A Travellerspoint blog

Naples and Pompeii

An early start today. I am awake before 6.30am and I feel the ship shudder which normally means she is manourvering into port. I glance out and immediately spot the island of Capri in the distance as Reflection backs into the Port of Naples. We are docked alongside Aida Perla who we followed through the straits of Messina last night. She's a nice looking ship but is exclusively geared toward the German cruise market.

At 6.30 there is a soft rap at the door. Room service. We ordered breakfast as we didn't want the rush of getting showered and going up to the OCV for breakfast this morning. This way we can eat at leisure then get ready to go ashore. We head towards the theatre just before 8am to pick up our tour group. It's very well organised and we are soon landside boarding our coach.

Our trip today is to Pompeii. This is our third visit to Naples and on the first occasion we took a drive along the Amalfi coast, on the second we went to the island of Capri. So on this trip we decided to visit the ancient ruined city. Our tour guide today is called Vito. A very dapper older guy that all the other tour guides refer to as Corleone for obvious reasons.

We head straight to Pompeii in an effort to beat most of the other tour groups. If anything like the Acropolis in Athens it will be teaming with them in no time. It's about a 30 minute drive from the port. We all have radio headphones so that we can tune into Vito for commentary. He's very good and very funny. He seems to know everyone and everything. He is a wealth of knowledge as you would expect a guide to be.

We first visit the barracks where the gladiators were house and trained and then into the small acoustically perfect amphitheatre. Vito goes into detail on how they achieved such perfect acoustics but I don't recall the exact process. Impressive though for 2000 years ago. So is the plumbing and irrigation. We see the many bars that are still mostly intact apart from their roofs which caved in from the weight of the ash and pumice from the volcanic explosion of 79ad. Vito explains how to spot which are brothels (it involves a phallic symbol in the road).

We enter one house that contains the remains of a pregnant woman. Early excavations that uncovered bodies soon found that when dug up they disintegrated immediately. They came up with a way of preserving them by drilling holes and pouring in plaster of paris which is then left to set. What you then see is a perfect cast of the body with the skeleton still inside. Apparently they have uncovered over 3000 bodies. Most of the other 12,000 that died would have been vaporised instantly depending on where they were at the time of the explosion.

We enter the communal bathing area that has a cold room followed by a tepid and then hot room. All brilliantly designed from the way that the condensed steam is collected on the ceiling and directed down the side to be used again.

We travel along ancient roads to a large mansion with mosiac flooring, dining rooms and gardens. A cute satyr statue stands exactly where he did thousands of years ago overlooking the entrance to the property. I wonder how many visitors he has witnessed enter over the years? We then enter the Forum which is what we would call a main square today and a gathering place for the inhabitants of Pompeii. It offers very good views up to Vesuvius, the instrument of its eventual destruction.

After this fascinating trip we head back to our coach and the journey back into Naples. Rather than board the ship we head into Naples itself for lunch. We find a Pizzaria and I order a Margherita. Apparently the only legitimate pizza in the town that invented this dish. All other variations are not considered a true pizza. It's a good pizza. We then have coffees in a roadside cafe before boarding Reflection where I start the onerous task of packing. Not my favourite part of the cruise experience.

We dress for dinner making sure our cases are outside our cabin before we leave. Luckily there are two empty seats at the Martini Bar where I order my usual Sunset Martini followed by a Tropitini. Peter has a Lemon Drop and then a Sapphire Collintini. Keen to experience one last sunset we head up to the Sunset Bar. It's the best evening of the whole cruise. Relaxed ambient music is playing, there is a soft breeze and folk are pretty chilled. We dinner again in Qsine. We have better seats than last time, right next to the window with fabulous views over to Italy as we head north. The food once again is excellent. We order a few of what we had last time but swapped out the Disco Shrimp and Royal Tacos for the Meatball Madness. One of the three large meatballs that came was ok, we didn't care for the other two. We manage dessert this time. I have the silver bullet, literally a large silver bullet filled with sorbet and gelato. Peter has cheescaketini (I actually don't know what he had so made that name up).

Once again we waddle out of the restaurant. Luckily it's only a short waddle to the Ensemble Lounge where we get some brandies to help with digestion. We leave as the jazz band starts playing soon after we sit. I don't like jazz music. We decide to get some bottled water and then head to bed. The end of a fantastic cruise on a fantastic cruise ship. The staff, the ports and the people we met meant it was one of the best cruises we have taken. Less than 22 weeks till the next one.

Pompeii

Pompeii


Vesuvius

Vesuvius


Margherita

Margherita


Sunset

Sunset

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Athens

We awake to grey skies and rain in Piraeus. Not what we had expected. The captains announcement the evening before had said clear skies and 75 degrees. Anyway we showered and headed to the Oceanview cafe for breakfast. Reflection is docked at the far end of the passenger port. Piraeus seems to be dived into two ports. One for passenger vessels such as ferrys, jetcats, hydrofoils and cruise liners and then the cargo/tanker port in the distance. Whilst eating breakfast we spot a large plume of black smoke rise up in the distance in the vicinity of the cargo port. We see little fire boats race out and start dousing it with water. It is too far to make out exactly what 'it' is but the smoke soon subsides.

Reflection is docked much further out than we had anticipated. Our plan was to walk to the metro station and catch this to the centre of Athens and explore the old Plaka district as we had a few years previously. Distance from ship to station was 2.2 miles. We hear an announcement that the hoho reps are on board if we wanted to purchase bus tickets that would take us into the centre and so we opt to do that. We wait in the foyer before heading out to join the open top bus. The clouds have cleared and replaced with blue skies just as the captain has said. The bus is busy but we get two seats upstairs. The journey into Athens is a blustery affair as the bus hurtles down one of the main highways, the driver seemingly unaware that his vehicle is open topped. Refreshed we arrive at the Parthenon mid morning.

Having visited the ancient site on a previous visit we hop another another bus that takes s toward the Plaka district. We alight near the Temple of Zeus where we take some snaps before heading into the Plaka proper. Athens has some significant historical and architectural gems but those aside it's not the prettiest of cities. The Plaka is a quaint area in the midst of the sprawling metropolis. There are streets filled with shops and tavernas and you forget you are in the midst of the capital. After some shopping and coffee we decide to lunch. Byzantine is the taverna of choice (another tripadvisor recommendation). This time we opt for lamb and chicken kebabs instead of Greek salad but when the waiter asks if we want that too we say yes.

After lunch we walk back to the bus stop skirting around the Acropolis perched high above us. There are lots of artists selling their creations as well as the obligatory selfie stick sellers. The area around the bus pick up point is crowded with tourists. We find a shaded spot beneath some olive trees and wait patiently. Once boarded we whizz through the Athenian streets towards the port.

Back onboard we can't resist have a look at the future cruise options as you can often get some good deals. None are to be had for the period were are looking at...2019 and so will look again when we are on Eclipse later in the year. We do get an offer of 10% of excursions for that trip and there are a couple in Boston that take our fancy as well as Bermuda.

At 5.30 we are invited to join a select few fellow guests for sail away on the helipad at the very front of the ship. This area is normally out of bounds for guests so it's a nice opportunity to view the ship from a different perspective and meet some off the officers and staff. We are greeted with champagne. Some dark clouds have rolled in and we can feel a few specks of rain and fear the worst but it moves off quickly and the sunshine returns. Reflection sounds her horns and she manoeuvres out of the very busy port of Piraeus and initially heads south before she will follow the coastline around the Peloponnese.

Early evening cocktails in the Martini Bar we then move up to the Sunset Bar where we witness a lovely sunset. Dinner is in Opus again and it's much nicer than the previous evening. We are sat close to another couple who don't seem to speak English and don't engage with us at all until the end of the meal when they ask if we would take a photo of them. We learn they are Peruvian and on honeymoon and actually speak quite good English.

We attempt to attend a Motown Party at the pool on deck 14. Some people are bravely trying to dance but it's far too windy to enjoy so we head into the Sky Bar where they are playing soul/Motown tunes. It's well attended and people are dancing and enjoying themselves. We are content to sit and watch. We finish the evening with a couple on Baileys down in the Passport Bar. Tell a lie we finish in the Oceanview cafe with some pizza justifying this by saying we won't be able to do it when back home.

Temple of Zues

Temple of Zues


Artist near Acropolis

Artist near Acropolis


Acropolis

Acropolis

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Santorini

We awake and Reflection is already anchored in the Caldera at Santorini. We have been here many times before but the sight of the high sided cliffs with the white buildings of Fira and Oia in the distance still look spectacular. The brand new Majestic Princess is moored alongside us as well as Costa Classica who we last saw in Mykonos a few days ago.

We decide to breakfast in the main dining room. One of the few grumbles I have about this ship is that the tables for two are so close together as to be almost touching. Fine if the couple on either side are friendly but even then I am not at my best first thing in the morning. It takes a few coffees to turn me from Hyde to Jekyll. We both order Eggs Benedict which take a while to come but is worth the wait in my opinion.

Our plan today is to go ashore late morning to avoid the early morning rush and come back fairly early to avoid the same. Peter has hired one of the Lawn Clubs Alcoves for the day and so we head up to the top deck to relax for the rest of the morning. The Alcoves are private little cabanas with two lounge chairs, a chaise lounge and table. There is a retractable canopy that staff will open if shade is needed. We spend the morning reading in the alcove and at around 11.30am we head ashore.

There is a tender boat waiting when we go down to deck 2 and we are soon heading toward the old port at the base of the cliffs below Fira. Our theory about avoiding the crowds is dashed as there is a 20 min wait for the cable car. The other option is to take a mule up or walk. We wait for the cable car. Soon we are ascending rapidly towards Fira where we alight into a sea of tourists. We head down some small narrow streets to find a bar that overlooks he Caldera. We look at the menu and are astonished at the prices. €10 for a small beer. We order anyway and are even more shocked when we are charged €28 for two. We voice our disapproval but the young lad that serves us tell us not to get annoyed with him as he is just serving. We leave in a huff.

We decide to lunch up here and before leaving the UK I had researched a few tavernas and one called Theoni's was well recommended on tripadvisor. It was a little off the beaten track but it turned out to be well deserving of its reputation. Good service, good food and very reasonably priced. We enjoyed one of the best Greek Salads of the trip. We even enjoyed a nice local wine.

We then decided to head back to the cable car to head back down. Before we had got anyway near the entrance to the cable cars we saw a long line of people snaking down the narrow streets that we judged would take 90mins to reach the entrance where you board. We did have plenty of time but we just didn't want to wait in line for that long. So we decided to walk down. That was an adventure. A broad stepped pathway winds down the cliff face in a series of steep sharp switchbacks. I am sure mountain goats would find the terrain arduous and I was doing it in flip-flops. We were met on the way by numerous teams of mules carrying tourists up. The mules didn't really seem to notice or care for us and so we had to dive out of their way on many occasion all the while avoiding their natural deposits that added not only another treacherous obstacle but also a pungent odour. Am happy to say we made it down in about 20mins without any missteps. Jelly legs at the end though.

Once back onboard we showered and headed back to our Alcove where we spend the east of the afternoon. We ordered a fruit plate and some chicken skewers using our own personal phone in the cabana. Soft drinks and beers were also delivered with a smile. Reflection raised anchor just after 6pm and we made a slow exit out of the Caldera and sailed westward before turning north westerly towards Athens.

We were back in the main dining room a Opus again tonight. The table next to us was occupied by a friendly couple from New Jersey and we swapped tales of our day in a Santorini. Our menu choices tonight were not the best. The Mesclun Greens we both ordered was a bit meh. My Beef Bourginoun was really tasty though. Desserts were ok. We managed a couple of drinks afterwards but both wanted an early night and so we retired to the cabin.

Our alcove

Our alcove


Reflection

Reflection


The donkey walk

The donkey walk

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Rhodes Town

Today we are in Rhodes. Rhodes Town to be specific. This is my second time here having visited in 2015 on Celebrity Constellation. I recall that time being extremely hot and the pair of us getting a little lost and ending up walking almost an entire circuit of the old town through the dry moat that surrounds it. We also recall an encounter with a group of Nigerian Women selling wristbands who were a little zealous in the selling of said wristbands. From memory they would offer to shake your hand and then with some sleight of hand tie a band onto your wrist and then demand payment. We were prepared.

We sally forth from Reflection heading towards St Mary's Gate which is the first point of entry into the old walled city. We recall a small cafe from our last visit that is just a short walk from the gate where we order coffee and make use of the wifi. Wifi on the ship has been haphazard at best so it's nice to use something more stable. From the cafe we stroll through the small narrow streets and whilst not as picture postcard perfect as Mykonos it does feel more Greek to me. Mykonos had an air of superficiality to me, almost too perfect and theme park like.

There is a myriad of shops to look at. Lots of lace, fur and ceramics are on offer along with the more traditional souvenir shops. Rhodes Town seems overrun with cats. They are on almost every corner basking in the morning sunshine. We find ourselves near he impressive Palace of the Grandmasters where the Knights Hospitallers, the strongest military order in the whole of Christendom, held their seat of power in the Eastern Mediterranean during the 15th century. We then walk down the Ippoton which is a wonderfully preserved street of medieval architecture.

The temperature is slowly rising and so we find another cafe for cold drinks before heading out of the city to the waterfront. Sure enough we spy the Nigerian Ladies and give them a very wide berth. We walk along the pretty harbour front to the spot where the Collosus of Rhodes was said to have stood. Two deer now mark the spot where it's feet stood. We head into a nearby church and Peter lights a candle in memory of the Manchester bomb victims.

Another stop for coffee/wifi before heading back up into the walled city. We head towards the centre where we decide to lunch in one of the rooftop tavernas. We have an excellent view of the pretty little square below which is now very busy with tourists. Apart from Reflection there are two other cruise ships in port albeit a lot smaller than us. We enjoy beer and Greek salads before heading down and buy some olive oil soaps which is a speciality here.

It's now mid afternoon so we head back to the cool air conditioned Reflection. We use the excuse that we only had a light lunch to grab some sandwiches from the Oceanview. Just before we are due to leave we head up to the top deck for sail away. We have to wait for one of the other cruise ships and a ferry to leave ahead of us before reversing out and spinning 180 degrees and then heading westwards.

Dinner tonight is in Qsine. I was a little apprehensive about this place. All I knew about it was the food was a fusion from different countries and you used an iPad to order from. To me it sounded a little gimmicky and was sure would need to visit the buffet afterwards as would still be hungry. I was wrong. The venue, concept and food was amazing. Was a little tricky to understand at first but basically there was a choice of 20 dishes to choose from. We didn't have clue how many to order or in which order. However, our waiter was very helpful. He said to pick about five and he would ensure they were delivered to the table in the best order depending on our choices.

We ordered Disco Shrimp, Mmm Favourites, Royal Taco, Taj Mahal, Turkish Kebobs and Meatball Madness. Disco shrimp arrived first. It was served in a glass bowl that had flashing lights at the bottom. Was delicious. Next to arrive was the Mmm Favourites. A small petite waitress appeared at our table exclaiming she had found our lost luggage. She then hauled onto our table a large wooden structure with a handle at the top. 12 compartments housed a myriad of delicious treats. Hummus, Tzatziki, shrimp, chicken skewers, chilli, olives, lamb chops. Every single one was delicious. At this point we began to realise we may have ordered too much as the Royal Tacos appeared next. Our waiter hand made the guacamole to our specification at the table. The beef tacos themselves were wonderful. Taj Mahal was next. A tower of small individual curries. Rogan Josh, Tikka Masala, Chickpea Dahl, Shrimp curry. Only very small portions, enough for a spoonful each but oh so nice. Before we had finished the Turkish Kebobs arrived and these were the best. The chicken was so tender and flavourful all presented on a bed of saffron rice. Sadly at this point we were feeling stuffed and couldn't eat it all and we had to tell them to hold the meatballs as well. Dessert too was declined as buttons were a popping. The waiter did insist on us having one of their fruit lollipops which was a strawberry dipped in sprinkles with a small creme anglais pot at the side.

After all that our plans for the rest of the evening went out of the window as we were so full. We ordered a couple of brandies at the bar before heading back to our cabin where we turned the lights off at 11.15. An early night for us.

Welcome

Welcome


Fortress city

Fortress city


Mmm Favourites

Mmm Favourites


Sunset Martini

Sunset Martini

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Mykonos

We awake to the terrible news of events in Manchester last night. Always shocking but even more so when so close to home. So it lends a sad tinge to the day that we can be enjoying our holiday when others are coming to terms with the loss of a loved one or friend.

We dock in a small but very pretty port a short distance from Mykonos Town. We are a little surprised as we thought we would tender today. There are three other cruise ships who are anchored offshore. MSC Poesia, Costa Classica and Pullmantur Horizon. So I guess Mykonos Town is going to be very busy.

The hills surrounding us are dotted with the famous sugar cube houses that look so cute in their white and blue colour scheme. We are here from 7am to 6pm today so plenty of time. We breakfast in the main dining room for the first time. I order eggs benedict which is excellent. Peter orders his usual of eggs over medium (they come well done) bacon, sausage and mushrooms.

We grab our things and head ashore. There are free shuttle buses to take guests the short distance to town. You can walk it too which they say takes about 30mins. We spot a sea taxi that only costs 2 euro and so we take that option. We are soon making our way across the small bay into town. Yes it's is very busy. We begin exploring the small narrow streets that are filled with all sorts of shops. They are extremely picturesque and pretty. We emerge near the iconic windmills that overlook the town. Back though the streets we stop for coffee and wifi and then more exploring.

We stop at a taverna for lunch. We order Greek salads, beers and bread. It's seems Greek salads come in different variations depending on where you are in Greece. This one is quite traditional which is how we like them with a nice slab of a feta cheese on top, none of this fancy crumbled variety. It's very good, especially when drizzled with olive oil and vinegar.

We take the free shuttle back to the ship and sit out on the outside promenade watching the many ferries and jet cats arrive and depart taking people out to the other islands and the mainland. Some mid afternoon coffee and cookies will see us through to dinner tonight. Just before we leave Mykonos the captain gives his daily message which details the route we will follow, speed, weather, sunset and sunrise times. He also offers his condolences to the victims of the Manchester bombing which I think was a really nice touch.

Reflection slowly leaves Mykonos before turning northward to circle around the top of the island before heading in a south easterly direction toward Rhodes. As it's still fairly early I sit on the balcony and watch Mykonos Town recede into the distance until it's little more than a white smear on the horizon. The north side of the island is rocky and bare with not a single dwelling to be seen, a true Grecian landscape.

After showering and dressing we head to the Martini Bar which is surprisingly quiet so we easily get chairs. I order a Sapphire French and Peter the Sapphire London Club. Both really nice. Just before 8pm we head to the Sunset Bar just as the sun is setting over Mykonos which is now far behind us. Lots of our fellow cruisers have joined us all looking for that perfect sunset selfie.

Dinner is in Opus again tonight. We are sandwiched between two groups of Aussies who are all friendly and appreciative of some of the tips we give them about Rhodes & Santorini (avoid the Nigerian Ladies selling wristbands in Rhodes and don't dawdle when you get off the tender in Santorini). Food is good. We both have a delicious crab cake to start. Peter then has a Caesar salad and I opt for the Shrimp Cocktail. Peters main is Chicken Saltimbocca and I have beef tenderloin. Portion sizes are good which you don't often get in a main dining room.

After dinner it's the return of the silent disco but this time in the solarium. We arrive early to find a mermaid in the pool with large floating coloured balls. I think she is trying to lure the unwary to a watery doom. She is not succeeding. The place soon fills. The music selection this time is not as good but Peter gets rather enthusiastic and is pogoing like a punk rocker at one stage (he regrets this the following morning). The headphones which are mainly switched to the blue channel all start flicking to red as people change channel and start gesticulating wildly, making letters in the air. It can only be YMCA. After about an hour we have had enough and retire to the Sunset Bar again which is playing some nice chilled music for us to wind down to. We head to bed ready for our day in Rhodes tomorrow.

Peter and the windmills

Peter and the windmills


Me and the ships

Me and the ships


Pretty streets

Pretty streets


Windmills

Windmills


Silent Disco

Silent Disco


Mykonos Sunset

Mykonos Sunset

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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