11 Night Aegean Sea Exploration (Istanbul Roundtrip) Sail Date: June 01, 2015 Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas Cabin Type: Oceanview Cabin Number:3014 Traveled As: Singles/Friends Reviewed: 2 years ago
We took this cruise so we could see the ancient sites available at each port in Turkey and Greece. There were 8 portcalls, and each one offered something exceptional. Most of the time we booked our excursions through the cruise line as we were unsure about communication and/or cultural issues. The cruise line made it easy to get through customs at each stop (we relinquished our passports and Turkish visas on the ship for the duration of the trip), ensured that transportation was comfortable (clean, air-conditioned, in good repair), and that our guides were fluent in English. The only less-than-desirable part of the excursions was being herded to shopping locations that we did NOT want, such as carpets, upscale leather shop, carpets, expensive (but nice) ceramics, carpets, markets with very aggressive salespeople, and, last but not least, carpets. These shopping stops took precious time from our free time to see museums, browse (NOT for carpets), or just sit and recoup and people watch.
The cruise itself was fine. Room in good repair and clean. Food was good but not great; there were not as many choices as on previous cruises on different lines. Service was great. Staff was friendly and helpful. We were too tired after lengthy, strenuous excursions, to take advantage of nighttime entertainment. Would have loved to be able to stay in our room, relax, and see a movie on the TV in the stateroom; I don't think that was offered as an option. Movie selections were very lmited anyway.
Food and Dining
3 out of 5
Average in selection, taste. Nice presentation.
Did not participate in many of these. Trivia in casino offered easy questions and lots of prizes.
3 out of 5
Did not participate in many of these.
Did not use the service.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Maricel in the main dining room was very attentive and knew our names right away. Leonidas, stateroom attendant, was efficient, thorough, and worked "behind the scenes" to make our room clean and inviting every day, several times a day.
3 out of 5
Well maintained; no issues, nothing broken that I noticed.
Cabin / Stateroom
3 out of 5
Clean and comfortable. One bed sagged some in the middle.
If you need a smoking area, the 3rd deck has lots of chairs and the 9th floor behind the pool has about 10 tables (with enough chairs).
Ephesus ruins were extraordinary in number, condition, quantity. We went on June 3 and it was quite warm, as you are in the direct sun the entire time. When you exit the town there is shade close to the parking lot. No food/drinks/vendors/machines while there, so be prepared. Loads of cats, however :). We did the Smart tour, in which we were given an iPad to guide us. If you do not know how to use an iPad, this is a bad idea. If you do know how to use an iPad, this is still a bad idea, as the sun is so bright that you cannot see the iPad screen. At times the program loaded on the iPad did not match exactly (names, titles) with the site we were seeing.
Tour DM08: Tastes of Bodrum. The Castle of St. Peter was beautifully preserved, extensive, and interesting. the Carian princesss Hall at the top of the castle grounds was interesting, but in hindsight, I don't think I would have gone in. The Amphors exhibition and Roman shipwreck on the site are also interesting, and do not take a long time to see. Bus took us to Myndos Gage and the Mausoleum, which is gone except for some pieces of pillars. The bus also stopped at the Great Theater of Ancient Halicarnassus, which normally I would have loved to explore except I was too tired and there was not time - the bus just basically stopped at it.
We took the Lindos on your Own tour. A clean, airconditioned bus, complete with an English-speaking guide, took us to Lindos. Had we stayed at the bottom of the Arcropolis, the excursion would not have been strenuous, except for the STEEP downhill walk from the parking lot to the site (our legs were shaking from that walk). We decided to try to reach the top, and that WAS strenuous. Not just for my 83 year-old mother, not just for me (60), but for folks much younger than we are. There are 292 steps (in sections, not all at once), and lots of places to stop and rest (sit on boulders) along th way. There were a few narrow places on the path, some without railings even though you could go down the cliff if you went over the side. (I was glad my kids were not there.) Both of us were out of shape, but we made it up to the Acropolis faster than expected. We did stop several times along the way to rest legs and catch our breath. Going down was easier, but still strenuous. We would not have been able to hike back up the road to the bus parking lot, but fortunately there were loads of very welcome taxis waiting to bring us back to the bus (4 Euro well spent to get the entire party up the hill).
This island is absolutely gorgeous and a geologist's/volcanologist's paradise! Beautiful scenery from below and from the top of the island. The bus ride is a very winding, uphill trip (hats off to the drivers!) The Akrotiri Excavations site is a new, modern, indoor, air-conditioned active archaeological site from the Bronze Age, about 1000BC. Impressive preservation of the town. The timing of the tour was such that there was no time to visit shops. Free time at the end of the tour (SO03) in Fira was enough to get a meal and walk to the funicular (cable car) down. I did not take the donkey-ride-down-the-hill option. The strenuous part of the trip was the walk through the very hilly town - after the tour of Akrotiri - and before the free time. I would have skipped that and stayed on the bus, knowing what I know now.
If you can physically do it, make the trip to the top of the Acropolis. Be aware that there willl be thousands of people there doing the same thing (and this was early June). Weather was warm, but not hot. Very windy (the cooling wind at the top was welcome after the climb up!). The climb was not as strenuous as I expected (I am 60, out of shape, 150 lb, 5'7") and had no trouble getting to the top. The trek did not bring up endurance issues, though I did watch the footing because of the slippery rocks). The marble rocks were slippery (would NOT want to do this if they were wet!) from being polished over the years; just watch what you are doing and step carefully. My 82 year-old mother with angina (not serious) was able to walk this uphill walk - people can rest as needed most of the time. There is an elevator (more like an enclosed crate, from the photos I saw, for WHEELCHAIRS ONLY that goes straight up the side of the cliff; apparently available if you contact "them" ahead of time with the proper documentation and if it's not broken. I see no way a wheelchair or walker could maneuver the Acropolis, given the slippery rocks that COVER the grounds. The Archaeological Museum located right beside the Acropolis is new, modern, cool, and houses the statues that were removed from the Acropolis. I was told that if you go to the third floor you can view the Acropolis, but because our tour took so long, we did not have time to do that to verify. Might be a good option if you have issues getting to the top.
Take the ferry boat for 2 Euro rather than the ship's 15 Euro bus ride to town. Good place to do on your own. Lots of shops and boutiques that offer art and out-of-the ordinary items (some not out of line on pricing). Restaurants available. Nice to do the shopping and eating on our own schedule rather than in a group where we were always rushed.
Palace of Knossos was interesting, but after seeing Ephesus and Athens, these ruins were not as spectacular. Tour took too long for my taste, too much explanation, especially in the heat. Would have liked time to look in the museum shop, but we were rushed (again). Often these tours offered by the ship include a shopping stop (of their choice), which cuts into the time I wanted for what I wanted to do.
I knew I was "not in Kansas anymore". The Turkish lira (about 3 for each US dollar) enabled us to eat well for a very reasonable price. Fresh squeezed orange juice on the street was 50 cents for an 8 oz glass. A full dinner, gigantic salad, meat, rice, LOAF of bread, cost $10 each. You will hear the call to prayer at least once, and see a republic in which modern western attire and customs mingle with traditional Muslim dress and customs. Everyone was very friendly, but do not count on natives knowing English. Stayed at the Karakoy Port Hotel (the night before boarding the ship) for under $140.00. It is located a few blocks from the port. There is gilt trim on doors, cabinets, and celings; the beds are comfortable; coffee, tables and chairs on the roof for a great view (and a smoke if you desire); free, generous, delicious European style breakfast (NO donuts and white rolls - Turkish bread is substantial and wonderful). After the cruise we took the Classical Istanbul tour (IBF1) during which we saw all the sites listed in the description. The tour was long, as were the lines to get into certain parts of the Museum (jewels). Again, tour took so long that we were rushed, did not have time to use the bathrooms or shop or just stop and rest. (Remember, the heat might get to you, and we were there in early June when temperatures were in the lower 80'sF.)
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