S: O'Neil and Liz's Honeymoon - May 16-28, 2012 - Italy, Greece, Turkey
FC: Italy, Greece, Turkey May 16-28, 2012
1: Wednesday May 16, 2012 After a dream wedding the day prior, we could not imagine how much better our trip would become as our honeymoon began. After a week of exploring Italy, we got married at The First Hotel of Rome overlooking the monuments and rooftops of the Eternal City. We followed it up with an amazing photo tour of the sites and a delicious dinner with a breathtaking view. The next 12 days would continue the adventure of a lifetime as we got to visit places we had only dreamed of in Italy, Turkey, and Greece, all as we celebrated our marriage, future, and love. The next morning we devoured the remainder of our amazing wedding cake, soaked in our private balcony jacuzzi, and enjoyed our first breakfast as husband and wife. | Departure Rome, Italy
2: Just | We had an amazing breakfast at The First Hotel of Rome. It was the hotel's treat. We had wonderful cappuccino, the best prosciutto wrapped bocconcini, pastries, meats, fruits, exotic jams, yogurt in jars, and sweetest orange juice and mimosas. Our stay at the hotel was pure luxury, including our 2 hour private Mercedes limousine service to the port of Civitavecchia. It was memorable and perfect.
3: Our room was decorated celebrating our honeymoon.
10: First Night After an easy early boarding and exploring the ship, we danced. We then spent a quiet evening with dinner in the main dining room and a show at the theater.
11: Newlyweds | Thursday May 17, 2012 We spent the morning of our first full day on the ship exercising and enjoying a scenic breakfast where our stalker on the cruise took this picture. We then got ready to explore on our tour at our first port stop on the cruise.
14: Messina, Sicily (Italy) | The ancient Greeks called Sicily ‘Trinacria’ because of its triangular shape, but historians believe that an old tribe called Sicilii left the long-lasting name upon this area. The largest island in the Mediterranean, it is 150 miles wide and 200 miles long, situated off the toe of the Italian ‘boot’ and separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina. With a population of over 5 million, it is one of the most densely populated areas of Italy. A mountainous and rugged island, the highest point on Sicily is Mount Etna, an active volcano which dominates the eastern coast at a height of 10,902 feet. Sicily is mainly an agricultural land with citrus fruits, olives, vegetables and grapes as the main crops. However, some industry has developed, mainly in the form of oil refineries and chemical plants while fishing is still important, accounting for 25% of Italy’s annual seafood catch.
15: Our Tour - Sicilian Nature: Fire & Water A trip to Mount Etna is a highlight for any visitor to this area. Depart from the pier on a scenic 2-hour ride to Europe's largest active volcano. While en route, enjoy the delightful countryside covered with vineyards and orchards. Then the winding road up the slopes passes through vast lava fields to the Silvestri Spent Craters, almost 6,000 feet above sea level. There you will be able to walk along the rim of the craters. From the comfort of the coach, you will see remnants of past eruptions. You will motor along the road curving among streams of solidified lava. More than 130 eruptions have been recorded since the 4th century BC; the most recent one occurred in 2012. Your descent will offer awe-inspiring views of volcanic cones and streams of hardened lava. Although the best views of the actual peak of Mt. Etna are from the distance of many miles, a closer inspection of its destructive power cannot help but impress any visitor. On the way back, you'll pass through the Alcantara Gorge, a 50 km long canyon with unique and unusual natural features.
19: Mount Etna is Europe's highest and most active volcano. Towering above the city of Catania on the island of Sicily, it has been growing for about 500,000 years and is in the midst of a series of eruptions that began in 2001. It has experienced a variety of eruption styles, including violent explosions and voluminous lava flows. More than 25% of Sicily's population lives on Etna's slopes, and it is the main source of income for the island, both from agriculture (due to its rich volcanic soil) and tourism.
20: Mount Etna
22: The Alcantara Gorges, Sicily | We had no Euros with us and no ATM so we missed our opportunity to have an authentic Sicilian cannoli in Sicily. But the next best thing was being able to try my very first Arancini in its birthplace of Sicily. A typical dish of Messina, they are fried rice balls filled with meat sauce. Yum!!
23: The Alcantara Gorges ("Gole dell'Alcantara") are deep incisions in volcanic rocks and cliffs, caused by the eruptions of Mount Etna. They lie a short distance from Taormina, where the mountain has been literally split and is now part of the course of a river. The water choruses over grey stone, now covered by dense vegetation climbing through the numerous crags and crevices in the rock.
28: We finished our tour sampling some great liquors, bread, and jams made in the area.
29: After returning to the ship, we got cleaned up, enjoyed a nice dinner and show, took some portraits and took a dip in the hot tub.
32: After taking a ton of pictures we decided to take a dip in the hot tub for some relaxation.
36: Friday May 18, 2012 Day at Sea | For the first time in weeks we enjoyed a day of just bumming | around. We started with the gym, then grabbed breakfast, explored the ship, went to the hot | tub and an ice skating show.
37: Goofing Around
38: On our way to get in our swimsuits, Liz takes the time to roll out giant fondant and O decides to demonstrate how to use the barf bags strategically placed at every staircase.
39: Salad followed by Baklava... Life is about balance...
40: We enjoyed a couple drinks before the ice skating show. O enjoyed the show so much he saw it twice.
41: After the show we took a few casual portraits then got ready for formal night and dinner.
42: Formal Night | After dinner we saw a show, took more pictures, and danced the night away.
48: CHANIA (SOUDA), CRETE, GREECE Chaniá is the second largest city of Crete, and one of the most beautiful. It lies along the north coast of the island at the east end of the Gulf of Chaniá. Chaniá is the site of the ancient Minoan settlement the Greeks called Cydonia (Kydonia), which was mentioned in Virgil's Aeneid. The site has been continuously inhabited from Neolithic times-at least 5000 years. The city's rich history can be traced through historic buildings and monuments with Venetian, Turkish and Greek architecture.
50: Kournas, Arkadi Monastery & Rethymnon - On our tour, we stopped at Lake Kournas, one of only two lakes in Crete that covers a total area of 160,000 square meters. The name was derived from the Arabic word for lake. Dense vegetation surrounds the lake and the southeastern bank is lined with ancient olive trees. A strip of white sand along the lake provides an area for swimming. We got to taste a "sfakiani pie," a traditional cheese pie with honey and ouzo. We then visited the Arkadi Monastery, built in the last Venetian period and consists of a set of fortress-like buildings. The history of the monastery dates back to the Byzantine times, when a monk, possible Arkadios, founded the monastery that in turn was named after him. In the 16th century, the monastery played an important role in the cultural life of Crete. Finally we visited Rethymnon, the Capital of the Prefecture of the same name and it is built between two other large cities of Crete. In the east is Iraklion and to the west is Chania. There are evidences that Rethymnon City was built on the site of ancient Rithymna that flourished during Mycenaean times. Rithymna retained its autonomy and independence, as is evidenced by the coins that, as free city, it continued to mint. During the Byzantine period, the town continued to be inhabited as parts of Roman and Byzantine mosaics have been found.
58: Interesting and beautiful view from the public bathroom at the Monastery.
60: After a brief introduction and walk through the town we had time to ourselves to explore, which we used wisely towards finding and enjoying some traditional Greek/Crete cuisine.
63: We stopped at a quiet Taverna where the sweetest lady took good care of us with huge prawns, cheese stuffed squid, pork, as well as complimentary sweet wine and chocolatey loukoumades for dessert. We then had to run to catch the bus, but well worth it.
66: After returning to the ship, we did a little exercise, then had dinner, took a stroll, enjoyed another show, took more pictures, and danced the night away for our fans
68: RHODES, Greece | Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese Islands, is truly a vacation destination with something for everyone: sunshine, spectacular beaches on the Aegean Sea, a medieval walled city, an ancient acropolis, and much more. In ancient times, the people of Rhodes chose Helios, the Sun, as their divine patron. With an average of three hundred plus days of sunshine a year, it's safe to say that Helios continues to smile upon Rhodes today. Our Tour: Journey to Lindos Our tour will began with a scenic drive past the walls of Old Rhodes and through the modern city. Continuing our journey southward along the coast, we observed picturesque villages, orange and lemon groves, vineyards, and gnarled old olive trees. The once powerful ancient city of Lindos is located on the island’s eastern shoreline, 47 kilometers from the city of Rhodes. The 4th century BC Doric Temple of Athena Linda, a double-winged portico, a Byzantine church and the fortifications of the Knights, including the remains of the Governor's quarters, dominate the Acropolis. We climbed to the top of the Acropolis, enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding coast, including St. Paul's Bay where the apostle is said to have landed. Below the Acropolis, we saw the old, whitewashed houses and the narrow streets of this most delightful town. Its beauty has inspired artists and writers for many years. We walked through the town of Lindos with many little shops selling the most attractive souvenirs, such as small ceramic items or beautiful crocheted linen. At the conclusion of our time in Lindos, we returned to the pier in Rhodes via the same picturesque route. We then spent time near the port where we shopped and did some more eating.
81: We wish we had more time to shop, eat, explore Lindos, but we did manage to get a couple souvenirs and enjoy a fresh OJ and plate of food. Of course we ran into our stalker while stopping to eat. Of all cafes in Lindos... We contemplated taking a donkey back to the bus but decided against it.
82: We took a stop at a ceramics factory and shop where this man has been doing this all his life. All the items in the shop were made by him.
84: We enjoyed some fruit trees and a scenic ride back to the port of Rhodes, where we did some souvenir shopping, ate some yummy Greek food and gelato, and smuggled some wine back on the ship.
88: My next food scavenger hunt item consumed - Mousaka. Success. O's first attempt to smuggle Moscato aboard... no corkscrew, Failure.
89: Second attempt at smuggling Moscato onto the ship... SWEET SUCCESS! | Octopus hanging out to dry...
91: Back on the ship, we headed to the gym, steam rooms, and finally the jacuzzi before getting ready for dinner. | We had a nice dinner, evening of dancing in the lounge, a show, and more pictures.
93: Day at Sea May 21, 2012 We spent a relaxing day at sea exercising, eating, at the spa, in the steam rooms, in the jacuzzi and at the art auction drinking lots of champagne.
96: We strengthened up for a tough art auction with coffee and snacks. | But we stood no chance up against our gracious server who left our final champagne count at 12 glasses.
97: We did not buy any art on this day, but we would at the next ones...
101: O'Neil made the day of one of our fan club members by giving her a dance. We were celebrities.
104: TURKEY | Istanbul is Turkey's most populous city, and its cultural and financial center. Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. Istanbul's population is estimated to be between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest in Europe and the world.
106: Eurasian Discovery Tour Our tour spanned two days in Istanbul. It covered the major highlights as well as Asian side experience over two days for you to enjoy the city.
108: We first cruised along the shoreline of Bosphorus, the narrow waterway, which joins the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. We saw picturesque villas and villages, admired the shoreline of beautiful mosques, lavish palaces and decadent villas. We saw the Dolmabahe Palace, the Beylerbeyi Palace and the few remaining towers of the Anadolu Hisar. Passing beneath the great Bosphorus Bridge, one of the world's largest suspension bridges, we were rewarded with the sight of curving domes and rising minarets, wrapped in a hazy veil. Once we disembarked the boat on the Asian side, we continued our panoramic tour in another continent, while being in the same city.
112: Next we stopped at the Spice Market, where we had free time to see and smell the exotic products of mystical Istanbul. It was a feast for the senses. We got a hookah pipe, some tea glasses, and other souvenirs.
115: HAG I A SOPH I A | Next we headed to the Hagia Sophia. St. Sophia Museum which originated as a church in 360 AD under Constantine. Hagia Sophia was converted into a Mosque when the city was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453 by Sultan Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Today the Museum is considered the most important Byzantine monument in the world.
122: With the Blue Mosque in the distance we enjoy a folk dance performance while waiting for our group to walk to our amazing lunch.
123: After lunch we loaded up in the bus and headed to the Grand Bazaar, with a stop at a carpet weaving factory.
125: Our last stop of the day was a visit to one of the most colorful sites of Istanbul; the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar is composed of two sections; the covered part and the modern part. The covered part is a whole quarter on its own and is surrounded by a wall which can be entered through eleven gates. The maze of streets and lanes are one of the greatest sights in the city, where various trades such as carpets, jewelry, leather goods, silver; varieties of souvenirs, textile, antiques, and home textile are segregated into particular sections of the bazaar. We had free time in the Bazaar after being taken for a presentation on the unique art of Turkish carpets.
126: We were all served some Raki (a strong turkish liquor) and some strong turkish coffee, to get us in the mood to spend. We were also given an interesting lesson into rug making.
127: After witnessing the detail, and time that goes into these beautiful carpets, we broke down and bought two small ones to hang up on our walls. We hope they are magic flying ones.
129: After some time in the Grand Bazaar, we returned back to the ship to clean up for our Turkish Dinner & Entertainment Tour, Our tour began with a scenic orientation drive to a local nightclub to enjoy Turkish cuisine with Turkish hospitality.
132: A floor show was performed during and after dinner, consisting of Oriental belly dancers and multiple folk dance groups from various districts of Anatolia. A comedian ended the night. It was the best night of our trip by far.
133: The dancers were amazing.
138: The next day began with a bus ride and short walk to The Blue Mosque. Mosque of Sultan Ahmed I, otherwise known as The Blue Mosque, is renowned for its architectural harmony, proportion and elegance, is unique as it is the only original mosque in the world with six minarets. Breathtaking stained-glass windows and graceful arabesques decorate this mighty structure.
144: Our last stop on the two day tour was to Topkapi Palace, which is a great walled complex hugging the shores of the Bosporus and Golden Horn and it was once the residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Mehmet II built the palace-city, home for three centuries of Sultans, in the mid-1400s as a summer palace. Topkapi was enlarged by Suleiman the Magnificent into the Sultan's principal residence and with the successive Sultans grew into a great complex of buildings set in lovely gardens. A series of courtyards connect various buildings which now house an astonishing collection of Chinese porcelain, treasures, the Topkapi dagger and the celebrated Topkapi Diamond plus much more. Then, visit the Harem section of the Palace. The harem was strictly closed to outsiders, and it became the subject of many stories over the centuries.
150: We chose the only tour that granted access to the Harem.
152: Mirror, Mirror, on the wall..
158: Back on board, we went to another art auction...
159: After buying a couple pieces of art, O went to the skating show for a second time. | ... and I went to work out at the gym.
160: That night we had diner, saw a show, took pictures, and did some more dancing.
164: Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey May 24, 2012
165: Byblical Ephesus Driving from the pier through the Turkish countryside along a hilly drive, we came to the "Church of Virgin Mary", also known as the Double Church as it is thought that one aisle was dedicated to the Virgin and the other to the Apostle John. This Church is believed to have been the meeting place of the historic Council of Ephesus. You will return to the buses through the Arcadian way, where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra once rode in procession. Overlooking Ephesus are the remains of St. John's Basilica, where, you will be given a short briefing on the excavations and their importance to the history of Christianity. Once great church built on a 2nd century tomb thought to hold the remains of St. John. While the church is now in ruins, there are many frescoes, mosaics and graceful columns that attest to the glory that marked the place where St. John, the Evangelist, lived and died.
166: From there, a short drive took us to the entrance to Ancient City of Ephesus that was built on a small hill. Once entering the Open Air Museum of Ephesus and pass by the Magnesia gate, you enter the administrative section of ancient Ephesus. The guided walking tour took us through one of the most magnificent excavations in the world. we saw the Odeon, the Fountain of Trajan, the steam baths of Scholastika, temple of Hadrian and the impressive library of Celsius. The Grand Theater, where St. Paul preached, is one of the largest theaters in antiquity with a capacity of 24,000 seats.
170: The Tomb of St. John
186: We were treated to a re-enactment of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, so we decided to join in.
189: We bought a little bellydance outfit in hopes we'd one day have a daughter.
190: Next we drove to the mountain of Bul-Bul.
191: Here we arrived at the House of Virgin Mary where the Blessed Virgin is reputed to have spent the last years of her life.
192: Liz was asked to do the readings at the mass we attended outside Mary's House.
193: Then we entered the small home of Mary.
194: Outside is the Fountain of Our Lady, providing the faithful water from the holy foundation. It is therefore naturally blessed. We all got to take some holy water from the fountain.
195: We played with a kitten outside the house.
196: There is a prayer wall, that people write a prayer on and tie it to the wall. Both of us asked for the same thing - a baby girl. This also happens to be the estimated date of my conception of Cinzia.
199: Afterwards, we had a "Biblical lunch", where we were served food cited in the Bible and dishes made in accordance with Biblical ingredients. Following lunch, we had a chance to explore the effect of Christianity on the traditional local handicrafts
200: A carpet presentation will take place in a carpet weaving village
202: Back on board we had dinner, saw a show and did more portraits and more dancing.
206: In Athens, we took a half day tour which included a bus tour of the city, followed by visits to the Acropolis and Plaka the shopping district.
210: The Acropolis of Athens
216: After the Acropolis, we bought some owl souvenirs, including some charms for our eventual baby, and then we took a quick stop at the first Olympic stadium of modern times.
218: FOOD | We walked around Plaka, the shopping district, then had a nice lunch at a cafe. Then we got lost with no cash and barely made it back to the bus on time.
222: I work out | The next day we had another relaxing day at sea.
223: Liz decided to try my luck in the casino at the slots against O's advice and won over $200!
225: That night back on board we watched another show, took pictures and did more dancing.
227: Sunset | That night our ship sailed by the coast of Calabria Italy where Liz's Dad is from.
232: Our first stop was the fabled town of Sorrento. Legend tells us it was the "sirens" of Sorrento who attempted to lure Ulysses onto the rocks. This delightful town has a wonderful climate and marvelous views of Naples Bay. We took a stroll down the side streets after visiting a souvenir shops with a talk on their highly polished wood inlaid with beautiful marquetry. Next we proceeded along the Amalfi Coast to Positano, where a picture postcard comes to life - a patchwork of flat and domed roofs and vine-covered stairways tumbling down to meet the gentle curve of beach, which is dotted with brightly colored fishing boats.
240: Driving from Sorrento, we saw the dolomitic cliff towering straight up out of the sea and typical villages, which have characterized its peninsula for many centuries.
241: Amalfi Coast
243: O'Neil had gelato and Liz had a cannoli before having lunch | Positano, where a picture postcard comes to life - a patchwork of flat and domed roofs and vine-covered stairways tumbling down to meet the gentle curve of beach, which is dotted with brightly colored fishing boats. We explored this elegant spot with its designer boutiques, shops, and seaside cafes.
244: The Amalfi coast is famous for its limoncello and large lemon trees strew about the sides of the cliffs. Here in Positano, we enjoyed a great meal. O'Neil had gluten free options for every course of the meal!!
246: We did some browsing off the shops and finally settled on a silk dress for a one day a baby girl.
248: POMPEII in Pompeii, we experienced life as it was lived in 79 AD. Once a thriving empire 1,900 years ago, it was devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD when 30 feet of volcanic ash and pumice stone covered the city. We entered Pompeii by the Sea Gate, and a short walk took us to the city's hub, the Forum. Surrounded by lavish temples and porticoes, we began to grasp the lifestyle of the inhabitants. | We passed Mount Vesuvius as we began our coastal drive south to the ancient City of Pompeii, which is one of the most famous excavations in the world. Ironically, one of the ancient world's worst disasters preserved time
249: We got to admire the mansions & the art of wealthy patricians who moved to Pompeii to escape the turmoil of Rome; viewed countless paintings & inscriptions. The streets had raised pavements on both sides & stepping-stones that ensured pedestrians a safe crossing at intersections.
257: Our last night on the ship we did our usual -- dinner, show, and dancing...oh, and packing :(
258: After private driver drove us to the airport and taught us how to make carbonara, we enjoyed some final italian morsels. On our return home the petsitter Nicole had celebrated our return.