LOVELY CRUISE ON A LOVELY SHIP
Europe - Western Mediterranean
We cruised on May 2nd, 2012, Mediterranean Tapestry, arriving a day early and stayed at Ledra Marriott for the night. It was a pleasant day altogether to relax, enjoy Athens a bit before embarking on our wonderful journey the next day. Staff at the airport and hotel were very efficient, competent and friendly. We had transfer service to the ship, however, were given the option of having our luggage transferred, with us checking in at a later time, thus giving us more time to wander around Athens. This was a splendid service that was greatly appreciated. We utilized the Hop-on Hop-off bus to visit the various sites in Athens, before hopping off at the cruise terminal. Check in was superb, since we arrived at 3:30 p.m., with no line up. This was the beginning of a host of "no line ups" on this cruise. It took us maybe 10 minutes and we're on our way to our cabin.
Marina is very beautiful, elegant and sparkling clean. Our cabin, situated mid ship, was very quiet and stable, we More
did not feel any swaying at all. The bathroom is very spacious, using granite flooring instead of plastic bathroom flooring which made for a very elegant feel. The bed and pillows were very comfortable, and linens luxurious. Balcony spacious, more than enough room to move around even with two big armchairs and a table. The only negative comment I have with our cabin was the alarm clock, which needed to be replaced three times before we got one that worked. Another observation, laminated trimming from the desk kept falling off, not once, but three times. I inserted the piece of wood back on the first time, then put it in plain view so the cabin attendant can glue it back on the second time, and when it came off again, I gave up. Strange to have fixtures falling apart for such a brand new ship.
Public areas were nicely decorated, subtle and elegant. Public areas, including the restaurants gave me the impression that we were sailing half capacity, but when I enquired further, we were only short 100 to full capacity. Never did we have to wait for a table, either dinner, lunch nor breakfast. Tables were plentiful, there were never any line ups, be it for food, or disembarkation. Seating for the shows were also plentiful.
Food was a little bit disappointing, compared to Insignia. For some reason, some of the food items were sometimes bland, or arrived luke warm. However, it was not so bad that we need to send it back. We enjoyed the meals at Terrace Cafe because it provided us with a wider selection of entrees, desserts etc. Service in all restaurants were impeccable. However, I do agree with another member's review in that the restaurant reservation staff member could have been a little more welcoming in her interaction with guests. Recognized a few faces from Insignia, which was very nice.Entertainment was superb - we only made it to the ship's own production, and all the lead singers on this cruise were very strong singers, can hold their own, and did a very good job in their rendition of the songs. Wish we could have seen the other shows, however, our time in port was so hectic, we're just plain tired.
Ports of call were fabulous, and the process of disembarkation very smooth. Even on ports that needed tender was done so well, there never was any wait time. Well done.
Amalfi/Positano port was very beautiful. Enjoyed looking at the ripening lemons, so huge it was unbelievable!! Our first stop was a visit to Ravello, super beautiful village with lots of ceramic shops. A very nice walk along the mountainside (again, not for the mobility impaired). Then, a quick drive to Pompeii for a one hour visit (not enough). For lunch, we stopped at Positano and the the view from our restaurant, Da Constantino, was so breathtaking, I thought I was looking at a calendar!! Food was very good as well.
Ephesus, Turkey - a very worthwhile port of call. Enjoyed the tour with Ephesus Shuttle, visiting Private Ephesus - a must see, Artemission Temple, The house of the Virgin Mary, St. John's Basilica and Sirince Village, with lunch included.
All in all, it was a very pleasant cruise. Can't wait to return. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Very impressed with the buildings, architecture, and cleanliness of the streets. Graffitti are a problem, but did not take away the beauty of the city.
Impeccable service, very knowledgeable driver who gave a narration of the city and its surroundings, gave us tips for future visits, where to get tickets, when to visit, etc. etc.
Montserrat Walking Tour
We booked a semi-private tour with Barcelona Day Tours, and ended up having a private tour!! We were met at the cruise terminal since this was the disembarkation port. The morning was spent at Monserrat, a monastery perched on top of a very interesting looking mountain. We got there early enough to have avoided the crowds, and thus didn't need to line up to see the church and explore its interior, with stunning architecture and sculptures. A cable car ride further up provided us with some hiking trails, which if you intend to do, better be prepared with a hat and water. The hike up to the hermitage was worth the effort, and is an interesting site to visit. After a brief lunch, we headed back to town, and circled the main sites, including a stop at Las Ramblas and its famous market, La Bogueria, before being dropped off at our hotel. Service was impeccable. On the second day, we did the Hop-on Hop-off bus and toured the area further, enjoying the beautiful building architecture, monuments and plazas. A wonderful city to visit. Did not feel threatened at all.
We had two days in Livorno, Florence, and spent the first day visiting San Gigminano, Montegrionni and Volterra with Papillon Service Italy. The second day, we briefly visited the leaning tower of Pisa, Chianti region, before heading off to a lunch prepared by the instructor of a cooking school, plus a visit to a local cheese maker with Taste Tuscany Tour.
Our first stop at Montegrionni was a brief one, because this walled city is so small, it can be covered in about 10 minutes. There are two portions of the walls that one can climb, at each end of the village. Again, this can be done in five minutes or so. The view from the top of the walls is very beautiful and is worth the 2 Euros. Afterwards, we headed to San Gigminano, where the scenery is so beautiful, everywhere you turn is post card quality scenery. This walled city is much bigger, with restaurants, torture museums - very distrubing, shops and a big church which we did not visit, plus the world champion gelato maker. Needless to say, this one shop has the most business, but there are other gelato shops nearby. Part of the village is on a slope, therefore, not suitable for those with walking difficulty. The first portion of the walk is doable, up to a certain point, then it is uphill on cobblestones. There are restaurants/eateries where the slope starts, so if the going gets difficult, one can always opt to have lunch there, and use that as a meeting point for those who are going up to explore more of the city. It is quite a big area, and one can spend 2 hours easily just wandering around. After the 2 hour stop here, we headed to Volterra, another walled medieval village, equally breathtaking scenery, with shops, ruins and gardens.
On the second day, our visit to Pisa early in the morning proved to be a very good choice, since we managed to avoid the masses of tour buses, and were able to take a few good pictures of the surrounding architecture. Chianti is also very scenic and charming. This was mostly a stop for stretching our legs, before we head to the cooking school for lunch. It was a very pleasurable trip, all in all.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Gorgeous architecture, have to see it in person to get the feel of its incredible beauty.
Breathtaking scenery through and through. Must visit.
Traffic so bad, we were only able to do 2 of the 3 tour points - namely the city tour covering Basilica of Notre Dame/Fish market, plus Cassis. On the way to Cassis, we stopped briefly at the Calanques for a visit - nothing exciting. Cassis was beautiful, but we spent the entire time waiting for our food in a restaurant recommended by our driver, thus didn't have time to explore a little bit more. Didn't make it to Aix-en-Provence due to time limitation.
We booked a 10 person van for a 5 - 6 hour tour with Private Santorini Tours & Transfer, for a tour of the whole island, and were met at the top of the cable car at the designated time. We had a driver and a guide, Julia, who gave the group an introduction of the island, its people, its life. The van that was provided was actually a 16 person van, making it very comfortable for the ten of us. A brief intro later, we headed to the usual tourist spots for photo shoots, then wound our way around the island, making a longer stop at Oia Village, which was very very charming. Wish we could have stayed longer, but we need to cover other areas, so we continue on our journey. Along the way, we passed by small villages, vineyards, and then had lunch at a restaurant by Red Beach. It was a very relaxing, simple lunch, with a gorgeous view of the beach and beyond. After lunch, we visited Akrotiri, an ancient city buried underneath lava many many years ago. It is a much much smaller scale than the other similar ruins in Europe, but equally interesting. After this, we ventured back to Fira, for some wine tasting. Although we did not participate in the wine tasting, the view from the veranda looking out into the ocean was so breathtaking, I could sit here a whole day and not get bored with the scenery.
Oia Village is a very quaint, chic village with lots of alleys and unbelievable views and photo opportunity. Truly a photographer's heaven. Plenty of shops and nice tavernas, and one could spend all day and still not cover the whole area. Scenery is breathtaking, walks are uneven, so it can be challenging to those with impaired mobility. Would love to stay a few days here just to explore the area more and take in the glorious sunset.
We booked a van for 8 with Sicily Life Coop and were met at the pier by our driver, Luka. First we headed to Savoca, a very quaint village where Godfather was filmed. It was a very beautiful serene area, and at the time of our visit, we were the only group there, so it was very pleasant. We visited a church, walked uphill to explore the village and more churches, then finally returning to our starting point, a bar called "Viteli" where a scene from Godfather was filmed and is famous for its lemon granita. After a leisurely walk around another village, we visited the Church of St. Lucy, where the wedding scene was filmed. Afterwards, we headed to Castelmola for lunch. Again, this is a very beautiful area, with lots of restaurants and shops, plus a castle in ruins on the top of the mountain. From there, you get a bird's eyeview of the surrounding area. Lots of steps, slopes, cobblestone walkways, not very suitable for the mobility impaired. We had lunch, at the driver's suggestion, at a very interesting bar, called Cafe Bar Turisti. Not for the faint of heart, nor shy, as there are on display erotic paintings, male genital organs etc. etc. According to our driver, the bar, which is still in use, is 200 years old. Food was good, selection adequate, price okay. An experience not to be missed, I think. The last stop was the town of Taormina, a medieval walled village. Again, shops abound. It is a nice area to explore, with a Greek Theatre, which we didn't have enough time to visit, plus a view Baroque churches and palazzi.