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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)