand poses for pictures. It was neat to watch.
We loaded up to head to get lunch. I'm pretty sure I tagged my self there on FB, but can't find it at the moment. I'll look from the computer and see what the name was. It was yummy. And there was wifi!
The second have of our day was a ride down to Cape Sounion. This is where the temple of Poseidon is. DD is a huge Percy Jackson fan, so this was big for her. The drive down the coast was beautiful, but a bit curvy. It took about an hour to ge there. We pulled off to the side to get a landscape view of the monument before heading up to the site. When we got there, there was a cafe/gift shop area convenient for a bathroom stop prior to climbing up to the Temple. Dad opted to not go up. He did really well eariler, so I wasn't surprised he was done. I want to say it was a $4E entrance fee per adult. At the top, the views of the surrounding Greek islands were amazing. It was just really, really windy. We headed down and had time for a snack or drink if needed before heading back to the van for the ride back to Athens.
I'm pretty sure there was some snoozing going on. Upon arrival at the port, we were walking back to the ship and I looked over at a building that looked suspiciously like a fire station. I pointed it out to DH and he grabbed a patch from the camera bag and headed over there. DD and went back to the ship, but it turns out that it was a fire station and they did a patch exchange....in fact, one of the firefighters DH talked to just ripped his off his shirt (velcroed on...). It's neat to see that some traditions are universal! They had a patch wall and DH tells me that this one and the one pxlbarrel brought him are already on his patch wall at work. Very, very cool!!
DD headed to find her friends and I went for a workout. The hair was trashed, I probably smelled, and a shower was in my future, so I figured I could do a nice run in the air conditioning then get in a good stretch before a nice cool shower before dinner. The bad news was that I missed the show :(. BUT....there was a deck party that evening at 5:30-ish!! We were left paper "crowns" to wear at the party in our rooms:
There was a trivia contest as well as a toga contest. The game was skewed to the kids. Tired Mom of 3 Boys' husband was up there for one of the rounds and got asked detailed, hard questions. Then the kid had to answer 3 questions, all the answers being "Greece", I think! It was a lot of fun, with lessons on how to do that Greek dance you see all the time in movies...
The menu was only ok. The chef was taking liberties with his version of Greek dishes, and our poor server got to hear about it. So did the head server. I'm hoping it got passed on and fixed.....
Ok...I need to go to bed...I'll put pics up for this tomorrow night... (updated 7/12/13with pics)
Link to Athens Navigators:
Hold for Kusadasi: June 22, 2013
This was another port we'd intended to go thru DCL, but with all the private tours once again gone after Platinum/Concierge booking, we did the obligatory research and opted to go thru Magical Steps Travel: http://www.magical-steps.com/ephesus-tours . Their fee was slightly higher, $470 USD (dollars!!!!) for a party of 8 but included lunch, a guide, and all the admissions except the Terrace Houses (which seems to be standard amongst all the tour companies). We actually ended up adding another family to this tour and are now a party of 14. It reduced the costs from $60/adult and $30/child to $50/adult and $25/child.
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual
Show: Mysteries of Anatolia
My first foray into Asia!!! Sadly, this was not to be so for DD and DH. DD once again was ill overnight, and as DH left dinner early the evening before with a headache, he offered to stay onboard with her. So, I scooted out early to let them sleep and took pictures of our arrival. The port was a lot prettier than some we had been to!!
Our party, now reduced by to to 12, met our guide (not a clue what his name was), outside the port terminal. Actually, I was the last to come forward, and as I was the one who had made all the arrangements, he was looking for me....and a bit disappointed to find out that I was a woman. As I was standing next to Mindy's DH, he looks at him and assumes "he's my husband???". Um, no. Clearly the opportunity to do business with a woman did not excite him. Dismay is the term I'd think I'd use to describe the look on his face when he realized that I was Kim. Oh well....
So...our party was reduced by 2, right? But they didn't know that...so imagine our surprise when the bus only sat 12. There was a bench seat that 2 small adults or kids could have used in the front by the driver, but the guide's son was with us that day....???? Ok. Odd.
So we were off to Ephesus. Our guide was clearly educated about the area and the history, but did not gear any of his lectures for kids. So it turns out that DD chose the best day she could to get ill enough to stay on the ship. The 4 remaining kids were pretty bored as well. As he was very accented, it was a bit difficult to understand some of what the guide said. What he did do very well was be respectful of our older members with mobility issues. That was very nice!!
Ephesus was beautiful, but it was very, very hot. I want to say the high that day was about 95, but fortunately very low in humidity. At the beginning, we were able to purchase water if for some reason we hadn't brought any. That, and use the restroom, as the guide was clear that it would be at least 2 hours until we had another opportunity. We went from shady spot to shady spot to see the different ruins, before getting a break from the intense sun inside the Terrace Houses. This area is a neighborhood that is still an active archeology site. There were people in there doing archeology stuff while we were there!! It was so neat to see! The mosaics and whatnot were still so vivid. In addition, we saw areas that were blue...lapis lazuli...showing how wealthy this area was!
We left there and went for lunch. At this point, I was beginning to tune out the guide, until most of the bus practically rioted protesting that there would be no carpet visit. What??? Not mentioned in the booking and not wanted. By ANY of us. So as we get out of the bus, I tell the guide it's a no-go, and he was trying to convince me that it would be ok. I walked over to Mindy's DH and (as the guide seemed drawn to him for some reason) and told him to deal with it as apparently a woman wasn't going to be able to convince him. His tactic? Told the guide that there had been a bad carpet incident in the past and that if he went there he'd never hear the end of it from his wife. HAHAHAHAHAHA!! Totally worked.
Lunch was pretty good. We had no say in what we got to eat, but what showed up looked completely normal and tasted really good!! And...there was wifi! After lunch, we headed to the Isabey Mosque. It was supposed to be one of the oldest and biggest in the area. It was simple inside with a beautiful courtyard, and we were greeted by the Iman of the mosque. He was a friend of the guide. They were doing some arabic writing thing for the kids, but I wandered off for pictures and to see what dad was up to as he hadn't gone into the mosque himself. He was in the shade!
The courtyard at the mosque: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...si/file-16.jpg
The last stop of the day was the Temple of Artemis...the one remaining original 7 wonders. Well, one post remained, and I'm pretty sure it had fallen down and been resurrected. But....I've seen it!!
The Temple of Artemis: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...si/file-17.jpg
It was back to the ship!!!! Before heading onboard, I went to Starbucks hoping for a mug with the location on it, but all I got was an iced coffee. Back onboard, I checked on the peeps and headed to the gym for a workout. DD was feeling better and DH's headache was gone. After a shower, we headed to the show. It was ok. I get that it was cultural in nature, but The music was a bit loud for my taste. I get the feeling like they were a touring group. The announcer spoke very broken English off a card, but was so enthusiastic that you really couldn't fault him for it :). I appreciate the cultural touch with this show.
Before dinner, the hubby and I took the opportunity to do one of the professional photo sessions, just the 2 of us. Dad and DD were no where to be found. Dinner that night was far better than the previous evening. The mediterranean theme was tasty.
Link to Kusadasi Navigators:
hold for Mykonos: June 23, 2013
Currently, 7 of the 8 of us are booked on the Delos excursion. My dad has still yet to book...he's a newbie to DCL and has to wait until that stinking 75-day mark :(. There initially seemed to be some issues with availability, so we'll see what pans out. Worst case scenario is that we do this on our own. He could also do an adult-only excursion. We shall see...I've read that it's fairly easy to get to Delos once you get off the ship, but my fear is that I'd get nudged out of making a ferry and not making it back to the ship on time. UPDATE: 8/8 booked on 10:45 excursion!!
Suggested dinner attire: Pirate Night.....which then brings up the question....to bring Pirate attire or not? I'd have to make something new for DD. Easily enough accomplished, I guess...Update: Pirate attire packed and ready to go for all! I also made my dad a pirate shirt so he could join in the festivities! *****Updated after cruise....pirate night was moved!!!***** Attire changed to cruise casual.
Menu: Master Chef
Show: Scott Pepper (magician)
Mykonos was beautiful!! It has a very rugged, barren landscape that is juxtaposed by the amazingly scenic white and blue buildings. It is the iconic Greek island...the one you see in your mind's eye when you think about what a Greek island is. As we were on the 10-something excursion, we got the opportunity to take it a bit easy that morning and sleep a bit.
View from ferry back at ship and the old port:
We docked in the "old port" and for those of us on the DCL Delos excursion, we walked off and went right onto a tender (ferry??). It was about a 30 minute ride over, and before we boarded, we were handed our headset device for our tour. Our tour guide met us on the island. I'm assuming that they went over with the early Delos excursion. The boats that we took over to the island actually stayed there while we toured. I didn't see any that were coming and going, so that may be why people can do this on their own and not get left behind....the reason I was worried about doing this on our own. Maybe they pack out the people they pack in?? Hope that gives y'all that are thinking about doing this on your own something to research and chew on.
Our tour was to last 2 hours. As with all DCL excursions, we had our bottle of water, and while it was very warm, there was a lovely breeze. Our guide was lovely...very educated and easy to understand. She did a great job trying to time our progress thru the ruins so that we didn't fight other crowds in the same area. Our route took us around to the museum, where there was a bathroom :). And cats. There were cats all over Europe, and the kids seemed to always be drawn to these things. Interestingly, in Athens (I think....), they actually would round up the strays, fix them and vaccinate them, before letting them go again. It was actually a city project! But I digress......
We continued on thru some amazingly intact housing areas. Pictures will come.....
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The famous Lions (these are reproductions):
These are the real ones in the museum (with the elements of wind and water a lot of stuff had been preserved/replaced):
More cool stuff in the museum:
A mock-up of what the houses had looked like:
As we finished up the tour, we were herded back to the boat. Before we boarded, they collected the electronic device thingie, but we could keep our 1-bud earset if we wanted. LOL! Yes...only one bud (see the pic of DH and my dad above...).
The boat ride back was choppy. Very, very choppy and windy. Let's leave it there, shall we? I wandered to an area that would result in me not being SOAKED by ocean spray.
We were dropped off at the town port, as opposed to being let off at the old port to go back to the ship.
View from ship of new port and town:
Dad headed toward the buses to get shuttled to the boat, but the rest of us decided to have some lunch and wander. DH took the lead and led us off the main drag. We found a GREAT restaurant (with wifi) that had.....get this.....a pet pelican!!!!! Those are large birds, let me tell you!!! This bird wandered into the kitchen after wandering over to one of the staff for petting. The chef had to head out of the kitchen with a fish to feed to the pelican to keep it from getting underfoot. You had to wander thru said kitchen to get to the bathroom and I do have to insert here that the whole place was very, very clean.
After we ate, we just wandered. There was no rhyme or reason to the street layout, but then again I'm a bit directionally challenged. We ended up over by the famous windmills and got our pictures!! After this we headed back toward the shuttle buses. We ended up seeing more friends at the beach on our way back...their kids were having a great time!! DD was a bit jealous......she wanted to go swimming....
Back on ship, we all parted ways, and I went to the gym. I need to look at pics to really be able to tell you what we did the rest of that evening, but I do know that we went to the show. The magician was pretty good!
Added in to add: By this time we'd discovered the lecturer that was onboard. After the show and before dinner almost every evening he was in the Buena Vista Theater lecturing on something that was coming up (usually). It's on the Navigator. This particular evening was Rome: Victor or Vector? (roger, Roger....hahahahahahaha! Not many of you will get that joke, I think. Sound off if you do!)
This night was one of the new menus, I think. In spite of the pending sea day, I was ready for bed....
Link to Mykonos Navigators:
hold for sea day 3: June 24, 2013
Suggested dinner attire: Semi-Formal ****This changed onboard to Pirate NIght******
Menu: Pirate Menu
Show: Once Upon a Song
Another well-earned sea day!! The only hard and fast item on tap for today was a wine tasting that Mindy had pre-arranged. It wasn't until 3pm, and it was held in Diversions. We did, however, get to start our day off with our character breakfast:
In looking at the navigator, I'm pretty sure this was the day we squeezed in Monsters U. It was very cute!!
The following pics are from the wine tasting, but these are courtesy of pxlbarrel....she was our official photographer....kind of like a designated driver, just with a camera :)!
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Pirate night is always fun, and I brought all our regalia, and had made sure dad had a shirt as well:
Jim brought his hat: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...day/file-6.jpg
And our servers: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...day/file-4.jpg http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...day/file-5.jpg
Navigators for 3rd sea day:
Hold for Malta: June 25, 2013
Private tour scheduled thru Touring Malta: http://www.touringmalta.com. We are going to see Valletta (including the Co-Cathedral), Blue Grotto (conditions permitting), the Hagar Qim Temples, and Mdina. We opted to forgo the fishing village, as all adults involved thought the Temples would be interesting to see. Cost for 8 is $445E, required a $50E deposit. Does include a guide, but not the entrance fees or lunch. I read about the company here: http://www.thepreismans.com/med_silhouette.htm. Interesting TR and good pics!!
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual ******Changed to Semi-Formal night onboard*****
Menu: Captain's Gala
Show: Alfred and Seymour!!!
I love Malta! Last trip here I celebrated my birthday! This time, I did not manage to get up early enough to get outside as we were pulling into port. The bad part about this is that the sun in the morning hits the port and makes the buildings almost glow. Absolutely spectacular! I'll post a pic from last time to illustrate what I mean.
This one's been touched up a bit, but you get the idea:
We got off the ship and were greeted by Chris, the owner of Touring Malta, and our guide...Rosa, I believe. For the life of me I cannot tell you the driver's name. Rosa got us aboard our bus and we were off to the Blue Grotto! We drove outside of Valletta, through some other city areas, and stopped for some scenic shots on a pullout above where the Grotto boat launch was to be.
We were literally almost the first people there. One boat took off before ours did....My DH opted not to go with us as he and little boats do not see eye to eye. He figured getting sick (as it was very choppy, in fact the DCL schooner excursion was offering people the opportunity to cancel) at the very beginning of the day may not be the best choice. So, as we got on the boat, DH hiked a rocky cliff and got some neat pics of us in the boat. I'll post those here as well. The boat ride was fun! We all had life jackets and the very enthusiastic skipper kept pointing out places for us to take pictures. The boat that took off ahead of us had one guy hop off and go for a quick swim. Had I thought of it and brought a hat (for the bad hair that would result for the rest of the day), I would have done the same thing!! The Grotto area was beautiful! The water was amazingly blue in the cove areas and it was neat to see all the nooks and crannys you could snorkel to if the water wasn't so choppy. We finished up, hit the bathroom (which I think was a 50 cent to 1 E fee) and headed off to Haggar Qim.
See DH?:http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...013/file-5.jpg And his view of us: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...13/file-23.jpg
This is not a big island and the trip there was short. Haggar Qim is similar to Stonehenge in concept, but far, far older. It is pagan and thought to be a temple of sorts. I have some brochures on this at home that I'll dig up. This was the oldest place we saw the entire trip. To see what people were able to do with construction without the tools of today is simply amazing. There was a museum that we went into first, running into a few of our fellow Dis'ers!! There were a lot of exhibits, a video, bathrooms, and wifi!! Our guide led us thru here and explained what we were looking at. Outside was the archeological site. They had it covered with a giant tarp structure. It is now a Heritage site and they get additional funding from them to help with preservation. The elements are pretty hard on the island, so they went to great lengths to help with preservation. The down part was that in putting up the tarp, there was no no glorious sun-lit rock structure :(. There was also a smaller rock grouping a little farther down the site that we could have hiked to, but we all opted not to. There was an overlook that had some great landscape pictures as well.
We headed then to the ancient city of Mdina. Our driver dropped us off outside the city gates, we walked over a bridge, and continued our tour. The city is lovely. Many of the buildings are 800+ years old. Many landmarks were pointed out to us....pictures to follow! The area was fairly compact and it didn't take much time for us to cover the area on foot.
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Lunch was at a restaurant nearby. While the food was good, it took FOREVER to get service. The menu was extensive, but oddly mixed. I would not say this was local food at all. But again, not bad, just slow. And there was no wifi in the room we were sat in. In fact, we were the ONLY people in that part of the restaurant, almost like they were herding off the tourists. Our guide did not eat with us, which was our experience everywhere except in Lucca (Stephano was amazing). After lunch, we headed outside to find our guide, who was talking to someone in a car...that turned out to be her son! And what was even funnier was that he had just busted her smoking a cigarette. She was trying to quit...
We then headed back to Valletta. Have I mentioned how beautiful I think this city is? There is a war museum in Valletta (went there last trip) that outlines the history during WWII. This was the most bombed place during the war. The video they have playing there shows how the population used the fortress walls as their HOMES!! If you're a history buff, the museum is worthwhile to visit (off topic...there is also a fabulous Armed Forces museum in Largo, FL, fyi). Anyway...we headed to the upper Barrakka Gardens...they were very beautiful and they had an outstanding view of the bay. We ran into more friends...one of whom actually has family in Malta! Now that is kinda cool! (another set of friends had family in athens, I think...).
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A little more walking brought us to St. John's Co-Cathedral. Mindy and fam opted not to go in, but Dad, DH, DD, and I went in. Last time we were here it was very crowded and there were renovations going on. That was done this time and I got some more beautiful church pictures. In addition, we were able to go into a side room this time that we hadn't seen on our last visit that was a display space for their Caravaggio collection. We could not, however, take pics in there :(. In fact, our guide smacked down and lectured some tourists who didn't pay attention to the signs....
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This was the last stop of the day, so we walked a bit to the rendezvous point with the driver. We were dropped off outside the port and had the option of heading right back to the ship (dad) or strolling around. I needed to hit the Hard Rock Cafe to get a pin for my aunt. Inside the port building, we also stopped to get me some Motrin. For those of you that might get this....I could buy OTC ibuprofen 400mg tablets!!!! So cool! I don't know if she was a pharmacist, but the lady sitting there was giving me advice on taking in (lol). We also hit the duty free shop and got 2 bottles of wine for the last 2 nights of the cruise! We also saw the following:
That simply struck me as funny!
Back on board, our daughter ditched us for her friends, so DH and I headed to Cove Cafe for coffee, headed to deck for for a lounge chair, and sat reading for a while. There was an overhead announcement for 4 people to report whether they were onboard. A bit later, I started to hear cheering, and went and saw 2 people RUNNING for the ship. Oops. As soon as they were onboard, they pulled up the gangplank and we were off. DH and I headed to deck 10 for pictures. As I mentioned, I didn't get the sunrise on the bay, but I was able to get the opposite side of the Grand Harbor all sunbathed and sparkly.
See the man running: http://i1236.photobucket.com/albums/...13/file-21.jpg
It was time to get ready for Alfred and Seymour! I really didn't want to deal with the hair...so I managed to pin it back a bit without having to rewash and redo it. I love cruising, but the water does a number on my hair. It was semiformal night so I tottered down on my heels (sooooo not used to them that high) for the show. For those of you who have never seen them, A&S are comedians...they have a cult-ish following. Worth the time to ensure you go, but don't be late or leave in the middle or you'll get pulled into the fray!!
After the show, we headed to the Atrium to start taking pictures. I wanted a family pic with the Co-Cathedral backdrop, and while I was waiting in line, I sent DH,DD, and dad to get pics in front of the Mickey statue. After those, we went to take pics with formal Mickey and Minnie! After that it was time for dinner! I want to say that this was lobster night for all of you so inclined. Not my thing, so I think I had crab....I did a terrible job of food pics this trip.
Navigators for Malta:
hold for sea day 4: June 26, 2013
Suggested dinner attire: Cruise Casual
Menu:Till we Meet Again
I've been remiss in getting the last 2 days of this report up. Nothing is so depressing as the last sea day. Why? Because reality is about to rear its ugly head. Sigh.
The only item that was on our agenda that day was brunch in Palo. We missed out on Palo the last cruise we were on because it was the morning after Remy. And frankly, we woke up too full to really enjoy it so we cancelled. So this we were looking forward to!! Besides, dad had not yet experienced brunch!
I slept in a bit before hitting the gym, of course, then brought back breakfast one last time to DD. I thought it might be a nice idea to head out in my swimsuit and enjoy some time by the pool, but it was not warm. At all. And it was windy. Very, very windy. So that was a bust. So back to the room and a shower went I.
We spent the morning doing some packing so that we weren't rushed at the end of the night. I don't like feeling pressured to get my stuff out on time, so by the time we headed to brunch, all the dressy clothing, shoes, and, miscellaneous stuff was all packed up. I think it was the event before I actually had to drag DD to the gift shop to see if there was anything she wanted so that I could get it packed.
So&brunch! YUM. We warned dad of it's largess&.if you've never been, prepare yourself to be stuffed. I went after a sticky bun right away, as they are the closest thing I've found to a recipe I only make for Christmas breakfast. We enjoyed our server's company..it was Andrea again. Always a pleasure to talk to her! I actually walked out of there not stuffed to the gills.
That afternoon, I went on the Art of the Theme tour. I love this tour. It tells you about all the little details that went into the design of the ship. One of the other Dis'er was on the tour as well, but she had been smart enough to bring her camera. Myself¬ so smart. In fact, I have 3 pictures of this day. And all 3 are of towel animals. Anyway, as we walked around the ship, we kept losing our balance&the wind was upward of 40 knots that day. It was very rough. I didn't head outside at all after my venture to the pool deck. Makes for really bad hair :).
We all headed to the show, and we rocked and rolled the whole time. At dinner, DD was not feeling well and Dh headed to the desk to get her some meclizine. They had it readily available&I guess it was in high demand. She went back to the room early and laid down to try and feel better. Poor thing. 3/12 days had her poor stomach in knots. I stayed in the dining room saying goodbye to many of our new friends. We'd spent the last several months chatting with all of them, and it was so sad to see it ending. Other groups I have participated in fizzled after the cruise&but I'm happy to report that we still chat! Not quite as furiously, but I still feel like I have friends out there :).
It ended up being an early night for us as we had a tour to go on in the morning!! This was another time it was fortuitous to have late dining&..didn't have to eat until 8 am!
Navigators for 4th sea day:
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