Mike and Renée
Cruise the Med to the Holy Land
November 4-17, 2007

THIS PAGE covers pre-cruise in Athens, the Greek Isles of Santorini and Patmos, and Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey.

PAGE TWO is the highlight of the trip, the Holy Land and Egypt.

PAGE THREE includes Split Croatia and our post-cruise visit to Venice.

This was our 32nd cruise and our 9th on Princess. We cruised on the beautiful new addition to the fleet, the refurbished Royal Princess, on a wonderful itinerary through the Greek Isles to the Holy Land and Egypt. This was truly a delightful experience full of wonderful sights ashore and great times on board!

We were joined for this trip by our cousin Connie, a newbie cruiser, and our friend and previous cruising companion Susan. On board, we also met with some cruise friends from previous trips, Bambi and Nancy. It was a nice loosely organized little group. Sometimes we got together, and sometimes went our own ways.

We flew into Athens a day early on Delta through JFK. It was a relatively easy flight and put us into Athens in the morning. We checked into the Parthenon Hotel, a perfectly located hotel in the Plaka just steps from the Antiquities Promenade.

We walked the pedestrian mall from the Temple of Zeus, past the Theater of Dionysus, the Odeon of Herodes, the Pynx and Mars Hill, to the Ancient Agora. This is a delightful way to see the major attractions of the city and well worth coming in a day early. Here is my page of pictures from the Antiquities Promenade.

Of course the food in Athens is delicious and there are sidewalk restaurants everywhere. We enjoyed dolmades,moussaka, pasticcio and all the Greek specialties while we were in the city.

The next morning was devoted to the famous flea market of Monastiraki. It was very easy to get to on the Metro. Every possible thing any tourist could want to buy is here, from tawdry tourist junk to fine jewelry and genuine antiquities. I also think half the population of Athens and ALL the tourists in Athens were here! Susan and Renée enjoyed the shopping greatly.

That evening we joined the beautiful Royal Princess in Pireaus Harbor. She is a classic ship, but newly refurbished and added to the Princess line. We found her to be wonderfully decorated and delightfully laid out. A small ship has so many advantages over her megasized sisters. Our standard outside cabin was very spacious and livable. We settled in right away and went down to dinner, which was open seating the first night.

The next morning we woke up lying at anchor at the Greek Isle of Santorini in the Aegean sea. Like most of the islands of the Cyclades, this is a beautiful spot. Our ship sat in the middle of the Caldera, the center of the extinct volcano which exploded in the 16th century BC(and may have given rise to the legend of Atlantis.) The ship's tender operations were very easy and efficient so we were soon ashore.

Renée, Susan and Connie had elected to ride the donkeys up the hill to the village of Fira. The donkeys are waiting right by the tender dock and only cost a few Euros. The ladies said the guides helped them to mount, then slapped the donkeys who took off and found their own way to the top without help from the riders! Susan took this picture from the trailing donkey which is why Renée and Connie get the privilege of having their donkeys' tails in the picture!... UMMM, I mean ... oh,well...

The alternative to the donkeys is to either walk the path yourself (watching your step carefully since you are following lots of donkeys!) or to take the cable car to the top. It also leaves from very close to the tender dock and costs only a few Euros.

At the top Renée picked up the rental car they had arranged (at an exorbitant rate) and the ladies went off to tour the island, from Fira to Oia with many scenic stops.

Mike, in the meanwhile, was on the ship's EZ Santorini panorama. The tender port for the tours is at another point and does not require climbing the hill to Fira. We went to many photo stops around the island. There were a substantial number of mobility impaired people on the ship, and this was an excellent tour for those of us who don't move so quickly.

We stopped at a high point of the island for a wine tasting and viewpoint, and who should we run into but the ladies, who had stopped for a delightful lunch and a few glasses of the local vintage. It was fun to meet, and I nibbled on the remains of their bread and cheese before we made our way back to the tenders separately!

We got aboard just in time to make it to the Trivia, and won Princess lanyards for our landslide victory!

Next morning we arrived at the beautiful Greek Isle of Patmos. The little white houses marching along the lanes and up and down the hills are striking. We all went ashore together. The ladies had a bit of time to shop here before leaving on their panoramic island tour. While they toured, I returned to the ship for a relaxing afternoon.

Patmos has been declared a Holy Site by the Greek government and is much visited by pilgrims to the Grotto of the Apocalypse. Here it is believed that St. John received the visions which are reported in the Book of Revelation.

This was our night to dine at Sabatini's. This is a wonderful experience on any Princess ship, but the restaurant on Royal Princess is particularly beautiful, with wonderful friezes in the Greek style and beautiful picture windows overlooking the ocean.

Kusadasi Turkey was the next stop. Here, Mike, Susan and Renée had booked an independent tour with Hulya Terzioglu, a very well known guide for the area. She was knowledgeable and delightful. She met us right at the port as agreed and started off on the special itinerary we had arranged.

After a wonderful drive through the countryside filled with olive groves and citrus orchards, our first stop was the small hill village of Sirince. There is much wonderful shopping here for many handicraft items, including leather and jewelry. We bought a loaf of freshly baked bread to nibble on as we walked. Then we stopped in for a tasting of locally produced wines. This is a great agricultural area, and we sampled quince, melon, mandarin, peach, strawberry, blackberry and cherry wines!

Then we drove to the Artemission, the remains of the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Only one column and a few stones remain of what was once one of the world's largest buildings. Pilgrims came from all over the Mediterranean to see the huge gold and ivory statue of the many breasted mother goddess Artemis, or Diana of the Ephesians. This is truly one of the ancient places of power. Whatever goddess it may be, her presence can still be felt here.

Then we stopped at a carpet emporium. First we viewed extremely interesting demonstrations, showing how the locally raised silk cocoons are harvested and the silk extracted, wound and dyed,ready to be woven into carpets. We also saw the student weavers at their looms,learning this ancient trade. Then we saw many antique carpets and samples of beautiful weavings. Finally, of course,the serious shopping began, as the sales staff spread one wonderful carpet after another out on the floor for us. Then the hard bargaining began!! Renée and Susan both were absolutely delighted with their purchases, and certainly saved a great deal over what they would have cost in the US.

The last stop was a fascinating experience. Huyla took us to the ADA SARAY HAMAMI, a famous Turkish Bath! This was a beautiful place, all in wood and marble, with wonderful tiles and mosaics. We were led to changing rooms, wrapped in a small towel, and then escorted to the steam room. Lying there in the humid warmth with fountains tinkling was very relaxing. Then the attendants marched in, and one by one we were ordered to the slab for our wash down! First was an exfoliation that really WAS an exfoliation. Large rolls of dead skin peeled off as we were rubbed and rubbed. Next was a thorough soaping up,including a shampoo. Dousing with hot and then cold water rinsed us off. We were then lead upstairs for the oil massage.

At the end of the procedure we were limp as noodles, but thoroughly relaxed! The whole experience lasted about an hour and a half and only cost 25 Euros. It was a perfectly wonderful way to end our day in Turkey. (Discretion prohibits more explicit photos of the ladies wearing their little towels ...)

Meanwhile, Connie took the ship's tour to Ephesus and the Terrace Houses. She said it was a wonderful tour but that she could have spent a great deal more time at the stunning ruins of the homes of the wealthy. If the library building was this magnificent, imagine what the Temple of Artemis must have looked like!

A day at sea was welcome after all those ports. We also needed time to rest and prepare for the next four wonderful days of full time sightseeing. We won Princess water bottles in the Trivia contest.

The feature of the day was the Asian Lunch in the buffet. The ice and vegetable carvings were stupendous, and the Asian specialties from sweet and sour pork to sushi were delicious!

It was a beautiful Mediterranean day with deep blue water on all sides. Lunch on deck was the perfect experience! After that we split up to try the art auction, massages, lectures and the ever popular nap.

Since this was the first sea day, it was formal night. It was fun to dress up and enjoy the great facilities of the ship. Cocktails before dinner in the Royal Lounge on deck 10 was a nice experience.

The absolute high points of this itinerary, of course, are the Holy Land and Egypt. We had been looking forward to them for a long time.

CONTINUE

with our cruise review and pictures of the Holy Land and Egypt.

We like to discuss our travels. Email us at thehalls@bully4.us

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