Aegean Cruise/Belgium Nov 16 - Dec 3, 2009

Aegean Cruise

Grand Princess

November 16 - December 3rd, 2009

Bob and Debe Canaday

(Rome, Italy; Naples, Italy; Athens, Greece; Kusadaki, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; Mykonos, Greece; Port Said (Giza), Egypt; Alexandria, Egypt; then extra days in Belgium)

We have decided that this trip was so awesome, we need to break it down into two blogs to share with you. This blog will begin with our flight and overnight in Rome and take us to Naples, Italy, and a few stops in Greece and Turkey. The second part will complete the cruise going to both stops in Egypt and the extra days in Belgium. So lets get started. Just a reminder, if you find a small photo on the blog you would like to see larger - just click on it. But remember to hit the back arrow instead of just closing it out since closing it closes the entire page.

  • After a day and night of flying, we finally arrive in London. Below you will see our plane waiting for us to board for Rome. Once in Rome, we caught the airport shuttle to the hotel for 15 euros (8 euros for public bus, 11 euros for the train but you have to get to your hotel after getting off the bus and/or train)
  • Once in Rome we were checked into the Hotel Artemide which was in a great location and very nice room. We headed out and about the area finding the world premiere of the movie "New Moon" was going on just up the road. After trying to catch some quick photos of the actors, it was off to our favorite pizza place - Zio Ciro. Not to mention very cheap, great pizza & ice cream. It is very close to the Four Fountains where we took a picture of ourselves.

    The following day we were up early, ate breakfast (included with our room) and off to catch our bus to the port of Civitavecchia. (about 1 1/2 hours away) The shuttle was organized by a cruise critic person (coordinator was Sharon) and with 37 people that jumped on board paid 10 euros per person. Very cheap. We finally arrived and were all settled into our cabin #C736.

    The cruise critic group was close to 150 people. We had several tours booked together and several of us even had shirts made for this trip. In the below picture you can see Bob and I with some of the group at our first get together. What a great group of people.
    Before we go on with the ports of call ....... I get several request from people wishing I could put a few pictures of activites on the ship or shots of places on the ship. So below are several photos of just that. With all the ports of call - we have to admit we didn't spend alot of time doing much on the ship.

    Of course we did join in on the texas holdem poker game a couple times. Here you can see Bob and I both are in the game. They do use a Poker Pro machine for their Texas Hold'em game.
    First port of call - Naples, Italy. Many people head to Pompeii, a city that was left in ruins after a volcano eruption but we have already been there so we decided to walk off the ship and see how we could get to the Isle of Capri. Goal - go to the blue grotto. (note: anyone going to Naples the first time - I suggest Pompeii - awesome)
    Below photo - castle/fortress right at the entrance of the port.

    A short walk from the ship and we were able to get tickets on a hydrofoil boat over to Capri for 16 euros per person.
    Once there we were talked into doing an island tour "Jerry's kids" versus the Blue Grotto. (regret that now) But we did get to see alot of the island. Very pretty. We took a bus to the top with our tour group. Once up there you could take the chair lift to the very top for a small cost. (6 euro one way or 8 euro round trip) Chair lift fits one person. We were also taken to a store (hate it when tours do that. lol I am sure they do it because they get a cut of sales)

    The tour also took us to a restaurant in Anacapri for lunch (not included) We paid 14 euros per person for salad, pizza or pasta, dessert and a drink. Wasn't very good either.

    Next it was to the town of Capri which was pretty neat. This is were the big hotels were and the main square had restaurants, shops and ice cream. Very nice. We took a vehicular back down the hill side and back to our hydrofoil boat. (tour did not include the boat cost either way) Very good day but really wish I would have done the Blue Grotto and next time I will. (I have added a photo of the blue grotto tours so I won't forget. lol Heard it cost 16 euros per person for the boat to take you over to the small john boat, another 10 euros, that you use to get into the grotto, of course ducking as you go into the entrance. But who cares - I want to do it.)

    Once back off the island and in Naples - it was back on the ship. Below you can see that we weren't the only ship in port. Our ship is the one on the left of the photo.

    After a day at sea we hit the Port of Piraeus or Athens, Greece. We have been to Athens and spent alot of time so we chose to head to Ancient Corinth. People that do the "footsteps of Paul" would visit Athens where Paul preached by the Acropolis then head to Corinth as Paul left Athens and headed to Corinth preaching Christainity. So off to the ruins where Paul had done just that.

    On the way we stopped at the Corinth Canal. This canal connects Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf on the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the Isthmus of Corinth. In the first photos you can see the canal from the bridge. Very high up. It is a narrow canal with very high walls at the top.
    From there we headed to the site of the ruins of Ancienth Corinth. Here Paul spent alot of time writing two books in the Bible - First Corinthians & Second Corinthians.
    Of course these ruins began with the mythical gods as you can see on the left photo - the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. (entrance fees 6 euros per person)

    But the below photo, the Bema is exactly where Paul had to defend himself from the accusations of preaching about GOD. He was found innocent since there was no proof that the GOD he was preaching about wasn't true. He then left for Ephesus.

    From the ruins of Ancient Corinth if was up the hillside to the fortress of Acrocorinth. Corinth's own Acropolis. The ruins are in great shape there even though we only viewed them from the outside.

    Next stop was to the Treasury of Atreus. There we saw the "bee hive" tomb used for the Mycenaean people. (cost 8 euros per person to visit it) Of course the tomb has since been robbed of everything.
    Just across the road you could find the ruins of the Citidel of Mycenaean. These ruins were very limited. It only helps with the displays showing the areas as it was before versus now. A palace set in it among many homes for people. But it was very hard to follow. The cost of these ruins are included with the Treasury of the Atreus.

    Then it was on to the Palamidi Castle, a military fortress, which we all chose to not enter. We walked around the outside area and looked inside but really didn't care to visit the inside. (I think at this point we had seen enough ruins for the day. lol)
    And finally to the town of Nafphio, the first capital of Modern Greece. In its bay you will find the "Bourtzi" or the pint size castle. Built in 1763 by the Ventians and later used for executions of the Palamidi prisoners. It is one of the most photographed places. But the small town is so picturesque with its cafes and shops. A very nice place to spend some time but, with all the ruins we had been to - we had very little time to enjoy this wonderful place.

    As we headed back to the port - we stopped at the lower section of the Corinth Canal. Here you find an usual bridge used in letting ships pass the canal. This entire bridge drops 24 feet to the bottom as the ships pass over it, then is rises back up. It has a lane going each way with a walkway in the middle. See the below photos for the sign showing a ship going through the canal and a photo of the bridge. (tight squeeze for that ship lol) Very neat. (oh and a photo of Bob and I standing on the submergeable bridge, with the canal behind us) Awesome shot.

    This tour was with "Paul's Minibus & Taxi Service!" The cost was 450 euros for 10 people and 40 euros for each extra person. Below you will see our group headed up by Nancy - to the left of me. Great tour and thanks to Nancy!
    After a great night of food, entertainment and sleep, it was back up early for another day of excitement. The port of call today is Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey. We had an early tour booked with another one of the cruise critic people, Rick, who handled all the details. So off to our bus and to the ruins of Ephesus.

    Turkey and Egypt are big on water parks. Here, photo taken through the bus window, you can see one of the many water parks we passed enroute to Ephesus!
    After about 30 minutes we were at Ephesus. The entrance fee to Ephesus was included in our tour which cost $45 per person and included tip. This is the most popular place for people to go so it was packed with tours from the ship and people on their on.

    At the ruins (which are in fabulous shape) you see the upper ruins that include the sacred road , small theatre and goes through the Hercules Gate by the Fountain of Trajan, Portico of Alytarch, Bath of Carius, Hadriah Temple, slope houses, Latrines, and to the Terrace Houses. (OK, maybe you had to be there to understood what all those are but take a look and maybe you can figure it out)

    Below are photos from the Terrace Houses. If it is not included in your tour - the cost to go into these are 15 turkey liras. Our tour included these fascinating houses.

    After leaving the Terrace Houses and going through Hadrians Gate, you will find the Celsus Library.. (well, just the facade of the Library) located on your left. Rumors have it that a tunnel was under the ground that ran from the Library to the brothel that was across the street. But as you can see from the pictures below, the brothel's ruins are limited. (right photo below)

    In the below photo - you can see the foot carved in the stone. There is also an arrow as rumors again say this showed men which way to go to get to the brothel from the library.

    Another amazing site at Ephesus ruins was the great theatre. How massive it was for its time but you learn that Ephesus was a huge city back in its days with the seaport big in trade and the hub for the road system. If you look close in this photo, maybe you can find Bob. Like Waldo - he usually always has the same thing on. That would be a cardinal shirt or hoodie. lol
    And of course, Cleopathra and Marc Anthony walked hand in hand at this exact spot so Bob and I had to repeat their performance. Just imagine the photos I will have if I ever make it to the holy lands. lol Here is another shot looking back through the trees up into the Great Theatre.

    From the ruins of Ephesus to the port of Kusadasi and to the Grand Bazaar right at the port. We were taken to a carpet demonstration, another thing tours do that we dislike but Bob did get to drink some Turkish coffee there. lol One thing I noticed at the Grand Bazaar at both Turkey ports and Egypt ports is that it is mostly men selling to the tourists. Matter fact - never was I approached to enter a store to buy something but Bob was ask by many store vendors.

    Overlooking the port of Kusadasi, Turkey (and bird island) is the statue of the famous Ataturk, who was the founder of Turkey. The views from this statue into the harbor are the best views of Kusadasi with a panoramic view.

    We thought the port of Kusadasi was very beautiful with its colorful boats, some with tons of oranges on them and others with colorful fishing nets. Very pretty. As we leave Kusadasi, here is a little history. The Roman Empire took control of Kusadasi in the 2nd century BC. In the early years of Christainity, both Mary (the mother of Jesus) and John the Baptist lived in the area. In the Christain era it became known as Ania. We did not get to go to the Virgin Mary House nor St. Johns Basilica but hopefully there will be another time to see those biblical historical sites.

    We woke up early to the sunrise in Istanbul, Turkey. We found that we were docked in a very busy port. Istanbul's coastlines includes the Marmara Sea, Bosphorus Straits, the Golden Horn and just north, the Black Sea. So it is one busy waterway.

    We had joined a tour put together by Jackie from cruise critic that was a full day and cost $160 for two people. Leaving the port we could see the landscape of the country side was different with Muslim mosques all around. It was very unique to see. The first stop was at the ancient Hippodrome. Many lives were lost here and many chariots races run. Here stands the Egyptian Obelisk brought there in 390 AD by the Pharoah Thutmois III. (in the US, we have an Obelisk which is the Washington Monument) You will also find the Serpentine Column and the Stone Obelisk. (minus the bronze since it was taken out years ago)

    One thing everyone must see in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque. The cascading blue domes give it its name. You can not wear shoes in the Mosque and in the courtyard muslims wash their feets at a pavillion before entering the mosque. The women were not wearing scarfs as the sign said. While there we did hear the chanting across the PA's (Which we ended up hearing a couple more times during the day. Muslims are required to pray five times a day so the chanting is their reminder) The inside of the mosque was beautiful.

    Just across the street you could find the Hagia Sophia Museum. We did not get to visit the inside as it was closed that day unless you were booked with a Princess Tour. But this museum has served many purposes, first being an orthodox church, then a mosque and now a museum.

    A short walk past the Hagia Sophia you come to the Topkapi Palace. This was the palace for the Ottoman Sultans for four centuries and it was included in our tour price but if you just walked up it would cost 15 turkey liras. (by the way - now you know where the term and items called the ottoman came from)

    Our guide gave us a quick overview and then gave us alot of time to look around. Bob had to hit the cafe for some more turkish coffe. So we headed to the cafe that overlooked the seas for coffee and hot tea.

    At the price of Starbucks but the size of a shot glass, Bob wasn't sure if it was worth it but loved the coffee's taste.
    Yes here we are overlooking the seas from the grounds of the Ottoman Sultans palace, enjoying our drinks. (notice the hot tea is a much bigger cup and cost less. lol)

    The view from the cafe was the same view the Sultan Ottaman had from his pavillion. He would spend alot of mornings having his coffee with his harem of women that took care of him.

    On to the grounds of the Palace we found the baptism basin, sacred standard (which held the Ottoman Empire flag), the rooms that held the jewels which can not be photographed (included the famous dagger and huge diamond - wow), the room with his bed and curtains made with gold thread, the library (no books but lots of ottomans to sit on, and the palace kitchens.

    We had a choice of going into the Ottoman Harem or we could use a ticket later to visit another site. We all agreed to do the later site and if anyone wanted to visit the harem to pay out of their pocket. I mean who cares where he laid with his many women. lol
    In the photo below Bob and I are walking in the second courtyard. Even though we had seen most of the things, we found the courtyard was nice to walk around in.
    And by luck we found the room with the Royal Carriages. Now it was time to head back into the first courtyard and out to our bus for the next exciting stop - lunch in the Grand Bazaar.
    We didn't know what to expect at the Grand Bazaar but this was huge. The ceilings in the place were domes and tiles in vivid colors. The shops and restaurants were many. But again - the women were mainly tourists and the store owners invited Bob to shop. (hahaha wrong person)

    We found a small cafe, Kosk Cafe and decided this place looked like a good place to eat at. Bob was dying for a gyro but had a Pitta Wrap - about the same thing. I had the chichen kebab (not sure where the kebab stick was though lol) In the photo below right you will see the exact two meals we ordered. The cost was 10 turkey liras each. (I posted photos of the menu below to give an ideal of the types of food and prices) After eating we did pick up some sovenirs and Bob was excited to find a turkish coffee place and bought himself a kilo of their coffee. Then we needed a turkish coffee pot to cook it in and just around the corner we found that also. Now the trip to him was worth it. lol As for the people in the cabins next to us on the cruise - the coffee smell was so strong up and down the hallways that I am sure they thought something strange was going on in our cabin. Thank goodness I keep gallon zip lock baggies in my suitcase because three of them helped to tame the smell some. lol

    Next it was to the "extra" stop since we passed up the Harem. The Basilica Cistern. Yes, a cistern that holds water but Basilica is a church and the two together made an awesome view. This reservoir was built and used starting in the 6th century to hold water so this huge port would never be in trouble if their water were to become contaminated. It had 336 marble columns to hold up its ceiling. The lighting used now is only there to highlight its beauty.

    The below medusa heads on the base of the columns are thought to have come from the Roman times and reused in this area.

    And now there is a cafe in the cistern even though it was closed while we were there.

    If one bazaar wasn't enough - next it was to the Spice Bazaar. Since I do not cook much with spices I wasn't excited but once going inside - it was so awesome. Very colorful and lots of things to pick between. Spices just filled in boxes waiting for someone to buy the amount they wanted. Turkish delight was sold at many places and Bob even sampled them. We did pick up some spices and Bob bought some other strange stuff.

    Directly in front of the Spice Bazaar was another mosque called the New Mosque. It looked alot like the Blue Mosque though. Since a service was getting ready to start - we were able to get a great shot of the pavillion in the courtyard when the men wash their feet before entering the mosque.

    One option (we didn't know about) is the Hop on Hop off buses in Istanbul. We will definitely look into that if ever back in Istanbul Turkey. (even though the tour we took was awesome)
    After a full day of touring and seeing one of the cleanest and more interesting places ever, it was back to the ship and time to sail away. As our ship sailed out of port, the many mosques were lit up across the landscape and could be seen from afar. How beautiful.
    After a great night of entertainment (the Shake, Rattle and Roll production show which was excellent) and a great night of sleep, we arrived in Mykonos, Greece. Thank goodness it wasn't another early port since were in need of some extra sleep and rest. This port was pretty much closing down for the winter as many greek islands are summertime beaches and fun. So we decided to head to an internet shop and do nothing for the day. Unlike Santorini, Greece, the island wasn't as unique looking. It was just white washed homes and buildings on a slight hillside but the windmills always grab my attention. (Santorini has the huge awesome cliffsides and the buildings line the top with many churches - beautiful views) This port also has to use tender boats to get you into town as the only dock it had was being used by the another ship.
    The Greek Islands are known for their whitewash churches with blue domes. (left photo) And of course their white wash buildings. (right photo)

    And their many windmills that dot the landscape. (In Santorini you will even find windmills made into hotel rooms for rent - wouldn't that be awesome)

    But Bob and I spent most of the day right here - on the internet.

    With some last minute shopping, we headed back to the ship.

    Here is a shot of us with the white wash buildings behind us. Look and maybe you can see more windmills.
    Mykonos is also known for its huge Pelicans. They are the island mascots and even named. They are well fed by the fisherman and restaurants.

    Ok, so stay with me. We have flown to Rome, spent about 36 hours there, cruised for six days stopping in Naples, Italy; Athens, Greece; Kusadasi, Turkey; Itanbul, Turkey; and Mykonos, Greece. But to think, the most exciting days are still to come. With just two more stops, both in Egypt, and a few days to rest up - then we head off to Belgium. So take a rest while I get together Part 2. See you in a few days - lol

  • To be continued.................

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