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Our Holy land cruise witha pre stay in Istanbul. Part one.

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Nov 26th, 2011, 02:40 PM
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Our Holy land cruise witha pre stay in Istanbul. Part one.

OK guys this is part one of my promised review of our above trip We left Chicago on 10/22 on Turkish airlines which has the only NS to IST from Chi. I must say the service was quite good and would not hesitate to use Turkish airlines again. We got into IST on time at around 1740 and we met by a driver from our hotel, the Istanbul Prince. At first we were a bit put off by the area we were driving through to get ot our hotel. It looked sort of small and a bit dingy. Our check in was fine and we decided to walk around a bit and find a place to eat. In no time we were relieved to see that our hotel was in an area full of shops and restaurants and as we already knew it was w/i walking distance to the major attractions we quickly became at ease with its location. We found a nice restaurant called Cappodocia where ladies were seated in the front window rolling out dough and making bread on what looked like a huge upside down wok. We sat on nice fluffly cushions for a table low to the ground and had a wonderful meal and struck up a nice conversation with a solo traveling Austrian gal so all in all it was a good beginning to IST. I also tried my 1st ever Turkish coffee and quickly learened that you have to wait a bit to let the grounds settle B4 trying it.
The next day we began to explore IST. Our 1st stop was the Grand Bazaar which was about a 10 min. walk from our hotel. This place is amazing as it seems to go on forever. We shopped, had some apple tea which besides Turkish coffee is one one of the must try drinks while you are hear. Our next stop was the Blue Mosque which was just outside the bazaar. After that we wanted to try Topkapi palace but was told it was closed that day so we headed back to the hotel. Well we sort of got lost and decided to take a cab but the driver didn't know our hotel so he called anoterh driver who also didn't know our hotel. Now what? So I remembered the name of that restaurant and that he knew so he dropped us there and we finally got back to our hotel.
That night we went to a belly dancing show which I had prearranged B4 we left. Bottom line, hey who doesn't like to see belly dancing However the food truly was tasteless. The dancers were amazing. Stay tuned.
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Nov 26th, 2011, 08:16 PM
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I am staying tuned!!

Are your eyes back in your head yet from the belly dancing !

Wow! two taxi drivers did not know the hotel, I would
be worrying about now.

Waiting for more.
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Nov 27th, 2011, 04:42 AM
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Nice report IST is cool brings back fond memories.
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Nov 27th, 2011, 07:00 AM
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Thanks guys. . Actually here were 3 belly dancers, one of which was quite "ample" but she could move let me tell ya.
So today we checked out of the hotel thinking we could board early, drop off out carry ons and see more of IST with an aquaintance we made. So we got to the ship aorund noon only to find out boarding was delayed by 2 hrs. due to the noro virus which had beset the previous cruise and the need for extensive cleaning and that we could not get into out cabins until around 1700. Bummer. So off we went with our carry on bags to explore more of IST. we met our new friend, Yesim who was so gracious to escort us arounf IST. Our 1st stop was Topkapi. However it was closed today as well. Darn. So we had some pomegranite jiuce which is fressh just about everywhere and some roasted chestnuts and off we went when Yesim arrivesd to see the hag Sofia. Pretty amazing really and it actually has a bigger dome than the Blue Mosque. Afterwards we went to the ancient cisterns built as a resovoir by emperor Justinian I think and its so amazing that its still structurally sound. There are several carvings of the head of Medusa to ward off evil spirits. I'd stay out of her way, beleive me. So after lunch it was back to the ship which was finally ready to take on passengers. I must say we have never felt so welcomed when embarking as we were on the Connie. Except for one person whom I'll get to later but who made a big difference' that level of hospitality persisted thropughout the length of the cruise. Our room, 8099, a concierge level cabin was immaculate and had the welcome bottle of champagne, fruit and all the amenities ofered by the CC service inc. binoculars which were kinda bad really. Oh well. We exploerd the ship a bit and strolled to dinner well past the 1815 assigned 1st seating time. Well I though that on the 1st night it would be open seating but it wasn't. The staff greeted us graciously and hustled to get our dinners b4 the next seating began. Nice job guys. Now lets geot to a really good story. we met the famous Dogster!! I once asked him to post a pic of himself here and he declined saying he sort of looked like Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones afte a bad night. Ok I got the image. We had joked a bit here about how in my entire life I had never had a Martini but would break that virginity on the Connie which has a Martini bar. Well I saw a guy standing by the elevators who sort of reminded me of Dogster described himself so I strolled over the Martini bar, hint, hint. He got it and asked if I was jacket and bingo! So we went to the bar and talked like crazy, like we were old frinds even tho we just met of course. He is fun, charming and quite glib as we know from his posts here. Actually we had a blast and my wife affectionately renamed him "hotdog" So my 1st Martini, a dirty Martini was enjoyed with good old Dogster. I had a second one the next day but with gin. I'll stick to vodka. Stay tuned. More to come. It will be more interesting.
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Nov 27th, 2011, 07:58 AM
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From Athens:
Heya jacket. I've been looking forward to this...
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Nov 27th, 2011, 08:07 AM
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Sorry to keep everyone waiting. When we got back we had to restock our newly remodeled kitchen, unpack all the pots and pans, etc. and put them away several times b4 she decided how she wanted them situated. Then shop for all kinds of new stuff. Did you decide to stay in Athens after Azamara?
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Nov 27th, 2011, 08:12 AM
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Nice ship experience for day one.

Remember dogster said he was an old lady from Arizona !!

I am following your trip ! Waiting for the next episode!
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Nov 27th, 2011, 01:44 PM
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Nope, I'm still on Azamara bound for Mumbai.
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Nov 27th, 2011, 03:24 PM
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Mumbai , this is a nice place, if you mean Mumbia Kenya
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Nov 28th, 2011, 09:52 AM
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Larry, you should know the trick. Ask for a hotel busniess card from the hotel staffand show the taxi driver the busienss card. Never gor lost yet.

Are you sure you ate the food and not the napkins? I bet you can't even describe what you ate. What did your DW thinks about the food and the dancer? I thin she would say the food was tasty and the dancers were tastless ...

So, does Dogster looks lke Kieth Richard after a bad night?

I am waiting for the next installment, and then the same TR from Sass and Dogster. Keep it coming ...
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Nov 28th, 2011, 02:56 PM
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Well I will get very serious tomorrow with updates as I just got home from work and we have to buzz out to dinner. Yep, shoulda had a card. good idea though I didn't plan on getting lost but again thats why i should have had a card. Duh. You are right about one thing. I can't describe the food. It really was bad. I mean isn't this the part of the world where the spice route started?? Actually that self description of the dogster is pretty funny, just like he is. We had a great dinner with him and Sass and her hubby at the Tuscan Grille. Well she's home now. Gotta go. You know how it is.
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Nov 29th, 2011, 03:00 PM
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OK guys thanks for being patient. Been running errands all day but lets get back to the TR. We had the great fortune to meet two lovely Turkish gals, the aforementioned Yesim and her SIL Isil. Isil I met very briefly while she was doing a study at the Univ. of Ill. med. center where I work. She has a Phd in nursing. She agreed to meet us in IST but sent Yesim as she was 4.5 hrs. away on assignment. Well she drove all that distance just to meet us on departure day. Very nice person. She and Yesim came to the ship to see us off and we chatted at the nearby Starbucks like old friends. Sue and I decided to give them some Indian snacks we had brought on board so I hustled to our cabin thinking as we had 40 mins. B4 departure we had plenty of time. Well when I came back I was freaked out to see that they had closed the exit lines! Entry only. Well slight problem as Sue was still on shore and I had her seapass card. Well i sort of panicked and told them they HAD to let me out to get my wife!! Anyway they did, all was well and we were fine, and better for having met such nice people really. In fact today I got a few things to send them, some more Indian snacks and a few other goodies like Indian spices which Yesim wanted. Our night was uneventful though events would come later. We met our table mates, saw a show,not bad and got ready for Kusadasi the next day. We were met as promised by a rep from "Hello Ephesus" for a half day tour. Our guide was a lovley gal, Oya and there was a driver so off we went. Ephesus is over 2k yrs. old and represents Roman times. Its pretty big though I understand its only about 20% excavated. The sights we saw included the odeum which has to this day amazing acoustics, the Celsus library, the temple of Hadrian, the public baths and toilets and the terrace houses where the wealthy Romans lived. Some of the murals and floor mosaics are still present to this day. Amazing stuff. We also saw where the hospital and pharmacy were as marked by a caduces and an apothecary sign. Its amazing to me to think how advanced they were over 2k yrs. ago. On the way back Oya suggested a local place for lunch and folks it doesn't get much better than this. It was a small, Turkish place which was all organic and served a buffet lunch which had about 20 different dishes to try including fresh veges and various meat dishes. All that I tried were excellent, full of flavor, nothing tasted alike and the meat was cooked perfectly. It was an utterly delightful meal. And cheap. Lunch for 4 inc. sodas and a beer for me was about $38.00 USD. Well Israel would make up for that. Next stop Rhodos. Stayed tuned.
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Nov 29th, 2011, 03:56 PM
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Very good

I liked Ephesus.
Amazing how the Romans lived.

Enjoying this , waiting for the next one
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Nov 29th, 2011, 04:12 PM
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Well Larry .... Seapass is the only ID one has to get back on baord ... I'll say you are very lucky to get back out ...

Intereting comments on the Terrace houses. Our guide said the rich and priviledged local (possibility local officails or merchants) lived there and not the Romans. I don't think there really is a way to find out now who lived there...

Great post. Keep it coming.
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Nov 29th, 2011, 04:40 PM
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From the Suez Canal:

yup, I'm following along...
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Nov 30th, 2011, 11:36 AM
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dogster how long is that cruise?
The next day we were in Rhodos and we again arranged a private tour. Well maybe things are different there as when we got off the ship there was no one with a sign with our name on it so a few guys were trying to sell us a tour. I mentioned the guy we were using and someone called him so OK he was a bout 15 mins. late but I suppose the pace of life is a bit different here. Today we pretty much did scenic driving and thankfully for my wife a lot less walking. . We went to the site at the harbour entrance where the famous Colossus once stood or so they say. There are two pillars now and each on has a stag or deer on top of it proudly looking out to the sea. Mike our guide told us they are the symbol of Rhodes as when they were introduced to this island they killed the snakes. Well that is what he said. We drove the coast on a beautiful sunny day to the neat little town of Lindos which from a distance stands out as most of the buildings are painted white, like Santorini I suppose. Along the way we stopped at several places for scenic views and pic ops. We also went past the spot where the great WW II movie was filmed The Guns of Navarone." Man I loved that movie when it first can out. Still do in fact. You see the place where the guns were. Then he dropped us in Lindos for about an hour. As this day was a Greek holiday the local kids were dancing to live music in the town center which was shaded by several large trees. We decided to get a light lunch so we picked a small, unassuming place next to the kids, a restaurant by the sea. I noticed a sign in front of the place so I checked it out. Well lo and belold this place, Mavrikos, has quite a following. In fact it has been awarded the Greek version of a Michelin star and has had write ups in many intl. papers inc. the NY Times, London Daily Mirror and the German paper Der Speigel. What a stroke of luck. And the food we had, roasted eggplant with goat cheese and fava beans with a green leafy veg, like spinach was quite good. Very flavorful. Washed it down with a local brew, Mythos which was pretty good as well. Hey when you are on vaca a local brew always seems good. . We saw some more ancient sites and some not so ancient which had large round stones stacked up which our driver told us were used by the Turks to catapult into the walls but proudly noted the wall and of course the Greeks prevailed. We saw some beautiful country side and a neat, small hotel with a secluded beach which Mike said was popular with northern European vacationers , esp. at this time as they were more accustomed to cooler temps. It was around 70F so it was a bit cool for sunbathers but they ere there so this seems plausible. We also stopped at a pottery/souvenir store and watched a guy effortlessly transform a hunk of clay on a spinning wheel into a vase. Of course its a skill that takes a lot of time to perfect but he made it look easy. There are many steps to making it beautiful. After comes baking it in the huge kiln they have but you should see some of the finished products. Amazing. I asked Mike what he thought about the bail out of 50% debt relief which at the time was being offered by the European union. I thought it wasn't bad but he, like many Greeks called it "half a haircut." He spoke to the shop owners about their financial crisis and though I could not understand the words one gets the sense of how stressful this situation is for them. You can see it in their faces and body language. All I could think of was how hard it must be to live this way not knowing what tomorrow will be like. I do hope things will improve for them. On the way back Mike dropped us in a shopping area close to the ship and his wifes shop as well. We had a chance to met her. Seems like a very nice lady. Mike is actually a bit of a watch collector like me so we had a chance to talk shop a little and I think he appreciated my advice on a new watch purchase for himself. Anyway it was fun. We did a bit of shopping and headed to the ship. Then we decided to go back! Well sue hadn't had enough shopping I think so we got a few more things, some nice scarves and so on. NOW she was OK. We headed back to the ship again. When we will ever see Rhodes again I don't know but it would be great and if so I hope its during a time when the Greeks are happier with their economic situation. Next stop planned is Ashdod but...... Stay tuned.
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Nov 30th, 2011, 01:08 PM
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scarves ... hmm ... DW picked up a bunch too while we were around the area ... speaking of watches, did you stop by the "Genuine Fake Watch" store at Ephesus?
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Nov 30th, 2011, 02:10 PM
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Oh yeah. got a pic of it. i will post my pics under a separate thread.
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Nov 30th, 2011, 03:06 PM
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I am staying tuned.
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Dec 1st, 2011, 01:57 PM
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About a hundred years, jacket. Ends up in Mumbai December 11 - unless I kill myself first. Keep writing.
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