Monday, September 17, 2012

Last Reflections of My Med Cruise

This was a really awesome cruise and I feel we did most things right. There is not much I would change. I chose this cruise for the itinerary. I wanted to see a fair amount of Italy but also wanted to experience Greece, Turkey and Spain and I got to do all that  in 12 days. Yes I would have liked to stay longer at many of the places but then I would have a had a 30 day cruise. Perhaps somdeday I will make it back to some of these places to see them more in depth.  We only had one day in Barcelona and that was not enough. I would also like to go back to Venice to spend more time. All of Italy was heavenly.

The Princess Ruby seemed to have the best itinerary and it was a nice ship and at the right price. I also considered Azamara for this cruise because I like the smaller ships for Europe but the price difference drove me back to Princess. I found myself eating at the International Cafe many days rather than go to a restaurant. They had some great salads and gelato.

If you can swing it I would recommend a balcony cabin for Europe. The scenery going into and out of the ports was breathtaking and I was too tired at the end of the day to go up on deck. I also saw some very pretty sunrises and sunsets from the balcony. And when you consider you are in your room for 12 days the little bit extra cost for a balcony room is really not that much more.

I used euros or my credit card everywhere I went. The ship had machines onboard to change our dollars to euro which was quite easy to do. I did have to get some euro at the airport in Barcelona when we landed at the beginning of the trip in order to pay the taxi to the hotel but after that I just exchanged my money on the ship. When I used my credit card I did make sure they swiped it in front of me and only once as I have heard of instances where people have been double charged. I had no foreign exchange fees with my card as I had a Capitalone. And of course call your credit card company before you leave the country to tell them or they may put a freeze on your card.

I had heard alot about pick pockets so I carried my money in a belt under my shirt although I still carried a bag for other essentials such as water. sunblock, camera etc. Our group had no problems at all and never did we feel at all threatened or unsafe.

I think the best thing I did was to reserve some drivers for us before we left. We had drivers pick us up at the ship in Florence, Rome, Naples and Kusadasi and then take us back to our ship late in the afternoon after our private tour. Our drivers also got us "skip the line passes" at the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and Colosseum.This worked out really well. We got to see what we wanted and did not have to wait for 50 other people on a bus to go to the restroom etc. Because we divided the cost of our driver between 8 people the cost was less than booking a shore excursion on the ship. We also had a driver take us directly to the airport on the last day in Venice which was very convenient.

In the entire 12 days we did not experience a drop of rain which I'm sure must be unusual. However, I would recommend taking a rain poncho just in case. There is no going back to the ship to get something once you leave it in the morning.

We started our trip on May 30 which worked well too. The only place we had huge crowds to deal with was in Rome. It was a holiday so I'm not sure if Rome is always that crowded but I understand that July and August are more crowded and hot too. Spring and fall are the best times to go.

Because this was a destination cruise we had only 2 days at sea and we needed those to rest up. The Ruby is a big ship and I thought it might be nice to have walkie talkies if you were not in your room and wanted to find someone but we managed without. I really can't think of anything much we would have done differently.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this and email me at if you have any questions or comments.
Now it's time to plan that next trip! Where will that be? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gorgeous Venice

After spending a day at sea and traveling 849 nautical miles we slowly cruised through the canal network on this Sunday morning. At about 11 am the 8 of us met on our balcony and had a short worship service as we cruised into our port in the center of Venice. What a beautiful memory!

We had the best view from our balcony.

After disembarking our ship we took a water taxi to Piazzo San Marco aka St. Mark's Square. This was $17 roundtrip.

It is a huge piazza. St. Mark's Basilica is the primary tourist attraction. Although there was a line it did not take long to get inside.

There were signs to not take pictures inside. It was beautiful with alot of gold and the church is still being used today.

A clock tower with moving parts was fun to watch.

Later in the afternoon we heard many bells ringing in the square and there seemed to be a celebration of some sort. The bishops came out of the church carrying a canopy with the people of the church following them around the square. Some of it was blocked off. The tourists all stopped and watched the ceremony which lasted probably an hour. After we got home we read that it was an annual holy day called the Blessing of the Eucharist.

There are many streets off St. Marks Square with lots of shops. We bought some Murano glass pendants which are quite pretty.  I saw some artwork when we first arrived which I wanted but did not want to carry it with me. Unfortunately the artist had picked up his booth by the time we got back.
Of course there are canals everywhere. I took a picture of people on a gondola while she took a picture of me.

This is one city I hope to get back to someday and explore further. We had a very early morning flight out the next day for home. We had a driver waiting for us to take us to the airport which was very easy for us. It only took us about 20 minutes to get there and we had to wait for the airport to open at 6:30.

Next time I will share some reflections (and tips) from our entire trip.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ancient Athens

According to history Poseidon, god of the sea and Athena, goddess of wisdom had a contest over who would be patron of the city. Athena was declared the victor and the city of Athens was named for her. There are now 11 million people who live here in Athens, Greece.
After getting off our ship in the port of Piraeus we walked 20 minutes or so to the train station and bought an all day ticket for 4 euro. The train was not crowded at all and we easily made it to the Acropolis where we began the 80 steps to the top.

The Theater of Herodes is one of the largest surviving classical Greek theaters. It was dedicated to his wife in 161 A.D. It is still used today for concerts and seats 5000. The marble seats have been restored and cushions cover the seats for comfort.

Propylaea is the "gateway to Athens". It has the same proportions as the colums of the Parthenon but is not as large.

Erectheion and the Porch of the Maidens which are copies. Four of the original maidens are in the Acropolis museum.

The Parthenon was completed in 438 B.C. It has served through the years as a temple, church, mosque and storage for Turkish gunpowder from which it blew up and was badly damaged. It is being restored today.

Huge columns!

Two that lost their heads.

From the top of the Acropolis we could see across to Lycobettes Hill which is the highest point in Athens. There is a railway that goes up to a chapel, theater and restaurant.

On our walk back down we saw a hill which
is where Paul spoke to the Athenians.
I believe this is referred to in the bible as Areopagus
or "hill of Ares".

At the bottom we found a sidewalk cafe where we had souvlaki with rice and bread and the Acropolis in the background! Although we walked back to our ship we did see a hop on hop off bus which would be a good option also. This was our warmest day, in fact it was hot.
Tomorrow is a day at sea and then only one more day of this fantastic cruise!