06.09.2016 - 23.09.2016
Well I don’t know where to start, but here goes. We had a relaxing morning in Reykjavik, we had a bit of a sleep in, visited Nordic Visitor to say hello and hand back the mobile phone they gave us for the trip and then went and did some last minute shopping. We had to laugh at Nordic Visitor as we told them that we had done 4300 km in the car and they couldn’t believe it. The ring road around Iceland is about 1300 km so that goes to show how much we fitted in. We then made our way to the airport. Things were still going well at that stage. We booked in with WOW, they are an Icelandic service. Here is the plane. Even the staff wear this colour.
Our flight to Rome was 4 and a half hours, arriving at 10pm. We got off the plane only to find that our bags were not there. Not one but both were missing. We always pack our suitcases with half our stuff in each one, so at least if one case goes missing we both have clothes, but you are stuffed if both go missing. We also usually have a spare pair of everything in our day packs but as it was only Iceland to Rome we got a bit slack so ended up with only the clothes on our back. We waited hoping they would turn up but they didn’t. So we went to the lost luggage counter only to find about 20 people from our flight all there with no bags. There was one disinterested man helping us. In the end he told us his scanner was not working, handed us a claim form and told us to ring the airport tomorrow to see if the bags had turned up. By then it was midnight. We had arranged a transfer to our hotel and we really thought that they would have left, but no there they were still waiting for us. So we got into a Mercedes Benz with just our daypacks. Then the fun began. He was in such a hurry that we were doing 160km down the freeway dodging slow cars. It was pretty scary and I must add that I thought about the Dodi and Diana incident for a second. We were glad to make it to the hotel. The staff were there waiting for us and showed us to our room. We tried to get a couple of hours sleep before working out what to do.
We got a little bit of sleep and went down to breakfast. We were due to do a walking tour around Rome for the day but we had to cancel this because of following up our luggage. I have been to Rome but Shane has missed out as the next 2 days we have trips booked out into the countryside. Having cancelled our tour, we tried to ring the number that they had given us to make enquiries but it didn’t work, so after speaking to the fellow at our hotel, he talked us into going back to the airport to lodge our claim and see what we could find out. So we had an unexpected trip on the airport train. We got sent here and there before finally seeing a lady who told us that our bags were on a flight from Geneva at 3.25pm, so she suggested we stay at the airport until then. This seemed a bit strange, and it was. Once again, we waited for our bags and nothing arrived. So we waited over an hour in a queue to lodge our claim formally. There were some pretty angry people including us but we tried to hold it together. At this stage we had come to the conclusion that we would not see our bags again. All the nice things we bought in Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland were gone. So around 5pm we got back on the train and headed back into Rome and made our way to the supermarket to buy all our toiletries and then went up the road to try and get some clothes to tie us over. Deep down we are hoping the bags will turn up at the hotel, but they only have 2 days to do this. I found it hard to find some shorts to fit but found some bright orange ones and an Italia t-shirt. The only thongs we could find were expensive Haveanas so that was my new wardrobe. Shane was a bit luckier.
Today we spent a day out of Rome to visit Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d”Este. Our first stop was Hadrian’s Villa. It is a large Roman archaeological complex at Tivoli. The villa was constructed as a retreat from Rome for the Roman Emperor Hadrian during the second and third decades of the 2nd century AD. During the later years of his reign he governed the empire from the villa. It was incredible to walk around and realise how old the ruins were.
We had lunch in Tivoli before heading to Villa d’Este.
It is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is one of the great 17th century villas with lots of water features, in fact there are about five hundred jets in fountains, pools and water troughs. What is so incredible is that there are no pumps, it all works by water gravity pressure from the top of the garden. The villa itself is surrounded on 3 sides by a sixteenth century courtyard. Some of the water features are:
The Hundred Fountains
The Musical fountain – the water pressure makes the organ play classical music.
Plus lots more
We got back to Rome around 4.30 and were not far from the Colosseum so I talked Shane into walking there so he could see it. Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years. The Colosseum also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city Rome. Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built. Construction began in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80. The Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. It was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions and re-enactments of famous battles. Although partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is still an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome.
As we had made it that far we decided to get tickets on the hop on hop off bus for the evening so we could sit on the bus and at least see some of Rome. We also visited:
The Arch of Constantine which is a triumphal arch, situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. The arch is 21 m high, 25.9 m wide and 7.4 m deep. It has three archways, the central one being 11.5 m high and 6.5 m wide and the lateral archways 7.4 m by 3.4 m each.
The Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other.
One of the most spectacular things we saw was the Monument to Victor Emanuel II, also known as 'Il Vittoriano' and sometimes also referred to as the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Nation), is a bombastic monument built with sparkling white marble from Botticino in the province of Brescia. It is decorated with numerous allegorical statues, reliefs and murals, created by artists from all corners of the country. The monument, about 80 meters high and 120 meters wide (260 x 390ft), consists of a large flight of stairs leading up to a massive colonnade. To the right and left of the main entrance - which is closed off by a gate at night - are two fountains, allegorical representations of the two seas that border Italy. The left one depicts the Adriatic Sea and the right one is the Tyrrhenian Sea.
At the center of the monument is the colossal equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel, the 'Father of the Nation'. The statue, the work of sculptor Enrico Chiaradia, weighs fifty tons and measures twelve meters long (39ft). It rests on a pedestal decorated with allegorical reliefs representing Italian cities. At the foot of the statue is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, inaugurated in 1921. Guards of honor, alternatingly selected from the marine, infantry and air divisions, stand on guard here day and night. The upper section of the monument consists of a massive curved colonnade with fifteen meter (50ft) tall columns, framed on either side by small temple-like wings with a classical front. Inside, the colonnade is decorated with murals and the frieze on top is adorned with statues that symbolize the regions of Italy. Two bronze quadrigae crown the monument, each with a statue of a winged Victory. The quadriga on the right represents freedom, while the one on the left represents unity. They were added in 1927, sixteen years after the monument was inaugurated.
Here are some other sights that we thought worth a photo.
Once again I had already arranged a trip to Tuscany before we came away, so with still no idea where our suitcases were we had an early start and made our way to the meeting point for the trip. Tuscany is a region of Italy. It is known for its landscape. We decided we could not miss Tuscany so did a day trip from Rome to see as much as we could. We visited the region called Val d’Orcia, or Valdorcia, which extends from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata.
Montepulciano which is a medieval and Renaissance hill town. It sits high on a 605-metre limestone ridge. The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 1.5 kilometres from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The city is renowned for its walkable, car free nature.
Montalcino is a hill town and is famous for its Brunello di Montalcino wine. The town takes its name from a variety of oak tree that once covered the terrain. It is first mentioned in historical documents in 814AD. It is also famous for the Abbey of Sant’Antimo which was formerly a Benedictine Monastery.
A farm to have a traditional Tuscan lunch in their wine sellar. We tried lots of wines with lunch.
The scenery was lovely
We then went to Peinza which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996 before the entire valley was listed. The layout of the town was created by Pope Pius II, who wanted to change the look of his birth town.
It was a long drive back to Rome and we got back around 20:30. We then walked back to the hotel. There were still no suitcases in our room so we checked our claim online and it stated that they had located our suitcases and they were to be delivered by courier. That is all we knew. So went to bed hoping they would turn up overnight.
Upon waking Shane went downstairs to check if the bags had been delivered during the night. They hadn’t. So we had some breakfast. At 9am I was getting a bit worried as we were due to have a shuttle to Civitavecchia port at 11:30 to get on the Royal Princess. I managed to get through to the lost baggage department who told me that the bags were with a courier and should be delivered by 14:00. So we made the decision to change our shuttle service to 14:30. This cost us a considerable amount more money but what could we do. We checked out of the hotel and waited, and waited, and waited some more. Just before 14:00 our bags arrived. I gave the courier a big hug, I don’t think he knew what to do. So with bags in hand we headed off for our next adventure. We arrived at the port and got onto the ship, had something to eat, familiarised our self with this massive ship and then went to bed. (a lot less stressed than we had been for the last few days)
This morning when we awoke we had arrived in Naples. It is the capital of the Campania region and means new city. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It was also the most bombed Italian city in World War II. We decided to visit the Amalfi coast for the day. The Amalfi Coast, or Costiera Amalfitana in Italian, is a stretch of coastline on the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy, extending from Positano in the west to Vietri sul Mare in the east. The scenery as we drove along the coast was lovely. It was an overcast day with some drizzle but we still enjoyed it. Our first stop was Positano, which is a village in the hills leading down to the coast. It was a port in medieval times and prospered during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It has been featured in several films over the years. The main sight is the church of Santa Maria Assunta which features a dome made of tiles as well as a thirteenth-century Byzantine icon of a black Madonna. According to local legend, the icon had been stolen from Byzantium and was being transported by pirates across the Mediterranean. A terrible storm had blown up in the waters opposite Positano and the frightened sailors heard a voice on board saying "Posa, posa!" ("Put down! Put down!"). The precious icon was unloaded and carried to the fishing village and the storm abated.
The scenery along the coastline was stunning.
Next was the town of Amalfi which lies at the mouth of a deep ravine at the foot of Monte Cerreto (1,315 metres) surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery. First mentioned in the 6th century, Amalfi acquired importance as a maritime power. In the 1920s and 1930s, Amalfi was a popular holiday destination for the British upper class and aristocracy. Today it is an important tourist destination and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Amalfi Cathedral is a 9th century Roman Catholic cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo. It is dedicated to the Apostle Saint Andrew whose relics are kept there. It is predominantly of Arab-Norman Romanesque architectural style.
Our final stop was Ravello which has approx 2,500 inhabitants. Its scenic beauty makes it a popular tourist destination, and earned it a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Ravello was founded in the 5th century.
We then headed back to the ship. As we farewell Naples we had a view of Mt Vesuvius and you realised how big it was and how much trouble Naples will be in if it erupts again.
Today we had a day at sea, so this gave us an opportunity to really relax and come to terms with how stressed we had been for the last few days. We had a lovely sleep in, had some breakfast and then sat out on our balcony.
We went to a lecture on the ports of Kotor and Corfu and then went to an interesting information session about the ship. They talked about the workings of the bridge and the technical engineering of the ship.
We met up with a couple of people from the States that we had met on our Tuscany trip and had dinner with them, but it was nice to have a relaxing day.
We were up early this morning as we were due to arrive in Kotor in Montenegro. This port was not on our original itinerary but due to the trouble in Turkey the itinerary was changed. It was a lovely spot so we were glad we went there. First settled by the Ancient Romans, Kotor was founded as early as the 5th century BC and was later fortified by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 535. Kotor is a triangle fortress-port nestled between the Montenegrin mountains and a beautiful inlet of the Adriatic. We just went on a ship tour but it was ok. Our first stop was at Njegusi. To get there we had to make our way up 1000 metres around 28 hairpins. The view was amazing though and our ship looked tiny.
We stopped in Njegusi as they are famous for their prosciutto. We had a sandwich with homemade cheese and prosciutto in it. Yum. We then had a walk around the little village. It was the birthplace of Peter Petrovic-Njegos, considered the most important leader in Montenegrin history.
Our next stop was Cetinje. Ivan Crnojevic, Lord of Montenegro from 1465 – 1490 moved his capital to Cetinje. It is thus the Old Royal Capital of Montenegro. It is also the historic and the secondary capital of Montenegro, where the official residence of the President of Montenegro is located. It is located at the base of the Lovcen mountains. It found itself under siege during the Ottoman Empire. Here is Ivan Crnojevic.
We then had a wander around town. We visited the church.
Had a walk up to the old monastery.
There was a lovely square and look out towers.
We then headed back to Kotor which is a fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, in a bay near the limestone cliffs of Mt. Lovćen. Characterized by winding streets and squares, its medieval old town has several Romanesque churches, including Kotor Cathedral. There are walls surrounding the old town.
It was quite hot so we did not do the walk up to the church but here are some photos of the church and the wall.
Back on the ship we were able to get some lovely shots of the area.
We then set sail for our next destination. We have to laugh. The ship horn is the music to the love boat theme. Shane is going to try and get it on video. We passed some lovely little villages as we sailed back down the fjord.
Today we awoke docked at Corfu which is the second largest of the Ionian Islands. It is bound up with history from the beginnings of Greek mythology. In 2007 the city’s old quarter was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. We only had half a day here today and we come back later in the trip so we had a relaxing morning on the ship. For those who have never been on a cruise ship here are a couple of photos.
The main pool area where you can relax, swim and watch movies under the stars.
The pool area for adults only.
Some views of the Piazza.
Shane reading out on our balcony.
Here are some facts about the ship. The Royal Princess holds 3,600 passengers; its tonnage is 141,000. It has 1,346 crew on board. It is 1,083 feet in length and its beam is 126 feet. It is 217 feet high. It looks top heavy as there are 17 decks. We were particularly surprised when we heard it only has a draft of 28 feet. While docked I even splurged and had my hair cut. Around 14:00 the ship set sail for our next destination of Crete.
In the evening we went and watched the movie “The Martian”. They have movies under the stars and it was such a lovely night so we really enjoyed seeing the movie again. After the movie had finished the ships fountain went off to the music from James Bond movies.
This morning we continued sailing until we reached Crete around midday. Crete is the birthplace of Zeus himself and is the largest and most populated of the Greek Islands. The capital and largest city is Heraklion. Heraklion was officially founded by the Saracens in 824, but nearby Knossos was the centre of the Minoan empire at least 5000 years ago. Its Europe’s oldest civilisation. This was part of Haraklion as we came towards shore.
I had prepaid for the hop on hop off bus so off we went to see as much as we could. Our first stop was “Koules” The Fortress at the Sea. This admirable work of human ingenuity was built by the Venetians in the 3rd decade of the 16th century. It has been named “Rocca a Mare” or “Castello a Mare” but the name “Koules” prevailed, which was given by the Turks during the period of Turkish domination. It guarded the city from invaders. Built of huge boulders it is comprised of 2 levels and is divided into 26 compartments by thick walls.
We then went on to Knossos Palace or the Palace of Minos. It is one of the world’s most significant historic sites. It’s the oldest palace in Europe, where the legendary Minotaur with its bull head and giant human body lurked in the ancient Labyrinth. Knossos was the cultural and political heart of the Minoan and, quite possibly Atlantis empires. Construction on the grounds started nearly 10,000 years ago. There are ancient murals and frescoes which are stunning.
Here are some of the old arches around town.
We then headed for Liontaria Square. The “Morosini” fountain for Liontaria and the relevant aqueduct were a significant technical and aesthetic achievement.
It was a pretty hot day so we headed back to the ship.
Today we had a whole day in Mykonos. This is another Greek Island. The island spans an area of 85.5 square kilometres. In Greek mythology, the Mykonos was named after its first ruler, Mykons, the son or grandson of the god Apollo. The island is also said to have been the location of a great battle between Zeus and Titans and where Hercules killed the invincible giants having lured them from the protection of Mount Olympus. It is even said that the large rocks all over the island are the petrified testicles of the giants. We headed to Mykonos town.
We wandered around the charming whitewashed homes and blue domed churches on narrow and winding streets.
There is also a part called Little Venice which is right on the waterfront near the windmills. We stopped for a coffee. Our ship is towering in the background.
Not only did we have a coffee but we met the famous relation to “Petros the Pelican”. Years ago a fisherman saved Petros and he became famous with tourists, he is no longer around but some of his relations are. These pelicans are much different from the ones in Australia. He was pink. He was just wandering around Little Venice.
The famous Mykonos windmills are a defining feature of the landscape. There are many dotted around the island, but most are concentrated in the main town of Chora. The famous "Kato Mili" in Chora (Greek for lower mills), stand in a row on a hill overlooking the sea to harness the strong northern winds. Capped with wood and straw, the windmills were built by the Venetians in the 16th century to mill flour and remained in use until the early 20th century. Many have been refurbished and restored to serve as homes to locals and vaults to numerous heritage documents.
Here is Panagia Paraportiani (the church of our lady) is one of the most famous architectural structures in Greece. It took over 200 years to build the church. Construction began in the 15th century and was completed in the 17th century.
There were lots of tavernas around so we stopped right on the waterfront and Shane had a beer.
There was plenty of fresh seafood for lunch.
After quite a while wandering around we headed back to the ship.
This morning we awoke and we were in Athens. A lot of people are leaving the ship today but we still have another week. Athens is the capital of Greece. It dominates the Attica region and is one of the world’s oldest cities, spanning around 3,400 years. We arrived at the port of Piraeus. This morning we left Athens and went to visit the Corinth Canal. This canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. The builders dug the canal through the Isthmus at sea level, no locks are employed. It is 6.4 km in length and only 21.4 metres wide at its base. This makes is impassable to most modern ships. The canal was completed in 1893. We not only got to see if from above but we also go to go by boat through the canal.
From the canal
We then returned to Athens and in the afternoon we met our guide for a tour around Athens. Athens is the home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis and the Daphni Monastery.
We saw many sights.
The Acropolis – it is an ancient citadel located on an extremely rocky outcrop above Athens. It contains the remains of several ancient buildings the most famous is the Parthenon. There is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back at the fourth millennium BC.
The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Construction began in 447 BC.
The Propylaia serves as the entrance to the Acropolis.
The Erechtheion is an ancient temple on the north side of the Acropolis. This was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. It was built entirely of marble.
The temple of Athena is a temple on the Acropolis. It was built around 420 BC.
This was one of the views of Athens from the Acropolis.
Filopappou Hill is a green area to the south west of the Acropolis. It provides you with a great view of Athens and the Aegean Sea. It was pretty hazy.
The Temple of Zeus is a colossal ruined temple dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC. The temples glory was short lived as it fell into disuse after an invasion in the 3rd century AD.
Hadrian’s Arch is a monumental gateway. It spanned an ancient road from the centre of Athens.
The Panathenaic Stadium is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. It hosted the Zappas Olympics in 1870 and 1875. It was once again used as an Olympic venue in 2004. It is the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.
The tomb of the unknown soldier is guarded by the Presidential Guard. The unit is known for its uniform. They guard the tomb around the clock. They switch positions every fifteen minutes and remain completely motionless at attention in the meantime. Every hour on the hour the changing of the guard occurs, with a Grand change at 11am on Sunday mornings.
We made it back to the ship with a bit of time to spare. We were exhausted and hot. It had been a busy day.
Today was our wedding anniversary. This was the entrance to our room.
They put this up on the door.
We were in Santorini today. Santorini is one of the most popular Greek Islands. It was formed around 3600 years ago by a massive volcanic eruption. The island was reshaped forming 6 islands. Santorini is the largest but it is only 10 miles long by 3 miles wide. Our ship anchored at sea and we tendered to the island. We decided to head by boat to Oia and start our adventures there. Oia is a small town. It was one of the two harbours of ancient Thera.
The town extends for almost 2 km along the northern edge of the caldera and is built on the steep slope. There are narrow passageways and a central square. There are white washed blue domed churches and traditional Cycladic houses and cave houses that are carved into the rock face.
They use donkeys to transport people around.
From there we hopped on a bus and headed to Fira which was 11 km away. Fira is the capital of Santorini. It can be found on the west coast of the island, on the caldera cliffs opposite the volcanco.
To get back down to the ship we went by cable car. The cable car serves 1200 people per hour.
We had a lovely evening on the ship, we ate out on the back deck looking at Fira.
For our anniversary the waiters sang “happy anniversary” and bought us a lovely chocolate mousse cake.
Today we had a day at sea travelling back to Kotor, Montenegro. We relaxed on our balcony and read books most of the day. In the evening we went and saw a musical show which was all soul music.
We were back in Kotor today, the ship anchored further away from the town today.
For something different we decided to go on a RIB to visit the blue grotto.
We then relaxed at a beach resort. We had our first swim in the Adriatic.
The scenery along the way was once again beautiful and we saw it from a different perspective being close to the ocean instead of up in the cruise ship.
Leaving the fjord on the ship we had a lovely rainbow.
After sailing overnight, we were back in Corfu. Unfortunately, due to the trouble in Turkey our ports there were cancelled so we have done some double up towns. Not much you can do when this happens. From 300 BC, Corfu was attacked and conquered successively by Spartans, Illyrians and the by the Romans. About a thousand years later, in the 6th century AD, the island was part of the Byzantine Empire based in Constantinople. With the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the 13th century, Corfu changed hands a few times, ending up under the control of the Venetians in the 14th century. Corfu is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We decided to just enjoy time on the ship. Here are some pictures of the old part of Corfu we took from the ship. The fortress is from the 15th century.
Our next stop was Messina on the island of Sicily. It is the third largest city in Sicily and Messina rests at the tip of the boot of Italy, separated three miles by the Strait of Messina from the mainland. Although we did not wander around Messina the ship was docked right in front of the city.
This is the Madonna who looks over the Sicilian people but we sailed right past it.
We only had 7 hours here so we decided to head to Taormina for the morning. This has been a coastal resort town since Roman times. There were remnants of Greek and Roman history, a medieval quarter and castle ruins. It was a lovely town to wander around.
There is a symbol for Sicily and it is everywhere.
There is only one fountain in town.
We wandered down Corso Umberto which is Taormina’s main thoroughfare.
We had a refreshing granita (this is ice and you can have fresh lemon on it or coffee and almond like Shane). It was really yummy. We were also told that the local Cannoli was a must. It certainly was. It was not like the ones in Oz, it was stuffed with sweetened ricotta cheese with sprinkled with pistachio nuts and they were really big.
We found the narrowest street in town.
We also had a pretty good view of Mt Etna. This is Europe’s tallest and most active volcano and has erupted over 130 times in recorded history. The last big eruption was in 2002 but it still rumbles regularly and this last occurred in May.
We visited the Greek Theatre which was built in the 3rd century BC. It is still used today for performances.
You can even see Mt Etna from the theatre.
Taormina from the theatre
We would have liked longer but we had to head back to the ship to sail for our final destination of the cruise.
Around 16:30 we had sight of the famous Stromboli. We sailed right past it and could see it smoking.
Stromboli is a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, containing one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. It is one of the eight Aeolian islands. The volcano has erupted many times and is constantly active with minor eruptions, often visible from many points on the island and from the surrounding sea, giving rise to the island's nickname "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean". The most recent major eruption was on 13 April 2009. Stromboli stands 926 m above sea level, and over 2,700 m on average above the sea floor.
Today was our last day sailing the Med. Around lunch time we arrived in Portoferraio on the island of Elba, which is part of Italy.