October 2015 - 9 Night Greek Isles (Rome Roundtrip) Cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas
Rome was clear blue skies and sunny when we left Civitavecchia port and sailed for a day through calm seas to Chania (Hania) Crete. Crete was a real surprise, with towering mountains, some snow capped up to 8 months a year, and crystal water shorelines. We enjoyed Lake Kournas and the Arkadi Monastary (now that's a story for you) and especially loved walking around ancient Rethymnon with its lazy portside cafes and Egyptian lighthouse. We stopped in some shops and met locals who had their own brand of Raki liquor which we bought and nice spices. Many jewelry stores, but some had unusual pieces and the price was definitely right! Best Calamari I've ever had, and I live in Hawaii where we have great Calamari. On to Mykonos, incredible white buildings against the stark hills and bright blue ocean. Red and blue roofed churches, many family owned, and windmills set on the hill. Delos island should not be missed, my husband and I were channeling Marc Antony and Cleopatra and what they must have seen as they docked and shopped on this once wealthy merchant island (the first mall ever?) now it is amazing but up to the imagination as Persians and earthquakes have taken their toll. Most significant dig in Europe and a fun boat ride out to it. Strolled Little Venice and chose a café to have a wonderful Souvlaki and gyros lunch with delicious wine and ouzo before heading back to the ship. Turkey was another surprise, again beautiful towering mountains, crystal clear seas and lovely people. Our tour of Melitus, Didyma and Ephesus was jaw dropping. We missed Mary's House, but saw lots of the places where Paul preached and stirred the pot, in some of the most amazing ancient theatres and ampitheatres ever - still fairly intact. Didyma had the towering columns reminiscent of Luxor, and the Library at Ephesus was reminiscent of the one at Petra, impressive, as were the wide marble streets. And they've only scratched the surface. Non skid soles for these tours, please! Shopping was terrific and in fact most of what we bought we found in Turkey. Gorgeous rugs, yes, but don't miss the hand hammered brass and copper items (we found a hand made Turkish coffee set for our son) the amazing hand done fine ceramics (8 piece mezze platter for the daughter) and glassware and metal work. The government shop by the Port had beautiful authentic (with papers) treasures and great prices (if you are willing to bargain). On to Santorini. We boated to the new harbor, caught a bus to tour Akrotiri, again jaw dropping, drove to Oia and walked and shopped and took pictures and then bus again to Fira to walk and shop, check out the museum that has the actual pieces and wall mosaics found in Akrotiri, 3600 years old look like they were made yesterday, and took the funicular (long line) back to the ship. Other options include walking up to Fira and over to Oia and back on a cliff trail and walking back down to the ship the way you walked up, steep but fun for those who need a workout or don't have the patience to stand in line at the top, or taking a boat to Burnt island that is an active (they say dormant, but again, I'm from Hawaii and it is active) caldera and hiking around. Lots of tenders to pick you up at the bottom whenever you arrive and take you back to the ship. Athens was our next stop, cleaner and brighter than I had expected, lemon, lime and orange trees in full fruit in the city, we got to the Acropolis early and were the first group up to the Parthenon as the sun peaked through the columns. Great picture taking and tour before the other million people made it up the stairs. RC got us there early and it made all the difference, in fact they always got us to sites before any other ship tours and this was wonderful. My husband had seen this 30 years earlier and said that Athens was much cleaner and the Acropolis complex so much more intact than he remembered. We hope to come back in 5 years and see it even more so. that afternoon after a sumptuous lunch at a 5 star hotel, we drove down the coast to Cape Sounion to see Apollo's Temple. Cannot stress enough how beautiful this drive was. Ocean coves, beaches, yachts, just gorgeous. The temple itself and the views were amazing and will be in my head for a while. Last stop was Katakolon, a small seaside port and the original Olympic complex and the first track and field field. than off to visit Mercouri Winery amongst the beauty of the olive trees and vineyards and sample their delicious wines and a mezze platter. Other people had eaten lunch so the platter was mostly between my husband and I and was incredible with their wine. We had a chance to talk to the family representative, he said that wine is to enjoy, not critique, and we agree. Having said that, their wine was quite nice. Back to Rome, day at sea which we needed because we were fairly worn out. Except for the Shore Excursion people messing up our disembarkation tour of St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel, and then telling us we were on our own to figure it out (which we did with the help of excellent guest services, thanks for nothing Shore Excursion buffoon) all went well on board. Our favorite spot was Izumi and the Bar area just below it on the 11th floor, quiet and panoramic with a really humorous waiter, and we loved the sushi making class. Most of the music on board was too crazy disco or Motown or just silly for us, we like jazz of all kinds none to be found, but that's ok. Theatre shows were mostly too dancy and hokey, but we loved, loved Hector is Magic, a terrific magician who included wonderful audience participation. I'd pay to see him again. We came for the scenery and culture and were wowed by all of it. Next time we'll bring our kids!