This is our 13th tour but our first on Royal Caribbean. Previous tours are on Celebrity
We took a bus from Athens Airport right to the door of Alexandros Hotel which we booked on Hotels.com. The bus was very reasonable price, easy and ... Read More
This is our 13th tour but our first on Royal Caribbean. Previous tours are on Celebrity
We took a bus from Athens Airport right to the door of Alexandros Hotel which we booked on Hotels.com. The bus was very reasonable price, easy and the bus driver told us when we arrived at the correct stop. We found the bus was the best way to get around Athens. The front desk staff suggested a local restaurant which had excellent choice of food, attentive staff and very reasonable prices. The food was probably the best tasting food we had on the entire trip! We made a big mistake in taking a group bus tour rather than a taxi as so many suggested. As much as we loved our tour guide and visiting the Acropolis, we probably wouldn't visit Athens again. We found it to be dirty with too many stray dogs that populated every site, street and sidewalk. The various sites crowded the ruins, it is not very enjoyable and the museums are spread all over Athens they are supposed to be excellent but you'll take a so much time getting to them and spend little time in them and they close very early. We took the three island cruise arranged by the hotel and enjoyed the wide range of experiences we had on each island. A great way to spend a day We took a taxi to Piraeus, and as a former teacher of history and politics I found the taxi driver (born near Toronto but returned to Athens as a child) the best tour guide of out three day in Athens and he predicted much of the economic trouble that Greece is in today. Limassol, Cyprus Unlike some who did not even get off the ship, we did and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We walked out through the terminal and took a local bus to the downtown area. We walked through many small streets, saw many beautiful table clothes, and interesting local shops. We walked the promenade along the shore and were very happy to spend a glorious afternoon in the city. Another time we would stay on the bus a few minutes longer and get off at the beach. We could have easily walked back to the town from there and caught the bus back to the terminal.
Israel Now, this was the highlight of the trip. We had 2 days there, one in Ashdod and one in Haifa. In Ashdod, we booked Yoram Mor (firstname.lastname@example.org) in his private 7 passenger van for a tour to Galilee one day and Jerusalem. Yoram was really quite something - from the moment we stepped into his car, he was telling us about this and that, about the history of Irael, about the political scene in Israel, about anything and everything we wanted to know. He was genuinely interested in showing us as much of Israel as possible and at times, seemed more excited than us. He wants us to "experience" the sights rather than just see them and understand the history behind them. His experience of guiding over 20 years, his Bible knowledge and his openness to make the day fit as many specific sites we wanted to see was what made him an exceptional guide. To that end, he was very keen on us "walking the Galilee", and had us "tasting the fish that Peter used to fish and the food that people of Jesus' time used to eat". He resisted rushing us as much as possible. He had us read the beatitudes when we were at the Mount of Beatitudes, Jesus heals Peter's mother in law in that locale and warned us which of the sites are probably genuine or not, we sat on the stones of the white synagogue which was built around Jesus' time. We hada couple from Chicago share the tour and we were moved to tears several times as Yoram taught us and discussed ideas with us. We found him open and very helpful in understanding the Bible and the Jewish religion. We met Yoram at 7am each orning he was always punctual and brough t a supply of cold water, dates and fruit with him. We wanted to see the holocaust museum and the Museum of the Dead Sea Scroll. He was outstanding in showing us, telling us and allowing us to experience special impact of the place of the children in the Holocaust Museum. He brought us to the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Wailing Wall, the Jewish quarters, the Muslim quarters, the Via Dolorosa (tracing the footsteps Jesus took to Calvary), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Jesus was crucified and his tomb). It was really very moving to we walk along the pavements that Christ could've been walking on. After a wonderful Yoram proceeded to take us back to Ashdod via a scenic route. Along the route, we passed by the place where David fought Goliath. What an amazing, hectic but definitely fantastic day.... Moreover Yoram is a professional photographer, and he not only gave me pointers on improving pictures, but he took several photos that were beyond my expertise and the end product was wonderful.
Cairo & Alexandria I have never experienced anything like Egypt and I doubt if one can ever really be prepared. They try to take advantage of tourists so everything has a different price abd you have to HAGGLE! Take American $$$$ in small bills I brought $200. In $1. If you buy anything for $3 and only have a 5, they say they don't have change and offer you up another product in exchange for change or just walk away. $1 will buy you 20 postcards. There are horror stories about the camels and paying to get on then having to pay more to get off but I don't know about this first hand so just beware. We booked through Decastro and had a wonderful guide. She not only had a PHD and a wealth of experience but she controlled the locals who tried to push in on us to sell a product. She know the fair price and would show us the product state the price and then ask if anyone wanted one? She arranged camel rides and tried to control those charging for pictures. We were very impressed that we were in a escorted convoy of many buses and vans and lots of police heavily armed. We were impressed that as much security was needed in the country. Unfortunately we had an American doctor and his family with us and he insisted his children needed a bathroom stop. The driver refused, argued and finally gave in. This meant we were separated from the convoy and only had a pickup truck with two armed police to escort us. We ended up stuck in traffic for hours and had to miss some sites that other saw. We ate in a 5 star restaurant but both my wife and I experienced a gastro- intestinal upset as a consequence as did several others that ate in Cairo. We went the Egyptian Museum, very busy, no A/C, over 1 million artifacts on display,I enjoyed the King Tut room but there are better display of Egyptian history in other countries. Nile is impressive, many bridges, top hotels and embassies along one side, but the city needs a major clean-up, which will never happen. Extreme poverty in areas, no garbage collection, we watch many through refuse into canals running into the Nile. With 18 million people, not much sewage treatment or garbage collection, many open fires, dust in the air Ciaro leaves a lasting impression on the olfactory region. Housing is in the Arab tradition of family built high rises, many unfinished apartments, sheep/goats herded in the middle of the city, as well as large area of urban farms. Pyramids are a must see, but be ready for major culture shock in Egypt. The port of Alexandria is sprawling and impressive. We arranged with another couple to take a local tour. The library is a highlight and the beaches looked inviting but we were warned they were heavily polluted. Worth a short visit to see Pompey's Column and a few other sites.
Rhodes One of our favorite ports on this cruise. We chose not to do a tour, but instead walk around the Old Town on our own. We went to the farthest gate into the town, and found a beautiful old temple ruin, the Temple of Venus, the Street of the Knights, the Grand Masters House, and Archaeology Museum. What a beautiful area, a world heritage site, with churches, towers, and medieval walls surrounding all. The shopping was some of the best on the cruise and the food was superb. We bought our silk Turkish carpet here and were glad we did. We would have paid more than twice in Kusadasi and even more in Istanbul. I signed the back and it was Fedexed to me in Canada arriving two days after our return. We also found in a small jewellery store in a small alley some wonderfully designed gold pendants that we saw nowhere else. We found the shops friendly and not aggressive. Rhodes is a beautiful walled city, easy walking, clean and friendly with a large pebble beach between the dock and the city gate. Do not pay for an excursion here. There is plenty to see and do on foot.
Kusadasi: Since we arranged a ten day bus tour out of Istanbul which included Ephesus and Cappadocia we spent our day in this port city walking the Bazaars and markets. We enjoyed he reduces pressure and met some wonderful shop owners and people. We shared a cup of tea with the shop keeper at a Jewelry store as well as in a carpet store. Even they knew we were not interested in purchasing any jewelry he was very friendly and just wanted to talk about hunting moose in Canada, winter Montreal where his cousin lived and the diffences between Turkey and Canada.
Istanbul. We Golden Hill Hotel Millet Caddesi, 104 34093 Istanbul, Turkey through Orion Tours. We booked a ten day tiur of western Turkey with and exception guide, Murat Caglar Cegil/ He had a masters degree in religious iconography and was very knowledgeable of Turkish history as well as Christianities history of the area. Our hotel is located in Millet Caddesi/Findikzade that is one of the central points and called as the old Istanbul or Sur içi. It is 15/20 minutes away from each point of the European side of Istanbul. We traveled a lot on the tram which was faster, cheaper and very easy to find your way around the city on. We wanted to see Istanbul on our own and this proved to be even easier than we imagined. This is because all the important tourist sights are concentrated right next to each other in the heart of the city and connected to the port via an inexpensive tram. To get to the nearest tram station simply walk outside of the port entrance up to the main road and take a left. A few blocks down you will see a Tram station in the center of the road by which a tram runs directly into town every 20 minutes or so. A one way ticket was only 1.60 Turkish Lira making further taxi service in Istanbul unnecessary. In the end we booked a one day tour with City Tours and had a wonderful guide that helped us understand the cultural history, the many changes and the present state of Turkey. If you are going to end your cruise in Istanbul do not leave Turkey without booking at least a sic day tour of eastern Turkey. It was friendly, the people were helpful open and we always felt very safe in the cities as well as the various area of the county we visited. We had many others on tours before say Turkey was their favorite destination Now I know why. Read Less