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Will we go cruising again? And some general thoughts.

I’m sure we will. But it won’t be replacing other Holiday options. Would we use Royal Caribbean Cruise Line again. Yes if they go to an area we want to visit and the price is right.

Helen was more into the sea days than I was. Although everything on the ship was excellent, I enjoyed the shore days most, which gave a taster of the countries and helped priorities the areas we will return to first. Sorry Athens you are not first. A surprise to us back to Turkey in a heartbeat.

One thing I missed was the opportunity for evenings ashore, as I like exploring new places in the evenings, people watching and visiting places where tourists aren’t so evident.

We were not keen on the constant harassment by scarf sellers and people trying to sell us a lump of plastic which when splatted on a board made a splurge sound. They were evident in all the places we visited. All the same scarves and lumps of plastic, it looked to me like an organised network of illegal workers across the Med. A real shame to find people having to Eek out a living in this way, and as it appeared to me, more so as it seemed there was organised Crime involved, as we witnessed at the Colosseum one man who looked like an immigrant water seller being chased off by another person who appeared of similar heritage and a smartly dressed italian man, whilst other water sellers were ignored by these 2 men. There were obviously ‘reserved’ pitches and minders. I had read before I came to Rome of Crime Families running the gladiator photo opportunities outside, it looks to me like they are also running the water business.

Graffiti also plays a large part in the towns we visited, a real shame when you see it daubed up the sides of ancient monuments as we did in Athens.

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Our time on board.

As I said at the start of this blog, we were more used to Cross Channel Ferries as a means of transport from A to B, than travelling on a ship to be entertained and looked after.

I cannot praise the staff on board highly enough, they were always smiling, always welcoming and always working hard to ensure that their guests had a great time.

Everywhere was clean and well kept, food  was well cooked ,varied and service was excellent.  During the day and evening there was a variety of entertainment. The ship rarely appeared crowded, then only place which occasionally had a lack of seats and was busy was the Buffet Restaurant at the rear of the ship.  The only thing that needed repairing I saw was one of the table tennis tables which did not sit flat as one of the wheels was broken.

We spent the evenings dining in the table service restaurant on a table with 3 other couples who all came from North of the Watford Gap, we all got on well, and it was great to be able to share the experiences in the Ports and hear of previous voyages. After dinner we chilled in  a bar listening to music or watched a show in the theatre.

Ready for the first formal dinner.

Ready for the first formal dinner.

The ship leaving Port

The ship leaving Port

Helen loves the towel pets that inhabited our cabin

Helen loves the towel pets that inhabited our cabin

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Halloween - just when Helen thought all the surprises were over I produced our costumes for the evening.. Helen drew the line at make up though.

Halloween – just when Helen thought all the surprises were over I produced our costumes for the evening.
Helen drew the line at make up though.

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A brief time in Charnia, Crete.

We left the ship and took the short local ‘special’ bus to the town centre from the port of Souda.

We visited the Port area stopping for a break in a dockside cafe, where Helen was served the largest slice of Cake we have ever seen.

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A day in Athens

We shared a  pre-booked taxi into the centre of Athens,  I momentarily forgot which was the passenger side of the car and went to get in the driver’s side, in retrospect this would have saved us from knuckle clenching trip into Athens centre as the driver continually switched lanes without signal or looking, narrowly missing a number of collisions.

We started at the Acropolis taking the short route from the western side.   The Acropolis was impressive but the amount of scaffolding and building materials rather spoiled the experience.

Athens was an interesting city but the amount of Graffiti  and number of visitors does not make this top on our list of cities to return to.

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This was the first theatre .. the birthplace of Drama

This was the first theatre .. the birthplace of Drama

athens train

After we left the Acropolis we jumped on the Sunshine express to get a quick view of the other sites, this wasn’t the original train we had planned but was a Euro cheaper and we believe it took a shorter route than the other train.

Our shared lunchtime Meze before taking the taxi ride back to the ship.

Our shared lunchtime Meze before taking the taxi ‘expereince’ back to the ship.

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Flying to Rome Meet and Greet, and coach transfer.

Everything went very smoothly flying from Stansted. The meet and greet parking service was easy to find and swift. We had booked this through Ryan Air and it was provided by Meteor.

We hadn’t travelled through Stanstead before and there were good facilities and seating areas. We had booked priority with Ryan Air and for an extra £10 got to walk out to the plane and choose our seats first. We weren’t particularly bothered by this but wanted to make sure we got on the flight on time, and weren’t bumped if there was a shortage of seats.

Ryan Air flight was very good and on arrival at Ciampino Airport we were quickly off and through the baggage claim area and standing quickly in the transfer coach queue. We used Shuttle Bus with the Yellow signs. I think we would book with Terravision next time as they have better waiting facilities within Termini Station, their own Cafe next to their stop, and seem more organised.

There were 3 main queues for 3 transfer coach firms and it was not clear which one was the correct one, we were reliant on Marshalls to direct us to the correct queue. There was no shade and at 25 degrees in the noon sun it was very hot. If arriving in the summer sun hats and water would be important, and on rainy days waterproofs

Disembarking the coach we walked the short distance to our B and B, all in all a very successful arrival in Rome.

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The Art Mary B and B, near Termini Transport Hub, Rome.

A clean well presented B and B on the 5th floor of an apartment block accessible using a small lift. There was a short flight of stairs to access the lift. We noticed cases in the hallway outside the reception room. this appeared to be the left luggage area, I’m sure it would have been secure enough , but some may prefer not to leave their luggage there on the last day. The male proprietor who on our arrival was sat gazing out of the window listening to classical music behind the reception desk spoke little English but was well practiced in communicating what you needed to know. He joked with us on arrival by pretending to throw our passports out of the open window, but this is just his humour. it may not appeal to all but it serves to lighten the mood when trying to communicate in Italianglish.

The atmosphere was friendly as if entering someone’s home, which I believe it is.

Rooms had a TV, fridge, safe and en suite shower and toilet. A comfortable bed and clean bedding. No facility to make hot drinks. But we were self sufficient in that department.

Centrally located within 100 metres of the entrance to Termini Station and 300 metres from the bus station and metro you couldn’t get much better for Rome’s transport hub.

We spent a couple of hours in the room showering, dozing and having a cuppa ( using our travel kettle and makings) before leaving the Hotel for an evening Passegiata.

Before leaving the B and B the proprietor who spoke little English beckoned us to the Reception desk and drew on a map showing us sites and transport links, which were much as we had planned, but we thanked him, took the map and left to explore.

When we returned later the night clerk got us to settle the bill and returned our passports. It seems that the proprietor uses the night clerk to deal with the money collection as he spoke good English.

In the morning the proprietor was back on the desk, and after offering us a glass of orange juice each gave us a voucher and directed us to a cafe about 100m away for breakfast, which consisted of a choice of pastry and a coffee.

Some reviewers have moaned about this B and B and their breakfast system. We had no issues at all and would return again without hesitation.

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A surprise Holiday destination for Helen and we are off at 8am

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About 3 weeks ago Helen asked me to book a surprise Holiday for half term, so here we are today up at 0330 getting ready to depart and Helen still doesn’t know where she is going.

In the interim I have been cooking meals from the country we will be in on the day of the week we will be there, dropping clues and blogging the results and the planning.

I didn’t realise when I started to organise the cruise that many people will book excursions and plan years in advance so have been running to catch up and have been booking private excursions and joining up with other late comers to share the cost through a roll call forum system on the cruise critic website.

We will be flying to Rome at 8am and staying overnight in a Hotel, Helen still won’t know she is on the cruise for sure until Sunday morning, and is confused by the combination of new walking boots and evening dress.

If you want to see our plans or our meals feel free to visit the blog site.

I found this a very useful way to plan and have since PDF and printed many pages.

Out plans start tonight with a moonlit Passegiatta in Rome and continue with a voyage to Greece and a Turkey, looking at a lot of ancient Sites of the Ancient civilizations.

See you all soon.

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Feasting Around The Med – Thursday – Turkey

Having to suspend the food from around the Med tonight as we are jumping straight in the car when Helen finishes work and heading to the City of London to watch an Anton Checkhov play The Three Sisters.

Mike our son is operating sound for the show which is the first to be staged in the brand new Milton Court Theatre.

We are hoping to arrive in sufficient time to get a backstage tour.

That said I’ve put together a Mediterranean picnic for Helen to eat in the car on the way to London.

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Beware the Greek Tax Inspectors when bearing your gifts!

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Keep your receipts for restaurant and shop purchases whilst in Greece. The Government is cracking down on tax evasion.

It has been made offence for the seller not to issue a receipt, although this has not been well received by many Greeks.

You may be stopped by tax inspectors in Greece, and can be on the spot fined if you haven’t kept your receipt for goods and services purchased.

They may stop you and check your receipt when you leave the restaurant or shop or when returning with purchases to the ship.

  • In August 2013 … The top tourist destinations of Mykonos, Santorini and Crete had tax avoidance rates of more than 56 percent, and authorities ordered 12 establishments closed for a month and additional 14 shutdown.

    There have been disturbances complaining about the reintroduction of the need to keep receipts.

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    Feasting Around The Med – Food and Drink on board

    Not long now... Two questions are been answered.

  • What is the menu like on board
  • How much does it cost when you are thirsty on board?
  • I'm really happy to see a cheese board option on the main dining room and room service.

    I will be in heaven even if my cardiologist won't. The cheese board used to be a main stay dessert option on UK restaurant menus but is rarely seen today. Helen still doesn't understand why she needs evening wear for a youth hostel in the Alps.

    I realise now that cruising is something best savoured and planned for over many months or years, not as I've tried to do it in a couple of weeks.

    I'm not normally so OCD over planning but as Helen's not been involved in the planning at all, the pressures on to get it right.

    Buon Voyagiao, Bon Appetito, Bon Chance.

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