Ten Top 10s of Empire of the Mediterranean Cruise 2016
==> 1-seeing the statue of Greek statue of Zeus/Poseidon
==> 2-seeing the Greek statue, the Jockey
==> 3-realizing that the slight smile on the early Greek statuary is the Mona Lisa smile
==> 4-5-6-all are about Santorini...first actually visiting Santorini, then learning about and visiting Akrotiri, finally seeing the most photographed spot of white Oia with its bright blue roofs.
==> 7-Ephesus and walking where Anthony/Cleopatra walked.
==> 8-walking in the Plaka at night with the joyous tavernas spilling light and patrons onto the passageways
==> 9-fabulous meals with fabulous people
==> 10-attending the classical guitar concert on the wee island.
The whole trip was memorable. Loved the music on the ship, the prefix meals with paired wines, sitting on our rooms balcony...the list can go on and on...
Spending time with the 8. Enjoyed adding
Elaine and Chuck to the group
==> Arena in Pula.
==> Having been in construction I enjoyed all of Ephesus.
==> Sailing the med; revisiting from 50 years ago
==> Evenings' entertainment
==> Connecting balconies and the socialization that resulted
==> The walls and roofs of Dubrovnik
==> The welcome back line up with music, dancing and champagne on the dock
==> Asking Ross to take a photo...he took 14!
==> Chef/pairing dinners
They are also not in any particular order of
==> Viking Sea: room, pool, comfort, not crowded
==> Ephesus – architecture
==> cable car above Dubrovnik – view of roofs and old town
==> shows on Viking Sea – Rat Pack, Beatles, singing along
==> Venice – beauty, hotel
==> Istanbul – so different, mosques
==> carpet purchase
==> Akrotiri – the digs, signs of the wealthy, Greek inability to dig further
==> Pula – the Arena, underground passages
meeting people on ship, and reconnecting later on cruise
==> Viking Sea experience— company par excellence, service, food, ==> lectures and music
==> not having missed Istanbul
==> first night dinner experience at La Casa Nuestra
==> view of theater at Ephesus
==> approach to Santorini
==> Santorini wine tasting at Gevalas with tour of Megalochiori
==> the arena at Pula
==> the cable car view of Dubrovnik’s red roofs, and views of Serbian closest approach
==> the vaporetto ride to airport through middle of island
==> arrival and early morning views on Viking Sea from Explorer Lounge and room balcony
==> wine tour with family
==> carpet day
==> enjoying all our perspectives and friendship
hearing the calls to prayer. I figure I
will never be any place again where I will hear this. In particular, I loved
awakening in the predawn darkness and hearing the calls in the distance.
==> I loved the mosaics in St. Mark's Basilica. I thought the detail and three dimensionality and, in particular, the gold were truly astounding
==> I think our first evening dinner in Istanbul was a peak experience for everyone. We all were feeling so comfortable and happy with Umit. The food was so unique, delicious, and the chef such a character.
==> I enjoyed so much how excited we all were when we first got on the ship and realized how luxurious and comfortable it was.
==> I loved the views from our state rooms. You could sit in your room or on your balcony or wake up in your bed in the morning and look at some of the most beautiful places in the world. In particular, my mind keeps flashing on the white buildings perched on top of the cliffs in Santorini
==> My favorite tour was the one to the Lady of the Rock concert in the evening from Kotor. The weather had cleared, yet the skies were so dramatic with the setting sun, the architecture so ancient and beautiful, and the classical guitar music so unique.
==> Umit and the calls to prayer
==> First dinner, last dinner
==> Rug and glass buying
==> Ship experience in general
==> Venice and it's alleys
==> The Venice concert
==> How well the 10 of us got along
|==> La Casa Nuestra
==> Chef’s Table
==> sailing into Kotor
==> the shows – variety-opera; Rat Pack
==> Blue Mosque
==> Church on Island of Stones
==> staff – Marvin, Boris
==> penis bottle opener in Athens
==> meals, especially Casa Nuestra
==> sailing into Kotor
==> shows – Rat Pack, Abba
==> first evening walking in Istanbul
==> Church on Island of Stones
==> gelato, every day on ship
==> Venice – night cruise on Grand Canal
==> the pool on ship – good relaxation
**Elaine & Chuck: Although similar in choices, their approaches essentially reflect the differences in their heritages: Elaine: the terse, matter-of-factness of the Norwegians. Chuck: the Chit Chat Charlieness of the Irish.
|1. Dinner at Nostra Casa the first night in
2. Viking Sea - a fabulous ship, especially its "Norwegian-ness"!
3. The Chef's Table- eating special meals in a private room; working with Boris.
4. Cappuccino in the Explorer's Lounge every evening listening to live music.
5. Ephesus - simply being where Paul was.
6. Santorini - the Akrotiri ruins.
7. Meeting Captain Atle Knutsen and his wife, Laura.
8. Confirming she was a real Viking by placing her palm next to the photo in the Heritage exhibit; she too had swollen tendons between thumb and first finger.
9. Getting lost on back streets in Venice walking from Accademia to Jewish Quarter.
10. The magic of meeting new friends; 5 couples sharing good times and good laughs.
Our stay in to Istanbul featured many bests of the entire trip - layer upon layer of history, sights, sounds, smells.
Best guide: Umit Ozipek whisked us to a variety of sites providing both a historical perspective and local insights - circumcision of twins at 7, gas prices, view of Syrian crisis, Muslims wearing berkas and head scarves - mostly tourists.
Best meal: Nostra Casa Caffe-Ristorante. Owner/Chef- Turgay Unger. climbed to 3rd floor, round table with a circle of friends new and old. Mezzi plates simply began arriving full of delights. So full we had only two entrees: Pasta Boulanase and Pasta with Mushrooms. Capped off by the best tiramisu I have ever had anywhere!
Best Sound: call to prayer - eerie yet soothing. Missed it when we left.
Best smells: Spice Market - from $200 saffron to $25 salt.
Best selfie: Hagia Sophia. Two bottled red-heads with ruby lips place camera phone on floor, bend over, twist and pout as they shoot mosaics on the ceiling behind them.
Worst selfie: a Gnat clomping into the center of a tulip garden at the Topkapi Palace.
Dogs of Istanbul: tagged, cared for and simply sitting in parks.
Beginning of the Gnat invasion, swarming through the exhibits at Topkapi.
Buying rugs at Punto of Istanbul. all of us. Must have been something in the coffee/tea they served us. A memory that will be passed down to the next generations.
Covered Bazaar: mega-mall ancient Turkish style, over 4,000 shops. Judy yes to pocketbook, Elaine no to $200 scarf and we lose Ross as he buys candy and sesame covered nuts. Best merchant lines:
· "My shop has everything except customers."
· "Let me show you how to spend your money."
· "I've been waiting a long time for you."
· "Hey Paparazzi. Over here."
1973 Flashback: beef kabobs at the Pudding Shop. Missing - American cars from the 50's and 60's.
From the Explorer's Lounge (our favorite spot) to the infinity pool, it doesn't get better than this. It's all in the attention to details: cabin, books, main pool (2nd favorite spot), spa, chairs, food, service, entertainment, Viking history and decor.
Best meals: The Chef's Table - Erling's Scandinavian Bistro, Xiang (Chinese Cantonese and Huaiyang cuisine) and Venice Carnival; Mamsen: waffles with berries and open faced gravlox sandwiches; sushi bar; Gelato - the doctor ordered two scoops after lunch and dinner every day; high tea in the Winter Garden.
Entertainment: the young, energetic troop had us from the first show; didn't miss one after that. Highlights: Rat Pack, Beatles poolside and Abba Review; Pianist and Classical Trio provided relaxing music, especially for lattes in the Explorer's Lounge.
Gnats invade spa twice; we flee.
Only two glitches: atypical service for dinner at The Restaurant - long wait and meals brought erratically; no tapas and wine on our 5 hour excursion on Santorini; Viking did step up to the plate and refunded us $30 or half our excursion fee (Thank you Judy).
Outstanding Service: special kudos to Boris, Marvin and Mohammed.
A "you are there" experience in preserved ruins. Awesome to think this was where Paul spoke and wrote to the Ephesians. Highlights: Amphitheater, Library and "cheek to cheek" toilets; Viking provided a private bathroom for their guests.
Note: friends should inform you when you look like a total dork with huge headphones on your ears, especially before your are photographed!
Archetypal views of white and blue buildings against an azure sea (though I must say the towns are much more touristy than in 1973).Highlight: up close tour of the dig at Akrotiri, a work in progress; only four main buildings and streets have been unearthed with some artifacts still in place and viaducts for fresh running water, indoor toilets and sewers. Amazingly miles of the city still lay under the ground. Mystery: no remains of people or animals have yet been discovered like in Pompeii; where did they all go? Atlantis?
Most beautiful town we visited. Incredibly preserved almost to the point of feeling like a Disney village. Second best guide of our trip. Her best tip: the size of the patron in the painting indicated how much they contributed to its creation. Regrettably we were on the last tour of the day; at its end the darkening sky and peals of thunder sent us scurrying to catch the van back to the ship with no opportunity to explore more of this city or walk its medieval walls.
Note: try not to take a late tour; if no choice, visit city earlier in the day, then join the tour.
For me, any trip would be incomplete without several "James" moments; they're the icing on the cake, a cheery on top of a sundae. Even in retrospect they bring a smile to my lips. James did not disappoint on this trip:
· Poolside- a British woman asks if there is a James here; she found his room key laying in the bottom of the hot tub.
· Ross takes several photos of Lynda, Elaine and I at the 1st modern Olympics Stadium in Athens. Result - several close-ups his chin.
· Ross and Lynda rushing to the 8th floor of the Viking Sea to catch the excursion bus only to discover that Floor A works better for departing the boat.
· A "QuietVox" audio set dangling and flashing between Ross's thighs on the tender to Santorini.
· Did the Rapture take Ross in downtown Pula? We all pointed at each other saying, "It was your turn to watch him." No. Ross had dashed unannounced into a McDonald's to use the free restroom.
Three magical moments:
· wandering the back streets from Accademia to the Rialto bridge and Jewish Quarter
· vaparetto ride along the Grand Canal from dusk to dark.
· hearing Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" live in the church where he wrote it.
Best lunch off ship: Osteria Alla Bandiera Venezia. Excellent food, wine and waiter- Israel.
8. DAY AT SEA
AAAH! A welcome respite for a body aching from walking, climbing and standing and a mind over stimulated from a tsunami of places, dates, names, relics.
Explored the ship from bow to stern, Floors 8 to A, taking in the luxury of all the etails. Enjoyed a relaxing massage, high tea and our veranda.
And discovered in the Viking Heritage area how Elaine's palms reveal that she is a true Viking!
9. PHOTOS: beauty is in the details; size matters
I enjoy taking pictures for several reasons. Primarily to capture an overview of the people, places, and events for future recollection, enjoyment and hopefully sharing the experience with others (without boring them).
I also find looking for minute details that capture the essence of a place helps me to slow down, concentrate and "be here now" rather than rushing from place to place.
I learned the latter from traveling with Lynda, watching what she chooses to photograph and viewing her results. Hence I take close-ups of doorways and windows, plants, wash hanging, signs and posters, local people, food, things that amuse, in addition to sweeping vistas and group photos.
Special moment: We had been informed that sailing down the fjord to Kotor, Montenegro would be especially scenic. So the intrepid gathered on the deck in front of the Explorer's Lounge at 6:30 A.M. As the photographers lined up along the rail, I noticed that my camera lens was the smallest. Suffering from lens envy, I commented to Debbie that size really matters. Overheard by others nearby, the situation and comments immediately went downhill from there. I was consoled and advised by a women who lived near Topsail Island that I could remedy the situation by getting such and such a Nikon lens and use this ISO setting. Okaaay!
10. CHIT CHAT CHARLIE MOMENTS: PEOPLE
Top 10 moments aren't just about places. Travel is also about meeting and/or watching people. Highlights:
· Shipboard chats with the Captain Atle Knutson and his wife, Laura, Ungva aka "Steve" the Norwegian engineer in charge of the physical side of the ship - at age 39!, two British women in the hot tub daily, Margo and her brother Len, John and Shelia from Liverpool (he sounded just like John Lennon), Karen and Rich from the midwest; several others I was too polite to flee.
· Watching the school children in the museums and on the streets wearing shirts with American place names and phrases; equipped with cell phones, chattering , teasing.
· Fascinated by the selfie takers, imposing themselves front and center, making wherever they were a background for their artful poses of pouty lips,body twists or flinging arms. The Gnats have it down to a science.
· Last but not least, getting to know and enjoy the company of Don and Debbie, Tim and Judy, Jim and Pat each adding insights and laughter to the trip in addition to the usual adventures of traveling with Ross and Lynda.