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Trip Report Eastern Mediterranean and Grrek Isles

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Just came back from a last minute (okay, it was booked 3 months ago when it was on sale) 12 days cruise to East Med and Greek Isles. Boarding at Civitavecchia (Rome) and disembark at Venice. Although we have been through the Mediterranean a few times, but this would be our first time to the Mediterranean in August, arguably their hottest and busiest time, and that was absoutely surprising that the sale offer came through on an email with such low price.

The sale offer was under $800 for an inside cabin, meaning less than $66 per person per day for accomodation, meals, entertainment and transportation, a price that was literally almost a give away. We have always say that if you can get a cruise for less than $100 per day per person (or $125 per person per day for a balcony cabin), you are doing good.

The itinerary is actually quite good. Leaving Civitavecchia (Rome), stopping at Naples, Santorini, Kusadasi, Mykonos, Piraeus (Athens) , Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik and ending with an "overnight onboard experience" in Venice. That woudl be only 2 sea days on a 12 day voyage.

Although we have been through most of the port of calls, it is still a good trip as we wanted to revisit a few ports and catch a few things that we did not have a chance to visit on previous trips. The biggest attraction for this cruise was Venice as it was one of those places that was sort of on our bucket list (although not too high on the list) and is kind of out of the way for where we wanted to go in the future ... so at he bargain basement sale price, we decided to book it. The deal was too good to pass up. (Again!)

We book our flights with airline points and it immediate presented a challenge as it is not a round trip. In the end, we got it done and didn't cost us extra points or anything extra, just the usual you pay the tax bit. The ticket was almost $1600 per person if we would have to pay full fare.

I originally wanted to go staright to Civitavecchia once we landed at Rome and spent time there. DW had different ideas and wanted to stay in Rome instead.

We wanted a direct flight to Rome from the east coast and there were many choices, but we wanted an over nighter so we would arrive in the morning and have an extra day in Rome. So, instead of flying out from New York, Jersey or Philly, we ended up flying to Montreal and take the red eye to Rome from there.

And while you are in Montreal, you got to try Schwartz's smoke meat sandwiches and we did. Best smoked meat ever but don't make teh mistake of calling it corned beef or pastrami as you will get a lecture.

We arrived at Rome 10 am in the morning and going through their immigration and customs was a breeze. We showed our passports, the guy at the kiosk looked at the pictures and sayyou can go now. Didn't ask if we have anything to declare, not even a stamp on our passport. (Try to remember the did not stamp our passport bit as it will resurface later when we leave for home.) We walk through the secured area and was immediatly greeted by our driver from Bob's Limo.

The driver took our luggage and asked us to wait at curb side while he retrives his vehicle. A few minutes later, we were on our way to the hotel on a Mercedes sedan. The cost of the limo was 38 euros for both of us, probably cheaper than regualr cab fare.

We decided to stay at Hotel Quirinale as we have stayed there before and it was a great experience. The hotel is centrally located, 2 blocks from Piazza Republica, 5 blocks from Trivi Fountain and walking distance to most destinations. It is also only 2 blocks to a metro station and 2 stops away from Spanish Steps. The room is clean, quite large by European standard, and a full hot breakfast is included, all for a modest 128 Euros per night.

We arrived at the hotel before 11 am. The drive from the airport was pleasant. We knew the room won't be ready so we checked our luggage at the bell desk and wander off. DW wanted to do some shopping but most of the shops were closed. We found out later that August 15 and 16 was Ferragosto, a 2 day Italian summer holiday. We ended up knocking off a couple places that we missed last time and back in the hotel to check in much later. The temperature was in the 90s and it was hot hot hot!

The desk staff was friendly and chatty. They found out that we were returning customers and offered a free upgrade from the basic room that we booked online. This is going to a very good start to our 18 days in Europe.

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    Larry, it was the Ruby Princess. We were on it last November and since then, it has been refitted. The changes were very suttle, such as removing the "platform" in the dining room so it no longer takes one step up to go from the main pathway to the seating area.

    Since this is on the cruise forum, I'll just report things related to cruising so I'll skip what we did in Rome. Needness to say, with lots of shops closed for August 15 and 16 holiday, we spent a little more time sight seeing and a little less time shopping. :)

    We also arranged for Bob's Limo to pick us up at the hotel and took us to Civitavecchia on departure day. The driver showed up promptly at 10:30 am, and the cost was 85 euros for both of us, with a "shared" transportation. We arrrived at the dock before 1 pm.

    The vehicle was an Opel and there was enough room for 8 people and lots of trunk space behind the seating area. We made one stop and picked up 2 couples at another hotel.

    We made small talk and found out that they too booked the cruise around the same time and for about the same price. No surprise there. We have walked by the hotel that they stayed at on our previous trip and it didn't look too nice from the outside, plus it was right next to the tunnel and on a major noisy traffic route. Curious, I asked how was the hotel and they replied it was 98 euros a night. That wasn't my question and I didn't ask how much but they told me anyway. I repeated the question and one of them said the room was small and quite plain, but it was clean, centrally located and breakfast was included and she went on to describe what's available for breakfast and said that they got a good deal. All I can say is that paying the extra 20 Euros per night for what we have was a good decision.

    One thing that I haven't mentioned yet was that we booked an "obstructed" view cabin. We had picked a cabin with a view between two life boats. We have never stayed in an inside cabin ever as we like to have natural lighting from the window. We paid $960 instead of the $800 inside cabin sale price and I think the extra $$ between the 2 of us for a window is worth it. (I know, someone is going to say the exttra $$ can buy quite a few drinks or a good spa treatment or shore excursion.) At least we didn't splurge for the regular oceanview cabin which was another extra $100 per person, or the lowest category balcony which started around $1250.

    Since we have taken a couple of trips this year already and this was booked on a whim, we couldn't justify spending more $$ for a balcony although that would have been nice.

    I always check my email where free wi-fi is available. On the morning of the departure, I checked my email at the hotel and to my surprise, we got an email from Princess from the night before that our cabin assignment was changed. There was a last minute scramble to try to print new luggage tags and remove what I had put on the luggage already. The print luggage tag option was not avaialble for whatever reason so I quickly scratched out the cabin number on the tag and the barcode and hope for the best at the dock.

    The last minute cabin assignment change was actaully not bad news. We have been upgraded all the way to a category BB balcony on the Baja deck! We have had upgrades before, usually for a couple category, but never from the lowly obstructed view all the way to a top level balcony. To be totally hoenst, we were really surprised. If we got an upgarde to a normal oceanview, we would have been very happy; and even to low category balcony cabin would be beyond our expection, but this? Wow! Whoever at Princess decided to give us the upgrade, we thank you!

    The ride to the port from Rome was uneventful. I tried to explained to the porters at the dock that our cabin was changed last minute and it was suggested that we took our luggage with us to registration since we didn't have proper luggage tags, which was fine by me as we have only 1 piece each.

    Security check, registration and embarkation took a grand total of maybe 10 minutes. Within 15 minutes of being dropped off by the driver, we were in our cabin with our luggage. This has to be some sort of a record as we have never been "processed" taht fast. I think in future, where possible, we would just pack light and take our luggage with us. We quickly unpack and get ready to enjoy our cruise. With everything that's been happening, so far so good.

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    First thing that we did after we left our cabin was buying a coffee card. The cost is now $29 plus the 15% gratuity. It used be around $22 a few years ago, but still, 15 special coffees for $29 is pretty cheap plus all the special tea and brew coffee at the International Café. We quickly picked up a double shot ice mocha white chocolate Expresso, and only a single punch for the double shot.

    Very surprised to hear that lemonade was not available throughout the cruise. No official reasons were given. It was one of the freebies that we enjoyed on a hot afternoon.

    As we were really tired, we ended up sleeping through the entire afternoon. We did not participate in any of the activities such as scavenger hunt, sail away party or explore the ship. We did, however, went to the mandatory drill as they scan your cruise card to make sure you didn't skip.

    We enjoyed any time dining and to our surprise, the dining room was quite slow. Lots of empty tables. Typically, if you didn't arrive by the first hour, you may have to wait a bit for a table. The dining room also open a little later as well, 6 pm instead of the usual 5:30. The menu was identical to our June Princess Alaskan cruise menu, which was not a surprise.

    For whatever reasons, we have found that the beef (steak, prime rib etc.) on European cruise tasted differently and not as good as when we cruise near North America. We think the European beef is missing that "beefy" taste if it make sense. This time, DW actually commented that the medium rare prime rib she ordered was actually tasted like Beef, which is a good thing.

    For the first time ever, we did not went to any of the entertainment venues as we will be in Naples very early in the morning and we made plans to be ashore by 8 a.m.

    We have been through Sorrento and Naples before. We have been to Pompeii so for this time around, we decided to go visit Herculaneum in the afternoon after walking through Naples a bit on our own.

    Nothing much has changed since our last visit form 2 years ago other than there are more graffiti and they were not being painted over.

    If you ever want to see what a real shopping plaza should look like, you have got to go to "Galleria Umberto I". Most people from North America would be awestruck when they realize it is a shopping plaza. If you don't know what I mean, go Google for a picture of it.

    There is one negative on "Galleria Umberto I" is that when we walked pass the building under the huge columned archway, we noticed distinct puddles in the corners and smell of urine, not pleasant at all. It was about 9:30 am when we walked past it on our way to the Royal Palace of Naples.

    The Trieste and Trent Square was empty, other than a lone police car, there's no one, which was another surprise. We continued going up to Via Gennaro Serra and towards some parks and residential area where we mingled with the local and have the cultural experience that we didn't have on previous trips.

    We headed back to the dock and meet our guide to Herculaneum by noon. HE was very passionate about Herculaneum and was quite vocal about all the residential buildings built there around the site. He said that the best thing that could happen is an earthquake and forced those people (he called them worse names than that) who live around the site to move out so that they can excavate more of the ancient remains. As it is, less than 25% of the ancient city was excavated.

    The point he made was that the residents there are impeding the excavation of a national treasure and they are interested in money and won't return (or sell) the land back to government without huge profit.

    Herculaneum was destroyed by the same volcano that buried Pompeii in 79 AD. Herculaneum is different from Pompeii as it was more of a commercial center than residential, and looks like there was more riches at Herculaneum, and it appears that people who lives there are more social: a stone bench in front of most buildings.

    The people in Herculaneum actually had a chance to get out from under the disaster but many didn't. They found lots of human remains buried in the ashes, but no animal remains (no dogs, horses etc.), and a majority of the human remains were found at the 6 boat chambers by the sea, meaning they could have escaped but didn't, as they went back for personal belongs.

    Until this trip, we didn't know much about Herculaneum. After visiting Herculaneum, I would say that it was a better experience than Pompeii, and if I can do it all over again, I would have picked Herculaneum over Pompeii. Everyone talks about Pompeii. A few years back, we asked people where to go in Naples and everyone said Pompeii.

    Pompeii is so crowded there that you don't get the up close experience like Herculaneum. Mind you, Pompeii is easier to navigate, easier to get around and less strenuous on the legs. At Herculaneum, you'll get a better history lesson and you will get a better glimpse of life back then.

    We stayed till we had to go or else we will miss the boat (literally). I think we will be back, if the body is willing.

    Next up was a sea day before arriving Santorin, There wasn't much to report except we love our free balcony and we slept in. Skipped breakfast, slept through the afternoon, and that's about it! Isn't it sad that we are sleeping through this cruise? Old age is creeping in ... :(

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    I would like to see Herculaneum too but last time, Oct. 2012 we were a bit too tired to go. My bad.

    Actually I saw a documentary about this volcanic eruption. They said the Romans had no words for a volcanic eruption and no knowledge at all about volcanoes. It was said some thought that the smoke and thundering represented arguments among the gods. Many could have been saved but they just did not know any better.

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    Larry, the way it was explained to us was that they could have got away if they did not delay their departure by collecting their personal belongings. Looking at the map of that particular eruption, Herculaneum was at the edge of the coverage and the people probably saw it coming in. The amount of ash dumped on them was on a scale that is not comparable to anything in modern history. The closest things that we can relate to was Mt. St Helen and this one in 79 AD is probably hundreds of time more violent.

    Speaking of Volcanos, we decided to do the Volcanic hike at Santorini, all I can say at this point was we picked the hottest day (93F) and there is no shades to be found. We probably would have enjoyed it more if it was less sunny. (Did I just say that, less sunny?)

    We took the tender to Ormos Firon, the little landing that was below Thira. Took a boat to Nea Kameni Island which is the center of the volcano. The hike up to the summit was relatively easy and there were opportunities to stop, rest and view Santorini from a distance and listening to the guide's explanation of what we are seeing around us, and the history of the Santorini volcano.

    The famous Minoan eruption 3600 years wiped out the Minoan. The volcano was none other than the Santorini Volcano where we were standing. The volcano is not dormant. It is actually active with the last eruption happened in the 1950's and it has a track record of eruption every 60 years or so.

    The first question I asked was the 60 years up? and the answer was yes, and it is due. :-O The guide went on to explain that the lava field underneath has been expanding steadily for the past few years. Question: why are we standing here if it is due and the lava chamber is expanding? :-? Answer: there are many monitoring station on the island and it is safe, and there will be plenty of advance warning signs. Nothing to worry about.

    I was surprised at the amount of people (tourist) that is actually on the volcanic hike. I saw a group with "Globus" tags meaning they are not cruise ship passengers.

    We make our way to the summit, look around, saw a handful of vents with steam and sulphur smell, and that's about it. Nothing really too spectacular. Nothing close to Hawaii or Galapagos.

    After the hike to the summit, we went back to the dock and the boat took us to a cove where you can take a swim in a volcanic "hot spring". The boat anchored maybe 100 yard away from shore, you can see the color of the sea water is yellowish near the shore, obviously from the sulphur. One would expected the "hot spring" would be a lot hotter but that wasn't the case. The water was barely lukewarm. The closer you get to the "source", the warmer it gets but it really never got hot. If you can't swim, you can borrow a lifesaver from the boat. We saw kids with wingtips and adult with float vests.

    All in all, we spent about 4 hours on the island and the cove. There wasn't any place to shower or change, but with the hot sun and the breeze from the boat, we were quite dry (or dry enough) to took the cable car and go up to Thira rather than return to ship first.

    The cable car was more expensive than I remembered. 4 euros one way and no round trip tickets available. We learned from last time that there are very limited public free washroom facility at Thira. We found ours at the upper Cable car terminal and cleaned up a bit.

    Thira was exactly the way we remembered: beautiful but very crowded. We found a restaurant and settled down for lunch, relax a bit before we ventured out to explore the town some more. It was actually quite easy to get lost but since it is such a small place, it is not too big a deal.

    If you can find your way to Museum of Prehistoric Thira, it is probably worth 45 minutes to an hour of your time. The exhibit includes items dating back from the 17th century BC, excavated from Akrotiri. The wall painting exhibits are fabulous.

    We have always loved "off the beaten path" and we wandered off to the side streets near the edge of town where it was less crowded. That's where you will find the real bargains. The challenge, of course, is as you move further away from the main tourist area, the local will speak less English. If you want to get more into the local culture or mingle with the locals, this would be the way to go.

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    Next stop was Kus-ada-si. That's what the guide said how it should be pronounced. Although we've been to Ephesus, we have the urge to go back and spent a little more time there.

    The last time we were there was 2010, which seems like an eon ago. All I can say is that the place is even more crowded than I remember, and moving around in Ephesus is even more difficult.

    We spent time mainly at the Terrace houses this time around as it was really rushed last time. The first thing I like to say is that I am glad that we decided to go back and re-visit the Terrace houses.

    First off, although Ephesus is really crowded, the Terarce houses was not. As it is an extra fee attraction, the majority of the cruise ship tour groups didn't go into the Terrace houses.

    Secondly, they have a few more things restored, new information (explanation) boards were added, new pathway were also added, and some were raised. As an example, the area where you view the Poseidon mosaic is now even higher so that more people can see the full mosaic and a vantage point towards the front. The unfortunate part is that as you are higher up, it is harder to get a good picture of the Poseidon mosaics.

    There is an up side to the new higher platforms. With more wall paintings were restored, you can see more rooms, more walls (and wall paintings) and more mosaics from the new higher vantage point. Some of the rooms are now "named" and from the mosaics, they identify the room as a boy's room or a girl's room.

    The Terrace houses is work in progress. The wall paintings and the mosaics are like giant jigsaw puzzles. They appeared to be more organized and you can see semi-finished mosaics on the tables in the work areas. I distinctly remember that many were just "piles" of stuff on our last visit. Maybe in a few years time, they will have a few more things done and worth another visit.

    Although a lot of people visited Ephesus, few (especially cruise ship passenegrs) visited the Ephesus Museum which is located in the town of Selcuk itself. It would be a good "companion" visit to see both the ruin and the museum.
    The temple of Artemis, which was the grandest of the 7 anceint wonder was maybe 10 minutes away. However, there is nothing much restored there and the most spectacular was the one single column. There is a mosque and a church near by and it is rumored that St Paul was buried below the church.

    We have originally wanted to visit both Priene and Miletus as well but there is just not enough time to see both. Although Priene is along the way to Miletus, we decided to skip Priene. Ephesus overshadows both Priene and Miletus as Ephesus is more developed and have more vistors. Like a diamond in the rough, with less visitors, Miletus is actually a more enjoyable place to visit. I thought the theater at Miletus was better restored than the one in Ephesus. You can explore the "tunnels" below the seating area. The bathhouse was also quite well preserved. After visiting Miletus, I am thinking we should have visited Priene as well. But then, what should we have skipped? Ephesus because we have been there? But then, we would have missed the updated Terrace Houses. Well, there is always a next time.

    By the way, it appears a lot of "foreigners" are buying the new condos in Kusadasi. The going rate for a one bedroom condo (in the new area) is less than 100K USD and there is a thriving foreigner community in Kusadasi. Never visited the beaches by Kusadasi but drove by a few and they looked nice enough. Don't know if I wanted to live in Turkey though.

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    Nice report E. Did you use a private tour guide in Kusadasi?

    The condo price seems very reasonable. Sue is bugging me about getting a condo somewhere in Hawaii but I would rather rent and stay for a few mos. in winter when we retire. The thought of another mortgage and assoc. fees of around $500.00 per mo. minimum is too much.

    Anyway keep posting, am following!

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    We didn;t buy at Palm Spring, Phoneix or Florida for the same reason a few years back. Teh cost is around 10 to 15K for upkeep. Unelss I'm there 6 months of the year or more, I can rent an executive home for a whole lot less when I needed to a couple weeks at a time. Besides, we are planning trips outside the country as well so that mean less use on the sunnty south property.

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    Next stop was Mykonos and we got there quite early. There is one place that I wanted to spend a lot of time at and it is Delos, and according to Greek mythology, where light was born. It’s also a UNESCO world heritage site.

    Delos is an interesting place. It looks barren, there is no visible water soruce on the surface of the island, and why did people settled here and thrived?

    The main water source back then was well water and rain water collection and it supported a population of more than 20,000. It is quite amazing and the "central" underground water reservoir is an enginering wonder, consist of a series of arches to support the roof and there are channels to let rain water flow into it. The main reservoir is not on the low ground, meaning it will gravity feed the reserved water to the main population, without a water tower. I think people back then are a whole lot smarter than we are today. The guide called it the theatre Cistern, as the rain water collection channel came from the massive Theatre, which is near by. By the way, the front row of the theatre had marbled back rests.

    We arrived Delos after a short boat ride and the first impression of the place was only so so. The sea was choppy, not too many people is making the trip, and the boat pitched quite a bit. It was early in the morning as well, making it even less attractive for the genral tourists. The place was not busy.

    From the dock, all you see is a vast landscape of ruins, and at a distance, some small houses and a couple larger buidlings. One would be the cafeteria and the other would be the museum. Both are a fair distance away from dock.

    We made our way up the hill where the residential areas were. There were a number of big houses (and smaller ones) where the pillars were the main "attraction". Most of the houses are designed the same way, a big courtyard in the middle and surroudned all 4 sides by "rooms" and there are no windows facing the streets. Natural lights comes from the open courtyard and brighten the rooms around the courtyard and no street noise there is no outside windows facing the street.

    There is only one exception. There is one house with an outside window, and there were iron bars on the window. The guide speculate that was the residence of the "money changer" as Delos was a free trading port and all kinds of money are being accepted, and this was the palce where the currency changer took place.

    The Delos ruin is still actively being worked on and we noticed people were surveying, taking measurements, drawings etc throughout our visit.

    A lof of the artifcts are actually housed in the museum and only replicas are being displayed at the original ruin site. So it is worth the walk to the museum and see the "real" articles. Most impressive were the various statue of Artemis. The real lions are housed there too.

    There are ruins further up the hill and there are steep steps that leads up to the top of Kymthos where many of the sanctuaryies are either located, or along the way up. There are many sanctuaries as all religions and gods were accepted and temples were built to worship them by the various groups. A true melting pot and religious freedom and tolerance thousands of years ago. The view at the top is breath taking, imagining the actual town in the full view below.

    The Kynthos Cave in interesting enough as it mostly men made. A large boulder located in the middle of the room and it was the pedestal for the statue of Hercules. The remains of the statue was removed.

    The second most impressive building left standing (sort of standing) is the Egyptian temple of Isis. In my mind, the most impressive was the house of Hermes where it is a two story building with stone (marble?) columns on the second floor! Remember the main courtyard being the source of light and gathering palce for those big houses? This probably is the biggest one with a second floor. You have to see it to appreciate it.

    The Greek mythology had it that Appolo and Artemis were born at Delos and the residence think the island is sacred. They would not allow anyone to born there or die there. I am not sure how they could have enforced that, but there is no grave sites at Delos. At least we know they were not allowed to buried there.

    As Delos was an open sea port and the residence firmly believed that the island is sacred and they were protected by the Gods, there are no defensive wall of any sort. The truth was, they were just wealth waiting to be plundered, and as a result, it was sacked, plundered and burnt more than once and there lies the ruins.

    By the time we got back to Mykonos, it was already quite late. We walked through "little Venice" and the windmill (tourist trap) walk around the town a bit and called it a day. For us, Delos is the destination, not Mykonos.

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    After spending a week at Niagara-on-the-lake, the East Med Greek Isles TR will contiue. Sorry about the time dealy between posts. Duty calls ...

    After Mykonos, the next stop was Piraeus, the sea port for Athens. Since we have spent some time at Athens a few years back, we decided to head out to Corinth.

    At the ancient Corinth ruin, the most impressive pillars were those form the temple of Apollo. The three remaining pillars from the Temple of Octavia is of a different design and is imrpessive as well. But everyone was talking about the BHMA (not Bimmer the car but is pronounced the same way :) ) which was part of the Agora where Paul had preached to the Cornithians in the early days.

    The main road in Corinth, the Lechaion Road is almost as wide as the main road in Ephesus, and you can see Acrocorinth Fortress towering not too far away. The gate and the fortifications of Acrocorinth is impressive considering when it was built. If you only look at a small section up close, a almost looks like a miniture version of the Great Walls of China.

    Of all the fountains around Cornith, the Peirene fountain is probably the best restored. You can see the remnants of the surface channels and behind the impressive facade behind the rectangular pool are a series of tunnels dug into the clay beneath the Lechaion Road. The clay overhanging was supported by a series of poros limestone cross-walls, which created six chambers. It is very hard to describe but all I can say it is an enginerring marvel.

    And would an ancient Greek or Roman ruin be complete without a theatre? Of course not. But the theatre is not well restored. You can imagine the size and all but is nothing like the one in Ephesus or Delphi. The Roman Odeion was in slightly better shape.

    The Museum that housed the articfacts is worth a visit. The "portable" air condiioning units made it a nice escape from the sun and the heat (93 degrees!) if you stand in front of it. They put on display many headless statutes in front of the museum. I wodner if it was done on purpose.

    Inside the museum, the pottery display adn the Griffin mosaic are the highlights in there although the marble heads and the stone coffin are interesting as well. There is a display case of "feet". They are quite life like. I have not come across a display quite like that.

    A big part of the reason for heading to Cornith is the ancient Cornith canal. The current configuration was completed in 1893. It is 4 miles long and only 70 feet wide.
    There is no locks and the entire passage is at sea level, so you might as well call it a channel instead of a canal technically. The canal effectivly cut Peloponnesian peninsula away from the Greek mainland, making Peloponessian peninsula effectively an island.

    The Corinth canal connects the Aegean Sea to the Golf of Corinth.

    The first attempt to creat the channel was Periander in the 7th century BC. The plan was abandoned as he instead built an overland stone carruageway route (Diolkos) where ships (much smaller and lighter back then) could be towed from one side of the isthmus of Cronith to the other. We were told the remnants of the Diolkos still exist.

    Several Roman Emplorers also had plans to construct the canal but none of them come to fruitation as they were all murdered before anything got started.

    The first real attempt was Nero, personally breaking the ground with a pickaxe and removing the first basket-load of dirt in 67 AD according to Suetonius. This is the start of the "ground breaking" ceremony still being held worldwide to this day.

    The construction crew back then consisted of 6,000 slaves and digging trenches from both sides. The work stopped after about 1/10 of the entire distance (due to Nero's death?) A relief of Hercules was left by Nero's workers as a memorial of the attempt and can still be seen in the canal cutting. Others have called it "Nero's relief" but I doubt the slaves will actually put it there for him.

    Some said that the trenches were backed filled after Nero's death. The modern canal followed the same route as the ancient plan so none of the original work from Nero's days remains.

    It is quite impressive to watch the boats passing through the canal. There is a bungee dive there but it was not operating when we were there.

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    Larry, took us about an hour and 15 minutes early in the morning with light traffic. I think it is less than 60 miles.
    Next stop is Katakolon where we visited ancient (and present day) Olympia.

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    Epidaurus is famous for its amphitheatre and Mycenae was a mountain fortress. Although both are not too far form Corinth, time was a constraint and we really wanted to spend a fair bit of time at Corinth. We were at Athens a few years ago and we had our fair share of time at Plaka, Acropolis, the museums, churches, Delphi, just to name a few. There are so many "ancient ruins" in and around the Mediterranean that one can spend months and not seeing everything. We have originally wanted to add Mycenae to our itinerary but that would add about 4 hours and that's time we didn't have. If we head back to the area again, Mycenae and Epidavros would be on the list, along with the temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion (especially if we can be there during the sunset).

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    Next stop was Katakolon, a place that we had not visited previously. Our impression of Katakolon? Not much. It was a blur. As we got off the ship, we hopped into our pre-arranged ride and headed straight to Olympia and spent almost all the time around there. To be honest, I won't recognize Katakolon even if you show me a picture.

    We arrived at the ancient Olympia ruin before the "crowd" showed up as there were 3 ships docked there that day. The ancient Olmypia site was where the ancient Olympic Games were born and hosted, dating back to at least 8th century BC.

    I thought the ancient ruin was mostly unrestored but the guide said otherwise. As a matter of fact, the excavation of the "Ancient olympia archeological site" started originally in 1875, funded by the German government. They located the Temple of Zeus, the Nike of Paeonius, the Hermes of Praxiteles and most of the finds are in display at the The Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

    I am not sure how they managed to figure some of these things out but they identified some of the buildings as the Gymnasium (training facility for pentathlon), the Palaestra (boxing and wrestling), the Leonidaion (guest house) etc. A total of 23 major "structures" were identified at the site.

    The temple of Zeus was barely recognizable at the archeological site. The only thing that was visible was the foundation, stumps of some columns and that's about it. However, the sculptural composition from the pediments from the temple of Zeus are in display in the Archaeological Museum of Olympia are truly spectacular. I wish I can show you pictures so you can see the vivid details, but I am sure you can google it.

    I was amazed by the size of the "stadium" and we were told that it can hosue 45,000 spectators around the the running track, which is 600 foot (not feet but was measured by foot, no pun intended) long and 80 foot wide. Modern measurement is equivalent to 212.5 meters by 28.5 meters. There is even a finish line that is still visible as it was made with a line of stones and the track itself was dirt.

    Although we spent 2 hours at the ancient ruin itself, there really wasn't much to look at, or hold our interest except for the guide who explained in detail what the pile of rubble was (the building and what it was for) and made it semi-interesting. She pointed out where the "Olympic flame" was "lit", where the "heroes" (winner) were honored. You are either the winner (first place) or loser, there was no honor placing second, third or beyond.

    The buildings that were still sort of not in a pile of rubble was the Byzantine Church that was built on the ruins of the workshop of Pheidias. The church was built around the 6th century AD.

    The Leonidaion would be impressive if you can image what it would looked like back then. The foundation and the digitized artist rendering of what it would have looked like is very impressive. The digital artist rendering would be everywhere for every building and you can see the entire scaled model at the museum.

    Now that we have been to the archeological site, other than a couple places, it doesn't hold much interest for us. On the other hand, the Archaeological Museum was very interesting. They call themselves one of the most important museums in Greece, spefically the artiafcts and the age of the artifacts there. Mind you, almost every museum in Greece called itself one of the most important museums in Greece. ;)

    The main hall (room 5) is where the two monumental pediments from the temple of Zeus was displayed. You really have to be there in person to appreciate it. Along with the statue of Nike (yes, Nike the shoes) in room 4 and the statute of Hermes (room 8) is worth the price of admission to see it in person. Not that there is anything wrong with the rest of the displays which included bronze and terracotta, statues and artifacts from the archeological site and items collected from a nearby cemetery where athletes and officials were buried.

    All these took up more than the entire morning and we took a quick lunch before heading off to our next stop, "Museum of the History of the Olympic Games of antiquity" (hoenstly, that's the official name of the museum).

    There are lots of information on the ancient Olympics if you are inetrested in the Olympic games itselves. Other than the games being held at Olympia, there are other Games held in Delphi, Isthmia and Nemea etc. It also speaks of the "sacred truce" of the games where people can freely travel between warring cities, the "naked" game and the exclusion of female from the games. There is a very interesting story how the "naked" games come about but it was rather long and I will save the story for some other time.

    It also spoke of the various competitions such as sprinting while carrying a heavy shield, javelin, wrestling, foot race, horse races etc; everything that have to do with fighting in a battle, the winner would be the prototype super hero warrior of teh day.

    The ancient Olympic games lasted almost 1000 years, where it was abandoned in 393 AD. When the ancient ruin was rediscoverd, it rekindled the spirit and the modern Olympic game was born from it.

    The only advise I have is if you are not interested in the Olympic games at all, don't go there. After the stop at Museum of the History of the Olympic Games of antiquity, we spent some time shopping at modern Olympia. The town was small with one main street. The streets were empty. There were hardly any tourist around. We bought some replica terracotta and head back to the ship, just in time for dinner.

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    Hi Eschew,
    Wonderful report and quite informative.

    I am taking a cruise next month with a very similar itinerary. Did you book excursions in advance? through the cruise line? privately? How did you get to Delos?

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    Hi ahotpoet, absolutely book the excursions in advance, as soon as you have confirmed your cruise. Soon after we booked our cruise, we start booking tours and excursions even before making our final payment. The earlier you book, the more choices you have.

    The boat dock (ferry) to Delos is at the old port. Other than boats to Delos, nothing else is there at the old port. The cruise port is at the new port, which is by the city.

    Below is a link to information for Delos, including transportation, admission etc. The boat ride over could be very choppy, so pick the biggest boat if you have a choice.

    You can explore Delos on your own. The admission is 5 euros per person and there is a gift shop right at the gate and they had Delos guide books for sale. They ran out of the English ones the day we were there but luckily, I had my own.

    I would like to suggest hiring a local guide. Without a guide, you won't know what you are looking at. Excursion form the cruise line is an option as they will get you to Delos with their private charter, meaning you just walk from the cruise ship to the charter boat and return to same place. The ship's excursion groups are typically 30 people to a group so they are quite large.

    Going off on your own will give you maximum time. Most guided tours are half days only meaning only 3 to 4 hours and you won't be able to go too far i.e. to the top of Kymthos and the Kymthos cave etc.

    I studied Greek Mythology during my University years so I am somewhat familair with the history and "stories" but I still rely heavily on the guide book to find things and undersatnd what I am looking at. The guide book I have is relatively easy to follow.

    If you are not comfortable wandering off and wanted to hear a good story (as told by the guide), a private guide is the way to go. But if there is only the 2 of you, then a private guide would be expensive, and all of a sudden, the cruise ship organized excursion becomes very affordbale. What I find is a private guide is affroable and makes sense when you have 4 to 6 people in your group. 8 to 10 would be my max as you lose the benefits of a priavte guide when the numbers go up.

    What other ports are you stopping and when do you leave? What cruise line? I have 3 more ports to report and they are Corfu, Dubrovnik, and Venice.

    Knowing my "work" schedule, I would probably post Corfu tomorrow (Thursday) night, Dubrovnik on Sunday night and Venice probably may ended up a 2 part post for mid week next week and a summary and ship feature on the weekend.

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    Thank you, Eschew for your very informative answer. I am going on the Oct 19 sailing of the Silhouette that ends up in Venice. I have been to Mykonos many times and used to live there in the early 70's and never went to Delos. Can you imagine that? Like living in NY and not going to the Statue of Liberty. I was last there in 2008 and barely recognized the place. They say you can't go home again.
    What guidebook did you use for Delos?

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    Best laid plan never works! At any rate ...

    Ahotpoet ... the name of the book is "Delos - Mykonos: a guide to its Archaeology and history". ISBN 960-86237-1-5. I bought it a few years back, it was a 1998 edition. The author was Konstantinos Tsakos. He also penned a few otehr Greek archaeology guide including Delphi, Mycenae, Corinth, Acropolis etc.

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    At Corfu, the first place that we visited was Achilleon, built in the 1890's as a summer palace for Empress Elizabeth of Austria. I think the palace was called "Achillion" because the Empress adored Achilles. The palace was eventually sold to Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II.

    There is a huge bronze (?) Achilles statue in full hoplite uniform as the guardian of the palace facing the sea in the garden. There is also a marble Archilles statue, in pain with an arrow through his archilles heel, elsewhere in the vast garden.

    There are plenty of statues through the whole palaces, including the Three Graces and the Nine Muses.

    There are lots of articafcts in display from the Empress and Kaiser Wilhelm. The building is quite lovely and lavish, but very mdoest in comaprison to the extragance of the Russian Summer Palace at St. Petersburg. The Achilleon would be a must stop for Corfu.

    Next stop was the old fortress and the old town. Interesting enough but nothing spetacular. We walked around the main street and the narrow side streets, sat and relaxed at an outdoor cafe, and spent some relaxed time people watching.

    Here is a little known "odditiy" about souvenir from Corfu. The "Liquer from Corfu" is a "Koum-Quat" liqueur.

    Koum-Quat (Kumquat) is a southern Chinese citrus fruit that looks like a mini orange, think 1/4 size of the Christmas Japanese Mandarin oranges. Not sure how it got to Corfu, and why it thrived and became a local specialty. I don't recall ever seeing Chiense made Koum-Quot liqueur in China.

    There are many nice beaches in Corfu but beaches were not our list of things to do there.

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    Larry, thanks. Sometimes it is just useless information.

    Example: Empress Elizabeth was very conscious of her "beauty" (and yes, her photo shows that she is quite a looker) and was horrified of "over-size". She was so fixated at her size that she somehow managed to reduce her waist to 16 inches in circumference at one point; it still measured only around 18 inches when at her death (age 60) when she was assissianted. I Wonder what she would have said to Queen Victoria when they met.

    Did you know that Kaiser Wilhelm II has a deformed left arm which is 6 inches shorter than his right arm? He tried to concealed it by always holding a pair of gloves on his left hand (making it looks longer) or had his left arm on the hilt of his sword.

    Next up, Dubrovnik.

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    Sorry about the delay in completing this TR, but I promise I'll have this finsihed one of these days.

    Dubrovnik is a surprising place. The outside view of the old walled city was charming, just like the story book. We entered into the old town via the Pile gate early in the morning and the place was quite crowd already.

    The big Onofrio´s Fountain was the first stop and is quite a gathering place. This is also a great place to start if you wish to climb the city wall. The city walls woudl be the top attraction.

    And I am not sure who is right but there are many cities lay claim to the first pharmacy in Europe. Dubrovnik claimed that they introdcued medical service in 1301, and had the first pharmacy in 1317, which is still operating to this day.

    The Sponza Palace was originally built in the 1500s as a customs house, and is one of the few buildings to survived the 1667 earthquake. It was also used as the mint, the treasury and a bank in various times. It is now an archive and houses a collection of manuscripts, among other things. The building is decorated with many carved scultures and ornaments.

    If you ever get lost in the old town (Placa Stradun), all you need to do is to look for the Bell Tower and you will find your bearing. On top of the tower are copies of the Zelenci soldier bronze statues which strike the bell every hour. (The originals is in Sponza Palace.)

    The Rector's Palace would also be a must stop at the old town. It was the seat of the power for 400 years during the Republic period (1400s - 1800s). It is by the Town Hall with the Church of St. Blaise on one side and the Cathedral on the other side. The Rector's Place had seen major damages many times through the years includng a fire in the 1435, a gunpowder explosion in 1463, two earthquakes (1520 and 1667), it is almost like you name the disaster, and it would have happened there. As a result, the place had seen many rebuilts and reconsctructions. it is an amazing mixture of different architectural style within the same complex.

    The Rector's palace is now a museum and it showcased the history of Dubrovnik with many period furniture, portraits, coats of arms, and many artifacts such as old coins and the original keys of the city gates.

    We spent half a day wandering around the old walled city and ended at the old city harbour and took the ferry to Cavtat, a small resort town not too far away.

    It was one of those little known fact that Cavtat was origianlly a Greek town built during the 4th century BC and was called Epidauros. It is a peaceful and quiet little place with many restaurants and some of the most exclusive hotels and resorts.

    We stopped in the Racic family mausoleum and cemetery on the hill, St. Nicholas' church, the Franciscan Monastery and our Lady of the Snows. It is interesting to note that the restaurant next to the Lady of the Snows was playing jazz music in English.

    Cavtat is on a peninsula and there is a walkway that you can walk around the whole place. It took about an hour or so to do the complete loop. If you don't want to do the whole loop, start on the western side (starting from the church our Lady of the Snows), go to the tip of the peninsula and return.

    As a side bar, many of the rich and famous must liked to visit Catvat as there were many supersized yachts docked at Catvat while we were there, and each easily worth millions. One yacht was aptly named "Lucky Me".

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    Great trip report, we were also going to wait for last minute deals on cruises. I'm really interested how you managed to get the trip on frequent flyer miles, I thought you had to book like 10 months ahead of time. How did you find out that you could fly on frequent flyer miles out of Montreal but not other destinations. We'd be going out of Los Angeles, CA.

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    Our frequent flyer points is with a Star Allaince carrier. We can fly anywhere Star Alliance member airlines flies. The members included United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air China, Scandinavian and many others. You can google their member list.

    It took a bit of work as you have to search through the schedules. We used a search engine such as CheapoAir and find out what flights are available. We then narrow down the flights to Star Alliances members only, get the flight info and then book on line with the points.

    We used 2 computers to book online at the same time as I had enough points for only msyelf and DW had enough for herself. We log onto the 2 accounts at the same time and hit "confirm" at the same time to make sure we get the same flights. Not sure what we would do if one was confirmed and the other one didn't. We booked in mid-June for our August flights.

    We flew from Montreal on Air Canada to Rome and fly Lufthansa from Venice to Franfurt and then to Houston. We flew United on the domestic portion.

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    It took a little while but I can finally have time to try to finish this TR.

    Venice is a very special place. When the ship approach the city, you MUST get to the top deck and take that bird eye view of the city. We were lucky. Our top deck balcony was on the starboard side so we don;t ahve to fighth with the crowd. From our vantage point, it was like viewing the city in slow motion from a helicoptor, without the engine noise. As a comparison tio the height of the ship, the ship was taller than the tower at San Marcos.

    For thsi cruise, Princess advertised Venice as an over night stop, meaning that the ship got in, you go and sight see, you return to the ship to sleep, and you disembark for good the next morning.

    Princess automatically charges everyone $15 for an unlimted use water shuttle service to San Marcos for the day. The ticket was delivered to your cabin and put on your bed so you won't nmiss it. You can get your money back if you return your ticket unused, but it will be your responsibility to return it if you do not want to use it.

    As soon as we were cleared to disembark, we took the free bus shuttle service from the terminal to the water shuttle service. We got on and 20 minutes later, we landed at San Marocs (okay, it was about 4 blocks away).

    We spend the afternoon going through Palazza Ducale (or Doge's Palace). As this is the must stop in Venice, the place was very crowded.

    Doge's Palace was the center of the Government for "old" Venice of the glory years. That's where the government of the day met and made decisions, greeted foreign dignitaries, held trials etc.

    With that said, it reasoned that's why the "grand entrance" and the staircase was so "grand" as it was supposed to amde peopel who walked through there awe struck and be amazed t the riches of Venice.

    We walked through all the great halls and chambers. There are plenty of art works by famous artists including the three T's (Titian, Tintoretto, and Tiepolo). We also stopped at the prison cells before we head out.

    The most famous prisoner at the Doge's Palace was Casanova. (Yes, it is a real person) and somehow, he managed to escape, and his escape is right out of a fairy tale. He climbed onto the prison roof, slide down a drain pipe, slip inside the Palace and walk through the door to Piazza San Marcos and left on a Gondola.

    Since we knew we are staying for a few days, we took our time at Doge's Palace. We walked around the district of San Marcos, made our way to the Rialto bridge, had dinner at a side walk cafe at the canal facing the bridge. By the time we got back to the water shuttle service, it started to rain and we made our way back to the ship with no incidence.

    We had booked our stay near the Venice airport (Titian Inn) and the hotel offers free shuttle service to and from the airport. The hotel was less than 10 minutes by car and probably 20 to 25 minutes by foot.

    We cheated and booked a disembarkation tour through the ship where they will take us on a tour to Moreno Island and drop us off at the airport after the tour, and our luggage would be in the airport waiting for us. It would have saved us $$ for transportation from the port to the hotel.

    It didn't quite happened that way as there was not enough passsengers booked on the disembarkation tour and it was cancelled. So an alternate plan needed to be hatched up.

    There were many options. Checked the luggage at the cruise terminal for 5 euros, took the people mover to Venice (1 euro per person), go sight seeing, head back to the terminal, pick up the luggae and make our way to the hotel by the airport.

    The other option was take our luggage with us on the people mover, check our luggage at Piazza Roma (or Snata Lucia), go sight seeing, pick up the luggage afterward and head to the hotel.

    As it turned out, we did the only sensible thing. We took a cab to the hotel after we disembarked. The cost was 50 euros (including tip) and the driver was so happy that he shook our hands, volunteer to take our luggage into the hotel and cannot stop smiling. The whole trip took about 30 minutes.

    We arrived at the hotel quite early, it wasn't even 10 am and we expected to leave our luggage at the front desk, go sight seeing and check in later.

    To our surprise, the room was ready and we checked in, relax a bit before we headed out to venice. The hotel is a small "boutique" hotel located in a residential area, right across from a farming community. It is also along the bus route (#5), between Piazza Roma and the Airport.

    The bus stop was about a block away and we took the #5 bus heading into Venice. We were told the frquency of the bus was somewhere between 10 to 15 minutes but we never have to wait for more than 5 minutes.

    The bus ride was about 20 to 25 minuets either way and the ride was uneventful, although it did get crowded on occassions.

    After arriving at Piazza Roma, we decided to visit the train station at Santa Lucia. Why? Becasue it was there. We spent the rest of the day going through Cannargio which is not really a big tourist area except for the Jewish Ghetto. We enjoyed our time there as this is where you get to see the real Venice, where the local lived and played, and not the Venice that is choke full of tourist and the high prices associated with it. We ahd dinner at a local cafe, made our way back to Piazza Roma and took the bus back to thotel before dark.

    That would be the routine for the duration of our stay at Venice. Breakfast at the hotel (included with the room rate), took the bus to Piazza Roma,w ander around, and took the bus back to the hotel after dark.

    We knock off one "district" at a time. Castello was next and Castello was famous for the green public park area at the "end" of Venice called Giardini Pubblici, and the Arsenale which were shipyards during the Renaissance-era and still in use by the Italian Navy.

    We went back and spent some time wandering around Piazza San Marco and stopped inside the Basilica. The Basilica was under restoration and parts of the building were covered, inclduing the famous horses.

    There are a few things to know about the Basilica. First, the line up to get in is long, but it does move quite quickly. Second, they do enforce the rules of no back packs. There is a "luggage" drop off around the corner about a block away. There is clear signage, so drop off your bag before lining up or else you will end up lining up twice. Third, no pictures allowed inside but we didn't see anyoen enforcing it. Last, but not leaset, the treasury is worth spedning the 3 euros if we want to see some Ventian treasures.

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    The spent the next few days around Santa Croce, San Polo and spent the last day at Dorsoduro. We tried to spilt our time evenly between tourist areas and non tourist area. At no point did we feel not safe in the non tourist area. And coem to think of it, we hardly notice any police presence in Venice, which could be a good or a bad thing depedning on points of view.

    If you enjoy music, Interpreti Veneziani would be an important stop. They play Vivaldi's Four Seasons almost daily.

    St. Mary of the Friars and Santa Maria dei Miracoli would be two of the many churches we visited. We were told there were 149 churches in Venice, although some were no longer active.

    There are also many museums and shops in Venice. We managed to visit two different Da Vinci exhibits while we were there. One was a feature exhibits at the Accademia galleries and we stumbled into "Il Genio di Leonardo da Vinci Museo", which was formerly an old church. I bought a Homer Simpson Vitruvian Man t-sheet there. :D

    The 2 exhibits are quite different. One feature scaled models of Da Vinci's inventions (The Genius of Da Vinci Museum) and the other featured drawings and original manuscripts (Accademia).

    One of the more interesting exhibit was Simon Ma's "ink" at Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello. It was something that is very hard to describe. Imagine modern art in a Renaissance building, and at places, east meets west. As it is part of the Venice Biennale exhibits, it should be closing sometime this year. This woudl be our highlite of Venice.

    Having a good map is a necessity to navigate through Venice. We got lost many time and we found our way many times. The streets are not labeled and the numbers on the houses are not in sequence.

    We mainly used the various Piazzas and churches as our reference points along with the Grand canal.

    One otehr place of note: the fish market. You have to be there early to experience it. That's all I can say.

    All in all, it was a good few days in Venice, sore feet aside.

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    Finally, soemthing about the ship, Ruby Princess. The ship was 5 years old and was refitted this year. We were on this ship back in its inaugural cruise. We didn't notice much change or difference, which is a good thing as it was quite good the way it was. The lay out made sense and all the Princess Grnad class ships lay out in simiar fashion so you feel like you've been there and have a sense of familiarity and comfort that you don't get when you get on a strange ship. Onthe other hand, some may liek teh different look and feel of ships and may find the simiar set up boring.

    The entertainment on baord was somewhere between okay and good. The production shows are the same as what we have seen on our cruise to Alaska barely 3 months ago. We wouldn't expect any changes in the production shows as they typically would last a full year, and the same shows throughout the fleet.

    The comedians were interestinge enough as was the hynotist. The various bands and venues were okay. They had the usual string quartet and the paino player. Nothing that really stood out, but nothing that screamed "aweful".

    For us, the shp was simply a floating hotel and the main attractions were the ports.

    One last thing. remember at the start of the TR, I mentioned how effortless to pass through immigrations and customs in Rome. They didn't even stamped our passport.

    When we left Venice and landed in Frankfurt, the German immigration gave us a hard time and keep asking us how long were we in Europe.

    It took us a while to figure it out. What happened was we were in Italy a few years ago and our passport were stamped back then and he couldn't find anything recent so he figured that we stayed in Europe all this time and is now heading home now ...

    I explained that the immigration at Rome airport did not stamp our passport and he keep saying they should have and I keep telling him that they didn't. I am not sure what we showed him to finally convince him but it was 15 minutes later before he let us thorugh his kiosk.

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    I don't always post trip reports. But when I post a trip report, I take my time posting it, on sections and enjoyed doing it.

    For me, writing a TR, I will have to think back on what we did, where we visited, what was good, what was bad, what worked, what didn't. I have to re-lived the whole experience, or going on the same vacation again in my mind, looking at pictures to refresh my memory, which in the grand scheme of thinsg is a very good thing.

    The other reason of writing a TR, of coruse, is to share information and our experience. My TR is not meant to be a review.

    I read other people's TR and gained knowledge and pleasure from them. And if you enjoyed my TR and gain knowledge or pleasure, please feel free to comment. :)

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    Hadn't been on this forum in a while and missed the concluding part of this wonderful report, thanks a ton Eschew! Did you you get a local guide/tour operator in Katakalon and Dubrovnik, would like to have the contacts. We're doing a 7 night Venice to Istanbul cruise on Celebrity next June and will be visiting these two ports, apart from some others we've been to earlier. Thanks again for taking the time to give all these details:)

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    Sally: the weather was HOT, HOT, HOT. Everyday was 90 plus except for Venice where it rained for one day and it was a welcome relief.

    geetika: thanks for the comments :) much appreciated. As I have said before, when I wrote the TR, it brought back memories and I got to go through the whole travel experience again.

    If you are looking guides for those 2 ports, you have to book very early as the company that we dealt with are very small, but with good reputation.

    For Katakolon, Taxi Katakolo (Andreas)

    For Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Day Tour (Stephan)
    They will customize a tour for you.

    Good luck!

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    Thanks a lot for the contacts Eschew, am emailing them right away! There's a recent thread on Cruise Critic about Katakolon Express, mixed reviews, some say the tour was excellent and some others that the bus didn't even show up, people had to scramble to find some other transport once in port. Will let you know how it goes, thanks again:)

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    Would a round trip airfare cheaper than a multi-city airfare?
    It seems flying round trip from US to Rome would be much cheaper than fly to Rome and fly back from Venice. How much and how long a train ride from Venice to Rome? How about one way airfare from Venice to Rome on a local carrier? Are thety viable options?

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    Actually last yr. we did a multi city on the UAL website. We flew ORD to FCO for a cruise, then FCO to MAD for a few days, them back to ORD and it was actually $100.00 less than a standard R/T. However some other stops instead of MAD were more. MAD just happened to be less, why I don't know.

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    Larry, it is call airport tax and airport landing fee. Some of the airports charge so much more money for landing fee is ridiculous.

    Toronto has one of the hihest landing fee in the world. I think Tokyo is next highest by a big margin. Here is an example: "It costs $324 to land a B747 in CLT, but $11687 to land the same plane in YYZ in 2010."

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