Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stockholm - First Port of Call

Even though Stockholm is a port city, it is located in from the Baltic Sea.  It is reached by traveling channels between many islands covered with trees and dotted with vacation homes.  The journey to the port was very relaxing and scenic as the Star Princess made its way to the city center.
One the ship was secured, we boarded our bus for the shore excursion.  The city of Stockholm does have some nice hills, one of which the bus took us to for a view of the city.  On one of the many islands was an amusement park, its rides visible over the tree tops.  Back on the bus and it was a tour of downtown Stockholm as we made out way to the Vasa Museum.
The Vasa was a warship, the flagship of the Swedish Navy.  While under construction, the king decided he wanted a larger ship, so decks were added against the designers protests.  When you are king, you get what you want.  The additional weight made for a very unstable ship, that combined with the low gun ports would prove to be a disaster.
On its maiden voyage the Vasa never left the harbor.  The cross wind caused her to heel over and water poured into the lower cannon ports causing her to  founder in the harbor in August of 1628.  It was found in the 1950s and raised in with an intact hull in 1961.  Since the water in the harbor is cold year round, many of the animals that would have consumed the wood, can not survive.  It was housed in a temporary museum after it was preserved until 1987 when it was moved to the Vasa Museum where it is currently displayed.
Once inside the museum, the ship looms in the semi darkness.  The lights are kept low to help preserve the ship.  It is surrounded by a walk way that circles the hull with a lower level.  Around the perimeter of the room are displays of life in 17th century Sweden.  The ship itself is in excellent condition, the detailing on the stern is still detailed, though the paint has vanished.
After a short stroll along the waterfront, we board the bus for the next stop....the home of the Nobel Prizes.  Alfred Nobel developed dynamite and bequeathed his fortune for the Nobel Prizes.  The building contains the hall where the awards dinner is held along with several other rooms.  It is a coveted invitation since the room is not very large.  There is also an elaborately decorated ball room for the reception/dance afterwards.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Copenhagen - Day 2

So after a nice night's sleep and breakfast we hit the streets of Copenhagen again.  The Star Princess will not be leaving until later in the afternoon, so more time for being a tourist.
First stop is the Royal Palace.  It is comprised of four buildings surrounding a courtyard, and were originally built for aristocrats that were part of the Royal Court.  The aristocrats were kicked out when the Royal Palace burned and the family needed a new residence. The king and queen reside in one and the newly married son is moving into another.  The third is being renovated into a museum.  The fourth is closed to the public.

The building for the newlyweds was open to the public during its renovation.  Inside there are impressive public rooms and also the private rooms for the couple.  Some of the renovations are period correct, and some are very contemporary in the private rooms.  As part of the process a hand built wooden staircase was installed to make the flow of the living space better.
Adjacent to the Royal Palace is the Marble Church.  It lives up to its name with intricate marble floors and decorations.  The main are of the church is topped with an impressive dome.
To make sure we miss nothing, our next stop is the original residence of the king in Copenhagen.  It is a tall narrow castle that is was also an armory and now houses the royal jewels.  Inside there is an original outhouse, not to be confused with the throne room on the top floor.  There are relics of the various occupants of the castle along with portraits.  Their is a pair of portraits of a king a queen, that are VERY similar, it looks more like the king dressed as the 'queen'.  In the basement is the armory and the royal jewels, not quite as impressive as the British, but spectacular none the less.
On our way to the last stop, we wander along the pedestrian street again.  There is always a need to shop.  While waiting for my roommate, a beer wagon pulled by two draft horses passes.  Hmmmmm, draft horses pulled a wagon full of beer, how apropos.  Just like other European cities, there are vendors offering fresh local and imported fruits and vegetables.
The last stop before the hotel is a museum.  It is known for the Roman artifacts in its collection.  The various statues and mosaics are quite impressive.  The building itself is also impressive with an enclosed courtyard topped with a glass dome. So back at the hotel, we collect out luggage and take a cab to the Star Princess.  This is my first Princess cruise, but being a 'Commodore', I do receive some benefits.  Once on board there is a mini-bar set up, upgraded bath items, the best is yet to come with free laundry service.  The ship itself is very nice with lots of open areas, and well laid out.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Copenhagen - Day 1

After the long flight, we collected out luggage and made our way through immigration and customs.  Out of the airport we take a cab to our hotel, the Marriott - Copenhagen, for our one night pre-cruise stay.  The hotel is located on the water not far from the main trains station and Tivoli Gardens.
Once at the hotel, there is a small crowd in the lobby.  It turns out that there are two cruises leaving in the afternoon and the Marriott was used by the cruise lines for their pre-night customers.  The result is the hotel was full the night before and there are no clean rooms for early check-in.  So bags are left and off we go on foot to look around.
Armed with a tourist map we head out looking for Nyhavn, the old section of Copenhagen.  The sidewalk vanishes as we start our walk, but it resumes on the other side of the overpass.  After a 15 minute walk, we find Nyhavn, a canal lined with quaint merchant houses which many have converted the first floor to a shop or restaurant.
Since it was almost time for lunch we selected a quaint outdoor cafe.  The menu was filled with local Danish cuisine.  I selected an assortment of open faced sandwiches and a local beer.  Both the food and beer hit the spot.
As we sat having lunch we noticed that the canal was lined with various vendors offering canal tours.  After lunch was completed we walked to the end of the canal and  boarded one of the tour boats.  It was long and low to fit under the arched bridges that crossed the canals.
The cruise headed out to the main water way to start the cruise.  We went past the Royal Palace, but they were not home, they were out on the royal yacht on holiday.  The Little Mermaid was on the itinerary, but she was in Shanghai at a trade exposition.  The new opera house is right on the waterfront and is very impressive.
On the side canals we did manage to see the old houses that belonged to merchants involved in the sea trade of centuries past.  There was also a tall church steeple with its staircase on the outside.  Back in the older section of the city we passed the old market place where items from around the world were traded and sent off in new directions.
Back on dry land we headed back to the Marriott.  Once there, we checked in and headed to our room.  It was on a higher floor with a view of the city and Tivoli Gardens.  Since the hotel is in a new building, the rooms were the same as in the United States, and a good size bathroom.  Nap time.
After a power nap, we left the hotel for dinner.  We had decided to go into Tivoli Gardens, the oldest amusement park.  It was just a short walk from the hotel, once inside we strolled around the grounds.  It was the middle of summer and there were lots of flowers in bloom.  Since Copenhagen is at a high latitude, prolonged sunlight produced spectacular floral displays.  We dined at one of the many open air cafes and watched the people pass.  It is a typical way for city residents to pass a summer's evening.  All of the rides were full as we made another pass of the grounds, browsing in the small shops, and trying to figure out the menu items on menus posted in Danish.
Back outside the park, we explored the area.  Copenhagen has a long shopping street that is close to vehicular traffic, which made for a pleasant stroll.  At the far end was a large square that had stage set up and a band playing.  After listening for a short time, it was back to the hotel to catch up on sleep.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Baltic Cruise - Getting there.......

The Baltic Sea, the northern coast of Europe for many.  Bordering Scandinavia to the north, Germany and Poland to the south, and Russia to the east, along with a few other countries.  Even though all border the same body of water, the cultures are very diverse.
Out of the ordinary, for this cruise we departed from Ft. Lauderdale's airport.  There were no good flight connections to Copenhagen from Miami in Europe, so why go the extra distance to fly to Atlanta to change planes.  While changing terminals in Atlanta, we passed a friend of mine that was heading to Ft. Lauderdale for a long weekend.
On the plane, my roommate an I were across from each other, almost to the rear of the plane.  I was in the center section and he was in the aisle seat and next to him in the window seat was a woman that had never been to Europe before and was a little on the 'hippy' side.  In front of him was a family of 6, dad/son, two daughters and across from them was mom and another daughter.  In front of me was a woman with a young baby, and at the other end of her row was a couple that appeared in their 60s.  Of course, one would expect the baby to be the most disruptive, it actually did not make a sounds during the whole flight.
As the front of the plane filled up the couple in the row in front of me, but the other end settled in for the flight.  The wife had one of those spring loaded hair clips, but it was stuck on the side of her head, I figured it was there since she will be resting her head during the flight.  Out of one of their carry on bags come red satin sleep masks.  Before the plane has left the gate the husband is snoring, it is going to be a LONG flight.  The flight crew conduct the pre-flight instructions, accompanied by snoring, and then the the plane leaves the gate.
Taking off is probably the part that scares me the most, but all went well and the plane heads to Denmark.  We climbed to cruising altitude and the pilot turns off the Fasten Seatbelt sign and people start to move around the cabin.  Most are retrieving items from the overhead bins.
The father seated in front of my roommate, gets up and heads to the rear of the plane.  The only things back there are the restrooms and the galley for coach.  The daughter turns around to speak to her father and sees and empty seat.  In a panicked voice she says 'dad's GONE, where could he be?'  With this mom turns around, then jumps out of her seat and both mother and daughter go looking for dad.  After a few minutes the return to their seats without dad, then mom goes looking again.  I wanted to tell her he might have gone down to the Lobby Bar, or maybe the pool, but decided to stay quiet.  Mom returned to her seat, then a few minutes later so does the father.
Dinner was served somewhere over the east coast, and the passengers settle in for the long flight.  The flight attendants pass through several times offering water to the passengers.  Sometime during the night, the woman of the snoring couple needs to get out of her seat.  Since her husband is in the aisle seat, it presents a slight dilemma.  My mother would have woke my father up and told him to let her out, but not this wife, she was very considerate.  I look up and there the woman is climbing over her husband.  I hit my roommate's arm and point.
The red satin sleep mask is on her forehead, the aforementioned hair clip is stuck on the side of her head, a plastic cup half full of water is clasp in her mouth.  She is straddling her husband, hands on the back of his seat above his head, and each foot is on an armrest.  Of course the commotion does wake her husband and he helps her to a perfect dismount of the airplane seat.
The rest of the flight went quietly until our approach to Copenhagen's airport.  As we descended, large wind turbines appeared in the shallow water just offshore, row after row of renewable energy.  Then the in flight entertainment began again.  The man in front of the mother had a bottle of duty free bourbon in the overhead bin, and the bottle broke.  Bourbon started dripping on the mother's head, the guy gets up to retrieve it, the flight attendant joins in to the group.  She takes the broken bottle in its bag and everyone returns to their seat.  As we left the plane the flight attendant hands the man the remains of his bourbon in a plastic water bottle.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Great Stirrup Cay

All of the major cruise lines that travel to the Bahamas have a 'private' island.  Basically a beach day for cruisers.  Norwegian started the trend with Great Stirrup Cay, and is in the process of upgraded the experience.
Since we live only 15 minutes from the beach by  bicycle, going to the beach while on the cruise is not necessarily a priority.  Sitting in the dining room having breakfast, we could view the island from our table, and the one for Royal Caribbean.  Both the Majesty and Monarch of the Seas were moored about a mile away for their guests to use their private island.
After the main rush of passengers had tendered to the beach, we get in line to head ashore.  The tender was almost empty as we headed for our fun day on the beach.  NCL had created a lagoon for the tenders to load and unload passengers, guess the Bahamas have different rules about disturbing marine habitat.
Since the island is part of the Bahamas it is basically an exposed coral reef.  So once on shore it was VERY white, from the exposed limestone.  The area is dotted with palm trees, but not much shade.  There is a large pavilion where the ship's crew provides lunch for the beach goers.  Other crew members are conducting a limbo contest and music is playing.  A few shops are set up with 'beachy' items and local crafts.  The beach itself is a nice crescent with clear water, of course with most of the ship working on a tan, it is VERY crowded.  Off to the side there is a large inflated slide that is an additional charge.  After a tour of the facilities, the decision is made to head back to the ship and have lunch on the mostly deserted ship.

Friday, February 10, 2012


The second port of call is Nassau.  From the ship it looks like most islands in the area.  The wharf is surrounded by low colorful buildings most of which catering to the cruise traveler.  Farther away are houses and then the rest of the island.
The one MAJOR difference is located off the stern of the ship.....Paradise Island and Atlantis.  The large coral colored resort with lots to offer.  Today's excursion is a tour of Atlantis.  There is a travel agent tour available for a fee, but when added to getting a cab, it is just easier to do it through the ship.
Again it is leave the ship and figure out where to wait for our excursion.  I'm not sure if this is how NCL does it at all ports or just in  the Bahamas.  After waiting at the end of the pier, we walk to the waiting bus, along with most of the ship it seems.  The bus is small to navigate the streets, and has these unusual seats that fold down and fill in the area that was the passageway.  Not sure if that feature would make it here.
A short ride later and we are dropped off at the Atlantis.  The original hotel building, the Beach Tower, was in the new many years ago when Donald Trump and Merv Griffin were bidding over it.  Since then man other structures have been added to the resort, the Coral and Royal Towers, the Reef, the Cove and much more.  Our tour starts in the lobby leading to the Royal Tower.
There is a shopping arcade that connects many of the buildings.  There are many upscale shops with designer merchandise and then stores offering souvenirs and Atlantis branded items.  Once through the arcade we enter the casino.  It is arraigned like most with slot machines and gaming tables.  The most stunning feature are three blown glass sculptures hanging from the ceiling by Dale Chiluly.  They are quite dramatic.
Once through the casino we enter the lobby of the Royal Tower.  It features soaring spaces and beautiful decor if a bit too much for my tastes.  We walk down a sweeping staircase under a soaring dome.  On the lower level is the main part of our tour....the Marine Habitat.  It is a large aquarium complex of tanks featuring various species of marine life.  The tanks are also decorated with the ruins of the lost city of Atlantis.  So the tour guide while pointing out the marine life is also telling the tale of the lost city, this made it very entertaining.
After the official tour is completed, the group is free to wander around the resort.  Use of some of the facilities is included, but not the waterpark.  We wandered back through the shopping area, then went out and waited for our shuttle.  On the way back to the ship we experienced a typical tropical shower, heavy downpour for 10 minutes, then sunshine.
The shuttle dropped us off at the pier and we decided to wander around before boarding the ship.  Most of the shops are the same as the rest of the Caribbean ports.  The only real difference is the Straw Market with small local vendors.  I did purchase a lapel pin of the Bahamian flag, and also a Christmas ornament made from a shell.  A nice walk back down the pier and aboard the ship for a late lunch.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Okay, so this is my first Norwegian cruise and also my first to the Bahamas, and things are done a bit 'different'.  On all my past cruises, shore excursions met in a designated area on the ship and then were called individually to head to the bus.  Well this time it was leave the ship and wander around the pier area looking for your assigned waiting area.  STRANGE.
Our excursion was the Garden of the Groves, so we found our area, after asking, and waited.  Once on our bus the tour guide NEVER shut up.  A constant dialog about EVERYTHING we passed.  A few minutes pause would have been nice.  After what seemed at least 4 hours we arrived at our destination.
The Garden of the Groves was a private garden developed by the Groves and donated to the city.  Mr Grove was one of the leaders in developing Freeport in the 1940s.  The Bahamian government sold him LOTS of land VERY cheap, and he developed it into modern day Freeport.
The gardens were guided through featured many local plants and some imports.  They were laid out in a very nice way interspersed with water features,a maze and small chapel.  All of these items provide for a nice way to spend an afternoon, whether on a cruise or a local.  At the end of the tour were a few little shops with local products.
On the drive to our next stop, we had the opportunity to stop at a small beach.  It was a a great little stretch of sand and totally deserted.  There was a small parking area that was empty and only three houses across the street.  Most people on the bus did go down and walk on the sand, a few children did go in the water.
Once back on the bus, and the nonstop commentary, we headed to Lucaya Beach.  The Lucaya area is the resort area on Grand Bahama island.  It is lined with hotels, restaurants, shops, and the Casino.  We wandered around the shops, walked over to the Casino then re-boarded the bus.

Back on the bus it was a passenger by passenger questioning of where where you from, been here before , etc.  This session lasted about 15 minutes too long.  On the way back to the ship, the play by play continued, really need to know the facts on that gas station.  A quick wander around the little shops at the port and then back on the ship.
One of the main businesses at the Port of Freeport is a large dry dock.  Many ships based in South Florida will go to Freeport for renovations.  While having lunch after our Freeport experience, one of the Princess fleet was being renovated and updated.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another cruise....The Bahamas

So after being home for maybe three weeks, the roommate decides that another vacation is needed for Christmas.  Since neither of us have family nearby, going away has become something to do.  Last year was a short trip to Key West.  We stayed at The Douglas House just off Duval Street.  It was a fun short visit
This year he found the Norwegian Sky sailing to the Bahamas on a 4 night cruise on 19 Dec.  I would have preferred to stay home, but went anyway.  I had never been to the Bahamas and neither of us had ever sailed on NCL.  So cruise was booked and off we go.  But of course there is always something, roommate had an interview for 7 hours the week before we depart, so while on vacation he was waiting on word for that position.
The best thing about the lead up to the cruise was NO FLIGHTS!!!  The port of Miami  is only a 45 minute drive not an overnight flight.  Instead of parking at the pot, we used an offsite lot for $6/day not the $15 at the port.  There was a shuttle that picked delivered us to the terminal for the Norwegian Sky.  Since it was only a 4 night cruise, all I had was a carry-on and my loyal backpack.
Once through the lines for check in we walk up the ramp and board out floating hotel, only problem is, the cabins are not ready.  So now there is a cruise ship filling up with passengers, many with carry-on luggage with no cabins to occupy, not much fun.  With nothing else to do, follow the masses and head to the food.  At the outside dining option there was a nice assortment of items at most cook outs, burgers, hot dogs, chicken, assorted salads, all of which were tasty, and the chicken being my favorite.  With our plates full we find a table along with the rest of the passengers and enjoy the view of South Beach.
Once finished we relinquish our table so others can sit and eat and wander into one of the specialty restaurants. During the day it is a pizza parlor, and open to any passenger.  Since it is sort of secluded, it was not very busy and we sat at an empty table to one side.  My roommate goes off to see if the cabins are open and returns with good news, YES.
We had booked an inside guarantee an were given a handicapped accessible cabin.  This was nice since the cabin is larger than the standard and so is the bathroom.  There is also a small seating area with a love seat that does open to a single bed.  Extra space in a cabin is ALWAYS appreciated.

The Norwegian Sky was originally the Pride of Aloha sailing the Hawaiian Islands for NCL America.  The ship entered the Norwegian fleet in 2004 and has been cruising to the Bahamas since.  The ships origin is quite evident in the decor, scenes of the Hawaiian Islands, outrigger canoes, hibiscus flowers.  It is about time for a renovation.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Flight home....THE LONGEST DAY!!

So the worst part of European travel is getting there and getting home.  On the way to a vacation their is always excitement, on the way home it is a date with the real world.  This can add to the experience.
Staying at the Sofitel was great.  In the morning, woke up, grabbed the luggage, elevator to lobby, out the front door and cross the street.  We found the British Airways counter and checked in.  At the security booth there was a group of men that seemed to have problems with their passports or visas.  They kept going between the booths, eventually they all got in one line.
Once through immigration and security we sat down in the waiting area.  As an after thought, we should have looked for breakfast outside the secure area.  Breakfast was 'digestive biscuits' and a Coke Free.  In the waiting area was several of our fellow cruisers.  Most had spent the day in Athens enjoying the sites, and stayed in the city, this meant an hour or so to get to the airport.  Did I mention it was 6:15am when we arrived?
The flight to London left on time and was pleasant.  There were several cruisers right near us which was unusual since we had all purchased our ticket and seat assignments separately.
Once in Heathrow, we de-plane and walk through the terminal.  The strange thing is we have to go through security again, since we obviously had been through it once to get on the plane.  They separate me and my roommate in the lines and that was it.  I made it through and could not find him at all.  I hung around the area for 90 minutes until the gate was announced, and then went there.  He had been sitting at the gate the whole time, his security person had told him where to go.  But he did not wait for me and did not seem concerned that I was missing.
The flight to Miami was VERY long, seemed like days.  At least there were some interesting shows on the in seat media centers.  Once in Miami, the same thing, he finishes first and bolts for the door without even looking for me since I was standing in line watching.  Outside we waited for the transfer to the parking lot where the car was left.  Once in the car and on the way home,  Linda Blair came out, that is the roommate's alter ego.  I said it was wrong that he just left me, but he was it was your fault for getting in the line I was told to get in and he was directed to another line.  If I had walked off, it would have been reversed, that I should have waited.  WHATEVER.
So eventually we make it home.  Nothing like one's own bed and pillows after a long day of flying.  It was 9:30pm, but that is east coast time, Athens is about 3:30am, so about 21 hours of travel, UGH!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Last Day...Corinth

The Pacific Princess docked  early at Piraeus, the port for Athens.  After a quick breakfast we departed our home for almost the past two weeks.  Once outside of the cruise terminal, we looked for a guide for the day, Vasili from Greecetaxi.  Our plans were to see the ruins at Corinth.
After a few minutes of waiting, Vasili shows up with a big smile.  We load our luggage into the waiting Mercedes and start our day.  The streets are full of traffic, but he navigates it well.  We pass the time talking about where he grew up and his family, it was his father's cab and he drove.  During tourist season he drove lots of tours since he was very fluent in English.
Once out of the city the road opened up to an interstate like set up.  To the right were hills and the left the sea.  Small towns dotted the countryside and coast, and the road was lined with shopping plazas, gas stations, etc, just like home, except there were no McDonalds.  We left the major road and after a few minutes we were at the Corinth Canal.  It had been a dream of Greeks for centuries to cut through the narrow strip of land that would increase Athens to the Adriatic Sea.  It was finally completed the end of the 19th century.
Vasili dropped us off on one side of the canal and drove to the other and waited.  The canal was crossed by bridge flanked with pedestrian walkways.  Being afraid of heights, I stayed away from the outside rail, that is until the middle of the bridge where a large dog was resting.  In the canal was a small freighter making its way to the Adriatic.
Once back in the car we continued to the site of ancient Corinth.  Though once a thriving city, Corinth has been mostly destroyed over the centuries from earthquakes and time.  There is part of one temple still standing, and various parts of structures.  The museum has some very well preserved artifacts.  Above Corinth is a large fortification, the drive up was along a narrow road.  At the fort, we decided not to go inside since it was very cool and windy, but the view was magnificent.
The last stop of our tour was lunch in a small resort town.  It is a favorite place for Vasili and his friends to spend weekends in during the summer.  The streets were lined with nice shops and vacation condos, and even though it was the middle of the week and the end of the season it was bustling.  We were dropped off at the waterfront promenade and went looking for a meal.  After walking to the end we decided on a place that served stuffed crepes.  We had a table so we could watch the people walking by and the sea just beyond.  Lunch was good and we returned to meet Vasili, who always seemed to appear at the meeting place as we approached.
The drive back to Athens was nice.  We talked about music, life in Athens and the United States and enjoyed the scenery.  Once closer in to Athens, the traffic got heavier since it was getting to be rush hour.  our hotel was the Sofitel at the airport.  VERY good choice, it was right across the street from the terminal.  The hotel was beautiful, and the room was very comfortable.  The bathroom was very well equipped and the shower massage great.  A great place to end a vacation.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ephesus, Turkey

This was a second visit to Ephesus, the previous visit was on my first cruise ever.  It was on the Celebrity Galaxy from Rome about 6 years ago.  Not much has changed, but then when visiting ruins that is normal.
The biggest difference is that we entered the site from the other side and walked through the whole site.  We walked past the ruins of a small theater, the 'terrace' house and shops.  Ephesus at its peak was a prosperous seaport.  Unfortunately, the river silt filled the harbor and the city lost its importance.
On this excursion, we did go to a shrine for Mary, Ephesus is where she went to after the crucifixion.  The shrine is located on top of the one of the surrounding hills.  There is a small chapel, her reconstructed house and the spring where water was gathered.  Pilgrims to the site leave wishes on the wall near the spring.
The major attraction is the remains of the Library of Ephesus.  All that remains is the front wall and courtyard.  Only my last visit there was a small re-enactment with actors dressed in Roman garb.  The architecture of the Library shows how elaborate of a building and Ephesus was.

The area surrounding the Library is filled with 'terrace' houses.  These were the houses of the wealthy members of society.  Interspersed between there houses are shops, temples and shrines to both gods and deceased residents.  Since this was the wealthy section of town, the shrines to deceased loved ones rivaled the temples to  the current gods.  One of the houses has been restored to its former elegance, and is part of a museum.  One of the major structures in ancient Ephesus has succumbed to time and no longer exists.  It is the Temple to Artemis.  It was larger then the Parthenon in Athens, the only remnants is one column located in a farmer's field.
All Roman cities of any size always had a main meeting place, usually a large amphitheater.  The one in Ephesus is where the Apostle Paul preached, it is where his Letters to the Ephesians originated.  It is amazing to walk on the same stones that biblical figures also tread on.
On the way to the exit of the site is the ancient Roman road that connected Ephesus to the rest of the empire.  It is lined with pieces that have been recovered at the site, but the original buildings have been destroyed.  After the rows of gift shops we board the bus to return to the port.
Once back in the port we are given a demonstration on the weaving of carpets.  Refreshments are provided and then the sales pitch., free shipping included!  There are a few streets lined with shops featuring everything from the usual tourist items to leather jackets to knock-off watches.  After a few purchases, we board the ship, and have a late lunch.
This probably will not come as much of a surprise, but.......the 'Gems of the Sea' were late again.  Fifteen minutes before departure their names are announced.  Luckily they did board before they were late.  The interesting thing is that the ship blows its horn to announce departure.  In a port of less than 10 blocks, it should be easy to hear and realize it is time to head to the ship.  Some people will never learn.