|03/11/2012||Istanbul, Turkey||Good BA flight & transfer|
|04/11/2012||Myrina, Lemnos||Lemnos Highlights||Poliochnis & Moudros|
|05/11/2012||Izmir, Turkey||Deluxe Ephesus||Terrace Houses & Celsus Library|
|06/11/2012||Cesme, Turkey||Best of Cesme||Erythrai & Alacati|
|07/11/2012||Kos, Greece||Highlights of Kos||Asclepeion, Zia, Antimachia & Kos|
|08/11/2012||Santorini, Greece||(Akrotiri)||Too windy to land|
|09/11/2012||Chania, Crete||Knossos Palace & Heraklion||Archaeological Museum|
|10/11/2012||Piraeus, Greece||Metro into Athens for the morning|
One Monday afternoon I got the call from one of my agents to do this cruise, giving me just three days to prepare four lectures! I drove up to Heathrow and parked at a guest house in West Drayton. My alarms (sic) got me up at 3:30 am ready for my taxi to Terminal 5 at 4:15 am. However it turned out that the check-in desks don't open until 5:00 am so I could have had an extra half hour in bed!
Although 15 minutes late taking off, the British Airways airbus arrived at Istanbul on time. I had to shell out a tenner (cheaper than 15 euros or 20 US dollars!) on an unexpected visa on arrival. Previously I had always arrived in Istanbul by sea not air, where no visa was required! I had a minibus all to myself for the transfer to the ship. I spent the first afternoon and evening settling in and sorting out administration. I got my lecture programme sorted and my seamen's discharge book stamped without any fuss. That very first evening I was detailed to host a large table in the main restaurant.
The first port of call was Myrina on the Greek island of Lemnos, a first for me. We tendered in to the little port and I climbed up to the magnificent Venetian castle on the hilltop. In the afternoon I escorted the highlights tour. We visited the small archaeological museum in Myrina before travelling to the Poliochni prehistoric settlement on the east coast of the island. At the Gulf of Moudros we saw the moving British/French/Russian first world war cemetery. That evening I gave my first new lecture "The Story of Turkey" ready for the next two ports of call.
The next port of call, Izmir in Turkey, another first for me, turned out to be an enormous metropolis. I got my first choice "Deluxe Ephesus: Terrace House & Celsus Library" tour. I had never been there before and the weather was excellent. We drove south for an hour past the huge crusader castle at Selcuk. We walked from the top entrance down through the ancient city to the former coastline. The terrace houses displayed some excellent mosaic floors and frescoed walls. The inevitable carpet sales pitch was preceded by lovely cheese pastries and Efes (Ephesus) beer. In the evening I lectured on "The Story of the Mediterranean". I then took dinner al fresco with the Cruise Director John Howell.
At nearby Cesme on my first visit I got to escort my first choice "Best of Cesme" tour. We tendered in to another picturesque little port dominated by a huge castle. On the tour we stopped at the dramatic Cakabey monument on the hilltop, before travelling to ancient Erythrai (Ildiri). I climbed up to the Acropolis for the wide ranging views. We then explored the quaint little town of Alacati, before heading to a seaside restaurant in Dalyan for a lovely Turkish lunch which included meze (taster starters), salad, sea bream and mastik pudding. I again chose the local Efes (Ephesus) beer for my drink. After lunch we explored the seafront castle in Cesme. That evening I did my new "Chania, Crete" port talk. In the evening I joined in a couple of line dances: Electric Stomp based on the Electric Slide and a one wall Boot Scootin' Boogie both taught by John the Cruise Director.
My first time in Kos saw me escort the highlights tour. We visited one village in the mountains and another next to the airport plateau, before lunching in Kos town. The location and Greek food in Zorba's family restaurant wasn't quite as good as the meal in Turkey the day before. We had mushrooms, Greek salad and one pork kebab with chips & rice. I chose the local Mythos beer for my drink. I think that Kos is almost as nice as nearby Rhodes! In the evening I gave my new port talks on Piraeus and Athens.
Unfortunately when we got to Santorini (aka Thera) it was too windy to land by tender. Thankfully this was the only bad day of the cruise. So a new programme was required and I proffered a couple of lectures. The Cruise Director then asked me to give my Christopher Columbus lecture that morning. He also gave a Broadway show dance class that afternoon and the professional ballroom couple ran a cha cha session. We sailed on to an evening berth in the port of Souda Bay near Chania on Crete. That evening I was again detailed to host a large table in the main restaurant.
In Chania I escorted my first choice all day tour to Knossos and the archaeological museum in Heraklion. Another superb ethnic lunch followed: meze, barbequed pork chops, fruit, wine & raki (not ouzo)! In the evening we had caviar and champagne under the stars!
On the last day in Piraeus I took the metro into Athens. I visited the 'little and large' cathedrals, Constitution Square and the National Garden. On museum (half) mile I photographed the outside of all five museums: Benaki, Goulandris, Byzantine, War and the National Gallery. I also saw the stadium and Hadrian's arch and library. I passed by the new Acropolis museum, climbed the Areopagus hill next to the Acropolis and then descended through the ancient Agora or market place back to Monastriaki metro station. Unfortunately our BA flight home was two hours late.
7 Ports 6 Tours 5 Lectures 4 New ports for me 2 Official Table Hostings