|13/10/2013||Kavala||Wine Art Estate||Delicious food and wine|
|15/10/2013||Piraeus||-||Metro & Tram into Athens|
|16/10/2013||Kos Town||Panoramic||Delicious honey|
|17/10/2013||Rhodes Town||Mt Filerminos & Rhodes Town||Interesting|
|19/10/2013||Monemvasia||-||The Greek Gibraltar!|
|21/10/2013||Itea||Delphi & Arachova||Magnificent ruins!|
As usual I drove up to Brian's place in Ealing to stay the night, via the lovely village of Denham in Buckinghamshire and Uxbridge in Middlesex. I caught the 7:10 am bus to Northfields to connect with the Heathrow tube. In the lounge there I met up again with my colleague Ernie Coulson from Thorpe Bay in Essex and the lovely painter Patricia Kelsall from Northwich. The BA plane was 40 minutes late taking off but arrived in Istanbul on time. There were only two passport officials on duty at the Attaturk airport so the queues were enormous. It took us two hours for everyone in our party to get through! The drive to the ship then took over an hour in the evening rush hour. I dined in the Verandah restaurant on rib of beef with Patricia and Richard & Pam Rhodes from the BBC's Songs of Praise. At the Big Band Dance Night I danced with Carol from Arizona, Beth from California, Patricia from Northwich and Ann from Blackpool. The latter is a regular dancer at the famous Tower ballroom!
The next morning I walked away from the old city and found a Starbucks café with free wi-fi. I took the funicular railway up to Taksim Square for the first time, then the vintage tram along the main shopping street to the Galata Tower. In the afternoon I escorted the tour to the wonderful Topkapi palace. Unfortunately we lost three people in the busy palace and one lady tripped and grazed her knee. I dined on chicken with Ann from Aberdeen and Lord 'call me George' Carey the former Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife the Lady Eileen. In the evening we danced with Flora, Thelma and Janet (not Louise!), Annie the French lady from Wales and Sue as well as our first nighters.
On the first sea day I breakfasted with Carol before attending two interesting lectures and the Singles Mingle. I lunched with a couple from Sutton Poyntz in Dorset before leading a waltz class. My siesta lasted two and a half hours, still recovering from my journey out! On duty in the Captain's welcome cocktail party, I chatted with various people including the sequence dance couple. I dined on my favourite fillet steak stuffed with Stilton cheese with five single ladies, including two Australians, Margaret and Anita. I enjoyed Yazz the singer particularly when she sang her No. 1 hit "The only way is up!"
In Kavala I walked around town on an overcast morning taking just a few photographs for the places I had missed three weeks previously. I had an early lunch of roast beef al fresco on the verandah deck right under the walls of the old city in the sunshine. In the afternoon I escorted my first choice Scenic Kavala and Wine Art Estate tour. We drove slowly past the Philippi ruins both ways before touring the winery. We tasted three different wines together with lovely cheeses and hams. That night I dined on salmon with two couples and Ann from Sidcup who remembered me from the Arctic Convoys cruise. The Quest Quartet had their jazz night so I was able to do some OU work over the ship's wi-fi and process my photographs into powerpoint.
In Volos I breakfasted with Ailsa from Golders Green and Annie the French lady from Swansea. I was first off the ship at 8:30 am and walked straight into the city. I took advantage of the free wi-fi at the modern Tourist Information Office both going into and coming out from the city. The brick and tile museum was interesting and I was quite taken with the dozen rusting steam locomotives at the railway station. I had an early lunch of escalope of pork with Barbara and Christobel before escorting the Mythical Villages of Mount Pelion tour. The first village of Portaria only gets one star in the Michelin guide but the second, Makrinitsa, gets two for its magnificent site and beautiful slate roofs, walls and floors. The Aeriko café, situated between the two villages, had wide ranging views and fast wi-fi. In the evening I dined with Ann from Sidcup again with a couple from North Shropshire and a couple from South Devon. Frank Williams, the Vicar in Dad's Army, gave a nostalgic look back at his career with a charming home movie of the Dad's Army cast at play.
In Piraeus I took advantage of the free wi-fi in the Port Terminal both going out and coming back. In fact I was still able to access it as we sailed away from the berth in the afternoon, thus enabling me to confirm my next Saga flight to Barcelona in three weeks time! In the morning I caught the Metro into Athens. Alighting at Thissio rather than at Monastiraki, I visited Kermikos, Apostle Paul's boulevard, Nimfon Hill and Filopapoi Hill, the latter affording exquisite views of the Parthenon. I walked along the base of the Acropolis to catch the tram down to the coast and along the promenade. The tram only goes as far as the football stadium so I had an hour's walk around the two little harbours and one beach of Piraeus to get back to the ship. In the afternoon I ran my first line dance class which had to be curtailed for Pam Rhodes' Songs of Praise choir practice! The sail away was glorious. I dined on sirloin steak with Joy from South Devon and a couple from Ealing. I managed to persuade Joy to try a waltz with me later in the evening. We listened to Yazz's second show before having a mercifully short disco for the very first time in the Discovery Lounge not out on deck.
On the island of Kos I escorted the panoramic tour. We visited the traditional house which I had been to a year before from the Seabourn Odyssey and a honey factory which was new for me. They generously gave me a jar of their thyme honey. After lunch and a siesta I walked into Kos Town to take photographs and search for wi-fi which I finally found back at the cruise terminal. I willingly shelled out three euros to go round the enormous castle with rampart views in all directions. After dinner of chicken filled with olive oil and the pre-show dance session, I skipped the Greek folklore show in order to slip into my own Greek guard's fancy dress ready for the deck party. Unfortunately it started to rain so it had to be brought indoors into Shackleton's bar. My outfit proved another big hit with lots of photograph requests!
On the island of Rhodes (Rodos) I escorted the Mount Filerminos & Rhodes Town tour. At 9 am a mini tornado hit the island and we got soaked running just 5 yards from the ship to the coach in the driving rain. The north west coast road was badly affected with some eucalyptus trees blown down. We managed to steer clear of them going out but got caught in traffic jams coming back from the mountain monastery. The weather cleared quickly and we all dried out in the sun. The walk around Rhodes Town was interesting, culminating in the visit to the Palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John. This was essentially re-built by the Italians in the thirties. After lunch we were due to hold our second ballroom dance class but given the good weather and the proximity of the old city not surprisingly no-one turned up. So I was able to go back into the city and walk around the inside of the great walls. Back on the ship I indulged in strawberries dipped in the chocolate fountain at tea time! I dined on rib of beef with Robin, Robert and Pam from Ashford.
In Heraklion on Crete I escorted my first choice tour to the Minoan palace at Phaistos (Festos). The scenery was dramatic crossing the mountainous spine of the island from the cloudy, windy north coast to the sunny south coast. In the afternoon I taught Texas Waltz, Electric Slide & Cowboy Charleston in my second line dance class. The lovely singer Maria Lyn, who had come on board in Rhodes, joined in enthusiastically! I dined on fillet steak with Barbara, Christobel, Reverend Ann from Dartford and Matt from Cardiff with his mother Margaret from Maidenhead. Finally the couple who had demanded sequence dancing on the very first night turned up again, Paul the musical director having called several every night since in the vain hope of pleasing them!
In Monemvasia I caught the 9:15 am tender to the shore and walked the mile to the magical old town in glorious sunshine. After photographing the main sights, I climbed up the Greek Rock of Gibraltar all the way to the Venetian Citadel at the top. It was the truly magnificent highpoint of the cruise; literally, scenically and weather-wise! There I met up with pianist Clive Carrington leading his inpromptu walking party. He invited me to join them on the descent to go to his not-so-secret café back in the old town. Joining us at the café were Ernie & Gaynor Rea, Richard & Pam Rhodes and some passengers including Dot & Ann from Blackpool. After a four euro beer on the terrace, I retraced my steps and caught the 1:15 pm tender back to the ship for lunch. I had the vegetarian (!) canneloni with Barbara and Christobel before sleeping for two hours. At dinner I had the lamb shank with Ann from Sidcup, a couple from Devon and a couple from Sussex. That evening we had all the dancers out for the first time, so Patricia the painter and Carol & Beth the jewellery experts didn't get a look in!
In Katakolon I escorted the tour to the Ancient City of Olympia with its Archaeological Museum. I had a blind couple in tow but thankfully another couple took them in hand. After a Sunday lunch of roast leg of beef, I slept for two hours before venturing into the little port of Katakolon. I finally found free wi-fi at the Orizontes Hotel high up above the port with glorious views of the cruise ships below. That evening I dined on plaice and chips with two Anns, Sue, Jill & Jean. Later we finally had our first deck party and I wore my Greek Guard's fancy dress again. Passengers were in short supply but I did dance with Sue, Patricia, Beth, Carol and Maria.
The next day in Itea I escorted my first choice Archaeological Site of Delphi & Arachova Village tour. When the gentleman with Parkinson's disease had a funny turn I had to run ahead to get his wife to come and look after him. I also had the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Lady Carey on my bus, so I had to mind my Ps & Qs! Delphi was incredible and so much better than disappointing Olympia. Arachova however was rather boring despite its elevated position. I lunched on roast leg of lamb with Patricia before sleeping for one hour. I toured the one horse town of Itea in an hour and a half. The receptionist at the Nafsika Palace Hotel kindly gave me their wi-fi password, but FaceBook kept giving me "Unknown Error #1"! At 6 pm I attended Sue & Joyce Reed's cocktail party in the Card room. I dined on Chateaubriand steak with Ailsa, Margaret, Ann and Marjorie.
On the last sea day I breakfasted with a couple from Bromley before leading a line dance class. I taught the Slosh, Just Because and Lindi Shuffle. After lunching with Patricia on haddock and chips, I led a social rumba class for a dozen people. In the evening we had the Captain's Farewell cocktail party. I dined on Beef Wellington with a Gideons gentleman from St. Helens and four ladies.
I got up early to see the sun rise and the majestic sail-in to the Grand Harbour at Valletta on Malta. We had the famous eight gun salute as we arrived into the Quest for Adventure's home port. I escorted the Scenic Malta tour which included refreshments at the Southport Café on the quayside of the fishing town of Marsaxlokk. After several photostops around the island, we viewed the entrance to the Blue Grotto from above. After lunch and an hour's siesta, I wandered around Floriana for the first time taking 123 photographs during the entire day. In the evening I dined on sirloin steak with Margaret, Dot and Ann from Blackpool in the Verandah restaurant. Margaret very kindly provided champagne for us! In the evening we danced both before and after the classical concert in the Discovery Lounge, and on deck during the concert and after the final ballroom session. As usual the passengers were scarce but I did get to dance with Pauline, Annie, Beth and Carol for one last time.
On disembarkation day I breakfasted at 7:30 am, lunched at 11 am and departed from the quayside at 2:30 pm to catch the 5:00 pm flight from Luqa to Heathrow. It was good to meet up with Rose Zammit on dispatch duty. At the airport I chatted with Lord and Lady Carey who said they came from Dagenham, so they knew the parish priest there, the Reverend Mike and Debbie Reith who had been on my September cruise to Norway on the Saga Sapphire! I retraced my route via Northfields and Ealing getting back home at 11:30 pm.
As you can tell from the lengthy list of lecturers below, this cruise had a Christian theme. Neil Horrocks mysteriously didn't arrive to direct the cruise so Angela Cherry was thrown in the deep end! One lady later wrote: "Thanks for being an excellent host." Another lady wrote: "It was so enjoyable to meet you once again."
9 Tours escorted 8 Favourite ports revisited 7 Line dances taught 6 Powerpoint presentations authored 5 Passengers hosted at dinner each night 4 Cocktail parties attended 4 Powerpoint presentations updated 3 Line dance classes led 3 New ports visited 2 Ballroom dance classes led 1 Great cruise enjoyed! 0 Swims in the Med.