S: Mediterranean Cruise 2011
FC: Cruising the Mediterranean 2011
1: RUBY PRINCESS MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE July 15 - 29, 2011 Venice, Italy to Barcelona, Spain | Happy 45th Anniversary Mom & Dad
2: Venice, Italy
3: The port of Venice was magnificent, almost magical. It was as if we'd been transported directly into a scene out of a movie complete with cobblestone sidewalks & narrow canals connecting many 3-4 story brick buildings. Most had a business at street level with apartments above, laundry hanging on the small balconies & some even had flowers blossoming out window boxes. There is no vehicle traffic & only a few motor boats bringing in supplies otherwise the gondola's go through the canals quietly loaded with tourists. We spent some time walking through town in the hot sun & then found a shady little café to sit at the side of a narrow, crowded street to enjoy a coke & watch people go by. And there were many!! A delivery man with boxes on a wheelbarrow, tourists taking pictures & a couple walking down the street with a twin size mattress in hand. After a gondola ride through the canals we enjoyed an authentic Italian meal before returning to our ship.
4: On board the ship, as always, was luxurious and exciting. We celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary and Deanna, Steven, Ruth & Rheannan marked the occasion with corsages. We attended the Captain's Circle reception at the invitation of the Captain and enjoyed our champaign & appies. Each day we could enjoy full course dinners in the dining room, breakfast and lunches at the buffet or on the deck off our stateroom. Our stateroom attendant continued to entertain us and pamper us with his "towel animal creations" and chocolate on our bed every night. WE COULD GET USED TO THIS LIFE!
5: Athens, Greece (Port of Piraeus) Arriving in the Port of Piraeus we had a tour planned so were up very early, fed & watered and ready to go when an announcement was made that we were unable to disembark as Athens was, for lack of a better word, CLOSED. A protest by taxi drivers meant all roads were blocked and our safety was a concern. So we spent another quiet day enjoying the amenities aboard the Ruby Princess. | Our view of the Acropolis | Taxi's parked everywhere
6: The weeping wall covered with prayers | St. Mary's Shrine | A Maple Leaf- a little bit of home | Public Toilets They even "flushed"
7: Great Theatre seats 25,000 | Ephesus, Turkey (Port of Kusadasi) 2000 years ago the city of Ephesus was a port city on the Agean Sea but after years of silt deposits it is now 6 miles inland. Much of the city looks like a giant 3D puzzle with hundreds of massive chunks of marble laying on the ground waiting to be put back together while other sections have been painstakingly restored piece by piece. The most impressive was the two story facade of the Celsus Library designed to hold 12,000 scrolls or the Great Theatre which is still in use. Marble columns line where, at one time, would have been main street with cobble stone streets complete with chariot tracks worn into the stone. Our tour also included a visit to the the House of the Virgin Mary, which is believed to be Mary's home in her final years. The final stop of the day was the Basilica of St. John which is approximately 1400 years old and the final resting place of John the Apostle. This is the first of the 7 churches mentioned in the book of Revelations with marble columns, arches, a treasury, and mosaic floor. | The 4 of us took a tour while Mom & Ruth wandered in the port of Kusadasi
8: The Grand Bazaar | Turkish Carpet Making | Cruising the Bosphorus Strait between Europe and Asia | Istanbul is a very crowded city of 14 million people with narrow streets, loads of bumper to bumper traffic and lots of congestion. It is a unique city as it is located on two continents. Europe and Asia are separated by a narrow strait and connected by a number of bridges. Our day began with a carpet making demo and a choreographed display of the many carpets. Followed by a trip through the Grand Bazaar, a maze of 4,500 stores. We then went to the Hippodrome, toured the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom & a lunch time cruise down the Bosphorus Strait. MUCH better than the lunch was the view of the palaces & mansions, that line the shore, from the upper deck of the yacht. We ended the day touring the Topkapi Palace. | A large central dome with beautiful windows,marble floors and massive pillars. Originally it was designed as a church, then later become a mosque & much of the artwork was white-washed. In 1936, it was converted to a museum & once again the magnificent artwork and mosaics are being uncovered. The detail is breathtaking. | Hagia Sofia | Istanbul, Turkey
9: The Blue Mosque This is one of the most recognized landmarks of Istanbul. The interior has more than 20,000 blue Iznik tiles &more than 200 stain glass windows. Construction began in 1609. | Topkapi Palace The former palace of the Ottoman Sultans & now a museum with a collection of jewels & artifacts. There were four courtyards and a remarkable view of the Bosphorus. | The Hippodrome Once a 100,000 seat stadium used for chariot races, it is now a large public square.
10: Mykonos, Greece After departing Istanbul we retraced our tracks through the Agean Sea to Mykonos,a pretty little city built into the hillside with whitewash houses.We had some time to relax at the beach and float in the sea. After enjoying the sun for a couple of hours we wandered through a few of the souvenir shops along the shore. Then finished our day enjoying a bottle of coke at an internet café before catching a tender back to the ship.
11: THE MARRIAGE GAME SHOW This was a humorous, embarrassing, pee-your-pants-funny kinda game show. Mom & Dad were among 3 couples that "volunteered" to participate. One couple was newly married, another had been married 24 years & it was 45 years for Mom & Dad. The men & women were each secluded at separate times while their partners were asked some...um, revealing questions about their relationship. Once their partner was brought back into the room they were asked the same questions to see how well they know one another. The answers were not always what one would expect but they WILL always bring a smile or a chuckle to our face. This was very a memorable evening. Mom & Dad were great sports, made new friends & were winners all around!
12: Pompeii, Italy (Port of Naples) After pulling into port in Naples, Steven & Dee traveled to the ruins of Pompeii which was destroyed & buried by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. This catastrophe killed 2,000 people. Excavation, which began in 1748, uncovered many artifacts & even bodies preserved under the ash.This was a fascinating tour.
13: Mount Vesuvius | The second part of the tour drove us most of the way up the volcano and then we hiked up the last 300 (very steep) metres on very loose, wet gravel. We had some beautiful views of the Gulf of Naples. On most tours, there are random facts & figures that are interesting to hear. Our Italian guide,not wanting to be out in the rain, gave us about 200 tidbits,from the width (650m) and depth (230m) of the crater, the major eruptions (22) since Pompeii was buried in 79 A.D., and the height of the volcano (1,280m) and connected Monte Somma (1,100m).in about 30 seconds. This was a brutal climb but worth all the rain, wind, and every calf cramping step. The pictures just do not do the view justice.
14: Capri, Italy (Port of Naples) The Isle of Capri is a gorgeous little island 50 minutes from Naples via boat. It consists of four levels, with the 4th accessible only by chairlift. The roads are narrow & windy so buses can barely pass. There are lots of little shops: one was a shoe maker who made sandals to order while you wait. The specialty of the island was Lemoncello, a drink made from their own grapefruit-sized lemons. Lunch was a fantastic 4 course meal with wine served by the bottle & large platters with pasta dishes. Coming down from the second level to sea level was on a Funicular coming down a track at a steep angle. The day was fantastic, the temperature was hot, flowers were gorgeous. GREAT DAY ON CAPRI. | custom shoes while you wait | The Funicular
15: Beautiful Sunsets completed each day
16: o | Rome,Italy (Port of Civitavecchia) Our day in Rome was a little disappointing... the bus broke down before we got to Rome, a vast amount of history went by the bus windows very quickly and the Vatican, which was high on Mom's list of things to see, is closed on Sunday! On a positive note we did have time to have a quick walk around St Peter's Square, enjoy a hotdog with the pigeons & shop for a few souvenirs. Peter and Steven were able to see an exhibit on Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his beatification.
18: Livorno, Italy | We opted to get away from the city & instead take a leisurely day in the country touring a winery and tasting some wine... what better place than Tuscany! They grow grapes, olives & sunflowers. We had a lovely ride through the orchard on a horse drawn carriage & then tasted four different wines, all made even better since several in our party did not drink wine. All the more for the rest of us! We did make a few purchases to take home and better remember the place. Hard to believe we within a few miles of the famous cities of Florence & Pisa & we did not go to see them at all (Leaning Tower of Pisa will have to wait till next visit). | Grand Day!!
20: Monte Carlo, Monaco | Monte Carlo is a tiny state (<1 square mile) that is the playground of the rich and famous. Sleek Yachts grace the harbor and boutiques offer the latest fashions. We visited the Royal Palace, toured the shops,& observed the changing of the guard. The coastal walk was enjoyable for the views of the ocean. Dad & Steven went to visit the famous Casino but unfortunately it was closed. Just think of the money that saved you two. | Steven at the Casino | View of our ship from the hill
21: A palace guard | Nana & Rhe by a 'small' yacht in the harbor | The Casino
22: A Rainbow
23: of Color | Barcelona, Spain
24: Gaudi | Anthony Gaudi was a Catalan architect who left a very distinctive impact throughout | Barcelona. This includes ironwork, mosaics, & unique highrise. We visited Park Guell,located on the' hill of El Carmel. It contained a large garden complex as well as a number of features designed by Gaudi. Many of the structures reminded us of something from Dr. Seuss' imagination. The park is located up a steep hill from the bus route but there were expansive views of the city and of Gaudi's masterpiece, the church called Sagrada Familia
25: Dad, Steven & Dee had an opportunity to take a trolley, followed by a funicular ride up a mountain. We were surprised to find an amusement park at the top full of kids having so much fun. The view of the city was spectacular. Behind the amusement park and after climbing many steps was a beautiful church with magnificent stain glass windows and incredible artwork. It was so beautiful.
26: Local meeting place | Sticky Delights | Streets of Barcelona
27: Bike Rentals | Las Ramblas | parallel parking for motorbikes | A Picasso Masterpiece
28: Sagrada Familia This is an amazing building that is still under construction - since 1882. When Gaudi died in 1926, it was a quarter complete and reached half-way in 2010. When asked when it would be complete, Gaudi replied that his client was in no hurry: "My God has all the time in the world."
29: My favorite memory of the cruise was the day at Naples. The ruins at Pompeii were quite interesting - & very different from the ruins in Ephesus. I thought it was fascinating how well preserved the buildings were as well as the casts of the human remains. After that I got to climb Mount Vesuvius with my sister. While it was a bit windy (and wet), the view was amazing which made for some very nice pictures. I had to laugh at the guide that met us at the crater. He obviously did not want to be out in the rain too long and told us 40 or 50 facts - years, eruptions, distances - in about three minutes. - Steven | Venice was my favorite. It was awesome spending our 45th anniversary with family (many of them anyway) in such a place. The Gondola ride was something I could previously only imagine,from seeing pictures. It was fantastic! The other favorite was the visit to the Isle of Capri. The beauty, the shopping & the exquisite 4 course lunch complete with Italian wine was all very special. - Sharon | My favorite part, I have to say, would be Barcelona. The temperature was pretty good, never too hot & obviously never too cold. I could understand some of what people were saying, given the 3 years of Spanish I took in Jr. High. And my most favorite part of being in Barcelona was Gaudi's architecture, it was so extravagant & unlike absolutely anything I had ever seen before. It was like walking around in a cartoon, nothing is designed like his work at all nearly anywhere else, especially not in Canada. - Rhe | It's hard to pick a favorite. I feel so fortunate to be able to travel & see so many special places. I loved walking around on the Isle of Capri--enjoying a lovely lunch with Sharon & Peter at a café, watching the locals go about their day. I also loved touring the Pitti vineyards in Tuscany. Relaxing on a carriage ride through the olive &grape fields. The sun shining & breeze blowing. Or being amazed at the artistry & architecture on the streets of Barcelona. So many experiences that I will take with me into the future. I do believe that most meaningful part was that I got to share this trip with family. - Ruth | Venice was really something to see & we didn't have nearly enough time there. It is hard to believe those people live with their basements full of water all the time. The other highlight was the quiet day we had in Tuscany. Getting out in the Italian country-side & touring a winery was refreshing after several big tours in the previous 2 days.-- Peter | We went to many great places on our cruise but my favorite port was Naples. The tour that I was able to take with Steven was so AWESOME!! The ruins of Pompeii were fascinating. There were so much that had been preserved under all the ash -- the human & animal remains made it seem so much more real. Climbing Mt. Vesuvius was a challenge but the view was spectacular. Other great memories was visiting Ephesus, Sagrada Familia & the Marriage game.--Dee