The first port of call was Bari, we walked into the old town and took a tak tak (a cycle carriage) back to the ship. We had lunch on the Carmen deck where as the ship left port and we watched Bari disappearing in the distance.
We took the shuttle bus to Olympia where we toured the site at our own pace which was very pleasant and then returned to the bus by horse drawn carriage. We were back in time to have lunch on deck as the ship pulled out of Katacolon.
We took an excursion to Ephesus. The tour guide Petra, was very help and enthusiastic about the information she provided for us. I was impressed and plan to give the guide a big tip but all the goodwill was destroyed when we were hijacked to a ‘carpet factory’ where we were exposed to the sales pitch for rugs. I did not come on holiday to go shopping for rugs and if I did want to make £5,000 or even a £500 investment I would have come prepared with colour samples and swatches. When we did not buy anything the salesmen condescendingly said, “Your house is not big enough”! When we tried to leave we were forced through a maze jewellery and trinket counters. It took us so long to get out I thought we would be the last back on the bus instead of which we were one of the first back on (our bus buddies were not so lucky in navigating their escape!). We sat captive on the bus thinking of the lunch and that glass of wine on the deck that we were missing on ship! We did not pay for an excursion to waste our time incarcerated and exposed to the sales pitch for merchandise we did not want! There was no mention of this detour on the information regarding this excursion. Hence the large tip I was planning was diminished to nothing!
Many of the excursions advertised were not available. The team seem to be pushing a 10 hour tour of a spice market (more sales pitch and spices are not welcomed by UK customs); mosques; markets and a lunch (Turkish food does not begin to compare to the splendid food on the ship) so although my husband and I had been ripped off by Istanbul taxis in the past we decided to have short trip into Istanbul……….and, of course, we were ripped off again! We negotiated the cost of the taxi beforehand and got the price down from 100 tl to 75tl. The only thing when went to pay it was Euros not Turkish Lire! Thus tripling the price! This was clearly an established con as I had definitely said TL. We are British and we were in Turkey – why should another currency that has nothing to do with either nation come into it?!
We took an excursion but would have been much better off taking the shuttle bus (which magically only came into existence after everyone had booked the tours!). We had different opinions about Dubrovnik. I thought it was charming and atmospheric with an fascinating history whereas others thought the town architecture looked like a prison. The guide had some very interesting facts about the war and the history but was impossible to acquire any substantial information because of the sheer volume of people. The Tour Guide did her best but there were lots of other tours and it was not possible to hear what she was saying and consequently couple by couple we peeled off! I still feel very guilty about our ‘escape’ through the side door of the cathedral! Missing lunch again we made for a café…..…a café that told us that they did not have any food! In remembrance of when I was last in Dubrovnik before the war we had a glass of šljivovica - its still very strong stuff!