Monday, October 11, 2010

Greece 2010 - Delos


On October 8th about 7 of our group joined about 60 other passengers from the ship for an optional excurson as soon as we docked in Mykonos to go aboard the tender,the Orca, and make the 30 minute crossing to the uninhabited island of Delos. We arrived about 4pm,and hour after the island "closed" for visitors. Roxane, the guide for English speakers (about 30 of us) informed us that we had the special priviledge of an off-hours visit to the ruins of one of ncient Greece's most sacred sanctuaries. This meant no one at all (except the caretakers) besides us had the freedom to follow along with Roxane or to roam at will among the classical temples devoted to Leto, the mother of twins Apollo and Artemis.

The bareen island is overlooked by a mountain whose stairway to the tp looked inviting to those of us inclined to such folley - too bad (maybe?) there was no time, and we had plenty of other distractions - the herd-scented air under a blue sky (although it was windy) and Hellenic Greek mansions whose central courtyards still contained mosaics and stairs to a lost second story.

We sat in the theater - what Greek ruins lacks a theater?! Peeked into ancient kitchens - it appears the Greeks only grilled or boiled their food. (Frying they considered unhealthy!)

Particularly interesting to me was the sacred lake, now just damp, with a date palm in the middle, recalling the moment when Leto grabbed it as she gave birth to her divine twins.

By 6pm, in the twilight, the Orca returned us to the fleshpots of Mykonos and later, dinner on the Cristal.

Thanks to guest blogger, Prof. Mry Joan Leith for this entry!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Greece 2010 - Athens 1


Early wake up calls and our final morning gathering in the Metropolitan Ballroom on the ship before disembarking in the port of Piraeus. We met our local guide Andi, oarded our bus and headed off to downtown Athens.

We enjoyed a sightseeing tour of the city - a great we to become acclimated to the new city. Our tour ended at the Acropolis, where we got off the bus and tour the site. Except for some wind on the top of the mountain, it was perfect. The ruins/excavation is awe-inspiring and the views overlooking the city were fantastic!

We returned to the bus, checked into our hotel - the Classical Imperial Athens- first class all the way - and then met up with Andi again for a tour of th Acropolis Museum. What a marvel just the building is. the glass floors outside (and in!) gave a fascinating perspective of the excavated ruins right under foot.

We then went our own ways and enjoyed the city, our hotel (and it's squigee-less bathrooms) and dinner in local tavernas.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Greece 2010 - Santorini


We boarded the boat after finishing in Crete and sailed the afternoon away until we reached Santorini. Some of us booked an optional excursion run by the ship and enjoyed a great tour - which allowed them to see the island from both sides.


Others opted to explore on their own. For the first time on the trip we needed to take tender boats from the ship to the shore. Then we looked nearly straight up the mountainside to see where the village was we wanted to tour. Our options were to ride a donkey up the mountain, walk up the mountain (on the same path used by the donkeys) or ride the cable car.


Once at the top, we enjoyed the most picturesque views found in the world. The winding side streets were lined with shops and cafes. But most importantly, the taverns were right on the cliff's edge with spectacular views of sunset each night. Breathtaking!

Greece 2010 - Crete


Our morning departure brought us to the island of Crete. The largest of the Greek islands, supposed birthplace of Zeus, and home to the "bottomless lake". We remain unconvinced that Crete is in the Mediterranean Sea and not the Aegean... those living on the island call it the 5th largest island in the Mediterranean.


We met our local guide Andonus and boarded a bus for an hour's drive through the hillside to reach the famous Palace of Knossos.


The Palace was home to King Minos and the excavation site is very impressive.



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Greece 2010 - Rhodes


Rhodes may be one of the most beautiful places on the planet! Of course, it helps when you have great company and another day of perfect weather. Again - just over 80 degrees with not a cloud in the sky.

We began this AM at 7:00 when we gathered to depart for our excursions. Our guide Maria was super smart and switched our order to avoid the congestion of the other tour buses. There were 35 buses headed on excursions (from a number of ships) and 30 of them headed to Lindos first. We, instead, remained close to the port and took a tour of the medieval walled city of Rhodes. Very cool!

We then boarded the bus for about an hour's drive to Lindos. Along the way we passed some new hotels going up right on the beaches - book your vacation now! Maria shared some of the history of Rhodes and of the Acropolis of Lindos, our destination.

A few of us rode the burros up the mountain part of the way. Some stayed part-way up and enjoyed the shops and taverns. The rest climbed the sometimes treacherous steps and paths to the top. Every single turn offered another beautiful view of the sea or of the landscape. Extraordinary!

We returned to the port, dropped off some belongings and had the afternoon free to ourselves. Some enjoyed lunch on the ship, others returned to the walled city (now come to life with all the streets lined with shops, etc), some relaxed on the ship and enjoyed the beautiful day. There was a lot of shopping going on!!! Poor Lorena hurt her leg yesterday and did not join the group - we hope she has recovered and joins us for Crete tomorrow AM!

Tonight we have a complimentary cocktail party before dinner and it is "elegant" attire - so expect to see photos of us looking our best!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Greece 2010 - Kusadasi


We had some down time after Patmos and took advantage. Mary Joan shared her thoughts about the Grotto of St. John, spoke about our next stop, Ephesus, and then shared some info about her current research (and book!).

We had a few hours more to enjoy lunch, catch a nap, grab a lounge chair on one of the ship's decks or gather and chat. Super relaxing and very enjoyable.

Then we left the ship upon arrival in Kusadasi (ku-sha-da-c). We took a 20 minute bus ride to Ephesus to visit the ancient Roman ruins. An entire city had been built and established here - a major city. Many world rulers - Antony & Cleopatra for example - visited the city during their time.

The excavations were amazing. Not just a column here and there - but miles of ruins. We completely got a sense for the entire city's layout and complexities for its time. The library and the stadium were most impressive. Words can do no justice - photos will need to be added!

We returned to the ship for Greek Night! Dinner menu items featured traditional Greek favorites and many of us went to the showroom for the Greek Dancing and Singing Show.

Since dinner began at 9:15pm and the show at 11:00pm - it was a full day for all. But a terrific one, especially since mother nature has continued to smile on us --- another 80 degree day with not a cloud in the sky!!!!

Greece 2010 - Patmos


We had early morning wake up calls for a departure meeting at 7:00am. We boarded a shuttle with our local guide Dimitrius (very close to our traveling sisters the Demetrius's). Dimitrius was a terrific guide. He was very knowledgeable, kept us at a good pace and was extra nice to Joe!

Our first stop was at the Grotto of St. John. This is essentially a cave - THE cave where St. John the apostle (either the Divine or the Theologian - ask Mary Joan to explain) wrote the Book of Revelation. While very modest it was very impressive - an honor to see.

From there the bus brought us up higher on the mountain to the Monastery - almost. There were lots of steps - ancient steps with no handrails and very uneven - but we all made it. And glad we did!

The first room was overwhelmingly beautiful with frescoes and portraits of saints dating back as far as the 12th century. We moved from room to room. Heard about the earthquake which fractured frescoes - only to reveal older ones beneath. Then we made out way to the museum (and past the Chamberlain-brother look-alike!) where Dimitrius explained a number of important items.

We stopped after making our way back down the hill for a group photo (coming soon!) and then boarded the bus back to the port where we had a little time to stroll, shop and sample some of the foods recommended by our guide.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Greece 2010 - Mykonos


What a BEAUTIFUL day!! We had temps of about 80 degrees with not a cloud in the sky!!!

We awoke and had breakfast on board the ship before our meeting. The cruise director, Elisabeth, joined us for the life jacket/emergency meeting and she reviewed some basic ship info. We then reviewed some items on our Stonehill-list and had about 5 hours to enjoy the beautiful day on board our ship.

Some of our activities included: grabbing a chair on one of the many decks for sun and/or reading, a cooking demonstration by a singing chef, a Mr. Cruise Ship contest (we had no entries!), bingo, trivia and more! We also had a few options for lunch on board - and it was very good!

We then headed to the decks for a view of Mykonos as we neared shore and "parked". We gathered in the Metropolis Lounge and awaited our time for disembarkation. Buses brought us closer to the main section of the island so we could explore.

Many of our group took an optional excursion to Delios - Mary Joan is hard at work at a blog entry to tell us how that went!

They say that the Mykonos residents earn 80% of their living for the year during tourist season - and we can see why! These beautiful winding streets are lined with shops and tavernas and bars and more shops. From exquisite jewelry (someone spotted a necklace price at $25,040 Euro and someone else spotted a piece in the case they liked - until the $3,000 Euro price tag was revealed) and hand-made items to the typical souvenir spots.

The famous windmills of Mykonos were not to be missed - many have great photos! (By the way, technological difficulties do not allow us to post our photos for now - as soon as we have been granted access, look for our pictures!) And the sunset was one to behold!

Most of the day was spent at our own pace which was a nice change from the travels of yesterday. It made for a very relaxing and enjoyable first day in Greece for all!

Tomorrow we visit two islands and have excursions on both - so watch for some great posts (and hopefully some pics!).

Everyone says hello to family and friends back home - wish you were here!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Arriving in Turkey


We gathered (some of us on the shuttle from campus) at Logan and boarded our Swiss Air flight to Europe. We made it nearly an hour ahead of schedule and then waiting for our transfer in Zurich - with the oddest/archaic terminal system ever!

We then made it to Istanbul, Turkey to begin our trip! After some delays with our visas and nearly missing the boat - we made it to the port and boarded our ship - the Cristal.

With just enough time to change, we made it to dinner. Which was better than expected!
Some headed right to bed others are taking some time to explore the ship.

Tomorrow we dock in Mykonos but begin with a group meeting in the AM.

We're sure to have some great stories to share! Hope everyone is well at home!!!!