We had a wonderful month on the Prinsendam during October-November 2010. Our experience was luxurious from superb dining to excellent shows and port lectures. To top it all off we had two excellent bridge instructors and we were able to play duplicate bridge during sea days.We almost always ate in the dining room with a late fixed seating as we much enjoyed the camraderie of our table of 8, although during the first segment we were 6 people joined occasionally by a ship's officer or lecturer to fill out the extra space. These lovely people generally ordered wine which added to our merriment.
On port days we went ashore with a small group of people who got together on Cruise Critic and hired private guides from reputable companies. Our tours were fabulous.
We started in Istanbul with tours organized by Fevzi(Ephesus Shuttle.)The first night 4 of us did a walking tour of the Spice Market and a private boat tour on the Bosphorus sipping a mug of beer and listening to our guide who pointed out the sights as the lights came on around us.The next day we visited the major sights in Istanbul along with the Dolmanache Palace as the Topkapi was closed on Tuesday.The Underground Cistern was really interesting.
After Istanbul we went on to the Black Sea ports starting with Sochi Russia. Our private tour guide had procured visas for our small group at took us to picturebook Russia along with commentary about the hardship of living in Russia during the dark years under Stalin.We saw an Orthodox church during a holiday with people being blessed and washing at the outdoor fountains. Then we went to the Sanatorium with the mineral waters and Stalins dacha where we were allowed to sit on his bulletproof horsehair sofa and take pictures with his wax figurine.Lastly we wandered into an Expo next to the ship where we bought authentic dolls and bags from the provinces.The next port was Batumi Georgia where we had booked a ship's tour to view a dance ensemble which shouldn't be missed. When we wandered around in the morning we found an Internet cafe where we each spent an hour for only $1.00 each.
The following day we went to Trabson Turkey with a ships tour to Ataturk's home and museum. Excellent. We had bowed out of the Sumela Monestery excursion as my husband's knee was bothering him and he wasn't up to climbing the 144 steps.
At Sinop we were with a couple who had been there in the army during Vietnam.We visited near the army base and then went to the fiord, the museum that simulated Turkish life in the last century, the climb to the castle overlooking the ship and the tea cafe on the shore. We also heard the history of Diogenes statue.We also had a fish lunch at a Yacht Club where we learned how to debone some very large sardines.It was a very full and satisfying day with a private guide and a superb tour.
The next stop at Sevastopol was a bit of a marathon as we had arranged to go to Yalta to the Lividia Palace and get back by 2PM for a 3PM sailaway. The scenery on the drive was unbelievable as the road twined between the mountains and the coastline remniscent of Rt.1 in California. Our guide was a mountainclimber who was able to point out the mountains he had scaled while driving. The Lividia palace was memorable and I'm glad we went. On the way we saw the valley that was the impetus for the poem The Charge of the Light Brigade commemorating the Valley of Death for the 600. After coming back we still had time to shop at have a beer on the waterfront.
Then Kusadasi where we booked a private tour to Pamukkale where we enjoyed walking on the white terraces and swimming in Cleopatras pool for a mineral bath emersion. My skin looked quite terrific after that.
Next was Mykonos where we took the shuttle into town and enjoyed the day in the sun. It is a gorgeous little place. We did see the famous windmills and the symbolic stork.
Monemvasia was the surprise enjoyable stop. We tendered into town and walked uphill to the upper old town which was so picturesque with quaint shops and pretty cafes along winding streets. Then we took the shuttlebus back down for 1 Euro and tendered back to the ship.
Our next stop was Rome but only until 5:00PM. We took the train into Terminie station and the Metro to the Spanish steps where we met a relative for an Italian lunch of pizza. Before long it was time to train it back. Then a shuttle to the ship.
Dubrovnik was such a pretty old town. We had an organized private walking tour there. It was very uphill and down. After the 2-3 hour tour we were ready to rest in a cafe and do a little shopping before going back to the ship.
In Corfu we hired a private taxi for 4 people. Dimitris was terrific, taking us up into the mountains for views, and over to Sisi's palace to see her amazing gardens and for olive oil tasting and back to Corfu to see sights and the old synagogue.
At Olympia we did a ship tour to the site and the museum which were both impressive despite the rain.
Egypt with Ramses tours to the Pyramids, the Egyptian museum and the Papyrus institute was so impressive. However the trash and garbage lying all around shows that the infrastructure needs improvement.
Our two days in Israel were the best with an overnight in Jerusalem which we arranged privately. We visited Yad V'Shem, the Israel museum, walked under the Western Wall and saw Bar Mitzvahs performed there, visited the Jewish, Arab, and Armenian quarters, saw the Knesset with the huge Menorah, visited Hadassah Hospital and the Chagall windows,saw the Church of the Holy Sepulcar etc.
Then back to Turkey with Antalya, Bodrum, Ephesus, and the villages of Sirence,
Pirene, Mellitus and Katrine, a fishing village. This was one of the best months we have ever spent and we have only good things to say about the Prinsendam. The whole crew contributed to making our experience top notch and the combination of private and ship tours turned out to be just what we wanted.