Now for what you really want to know. We left Orlando and flew to Dulles, Washington DC. From there to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, and then on to Rome. Stayed at a hotel in Rome for a night and then to the ship the next day. No two ways about it, it is a long, long trip, especially economy class. However, Lufthansa is a classy airline. The seats are skimpy but they treat you very, very well. We watched our crew load and there were 4 to 6 people for each section. Food was good, and free drinks even better. Jet lag is a problem and the extra day helped. We were not ready to start having a vacation until we had than extra day. Rome is about 90 min. to the port. Boarding went very smoothly. These people know how to move crowds (must have learned from Disney). Your wait on line is minimal and then it is on to the ramp, naturally a picture taking moment, and then to your cabin. Next thing you know, your steward is there introducing him/herself and then you explore. The Lido deck is open and lunch is being served There is no entertainment the first night, nor is there any criteria regarding dress in the restaurant. Everyone is tired, luggage may be late, and so rules are lax. The ship is hard to get around until you understand. The Posh restaurant is on deck 3 and the lounge is also on deck 3. However, to get from the restaurant to the lounge you have to go up to deck 5, proceed through the casino, and the shops and then take the stairs or elevator down to deck 3. If you think about it, well it is a business.
We set sail on time from Civitavecchia and traveled to Naples. Our tour was the Amalfi Coast by boat & Sorrento. We asked for a wake up call and room service because the tour was for 7:15 gathering and 7:45 depart. We stumbled around and got in line, they gave us a sticker ( blue 1) and we sat down in the lounge. They called our number, we walked down the stairs to deck 0, checked out, Had our photo op, got on the bus and started off. We were still very tired and suffering from jet lag, but it didn't take long to get into the spirit of things. Great tour, great guide. Lunch was at a local restaurant and was excellent. We didn't get back to the ship until after 5:00, and we were tired but it was worth it. Beautiful, beautiful country. Next day we were at sea, so rest was the order of the day.
This was our first formal night. Dress was a bit fancy, but if you weren't into the spirit, nobody cared. There were tuxes and cocktail dresses, but also just dressy casual. Do what you want, they aren't going to ask you to leave.
Next stop Rhodes, Greece. We took the Shore excursion Filerimos, Monte Smith & Rhodes Town. Our guide was a very knowledgeable woman. We went to an old monastery and then to the Palace of the Grand Master. The highlight of this tour is the mosaic tile floors. Very beautiful, very old. If you go on this tour, be prepared to climb steps, many steps without a handrail. After the tour there is time to shop, but usually only about ½ hour. By the time we got to the shopping end we were pretty tired from the walking, so we sat at a local restaurant and had a beer. The proprietor was very nice and we talked about his country. One of the things we learned is that Rhodes hasn't had any appreciable rain in some time. The future is uncertain because it is predicted that there will be severe drought and Rhodes will probably be a dessert. Water is a serious problem in this country.
Then it was on to Izmir, Turkey. Here we visited the House of the Virgin Mary and Ancient Ephesus. The house of the Virgin Mary is at the top of a very large, steep mountain that the bus climbed up, and up. Looking down from the mountain the view is very steep and you can't help but wonder how or why she ever ended up there. The house is unpretentious but it definitely has a religious feeling to it. It is a special place. Ephesus was also special, but certainly in a different way. It was a large city and it is easy to imagine what life was like because of the restoration of the buildings. This is another place where there was a great deal of walking on uneven surfaces. Walking on marble is tricky, especially if it rains. A lot of people from the ship went to Ephesus, it was very crowded. The parking lot was full of buses and it was hard to find ours. You have to keep looking for the right color and the right number.
Next stop Istanbul. We went to the Blue Mosque and the Palace of the Sultans. The Blue Mosque is still used as a house of worship, and is a remarkable building. There were many people visiting it that day, and we all had to take of our shoes and put them in a plastic bag and carry them around. It was very crowded, so it was hard to appreciate the beauty of the building as the guide couldn't speak loudly enough for us to hear. Later when we visited the carpet shop we could hear the call to prayer throughout the city. The carpets were beautiful, especially the silk ones. Very, very expensive. However, they will ship to your home. The Palace of the Sultans is a lovely place. This is the first place we were attacked by the vendors. They were selling guide books and waving them at us and shouting, "English, one dollar, one dollar". There were so many of them that it is hard to imagine if anyone ever sells anything. The view over the harbor is spectacular and the diamonds and other jewels are overwhelming. It is hard to realize that people can live in such extreme wealth. As far as we were concerned, the Grand Bazaar was a grand bust. We had a limited amount of time to shop and it was very confusing with streets running in every direction. Maybe if there had been more time we would have felt different, but we came away with a sense that there was nothing special about it all. If you are into leather you might find something that interests you, but we didn't see anything we wanted to buy and frankly were too tired to care. Thank goodness the next day was another day of rest while we sailed.
Then it was on to Athens. We decided against climbing the Acropolis and opted for the tour Scenic Athens & Plaka. Our guide took us to Philopappos Hill which is directly across from the Acropolis. We got off the bus and walked a little ways up the street, and then she said we were going to go up the path to see the Acropolis. Be prepared, the path turns into a mountain, a steep mountain. However, if you make it to the top the view is spectacular. The Acropolis is worth seeing. Then we went down into town (more walking) and had about 30 minutes to shop in Plaka. She took us to another hill and we opted to sit on a bench and talk to a fellow shipmate. After resting for a bit, we went into the shopping area and looked around. Again, wasn't in a buying mood so we looked for a restaurant and had a cool drink. I was surprised to see a policeman standing guard and carrying a weapon. He wasn't guarding what I would consider anything special, just in front of a souvenir shop, but it was a very busy district and full of people.
Next day we stopped at Katakolon, Greece. It is a very short walk to the village from the ship - about 10 minutes, but we opted to go on the tour to Olympia and have a traditional folklore show. Olympia is another site where there are ruins and by this time we had seen enough ruins for a life time. So when we got to the lunch and music we were ready for a good time. The food was superb and the entertainment fun. We even got to taste local wine and ouzo. There was much laughter and gaiety and we had a good time.
Next day was a day at sea again and our second formal night. It wasn't so formal this time and most people just didn't bother to dress up. It was sort of if you want to, fine. If you don't want to, that's fine too. Of course, by this time we were thinking about laundry so many, many people used the day at sea to catch up. There are washers and dryers located on each floor. $2.00 for the washer, $2.00 for the dryer and $1.50 for the soap. They did have a laundry special. This was all the underwear and socks you can cram into the laundry bag for $15.00. I chose to do this one day because I figured it was easier and really only cost me $10.00 more. However, at the end of the cruise this special was over and if you chose to send your laundry out, you will pay dearly. So, I stood in line with the rest of my shipmates. By the way, there is an iron and ironing board in the laundry room also.
After the day at sea we docked in Livorno, Italy. From here you can go to Piza, Florence or Tuscany. We chose Beautiful Tuscany. We visited two lovely towns, San Gimignano and Volterra. Lovely, lovely towns and beautiful scenery. Next day we were back in Civitavecchia. It was hard to realize that the cruise was almost over, but when we reflected on how much we had seen and how tired we were, it definitely seemed possible. We decided to take a tour that had minimal exertion, Easy Rome. We wanted to see St. Peters and the Basilica. Well, no one told us the Pope was having an audience on the square and 50,000 of our closest friends had the same idea that we did. Needless to say, we didn't get too close. We did see the Pope on the big tv screen, but unfortunately the basilica was closed. Maybe some other time.
Next day was debarking day. We had our tags for the luggage and waited in our room until our number was called. The ship is getting ready for the next cruise and needs to get you off early. We were off the ship by 8:30 as we did not have a flight that we needed to catch. Our agent had booked us for another day in a hotel, so we were some of the last people off. If you book though Carnival the buses were there and off you went to your airport. However, our bus was a little late and we hung around until about 10:30 or ll:00. Next day the bus was late again, and we did make it to the airport on time, but it was a little nerve wracking.
What I learned from this trip - I'm glad I went and I'm glad I got to see Turkey and Greece. The people are very nice and very friendly. However, I don't think I want to go again. Italy is a different story. I loved the country and it is beautiful. But if I go again it will be only to Italy and probably not a cruise. We chose to use the shore excursions to see the country as it was all so very new to us, but some of our shipmates just went to a limo driver or taxi waiting outside the ship and did very well. In Rome, you can take the train for only 9 Euro roundtrip. You may need to do some research, but it appears to be well worth the effort. I didn't get a feel for the country in the big cities and would have liked more time in each port. There is some unrest in Turkey and obviously in Greece with the armed guards standing around. However, we were told that the Freedom won't be going to Turkey in a couple of months. We weren't told why but it might have something to do with the fact that the ship is required to take your passport and keeps it until you leave Turkey. They give you a temporary Visa, but it was all so very confusing and nobody really understood why we had to give up our passports. Over all it was a great trip and we had a good time. I wish you clear sailing and fair weather. Elawies