WE chose Holland America's Westerdam OCTOBER 18, 2021 repositioning from Venice to FLL to return to cruising at what we thought was the end of the COVID pandemic., October 2021. WRONG!
The 2021 cruising season morphed into a strange version of the book "Ship of Fools" . Four different HAL ships ( Westerdam cancelled) had their itineraries and cruises cancelled and consolidated onto the Eurodam for an October 18 sailing of much of the original Westerdam 26 day itinerary. Transfers from the Rotterdam, Westerdam, Volendam and Oosterdam got mixed into one plan. All must be vaccinated and COVID negative to sail.
WE happily planned this port heavy itinerary while threats of cancellation flew all summer. The CDC rules that did not allow non USA citizens to enter the US on a cruise ship hit in September with ejection/cancellation of all non US citizens on the last 14 days out of Barcelona. Final payment for the cruise got backed off repeatedly as so many were cancelling. Finally we paid at the end of August, some in September!
Just under 200 sq ft the cabin had all the essentials in an efficient layout of two beds, two night tables, one two seat sleeeper ( sagging) sofa, desk with refrigertor in base. TV installed across from the beds, not so great to watch from sofa or desk. Three closets, with safe lots of shelf and hanging space. Quality wood hangers for clothes. Bathrobes provided.
Double sliding door on verandah allowed view from bed and light into cabin.
Zadar is a walled city with old churches and narrow paths and alleys. Commerce is alive and well The city market in the morning was real and alive with goods. WE used the city bus to go into the town while the cruise ship charged $20 for transfers.
We had a map from the tourist bureau which took us into back alleys to precious well preserved orthodox churches and mosques.
Dubrovnik Croatia was wonderful. We caught a local bus with a lady who lived by the port and went to sell embroidered goods at the main gate to the old walled city. WE wandered with our map and found many treasures. WE did not climb the uneven steps to walk the city walls but walked the length of the old town to the water outside the walls. WE found the churches well preserved and beautiful. Game of Thrones was advertised everywhere and was not our interest. WE liked the old city for its natural charm and not its connection to a TV series.
WE tendered into town to the port and took the city bus to the old town for 3 Euros RT. WE walked the old town up and down the narrow lanes and streets visiting orthodox churches and shops. WE walked into the formal gardens by the museums and cricket pitch. We sat on a bench in the sun and enjoyed uninterrupted time on free wifi. WE shopped for some treasures of this Greek island. Enjoyed 3-4 hours of n rush and courteous people and charming architecture. No interest to climb to visit the forts.
This visit to Katakalon we determined we would finally take a tour to Olympia. WE had visited this few block long town WE booked a tour for a minibus from "My Olympia Tours" and worked out an itinerary .It was sold as a fixed Euro amount for bus and driver for a full day out. With 16 passengers it was 20 Euros each plus admissions on an al la carte choice.
The Olympia grounds were the "long"drive of about an hour. We paid 12 Euros for admission to the grounds and museum. The fields were adequately marked but lots of walking around pillars and foundations of former buildings. The museum was well annotated and spaced well. Clean modern with clean restrooms and gift shop.
Then all went to Olympia village to shop and get lunch WE found charming street side restaurants with lunch for under 7 Euros each for souvlaki and gyros.
The the choice of Honey farm ( 7 E) , winery ( 15 Euros) or monastery( no fee)
I opted for the Monastery of Kremasti ( Pyrgos) .Stiff climb tot he chapel and buildings at the top of the hill but worth it. Sister Christoph welcomed us and we viewed this small orthodox shrine to Our Lady and mental health .Best part of our day
Then the driver gathered up all three groups and took us to a local beach for rest stop and break Disappointing. Storm fronds littered the beach Too cold and late in the season Nothing worth seeing or doing. Probably exciting in August
Everyone felt this was a great day of good value. The most anyone paid was 47 Euros plus lunch. WE spent 37 Euros each including lunch.
On a miserable rainy day we rediscovered Barcelona walking the Ramblas, finding the cathedral , walking the Gothic neighborhood and chasing some Gaudi architecture. Always we visit the ever larger public market on the Ramblas. All our visit was planned around using the cruise port bus with roundtrip set by the city at about 3 Euros. Great day with planning . Some jumped on the metro to go to the Sacrade Famiglia but you need timed entrance there. Barcelona is accessible even in the rain. The annual beer festival returned during our visit after shutdown for COVID.
Always interesting Worth planning the time to get out of the port to one of many destinations WE did Vatican Museums, Sistine chapel, St peter's Basilica, Colliseum, Piazza Venezia, Trevi Fountain and shopping streets in mid Rome.
My favorite tour company is email@example.com . personalized tours for 6-8 persons.
Wonderful day as we planned it on this tender port. WE got 16 people off on the first tender to two vans for a full day of French Riviera by Provence Riviera tours . the driver guides knew their stuff stopping at overlooks on the mid and lower Corniche as we visited Cannes, Nice, Monaco , Monte Carlo, and St Paul de Vence. Lunch was on our own after the changing of the guard in Monaco WE visited the Cathedral there . St Paul was my favorite climbing up and down its lanes and art galleries. At 60 Euro per person this was a dynamic day and value.
Marseille did not have a great reputation as a tourist destination. But we proved that wrong. We sought a local company that gave us a tour of Marseilles including Notre Dame en Garde on the hill, Aix en Provence and Cassis at the entrance to the national park of the Callanches. WE wandered to overlooks and viewed the Crest Road where the cliffs are 1200 feet above the crashing sea. WE ate fresh seafood in Cassis. We wandered the ancient streets of Aix But the guides from Bon Jour Provence Tours love Marseille. They know the history and all the picturesque stops. They showed us the sandblasted old buildings restored to their glory. I had recruited 16 happy passengers in two vans that blitzed Provence with joy that day. The guides looked after us assuring we had freedom but did not stray from seeing what we needed to see. Great port call with Bon Jour Provence tours
Again we returned to Cartagena on a cruise. ? fourth visit. Not a choice-just on the itinerary. WE wanted something out of the city This time we paid Spain Day Tours for a shore excursion to Carnavaca de la Cruz and Sanctuarios en Murcia. Two significant Christian /Catholic sites. Lots of riding in the minibus. The visits were short at each shrine and anti-climatic. 10 minutes at each after 90 minutes riding.
The guide was happier talking about Cartagena so we got a city tour on the return as the guie maneuvered us to see the Roman ruins, bull ring and city hightlights and overlook. WE visited Cartagena ( again) sunset over the harbor. Best ever. But not ready to return