We left from San Francisco a couple of days early so we could explore Athens. We booked our own air & hotel arrangements. We flew Delta from San Francisco to JFK, and then onward to Athens. My husband had read many favorable reviews about "George the Famous Taxi Driver in Greece" so we booked our transportation from the Athens airport to our hotel with him. After we collected our bags we went out the baggage doors to find a man holding a sign with our names on it. Turns out it was one of George's friend's,as George had a conflict. We were escorted in style in a yellow Mercedes cab. I was amazed to see how many Mercedes cars & SUV's as well as a ton of Mercedes cabs. It seems to be one of the most common brand of vehicle in Athens.
My husband had booked us into the beautiful Magna Grecia Boutique Hotel with 12 guest rooms, which includes a full breakfast of cereal, eggs, rolls, juice, olives, coffee, tea, etc on the rooftop patio. The hotel was in the heart of the Plaka area which is the touristy part of the city. We loved our room. We had a great view of the Acropolis from our hotel window/balcony. The hotel is 110 years old and had been upgraded for the Olympics in 2004. We stayed in Room 104. It had a lovely comfortable bed, and huge bathroom. The location was excellent. We walked all around the Plaka, then one morning we saw a travel office that specialized in day trips, so we took a city tour which was quite interesting! I would highly recommend doing this as you can only see so much on foot. www.magnagreciahotel.com
Two days later the hotel owner summoned a cab to take us to Piraeus where we would board the Jewel. The driver like most folks in Athens spoke broken English. It took about 40 minutes to get to the pier from our hotel. Our driver charged us $10 Euro's total for the trip. We spoke to others who were staying very close to the port, yet they paid $27 Euro's for 2 people. My suggestion would be to negotiate with the driver before getting into his vehicle.
We easily boarded the Jewel and found our Inside stateroom 4543 which is in a very good location down a small hallway off of the main drag. The room was very quiet, with a good blowdryer, and nice shower door.
Things to know:
1. Coke Card for 12 day cruise was $69 each. 2. There are self service laundry rooms, but they are not shown on ship map. The closest one to us was opposite stateroom 5072. There are 3 more on deck 9, 10 & 11, which are in the same location on each floor. The laundry room door has a very small plague at the top that says something like "launderette" it is very easy to miss the plague. The ship offers a "deal@ $25 per paper bag of dirty clothes." Washers and Dryers are FREE, but you do need 4 quarters to buy the small box of Tide in the machine. The box can do 2-3 loads of washing. There are only 3 washers & 2-3 Dryers per launderette. 3. There are 4 fee paying restaurants, Chin Chin, Teppanyaki, LeBistro, and Cagneys. If you make dinner reservations for either 5:30 or 6:00 at any of these restaurants you will pay half price or 2-for-1. 4. You will pay $9 for a Cocktail like a Margarita or Daiquiri unless you tell them you don't want a souvenir glass. Then I think the charge is $7 or $8. 5. For those on tour through the ship's excursion office do NOT need to get a Turkish Visa before embarkation. The ship takes your passports and adds and stamps the sticker, then the daily magazine will tell you when you can pick it up. 6. Play the FREE SLOT MACHINE in the Casino. The first night, we ran into a very Happy Lady in the hall stating she had just won a Free Cruise 7 day cruise for 2 on the free spin. Another night we were sitting in the theater when the man behind us said he won a free 7 day cruise as well (worth $1700) by playing Crackits, which is something new for the cruises. Basically you buy a packet of peel off cards, sort of like playing the lottery, except this has a guaranteed win of free drinks, money, etc. They sell the packets in the lounges before Bingo, before the shows etc.
We have been on many cruises, but we enjoyed this itinerary the best of all. The weather was great between the high 70-s - 84. In Istanbul it was cooler at 69 degrees. We only had one day of rain. We booked all of our tours through the ship as we had never been to any of the cities before.
Katakolon Greece - Archaeological Treasures Tour - we got rained out here. Like our guide mentioned it doesn't do anything but rain HARD here! We were soaked to the bone. The Olympia site is very old world of course. The museum is modern & informative.
Corfu Greece - We did the Timeless Villages Tour. I would highly recommend it!This is one of the most beautiful places I have seen! Gorgeous! We saw all the country side, and pretty little fishing villages. In the fishing village of Kassiopi we had an excellent Greek lunch in a stunning venue. There was plenty of delicious bread, wine, and bottled water. We had Greek Salad which had some of the freshest vegetables I have ever tasted, along with French Fries, and their speciality meat dish, which was excellent pork with a tasty gravy. For dessert there was ice cream. I would love to go back to Corfu again.
Alexandria & Cairo Egypt - We docked for 2 days in Alexandria. My husband was excited about seeing the Pyramids & Sphinx. For the Cairo portion we took the Pyramids & Nile in Style Excursion. It was a LONG 3 hour drive from Alexandria to Cairo. We visited the Great Pryamids, and the Citadel of Saladin Mosque. We then boarded a nice boat for a buffet lunch, and cruised the Nile. The cruise was fine, but the Nile is a muddy mess. Basically the boat went back and forth a couple of times. The last stop was at the Papyrus Institute. The following day we did the Alexandria Highlights Tour - It was okay, Alexandria is much cleaner than Cairo.
Iraklion Greece - This is the island of Crete. Where the ship docks is industrial area. We took the Pottery & Vineyards Tour which took us out to the country side with rolling hills, vineyards, olive, and lemon trees. This island is nice once you get into the rural areas.
Santorini Island Greece - A little slice of heaven! It is everything and more than all the postcards & photographs you have seen. We took the Donkeys, Scenery & Wine Tour. The ship docks & you use the local tenders to the bottom of the crater. We mounted our donkey's and rode for 1/2 hour or so up the steep hills, and switchbacks. This is the way too go if you are adventurous, or just want to see all the close-up beauty surrounding you! Everyone should see Santorini at least once in their lives! It is truly out of this world. If you love jewelry, and shopping this is the place!
Mykonos Greece - The playground of the rich. We took the Scenic Views of Mykonos Tour. I would NOT recommend this tour. We were disappointed in the island after being in Santorini. Many of our fellow cruisemates went to the beaches on their own and really enjoyed it. The sand is gravel, and pebble, so it can be rough on the feet. The water is clear.
Izmir Turkey - Magnificent Ephesus Tour - Turkey, what a spectacular country. It is clean, and scenic. We really enjoyed our tour here. The ship's photog's are not allowed to photograph here. However the park has their own crew, and boy are they proficient. Each person on tour is given a sticker to put on their clothes before entering the park. There are freelance photographers taking pictures. When we got back to our bus, they had candid pictures of us mounted on a board next to the bus. I didn't even realize they had taken a few of my pix until I saw them. We ended up buying 3 pictures of ourselves. They were a bargain at $4 USD each. I later found out that one of our fellow cruisers haggled down the price to $3 USD each.
Istanbul Turkey - Bosphorus Cruise Tour - Take this tour!!! Billed as one of he most beautiful sights in the world this cruise takes you past old seaside mansions, mosques, palaces, little river cafe's. It was excellent. Istanbul is absolutely fabulous! Clean, again the scenery is jaw dropping. Because we were there on a Sunday, the Spice Market and World Famous Bazaar were closed. This was a huge disappointment for us. We would like to spend a few days here in the future.
Regarding the Jewel- The ship is nice. The crew is great, very friendly. We had a lot of fun in the Casino where they have mutli-denominational machines, meaning the machines can convert from one penny, to a nickel, quarters, up to dollars. The entertainment was wonderful.
Food: We found the selections offered in the dining room did not sound that appealing to us most nights. The soups were mostly cream based, like Cream of Celery, Cream of Asparagus, Cream of Mushroom. We had good Prawns Fajita's in Tapas, which is the freebie Tex-Mex Eatery. We also enjoyed Mama's Italian a couple of nights, which is another complimentary restaurant. As for the fee paying venues, my husband enjoyed Cagney's Steak House, and we both liked Teppanyaki & Chin Chin. The buffet is pretty good. I am a big connoisseur of Caesar Salads, and they had the best of any of all the cruise lines I have been on.