Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Have You Ever Been on a Mediterranean Cruise?

Laura and Rossie relaxing on the cruise!

If not come along with our daughter, Laura, for a tour of some of the places they went on their recent cruise. They had been saving their money for quite some time to go to Germany for two weeks this month as they will be returning to the US on July 15th for a new duty station in Rhode Island and they wanted to take full advantage of their remaining time in Europe.

Things happened with Robert's assignments and it turned out that they had to cancel their plans to go there. At the same time they shipped their car to the US and that left 2 weeks of leave and no transportation. So they decided to look for a cruise instead and this is where they went. Excellent serendipity in my opinion!

"We recently got home from a
7 night Mediterranean cruise!It was amazing!!

We sailed on board this ship;
Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas.

We visited Sicily, Italy; Ephesus, Turkey; Athens, Greece and Iraklion on the Island of Crete.

Okay, so I have attempted to write this post at least 48 times in the last two days but every time I sit down to write I get pulled away by someone or something with more immediate needs than my own. In addition to the constant string of interruptions, I am having a really hard time deciding how to write about what we did. Should I write a day by day review? Or should I post by category; places we visited, things we saw, things we did on the ship? Hmm- what to do, what to do? So....this is how it went.
I really didn't know what to expect our state rooms to be like. I had visions a minuscule rooms with tacky decorations and bad circulation but that was simply not the case. Our rooms were perfect. They were much larger than I expected, they were immaculately clean. The room temperature and air flow were great- never once did I feel like I was in as a confined space. Overall the rooms were unbelievably comfortable.

Each night our stateroom attendant Josephine would come in, turn down the covers of our beds, and leave the next days schedule our for us to review. In addition she would leave us fresh towels folded to look like animals. The boys loved that.

In fact, they loved the "towel animals" so much they opted to dry off with washcloths each night after their shower rather than take them apart. Here are pictures of the towel animals Josephine left for us; an elephant, a pig, a chick, and a stingray (with a chick on his back courtesy of Spencer). She also left us a monkey and a bat.

Spencer with His crew of towel animals!

On the last day of the Cruise Spencer and Robert attended a towel animal folding class. Spencer LOVED it! I think he is ready to sign a contract with RC to be a stateroom attendant so he can make towel animals everyday!
The ship we sailed on was beautiful and ginormous! There really is no way to describe it to you so I will let the pictures do the talking.

Our table #49 was on the second level, on the right, nearest to the stair case. The prefect location! Our servers were Sebastiano from Sicily and Tankut from Turkey. They were so kind and so careful. They accommodated our special eating needs beautifully.

Spencer in his glory~no worries!

In addition to the Main dinning hall where breakfast lunch and dinner are served, the ship has 4 individual restaurants and a large buffet that is open to everyone almost all day long. This is a picture of dining area of the large buffet area, the Windjammer Cafe.

One of my favorite things about Cruising is that there is a Theatrical production of some kind each night in the ships theater. I didn't have a chance to attend every show but I did see several and was incredibly impressed with the quality of what I saw.

The Navigator of the Seas also has an ice skating arena where they do live ice skating shows, teach ice staking lessons and have open ice skating times for advanced and beginner skaters. I bet I don't have to tell you which group we skated with!

There are 3 pools on board the ship. The two outdoor pools shown here and an indoor pool. We were all a bit surprised the first time we jumped in and discovered the pools are filled with salt water- yuck! The terrible taste and stingy eyes didn't stop us though, we certainly spend our share of time at the pool.

We spent a lot of time on the sports deck too playing basketball,
climbing the rock wall,
(Ross climbed everyday and "rang the bell" 5 or 6 times.
He is a great climber because he is strong and fast and unstoppably determined.)

Playing ping-pong

Playing mini-golf.

The ship also has an outdoor walking/jogging track, a gym and a full service spa. I spent a bit of time at each. I walked on the outdoor track in the mornings and watched the sun rise. I attended a few health seminars at the gym, and thanks to Robert's encouragement and support, I did indulge in a spa treatment- it was heavenly!

There are 4 youth centers on board the Navigator of the Seas to accommodate the wide age range of its young passengers. Our boys spent their time in the Explorer and Voyager kids clubs. They had a great time.

They also enjoyed the ships arcade. Actually, we all did. We had several family air hockey tournaments (Robert is the reigning champion) and each played a handful of individual games.

One of my favorite parts of the ship was the Royal Promenade. Located in the center of the ship and lined with shops and cafe's- the Royal Promenade was a fun and lively place to stroll around. Each night there was a special sale of some sort on the Promenade and though I didn't do any shopping (I was sorely tempted a few times) I really enjoyed looking. One night they had a watch and diamond sale. The next night they were selling ancient Roman glass jewelry. Another night it was handbags. Another night Murano glass.

I spent one afternoon on the ship watching a movie
in the screening room. I saw Julie and Julia. I loved it!

Of course, there were lots of things to do and places to visit on board that we simply did not get to but everything we did do was first class. It was a very comfortable home away from home. A perfect place to come back to after a day of sightseeing.

"Our ship pulled into port in five different Mediterranean cities-
two in Italy, two in Greece and one in Turkey.

Since we had already been to Rome and Sicily in Italy we originally planned to just enjoy the ship on those days but I got antsy so when the ship docked in Sicily I got off to explore the town and do a little shopping. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until I was off the ship and poised to take my first sightseeing picture, that I had forgotten to replace my camera's memory card before leaving home. So while I did get to see a few things, I spent most of my time looking for a place to buy a new one. When I got back on the ship I bought a new memory card from the ships photo shop and went to the top deck to take this picture. Isn't it lovely?

I love Italy from a distance like this. It is just so... quaint and romantic looking.

Our second port of call, in Turkey. was by far my favorite. I am not sure what I was expecting Turkey to be like but what we saw certainly wasn't it. Turkey was so clean and so organized and so western- it really was surprising. Here are a few pictures of the port town Kusidasi.

We went on a cruise sponsored tour in Turkey and it was awesome. We visited Ancient Ephesus, where the Apostle Paul preached to the Ephesians for more than 2 years. We saw the amphitheater where he taught and where it was decided by the people that he would have to leave Ephesus or be put to death. Here are a few pictures from portion of the tour.

On the bus.

Temple of Hadrian

Ancient Library of Ephesus

Our Turkish Tour Guide.

Oz really made this tour special for us. He was very knowledgeable and considerate of each of his guests. He really loved his job and his country and it was a delight to be around him.

After our tour in Ancient Ephesus we headed into town for a Turkish carpet demonstration. I had heard horror stories about people going to these kinds of things without the least intention of buying a carpet and leaving with a beautiful Turkish rug and $15,000 of debt.

I was a pretty sure I was not going to be one of those people but that is what they all said too. Anyway, it ended up being an amazing experience. I learned that Turkish carpets are all 100% handmade. I learned that it takes 1 woman, 1 year to weave a 1' x 1' square of carpet. I learned that all of the colors in the carpets come from natural vegetable dies. I learned that many Turkish carpet making families only sell 1 carpet a year. It was a very humbling and impressive experience.

One of the weavers.

The carpets.

I fell in love with the red and yellow one in the top right hand corner of this picture. It was a love affair that began and ended in Turkey because as much as I wanted to I didn't bring it home!

Our third Port of Call was Athens, Greece. I had high expectation for Athens but was sorely disappointed. Athens is very large, old, dirty, seedy and crowded. It actually reminded me a lot of Rome- no wonder I didn't like it at first. Perhaps with time it would have grown on me but I really didn't care for it the first time around. We decided to take a Cruise tour to the Acropolis where we saw the Parthenon.

It was an impressive structure
but I didn't care for our tour guide,
it was also very hot and very crowded.

I know that sounds like a lot of complaining but it really does get better. Because of a transportation strike in Athens the day were were there, we did not get to complete the tour we had paid for. So we asked to be dropped off in the down town area to explore a little on our own and do a little shopping. I really enjoyed walking around the city center. The first thing we saw the reconstructed original Olympic center. It was very impressive.

We bought lunch at a local market and
ate on the steps near a church.

We did some people watching and a little shopping and really enjoyed our time together. When we were done we took a taxi to the port and we made it back to the ship just before they pulled up the gangplank.

Our final port day was spent on the Island of Crete. Robert and I decided to leave the boys on the ship and explore the Island on our own. It was such a delightful day. We hired a taxi and saw some beautiful things. Our taxi drive did not speak much English and of course we don't speak any Greek but he was very observant and noticed right away the kinds of things we were and were not interested in. He drove us through some very scenic places and pulled over often to let us take pictures.
Here are a few of my favorites.

We visited some ancient ruins (because what trip to any European city is complete without visiting ruins of some sort?)

We visited the Marina and old Military Fort.

Had a Gyro for lunch.

And then headed to the shopping district.

All in all it was a really delightful day!

There is no end to the amount of shopping one can do on a cruise. In fact, it was kind of ridiculous, even for me, and I love shopping! We came home with several unique souvenirs. Here are a few pictures.

A fantastic glass mosaic lamp from Turkey. I think it will be perfect in our bedroom.

A hanging candle lantern- also from Turkey.

An olive wood chess set from Athens.

A "good luck" charms from Athens. How could I resist- it was decorated with glass pomegranate beads (which represent fertility) and a bird holding a laurel leaf? I figured it was meant for me!

And some Olive Oil and beauty products from Crete.

There certainly was some "non-buyers" remorse on my part (the Ancient Roman Glass Jewelry and the W ring from the ship; The giant red coral necklace and carpet from Turkey; the labyrinth game in Athens; and the antique door knocker in Crete) but we decided ahead of time how much money we would spend each day and I feel really good about the fact that we stuck with our plan.

Well, it is official Robert and I are 100% converted to Cruising. It really is as relaxing and fun as everyone says it is!! I just feel bad it took us so long to get on the bandwagon. We have a few "must take" trips coming up but we are already thinking about and looking forward to our next cruise. Anyone want to join us?

For a few more pictures of the trip visit My Life in Pictures.
Thanks for tuning in!


Bonnie said...

I know this is really long but I wanted to just combine all her posts into on big one and put it in sequential order. I think Laura did a fantastic job of sharing the trip. We are so grateful that our kids and grandkids can have this tremendous experience of being in lots of different places due to Robert's career.

As much as we miss them we are thrilled for the time that they are having and the things the kids are exposed to all the time that are so enriching and teach them so much.

They are blessed and because of that we are blessed as well.

Sister Susie said...

What an experience! It will be one they will never forget! It appears the ship is a world in and of itself! You could spend 2 weeks just going through all of the activities on the ship! I know I enjoyed my 10 days in Israel (back in 1998.) I can't believe it has already been 12 years ago! The sights we see can not be captured with pictures alone!
Blessings on you and yours,

Julie Harward said...

WOW...what a trip, I hope the boys remember it always..bet they loved all that food too! :D

Deanna said...

Why is it that I always want to cry after I finish reading posts about trips? I wanted more! How exciting and what fun the boys had. I loved the animal towels and I'll bet they had a blast climbing that rock wall.
Ask Laura if she took pictures of the Ancient Roman glass jewelry that was for sale. I can't even imagine what that looked like!

I agree, it was serendipity. I absolutely adored the photo she took in Sicily. Tell her that she did a wonderful job in transporting me to the start of the cruise and to the end. I've never even thought about Turkey as a place to visit. It's always nice when your eyes are opened to new possibilities.

Happy sigh,
Deanna :D

Marie said...

What a fabulous experience! I have always wanted to go on a cruise. Now I want to even more!! Will miss you when I am away Bonnie! See you in about a month! xxoo

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