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We finally made it to Greece!
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
We'd sailed a similar ship to Alaska in 2005 and found it to be comfortable and quite a bit more upscale than others we'd taken. Delicious dining options in addition to prepaid tips and soft drinks make it so appealing. Most of the ports sounded interesting (Canakkale was a waste of time) and spending a couple of days in Istanbul was fabulous. Friends researched it well and made plans for a guide in Istanbul and for excursions (not through the ship)in many of the ports.
Staff could not have been nicer. We had trouble to find anything that didn't meet our high expectations! Internet was very pricey and we tried to find it in town at cafes when possible. We planned to have dinner in some of the ports, but the local menus didn't look interesting enough and we headed back to the ship every night instead. After busy days in each port, dinner "at home" was great and we enjoyed the Prime C and Aqualina Restaurants very much.
We were too tired and busy to use the gym or spa More
and the night entertainment didn't seem terribly exciting---we needed to rest up for the next busy day ahead. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
What a fabulous day! Friends had scheduled us to tour the ruins at Ephesus with a guide through Ekol Tours. They picked us up from the dock and spent the bus time (for only 4 of us) trying to give an overview of the area and the morning ahead. We went early, which is good to avoid huge crowds and the heat. Guide was very knowledgeable, helped us take great photos and we were in awe of the ruins that are there. After the tour, we headed back to the ship for lunch and a quick regrouping to head into town to shop. Like everywhere we went in Turkey, shopkeepers were extremely bold---you have to ignore them or be prepared to buy something! It's amazing how many "Genuine Fake Watches" you can buy there! We did find nicer scarves there than in Istanbul and some pretty shops that had some "different" things than you see in most shops. We really enjoyed the day.
Once again, our traveling buddies pulled through for us! They'd arranged for us to be picked up at the dock (though it didn't happen quite that easily) and taken to a beautiful resort about 15 minutes from town. We'd arranged ahead for a Day Pass to enjoy their pool, beach (small) and facilities for the afternoon. What a terrific idea! Once again, beautiful views, peaceful setting and nice lunch. They even had free internet for us to use! Mid-afternoon we headed into Mykonos to shop a bit and found some beautiful jewelry that was actually worth the price. Pretty village, too.
Photos of Santorini are the reason I've been wanting to make this trip for years. Reality was even better than the photos, for once! We were one of many ships coming in that day, so we chose to take a cab over to Oia first to try to avoid all the crowds at port. It was just breathtaking! We spent most of the afternoon wandering through the shops and having lunch with a view that I'll never forget! Mid-afternoon we went back to Fira and shopped our way through the incredible jewelry stores. Unfortunately, the price of gold has made almost everything untouchable. Many of the shops selling the "Greek key" style in gold were very expensive for cheap feeling baubles. We had fun, but didn't bring anything shiny home.... The cable car ride up the incline can take a long time and donkey riding or climbing didn't appeal to us. Even though we were departing from port a bit later, we were afraid to have dinner and watch the sunset (as everyone is supposed to do!) for fear that we'd miss the last tender. We did watch the sunset from the upper deck of the ship and they had a nice hor d'oeuvres and drink area set up for us to do just that. This was by far our favorite stop on the trip.