21 July- We catch the 11.12 train from Rome to civitavechia (€4.60 each). We arrive an hour later and pay another 2€ to get the bus right to the ship, rather than push the bags along 2km of cobblestones. We board the Norwegian jade ... Read More
21 July- We catch the 11.12 train from Rome to civitavechia (€4.60 each). We arrive an hour later and pay another 2€ to get the bus right to the ship, rather than push the bags along 2km of cobblestones. We board the Norwegian jade within 10 minutes and are soon having lunch on board with a glass of Chardonnay. We do the lifeboat drill at 4 and are sailing away by 5pm. We see the opening show which is not inspiring, and do some trivia.
22 July- Sea day today, so I go to dance aerobics , ping pong and we play 3 different trivia, winning 2 and making many new friends. There are 2 different bands by the pool- a Latino one with great kudos but bad singer, and a Phillipino duet with an good singer! But they are all sooooooo loud!! The progressive trivia tonight is about American sports stars and we think we are pretty disadvantaged when the Americans start complaining that they are all obscure, in fact one is a picture of an American female soccer player that played 10 min in a reserve game. They get so angry its like a mutiny and the poor Chinese host doesn't know what to do, but promise better questions tomorrow! After dinner we do the battle of the sexes game which I play in, then see the production show called blazing boots, which is a mess of unknown country and driving songs with hard choreography done well. Trouble is they tried to link songs that just don't work, and the singing is only ok.
23 July- Santorini. We play a quick trivia at 9 before getting the first tender to the old port ( the advantage of being a gold member) where we pay 15€ to get on a large boat and go around the coast to Oia, then back to Fira by bus. When we arrive it's a little crowded and we see the amazing vistas by walking around the small town. Many Europeans and Asians have worn their best clothing (big flowing cotton dresses) and spend hours posing for pics at beautiful locations. We see the famous windmill houses and the blue roofed buildings and then the crowds of 4 cruise ships hit and it turns unpleasant in the tiny overcrowded cobble streets. We try to catch the 1pm bus to Fira, but it's stuck in traffic and can't get through, so we don't arrive there until 2pm. We walk around the village here ,all built along the cliff top, see the cable car that carries people up the hill, but decide to walk down the stairs , pass many people coming up on the biggest donkeys ever- some must be crossed with draught horses! We go by the pool for a late swim, some more trivia, dinner, the true or false game and a Scottish singer concert.
24 July- Piraeus. We thought we would like to see the Athens riviera today, but there is no scooter hire and the hop on and off bus won't work as we would have to do the Athens city loop first, then meet with the Riviera bus which is only hourly. There is no tourist office around, so we think about bus 80 direct from port to the acropolis, but we can't get info on the return trip. So we opt to walk the 3km into Piraeus from our pier ( which is the farthest). We ask for directions many times but eventually find the metro station and buy tickets each way for € 1.40 with trains every 20 min. We know to get off at Monastika station, but the sign says another word and the station master said 7 stops and it's only been 5, but I realise at Odeon we have gone too far, so we catch the train back a stop. As soon as we exit the station we see the Byzantine church in the plaza and are very close to the roman agora, which we walk around.( though after turkey they look like incomplete ruins) .We then head for Adrian's gate and see many other historic ruins and churches on the way. We go to the base of the acropolis but don't go up today as we did this last time, and walk back along the narrow streets to the flea market and then catch the train back from Monastika station. We walk more directly back to the ship this time, and enjoy a beer/ wine with a late lunch and tired feet after another 14km walking day. Tonight's trivia is on strange animals so most are Australian so we win, then have dinner at the Chinese before seeing a Glen miller tribute played by the jade band.
25 July - Mykonos. We are shuttled by bus for the 5 min drive into town and start by walking around the very windy old port, with its white houses and azure sea. It is a maze of metre wide streets with tiny vans trying to pass pedestrians .We find the area they call little Venice which is medieval old houses with shuttered balconies overlooking the sea. Most of these are now restaurants with St Mark’s square prices to match. We wander up the hill to take the classic Mykonos shot of the old windmills on the hill. We decide to hire a 50cc 2 stroke scooter (25€ for 3 hours) and we soon find out why he asked if we were experienced riders as no normal person could handle the super touchy throttle and poor brakes. The bike whines with a ring ding ding around to some beautiful beaches including Kotfos and Ornos which are opposite each other on a little spit. We ride up the hill and around to paradise beach which is where many from the boat have headed to for the day (30€ for 2 sun lounges and an umbrella). It's pleasant enough now but we can see at night it has over 100 speakers and spotlights...living hell! The rooms are small, basic and aimed at the 20s crowd. We ride back via Pinkys beach and a few more that have over 100 foot boats moored near. We return the bike, though he can't find my licence for a while and we get back boat quickly realising that there is little to do on these islands other than lay on the beach, eat, drink and shop. Tonight we see the production cast do a Broadway cabaret, and a visual comedy show- of which both are underwhelming (but we do win beers of the world trivia with help from our Italian friends.)
26 July- Rhodes- Now this is my sort of port...within 5 min walk from the ship you are at the edge of medieval town, surrounded by high walls with many majestic gate entrances. We enter through St Catherine's gate (go me!) and walk through the perfectly maintained old buildings, easily imagining the knights of St. John strolling here. We walk up Sokratous Street, which is mostly shopping, then see the mosque of Mustafa pasha and a high clock tower. We buy a 10€ combined ticket to access the close sights- a 14C church, the archaeological museum (which was a 15C hospital in which the architecture is much more interesting than the exhibits) , and the grand masters palace. This sits at the top of a fully medieval street called the knights way, and houses architectural exhibits on the ground floor, and has more rooms with furniture etc on the top floor- all 3 are worth seeing and make the ticket great value. We then walk out of the old town via the water and see another harbour guarded by 2 dears on towers next to St Nicholas light house and tower. We see many beaches including Elli beach that have crystal clear water, but it is a steep rocky entry to the water and quite windy, so we walk back to the old town where Glen realises his wallet is missing. He thinks he brought it but isn't sure, so we go back to the boat to check through everything, and it's not there. We walk back into the tourist office that had Wi-Fi to cancel his credit card as he is convinced he has been robbed. We were going to have a swim on the beach just near the ship but are now both hungry and thirsty .Back on to the ship, and our extra wallet hunt has bumped our 11km day up to 15km.. We then get changed for the pool, and he finds his wallet in another pocket of the shirts he is still wearing arghhhh!! Afternoon and evening trivia and a spa fill the afternoon before another production show based on Havana (again random unknown songs) and the 60 seconds to win it game.
27 July- This morning we dock outside the tiny town of Chania in Crete for just a few hours, so we skip brekky and get the local bus (€3.40 return) in by 7.30. We visit the old local markets with their fresh meat, including rabbits with the fur left on the feet and many skinned lamb heads?? We again see old synagogues, Catholic Churches, mosques and Greek Orthodox all within a few streets and built between the 13 and 19 th centuries. The most interesting is the unique shape of the Kioutsouk Hasan mosque built in a renaissance style with flying buttresses on a dome roof. The Venetian harbour and lighthouse are picturesque and there is an old Fort right on the corner. We wander again through the tiny cobbled streets and pat the many cats before returning the 20 min to the ship by the bus. We are moving again by midday so read, listen to music, swim and play games through the afternoon. We see a great French acrobatic show tonight after we play a music mania game and win blow up guitars??
28 July- We play shuffleboard and morning trivia as we don't dock until lunchtime at Valletta in Malta. As we enter the harbour we see amazing forts and cathedrals all around and realise this is 3 cities in one. But we settle for a walk around Valletta and are stunned by its history and beauty. We get a tourist walking map at the dock and catch the lift up to the town for 1 € and arrive in upper Barrakka gardens. We look at the thick Fort walls and the many canons all around and love the view of the water and other cities. We do 14km walking around the Castillo, St James and johns bastion, the royal opera house the triton fountain, grand masters palace and many more. Unfortunately it is Sunday afternoon so the famous St. John cathedral is actually closed, as are all the churches. We walk through the steep lanes and down to the ferry crossing, passing old buildings constantly. It's the first day I haven't brought swimmers with me and we see such enticing water! We do the whole loop including Fort st Elmo and the lower gardens, then find the only open church, which is the shipwreck church of St. Paul and it is stunning. It has a crypt and decadent decorations and has two strange artefacts- the wrist bone of St. Paul from when he broke it in Valletta, and part of the plinth from where he was beheaded in Rome. It's in a quiet little backstreet but is a real gem. As we approach the ship in our loop back we see gondola type boats doing tours of the harbour for 8€ and crossing to the other side for 2€, which we would have done if it was earlier as it looks great. We sail out as the sun has just set and see the wonderful old buildings all flood lit, before another show with the singer Lilly Jane.
29 July- We are off the boat soon after docking in Messina, Sicily as we would like to visit Taormina, a hillside old town with a 2000 year old amphitheatre and pretty buildings and churches set near steep cliffs and blue sea. We catch the inter bus there (€4.30) which leaves next to the station ( a 10 min walk from the dock) at 9am, passing through some interesting and dirty areas , and arrive up in the village around 10.15, though the bus is way too big for the tiny roads and it's a hair raising trip up the final hill. We don't go the theatre as it's 10€ and an hour wait, so decide to walk the Corso Umberta which runs through the town and has most of the historic buildings and churches on it, ranging from the 11th century. When we reach the end we can see Mt Etna really well, including pockets of smoke leaking out. We then catch the cable car down (3€) to the bottom of the hill where there are amazing beaches including isola Bella, and Mazzaro where I have a lovely swim in the floaty water and explore the ruined castle and its secret entries from the water. The whole area is just stunning, but we look forward to the return train journey along the water’s edge, which doesn't disappoint (after getting another local bus to the station). We get back to Messina with time for a quick wander to a few sights including the church of Santa Maria del Anna which looks a little like a mosque, the huge and grand cathedral in piazza del duomo, and happen to be there right on the hour to see a small movement of the mechanical clock in the bell tower, which has its main performance at midday. We are really pleased we didn't take the offer of a taxi at the start of the day which only offered an hour in Taormina as so much more time is needed, and the train and bus were easy and cheap. More trivia, food and a feature violinist tonight.
30 July - We dock at 7 in Naples, so leave early as we plan to travel to Sorrento. We ask at the tourist information about ferries as I have read they travel there, and she just says she doesn't know, and gives us a poorly photocopied map of Naples which is so pale it's not readable. We walk to the ferry terminal just beside the port, but it's so crowded we get no help and there are ticket windows to everywhere but Sorrento, so we decide to take the train. We walk the 4km to central station, but then find out it's a metro line so we could have caught a closer one to the port, but we catch the 9.10 to Sorrento for €3.50. It's interesting passing mount Vesuvius and hearing the many unusual train buskers, including a family where mum carries the speakers playing piano accordion music, the son has a Turkish drum and dad proudly plays the tambourine...not worth a tip. The train is very slow and not air conditioned so we at arrive 10.30. Very hit and ready to get off. We wander around the piazzas and cathedrals then walk down to the marina, where we find there is a return ferry, but it's at either 12 or 2 and it's more expensive. We see the sheer cliffs with fancy hotels on top and the many beach clubs right on the water (that really doesn’t look that appealing). We catch the lift back up to the other end of town and stroll some more, and realise we have seen enough, so run down the steps to catch the 12 o'clock ferry which we find is not €26 each, but for 2. We sit topside and watch the coastal scenery in the breeze as we return to Naples, where we have a walk around the churches , opera house and glass roofed shopping mall before boarding the ship. Swim, Trivia, dinner and the best show we have seen called elements, combining the production cast, gymnastics and magicians.
31 July - We dock at Livorno today at 9 and most people are going to Florence, but we decide we need more than a few hours in Florence so we opt for Pisa. All must pay 5€ to get out of the port area as you are not allowed to walk. We are the 3rd ship here today, and plan to catch the € 15 bus straight to Pisa, but by 9.10 when we get off, the buses are booked up to 11am, so we catch a local bus € 1.40 to the station, and catch the train (only 20 min and €5.30 return). We walk through the old streets admiring many churches and buildings from the 10 to 13 century, most open for a quick look inside. We see grand piazzas with highly decorated buildings then the huge cathedral, tower and Baptisma, all in white stone with the finest decorations carved throughout. Large crowds take their pics with the famous leaning tower, and we look at walking up it, but it's a 3 hour wait as tickets are very restricted (17€) and it's a bit pricey. You can see the cathedral for free in a scheduled ticket, but again this is not for a few hours, so we opt to pay the 5€ for the Baptisma , and you get the cathedral for free anytime. Both buildings are ornate and stunning. The cathedral has huge paintings throughout from the 15 and 1600s, an exposed saints tombs, as well as a golden ceiling and stunning carved pulpit all nearly 1000 years old. We walk back to the station via different roads, and almost as great scenery including a cute church on the edge of the river. The train soon comes, and we bus it back to the shuttle stop, then the ship...it all takes around 1 hour. One last afternoon of sun, swimming and trivia before we swap our game and trivia winning tickets for prizes.
1 August- we begin the long journey home , with a bus to the airport direct from the port( 20€ ) , a few hours wait, a 6 hour flight to Dubai, more hours wait and a 14 hour flight to Sydney. Read Less