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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby judgegeoff » 25 Oct 2020 06:00

AEGEAN CRUISE TO TURKEY AND GREECE

MS “VOYAGER” - SEPTEMBER 2015



In September 2015 Chris and I went on a two-week cruise from Istanbul, Turkey, to Piraeus (Athens), Greece. The cruise was booked through our friends at 'Cruise Select' and was on a guaranteed cabin basis. We only found out which cabin we had been allocated when we received our joining paperwork, but were very happy with its location. This is a record of that lovely holiday.

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Our itinerary.

23/09/2015 - Fly to Istanbul, Turkey, embark on “Voyager”, overnight in the harbour
24/09/2015 - Istanbul
25/09/2015 - Cannakale, Turkey
26/09/2015 - Dikili, Turkey
27/09/2015 - At sea
28/09/2015 - Antalya, Turkey
29/09/2015 - At sea
30/09/2015 - Kusadasi, Turkey
01/10/2015 - Isle of Patmos, Greece
02/10/2015 - Kavala, Greece
03/10/2015 - Thessaloniki, Greece
04/10/2015 - Volos, Greece
05/10/2015 - Piraeus (for Athens), Greece, overnight in harbour
06/10/2015 - Piraeus, disembark and fly home

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Our ship, the “Voyager”.

====================================


Day 1 - Wednesday 23rd September 2015 – Embarkation in Istanbul

Our local taxi service collected us from home at 2:15 am (eek!) and drove us to Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, arriving at about 3:50 am as we had experienced no traffic delays or problems on the M20 or M25. Check-in did not open until 5:00 am, so we went to the 'Cafe Nero' outlet for coffees. We checked in at 5:00 am and then waited for a wheelchair attendant. Following spinal column damage, I have been permanently left with no feeling in my lower legs and in six fingers. Chris was having problems with her knee joints and, as our departure gate always seems a long walk away, we decided to get wheelchair assistance. It was quite a long wheel to the Assistance centre where we had to wait for a buggy to take us to Gate No. A10 for our British Airways flight BA 678 to Istanbul, Turkey.

We had been due to take off at 7:05 am, but take-off was delayed because our pilot had not turned up (?) and we had to wait for a replacement pilot. We then had a small technical fault which further delayed us, but we eventually took off at 8:25 am. Our plane was an Airbus A320 and we had aisle and middle seats 22B and 22C but had the row to ourselves as nobody came to sit in the window seat. We had a smooth flight, were served a breakfast of cheese omelette, mushrooms and tomatoes, followed by complimentary wines and landed in Istanbul at 2:45 pm (local time) – our pilot had made up around 30 minutes on the 4-hour journey.

At Istanbul Airport we were met by a wheelchair attendant and wheeled to the Immigration and Baggage Claim Area which was quite a way from the plane. We quickly cleared Immigration and Customs, collected our cases and were then met by a “Voyages of Discovery” rep. who directed us outside to some waiting coaches. The journey to the port took about 25 minutes and we were discharged at a large building where we checked in very easily and were then directed out through a door onto the quay.

There were 5 cruise ships berthed on the quay (parallel parking) and, of course, ours was the furthest away. Fortunately, there was a minibus running along the quay, but it had a very high step up into it – a young German passenger was assisting by pulling us up into the bus! The first ship we passed was the “MSC Opera”, the ship that we had sailed on from Cape Town to Venice earlier in the year and we were pleased to see that she still looked as pristine as ever. The second ship was the “MSC Poesia, the third was a Thompson ship, the fourth one was a German cruise ship, “Mein Schiff” and, finally, we arrived at our tiny little ship, the 'Voyages of Discovery' MS “Voyager”.

At just 15,396 tons, with a length of 152.5 metres and a beam of 20.6 metres, she was one of the smallest ships that we have ever sailed on. She was built in 1990 and is powered by 4 x 4,500 bhp Bergen Diesel engines, giving a top speed of 20 knots and a cruising speed of 18 knots. A major refurbishment was carried out in 2012 when all the public rooms were redesigned. Launched as “Crown Monarch” she had since been renamed as “Cunard Crown Monarch”, “Walrus”, “Jules Verne” and “Alexander von Humboldt” before gaining her current name.

Once we had negotiated the rather steep gangplank we entered the ship right by the 'Guest Services/Reception' desk where we were issued with our room 'keys', thick strips of plastic that had holes in them. The receptionist asked us to hand over our passports for the duration of the voyage and was rather surprised when I asked for a receipt (as we have received on other cruises), but eventually complied. A steward was then directed to take us to our cabin, No. 3303, just a few metres from the reception desk.

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Cabin 3303, right next to the reception desk, but the cabin was well insulated from sounds and we were never disturbed.

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Cabin 3303.

Our cabin was a class 'EA' inner cabin on 'Livingstone' deck 3, more or less in the centre of the ship and was, at just 120 sq. ft, the smallest cabin we have ever had. The beds were made up as twins, with just a single drawer unit between them. There was however plenty of storage, including a double wardrobe and we were happy that it would suffice for a two-week cruise. We had to rent a safe key, at a refundable charge of £25, from reception. We also had a drawer unit with a flat-screen TV above it with an excellent picture.

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Our small inside cabin with twin beds.

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A view of the cabin from the beds.

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Two wardrobes opposite the shower room.

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A key-operated safe inside one wardrobe.

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Chris starting writing her diary (on which this is based).

We were not quite so happy with our shower room. The washbasin was fine and there was plenty of storage, but the shower was the smallest we have ever had, with a shower curtain that had plastic rods inserted into it to stop it 'drawing in' on the person in the shower. But what made it very poor was the siting of the shower controls – they stuck out into the very little space available and it was difficult to move in the shower without altering the controls. The toilet was the usual vacuum w.c. but had a rather soft plastic seat that slipped sideways and tended to trap your bottom as you sat down. (We later had the seat replaced but the new seat was just the same. The ship's plumber said that they were all the same and they had received a lot of complaints from many other passengers). Soon after we arrived our suitcases arrived outside our cabin door, but we decided to go and find something to eat as we were both very hungry.

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The washbasin with a large mirror above it.

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The vacuum w.c.

We made our way up to 'Bridge' deck 7 where the 'Veranda Buffet Restaurant' was to be found towards the rear of the ship, spanning the whole beam of the ship. It had two sections, an inside part where the buffet was in the centre of the room, with tables and chairs at the sides by large windows and an open-air part with chairs and tables overlooking the stern of the ship. As it was pleasantly warm we chose the latter and enjoyed a very tasty afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones (with jam and cream) and yummy cakes whilst watching the busy river traffic below us.

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The small Veranda Buffet restaurant.

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Some indoor tables/seating in the buffet restaurant.

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The buffet’s outdoor (but shaded) tables and chairs. We loved this area.

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Chris waiting for the waiter to bring her tea.

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Berthed in Istanbul.

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Lots of ferries plying between Europe and Asia.

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Amazing views whilst enjoying afternoon tea.

Fully satisfied we returned to our cabin and unpacked our cases and met our steward, a Filipino named Rhande (pronounced Randy) who seemed very pleasant and eager to please. The storage swallowed all the contents of our cases and we then were able to stow the cases, open, under our twin beds. There was no muster drill today as we were not sailing until the following evening, so we decided to try and get a little sleep, so set our alarm clock for 7:30 pm.

We managed to get a short sleep and then showered and dressed and went up for dinner to the 'Discovery Restaurant on deck 5 aft, where we were directed to a table for 6 with two other couples. We had a good starter, a somewhat disappointing main dish (beef bourguignon) and an excellent dessert. This ship does not have designated dining tables for passengers, so you get to eat with different people for every meal – which we quite liked.

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A view of the ship’s Discovery Main Dining Room.

After dinner, we went out for a walk on the Promenade deck 6 and then returned to our cabin where we found a letter waiting for us. It seems that the following day was a religious holiday and, because of the anticipated crowds, our booked excursion had been changed from a full day tour to a half-day tour. However, as we would still be visiting the Blue Mosque, we decided to go ahead with the tour rather than cancelling it. Somewhat disappointed we went to bed at around 11:00 pm.

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The cabin set up for night use, with chocolates on the pillows.


====================================


Continued tomorrow ……………...
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby Gillzajoker » 25 Oct 2020 12:11

Some airport Gates are up to 40 minutes walk from the lounge area, so with your circumstances it was
a good idea to get Airport Aassistance. For the last few years, I too have gratefully availed myself of it.
Despite delays, you made it and were safely ensconced in your new home for the next two weeks. I've
sailed on the sister ship 'Discovery' and whilst the cabins were small they were adequate. I also like the
idea of having different dining companions. If on a fixed table you have pleasant people, that is great,
and I've been lucky to only have one occasion when that was not the case. So far so good - I'm looking
forward to revisiting the Blue Mosque with you tomorrow! :D
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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby judgegeoff » 25 Oct 2020 12:42

Gillzajoker wrote:Some airport Gates are up to 40 minutes walk from the lounge area, so with your circumstances it was
a good idea to get Airport Aassistance. For the last few years, I too have gratefully availed myself of it.
Despite delays, you made it and were safely ensconced in your new home for the next two weeks. I've
sailed on the sister ship 'Discovery' and whilst the cabins were small they were adequate. I also like the
idea of having different dining companions. If on a fixed table you have pleasant people, that is great,
and I've been lucky to only have one occasion when that was not the case. So far so good - I'm looking
forward to revisiting the Blue Mosque with you tomorrow!
:D


Difficult unforeseen problems prevailed Gill, and so I'm afraid you will have to wait until our 2016 visit to Istanbul to see the Blue Mosque! :(
Geoff

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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby judgegeoff » 26 Oct 2020 08:05

Day 2 - Thursday 24th September 2015 – Istanbul, Turkey


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We slept well but woke at 5:30 am and were unable to get back to sleep, so read our books for a while before we showered, dressed and went up to the 'Discovery Restaurant' for breakfast. Seating, as usual, was open and the restaurant had a buffet unit in the middle with a wide selection of hot and cold dishes available. You could also order hot food from the waiters, with such dishes as 'Eggs Benedict', kippers a 'Full English' etc. I found that they did a really excellent 'Full English' with black pudding (unavailable in the buffet) so tended to order that for the rest of the cruise.

After breakfast, we took a lift up to the top 'Sun' deck 8 and decided to explore the ship as we made our way down. The 'Sun' deck had plenty of outdoor space for sunbathing and, towards the rear, there was the 'Sunset Club' lounge which turned into a nightclub in the evening. The ship's Fitness Centre and gym were also on this deck, at the very rear, accessed via the 'Sunset Club'.

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Sun deck 8, on a not very sunny day.

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The ‘Sunset Club’ – it looked much more intimate in the evening.

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The torture cell, also known as the Fitness Centre and gym.

'Bridge' deck 7 had the 'Veranda Buffet Restaurant' (indoors and outdoors) at the rear of the ship and a small round swimming pool with two hot tubs and a bar in the open-air centre of the deck. The forward section of this deck had suites and the ship's bridge, although this was not normally accessible to passengers.

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The small pool on deck 7.

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The pool deck and bar.

The front two-thirds of the next lower deck, 'Promenade' deck 6, had decking which gave access to the lifeboat stations and was very pleasant to walk after dinner. The aft third had balcony cabins.

'Discovery' deck 5 was the deck that had the most public rooms. Forward there was the 'Lookout Lounge' with a bar and windows giving excellent sea views and many of the 'Trivia' quizzes were held here. Next was the 'Darwin Lounge' that was the venue for all the lectures and also doubled as the ship's theatre where all the shows were held. It was not tiered and the stage area was not raised, so we soon learned to go early for all the lectures and shows, to ensure that we got seats with a good view. Dancing was also held in this lounge with male dance hosts available for dances and a professional dancing couple who gave free lessons. A shop selling a good range of essentials and other products was amidships, together with a library, a card room and a Future Sales desk. A large lounge and bar, 'Scott's Lounge' reminded us of the 'Evening Light' pubs on the Fred. Olsen ships and had very comfortable seating. Aft on this deck was the 'Discovery Restaurant' where we had all our evening meals.

Continuing down, 'Columbus' deck 4 was a mostly a residential deck, with ocean view and inner cabins. The ship's Medical Centre was also to be found aft on this deck, much higher than on most other ships (and not in the centre!).

Our 'Livingstone' deck 3 was also mostly residential although it did have the 'Guest Relations and Reception' and 'Excursions' desks there, conveniently just a few metres from our cabin. At most ports, the exit gangway was right alongside the desks, so very handy for us.

'Raleigh' deck 2 below us had a few passenger cabins, but most of it housed the crew's cabins. We never actually went down to this deck as there were no public rooms at that level. The ship's décor was not at all 'blingy', much like 'Fred. Olsen' or 'Celebrity' and very much to our taste.

We had an early lunch in the 'Veranda Buffet Restaurant' and then went down to the 'Darwin Lounge' at 12:15 pm, ready for our pre-booked “Classic Istanbul City” tour. The Excursions crew member told us that, contrary to the letter we had received, we would not now be going to see the Blue Mosque. I was very annoyed as, had we known this earlier, we could have gone off the ship on our own to visit the Mosque. However, by this time it was too late as the ship was sailing that evening, so we decided to go on the tour anyway.

We caught the little minibus along the quay and then transferred to a big coach and met our guide and driver for the tour. Our first stop was at the Church of the Holy Saviour in Churo, a very old church that had some amazing coloured mosaic pictures on the walls and ceilings, depicting the early life of Christ. Unfortunately, it was not open when we arrived and we had to wait, standing in a queue, for over 45 minutes!

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Churo Church, Istanbul. Originally a medieval Greek Orthodox church, it is now a mosque.

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Amazing mosaic ceilings.

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Wow!

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Exquisite mosaic work of Bible scenes.

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An amazing building.

After leaving the church we went back on the coach and were driven to the Yererbatan Sarayi (Underground Palace) Cisterns, an amazing underground water storage facility built in the 6th century. It could hold 100,000 tons of freshwater and the huge cavern-like rooms were supported by 336 marble columns, some supported on old (recycled) Roman carved stone bases. Once full of stored water, the Cisterns now have just a few inches of water and there are many large fish swimming around. It really was an amazing place.

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The Yererbatan Sarayi Cistenns, Istanbul.

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There are many different styles of columns.

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This column was sited on a Roman carved head. The cisterns are full of fish and coins.

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Another column resting on a Roman carved head.

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Another amazing sight!

We left the Cisterns on foot and walked to our next venue, the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). On the way there we passed (at a distance) the Blue Mosque, but the sun was right behind it so we were unable to even take photos of the exterior. The Hagia Sophia was originally built in 537 AD as a Basilica, but became a Mosque in 1453 AD and is now a museum. It is an amazing structure with a huge dome and has survived many earthquakes over the many centuries. One of our passengers did not wish to tour the Hagia Sophia so negotiated with the guide to meet us at the exit after an hour. Unfortunately, she was not aware that the entrance and exit were not the same and we had to wait on the coach for some time whilst the guide went to find her. We returned to the ship at around 4:30 pm, hot and very tired, everywhere had been very crowded because of it being a holiday and it had also been a very hot day.

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Approaching the Hagia Sophia.

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Inside Hagia Sophia, a huge building.

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Amazing workmanship.

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The huge dome, complete with scaffolding, the bane of my photography!!!

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Yet another amazing sight.

Back on the ship, muster drill was held in the 'Discovery Restaurant', our muster station and, for once, was quite good. We could hear every word said and we had to don our life jackets and have them checked by the crew. We should have departed Istanbul at 5:00 pm but, for reasons unknown, we didn't slip away from our berth until 5:30 pm, whilst we were in the muster drill. After the muster drill, we went onto the Promenade deck to check where our Lifeboat, No. C3 was positioned.

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Deck 6. the promenade deck.

We attended a lecture “Canakkale and Dikili” given by the port lecturer John Coventry and found him to be an excellent lecturer, his lectures being informative, entertaining and well illustrated with excellent slides.

In the evening, after showering and dressing, we had dinner in the 'Discovery restaurant', sharing a table with a nice couple from Devon, before walking around the Promenade deck a couple of times before retiring to bed.


========================================


Continued tomorrow ...........……………..
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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Re: MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby Camela » 26 Oct 2020 11:23

How infuriating to be told the Blue Mosque remained on your tour only to find it was then excluded. After all that is one of the main sites to visit whilst in Istanbul.
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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby Gillzajoker » 26 Oct 2020 11:50

Shame about the Blue Mosque, Geoff, but the sites you did see were fantastic (and I can always mentally
screen out the scaffolding in you usual excellent photos). And apart from being entertained, I also like to
be educated, so loved the accompanying history of these places. It was also nice to see all the layout of
the ship (and like you I'm not a huge fan of excessive 'bling'). :D
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Re: MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby judgegeoff » 26 Oct 2020 12:41

Camela wrote:How infuriating to be told the Blue Mosque remained on your tour only to find it was then excluded. After all that is one of the main sites to visit whilst in Istanbul.

Indeed Camela. But what really annoyed me was that we were only told about the dropping of the Blue Mosque from the schedule when we assembled to go on the tour. The tour had already been reduced from a full day tour to a half-day tour. As it was a public holiday and we had not been to Istanbul before, we decided not to go ashore independently, so decided to go ahead with the much-reduced tour, but I certainly let the Excursions team and their Turkish Agents know what I thought of them! We had been so looking forward to seeing the Mosque, it was to have been one of the highlights of our cruise.

The following year, 2016, we returned to Istanbul, again on the "Voyager" and were able to visit the Blue Mosque (independently this time!). At that time, because of the political situation and the terrorist threat, almost no cruise ships were visiting Istanbul. The loss of this tourist business was evident at all the main sights - there were no queues, even at the Blue Mosque. Due to a threatened strike by Greek Air Traffic Controllers, we ended up having an extra day in Istanbul, which was a bonus as far as we were concerned as it is an amazing city to visit.
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby judgegeoff » 26 Oct 2020 12:45

Gillzajoker wrote:Shame about the Blue Mosque, Geoff, but the sites you did see were fantastic (and I can always mentally
screen out the scaffolding in you usual excellent photos). And apart from being entertained, I also like to
be educated, so loved the accompanying history of these places. It was also nice to see all the layout of
the ship (and like you I'm not a huge fan of excessive 'bling'). :D

Thank you so much Gill. The "Voyager" was one of the oldest ships we have sailed on and had almost no bling, but she was one of our all-time favourite ships, mainly due to the fantastic crew. We were very sad when the 'Voyages of Discovery' Line went into liquidation and the ships were sold off. :cry:
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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Re: MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby Camela » 26 Oct 2020 18:38

The first time we cruised out of Istanbul we visited the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar. The second time we went to Hagia Sophia. At the end of the cruise we had to time to kill before an evening flight so took a ferry across the Bosphorus to Asia Minor! Sat in a cafe and drank Turska Kafa - though one is never enough! We wanted to take boxes of Turkish Delight home as gifts and every other shop sells it. We went into a very well-presented one, selling many flavours of which the charming assistant kept plying us with samples. If we find ourselves in the city again we will try and visit the Basilica Cistern - underground cisterns, as they were closed on previous visit.
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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby judgegeoff » 27 Oct 2020 08:44

Friday 25th September 2015 – Canakkale, Turkey

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We woke at 7:30 am and, after showering and dressing, had breakfast and caught the 09:30 am shuttle bus into the nearby town of Canakkale. We were dropped at the town centre alongside a large gun that was used in the Battle for Gallipoli. This town is about 19 miles from the remains of the ancient city of Troy. Following the filming of the movie “Troy”, starring Brad Pitt, the wooden Trojan Horse used in the film was presented to the town and is now prominent on the promenade, near to the small boats marina. We walked along the Promenade until we found the huge wooden horse and took some photos of it. Near the horse was a model of what it is believed Troy would have looked like at the time of the Trojan War.

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The old WW1 gun showing signs of a ‘hit’. This was the pickup point for our shuttle bus.

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Canakkale has a nice wide promenade.

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The huge wooden horse on the promenade.

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Not your usual promenade statue!…….

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…….neigh!

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A model of Troy as it was thought to be, based on the ruins being excavated.

We then walked along the Promenade in the opposite direction, stopping for coffees and to take photos of the old fort in the distance. On display was a full-sized replica of the tiny Turkish minelayer “Nusret” that was used during the WW1 Gallipoli campaign and was responsible, having laid 26 mines, for the sinking of “HMS Irresistible”, “HMS Ocean” and the French battleship “Bouvet” and left the British battlecruiser “HMS Inflexible” badly crippled – a real David and Goliath story!

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Coffee time – cappuccino for Chris and double shot espresso for me.

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Chris’ colourful cappuccino – almost a pity to spoil it by drinking it!

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Looking across the Bosphorus River we could see the old castle at Kilitbahir. It was built around 1463 and was one of two fortresses built to protect the straits.

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This sailing cruise ship passed us. It looked like a Windstar Cruises ship......

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......yes, I was right.

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Across the river we could see this message. A warning to invaders?

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The full-sized replica of the “Nusret”. Hard to imagine this little ship was responsible for sinking or badly damaging four large warships!

We then had a walk around the town which we found was a very interesting and pleasant place. Feeling a little tired, we stopped off for a rest and some wine.

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Walking around Canakkale.

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We heard the faithful being called to prayer from this minaret.

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A nice town to explore. We were a little surprised to read ‘Kent’ – our home county. 'Kent' means 'city' in Turkish, so we saw it on signs quite often.

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The potato peddler cometh!

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We stopped to rest our feet with a glass of wine – “cheers”.

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Refreshed, we carried on with our walk.

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We passed this splendid clock tower.

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Footsore, perhaps we should have let this chap take the strain.

We returned to our shuttle bus stop but had quite a long wait before the next bus. Karen, the South African Excursion desk lady told us to go and wait at a nearby McDonalds diner and she came to get us when the bus had returned. We had ice cream cones at the diner as, oddly, they did not sell coffees.

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Going back to our ship, footsore but happy.

Back on the ship, we had a late lunch in the Buffet restaurant and then sat in the sun and read our books. Tonight was a formal dress night so we showered, dressed up in our formal gear and went to the Captain's Cocktail Party in the Darwin Lounge at 5:45 pm. The Captain, Tomasz Kaminski, was Polish and looked very young to be in overall charge of the ship. We found a quiet corner but the Captain, waiting to be formally introduced by the Cruise Director, came and sat next to us and we had quite a good chat with him. He said that he wasn't really very young, but had a very good plastic surgeon!

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Our Captain, Tomasz Kaminski.

After dinner, we went back to the 'Scott's Lounge” to enjoy the singing and piano playing of Rene, one of the ship's performers.

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‘Scott’s Lounge’.

We then had a walk around the Promenade deck before retiring back to our cabin.


======================================


Continued tomorrow …………….
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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