Jewel of the Seas Greek Isles - 7/1/18

Discussion in 'Royal Caribbean' started by Dug720, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    I got in yesterday from my trip to Rome and cruise to Greece and figured I'd try and do a general review of it while it's fresh on my mind - focusing on the cruise.

    Let's be honest. The fact that this was a Greek Isles cruise - ONLY Greek Isles (other than embarkation/debarkation) is what sold me on this. I'll cover these in later posts in this thread. This initial post is only the ship/general cruise experience.

    The Basics...
    I booked this cruise over a year ago using Hilton Hhonors Cruises - I liked the itinerary, they offered a no-deposit deal plus points, and I have liked the Radiance Class ships, which Jewel is. A friend later commented how jealous she was of the trip, and I spontaneously offered to find out how much it would be to add her to my stateroom. It was doable, so she signed on. We met in Rome for a couple of nights prior to heading to Civitavecchia (aka the "port of Rome").

    The Ship...
    Jewel of the Seas is a Radiance Class ship. One of Royal's smaller classes with lots of glass to the outside but not all the bells and whistles the behemoths have. She does have a casino which allows smoking in about half...though the stench permeates the entire area. She is in good repair - I didn't notice anything glaringly not right.

    The Cabin...
    We had a balcony cabin - deck 9, the first room on the portside hall. Slight obstruction from "skin" but nothing horrid. We could look into the Bridge (one level up), so there was a light if we looked directly towards the bow. It didn't bother me, but it might some. Beds were fine - right next to the balcony as opposed to next to the bathroom, so that was interesting. One bathroom - a tad small for me. The shower had a plexiglass cylinder with sliding doors rather than a curtain. I have never had issues with the curtains, but it was nice. Our cabin host kept it clean and nice.

    The Crew...
    Now we're getting into some of my issues. Overall I felt like the service has slipped a bit. I don't know if Royal is just focusing all the attention on the big girls, but I definitely felt much more of an apathetic vibe from the crew. The cruise director was completely nondescript. If I hadn't gone to ONE show (more on that in a moment) where she introduced it, I would have thought the Activities Director was the CD as he was much more outgoing. Not that that is saying a ton. One thing I did notice was a difference in how the crew reacted to people. I use the DCL lanyards I bought my parents and me for our first DCL cruise (the navy blue ones with the wallet-like card holder - that is OBVIOUSLY Disney) because I have it and I know Royal doesn't provide them. More than once I'd encounter crew on stairs or in the hall, and noticed that while they did not acknowledge people walking a bit in front of me, the moment they saw the lanyard they were all "Hello! How are you?" Almost like they knew what someone who has cruised DCL enough to have one of their lanyards for use would have certain expectations. Ditto my experience with Shore Excursions (it was a "next guest" without looking up followed immediately by a visible shift in facial expression and attentiveness the moment the lanyard was spotted) and Guest Services (very similar when I went on the last night to close my account - SHOCKINGLY they had all of TWO people out there actually interacting with guests (while THREE computers sat idle) and one girl was on the phone for a full 30 minutes out at the counter - quite opposite to my experience with DCL where the last day ALL the terminals have been staffed and anything that will take that long on the phone is handled in the office and NOT at the counter). I'll touch on the dining in more detail momentarily, but let's just say it took me filling out the mid-cruise food check-in card and putting our cabin number on it for our head waiter to really get involved in our ordering process.

    Entertainment...
    Or more specifically lack thereof. It was horrid. There was ONE production show - City of Dreams, which I learned the hard way to avoid like the plague when I cruised on the Radiance - the entire week. They did have Tango Buenos Aires one night - which used the singers and dancers as back up for a professional tango couple...the exact same ones I'd seen on Brilliance two years ago. It was tolerable. The other nights they had contortionists (ew), a Motown cover group that was awful (I lasted a song and a half) and one act that I could not figure out what he was from the Cruise Compass description and did not want to chance going. There is a casino, but it allows smoking in half of it so the stench permeates the whole area. I'm not into gambling anyway, so a casino is not a draw for me. There are 2 pools and a small slide/play area. 1 pool is adult only. The slide is mainly for kids.

    Dining...
    I am gluten-free, so my food needs are a little different than your standard cruiser. They do have a "corner" labeled in the buffet at lunch and dinner, though it has gone from a whole pod to one side. Curries featured heavily in this. I usually cobbled together my own thing from things I knew were safe at lunch. Breakfast they don't even bother marking an area - probably because it's pretty easy to know what is and isn't safe at breakfast? I can say the eggs on the buffet are not powdered - more than once I found shells in them. Ew! They had bread, but no bagels or any other kind of pastry option. The MDR could do French toast (not bad) or pancakes (WAY too cakey for my taste), but it's the standard fill the tables thing there, so not my favorite thing in the morning. My friend had her own food thing, so we both ended up pre-ordering our dinners. While they have put some non-mousse-type desserts on the menu that are gluten-free (even a pineapple upsidedown cake...coconut figured heavily in that which was weird), I felt like my options on the menu had gone WAY down. To be fair, they have severely trimmed the menus in general - gone are the delicious cold fruit soup appetizers other than one night - but the items marked as gluten-free were VERY limited.

    Speaking of marking/labeling, there was a LOT of inconsistency with the menus both in marking what was gluten-free - a dish with farro (most definitely NOT gluten-free) was marked gluten-free (and our head server tried to convince me that farro doesn't have gluten) while Caprese Salad (tomatoes and mozzarella) was not?? - and in what was on the menu actually being on the plate - one night a dish listed "parsnip mash" as the side, but it was legit mashed potatoes; one dish listed an aioli as the topping but it was a marmalade.

    As I indicated above, once I filled out that survey our head server was all involved in the ordering and was all "You can order even things off the menu and if we have the ability we will make them". But it should NOT have taken me filling out a survey for that to happen. It should have been made clear from night 1. Our servers did try their best - but culinary has really left them all hanging out to dry with the menu changes and inconsistencies.

    I do have to note that if you have special food issues, if there is a night where the ship is in port late and they are going to do "open seating" in the main dining room (meaning no one has a reservation or a set time), plan on either the buffet if it is an option for you or a specialty restaurant. They could not find my pre-order even with my stateroom number, my table number, and my servers' names the night we were in Santorini. I was hot, tired, dehydrated, and hungry and was virtually in tears asking them to just let me order for the next night and I'd just go to the Windjammer before a head server got involved and found everything.

    In summary...
    Fortunately this was a fairly port-intensive cruise with only 2 sea days, so I was kept occupied with the ports and planning (I'll cover excursions when I do the individual ports). If there had been more than that...I don't know. I have liked the Radiance Class ships before, but I really feel like they might be trying to kill them (and other smaller ships) in favor of the big girls, which I have no desire to cruise on. IF the itinerary is right, I might consider a RCCL cruise again, but this one has definitely left me with pause about it. I've got one DCL cruise booked and will be booking one for Presidents' Week later this year. I'm already thinking ahead to some special Europe cruise or trip for my 50th birthday in 2021 and am fairly sure that even with the cost I'll do Disney. Definitely Disney leads over Royal at this moment for me - definitely a case where the total value of the cruise includes all aspects, and based on this experience, Disney is leaps and bounds ahead; at least if you don't want to jump to the big girls, which I don't. It makes me sad to say/think this as I've had 2 good experiences with Radiance Class ships - this one just left me severely underwhelmed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2018
  2. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    Ok... Let's talk ports...

    Civitavecchia...
    Embarkation was super smooth. We took Roma Shuttle from our hotel (Hotel Lirico) for 35 euro each. Walked right into check-in and right onto the ship.
    Debarkation was smooth also. There is a cruise line provided free shuttle to the port entrance as Civi is really an industrial port so it's not safe to walk through. It took us a little while to find that as the signage was not super clear and the employee we asked had no clue. We were heading to FCO - my friend to fly to Copenhagen and me to catch a taxi to Fiumicino (do yourself a favor and stay in Rome, even with an early flight as there is NOTHING in Fiumicino) - and had planned to take the train, knowing that we'd have to change at Trastevere. It was 2 euro each for the bus to the train station (supposedly you can walk, but we did not find it as well marked as cruise critic made it seem) and 11 euro each for the train tickets. There were taxi pimps trying to convince people to use them. One was offering a shared service - for 40 euro each! Once I said we would stick with our plan, she started in with outright lies - said we'd have to change trains 3 times and with it being a Sunday it would take over 4 hours. There is ONE train change (yes stairs are involved, but they are doable...and I'm pretty sure there's an elevator if you truly need it), and we had looked at the train schedule and knew it would take about 90 minutes, but it was NOT infrequent service. Do your homework and don't let them cheat you!!

    Santorini...
    Beautiful!! I did a ship based excursion - Volcano Hike and Hot Springs Swim. I'd booked Scenic Kaiki Ride and Volcano Hike, but that ticket was not in the envelope with the rest of them. And there was no letter stating why. So off I trooped to Shore Excursions. "Oh. Yeah. The provider cancelled it, so we've rebooked you on the one with the Hot Springs Swim. You don't have to pay the higher cost." Great. Why not just put that in a letter with the ticket and I could come if that DIDN'T work for me? Not a clue. The excursion itself was good. There was an argument with the guide and the boat captain (we were on a kaiki anyway) because the group was larger than he had apparently been told. Plenty of room but he wanted to argue. Finally we boarded. The hike was a HIKE but you could go at your pace and do as little or as much as you wanted - we were just given a time to be back. Changing into my swimsuit was NOT fun - I was hot and sweaty and the bathrooms on the boat were TINY and not ventilated, but the swim in the water (I touched the "hot" part but scurried back to the cooler seas) was nice. The excursion description made it clear that you needed to be able to swim up to 150 feet in open water unassisted to reach the hot springs. A couple of PRIVATE boats pulled up and they had noodles for their people, so some on our tour got mad, but nothing in the description indicated ANY flotation devices would be provided. We got 2 cable car tickets to go to Thira once we got back - I took it up but walked down. I did discover that the Greeks really don't know what to do with gluten-free. I had a card printed up stating that I could not have wheat and the three places I asked were like "I don't know if we have anything..." Loved this port though!!

    Mykonos...
    I did the Ano Mera Monastery and Scenic Island Drive tour which was nice. It included a visit to a taverna for mezes (appetizers) and ouzo. I could eat all but the bread and cheese spread and the meatballs - so that helped for other on-land meals. After, I paid 4 euro round trip to take the sea bus from the ship dock to Old Port in Mykonos town to walk around there and see the windmills. Beautiful!! Another favorite.

    Piraeus (Athens)...
    Did the "On Your Own" excursion which provided the transportation to and from Athens. We got in the LONG and SLOW line for the Acropolis tickets. Eventually we decided to see exactly how much the tours some roaming guides were offering were with the plan to just pay it if it was not too much and then escape the tour. Think of it as Max Pass. The first guy we asked was charging face value for the tickets (20 euro) and 10 euro for the tour. We paid, got our tickets, and he pointed us towards an umbrella to wait for him. We - like pretty much everyone else - just went straight to the turnstiles and through. It was breathtaking!!!
    After we went to the cafe our escort pointed out as her lunch place and decided to eat there. It was really good! BUT there was some kind of biting bug in my chair weave that had a FEAST on the backside of my right thigh and a few nibbles on my left. We know it had to be there that the bites happened because my friend in the same room did not have them, they did not follow THAT bug's pattern, and the affected area pretty much directly matched how my leg had been on the chair. Did not discover this until the evening, which is about my regular mosquito bite time frame for itching. I took Benadryl that night and put some solar gel on it (that kept the itch down), then went into a pharmacy in Olympia the next day and got some cream.
    Athens was awesome though!

    Katakolon (Olympia)...
    I personally wish the order had been reversed as Olympia, while cool, was not as picturesque. But it was very cool to see the site of the original Olympic Games. The original starting line in the stadium is still there. And the Altar of Hera is still where the Olympic Flame is kindled before every Games. We did stop at a shop on the way back - it was clear that this was one of those where the guide and maybe driver get a kickback from sales, but there was some nice stuff in there. I found a nice wedding gift for some friends getting married next year, so that was cool. A quiet, but nice little port.

    Overall...
    Loved this itinerary and would love to go back to Greece sometime...though probably only on a cruise, so at this point don't know when it will happen unless DCL goes back there.
     
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  4. WebmasterMaryJo

    WebmasterMaryJo Techarita Staff Member Administrator

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    Thank you for your report. We're going on Rhapsody of the Seas next year, and are stopping in Athens and Mykonos. We're still in the planning stages, of course, so trying to read up on as much as I can.
     
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  5. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    You're welcome! Thank you for reading! We saw Rhapsody when we were in Mykonos! :) If I decide to give them another chance, Rhapsody is on my list of ones to consider.
     
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  6. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    Let’s start with some pictures!

    Rome!!

    We stayed at the Hotel Liroco, which is walking distance (though a bit confusing) from Termini Station. One thing about Rome (and many European cities I’ve visited) is that they don’t “believe in” street signs. There MIGHT be a marble slab in a building indicating the road, but not always. It can make trying to navigate without using GPS or a mapping thing on the phone (didn’t want to run up my bill using data once I figured out how to actually use the international service) a challenge.

    You have to walk up stairs to get to reception at the hotel. If you need help with luggage, I think there is a bell to ring and they will help you.
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    The elevator is TINY, so if there is more than one of you or with a lot of luggage it may take multiple trips.

    Our room was small (as most in Europe are), but functional. Sadly, the only picture I have is with one bed unmade and my stuff all over the other one as I’d just gotten in and was unpacking, but it gives you an idea of the room…
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    It had a great view of the piazza in front of the opera house though!
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    The arched door next to the gold signage said “Disney Hut” - but there was nothing Disney in there. We looked (we are both Disney people). We also laughed that the street on the other side of our hotel was Via Napoli.

    The first day, we walked around to see some things like…
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    The Spanish Steps

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    The Trevi Fountain! I was very happy there was actually water in it! Two years ago, they were cleaning it on my port day in Rome (not the big closure…this was just a cleaning). I threw my three coins in…

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    We went to this place I’d discovered before to eat…
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    Yes - that’s right! The ENTIRE MENU is recreated gluten-free!!! It is AMAZING!!!

    More wandering after food, and we came upon
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    The Vittorio Emanuele monument.

    And…
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    The Colosseum. We only walked outside today as we had a tour the next day.


    My second day started with a tour of the Circus Maximus…
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    And the Domus Aurea - Nero’s palace, which has been buried and built upon and is now being excavated.
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    This room was cool as we sat on the boxes and put on Occulus virtual reality goggles (is that what you call them) and through VR experienced what the palace might have looked like back in its glory.

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    This is a model of how they plan to recreate the park above it so that future damage to the structure does not occur. (There is a pine tree whose roots are ruining some of the frescoes now). It is an active archaeological site and only open a couple of days a week for tours. We had to wear hard hats, and the information with the ticket said to be prepared for much cooler temperatures.

    It was a very cool experience. Figuratively and literally.

    My friend and I met up for a tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum…
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    Steep stairs

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    It was a good couple of days prior to the cruise!
     
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  7. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    The Ship - Jewel of the Seas…
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    We entered on Deck 2, right at the entrance to the “I-95” crew hallway. My sister works on DCL (though that does not benefit me in any way, and it does not color my review as I have liked my RCCL cruises in the past) and mentions the I-95 often, so of course I had to take a picture…
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    Then it was up to the Windjammer (their buffet) for lunch. And the first of many curries I could have had through the week…
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    We went to the spa and did the tour and entered the raffle - which I later won. Again. I won the grand prize 2 years ago on Brilliance, and when they drew this time and said “Deck 9! Elizabeth S!” my reaction was “You have GOT to be kidding me…” I never have that kind of luck anywhere else. I did a facial that night (my first ever) and it was nice, but…I really hate the sales pitch at the end of on-ship spa treatments.

    Our muster station was in the theatre, so that was nice - inside, sitting, and air conditioned!!
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    I somehow failed to take any pictures of our cabin (bad, bad Beth!!!), but here are the aft and forward views from the balcony!
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    I don’t usually go with a balcony because I’d usually rather be out and about, but it was a nice splurge for this trip.

    The adult pool area is called the Solarium, and it has a retractable roof. This was the first time I had ever seen it open - which it was pretty much every day.
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    The pool was busy for Sail Away, and it was pretty busy every sea day. It was also VERY busy when the World Cup matches were on - especially when Brazil was playing as there was an all-ages Brazilian tour group as well as…you guessed it…a group of 15s. The girls were amazingly well-behaved and quiet (other than match time) compared to their WDW-going counterparts. And they were all very subdued the day after Brazil was eliminated.
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    I did love these officers on the stairs dancing at the Sail Away party…
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    This is looking down into the Centrum from Deck 13…
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    There is a rock climbing wall that has hours. I do not know if there is a fee or not, but I know you have to sign a release (parents sign for under 18s)…
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    Our first day was a sea day, and I went to an “Art History in 30 minutes” seminar (mainly for the free mimosa). I did take a picture of this slide. Impress your friends at trivia with Picasso’s full name…
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    The main dining room has 2 levels with the top being My Time Dining (make reservations for any time the MDR is open - or don’t and take your chances as to how long you’ll have to wait) and the lower being 2 seatings of traditional dining.
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    Here is the closest I have to a picture of the cabin…
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    Our towel animal that night was a ray without a tail, and I had just finished the chapter in Circe where she visits Trygon, the great ray of the seas, to ask for his tail for a spear for her son Telegonus (which ultimately killed Odysseus). I was reading the book (which I LOVED) on my nook, so our stateroom host had no way of knowing that. One of those weird coincidences. And yes, Stitch came along on the trip.
     
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  8. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    The first full day was a sea day - just water all around. Well, we did go through the Straight of Messina (the small bit of water between the toe of Italy’s boot and Sicily) - but I have better pictures on the return trip.

    Then it was Santorini day!! The morning was a sea day, and we had a late departure. It was a tender port - meaning we were not at a dock but anchored off shore and shuttled to shore in small local boats. Because people not on ship-based excursions want to get off ASAP, they do tickets for tender boats for the first 2 hours - after that no tickets needed, it’s just first come, first served. My experience with tender tickets for Kotor was a cluster****, so while I had an excursion and as such did not need a tender ticket, I headed up to the pool deck to see how it went this time.
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    It was amazingly organized! I was a little worried about the clump at the front, but it turned out they had ropes up with some switchbacks so it was organized in spite of looking like a clump.

    Soon, we were able to start seeing land. This is looking back (and zoomed in) on Oia (pronounced EE-ah)…
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    And here we are, anchored off Thira (aka Fira)…
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    I went to the meeting point for my excursion, we headed to our tender boat, and we were off!
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    This was the boat - a kaiki - that we took to get to Nea Kameni, the volcanic island in the middle of the caldera. (When she had a massive eruption between 1642 and 1540 BCE, it created the caldera, destroyed the city of Akrotiri, the island that is now Santorini, and the coast of Crete…and is thought by some to be what destroyed and lost forever the mythic city of Atlantis.)
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    After some discussion (loud discussion) between the captain and our guide (apparently there were more people than originally scheduled and that required a different permit?) we were allowed to board and we were off.
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    The captain was pretty much exactly my image of a Greek sea captain…
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    We pulled up to Nea Kameni…right next to another boat that was docked. A line was fed through that boat’s rails to tie up, and we walked across that boat to land.
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    Apparently that’s how it’s done in Greece.

    After getting a map, a return time of 3:30, and some instructions…
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    …we were set free to hike the trails at our own pace.

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    She is not extinct - indeed there is monitoring equipment all over the island. Her last eruption was in 1950, and there is some thought that she is due for another big eruption in the possibly not-so-distant future. There are sulfur vents around, and this was one of them. You smelled it before you saw it.

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    My (very bad) attempt at imitating Diana’s stance on the cliff just before diving off in Wonder Woman…
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    I really wish I had gone back down a small but steep hill to get the other angle on this equipment, because from behind, it looked like Wall-E…
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  9. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    After a very hot and sweaty change into my bathing suit in the small and not ventilated bathroom on the ship, I treated myself to some diet Coke.
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    We headed to the hot springs. The brown water is not silty but made that shade from the sulfur jets which heat it.
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    We all jumped in and swam to the springs. I liked it better in the cooler water though…
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    After getting changed again, I treated myself to a Malibu and diet.
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    After getting back to Santorini, we got passes for the cable car up and back, so I headed up to Thira…
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    The view was amazing!
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    Donkeys are an option to go up, but many people don’t like it because of the treatment of them.
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    The streets are super narrow…
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    I bought some souvenirs from this shop…
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    The line to the cable car was RIDICULOUS and not super organized, so I decided to walk down the 587 stairs.
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    After finally getting some food and hydration in me (see the first post for that drama), I watched the sunset. Santorini sunsets are about as famous as Key West sunsets.
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  10. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    Mykonos!

    The morning dawned bright on “New Port” where we got the docked spot (other ships in that day had to tender).
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    Went to the theater to meet up for my excursion. We headed out and loaded up in the bus and were off. First we did a scenic island drive and stopped at “Shirley Valentine’s Beach” - actually Agios Ioannis (St. John’s) Beach, but everyone calls it Shirley Valentine’s Beach because there was apparently a movie where someone named Shirley Valentine went to Mykonos and I guess a “poignant part of the movie” is filmed here.
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    We could see Delos - mythical birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis across the water.
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    Then we headed to the little village of Ano Mera to tour the monastery.
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    This is the icon that legend has it was given to Mykonos by the sea. The faces have worn away. The rest of it has been gilded with silver. The things hung on it are thank you from people who offered them in exchange for some prayer request from the Virgin.

    I am a huge theological geek, so I took a TON of pictures of the church. I will spare you. (I mean, I’m editing all the pics in this, but this one especially) My albums are on FB, so I sadly can't post links on here. But if you want them, PM me your email and I'll email you the links as I made the albums public.

    We then went to a taverna for mezes (appetizers) and Ouzo.
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    I could eat everything but the bread (and hence cheese spread) and meatballs.
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    Ouzo is clear unless you add water or ice. It is YUMMY!

    We got back to the ship, and I dropped off my purchases, then decided to get a ticket on the Sea Bus (4 euro round trip) into Mykonos Town.
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    And then it was back to the ship for dinner and another glorious sunset at sea…
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  11. angelinaxox

    angelinaxox Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for sharing your trip report. Your pictures are great. I am glad to hear the Jewel is in good condition. I sailed her in 2012 and consider her one of the most beautiful ships I sailed. Though, I agree about the smoke from the casino and I always felt I ended up walking through it to get anywhere.

    Unfortunately, I don't think poor service is limited to the smaller Royal ships. I took my first Royal cruise in 1992 on a classic Royal ship (the Nordic Prince which is no longer in the fleet) and the service now just doesn't compare. When I did the Anthem last summer, it took over first place from my 2004 Norwegian Wind Hawaii cruise as the worst service I encountered in all my cruises. I much prefer Disney service.

    Based on reading your posts, I think you would enjoy Disney for a Europe cruise. My first three cruises in Europe were on Princess and I loved them. However, my next two cruises in Europe were on DCL and I loved them even more. I totally thought they were worth the price. My next cruise in Europe is in August and with Royal on the Rhapsody. I wish it was DCL, but DCL doesn't have a cruise out of Venice in August.

    I do have a question for you in regards to Santorini. I have read a lot about the long lines for the cable car down. If we decide to walk down, how did you personally find the walk? I have read from others not to walk as it is a tough walk because you are sharing the path with the donkeys and there is a smell. My first choice would be to do the cable car but would like to know that walking is a viable option.
     
  12. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks! I still have a couple of days to go, but took a break to watch soccer :( and to go to TaeKwonDo. I'm going to try and finish tomorrow.

    I'm sorry to hear that about Anthem. The big girls are not on my radar, but poor service is never a good thing.

    I'm definitely thinking that now that my black belt program is paid off, I will take at least half that monthly payment and put in a savings account with one of the online banks to build a nice sum for a 50th birthday celebration DCL European cruise in the summer of 2021. I think that would be a really nice way to celebrate!!

    The line length really depends on how many ships are in port and when their departures are. In our case, we had the later departure time, so it would have really been predominantly Jewel passengers after 7:30/8:00 - but I knew I needed to eat, and as I said, the restaurants I stopped to inquire at didn't feel confident they could provide a safe, gluten-free meal, so I needed to go back to the ship earlier to get food in me. The path is steep in some places, and the stone is kind of worn which would make it slick if your shoes don't have good traction. I didn't encounter having to pass donkeys moving on that path (in town was another story), but did pass them tied up and/or waiting in a couple of places. And there were a couple that were making their way up the path on their own, but they didn't bother anyone. They smelled when you were next to them, but the whole path did not smell. I would do it again, but making sure I'd worn shoes conducive to it (I did this time - obviously from the volcano hike - but just saying in the future if I go back.) - definitely a function over fashion time.
     
  13. angelinaxox

    angelinaxox Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for the reply. I look forward to seeing the rest of your report. How was the dress on the formal nights? I would prefer not to pack a suit jacket for my husband or anything dressy for me unless it appears to be a more formal cruise.
     
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  14. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    I saw more people dressed up than on a Caribbean cruise, but there were also plenty of people still smart casual - and some I'd push to put in that category. The first one I wore a little cotton Tommy Hilfiger summer cotton dress (like t-shirt material cotton) and the second skinny jeans with a black blouse. No issues eating in the MDR those nights. On Santorini night, when it was open seating, I was even *gasp* in a tank and shorts as I went straight there from the tender. I had planned to assure them I was not eating but just wanted to pre-order for the next night, but the head waiter greeting people took me straight in.
     
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  15. angelinaxox

    angelinaxox Mouseketeer

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    Great! It sounds similar to DCL.
     
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  16. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    Athens!

    The day dawned bright and early…though we were aware well before dawn as we could hear the thrusters firing as we docked around 4:30 or 5am.

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    The port of Piraeus in the early morning light.

    After a quick breakfast in the Windjammer, we headed to the theater to get our number sticker for the “Athens On Your Own” excursion. (As an aside, it always makes me laugh how they give you this advice for avoiding theft, and the biggest thing they say is “Don’t look like a tourist” yet the first thing they do is give you a bright sticker to slap on yourself. For the On Your Own tours, I pop it in my lanyard case (the lanyard goes in my bag as soon as we’re on the bus/boat) to show if necessary.) We followed the crew member with the numbered lollipop who handed us off to our local guide, and we were off.

    The drive took a while because of morning traffic, but soon we were in Athens, and off to the left we got our first glimpse of the Acropolis…
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    It’s hard for me to put into words how excited I was to see the Acropolis - and specifically the Parthenon - in person. I largely grew up in Nashville, TN which has the nickname “The Athens of the South” because of all the educational institutions in and directly around it. Nashville is also home to the only full-sized replica of the Parthenon. During the state’s Centennial celebration, it was constructed of paper mâché as part of a whole exhibition thing, but it proved so popular, it was decided to construct it out of Tennessee granite and make it permanent. In 1990, a re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue was commissioned and added to Nashville’s Parthenon. (The original was stolen and destroyed in Late Antiquity, the Nashville one is based on information about the original, the artist’s knowledge of the sculpture and culture of that time period, and his interpretation of those.) So to be able to see the original Parthenon… It was super exciting!!


    Our guide showed us where we should meet her, pointed out a nice coffee place and a good taverna, showed us where the line for the Acropolis tickets was as well as how to get to some other places, and turned us loose. We joined the long - and VERY slow moving - line…
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    It was hot, and there was very little shade once we rounded the corner. There were a few licensed guides (they have to wear a distinctive ID, so you know they are ok) offering tours - you paid the cost of the ticket for the Acropolis (20 euro) and a tour fee. We passed on the first offer without asking how much the tour was, but by the time the second guy came around we decided to find out how much the tour was and if it was reasonable, we’d pay it and lose the guide along the way. He was offering the tour for 10 euro, and we decided it was worth it (totally was…the best 10 euro I spent the whole trip) and got our tickets for 30 euro each. As it turns out, “losing” this guide was even easier because he was not done selling tickets for that group, so he gave us the tickets and told us to meet him at an umbrella he pointed out. As luck would have it, the umbrella was right nest to the entrance turnstiles. So we just kept going through the turnstiles and began our journey. (Hint: Don’t ask the guide “What happens if we don’t want the tour?” because he will say “Then you stay in this line.” and not sell you the ticket. Woman in front of us did that. Just decide what you’re willing to pay, buy the ticket/tour, and go. IF the guide keeps/takes you with him/her, it is crowded enough along the path that you can easily lose them.)

    I’ll just let the pictures speak (mostly)…
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    Theater of Dionysos

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    Temple of Asklepios

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    This sign made me laugh. Apparently even the archaeologists aren’t positive what it is.

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    The Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Please don’t call it “Yanni’s Theater” - they don’t like that!


    That’s where I got swept up in the middle of a crowd and lost my friend. We each figured either we’d meet up on top or just meet on the bus at our return time (2:10pm). It was crowded from here on up to the top.
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    FINALLY I could see light at the end of the sea of people…
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    A few more steps, and there it was…
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    There are other things up there too…
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    But the Parthenon is what had me most excited…
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    We also saw Hadrian’s Arch…
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    We named the pigeon sitting there in the middle arch Hadrian because he would NOT leave.


    And the Temple of Olympian Zeus
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    Keeping it Disney, we saw an ad for Incredibles 2 on a tour bus…
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    We had lunch at the taverna - I could do the rolled grape leaves because the filling was rice and meat - which is where there was some biting bug in my chair (only I didn’t know that until later that evening). But the food was good. Grabbed a coffee at the coffee shop, and then met up with our guide to take the bus back to the port.

    We watched them cast off the lines and sailed out of the port of Piraeus heading to Katakolon.
     
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  17. gumbypee

    gumbypee DIS Veteran

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    sounds like an awesome trip! Bucket List for me for sure
     
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  18. mmmears

    mmmears DIS Veteran

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    Great trip report, I’m really enjoying it!
     
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  19. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks! I'm working on the last couple of days. :)
     
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  20. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    OK… Let me try and finish this up!! It’s taking me longer to get the report up than the cruise!

    Katakolon (Olympia)

    I had opted to pre-order gluten-free pancakes for breakfast in the MDR (I can only do so much bacon and eggs…well, more so much eggs), so I headed there. My head server gave me the menu to look at if there was anything else I wanted - I decided to order strawberries and banana. I thought that maybe they would be in a dish together, but…

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    The berries were sliced. I saved about half of them for my pancakes. I neglected to take a picture of the pancakes. They were good…but VERY cake-y. I had to ask for more syrup to help make them a little more moist. But they were ok.

    Soon, we were pulling into Katakolon - which is a little fishing village that is about 30 minutes away from Olympia, the original site of the Olympic Games. I went out on the balcony to watch the activity in the Bridge.
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    They were all very friendly and waved at me.

    The buses were all lined up and ready for the excursions…
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    We went to the theater to get our number sticker and head out for “Olympia On Your Own”!

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    My friend wanted to hit the restroom first. The line was HUGE as there were a couple of tours who had gotten there ahead of us. I said I was going to go ahead and head into the site, and that was fine. We’d meet up later.

    The ruins were generally not as well marked as at the Acropolis, and I’d accidentally left my copy of the walking tour I’d found, so I just wandered and looked most of the time.

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    This was the “gymnasium”.
    There were so many things that all ran together, I was pretty mad at myself for forgetting the paper. But it was still cool to see everything.

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    This was a bathhouse. It was probably the most complete building.

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    I did find this beautiful cat…
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    Soon, I wandered my way to the Stadium entrance…
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    It was pretty cool to see the original starting line! Even though I don’t run anymore (unless they make us run around the mats at the dojang), it was pretty cool to put my foot on that line.
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    A lot of families were doing “races”
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    (The kid in the hat clearly does not want to, while dad is pointing to the spot where the kid needs to be. Haha!!)


    The Olympic Flame is kindled to begin the torch relay before every Games at the Altar of Hera. This is her temple…
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    You’d think that the altar would be something elaborate. Like
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    This.

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    Or this.


    But nope.
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    This little roped off area? That’s the Altar of Hera! Pretty cool though!!


    Then I wandered to the Temple of Zeus. This was the centerpiece of the grounds.
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    The cross-sections were HUGE! I had someone take my picture next to one. I’m 5ft 6, and at least a foot of this section was underground! So that gives you an idea of how big this temple was…
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    I finished here and went to the museum - it was crowded and hard to take pictures there.

    After that, I wandered the little town.
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    I found a pharmacy at the other end of the street and went in to ask about some Benadryl cream - or something that would help with bug bites. The pharmacist’s English was only slightly better than my Greek (I could probably recite The Lord’s Prayer in Koine Greek…with a Taiwanese accent if I really had to), but I showed her my leg and she said “Ah! This!” and sold me a tube of cream for 4.50 euro. Everything on the box and instructions were in Greek, but she said “Two or three times day”…and it did help a lot, so hooray!!

    Closer to the bus park, there was a beach volleyball tournament going on. No apparent charge, so I wandered down…
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    Back on board the ship, I treated myself to a drink of the day…a margarita azul (which is a margarita with blue curaçao)

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    Dinner was chicken parmesan. Interestingly with mashed potatoes. That is how it was served to everyone…not just gluten-free kids like me.

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    Our towel animal that night was a ray.
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    The funny part about it was I was in the process of reading Circe by Madeline Miller, and had just read about when she went to visit Trygon, the great ray of the ocean, and asked for his tail to make a spear for her son Telegonus to protect himself. Our cabin steward had no way of knowing that since the book was on my nook, so it was one of those weird coincidences!
     
  21. Dug720

    Dug720 DIS Veteran

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    Final Day… Sea Day

    The sea was pretty calm in the morning when I woke up…
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    My friend and I went to breakfast in the MDR where I had strawberries and banana and gluten-free French toast…
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    I headed to the bow of the ship on Deck 5 (where the helipad is) for sailing through the Strait of Messina. This is the small section of water between Sicily and the toe of Italy’s boot. As you’re sailing North, there is a whirlpool (we could not see it from the ship, but it exists) on the port side (left) which the ancient Greeks called Charybdis and the landform on the right which the Greeks said was Scylla - a monster who would destroy ships sailing too close to her lair to avoid Charybdis. She was turned to a monster by Circe because of jealousy. And in the novel I was reading (see last post), Circe used her witchcraft to turn Scylla to stone which became the formation that is there. It is still not an easy passage to navigate, and a pilot must board any ship going through the Strait.
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    I had some lunch in the buffet, then found a spot on Deck 5 to sit and read.

    I saw a flashing and noticed a pod of dolphin leaping next to the ship. I missed the bigger group, but did catch the little trailing one…
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    There… On the far right…

    See??
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    We passed this island, which made me think of Moana…
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    After dinner it was sunset…
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    And then watching the Croatia v. Russia soccer game - and rooting for Croatia in that game. ABR!!!!

    The next morning we did breakfast, then waited for our number to be called for debarkation. Found the shuttle to the front of the port and then took the shuttle to the train station and the train to FCO. I grabbed a taxi to my hotel in Fiumicino (do yourself a favor…just pay for shuttle service to FCO from Rome…there is NOTHING in Fiumicino) and my friend flew to Copenhagen.

    All in all it was a great trip. I learned I’m more a solo traveler, which is fine. We are still speaking to each other. Haha!

    I’m not sure I’ll cruise on RCCL again. I feel like things have gone downhill a bit since I last cruised Brilliance 2 years ago. But Greece is definitely on my “revisit” list!!
     

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