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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Re: MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby Camela » 02 Nov 2020 15:05

This prompted me to look at my photos to remind me of what Patmos was like. We visited in August 2011 and I see there are windmills at the port too. We didn't take an excursion but wandered around the town and along the beach.

Cheese and onion pies, yes!! I'm actually making them for supper tomorrow having recently discovered a tasty, infallible Hairy Bikers recipe. I also enjoy Spanakopita (spinach and feta in filo pastry)
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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby judgegeoff » 03 Nov 2020 08:31

Day 10 - Friday 2nd October 2015 – Kavala, Greece


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Kavala

Kavala is a city in northern Greece, the principal seaport of eastern Macedonia and the capital of Kavala regional unit. It is situated on the Bay of Kavala, across from the island of Thasos. Yet another port where the ship berthed right next to the town – one of the advantages of being on a very small ship. After breakfast, we left the ship and saw that the crew were taking the opportunity to carry out some maintenance to the lifeboats.

[img]https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/50527551586_0593013633_z.jpg
[/img]Lifeboat No.2 being lowered onto the quay for maintenance.

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Not the prettiest of posteriors!

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Just a hop, skip and jump into the town.

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We could see the castle on top of the hill.

Once ashore we soon came across the Aqueduct Kamares, an ancient arched aqueduct that runs through the town. Thought to have been of Roman origin the present structure dates to the 16th century and was built by the order of Suleiman the Magnificant. It was built to provide the town with freshwater, delivered from Mount Pangaeus which was 6km away. It consisted of 4 aqueducts and ceramic pipes and, amazingly, was still in use until 1913.

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We passed St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.

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Approaching the aqueduct.

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An amazing ancient structure …..

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…...with exquisite workmanship

Having viewed the Aqueduct we decided to visit the town's 15th century Byzantine castle which stood upon a steep hill. It was a very interesting walk with magnificent views over the sea and the town.

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I’ll take the high road and you take the low road!

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It was a very steep climb.

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We passed this desirable residence for sale that needed a bit of TLC ……

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….. but with a view to die for!

Unfortunately, Chris’ knees and my spine gave up before we reached the castle, and the hill was getting steeper, so decided to walk back to the town. The narrow streets were very picturesque and the inhabitants were extremely friendly, saying 'Kali mera' ('Good day') to us. As usual, I got it very wrong, and was responding with 'Calimari'! As we neared the bottom of the hill we saw a tractor-trailer unit going up the hill to the castle, but there were no spare seats. This facility is mainly for the locals as the streets were too narrow for motorcars or buses.

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Disappointed, we started our way down (we did manage to visit the castle on our 2016 visit).

At the base of the hill we found a roadside cafe where we had some very nice coffee, accompanied by the usual carafe of chilled water and glasses. Leaving the cafe we walked along the harbour, stopping to look at shops, then stopped at a bar for glasses of wine. The waitress brought us a bunch of grapes with our wines.

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We were very glad to come across this cafe/bar/restaurant.

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Chris waiting for her coffee. Most bars and restaurants also serve complimentary chilled water.

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Nearing the viaduct.

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Passing some of the old city walls.

We slowly walked back to the ship and had lunch in the 'Discovery Restaurant' and Chris had a rest as her legs were sore. Later we went up to the pool deck for a swim and sunbathing and then sat in the open-air part of the 'Veranda Buffet Restaurant' where we had afternoon tea.

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The crew were still working on one of the lifeboats when we returned to the ship.

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The little swimming pool.

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Ready for our al fresco afternoon tea.

In the evening, after dinner, we went to the 'Darwin Lounge' to watch a panel game, “Call my Bluff that was quite entertaining, with Jack (the singer), Claire (John Coventry's wife) and Lauren (one of the Entertainment staff). We then had a final walk on deck before retiring to bed early as we were both tired after our hill climbing!


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


Continued tomorrow …………….
Geoff

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MEMORIES (No. 9) - AEGEAN CRUISE - 2015

Postby Gillzajoker » 03 Nov 2020 15:06

I enjoyed those pictures, Geoff, and thought the aquaduct was amazing. But like you, I wouldn't have
made it up to the castle without the tractor/trailer transport :D
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Postby judgegeoff » 04 Nov 2020 09:56

Day 11 - Saturday 3rd October 2015 – Thessaloniki, Greece


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Map of Greece showing the location of Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, and the capital of the geographic region of Macedonia, the administrative region of Central Macedonia and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. It was founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon. An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430 and remained an important seaport and multi-ethnic metropolis during the nearly five centuries of Turkish rule. It passed from the Ottoman Empire to Greece on 8 November 1912.

Thessaloniki was yet another port where we were berthed right by the town. After another great breakfast, we left the ship and walked the short distance to the port gates where we found a Hop On/Hop Off bus waiting for us outside and we decided to purchase a round trip for 7 Euros each. We stayed on the bus and saw the White Tower, the old city walls, the Arch of Galerius, the Ayia Sophia and the Archaeological Museum etc. We were quite cold on the open-air top deck of the bus as it was running in the shade of tall buildings for most of the time. We also got 'whipped' by tree branches – I am not sure that this size bus had been used much on this route before, or at least for some time.

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A similar HO/HO bus to ours except that ours had a canvas top on the upper deck, although it was open at the sides.

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Passing the White Tower (we would be walking to this later in the day).

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We stopped at the Arch of Galerius which was built in 298 to 299 AD and dedicated in 303 AD to celebrate the victory of the tetrarch, Galerius, over the Sassanid Persians at the Battle of Satala and capture of their capital Ctesiphon in 298.

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The arch’s construction was interesting.

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Although somewhat weathered after some 1,720 years, the carving would have been amazing when the arch was completed.

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We passed the Rotunda of Galerius which was built in 306 AD on the orders of the tetrarch Galerius, who was thought to have intended it to be his mausoleum. Inconveniently Galerius died in Serbia, so was never put in the mausoleum. The Rotunda became a church but was changed to a Mosque when the area was invaded by the (Ottomans)Turks. It was returned to a church when the Greeks overthrew the Turks in 1912.

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The Rotunda survived all the area’s earthquakes over the centuries as its walls are 6 metres thick. (We would return to the Rotunda, on foot, on our 2016 cruise).

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Passing the old city walls …..

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…...some were in excellent condition.

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There were many sites of ancient ruins in the city.

We decided to leave the HO/HO bus at Aristotelous Square and we found a nearby cafe to warm ourselves us up with hot coffees. We then explored some bazaars and found a huge market with stalls selling everything one could possibly want, including meat and fish. The market was very noisy as all the stallholders were shouting, trying to advertise their wares.

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Aristotelous Square.

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A statue of Aristotle in the square.

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The cafe we stopped for coffees at.

We decided to walk along the promenade to the White Tower that had been the first stop on our earlier bus tour. Halfway there we were magically drawn into a very nice restaurant where we enjoyed pizzas and some nice local wine.

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Looking back along the promenade we could see our ship in the distance.

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We stopped for an excellent meal (and wine!) at this restaurant on the side of the promenade.

Fully refreshed we continued on our way until we reached the White Tower which had been built in the Ottoman period to replace an earlier Byzantine fortress that had guarded the ancient harbour. Over the years it became a notorious prison and was infamous for the mass executions that were carried out there. In 1912, when Greece gained control of the city, it was whitewashed (hence the 'White Tower') and became a Museum and is now the symbol of Thessaloniki. These days, rather than being white the Tower is more beige coloured.

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The White Tower is the symbol of Thessaloniki.

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The White Tower.

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Our shuttle bus arrives to take us back to the ship.

We walked back along the Promenade until we reached the port and then went back onto the ship. We had expected to have seen a few immigrants in the town, but saw none, although we did see this sign :-

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Our shuttle bus arrives to take us back to the ship.

We had afternoon tea in the 'Veranda Buffet Restaurant'. That evening, at dinner, we found that the ship had been taken over by pirates, all the waiters were dressed up in piratical costumes, wearing striped shirts and sporting eye patches and gold earrings. The items on our menu that night all had pirate-related names and the dishes were served by a pirate with a pistol in his belt. It was all good fun but it may have been somewhat different had we been sailing off the Somali coast or the Gulf of Aden!

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That’s odd, a parrot on the menu!…..

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…...Oh dear, this doesn’t look good.

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Our lovely waiters had been replaced by pirates.

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Arghhh, belay there Jim lad!

After our piratical dinner, we went to the 'Darwin Lounge' to see the crew perform a “Filipino Folkloric Show”. The singing and dancing was very enjoyable, the crew are very talented people. And so to bed, in the morning we would be visiting the port of Volos.


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


Continued tomorrow ………..
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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Postby Gillzajoker » 04 Nov 2020 11:33

Excellent photos, Geoff, and even better, all the history relating to them! The HOHO bus was priced very
reasonably, I've found in recent years, all around the world, they have become quite expensive. I quite like
themed evenings, unless they are too persistent in insisting you have your photo taken with them. :D
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Postby judgegeoff » 05 Nov 2020 08:28

Day 12 - Sunday 4th October 2015 – Volos, Greece

The ship was berthed some distance from the town this morning, so we had to get a shuttle bus after breakfast. Unfortunately, there was only one bus allocated to our ship, so had to wait for quite a long time and didn't get on the bus until about 10:00 am. There were two other ships in port, “Costa Pacifica” and “Europa 2” and they had 2 or 3 buses each, so no queues unlike us.

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“Europa 2” and “Costa Pacifica” berthed in Volos.

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The beautiful and luxurious “Europa 2”.

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The elegant “Costa Pacifica”.

The shuttle bus dropped us at a point on the promenade opposite a big hotel but we found that the whole town seemed to be asleep (but it was a Sunday). We walked along the promenade for a while, looking at the lovely yachts and cabin cruisers that were moored along it and came upon a full-sized reproduction of the type of boat that Jason and his Argonauts would have used (Jason had sailed from Volos in the legend). After a while, a few cafes and bars started to open up, so we went and had a couple of coffees.

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The shuttle bus dropped us at this hotel.

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We walked along the broad promenade.

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The replica “Argo”.

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A plaque giving details of the “Argo”.

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I was very interested in the simple construction of this elegant vessel.

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The only locals around were the cafe workers and the horse and cart drivers!

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We passed this elegant classical style modern building.

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The church of Aghios Constantinos on the promenade at Volos.

We heard a lot of barking and found that a dog rescue/rehousing charity had set up a stall in the town with several dogs all making themselves heard. At the end of the promenade there was a small park that has statues of prominent politicians and soldiers from Greece's near past. Looking for something to do we went inland into the town, but all the museums and shops were closed. We should have booked a ship's excursion!

When we got back to the shuttle stop we had a short wait for the bus to arrive but, once it did, we sat on it for over 15 minutes, waiting for it to fill up. The air conditioning was not switched on (possibly not working) and it was very hot on the bus until we got underway. If we were ever to return to Volos again, especially on a Sunday, we would make sure we booked a ship's excursion.

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Back on the ship, we saw that our crew had challenged the crew from one of the other ships to a game of basketball.

We had lunch in the 'Discovery Restaurant' and then went to the pool deck for a swim and sunbathing, although we had to be careful as it was blisteringly hot. Afternoon tea was enjoyed under a shady awning at the outdoor section of the 'Veranda Buffet Restaurant' and then we went to try our luck in the Trivia Quiz. After the Quiz we went up top to watch the sail away from Volos, with all the passengers on the “Europa 2” waving farewell to us.

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Leaving Volos, shepherded by a tug.

The dress code this evening was 'Formal' (our last) and by the time we were ready we found ourselves too late to attend the Captain's 'Farewell Party', so went for dinner. After dinner, we went to the 'Darwin Lounge' to see the show “Highly Strung” featuring classical pianist Anton Kondus, a very talented male violinist and the ship's singers and dancers. As usual, it was a very well presented and enjoyable show.

Here are some more pictures of the crazy shower in our cabin :-

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Every time I turned round in the tiny shower I altered the setting of the shower.

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The retractable washing line was not above the shower and so would have dripped on the floor.

After the show, we went up to the 'Sunset' nightclub to listen to Esme Leah, one of the ship's singers, perform some 'Abba' hits. Esme was very good and was well supported by the other (off duty) singers and dancers who were all joining in the dancing. They were obviously a happy team who enjoyed each other's company. And so to bed.


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


Continued tomorrow.....………..
Geoff

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Postby Gillzajoker » 05 Nov 2020 11:54

Not one of your better days, Geoff, but I enjoyed seeing the ARGO and description thereof. Fancy missing
the Captain's cocktail party - I'm always there with bells on as it's not often you get a free drink! :lol:
Mmm, whoever designed that shower and washing line needs to go on a refresher course! :D
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Postby judgegeoff » 06 Nov 2020 08:21

Day 13 - Monday 5th October 2015 – Piraeus, Greece (overnight stay)

When we woke up this morning we were in the busy port of Piraeus (for Athens) our final destination port, but we would be staying on the ship another night before disembarking the following morning. After breakfast, we assembled in the 'Darwin Lounge' at 9:00 am for our “Introduction to Athens” ship's excursion tour. Once ashore we were allocated coach No.4, our guide was Lida and our driver was Fortis. Major General Stephen Carr-Smith and his wife were also in our party, to keep us in order.

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Our tour coach, No.4.

Lida was a good guide and told us some very interesting facts about her Country. Apparently, there are approximately 11 million people living in Greece which has around 200 inhabited islands. In Athens, the buildings are not allowed to be built higher than 6 or 7 storeys, as the ancient Acropolis must always be the highest and most dominant building in the city.

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Leaving the ship, we passed the Church of St. Nicholas in Piraeus.

We saw Hadrian's Arch, the Temple of Zeus and the Palace, now home to the Greek parliament, where two soldiers in traditional Greek Army costumes guard the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The coach did not stop at the Palace but drove slowly past and unfortunately there were two many pedestrians watching the soldiers, so we could not get any shots with our cameras.

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The Arch of Hadrian, Athens…..

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Passing the Temple of Zeus.

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The Palace at Athens where the soldiers in their traditional costumes can be seen. We returned here on foot in 2016 to view them properly.

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Plenty of classical buildings.

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The building of the Academy of Athens.

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National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

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The Greek National Library.

Our first stop was at the Panathenaic Stadium, a huge marble construction. Originally a wooden stadium it was built in marble in 329 BC but fell into ruin. It was rebuilt for the more modern Olympic Games in the latter years of the 19th century. At the Athens 2004 Olympic Games it was the venue for the archery competition and the end of the marathon race and the closing ceremony for those Games.

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The Panathenaic Stadium.

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The stadium was huge, it held 60,000 people.

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Stadium information.

Our next stop was a large parking lot at the base of the Acropolis Hill and the Parthenon. As we had 45 minutes here we decided to walk halfway up the hill to get some decent photos of those iconic buildings but, unfortunately, essential renovation was being carried out and the scaffolding and cranes added nothing to our photographs. Back on the coach, our departure was delayed because an elderly lady passenger was missing. The Major General was dispatched to find her and soon marched her back from a nearby shop where she had been buying souvenirs.

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The coach park at the base of the Acropolis.

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Starting our walk up to the Acropolis.

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Because of the amount of scaffolding that was around the ruins, we decided not to walk to the top of the hill.

With a full complement, we were driven back to the ship with Lida pointing out points of interest on the way. Piraeus had a beautiful round Marina where many luxury yachts and cabin cruisers were moored. It had not been our most memorable tour as we passed so many interesting buildings and sights in the coach that would have been great to have spent some time at.

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We passed St. Constantine Greek Orthodox church on the way back.

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A very old building, in need of some TLC.

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Returning to Piraeus we saw this sign that just about covered all bases!!!!

Back on the ship, we had lunch in the 'Discovery Restaurant' and then Chris did some packing after which we went up to the pool deck to sunbathe but it was very hot and we had to move into the shade after a while. We went to the outdoors section of the 'Veranda Buffet Restaurant' for our last afternoon tea – it had been lovely to sit at a shaded table and enjoy the warm air as well as the delicious sandwiches, cakes and scones. After afternoon tea we went back to our cabin to continue our packing.

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The dinner menu that night.

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After dinner, we decided not to bother going to the evening “Highlights Show” show as it was a compilation of the shows we had seen throughout the cruise and did not start until late. So we completed packing our cases, making sure that we had left clothes for the morning, placed the cases outside our cabin and retired to bed.


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


Concluded tomorrow ……………...
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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Postby Gillzajoker » 06 Nov 2020 11:18

Lovely pictorial reminders of Athens, Geoff. The last time I was lucky enough to be there at the right
time to watch the Changing of the Guard. As always I enjoyed the history lesson as well. Lovely menu
for your final night, too. :D
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Postby judgegeoff » 07 Nov 2020 08:27

Day 14 - Tuesday 6th October 2015 – Piraeus, Greece – disembarkation and journey home

Our last day! We were awake at about 6:30 am, showered and dressed and made our way to the 'Discovery Restaurant' just as it was opening for breakfast. We had to vacate our cabin by 8:30 am so returned there, said “Farewell” to our splendid steward Rhande and gave him a well deserved additional gratuity, checked that we had left nothing in the cabin and made our way to the 'Scott's Lounge' and settled into the comfortable seating to await our call to disembark. Our designated time for disembarkation was 11:20 am and we were called on time and made our way off the ship where Emma the Cruise Director were at the gangway to wish us safe return home. We then collected our cases which had been placed in the 'Burgundy 1' area and were directed by the ships crew and Entertainment Staff to a coach that was waiting to take us to the Airport. As we were about to leave the complex Raoul, who had been in charge of the Shore Excursions desk on the ship, came on board the coach to thank us for sailing on the ship and to wish us a safe flight home – it was a nice touch.

It took us quite a while to get to the Airport, at least an hour because the traffic was quite heavy, but it was very comfortable and quite interesting. Check-in was completed very easily and we were taken to our gate, gate No. 5, to await our flight. Unfortunately, we learned that our British Airways flight had been put back by 75 minutes due to a problem at London Heathrow where it was coming from. We had flown on four flights with British Airways this year and all four had been subject to delays! Not very good BA! There was a nearby cafe so we consoled ourselves with coffees and large chocolate shelled desserts with mousse fillings. We phoned Chris, our taxi driver in England, to tell him about the delay, although we knew that he always monitors the arrival times in case planes are delayed.

Once the plane arrived and had discharged its incoming passengers, we had to wait a while whilst the plane was cleaned and restocked before we were able to board. On board we had been allocated seats 13 A&B, window and aisle seats on the port side of the plane. We had a comfortable and uneventful flight back to London Heathrow Airport.

Chris met us with his car after we had waited a few minutes outside the Arrivals Building at the Airport and we had a comfortable journey back to New Romney where we found the house to be in good order. It had been yet another great holiday.

Conclusions

We had wanted the cruise to be a relaxing one and, despite the fairly intensive itinerary, we felt that it met the brief very well. Despite it being a very small ship and having a full complement of passengers, we never felt that the ship was crowded and we could always find a seat when we wanted one (except the shows if we didn't go fairly early). We loved the intimacy of a small ship and the fact that she could get in and out of ports that the large mega-ships would be unable to.

The hotel and waiting staff, being mainly Filipino were, as ever, a delight and nothing was too much trouble for them. The food was generally excellent and we liked the 'open seating' for all meals, being able to dine with so many people was very interesting We never had bad table companions and I hope that they would say the same thing about us. Being able to eat outside at the 'Veranda Buffet Restaurant' was a joy, not enough ships have outdoor eating areas these days.

The standard of the lectures was absolutely first class, the best of any ship we have been on, and the lectures were very well matched to the places we were visiting. The ship's Entertainment staff were very enthusiastic and talented and we enjoyed all the shows we saw, as well as the Trivia Quizzes and the 'Sunset' nightclub solo performances given by the singers. The 'Darwin Lounge' cannot match the huge theatres of the large ships but we saw some excellent shows and performances there.

And now, sadly, for the not so good points……

Our cabins shower cubicle and shower controls were diabolical and I got really fed up of having my bottom trapped and pinched by the ridiculously soft toilet seat. This latter problem could be rectified very quickly and at minimal cost. Many passengers complained about it, so ours wasn't a one-off.

We did not consider that having the full cabin number printed on the room key and the safe key was very good, security-wise. If the keys were lost (or stolen) somebody could have used them to enter our cabin and loot the safe.

One of the main highlights of the cruise was to have been a trip to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and we had booked an excursion there very early to ensure we got it. To be told, by letter the night before, that our tour was being changed from a full day tour with lunch to a half-day tour was extremely disappointing. However, to be advised, as we turned up for the tour at 12:15 pm, that the tour would not be visiting the Blue Mosque at all was disgusting. It left us with no time to organise a private visit to the Mosque as we were sailing that afternoon. The Excursions desk staff explained that it was not their fault as their Agents had not told them about it being a religious holiday that day. I told them that it was their fault as it was their Agents that had failed and therefore 'Voyages of Discovery' were at fault – it certainly wasn't our fault!

We had spent quite a lot of time waiting for shuttle buses, much longer than we are used to with the larger ships, but it is possible that this is inevitable on such a small ship. If we were to do the cruise again we would probably make more use of taxis.

Would we sail on the ship again? Certainly, if we liked the itinerary. We only had rough(ish) seas for one night and the ship coped well, but I am not sure how such a small ship would cope with a really bad gale. Therefore we would not choose her to do a world cruise (and the storage might be a problem on a long cruise).

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

During the cruise, we had sailed a total distance of just 1,881 Nautical Miles (3,483 Kilometres), but some of the ports were quite near to each other :-

Istanbul to Canakkale 107nm (198km)
Canakkale to Dikili 99nm (183km)
Dikili to Antalya 440nm (814km)
Antalya to Kusadasi 380nm (703km)
Kusadasi to Patmos 68nm (125km)
Patmos to Kavala 255nm (472km)
Kavala to Thessaloniki 182nm (337km)
Thessaloniki to Volos 147nm (272km)
Volos to Piraeus 203nm (375km)


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

THE END

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


Tomorrow I will start a ‘Memory’ of a 2008 ‘Christmas Markets’ cruise to Norway, Denmark, Germany and Holland that started off disastrously but ended well. It is a cruise that I have not reported on in 'Cruising Mates' before.
Geoff

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