Bye bye Bafa. Hello Celestyal Olympia :)

18.4.17

Despite the flaking walls, the bed gap issue and the lack of hot water I had decided to give Hotel Silva Oliva a glowing review on the basis of the wonderful hospitality from Mehmet. We hadn’t met the boss apart from at from distance after he tried to open our room to show some guests around yesterday afternoon.

We had a lovely breakfast, paid our bill from last night and then Mehmet told us the bill for our room was 190tl. John had 180 ready in his hand and said we were told 180.

The boss was outside and said it was 190. John showed his email saying 180tl. The guy argued that it should be 180tl per night but he was doing us a favour at 190tl. He later emailed to say he didnt mean he was trying to charge double. Anyway..silly man. Been in the job 3 weeks. Not going to make it a successful business like that.

The 1 hour drive to Kusadasi was uneventful and we found secure parking close by. 15tl a day til I told him in my best Turkish that we will use the Belediye one for 10tl. With the price dropped to 10tl a day we parked up and joined the boarding queue. I seriously think we’ve go on try & rip us off written on our foreheads.

So excited now. Got goosebumps when I saw our ship.

Boarding took a while, tight security but who cares, better safe than sorry.

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Off to Patmos

18.4.17

Once boarded we explored and had lunch. Last year there was 99% Turkish people, this year there are so many nationalities although I think we’re still the only Brits. We opted for buffet lunch and the cultural diversity was reflected in the food choices. We couldnt resist pork chops, saveloy apple crumble and custard with a bit of chicken pasta thrown in. It was all delicious apart from the potato bake.

I decided at that point I would experiment with the Atkins Diet, well until the apple crumble anyway. 

We chilled in the sun on the quiet deck with Baileys iced coffees and were miffed when some lads came to use the basketball nets and started bouncing about, but ended up enjoying watching them in the end, they were very talented. They were moved when staff started setting up some speakers and putting together a bar area. Must have been at least 10 staff involved in this process. Each time new ones turned up they moved what the previous ones had done. Was very amusing and we waited ages to see the outcome but the lure of afternoon tea dragged us away. 

Never again will I turn my nose up at gluten free cakes. Omg..to die for, and after scoffing those I realised I’d missed the scones,  jam & cream and had to go back for one. 

We arrived in Patmos as scheduled at 5pm. There was a ticket system for the tender boats which we could get after those who had booked a tour. It was so loud in the lounge waiting for announcements so we wandered down to deck one just in time for them to shout that they needed 8 more people so we jumped on. We sat right at the front with a big scary gap into the sea but the captain laughed and pointed to a handrail.

It was a smooth 15 minute crossing.

It’s a pretty little place and we wandered around the lovely little streets, stopped for Greek coffee and went back on board about 3 hours later. 
We opted for a late dinner. Might not be the best time. They had announced the a la carte was full, so the buffet was packed. So many groups of young people this year and horrendously noisy. 

We went from there to the Muses lounge and listened to Greek music from the house band and stayed for the main show event. 

It was a traditional Greek show about a love story it was lovely but not a patch on last years animation team, but still very enjoyable with a couple of strawberry daquiris and a Turkish delight – Malibu, white rum and pineapple.

Off to Rhodes tomorrow 🙂 Not setting alarms as the 7am we’ve arrived bing bong will wake us up.

A day in Rhodes

19.4.17

There was no 7am bing bong and we woke at 7.45am. Got dressed and had breakfast at record speed and set off for the 9am bus to Lindos.

Spotted this beauty in the harbour and felt very nostalgic. Our Celestyal Nefeli from last year. She wouldn’t usually be there at the same time but there’s a 5 night trip at the mo as she will be switching ports. We had contemplated this trip as it was 5 nights but the logistics of leaving our car in Kusadasi and arriving back in Cesme was a bit of a nightmare.

We made the 9am bus with a minute to spare. The journey to Lindos took an hour and a half and it was lovely to sit back and enjoy the scenery. Slightly frustrating seeing a massive Lidl and an Ikea but such is life. I wondered about splitting the return bus journey but John said no.
Lindos is very small and very white. John visited over 20 years ago and was keen to go back and see it again. Full of charming alleyways full of little gift and silver shops. And donkeys. Loads of them. Poor donkeys being used to lug tourists up the hill to the walled acropolis.

We walked up following a huge Canadian woman on a donkey who kept saying ‘poor donkey’ but saying very loudly that she had lost 20lbs. Poor donkey breathed a massive sigh of relief I’m sure.
After virtuously walking up we came to a ticket office. Like many others we refused to pay €12 each to see a few pillars that we pay almost nothing to see in Turkey.

Here are the pillars from a distance

We sat on a lovely terrace having espresso and beer before trying to pay the confused guy with a 10 Bulgarian lev note. We have a pot of random currencies for going away. He should be grateful it wasn’t Vietnamese dongs.

A bit more wandering, a couple more cats and time to climb the steep hill up to the main road for the 1pm number 30 bus.
Once back in Rhodes town we had a delicious Gyros, like a chicken doner but with pork before having a wander round the shops and historic walls. Have been before and its just as beautiful as I remember.

Once back on board it was definitely Baileys Iced Coffee time and also discovered Kahlua Dreamboat. I need to watch what goes in it before we leave.
Opted for early dinner which was excellent and quiet. Well inside the music from the outside was muffled. On the large deck just outside we watched around a hundred youngsters moving about to banging tunes. Moving in as much as they had drink in one hand and mobile phone in the other and have expertly learnt to pout and get the drink lined up in the same shot. We decided we’ve got very old and went off to the meet the Captain cocktail party.

We queued for a while and then had our photo taken with him and a glass of champagne. He later joined us all in the lounge and introduced the heads of all the different sections of the crew. We couldn’t help but compare to the charisma of last years Captain who told us where they were all from and interacted with us all asking where everyone was from.

Aferwards there was a dance competition. Couples were made up with one dancer or crew member and one volunteer from the audience.

Little Japanese Shokotan didn’t have a partner but Turkish Süleyman from the audience was cajoled into it. He towered over her, zipped up his jacket and put his heart into every dance. Whether it was waltz, jive or salsa his moves were the same just different speeds. They never stopped smiling and laughing and the audience soon got behind them cheering loudly when the judges gave their scores. Just fabulous.

Then it was showtime. Cabaret. I take back everything I said last night. The dancing and costumes were breathtaking. Incredibly professional. And a heart stopping moment when 2 guys swung a dancer and launched her at another guy who fortunately caught her.

Off to bed, another fabulous day. Early start again tomorrow. Arrive at Heraklion, Crete at 7am and going to Santorini in the evening.

Night night.

Heraklion, Crete & Santorini

20.4.17

We set alarms today for 7am and were so tempted to roll over and go back to sleep.

We had breakfast, sausage, bacon, egg and mushrooms. This Atkins diet is so easy although I’m not sure last nights syrup sponge, Kahlua and strawberry daquiris are allowed.

Set off from the port around 8.30am.

Heraklion is the first port to have free maps and John was chuffed to have one and even managed not to get us lost. It’s also the first port to have extensive xray security and a few street dogs. Its a strange city, a mix of large brand names, Zara Home, Pull & Bear, Starbucks etc and derelict grotty backstreets.

Lots of graffiti and pleas to open borders and stop fascism. We walked within the city walls and saw some relics and churches along the way, my favourite was St Mina set in a square with the smaller St Catherine next to it.

The place is a shoppers paradise, beautiful boutiques and household items, but so expensive compared to Turkey. 

The market street reminded us of some of the back roads in Istanbul but on a much much smaller scale. If you’re not a shopper 3 hours is more than enough in Heraklion, although we didnt venture as far as the Palace which was in a different direction.

We strolled back to the port where they had free wifi and I hoped to upload yesterdays blog post but it was almost as slow as Turkish internet and when 2 tour groups appeared it was time to join the security queue to avoid being left behind.

We left at 11.30am to sail towards Santorini. I think this is the part I’m most excited about as every photo I’ve seen is just stunning.

We had a drink and enjoyed some sunshine before a delicious lunch. Back into the sunshine but then it clouded over and got really cold. We went back to the cabin and set the alarm for 4pm ready to disembark at 4.30pm.

Bing bong. 6 different languages later we had arrived in Santorini an hour early. They suggested everyone go on deck to see the first glimpse. In my head it was the blue domed roofs like all the photos that we were going to see. Instead it was way in the distance and really cloudy.

Disembarking went on forever. There were a lot of excursions booked as well as other groups such as the EF language school. We were ticket 4 which was the last to board the tender boat to shore at 4.30pm which was our original arrival time so was still pretty good.

The boat across took just a few minutes. There are 3 options to get up to the top. Donkey. Cable car. Walk.

We took sadistic option number 3.

It was a mere 588 long steps to reach the top. It was really hot now and really steep. Additionally the donkeys have no awareness of personal space or direction and were 3 or 4 abreast. The ones coming down were even worse.. Out of control and unable to brake.

Somehow we made it to the top narrowly avoidng being trampled to death. The views and atmosphere were gorgeous. Cute little streets of shops, bars, tavernas and churches.

We asked which direction the blue roofs are and were pointed in the right direction. North. We later learned they’re on the north side of the island. Another trip maybe? We found a coastal path which had amazing views over to the really unusual rock formations.
And some blue roofs.

The island is a real mix of orthadox, and tradition, peppered with Chinese restaurants, fish & chip shops and even a Mc Donalds.

We decided to walk back down again, so much easier than going up. Unfortunately some of the donkeys were having a late night and we met a few on the way down but nothing as scary as before.

We waited a few minutes before the tender boat took us back to the Olympia.

We decided to go to the A la carte for a change. It was superb.

Went to the bar afterwards and the waitress thought I was asking for iced chocolate Bailey’s. It had to be tried and was delicious. So many drinks. So little time !
The time is going way too fast, just one more full day before we go back to reality.

Tonights show was Greek Gods & Goddesses and once again superb dancing, acrobatic skills and intense strength.

Excellent.

Very early start tomorrow, we arrive at Piraeus port at 6.30am to explore Athens.
Guten nacht, buenos nochas, iyi geceler, bonne nuit and loads of others I can’t remember.


Athens! (Or a lesson in how to save €74 when visiting the Acropolis.) And an evening in beautiful Mykonos:)

21.4.17

Our alarm went off at 6am, quick breakfast and made it to the €4.50 hop on hop off bus stop ready for the first one at 7am from Piraeus Port. Only problem was they don’t start til 1st May. Sadly not mentioned on their website. So much for forward planning.

We asked the B1 bus driver the way to the acropolis. He grumpily waved us away & shut the door. The 843 driver was more helpful and told us we should be on the other side of the road. Bus 843 for 5 stops. There was a ticket booth for a different company hop on & off bus but it doesn’t start til 8am and is €20 each.
5 stops on the 843 turned out to be to the metro station and weirdly there was no charge although I offered money.

Our metro tickets were just €1.40 each. We were on the metro by 7.30am. Its a good few stops from Piraeus stop and change at Monastiraki, onto the red line to Syntagma, then change just one stop to Acropoli.

The Akropoli metro stop brings you to just in front of the Tourist Information point. We were there by 8.15am. The lady in the office explained its €20 each for all sites, or some points at €5 each or a walking route which she kindly marked out for us where you can see all the points from up high. Free.
Of course we walked, we were glad we did as it was a big wide path with lovely trees and views and apart from a few dog walkers it was so peaceful away from tourist groups.

And there it is, fabulous to see it. Although it must be said that the rest of Athens looks grim. It’s cloudy today but not sure the sun could help it look much better.

We decided we should make our way back to Piraeus after our walk. We didn’t want to chance rail strikes, flood, famine or anything else that might involve missing the ship and getting stuck in Athens. Really not a place we would want to be stranded.
Akropoli to Syntagma, to Monastiraki to Piraeus, all over rather than underground. The graffiti is horrendous. Literally every wall is covered, not just tags but huge great coloured areas. And the trains too. Really quite depressing.

We couldn’t resist some delicious sugared doughnut rings from a street stall outside Piraeus station, there were simits -round thin bread, a bit like a bagel, found everwhere in Turkey. I’m so glad our simit sellers don’t sell the doughnuts, no way of resisting.
Piraeus is huge with lots of shops, cafes, sandwich bars and pretty churches. It has a nice vibe.

We stopped for coffee, facebooking and blog uploading before going through security and back on board at 11am. 30 minutes before our deadline.

Lots of people got off here, and lots of new people in the entrance areas. There’s a lifejacket safety drill this morning. We avoided it and went to the bar as it seems a bit daft after being on board for 4 days. Unfortunately the bars weren’t serving as everyone should be at the drill..oops.

We decided to have lunch in the posh buffet because it’s too cold for the other one today which made a nice change and then looked for somewhere to have a drink and ended up in the Horizon bar which we previously thought was the Captains bridge. We wondered why there were so many stools up there.

Fab views from up there.

2 army planes went past, one left side and one right side. Then one coming straight for us. Just a tad scary !

John was absolutely shattered and went for a snooze, I read and dozed but not for long. I snuck back off to the Horizon bar. The coffee is so good on this ship.

John joined me after a while and it was cocktail time before reaching Mykonos. Our ticket included a walking tour around Mykonos. We’re booked on, just us and 40 Turks.

We did a bit of packing first. Our cases have to be packed and ready for collection by midnight.

On arrival at Mykonos we waited as instructed for our guide in the Muses lounge along with everyone else that’s got a guided tour. Absolute noisy mayhem. Hated it.

It was absolutely freezing, it’s been blowing a gale all day.

Mykonos is so incredibly beautiful. Definitely our favourite stop of the trip.

Narrowing down my photos of this stunning island is going to be tricky.

We were surprised at the number of very expensive designer brand shops.

So many beautifil little alleyways of little cafes, bars, shops, art galleries and churches.

Considering it was so grey and cold we were surprised to be blessed with a beautiful sunset backdrop.

Once back we couldn’t resist the a la carte and it was perfect. The planning is excellent, the restaurant opening times are juggled around shore stops.

The food was amazing, and Ouzo cheesecake with Lemoncello sauce was definitely a new experience.
Time for a final Baileys iced coffee in the Muses lounge and get settled for this evenings Cirque Fantastique show. And a last chance of having strawberry daquiris.

The show was fabulous again. Mainly recent pop song covers and some aerial acrobatics.

We went off to bed feeling very sad it was our last night. Packed our cases and left them in the corridor and they will be ready for us ashore in the morning.

Another early start, we arrive in Kusadasi at 7am and need to vacate our rooms then, after that we collect our passports, have breakfast and set off for the 4 hour drive home to Fethiye.
So which is better? Olympia or Nefeli?
On the first day we couldn’t help but compare everything to Olympias baby sister the Nefeli that we went on last year.
Overall it was just as fabulous, our only critisism was the many groups of American and Spanish teens or early twenties groups, incredibly noisy and no awareness of how to behave in lounges and at the table and no consideration to others. We wonder if its because we overlapped with Easter and hoping it never turns into a 18-30’s booze cruise.

Disembarkation was much longer of course as so many more people, and being in a smaller ship without the need for tender boats was better.

I think the food was better on the Olympia but staff not as personal and friendly as on the smaller Nefeli.

It may well be that we will just have to go again to be absolutely certain which we prefer 🙂