Mediterannean Cruise 2nd Half–Athens to Istanbul

Well, it’s almost 2 months since I returned from my cruise, but here’s the second half of my trip.  I was trying to find the itinerary as I sit here in my office.  It’s a little slow today and quite frankly I would rather be at the gym if not for this 6:30PM appointment.  As I found the itinerary I realized the first half of the trip was much more eventful!  LOL!

The second half of the trip was actually the last 1/3 of the trip had we boarded in Barcelona, but we didn’t so let me stop dwelling on it.  The problems of the bourgeois right?  The second part of our trip began in Athens, we were docked there for tow days.  People were getting off and new people were getting on the ship.  The good news for us was the second half of the cruise wasn’t that full so we upgraded our cabin to a SUITE–yeah buddy we were big pimpin!

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Usually when we go on a cruise we just get the cheapest thing, but since we were going to be on the ship for so long we figured might as well treat ourselves.  The cabins was spacious, almost like a one bedroom apartment, I think these cabins normally would go for about $8000 bucks had we stayed the entire 22 days, we got the entire trip for less than half of that.  It was really nice, big balcony, big room; I thought our first room was adequate, but after being in this one, I would never want to go back!

So we were supposed to meet Michael’s father and Kevin in Athens, they flew in the same day we got into port, and stayed in Athens overnight as the would board the next day.  We attempted to meet up with them, but for reasons I won’t get into we didn’t end up meeting up, so we went to the Acropolis Museum and the Acropolis.  This had to be one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen.  It is truly a wonder.  When you learn about the history and how Lord Elgin DEFACED and desecrated the Acropolis it saddens me.  Something this bold and beautiful which obviously could be appreciated by anyone who saw hence it’s longevity.  It was at first a Pagan temple, then a Mosque, amongst other things.  The acropolis sits atop a hill which overlooks seemingly ALL of modern day Athens, made you believe that you must be a God if you were to live up here.  Currently there is a lot of construction going on there to shore up what is left of the structure and to preserve it.

We first went to the Acropolis museum, which was actually a microcosm of the actual Acropolis.  Each panel on the facade of the building had a carving all depictions of various events and Gods and stuff like that.  It was fascinating.  The original piece was there if it was available and a description of what was carved on the panel.  This was the high point of the museum, all in side there were various artifacts from the building.  There was even a copy of the temple of Athena (which now resides in the British Museum) there.  Totally amazing and the views form up there, oh man too spectacular to describe!

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The hike up to the top wasn’t bad, we got there late and I definitely wanted to go even though it was a long day and I would just as well go back on the ship and get rested up, but how often will I be in Athens?  LOL.  The hike up was so worth it breathtaking views of everywhere, it really left me speechless and emotional as I had read about this and knew someday I would get to Athens, I was hoping it would have been with someone I loved and cared for–it wasn’t it was with Michael, LOL!  Anyway he had been here before and was a great guide, I showed him how to take Panoramic shots with his iPhone and he was like a kid in a candy store taking Panoramic shots of everything.  They came out pretty well too!

Afterwards, we hiked back down the other side and saw one of the arenas which was on the base of the hill.  Athens is a little dingy–at least the area where we were.  Seems like the economic downturn hit Greece hard, when we walked around the main streets, there were so many shops which had been boarded up.  A sad state of affairs, I’m sure they realize if they get off the Euro and go back to Greek currency half the battles would be solved but they would also not be apart of the EU anymore, still very sad to see.  BTW, there are a lot of strip joint in Athens–what does that say?

The next day we went to Crete and honestly I don’t even remember what the hell we did there.  I think we walked around, it probably was very anti-climactic as I don’t even have any pictures from there!

We then had a day at sea, I had an interesting experience on board.  When we were in Athens, and the new people boarded there was this young lady whom I noticed.  She was blonde and quite stunning I thought.  We exchanged glances from time to time and then when we had the emergency drill I noticed she was at the same drill point as we were.  Me being shy I didn’t say anything to her.  The day after Crete we had a day at sea and as I sat around the pool I see here again.  This time she was wearing a sequined purple bathing suit top, which of course I noticed.  We sat on the pool deck across from each other soaking our legs in the water.  As I sat there I thought she was looking at me and I know I was looking at her, since we were both wearing mirrored sunglasses who could tell!

After about an hour, I got up and walked over to the rail, just looking over the side of the ship at the water.  Five minutes later she walks over and stands about 5′ away from me.  I thought to myself ‘gee that’s strange,’ I stood there for a few minutes wanting to say something but couldn’t get up the courage to say anything, so I walked away and sat on my beach chair.  A couple of minutes later she comes and sits on the beach chair NEXT TO ME–WTF!  I’m trying to psych myself up to say something, in the back of my mind I am saying if I called this wrong then I have to bump into this girl the next 11 days and it’ll always be awkward…to make a long story short, I didn’t say or do anything and she left.  Later I am telling Michael what happened and he is telling me that he was watching the entire thing, because it seemed like everywhere I went she followed me for a little while.  He thought we were talking to one another when we were on the beach chairs.  Michael was telling me how he couldn’t believe I didn’t speak to her, as he put it ‘she was practically having sex with you…’  I couldn’t live this down the entire rest of the time on the cruise.  More on this later, there is a happy ending.

After our day at sea, we docked in Ashdod, Israel, this was an alternate port as the political unrest in Alexandria the cruise line changed the itinerary.  I wasn’t too disappointed as I had been to Egypt already for The Cross Egypt Challenge, I had already seen all the goodies there, but Michael had never been. I wanted to go to the Holocaust Museum, which there was a tour for.  We bought tickets, followed all the instructions given to us and then by the time they let us off the ship our bus had left without us! WTF!  There was a lot of confusion when we were in this port.  We normally don’t take any shore excursions, because Michael seems to know where to go everywhere (more on that later).

We went back to the ship and were very disappointed.  Michael was livid and left an angry comment card for the staff.  To their credit they responded promptly and offered us lunch, which we declined, but asked them to comp us dinner at the Pinnacle Grill which they gladly did and sent a bottle of wine, as well as refund our tickets (of course).It was nice of the to do, and they did try to smooth it over, in my mind it was little solace as I still didn’t get to see the Holocaust Museum, so it was an empty victory!

The next day we went to Haifa, Israel.  This time as soon as we got our stickers for the group we ignored any and all instructions for disembarking and went straight to our bus.  We were off to Ceasaria and were going to see the Bahai World Center.  Evidently Haifa is home to the Bahai religion, a religion up until now I never even heard of, the center had quite the real estate space, perched atop a mountain overlooking the sea and a lot of the city.  The meticulously manicured lawns and the striking green grass and colors against the bland grey background of the sea made one feel at peace from this space.  We were there prior to the actual center opening up, we were allowed partial access to the grounds.  We were only there for about a half hour as the tour guide explained a little about the Bahai religion.

Our true destination for the day was Ceasaria, which was ruled by King Herod.  Ceasaria was the FIRST ever man made commercial seaport–who would have thought right here in Israel.  The renderings of what the original seaport looked like were spectacular.  Evidently all the commerce that went thru Ceasaria made King Herrod a very rich man, one of the richest in the ancient world.  The site sits right on the Mediterranean Sea and is not particularly preserved well.  They let the tourists walk all over the place; coupled with the fact that it’s right on the water, it doesn’t bode well for the preservation of the site–very sad indeed.  It was HOT–it’s friggin Israel in the summertime, what else was I expecting, but then again it was HOT everyday on every island we seemingly were on.

Yeah, if I was on island of idiots I would be the King.
Yeah, if I was on island of idiots I would be the King.
Ceasaria
Ceasaria
Ceasaria
Ceasaria

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The next day was a sea day and then to Rhodes, home of one of the ancient wonders of the world The Colossus of Rhodes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_of_Rhodes)–which has long since been destroyed by earthquakes and marauders.  It must have been quite the sight.  It’s amazing what those people built all those years ago still stands for the most part, unfortunately all that is left now from the original statue are the pillars it stood on.  Rhodes is a walled city to prevent invasion from forces from the water.  Most of the inside of the city is retail–what else right?  We walked around the city most of the day, went into a castle which ancient ceramic mosaics which were decorating the floor.  Truly spectacular works of arts, if I were the renaissance man I think I am, I would be in big trouble as I have no artistic talents…boo hoo sad clown….

The Colossus of Rhodes once stood on these pillars, you would sail into the harbor through the legs.
The Colossus of Rhodes once stood on these pillars, you would sail into the harbor through the legs.

The next day we were off to Kusadasi, where we would see the ruins of Ephesus, significant because a lot of the city has been excavated and remains relatively intact.  The temple of Artemis and Diana was found here, it was moved to the British Museum (where else right)?  You actually see how the people lived, we saw the actual houses excavated, where the rich people lived, where the poor people lived, the public bathrooms(evidently the wealthy people would pay slaves to sit on the granite public bathrooms ‘seat’ so that it was warm when they sat down), the library, pretty much the whole ‘shabang.’  It was amazing, but what was more amazing was how well it was preserved/put back together.  Obviously it wasn’t to be made whole but  was pretty together, most of the pieces were there, what wasn’t there would eventually be put together.

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Yes, those are Swastika’s bitches–everyone in the west has been stealing our stuff forever!

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The next day we were off to Mykonos.  Again it was HOT as usual, it was here that Michael had his diva moment and had a meltdown.  All the stress of putting the trip together and keeping us all in line and moving in the same direction he just freaked out on us and finally just left us.  As we walked through town we lost him and then we scattered our own way.  Kevin and Nancy went back to the ship, I rented a scooter and Bill and Anthony rented a car.  I was ALL OVER that island.  I went to several beaches and just explored the island the water was SO BLUE, almost crystal clear.  Again, I couldn’t believe that I was actually there!  There was a big ‘gay convention’ on the island–LOL.  Seriously, evidently every August about this time there are about 40,000 gays and lesbians that fock to the island for a music festival.  SO many beautiful women, but they were with other women!  Who am I kidding I wouldn’t do anything anyway right?  😉

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As we left Mykonos that evening and watched the shore slowly disappear in the distance, it was dawning on me that the trip would soon be over.  The next day was a day at sea as we cruised through the Dardanelles Strait.  I believe one side was Asia and the other side was Turkey, it is a major trade route as we saw many cargo ships going through.  I was up at the pool for a little while but, again it was so hot–I wasn’t there for too long.  When leaving the deck the pool that day I went through the Lido deck, past the buffet.  There SHE was again, my white whale, or should I say blonde whale.  I stared at her for a second and she said ‘hi,’ so I went over.  I got there and started to laugh, as we talked about what happened on board a few days earlier.  Stacey was with her Mom and sister on the cruise.  She remarked that she thought I was gay perhaps (I did explain that I travel with ‘the gays,’ but am not one of them), and remarked how obvious she was being.  I explained to her being the modern Renaissance man I am in the new millennium I wait for the lady to make the first move.  She then remarked ‘I DID, you didn’t do anything.’  LOL.  Anyway we hung out the rest of that day, Michael thought I was in the suite the entire time.  He was a little annoyed I wasn’t on deck at the pool.  What are the chances that someone I meet in the Mediterranean would live only about a half hour away from me.  Well, she doesm we’ve seen each other a few times–the story did have a happy ending! (no pun intended) 😉

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The next day we would dock in Istanbul, and then would disembark the following day.  Istanbul is an interesting city, half of it is in Asia and the other half is in Europe, truly beautiful.  Turkey isn’t on the Euro, and had a good exchange but I really didn’t see any deals.  As with all of our tour it ended in the Turkish Rug shop!  Turks are very proud of their rugs and their is an entire economy built around the production of said rugs.  We went on a city tour, we went to one of the most famous Mosques in the wold-The Blue Mosque, truly a wonder.  What sets this Mosque apart from many others is that it has 6 minourettes around it as opposed to 4 that are at most Mosques.  The inside was spectacular and beautiful.  It’s hard to believe this was built 500 years ago and still is as beautiful now, perhaps more so as these building look better over time.

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Alas, the end of the trip was near, tomorrow we would disembark and be back to Hoboken.  I was very sad, it was truly a magical trip, I don’t want to be too corny but I never though I would ever see this stuff.  I’ve read about it for many years through school and studying world history.  I’ve traveled extensively through western Europe, but never quite made it to the Med.  I definitely will be back, would love to go back to Rome and Venice again.  Italy in general, I’ve been in the mountains cycling, but never down on the water!

Hope you enjoyed reading about my opus!

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