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Home > Member Reviews > rmurray847's Port Reviews of Katakolon (Olympia), Athens (Piraeus), Izmir, Alexandria

rmurray847's Port Reviews of Katakolon (Olympia), Athens (Piraeus), Izmir, Alexandria
Norwegian Jade cruise in November 2011
Member Name: rmurray847
Cruise Date: November 2011
Embarkation: other
Destination: Eastern Mediterranean
Member Review: rmurray847's Norwegian Jade Review
Katakolon (Olympia)
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
A quaint little fishing village that is pretty much in existence to sell stuff to tourists. However, the several dockside restaurants all have free wi-fi. Take advantage! The stop is really just the gateway to Olympia,the site of the ancient Olympics. We had a private driver and had a great time. Spent about two hours at the site, using Rick Steve's book as a guide. This worked quite well. The ruins are generally VERY ruined, but the location is absolutely beautiful and the place is so steeped in history. The adjacent museum is small but excellent and a must-do to really get the full appreciation of the site.

Did some touristy shopping in Olympia then driver took us to an out of the way spot for lunch. Yes, we had a "greek salad" but it was to die for. Fresh tomatoes and local olive oil...are you kidding me?

It's a great, low-key stop. The port itself is small and picturesque.

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Athens (Piraeus)
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Athens is a dirty city, now covered in grafitti from all the recent rioting. We got around fairly easily and certainly enjoyed the Acropolis and adjacent sites. So much is under renovation though, so be ready for that. The Parthenon is covered in scaffolding. We had a nice time, which we did on our own. Just took a bus from the dock to the Metro and the Metro into town. Quite inexpensive. Took a cab back...only 15 euros.

Because of the unappealing appearance of the city itself and the fact that most major sites have renovation going on, I can't give a full 5 points.

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Izmir
Port Rating: 5+ out of 5+
The unexpected treat of our trip. We booked a private excursion through Celsus Travel to Ephesus. House of Mary was very lovely. The ruins at Ephesus are inspiring. So much is intact including the roads themselves, that as you wander around, you really get a sense of walking through an ancient city, not just stopping to look at ruins. You are absorbed into the surroundings. Our visit included the Terrace Houses. The phrase "must see" gets tossed around a lot...but in this case, they are. If you book a private tour, look for the Terrace Houses. I've never seen anything like them and it was actually a privilege to have been there.

We had a nice lunch in Selcuk. Yes, we were suckered into the obligatory Carpet Factory, but we actually kind of enjoyed it and found it education. We made a very modest purchase.

We just didn't know what to expect in Turkey, and it ended up being a real highlight. The countryside between Izmir and Ephesus (about 50 minute drive) is lovely and pastoral.

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Alexandria
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
We were here November 22 & 23, as riots were getting really heated (and deadly) in Tahrir Square. Excursions to the Museum were cancelled. Fortunately, we had booked a private excursion with the excellent Egypt Daily Tours, and owner Rasha El-Ashmawy was our guide. She sent a driver to us in Alexandria (it's 3 hours to the Pyramids) and the drive was eye-opening. No traffic lights, no stop signs. Just pandemonium. But if you want an education in an alien society, just make that drive. We visisted the Pyramids, Saqqara & Memphis. The pyramids & sphinx were great, of course. Be sure to spring for the extra money to go into the pyramid. (And frankly, spring for the money to take a camel ride...just do it at the Panoramic overlook of the 3 pyramids rather than at the Great Pyramid. It's less than half the cost.) But Saqqara was the biggest surprise. FABULOUS. I won't go into detail, but if you're interested in seeing true hieroglyphics and tomb paintings, this is the place. Memphis is a small site, took 30 minutes. If you have time, try to add Dashour...we saw the pyramids from a distance...and they looked like they would have been worthwhile.

The 2nd day in Alex, we took NCL's half day excursion. It was only so-so. The museum has nice items...but some of the other stops we made, such as at the mosque, were fairly pointless.

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