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Home > Member Reviews > cwistyred's Port Reviews of Katakolon (Olympia), Athens (Piraeus), Istanbul, Naples

cwistyred's Port Reviews of Katakolon (Olympia), Athens (Piraeus), Istanbul, Naples
Norwegian Jade cruise in April 2013
Member Name: cwistyred
Cruise Date: April 2013
Embarkation: other
Destination: Eastern Mediterranean
Member Review: cwistyred's Norwegian Jade Review
Katakolon (Olympia)
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Katakolon is the gateway to Olympia and ancient Greece. We decided to DIY it and enjoy an easy day knowing that the next few ports would be intense. After leaving the ship, which docks right in the middle of this little town, we walked right through the gates and were met by several bus companies offering roundtrip tickets to Olympia for 10 euros. We picked one and went off on a clean bus through the countryside. No need to pre-book anything if all you want is passage to the site. Guides were available at the gates if you wanted an in depth tour. We stayed for about two hours and the site was much more interesting than I thought it would be. Not a lot of intact buildings but definitely worth seeing. Took the bus back to town, where we walked around and bought some souvenirs. Walked back to the ship and got ready for dinner. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from in Katakolon if you would like some Ouzu and gyros.

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Athens (Piraeus)
Port Rating: 5+ out of 5+
We had decided to DIY this port as public transportation is available to the Acropolis, which is where everyone wants to go. We met up with some new friends from the ship and walked out through the port gates. You are now bombarded by taxi drivers who want to give you a full days tour, which were not unreasonably priced. They would drive you from place to place all day and back to the ship for 100 euros for four to five people. We didn't need that and had intended to walk to the Metro station and take the subway. But after mucho haggling we got one driver to take us to the base of the Acropolis for 20 euros for the four of us. That was fine, he didn't give up on trying to get us to go for the whole day deal though. He took us as close as he could and we then took the steep walk up to this historic ancient site. It is amazing to get your first glimpse of the Parthenon, a place all of us have seen in books since childhood. We got there early before the tour buses and really got a good look around. It is a spectacular site. I had books with me that explain what we were looking at. Guides were available for hire at the gates if you wanted one. We left the Acropolis and went to the acropolis museum which is amazing, but beware if you are afraid of heights as many of the floors in this multi-story building are glass and you are looking down to lower levels. It takes a moment to get past it, but is worth the few moments of fear. From there we walked to the Parliament building to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the Guard. The Greek soldiers are flamboyant and worth the walk, which goes past some markets and gardens which were interesting. Back to the Plaka area at the base of the Acropolis for shopping and food. We ate at a lovely little cafe with outside seating and had excellent gyros and beer. Walked around a little more and it was time to head back to the ship. Caught a really friendly cab driver and 20 euros back to the ship. Be sure to know this is a strenuous port day with a lot of walking. Wear good shoes and no damn flip flops
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Istanbul
Port Rating: 5+ out of 5+
Okay, get into training now for the frenzy that is Istanbul. It is a great world city and beautiful, but it is crowded and chaotic and completely different from the rest of Europe. It is a Muslim country but secular in government. You will see Burkas and traditional dress, but you will also see a modern city where women dress like the west. Sailing into Istanbul is second only to Venice. The huge Mosques come into view and the symbols of this city are in full view. We had an overnight in this city so it gives you plenty of time to take it all in. A lot of people did tours, we DIY'd it using our feet and the convenient tram. After leaving the port gates, go to any of the multitudes of ATMS and get some Turkish Lira, yes many of the sellers and restaurants will take US money (not so much for euros) but you need the Lira for transportation and any sites you are not going to pay for with credit cards. Walk west to the Tophane tram station and buy your tokens from the machines. If your ride all the way to Sultanhamet you are at the pinnacle of the hill and it is down hill from there for all sights. From this stop you can go to the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar. Just down from this stop is the Topkapi Palace, which I must admit was my least favorite thing in the city and the most expensive to visit. The call to prayer is heard throughout the city and let's you know you are not in Kansas anymore. The Blue Mosque is amazing and so detailed. Just know that during the day it closes well before prayer time and you may have to wait over an hour to visit. Please, please dress conservatively in this nation. Don't wear shorts and tank tops (men and women). You will need to cover head, shoulders and knees in the Mosque. I brought my own scarf which I bought in the Bazaar for a very low price. They do have blue scarfs available to cover yourself if you come without your own. Clean feet and socks please as you have to take off your shoes. The Haghia Sophia is the crossroads of culture and religion and worth the money to visit. It was both a Church and a Mosque and is now a museum.

The parks in Istanbul are full of flowers and stray animals who play and frolic without fear of humans. Again nobody bothers them that I ever saw. People are very friendly and eager to help. As always beware that people who are too friendly may have alternative motives as to scam you or at the best want to get you in "their cousins" carpet store. At one point I got confused on just how to get from one place to another and found a tourist policeman in a little booth. This booth was set away from the crowds and I don't think anyone ever went over to talk to him. Before I could even get near it, he came out of the booth and was so happy for company and to use the English that he knew and for me to use the few words of Turkish that I had learned. He asked me all kinds of questions about America and how I was enjoying Turkey. People were very curious if you liked their nation. Of course we did. Had a great dinner at a little restaurant and went back to the ship for the evening. Many people went to a traditional restaurant with a show for dinner. We chose not to do that. Also right near the cruise docks are a line of cafes and restaurants that are all Hookah bars where you can smoke fruit flavored light tabaccos and woods. People from the ship enjoyed this as well. The next day we visited all the sights we didn't see the first day and then really shopped. Get your haggling skills ready, but don't get crazy. A Turkish Lira is worth roughly half of a US Dollar and things are pretty reasonably priced after just a little bargaining. Bought some jewelry and pashminas and many Turkish Evil Eyes for everyone back home. Took the tram back to the ship for a gorgeous evening sail away.

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Naples
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
Naples - love it or hate it, you can't ignore it. We went to Naples on our last trip and did Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Decided that we should see Naples on this trip and we had the audacity to do it on our own. Girded our loins and set out to take the bus to the incredible World renowned Museum of History. Rick Steves needs to revise his book in regard to this city. His directions to catch the bus were horrible and if not for my Husband's obsession with hat buying we would have went the wrong way and it wouldn't have been pretty. The bus stop is actually only a block or so from the port but you have to walk through a strange alley to get to it. Doesn't even look like there is a street there. You buy your bus tickets at the newstand. The Bus ride was fine and got to the Museum in one piece. This museum is world class and full of things you have seen in books. The most amazing thing about Museums in Europe is that the art is right in front of you. Very few glass cases and you can come eye to eye with a statue that is thousands of years old. In the US the statue would be behind a bullet proof glass and be 20 feet away. After the museum we walked following the Rick Steves walking tour. I trusted him again and he almost let me down twice. He refers to a street where you make a major turn by it's local name and not by it's actual name, which changes about six times along it's route. You need to know the name that it is called where you make the turn and he didn't really provide that. Luckily the street looks like the picture in the book, but so does fourteen other streets in the area. This streets walks you to the major churches and sights in Naples. Unfortunately the two great churches were closed!! They wouldn't re-open until late afternoon and we would already be gone. Bummer. Did go to the Sanservo chapel to see the amazing veiled statue of Jesus. You just stare at this statue with absolutely no comprehension of how it was carved. It doesn't seem possible. Walked the rest of this street to try and find the famous Da Micheles for pizza. We did find it but it was way too crowded and chose a neighboring restaurant instead. Very good pizza there as well. We then followed Rick's instructions to get to the Piazza with the tram back to the port. We actually did find it, but it was not as easy as Rick makes it out to be. Gotta send this man a note. Got back to port in one piece.

The truth about Naples, yes it is crowded and dirty, but it is very alive. You feel how people live and it is no tourist trap. You are with the natives as most tourists skip this city and visit the outlying areas. Also, and this is very curious, this was the only city where we didn't get "bumped" by potential pickpockets. Not once and to be honest, I was very nervous about getting robbed. I know it happens in Naples, but we didn't experience it. Got bumped in Olympia, Athens and Istanbul and of course Rome. But not in Naples, go figure.

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