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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day at Sea

On almost every cruise, there are days at sea.  That wonderful time to relax, enjoy the ship, and do nothing.  After leaving Alexandria, the Pacific Princess headed to Ephesus in Turkey, and provided us with our last full sea day followed by formal night.
When I awoke, I noticed some movement of the ship, and as usual I was very hungry.  But after getting ready for breakfast and making my way upstairs, I was much less in the mood to eat.  The Pacific Princess is a small ship and the rough seas produced rolling.  After a VERY light breakfast, I returned to the cabin and laid down. This was the best position of me.
I watched a few movies took a nap or two as the day progressed and the ship continued to roll.  We were in an ocean-view cabin on deck 4 with a nice picture window to let in light.  Several times during the morning I would sit up and watch the roiling sea.  The outside of the window had a fine film of dirt, but it was still easy to see the water.  I was going to call the cabin steward and ask him to clean the outside of the window just to see his reaction.
While watching the television, my cabin darkened as if I had covered the window.  Upon sitting up and looking out, I realized a wave had cleaned the outside of my window, problem solved.  But that means the waves were at least 40 feet high.
After a light lunch, I spent the rest of the afternoon as I had spent the morning. Once we entered the waters around the out-lying Greek Islands, the winds diminished along with the rough seas.  At the late seating for dinner, there were a good number of empty seats.  I did taste the Beef Wellington, but after a few bites decided it would be best not to finish.  One other table mate decided the same since the ship was still rocking some.  Of course, the ship's movements had no effect on the 'Special Gems of the Sea'.  When I decided I had finished, E ate the spinach from my plate and really wanted the beef, but felt guilty and returned it since no one would share it with her.
With less movement of the ship, it was easier to walk around the ship.  While in the lounge, I joined two passengers from Los Angeles and a member of the entertainment staff.  They inquired about the 'Gems of the Sea' since they had the experience of meeting E.  During a Zumba class, E had arrived late, how unusual, and was doing her own routine.  She repeated stated that the class was NOT Zumba since she did it on LA and was being taught incorrectly.  When asked if she would like to lead the class, E declined and left.

The crew member said they were lucky with only having to pay for the cab ride when they were late.  Some ports charge hefty fines for overstaying, in excess of $100,000.  She was on a cruise that was delayed by passengers in a port that resulted in the ship having to travel faster to the next port.  Traveling faster means more fuel, and they were presented a bill for the excess fuel consumed.  That would have gone over like a lead balloon.