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16 Louis Aura Cruise Reviews

i was the worst ship i hav ever been,its so old,just about to sink in the sea.the waiter service is horrible,as if a bunch of jokers in z restaurant,they don't know to talk nothing known as a simple good service,the maitre ... Read More
i was the worst ship i hav ever been,its so old,just about to sink in the sea.the waiter service is horrible,as if a bunch of jokers in z restaurant,they don't know to talk nothing known as a simple good service,the maitre d'hotel is just smiling like an ignorant fool seeing these ships serving food like novice,its people who is eating not animal.housekeeping is horrible,they don't hav any talking ethics,a small french speaking gurl when i asked her to give me some directions she just laugh am just turn her back to me,the bar service is like a market all bar waiters n waitress just gather n talking about the horrible ship they r working,a waiter who i met on the ship was telling me how dirty their cabin is and their bathroom is horrible,on top the food that they serving to guest are just so dirty,handle with dirty hand and serve in dirty plates,i even saw a waiter who just pick a dirty spoon n polish it then gave to z guest,i even heard that lobster shell they serving they remove it from the bin to use it again for the coming cruise.its a nightmare that ship Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We booked the cruise online, all our paperwork showed it left and returned to Limassol, two days into cruise we found out it finished at Marseilles and you were flown back to Larnaca. They have no such thing as a complaints form, or give ... Read More
We booked the cruise online, all our paperwork showed it left and returned to Limassol, two days into cruise we found out it finished at Marseilles and you were flown back to Larnaca. They have no such thing as a complaints form, or give you a register number for Complaints, I was assured they sent off my complaint to head office but I have received no acknowledgement . The discipline on board for dining dress standard, captains cocktail party, or going on tours was appalling. Food extremely basic, drinks hit and miss even though we were all inclusive, sometimes lucky with a drink that tasted as it should, others seemed minus the main ingredient. Organisation of flight home absolutely appalling, did not know check in time or desks, 350 passengers, pushing ,shoving, shouting even screaming , in all my life I have never experienced anything like it. There were two plunge pools mostly out of commission , for three days they were angle griding and welding while we were sat there ? Tours were badly organised, discipline for getting on and off coaches and then turning up for return was disgraceful. Crews comments , " it is always like this ", yet they do nothing. Such a shame, great itinerary, pleasant crew, totally unhelpful front desk, extremely basic tired ship, pool towel for whole cruise, twelve euros if you mislaid it, not even one free bottle of water on arrival. Service cut to the bone. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
BALTICS & ST.PETERSBURG CRUISE - 12 DAYS - JULY 2014 The worst and most expensive cruise that we ever made.The ship "Louis Aura" is very old (46 years) and ramshackle. At sea the ship produces lots of black smoke and soot ... Read More
BALTICS & ST.PETERSBURG CRUISE - 12 DAYS - JULY 2014 The worst and most expensive cruise that we ever made.The ship "Louis Aura" is very old (46 years) and ramshackle. At sea the ship produces lots of black smoke and soot vomits precipitates on railings and deck, if you don't watch it you're clothing under the black sweep. In the port and the Kieler-canal it produces white smoke , ra ra how can this?? The cabins are small with tiny Windows or portholes and are in deplorable state, shower and sink give a thin trickle of water and the drain is nasty. Everything rattles while cruising and also the cleaning of the hut let quite a lot to be desired. All deck chairs are worn out as well as the tables. The Horizon buffet food was decent, but the restaurant was very noisy and the meals here were of mediocre quality with tough meat and lukewarm instead of hot dishes. We paid no less than € 4390 (double outside cabin with 1 single bed and a small bed 70x190cm.) for this cruise. We found this was much and way too expensive for money paid.The stay at the ports was very short, Copenhagen 5 hours, Helsinki 4 hours, Gdansk 5hrs, Travemunde 8hours.Only 2 days were set aside for St. Petersburg. In short for approx. € 400 per night, we feel that we are heavily hustled. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
My 15-year-old daughter and I recently returned from a trip to the Greek Islands that included a 3-night cruise aboard the Louis Olympia. We disembarked in Santorini on the fourth day, while most passengers continued back to Piraeus. We ... Read More
My 15-year-old daughter and I recently returned from a trip to the Greek Islands that included a 3-night cruise aboard the Louis Olympia. We disembarked in Santorini on the fourth day, while most passengers continued back to Piraeus. We had a great time and found the staff very helpful and friendly. My daughter has a peanut allergy, which makes food a concern when travelling. Because of that, the food is the focus of my review. I enquired ahead of time with the cruise company to confirm they could accommodate her dietary needs. They recommended eating only in the dining room (not buffets or bars offering snacks) and notifying restaurant staff when we boarded, which we did. One of the head waiters, Marcelino, was in charge of supervising my daughter's meals to ensure they were safe. Each day, he have us the menus for the following day so she could indicate her meal choices ahead of time. They even offered to prepare items not on the restaurant menu, such as pizza, if that was what she wanted to eat, though we didn't take them up on the offer. The only meals she didn't eat were the breakfasts, which were all buffet. But we brought cereal from home and I picked up whole fruit from the buffet that she could eat with it. Plus, there was enough food each lunch and dinner that a light breakfast was fine. I enjoyed the food. There were different choices every day, and both lunch and dinner included an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The main course options always included a dish featuring traditional Greek ingredients, something vegetarian, as well as fish and meat choices. What I ate was always fresh and of good quality. The food was also presented in an attractive manner, with garnishes or drizzled with a small amount of sauce. Our cabin was not luxurious, but we had our own toilet and shower and a comfortable place to sleep. The cabin and common areas of the ship were very clean and cleaning staff were easy to find and approachable if you needed anything extra. My daughter appreciated the folded towel animals that were left in our room and the hall. There were numerous options for shore excursions and they were well organized and informative. We took part in one excursion each day we were on the ship: Ephesus (in Turkey), the Acropolis of Lindos (Rhodes), and Knossos (Crete). The excursions were not cheap, but I appreciated the sites more with the information the guides provided and also enjoyed not having to arrange my own transportation. I travelled in Crete and Santorini years ago with my husband using local transit to get around. We visited Knossos, but I learned much more about its history on this trip. We didn't participate in other activities on the ship, though we did try out the pool. The daily "newspaper" that was delivered to our cabin did a good job of outlining the entertainment, excursion, eating, and other options available that day. Our main goal on the trip was to visit the various ports and we weren't looking for on board entertainment. Because of this, I'm only giving star ratings in the section below to services we actually used. Because this cruise was included as part of a longer package (3 nights Santorini, 3 nights Mykonos, 1 night Athens), i can't comment on the price of the cruise itself. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Well where do I start, firstly upon the room allocation on the 3rd level there was a strong smell of diesel oil throughout the air conditioning which made my wife sick. After complaining about this with a poor response paid 120e to ... Read More
Well where do I start, firstly upon the room allocation on the 3rd level there was a strong smell of diesel oil throughout the air conditioning which made my wife sick. After complaining about this with a poor response paid 120e to upgrade to L6. The fumes were throughout decks up to five to the rear of the ship and lasted for at least 2 days meaning those areas were out of bounds for us. The ship was originally commissioned in 1968 and the rooms are small. No room to store two suitcases so they take up space on the floor. The web site is misleading as one bed is folded up so it looks as though there is a double be in the room. The ship was refurbished and was in good condition except for the fumes. As we did not book the trip, it was arranged by a tour company we were to endure 4 days. Customer service varied with room attendants very good but waiters both food and bar varied from average to very poor. Food was very average and if dinning in the dinning room you were herded to a table where if you had English speaking on the table you were lucky. Very difficult to make conservation. As my wife was allergic to garlic, the staff were not willing to arrange other meals and only offered salad or chicken and the purser said that the chef could not make special meals. Only main meals offered and you pay for snacks. Tipping was not necessary as the tour groups pay flat fees at the end of the month and this I believe is why service varies. The drinks package is good value and as for the entertainment was not watched in the evening but deck entertainment near the two pools was great. Drinks are signed for by the customer but watch what is charged as our friends noticed extra drinks on their receipt and when asking the waiter about it said that they weren't paying for them. (Inclusive of drinks package). Good points about the voyage was that the ship was on time and service to the islands was well organised.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Took a 4 night cruise in April from Athens that stopped at the following locations:  Mykanos - Kusadasi Turkey - Patmos - Rhodes - Crete (Heraklion) - Santorini The ship is a bit old and shabby and not as good as some of the bigger ... Read More
Took a 4 night cruise in April from Athens that stopped at the following locations:  Mykanos - Kusadasi Turkey - Patmos - Rhodes - Crete (Heraklion) - Santorini The ship is a bit old and shabby and not as good as some of the bigger cruise lines. Rooms are very small, but the maids were friendly and did a good job. The food was low quality compared to other cruise lines but the service was mostly good with the exception of a few grumpy employees. The best food was the pasta bar at the buffet lunch. Dinner does not have assigned seating so either you need to eat at the buffet or sometimes wait for the main restaurant which can be busy popular nights. The All inclusive drinks package works out to be good value. You can't get food at anytime unless you pay for it, other cruises have options for grabbing a pizza or burger anytime. The itinerary is packed with only a few hours at some ports after you disembark by tender. Tours get priority to disembark at ports. They should skip Crete and do a whole day at Santorini instead. We didn't do the tours offered by the cruise, instead we opted to wing it. Most ports had taxi drivers offering personal tours for better value. 50 Euro's at Kusadasi for a tour for 3 people to Ephesus + 30 Euro's entry instead of 165 euro's for 3 through the cruise line. Entertainment is really bad compared to other cruise lines, the only good thing was the classical concert.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
In mid-October, 2013, we took a 4-day cruise of the Greek Islands (Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini) and Ephesus, Turkey on Louis Cruise Lines Olympia (formerly Orient Queen). We have cruised previously (a Russian ice-breaker ... Read More
In mid-October, 2013, we took a 4-day cruise of the Greek Islands (Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini) and Ephesus, Turkey on Louis Cruise Lines Olympia (formerly Orient Queen). We have cruised previously (a Russian ice-breaker in Antarctica, a medium-sized cruise ship in the Baltics, and large cruise ships in Alaska and the Caribbean) and have enjoyed all these experiences. We were sadly disappointed however, by Louis Cruise Lines. We chose not to upgrade our cabin because the cruise was so short, and are so glad we did not spend the money. If we had, we would have paid for the same tiny, cramped stuffy cabin with uncomfortable beds for one with a small porthole for $150 per person extra, or small window ($250 per person extra). The walls of the cabins were so thin that we could hear everything that went on in the adjoining rooms. The food was mediocre, especially in the dining room (my husband could not even cut, let alone chew, his steak). We were herded into the dining area and could not sit with friends unless we entered the dining room with them. Overall, the service was indifferent. For example, the bottled water in our stateroom was never replenished and we never knew who our cabin steward was. Worst of all, cigarette smoking was not carefully regulated, and cigarette smoke permeated every hallway and room. I am an asthmatic and had an asthma attack the second night, causing us to miss our shore excursion in Rhodes. The only bright spot on the ship was our Gate 1 tour manager, Panos Kalmaris, an efficient, warm, knowledgeable man who supervised our activities and addressed our concerns to the extent he was able. If you choose to travel to the Greek Islands, we suggest another company other than Louis Cruise Lines.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
My husband and I decided to visit the islands of Greece and chose Insight travel company for our tour. Unfortunately, we felt the experience was not up to standards of Insight. Insight Tours uses the Louis Cruise Lines to travel to the ... Read More
My husband and I decided to visit the islands of Greece and chose Insight travel company for our tour. Unfortunately, we felt the experience was not up to standards of Insight. Insight Tours uses the Louis Cruise Lines to travel to the Greek Islands. We were on the Louis "Aura," formerly the "Orient Queen." Food on board was sub-standard-bologna on a dinner buffet?? If you went on a tour that ended at 7:30, the dining room was closed at 8-so much for showering and changing. They seemed to rush you at dinner-if it was edible-cleaning tables before complete meal was finished! I must say, the cabin steward was best part of ship! Upon meeting one of the officers on deck, she could not even acknowledge a hello. We paid extra for a "premium:" cabin", was spacious but had a very obstructed view. Smoking on board was another problem-smoking was allowed only on deck-very good-but on all sides. Before going to a Greek Island Tour, do research about the ship. The Aura was small, which was fine, but she needs a lot of work. Maybe Americans expect a little more than others. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Orient Queen / Louis Aura This ship began life in 1968 as the M/V Starward for Norwegian Cruise Lines until 1995. It became the M/V Bolero until 2004. A full refit and it became Orient Queen until being renamed Louis Aura in September ... Read More
Orient Queen / Louis Aura This ship began life in 1968 as the M/V Starward for Norwegian Cruise Lines until 1995. It became the M/V Bolero until 2004. A full refit and it became Orient Queen until being renamed Louis Aura in September 2013. Most of its life it was registered in Panama until the 2013 renaming when its registry was transferred to Valletta, Malta. It is owned by Abou Merhi Cruises d/b/a Louis Cruises (once called Louis Hellenic Cruises). Louis is an old company dating back to 1935. Louis now specializes in buying second-hand ships. Before I begin my criticisms, let me say that I am not a newcomer to traveling or cruising. I have traveled in 47 countries and have been on 19 cruises with 6 different cruise lines. I know what a well-run cruise ship should be like. Public areas The reception area is quite pretty. It has a unique fiber optic “chandelier” and a pretty little fountain. Lounges and the library have a worn look to them: stains on fabrics, cuts in chairs, and chips in glass-top tables. The shops carry standard cruise ship kitsch. Cabin Our “premium outside cabin” was cramped, at best. Two of us could not stand between the narrow cots at the same time. The bathroom was approximately the size of an airliner’s lavatory with a shower attached. The outside view was through two ten-inch portholes. There was neither chair nor desk, only an oversized hassock which was just in the way. The closet was so shallow that a man’s sport coat dragged the shelves below. Storage consisted of two shelves and no drawers. We did have a refrigerator which was filled with drinks and snacks for purchase. We did have a built-in safe which we could use for a charge of 14Euro ($18.50) for six days. The cabin also had two drop-down bunks. Placing four people in this tiny space would be impossible. Among our traveling companions were two couple who had booked standard cabins’ One couple paid $100 extra to upgrade to a premium cabin. Their cabins were identical. Another couple paid $500 extra for a balcony. Their cabin was identical to ours. There are no balconies on the Louis Aura. The upper deck did have larger cabins, but this could not be determined in advance as there is no printed deck plan available on-line or even aboard the ship. The only deck plan to be seen was in the stairwells and could be photographed if you want one. Staff The ship’s staff was half-hearted at best. When concerns or complaints were made to senior staff, there was little or slow response. Waiters were grudging in giving service. Requests for coffee or tea with dinner were seldom filled; even glasses of water were filled only upon repeated requests. Bar Prices for bar items were comparable to upper to middle priced hotels, but orders were often filled with incorrect liquors (pomegranate juice was delivered to an order for Drambuie) or incorrectly made (Vanilla caramel iced cappuccino was so bitter it was undrinkable). When complaints were made, no action was taken. Food Pastries were excellent. We have never seen the equal of some of them. Meats were highly variable. Lamb was invariably excellent and chicken and veal were always good. Fish was usually good. Beef was usually poor and pork was indelibly overcooked. In the cruise industry, 24 hour free food is universal. Except on the Louis Aura. Outside of scheduled meals and teatime, everything cost extra, a lot extra. In the Mermaid Restaurant dining room, if you want a steak for dinner, it costs an additional 11 Euro ($14.50). If you go to the Horizon Buffet outside mealtimes, an individual pizza costs 6 Euro ($8). Don’t order a grilled cheese sandwich; it will be three slices of bread with a very thin smear of cheese-like glue. The Mermaid restaurant has the appearance of a mid-priced hotel restaurant. It does have a neat feature: a swimming pool on the deck above extends into the center of the restaurant with oval windows to watch the swimmers. The Horizon Café has all the ambiance of an elementary school lunch room. Stage Shows The stage shows were pretty good, but no better than you would see at mid-priced cabarets. Las Vegas they are not. Safety Corridors on cabin decks were daily blocked by service carts tied to handrails. Passage beside them was adequate for a single slim person at a time. An individual with a large frame or one using a walking aid could not pass; a serious impediment to evacuation. Of the four exits from the Mermaid restaurant, two were marked “Crew Only, Emergency exit only”. A third, principle exit was almost totally blocked by multiple stacks of extra chairs. Space was left for a single person to pass at a time. When the danger of this was pointed out to the headwaiter, he demonstrated little interest. Four days later, their solution was to transfer all the extra chairs to one side of the exit passage, which opened it to possibly two people at a time. An emergency in the dining room would result in a disastrous pile-up of bodies. A loose sill plate in the only interior entrance to the Horizon Buffet posed a severe tripping hazard. It was being examined by two ship’s officers on the first day. Two days later, as I was photographing the hazard, I was observed by a third ship’s officer. Two further days later, I was demonstrating the hazard to a friend and was observed by the headwaiter. Finally, after five days, it was repaired with five rivets within the hour. The life jackets in the cabins are the same ones originally placed on the ship when built. All four names of the ship were on each one and merely covered up with the new name. One still had the original Seasafe certification of 1969. I don’t know what SOLAS says about age of life jackets, but I distrust a 44 year-old life vest. I inquired of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Safe Boating Council about the legal age of a life jacket. Their reply included, “There's no cut and dry answer to that question, but our recommendation would be to replace a life jacket that old… For a life jacket to be that old, even if it looks "good and serviceable," chances are the foam inside it has broken down….” We were instructed, in writing, in the daily newsletter, that due to the age of the sewerage system, we were not to flush used toilet tissue in the toilets, but to place it in the trash can. Disgusting! This is supposed to be a premium luxury liner, not a third world country. We flushed. Maintenance Rust and filth and mildew were everywhere. The corners of bathrooms, public and private, were filled with dirt and mildew. Old plumbing connections were not removed, but covered with several inches of latex caulk. Door and cabinet latches in restrooms and dining rooms were repaired, not with proper cabinetry fixtures, but cheap hardware hasps and slide locks. The tiling around the swimming pool was filled with mildew-blackened grout. And this after a crewman spent an hour carefully scrubbing it. Rust on outside stairways and fittings is common. A small amount of paint would, at least, hide it. In the cabin bath, a small bump caused the towel rack to fall off the wall. It was not repaired while we sailed. In the shower, the safety grab-bar was so loosely attached to the wall that it was unsafe and unusable. Billing Several of our traveling companions had their credit cards refused. All had informed their card issuers of their itinerary. We must wonder where the billing is coming from that major credit cards did not recognize the origin of the charges. My bill was clearly incomplete and inaccurate. It did not cover all days of the cruise. I was charged for an excursion I did not take and was not charged for three I did take. As my bill had not been delivered to my cabin as promised, I had to grab a copy as I rushed to disembark and had no time to examine and correct it. Other cruises have been scrupulously exact so I did not think it necessary. Summary Everything extra costs extra. Unlike the cruise industry standards of Carnival or Princess or Royal Caribbean, there are no 24-hour pizza parlors, no late night buffets, no quaint little specialty restaurants for a modest extra charge. If you want tap water, it is free. If you want iced tea or coffee, they are at bar prices. A package deal for drinks is available at exorbitant prices and all persons in a cabin must buy the package. A package of unlimited non-alcoholic drinks is 20 Euro ($26) per person per day ($156 per person for the six day cruise). A package of unlimited alcoholic drinks (no premium brands) cost 40 Euro ($52) per person per day ($312 per person for the cruise). I had looked forward to “small ship cruising” as I had heard of the wonderful, individual attention and service in this setting. This did not compare to the hotels I had recently visited in Albania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. How well known tour companies, such as Globus, Trafalgar, Insight, and Contiki, chose such an inferior ship, I cannot imagine.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
I wanted to get off before I had even started my cruise. How depressing! My Superior Outside Stateroom consisted of single beds, 2 portholes and a closet for an ensuite. I have been on more luxurious car ferries! The food was terrible as ... Read More
I wanted to get off before I had even started my cruise. How depressing! My Superior Outside Stateroom consisted of single beds, 2 portholes and a closet for an ensuite. I have been on more luxurious car ferries! The food was terrible as was a lot of the service. 2 small pools, 1 restaurant, an inside bar and an outside bar by the pool....it was simply a budget cruise ship that had definitely had its day in the sun. By the end of the cruise the drinks staff did a 'go slow', so you didn't exceed your hefty priced drinks package. To get water at breakfast, lunch or dinner you had to bring your own or wait for ever. We mostly gave up on ordering drinks with our meals and waited until we had finished our meal and went into the bar to get a drink. Meal service was painful at times and the meals were not very nice. The buffet that was served outside was generally nicer than the a la carte. The only thing that was done well was the cleaning staff and the housekeeping. I would not recommend this old ship to anyone! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
I can't believe I was on the same ship as some of the people who have posted reviews below. The Louis Aura is not the ship for you if you want a large, modern, facility-filled ship. Its a small, old, ship, but what it lacks in pizazz ... Read More
I can't believe I was on the same ship as some of the people who have posted reviews below. The Louis Aura is not the ship for you if you want a large, modern, facility-filled ship. Its a small, old, ship, but what it lacks in pizazz and facilities it more than makes up for in atmosphere and friendliness. To enjoy a cruise on this ship one must think of it as a small, comfortable but plain Greek hotel that happens to hop from island to island First off, for a 45-year old ship I found it to be in remarkably good condition. Everything was clean and well maintained. The public rooms don't have much in the way of Wow and Bling, but they look modern enough and there is some very nice original Mediterranean art on display. A previous reviewer must have looked long and hard to find that ripped lounge chair because I certainly never saw one. I especially liked the lounge on the top deck of the ship which is partially open-air. It is a great place to enjoy the view and the sea breeze. Cabins are small and do lack storage space but they are adequate enough for seven days. Mine was spotlessly clean and well looked after. Some others here have complained about the food but I found it absolutely wonderful. It was prepared with fresh ingredients and tasted better than the food I have eaten on quite a few other ships that have more superior ratings. The cuisine is Greek, which means that there won't be a lot of beef on offer, but most cardiologists will tell you that that is not necessarily a bad thing. Other meats offered - lamb, pork chicken, fish - were excellent and so were the numerous Greek specialties offered. Service from the predominantly Mediterranean and Eastern European crew was very good. The style is European which means the crew are more reserved than they are on US-based "Have a nice day" ships. That doesn't mean that they are not professional, pleasant and efficient. They won't be telling you their life stories though, and to be honest I much prefer that. I am on holiday to relax and I don't want to hear tales of how tough life is in Manila, Mumbai and Maracaibo. The Greek Islands were absolutely stunning and the small size of the Louis Aura meant that it could dock at most of the ports and passengers were able to get on and off very quickly which allowed for maximum time ashore. To sum up, the Louis Aura is a simple, comfortable, well run ship. It harks back to the more innocent era of cruising, before it all became so corporate and impersonal. Forget the large mega-cruise ships, go with an open mind, and you'll have a wonderful time. I have sailed on a total of 38 ships - big ships, small ships, old ships, modern ships and everything in between. I would have no hesiattion recommending this ship.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Our superior cabin turned out to be an inferior porthole and bunk job with towels you could shoot peas through and shagged out linen. It was as clean as the very nice cabin attendants could make it. The whole ship was a backpackers ship, ... Read More
Our superior cabin turned out to be an inferior porthole and bunk job with towels you could shoot peas through and shagged out linen. It was as clean as the very nice cabin attendants could make it. The whole ship was a backpackers ship, and we found out from other guests that the 'better cabins' had been discount marketed in the states. We booked online - what a mistake! When we requested some decent towels the cabin attendants had to try and get some from superior cabins - only happened once. The food was disgusting and the only decent food to be found was on the buffet. We didn't get a drink card thankfully. Because we were independent travellers and not with a group, we were made to feel like lepers in the dining room and stuck at the lepers table. We met two girls from Australia who were on a Kon Tiki tour which is where you meet other people and have fun, except there were no other Kon Tiki people on board. If we had paid half the price and were backpackers this might have been an ok deal. The only good thing about the tour was the destinations and the length of time at each port. Next time I would rather go on a ferry - but took the cruise as it was a first time visit. Wrong wrong wrong. Either I pressed the wrong button or ended up being landed with an onshore package which didn't work out too badly except that some of the onshore trips were cancelled. To get our money back we got a piece of paper and had to write to the office in Athens. I did this and posted the letter in Athens. I will bet London to a brick on that we never hear from them again with regard to this. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than take a Lousy Louis cruise again - and if you need to cruise the Greek Islands, find another way. Even the lifeboats on this ship look suss. Thank God for kind weather.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
The swimming pool was small and not very inviting, but the deck area was nice to sit in, have a drink, read a book and enjoy the sun and breeze. The shows were very entertaining, especially the Broadway musical show. The food and service ... Read More
The swimming pool was small and not very inviting, but the deck area was nice to sit in, have a drink, read a book and enjoy the sun and breeze. The shows were very entertaining, especially the Broadway musical show. The food and service at the restaurant was excellent. There was a breakfast buffet and then a lunch buffet, and a la carte at the restaurant every night (all included in the price.) There was lots to choose from and I really enjoyed both the quality of the food and the friendly service provided by the staff. You had to pay for your drinks and bottled water, but tap water was free. The prices for the drinks were reasonable, but you could also get bottled water from kiosks/supermarkets in all the ports as it's much cheaper. My room was a single inside cabin on the upper deck, and although there was no window it was not claustrophobic. It was clean and comfortable, and I didn't mind spending time in my cabin watching tv and reading a book. Thank god I had my earplugs, because you could hear the bouzoukia music from upstairs until around 01:30 in the morning. My steward was really friendly and helpful. Ask him/her to show you how to switch off the a/c in your cabin, because it can get quite freezing. Bring socks and warm sleepwear to sleep in! Having said that, it was a bit chilly in all areas of the ship, so bring a blazer or cardigan, long trousers and shoes that can be worn with socks. Also bring an adaptor or two for your chargers. It was a bit tricky to keep the adaptor on the plug as it kept falling off. I had to use the leg of the sidetable to keep it in place. There are bath towels, swimming pool towels, soap and shampoo in the bathroom, and you can get a hairdryer from the reception for free. The ship's hairdressing services were very expensive. If you absolutely HAVE to have your hair done, do it in one of the ports. The cabins on the lower decks were not as nice as the ones upstairs. They were small and I wouldn't want to spend any time in my cabin if I was staying there. As for the excursions, you had to book them at least 24 hours in advance. The excursion desk was operating in strange hours, and the girls there were not very helpful. Don't forget to bring your sunglasses, sunscreen and hat for your daytime trips. Also, check the weather report before leaving- it was raining cats and dogs in Istanbul. The ship excursions on the Greek ports were mostly OK, but skip the one in Istanbul. Get a cab to the Hagia Sophia area instead and from there do the sightseeing with friends/family, it's really easy and you'll spare yourself all the delays, inconvenience and frustration of travelling in large groups. You will be asked to leave all your bags outside your cabin on the last night, so bring a small handbag to carry your sleepwear and toiletries with you until you leave the ship. Overall, a very nice cruise, excellent service and food, lovely destinations (especially Istanbul and Mykonos.) The only minus were the passengers. Most of them were Cypriot middle-aged couples and pensioners travelling with their grandchildren. Not a very pleasant bunch. I saw some of them abusing the foreign staff with racist comments. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
Most of Louis Cruises ships sail out of Marseille. For us this was a bonus because to fly into Marseille was a simple and straightforward option. We were flying from Faro in the Algarve and their options on destinations is fairly limited. ... Read More
Most of Louis Cruises ships sail out of Marseille. For us this was a bonus because to fly into Marseille was a simple and straightforward option. We were flying from Faro in the Algarve and their options on destinations is fairly limited. The downside is although Marseille is quite a pleasant place to explore, it is full of undesirable people and therefore not very safe. We arrived at the port by taxi and was dropped at the terminal, something resembling a very large warehouse. Inside a Que formed leading up to two scanning machines which is where we dropped the luggage. From here we were taken upstairs where we started the booking in procedure with staff from the ship. This was quick and straight forward. We were issued with security cards and boarded the ship. We were taken to our cabin an outside junior suite. It was quite a large room with double bed, sofa, armchair, table, wardrobe and bathroom with bath and shower. Within 30 minutes our luggage arrived and the two guys looking after us in the cabin introduced themselves. They did an excellent job throughout the cruise and were always eager to please. We had a good look around the ship and it certainly had all the basics. A la carte restaurant, further restaurant al fresco out on deck, lounge with bar where you could also get snacks, entertainment lounge, library, casino ( afew slot machines and a couple of tables, hardly Las Vegas) two swimming pools (plunge pools) and a duty free shop. There is a capacity of less than 900 passengers and about 350 crew. A typical day started with breakfast we were shown to a table in the a la carte where we were given tea or coffee and orange juice. The food was the norm, cooked being sausage, bacon eggs mushrooms etc or continental pastries, fruit toast. I believe the other restaurant did more or less the same with the option of omelettes. Lunch was in either restaurant again. We opted for the deck which had 4or 5 hot dishes, an excellent selection of salads and cold cuts or burgers. Tea and coffee was also available. About 4 O'clock was afternoon tea, obviously tea, coffee biscuits and cakes. Evening meal was served at 6.45 and 9 p.m.We elected to take the later sitting and was shown to a round table seating 8 people, this we were to keep for the duration of the cruise. We were joined by other English speaking people with whom we formed good friends. Dinner started with appetizers, starters, main, sweet and tea or coffee. Some had wine or drinks. You could buy a drinks package but it seemed to have quite a few exclusions, so we opted out and just bought as and when. Tea and coffee was included in every meal. The staff again were always eager to please and did an excellent job in serving us. From here you could have a drink in the lounge or go and see entertainment in the "Stars lounge" which appeared to be of low quality and a lot of audience participation. Except for the fist day when we were at sea there were stops every day at various ports. The excursions office seemed very busy but we thought they were on the expensive side. e also like to do our own thing and not herded around. We did take the Rome trip because of the distance involved and the short time in which to see an awful lot. Two days before the trips end we were asked to complete a tip form. They suggested 8 euros a day per person but you could put anything you wanted. We put 0 and opted to tip the cabin staff and waiters at our table personally. We were told that tips left through the official route are retained by the cruise line and not passed on to the staff. For us a first timers we were extremely happy with the comfort of our room the food and the attitude of just about all the staff on board. We were told by several "professional cruisers" that in their opinion the ship was of low standard and the only way is up. I have done a blog which includes the ports we visited and a basic summary, this can be seen at www.louiscruises.blogspot.com Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Ours was a Fly UK to Marseille option. You may also go via rail/French TGV to the port. Those using the second option had a more enjoyable journey. I should say at the outset that cruising is never cheap and usually the more you pay, the ... Read More
Ours was a Fly UK to Marseille option. You may also go via rail/French TGV to the port. Those using the second option had a more enjoyable journey. I should say at the outset that cruising is never cheap and usually the more you pay, the better the deal. What you must be aware of, however, are the add-ons. Louis Lines are probably no better or worse than other cruises in this respect. "Drinks unlimited". If you opt for this, ALL passengers in your cabin over 18 must aso sign up. Pretty obvious really, as one passenger could keep on getting ALL the drinks for the others! The cost is a whopping Euros 279 per person. For this you get 'house brand' spirits + mixers, beers, tea/coffee, soft drinks, glasses of wine, certain cocktails. You may also have TWO scoops of ice cream! You may also BUY bottles of mineral water and wine at a DISCOUNTED price! So, if there are two of you you pay Euros 558 for some "Free" drinks, Discounted mineral water and bottles of wine. You're going to have to drink a lot of booze to show a profit! I've been on a few cruises and I have never seen so many passengers carrying litre bottles of water in the restaurant and bars. This speaks for itself. Bar prices are what you'd expect in a hotel but some of the pricey cocktails were very watery. Food was of ordinary hotel standard. Excursions should be looked at carefully to ensure value. This applies to all cruises. The opinions of ourselves and other passengers were as follows but I do accept that some people may have a special reason for wanting to visit certain places. The prices are for TWO people. Genoa Euros 92 (Not highly rated) Portofino Euros 112 (V. Good) Naples Euros Euros 88 (Not highly rated) Pompeii Euros 106 (Must see) Athens & Acropolis Euros 124 (Must see) Athens and Plaka Euros 104 (Not as good as above) Ephasus Euros 120 (You haven't missed much) Ephasus Ancient Euros 114 (Ditto) Patmos Euros 98 (OK) Patmos Tour Euros 68 (OK) Mykonos tours at Euros 98, 78 and 66 (50-50 reports) Santorini Euros 106 (Very scenic) Katalon Euros 112 (Expensive) Messina Euros 106 (Quite missable) Mount Etna Euros 104 (A long drive to see Etna from a distance!) Marseille Euros 94 (Not as good as below) Aix-en-Provence Euros 98 (Good) If you went on every excursion, you'd spend a fortune. Do some guide book research before you go! TIPPING Like all cruises, you are expected to tip. In other words, pay the crew's wages so that the Cruise Line may lower their brochure prices. Their advice is Euros 8 per person per day. Children, 6-15 years, pay (or more exactly their parents pay - how many 6 year olds do you know who are of independant means?) Euros 4 per day each. A bit of maths: You are a family of Mum, Dad and two kids. That totals Euros 24 per day. A 12 day cruise = 24x12=288 Euros in tips, assuming the kids don't chip in with their holiday money! The 'small print' says you can obtain a form to opt-out of this extortion which is otherwise automatically deducted from you credit card. YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE QUEUE TO GET THE FORM! We tipped our cabin stewards and table waiter ourselves, in cash, and no-one else. We enjoyed the cruise and the places we visited. The criticisms: Average quality food, rip-off "free drinks" (pay-as-you-go is better) and rip-off tipping. And just in case you wonder: No, like most cruises, you can't 'smuggle' in booze you've bought ashore! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
In shopping for a memorable birthday present for my husband (or hubby), I looked through the maze of late May and early June cruise offerings to Greece, which we had wanted to revisit. Greece has always been one of the most picturesque ... Read More
In shopping for a memorable birthday present for my husband (or hubby), I looked through the maze of late May and early June cruise offerings to Greece, which we had wanted to revisit. Greece has always been one of the most picturesque countries in the world that we never tire of visiting due to its azure skies, tantalizing water views, great food, lilting music and hospitable people.Of the Aegean itineraries I reviewed, Louis Cruise Lines' 10-day "Mediterranean Jewels" program on the Orient Queen emerged as the best value for the money. Besides Greek ports of call (Piraeus, Patmos, Mykonos, Santorini, Katakolon), the cruise package included French, Italian and Turkish destinations (Marseilles, Genoa, Naples, Messina and Kusadasi). What's more, the two "at sea" days provided prospects of unwinding and experiencing the ship's facilities and amenities. With above factors in mind, we booked the cruise, and below is a review of our experience on the Orient Queen. SHIP We've sailed on two of Louis' ships before and found the modern, stylish public areas of the Orient Queen just as remarkably clean and well-maintained. The ship has a capacity of 912 guests in 364 cabins. There are 320 crew members and 10 passenger decks. Deck 10 (Panoramic) has the Venus Bar-level 2; Deck 9 (Compass), the Venus Bar-level 1 plus a mini golf course; Deck 8 (Sun), the main swimming pool, fitness center and sauna; Deck 7 (Boat), the Horizon Buffet Restaurant, small pool, beauty salon, massage/spa, hospital and jogging areas; Deck 6 (Merry), the Mermaid Restaurant,  Reflections Lounge and Bar, the Stars Show Lounge and Bar, library, video game arcade and business/internet center; Deck 5 (Phoenician), the reception and shore excursions desks, duty-free arcade, photo gallery plus a heliport; Decks 4  (Cedar) and 3 (Fortune), the casino and slot machines. While both pools and fitness center magnetize the athletic and active at heart, the massage/spa and beauty salon cater to those looking for a special pampering. The library and card room attract both bookworms and socializers. Not to be forgotten is the large duty-free arcade for the shopaholics and the casino for the fortune hunters and speculators. STATEROOM Our air-conditioned, luminous, spacious, comfortable and tastefully furnished window cabin was a perfect birthday present for my husband. It had an understated contemporary feel about it with matching drapery and bedspreads, chrome bed stands (with a shelf but no drawers), linen upholstered daybed and chair, ample closets, LCD TV, telephone, fridge and complimentary combination safe. The roomy bathroom had marble-like tiled floors, walls and counters, a bathtub with shower plus a hairdryer. In a heartbeat, we'd choose the room again as it was easy to find and convenient to the restaurants and pools. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION Marseilles and Genoa are the main embarkation points for Orient Queen's 10-day "Mediterranean Jewels" itinerary. From reports, the cruise we joined had 60% French, 30% combined Austrians, Italians, Germans and Swiss and 10% mix of Turkish, English and us, the only two Americans. At the check-in points, efficiency and hospitality are standard priorities for the staff in order to get cruisers in the right holiday mood. Whereas cruisers' passports are kept until the end of the cruise for port authority clearances, a cruise card is issued for getting on and off at intermediate stops. Credit cards are registered for on-board purchases. Afternoon briefings on life on board are scheduled for passengers embarking at both ports with the mandatory lifeboat drill held upon departure from Genoa. Disembarkation procedures were just as efficient as those at embarkation. STAFF The soft-spoken, effervescent Greek Capt. Yannis Foudoukas is at the helm of the courteous, friendly, efficient, multicultural staff officers and crew members hailing from Greece, Cuba, Mauritius and the Philippines.  Everyone from whom we asked or sought assistance went out of their way to fulfill our needs - from Bulgarian Alina and the Filipino security/cruise card checkers, from the reception desk to the duty free shop representatives, from the barmen and waiters to the television technician. English and French were the major languages spoken on the ship with pleasant Belgian-born Cruise Director Dominique Jacobs providing the Belgian, Dutch, German and Italian translations. Accommodating, friendly and hospitable Maitre d'Hotel Alexandru Dan managed the restaurant with utmost professionalism, using as guide his father's management philosophy of being "strict but fair". The impeccable table service reflected his management style, and despite the large number of passengers, with a friendly smile, food was always served piping hot. Our table waiter, Kostantinos, proved to be perfect: his English was on par for us and our British tablemates. Best of all, he was pleasant, courteous, attentive and quick to deliver our menu choices while they were hot off the stove. He even went out of his way to help one of the British ladies unload an unwanted telephone card she had mistakenly purchased at a local store. Now, that's service indeed worth mentioning. Our cabin attendants Dyarilis and Marko couldn't do enough to keep our rooms always spanking clean and well-supplied with bathroom necessities. It was a pleasure to see our hand towels changed twice a day and to see each evening chocolate treats on our pillows. From their comments, our British dinner tablemates were just as satisfied with their own cabin attendants. CUISINE This is my favorite topic to review and right away -- thanks to the combined talents of the Philippine-born Executive Chef, Ralph Goyena, the Greek Food and Beverage Manager, Dionysios Alysandato (whose first name obviously derives from the god of wine) and the culinary team -- I must say the food on this cruise was superb, but let me begin with comments on breakfast. Standard breakfast fare for hubby and me at home comprises juice, fruit, bread and cereal. It was overwhelming to see the wide array of breads, cold meats, smoked fish, cheese, bacon, sausages, plain or filled omelets and fried eggs.  It took us a day or so to get used to having a gargantuan breakfast, but we started looking forward to the smorgasbord of flavors as the cruise progressed. The lunch buffet was likewise amazing, almost a daily mini-banquet with the bountiful salads, cold cuts, cheeses, soup, beef, pork, fish courses and carbohydrate selections of rice, potatoes, pasta and pizzas. As though not enough to increase the girth, the variety of cakes, puddings and jellos awaited the sweet-toothed while fresh fruits remained attractive to the diet-conscious.  The Mermaid Restaurant welcomed cruisers preferring a more intimate dining style for lunch. The menu comprised appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts (cakes, strudels, caramel, chocolate mousse and cream brulee). Daily, a country is selected and its special food featured. Among those featured were Greece (bream, gyros, moussaka, yemista), Austria (schnitzel), France (nicoise salad), Italy (spaghetti putanesca, carpaccio), Spain (paella), China (sweet and sour pork), Thailand (chicken curry) and the USA (barbecue ribs, steaks). The culinary tours de force each day were of course, the dinners for which we enjoyed dressing up. Two dinner seatings were standard. Moreover, dinner evenings ranged from formal to casual and themed. As might be expected, the wine selection was broad and included choices from several countries, including Greece, France, Italy, the US and Australia. From cruisers' comments, the menus were typical of an upscale restaurant. The "welcome gala" and "farewell formal" evenings were definitely coat and tie affairs generating smart, glamorous diners at the Mermaid. Matching the first occasion were lobster, salmon and lamb. King prawns, duck l'orange and tenderloin steak highlighted the second. Whereas a festival cake capped off the "welcome event", Baked Alaska (the traditional farewell treat in many cruises) served as keystone for the "adieu affair". With regards to the casual dinner evenings (called as such to mean "wear smart casual clothes"), the restaurant still served "dressy" and epicurean-flavored menus ranging from appetizers to entrees and desserts.  The ship's dress code, which is enforced, prohibits wearing shorts to dinner in the Mermaid dining room, although they are allowed at the Horizon's informal buffet. The Greek and Italian dinner theme nights were served buffet style. While moussaka, dolmades, lamb, zatsiki, feta cheese and other dishes represented Greece, lasagna, spaghetti and pizzas highlighted Italy. Overall, it could be said that if Ralph and Dionysios had aimed to deliver "divine food" and "food fit for the gods" during the Orient Queen cruise, without doubt, they accomplished their goal of presenting a magnificent culinary repertoire that only an ascetic would have resisted. Besides the meals served above, late night snacks were brought butler style to the lounges. Further, there were two late evening sweet buffets with crepes and seared bananas that were overshadowed by a grand, lavish and calorific evening called "sweet fever".  At the latter event, living and breathing (figuratively speaking) cakes, pies, cookies, fruits, puddings and jellos grabbed cruisers' sweet tooth and camera bugs' attention to the maximum. Overall, the sugary show communicated the kitchen staff's belief that "man can't live on meat and potatoes alone," especially on a cruise. Reportedly, birthday, graduation and anniversary celebrations can be arranged on board. Therefore, to make hubby's birthday week memorable I ordered a cake, which was delivered to our table with singing waiters from Cuba and the Philippines. Additionally, Maitre d' Alex mentioned the Captain can officiate civil wedding ceremonies on board, and the staff will ensure everything goes right for the occasion. Finally, special wedding/honeymoon packages, including all that a couple could wish for to start their marriage on the right foot, are available. ENTERTAINMENT With the variety of shore excursions offered, along with the line-up of on-board day and evening programs, cruisers had no time to get bored. Hubby and I literally became very time conscious in order not to miss out on any of the activities. We were, after all, celebrating his birthday week. Day entertainment featured among others sushi-making, cocktail-mixing (one not to be missed), ice, fruit and vegetable carvings, napkin and towel folding, language and dance lessons, quizzes, contests and aperitif games. Nightly the lounge musicians rocked the boat, encouraging both junior and senior cruisers to take center stage, boogie, cha-cha-cha, jitterbug, line or slow dance.  When the Stars Lounge band took a break, dancers moved to catch the Latin and rock tunes in the Reflections Lounge. For the night owls, disco music prevailed through the early morning hours when the musicians had finished performing. Except for three days when only one show had been scheduled for everyone, the entertainment team rendered early and late performances in the Stars Show Lounge. Glitz, glitter and glamour filled the "Welcome Show" that was segued by other lively revues as the "International", "Broadway", "Singers Cabaret" and more. Theme nights ranged from the "Sensational '70s" to the "Fiesta Noche Show/Tropical Party" and the "Greek Night." Programs encouraging passengers' participation were the "Miss and Mister Orient Queen Contest", "Dance Competition" plus "Passenger and Crew Members' Talent Show". For the cruise we were on, marvelous passenger performers included an adhoc French chorus, a balloon sculptor and a belly dancer. Finally, throughout the cruise no one could miss Cruise Director Dominique Jacobs' infectious laughter and smiles (reminiscent of those by American actress Natalie Portman).  Besides her impressive multilingual skills, she can sing, dance, act and be a comedian as well. She also leads the gracious, talented hosts and hostesses (Alina, Lidia, Zlata, Gianni and David among others); delightful crooners (Marina and her colleagues), attractive, energetic dancers (Natalya, Samantha, Jenny with their two handsome male partners), the riveting magician (Kent), the Stars Show Lounge Band, the Reflections Bar Duo and the Disco Bar DJ.  PORTS OF CALL As the Orient Queen cruised to four countries, for clarity, the review in this section has been done geographically. GREECE Piraeus/Athens Athens' acropolis, Monastiraki, plaka and the posh shopping area near the Greek Parliament Square topped the places we revisited in the city. The city is a 50-minute bus ride from Piraeus. The mini-train near the Parliament Square is something we did not see on our last visit there. We considered taking it, however, opted to explore the streets and capture the city pulse and rhythm on foot. It felt good to experience the hustle and bustle generated by shoppers, gobble a huge pretzel bread, window shop, chat a bit with merchants and answer their questions concerning American lifestyle, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain. After taking some shots of the temples on the acropolis and picking up a few souvenirs, it was time to head back to ship. Patmos Known for its clean beaches, fish restaurants, tavernas and meandering shopping street, this town was our second Greek destination. We tendered towards the village of Chora, and from there, proceeded to the hilltop St. John the Evangelist Monastery, a 10-15-minute bus ride from the town center. The monastery is where St. John wrote the Biblical book of Revelations with its famous visions of the Apocalypse; hence, it is the reason for Patmos being called the "Jerusalem of the Aegean". The well-preserved Byzantine church plus its architectural details are worth close examination. Unfortunately, photographing was not allowed inside.  Among the art collections in the monastery's museum includes paintings, icons, religious relics and silver or gold embroidered vestments. A lasting memory from the monastery is a tranquil view of the moored Orient Queen against Patmos' scenic coastal views. Mykonos and Santorini The ship called on both islands the same day - Mykonos in the morning and Santorini in the afternoon. The quaintness of both islands was just as captivating the second time as when we first visited them. The notable difference is that while Mykonos developed on a plain, Santorini did on the cliffs. A similar sight to both against unforgettable, gorgeous water views are the whitewashed Cycladic cubic-style homes accented by colorful doors and windows along with the blue-domed churches. As Mykonos limits driving, the ship provided a shuttle bus for the town center of Alefkandra. Oodles of artsy souvenirs greeted everyone navigating the maze of narrow, whitewashed cobblestone streets. Besides the beaches, hotels, restaurants and bars abound on the island. Among Alefkandra's highlights are "Little Venice" (with the waterside balcony homes, bars and eateries), the windmills perched on a hill, the incredible number of churches in the town and Petros, the town's mascot pelican.  Hubby and I wished we could have stayed longer to investigate the shops; thus, with a heavy heart, we headed back to the shuttle bus. We tendered to the captivating island of Santorini, where the view of steep cliffs never fails to mesmerize.  We took the cable car (instead of taking the hundreds of stairs or the mule ride) to the town center of Thira, the island's capital. As in Mykonos, the town hosts innumerable boutiques, bars and restaurants huddled against each other. T-shirts, caps, jewelry, ceramics are everywhere. After exploring the island's narrow and hilly streets, we followed the path to capture Santorini's sunset scene, a "must see" according to locals. From the lookout, where we took our parting shot of the island's coastal views and the caldera, we relished the incredible sight of cliff cubic homes with flora and bougainvilleas that will always be part of our collective memory of Greece. Subsequent to purchasing hubby's Santorini labeled shirt, we headed back towards our floating hotel, where a "Greek Night" of food and dancing had been scheduled. On the boat, a crew member intimated that once in Santorini, he literally ran into Bruce Willis. In another visit, he spotted Santorini homeowners Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt shopping there. He also commented the prices can be intimidating as the island is popular among world celebrities. Katakolon The small port town is modern, clean and easy to get around. For tourists with lots of time in the town, there is a train and bus service that would enable visitors to visit renowned Ancient Olympia, site of the first Olympiad in 776 BC and Zeus' sanctuary.  However, due to our limited time there, we opted for a taxi and arrived in Olympia 40 minutes later. Hard bargaining got us a roundtrip fare of €50 for four people, including 1-1/2 hours waiting time for the driver. Because both museum and archaeological area close at 5 p.m., we chose to visit the museum to view the artifacts from the site. The modern, fantastic Olympia Archaeological Museum houses some of the most significant collections from antiquity: prehistoric terracottas, bronzes and priceless sculptures such as Hermes bearing the infant Dionysus by Praxiteles, the Nike of Paeonius and a large photograph showing Phidias' colossal gold and silver statue of Zeus in his temple in Olympia. The statue was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In one room is a pediment reconstruction from original pieces of the Treasury of the Megarians. Further, in a large gallery is the crème de le crème for the institution - original sculptural composition pieces of the pediments and metopes from Zeus' temple depicting a contest, a battle scene and Hercules' 12 labors. To cap our visit, we viewed the archaeological site's model in the lobby. In retrospect, though short, our visit to Olympia was well worth the time for having seen some of the rarest vestiges of ancient Greece. Upon returning to Katakolon and before heading back to "base", we poked our heads inside a few shops for some souvenirs as the town was the last on our Greek itinerary. We couldn't resist the olive soap said to do wonders for the skin and the ubiquitous "eye" door decor, which Greeks say wards off evil, helps generate fortune to homeowners and perhaps, bring tourists back to Greece. Since our return, we've put the "eye" where it was recommended with hopes of reaping its benefits. TURKEY Kusadasi's progressive-looking and impeccable port is awesome. Near the landing is a modern shopping arcade greeting cruisers. Just across the main street from the port is a traditional Turkish bazaar, where merchants tempt with jewelry, carpets, clothes and home accessories. Before shopping, however, we wanted to revisit Ephesus, an ancient Greek and Roman wonder that was our top priority for the day. After a short taxi negotiation on a round trip fare to the site, we were off on a 30-minute ride to Ephesus. For four of us, the roundtrip fare was €48 plus a €2 tip. History records a Greek prince founded Ephesus; that it was once rebuilt by Constantine, and that it developed into a significant Asia minor capital, metropolis and commercial center under the Romans.  The complex is vast but could be visited quickly in an hour. A longer visit, if time allows, affords reflective moments at the place.  Among the highlights include vestiges of the Roman Theater, Hadrian's Temple and the Celsus Library that was built in AD 135 and could house around 12,000 scrolls. Its theater is said to have had a seating capacity for 25,000 spectators. Indelible memories of our visit to the area were the gleaming state of the artifacts along with the cleanliness of the complex' surroundings. For lovers of antiquity, Ephesus is certainly one not to be missed. Although we skipped it this time, also worth visiting is the House of Mary (Mother of Jesus). After the crucifixion, St. John is believed to have brought Mary to Ephesus, where she lived out the rest of her life. Back to Kusadasi, we strolled through the bazaar, where we very much enjoyed viewing the offerings.  We briefly chatted with friendly merchants who, while waiting for prospective customers, sit on benches in the middle of the tree-lined lane of the bazaar. Kusadasi's drawing cards are definitely its coastal views, unhurried lifestyle, warm climate and hospitable folks. Hubby and I agreed it's worth revisiting the place someday. FRANCE The ship docked about 8 km. from Marseille's old port area, a 15 minute ride away by taxi.  Due to the distance of the port from town and the inconvenience of accessing public transportation, an organized sightseeing tour might be a good option to consider. A truly fascinating place with lots of shops, restaurants, business offices and of course, traffic, Marseille's vieux (old) port hums with fishermen selling their catch for the day as well as vendors plying local or imported arts and crafts stalls along the pier. It is home to several sailboats plus sightseeing boats for around the area. From the area, a mini-train takes visitors up the hill for both a visit to the Church of Notre Dame de la Garde as well as for a magnificent view of the city. ITALY Genoa We found the city tourist friendly. The port is convenient to the Brignole train station and the airport via the Volabus from the train station. The fountain just outside the port building pleasantly greets visitors, hence a favorite backdrop for photo shoots. A topless sightseeing bus with narration in several languages picks up visitors just outside the maritime building. We found the one-hour tour to be a good way to catch an overview of the town. Highlights include the Aquarium, Piazza De Ferrari, Columbus House at Porta Soprana, and the gardens in Piazza Vittoria.Returning to the Aquarium area, we viewed private yachts alongside the enormous galleon built for the 1986 Roman Polanski movie "Pirates".  Foreign imported clothes, costume jewelry and housewares are sold in the piazza's market stalls. As we strolled back to the port, we stopped in some discount clothing shops, mostly run by Orientals.  Genoa's outstanding images are the architecturally attractive palaces(especially the Ducal Palace), collection-rich museums, inviting squares (especially Piazza De Ferraris and PiazzaVittoria) along with the great shopping opportunities in the city center or near the port. We plan to revisit the town soon with hopes of combining it with a visit to Portofino. Naples The city has too many treasures to visit in a 5-hour stop. Among its globally-known sites are the Naples' National Archaeological Museum, Capodimonte Museum, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Vesuvius and Sorrento. As in many other cities, the City Sightseeing Bus is a recommended way to experience Naples heritage of which is a blend of Greek, Roman, French and Spanish cultures. The bus tour originates from the side of the New or Angevin Palace, just across the Maritime Station, where the Orient Queen docked. Near the New Palace is Plebiscito Square with some of Naples' major beauties: the Royal Palace, San Francesco di Paola Church, the San Carlo Theater, and the Galleria Umberto that leads to the Via Roma shopping district. A pleasant way to end a visit of Naples is a cappuccino or gelato stop at the handsome Caffe Gambrinus where one can admire the 18th and 19th century buildings as well as the fountain-centered Trieste and Trento Square as traffic and people pass by. Messina Considered as Sicily's door, Messina boasts wide streets and architecturally interesting buildings. Highlights of the town are the Norman-style cathedral, a bell tower with a mechanized clock generating a fascinating show of moving figures at noon plus a large marble fountain in the heart of the cathedral square. As Sicily is famous for horse-drawn carriages, we decided to take a ride in one for €20 for three people. Along the way, our friendly coachman Salvatore pointed to some of the town's squares, churches, the Neptune Fountain, unreconstructed buildings that were bombed during the war, the hilltop shrine and the port's Madonna statue,. Unless one understands Italian, a better way to see the town might be through the mini train (from the cathedral square) offering multilingual narrations during the tour. Lastly, had we had a full day in Messina, we'd have taken a cab to revisit lovely Taormina, a well-known resort on the Sicilian island.FINAL COMMENTS Admittedly, it took a couple of days for hubby and me to get back to our normal routines after the cruise. Nevertheless, it was one of the best birthday celebrations my hubby has ever had. We would definitely take the cruise again to relive the fond memories of the Orient Queen, its hospitable staff along with its fantastic and highly recommended Mediterranean route. In ten days the cruise did four countries (France, Italy, Greece plus Turkey)and called on 10 ports of call (Marseille, Genoa, Naples, Piraeus, Kusadasi, Patmos, Mykonos, Santorini, Katakolon and Messina). In less than two weeks, we revisited or experienced for the first time some of the world's top archaeological sites, a holy island, ancient cities, posh islands and resorts with great shopping venues. If Louis Cruise Lines' 10-day "Mediterranean Gems" itinerary can't be described as "super," then I don't know what that word truly means.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Louis Aura Ratings
Category Editor Member

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