Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
rafinmd

Fall 2010 Mediterranean tripleheader

Recommended Posts

I am getting ready to leave (October 15) on a series of cruises:

 

Crystal Serenity Athens to Rome (Oct 19-31)

Windsurf Rome to Barcelona (Oct 31-Nov 7)

Queen Mary II Southampton-Cherbourg-New York.

 

I had booked the Serenity first early in 2009. Later that year I was on QM2 and discovered Cunard had a crossing well timed for returning and booked it.

 

Late in 2009 I did a transatlantic crossing on Windsurf and wanted to try Windstar on a regular cruise but had a very full schedule. This cruise fit my schedule so perfectly I felt like it had my name on it.

 

More in about a week.

 

Roy

Edited by rafinmd
Spelling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Roy you said to remind you about the MD thread on this one....Nothing has changed so far. If you have time, could you send in another e mail?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just submitted a reminder to Cruise Critic, and hope we're not waiting much longer. I probably won't be back to this thread until I'm back from the Med.

 

Roy

 

Whoops....I was reading this thread and then posted, while you were posting again on MD....Thanks for taking care of it, and I hope you have a wonderful time cruising!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I left home about 4PM today. The Airport Shuttle arrived early and we arrived at the BWI rail station an hour before my departure to Philadelphia. My train was totally sold out and jam packed but remained dead on time throughout the hour and a half trip. My commuter train to Philadelphia Airport ran late which was a good thing since I would not have caught it if on time. I found my checkin counter for tomorrow and then had about a 10 minute ride to my hotel. It is a beautiful evening in Philadelphia despite just the slightest trace of chill. The temperature at 9PM is about 65 degrees (19C). I have a 10am flight tomorrow, Air Canada to Toronto, Montreal, and Athens.

 

For my first parting shot, while I am spending the night in Philadelphia to prepare for a morning departure, I really haven’t seen any of the city. I am mindful that in less than 3 weeks, the Crystal Symphony will be stopping here with about 130 Cruise Critic members, including many of that forum’s main contributors. I have been blessed by very nice weather for my time here. Best wishes for your stay here to Keith, Anne Marie, Chuck, Len, Marilyn, Gary, Brian, Ernie, Debbie, Becky, Jim, Steve, and all the other CC members on this cruise. May you have as beautiful a day in Philadelphia as I have had today, although I don’t think you’re likely to see the upper 70's, Keith. Judith, I know you won’t be there in person but you’ll certainly be a part of the group in spirit. May your surgery come soon and your recovery be complete.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I left home about 4PM today. The Airport Shuttle arrived early and we arrived at the BWI rail station an hour before my departure to Philadelphia. My train was totally sold out and jam packed but remained dead on time throughout the hour and a half trip. My commuter train to Philadelphia Airport ran late which was a good thing since I would not have caught it if on time. I found my checkin counter for tomorrow and then had about a 10 minute ride to my hotel. It is a beautiful evening in Philadelphia despite just the slightest trace of chill. The temperature at 9PM is about 65 degrees (19C). I have a 10am flight tomorrow, Air Canada to Toronto, Montreal, and Athens.

 

For my first parting shot, while I am spending the night in Philadelphia to prepare for a morning departure, I really haven’t seen any of the city. I am mindful that in less than 3 weeks, the Crystal Symphony will be stopping here with about 130 Cruise Critic members, including many of that forum’s main contributors. I have been blessed by very nice weather for my time here. Best wishes for your stay here to Keith, Anne Marie, Chuck, Len, Marilyn, Gary, Brian, Ernie, Debbie, Becky, Jim, Steve, and all the other CC members on this cruise. May you have as beautiful a day in Philadelphia as I have had today, although I don’t think you’re likely to see the upper 70's, Keith. Judith, I know you won’t be there in person but you’ll certainly be a part of the group in spirit. May your surgery come soon and your recovery be complete.

 

Roy

When traveling by train like this, where do you put your luggage? How many bags did you have for such a long trip coming up?

I hope you have a wonderful time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When traveling by train like this, where do you put your luggage? How many bags did you have for such a long trip coming up?

 

I hope you have a wonderful time.

 

I use 2 backpacks. The larger one is quite large; the train has racks at the ends of the car where that goes. The smaller one is the size of a large rollaboard and I wear it backwards on my chest so I can carry both hands free. That goes in the overhead rack. My total luggage is in the neighborhood of 60 pounds.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have never tried to travel by train with a suitcase. Do the racks at the ends of the train cars have enough room for a number of suitcases? I guess you have to be able to move your luggage by yourself?

I know in Europe that people travel by train extensively, and I always wondered if they have luggage check ins like they do for the airlines. For me, I either fly or throw everything into my mini van and take off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The day was long but pretty uneventful, with 2 pretty long waits. I arrived at Philadelphia airport about 6:40 and was through security about a half hour later. From then it was 3 ½ hours until my first flight, just over an hour on a small jet. Toronto was easy; I arrived about 11:30 and had completed customs, baggage transfer, and Canadian security by noon. Yes I am hooked. As soon as I found my outbound gate, I was at Tim Hortons for chicken soup, and back again in Montreal for yogurt and berries and a couple of muffins to go. My flights have all been right on time, a good thing but it does leave me with 4 hours to kill in Montreal airport. It’s a pain, but much better than rushing to make a connection. My flight to Athens was very uncrowded. I was in premium economy but might have been better off in regular economy as most of the passengers back there were sprawled out along 3 seats.

 

Today’s parting shot deals with the strange state of air fares. I have booked a complex set of flights because they were financially beneficial for me. I am going Philadelphia-Toronto-Montreal-Athens in premium economy for well under $1000. If I were starting in Montreal, the corresponding fare for basic coach would have been well over $4,000, and if I had started at my home airport (BWI) the price would have been about double. I don’t know how one justifies these fares; I just do my best to adapt to them. Based on the passenger count I’ve seen, it doesn’t appear to be working very well for Air Canada either. It really is pretty much like playing the lottery. There must be a better way.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I arrived in Athens about 10:15 and very quickly went through immigration. At baggage claim a porter was waiting with a sign with my name on it; he waved over the Crystal rep for an introduction and then we waited about 15 minutes for my bag to arrive. There were several others with similar signs; most were waiting for a Delta flight arriving within minutes of mine. After my bag arrived we went out to a waiting taxi for the 40-minute drive to the hotel. The Intercontinental is situated about a mile from the center of Athens on a main street with views from the window of several of the city’s hills. I walked into the city and visited the Acropolis Museum. This is quite a new facility, large and very impressive. When I was here 3 years ago, the old museum was a small structure on top of the Acropolis and was already closed. Objects were then being transferred by crane to the bottom of the hill for transfer to the new museum. This museum must be one of the bargains of Athens with a 5 Euro admission fee. It is built on some several thousand year old ruins and the bottom floor has some glass areas where they are in view.

 

I went to bed early and slept about 11 hours.

 

My parting shot today is a bit of a rant. I rechecked Intercontinental wifi fees and they actually start at 20 Euro per day. That is about 6 weeks of internet service at home, and something that many less expensive hotels include for free. A simple service should not cost 4 times as much as a beautiful museum.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I slept until nearly 8, about 11 hours of sleep and am not quite caught up yet. It was a good morning to sleep, the day was quite rainy. I did go out for a walk around lunch time, finding Athens quite a confusing city with a lot of short choppy streets. I got quite lost and cut my return to the hotel quite close to missing my 2pm tour to Sounion. We drove about 90 minutes along the shore to the tip of the Adriatic cape. Sounion dates to the 5th century BC and served both as a religious center and walled fortress. We visited the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, with the remains consisting of rows of beautiful white columns, sitting 200 feet above the sea. Unfortunately, as we arrived at the ruins the day’s rain opened to a downpour. With an hour stop at the site, I decided the best thing to do was grab an early dinner and hot tea at the restaurant. I’m sure the view would have been spectacular on a nicer day. The rain lightened up for the ride back to the hotel but turned nasty again as I took an early evening walk. Later in the evening the rain abated and I took the subway to the town square and tram back, stopping at McDonalds for ice cream and coffee and using the wifi in the town square. It was slow, but it got most of the job done. The transit is cheap and comfortable; one must be a bit careful to watch where one goes since the signs are generally in the Greek alphabet.

 

As today’s parting shot there are many conflicts between the preservation of the historic and the need for progress. Passing through Athens, I passed a subway station where the platform had a large opening viewing the ruins of an ancient civilization, much as I had seen with the glass floors at the Acropolis Museum. This seems an ideal way to combine the heritage of the past with the need for progress.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am so sorry that you didn't have better weather when you went to see the Temple for Posidon....I was there about ten years ago and the view and the weather were spectacular. It was amazing that they could get those massive columns up that steep mountain only using people power. I felt the same way when I was on top of the Acropolis. It was hard to imagine how they could do that marvelous engineering without the use of the machines we have today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I took the local bus and tram into town early today and did some internet work, returning to the hotel by subway. My sightseeing transfer left about 9 and made 2 stops while viewing a number of other sites through the coach window. Our first stop was the 1890's Olympic stadium, home of the first modern Olympics. The 69,000-seat venue is very outdated by today’s standards and played only a minor role in the 2004 Olympics, primarily as the ending point for the Marathon. As is fitting for Athens, most of our time was spent at the Acropolis. This was originally the highest point in Athens, although modern Athens has expanded to include higher points including one hill almost twice as high. The signature feature of the Acropolis is of course the Parthenon, now in ruins. This is not the result of decay. The Parthenon was originally converted to a Cathedral and served that way for many years until it was suddenly destroyed in a war in the 17th century. There are several other major ruins at the site. In ancient times the Parthenon was a symbol of the combined power of church and state, but the major religious activities were conducted in a smaller temple. The original Acropolis museum is still there but has been closed for several years. We returned to the coach at noon and were dockside at 12:25.

 

Crystal Cruises has just implemented a new online checkin system, the Priority Checkin and Planning Center. It has the potential to be a great system but there are certain limitations. When I boarded the Symphony in February I arrived before checkin had started but was still on the ship 35 minutes after arriving and 15 minutes after checkin began. This time it was 55 minutes arrival to boarding, most of it beyond Crystal’s control. We waited on the coach 10 minutes before we were allowed do get off then stood in line 40 minutes waiting for passport control. It was annoying that there were 4 booths for immigration officers but only 2 were staffed. Once I cleared immigration and arrived at the actual Crystal registration area I was 30 seconds in line and 2 ½ minutes for passport collection, credit card processing (unlike some other reports my credit card was swiped), and issuance of my photo id.

 

Crystal does not open the Lido café on embarkation days. I love the Trident grill and will usually get a sandwich there on embarkation and supplement it with soup and salad from the main dining room. Since it was almost time for the MDR to close as I boarded I went right there, got the Cobb salad and skipped the Trident for today. After getting my laptop configured for the ship’s internet and updating this journal, it was time for my stateroom to be ready.

 

The muster drill was at 5:30 with my station in the Hollywood Theater. Dinner followed immediately and sailaway at 8. On the dot we had lines coming off the ship with the final line a few minutes later and the Crystal signature sailaway song “It’s a wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

 

The welcome show introduced us to the Crystal Ensemble of singers and dancers starting with a theme of “what is an audition for the cast like” and an introduction to our dance team. Somewhat surprisingly, although we are traveling East towards Israel, we GAINED an hour tonight, presumably since we are moving out of daylight savings time.

 

I normally make a day’s post the following morning. Wednesday is a day at sea, followed by 2 intensive port days in Ashdod Israel. Due to the port schedule, I may not have time to make my next post until Saturday morning.

 

As today’s parting shot, travel in today’s world often is complicated by long delays and missed connections. So far on this trip virtually everything has been on time or a little early. The only segment that has been behind schedule so far has been my local train from Philadelphia to the airport. My train from BWI arrived on time at 7:02 and the airport train was scheduled for 7:04. If that train had been on time I’d have missed it and waited until 7:34, but since it was late I arrived at the airport 20 minutes earlier than planned. Air travel is always stressful, but it certainly helps when it proceeds according to the plan. I’ve been fortunate on that so far.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The night was a bit choppy but things smoothed out in the morning. I started the way I like with a 5-mile morning walk and also took a few laps with the trekking poles. There were 2 morning presentations in the Crystal Visions enrichment program. Dr. Jay Wolff spoke on “The Struggle for Palestine”, explaining the long history of the Middle East conflicts (sorry, Keith, Chuck and all, Jay is on Serenity for a while). Former Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater spoke on “Tea Parties and the Presidency”. The last half of his presentation conflicted with our 11:45 Meet and Mingle in Palm Court. I believe it was a great success. Since I made 60 name tags and had 15 left there were at least 45 of the 54 registered present and some others may not have used tags. CD Gary Hunter and Paula Jean Pfitzer were both present.

 

The afternoon was a chance to unwind a bit. The afternoon lecture “Verdi’s Israel” by Opera Impresario Thompson did not especially interest me, leaving me time to get some personal things done.

 

In the evening we had the Captain’s welcome party, followed by dinner and the show “Curtain Call” featuring Broadway music with an emphasis on Cats, Evita, and Mama Mia.

 

As my parting shot today there is sometimes talk of internet activity taking the place of real life. Our Meet and Mingle today represented a great example of cyber life and real life coming together. One thing that happened was a special wish for one of the special people on the Crystal forum Judith(02). Judith is a tireless worker and inspiration to us all, who was in surgery Tuesday and has chemo in her future. Our group came together for a special photograph (post 38):

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1292747&page=2

Thanks also to Brian (beav) for getting the photo published. One of our group referred to Judith as “the Godmother of the Crystal forum”. What a great description.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We arrived at the pilot station a little before 6 and were docked about 6:30. The immigration interviews started about 7:15 and went far faster than I expected. I was there about 7:30 and finished the process in about 10 minutes. By the time I left the ship the lines had grown to probably 20 minutes, but it was a far cry from the 45 minutes I waited in line to leave Greece. I was part of a tour organized by barbdog along with foxeysandy and we will be joined tomorrow by jackieb127. We all went through immigration independently and had a bit of confusion meeting up on the dock but had met our guide Chandra and were on the road about 8:15. Today we toured Bethlehem and Jerusalem; tomorrow we will do Masada and the Dead Sea. Israel is a long, narrow country, about 300 miles North to South but probably averages less than 50 miles across. Traffic is heavy, and it took us about 75 minutes to get to Jerusalem, 35 miles away. Bethlehem is in Palestinian hands, and citizens of Israel are not permitted to enter, so Chandra took us to a shop where a transfer was arranged. Imad pulled up with his van and we drove about 20 minutes to the Church of the Nativity, passing a checkpoint with armed guards in each direction. The church was first built in the 3rd century but was destroyed and rebuilt by European Crusaders in the 6th century. It is the oldest active Christian church and has 3 sections (for Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Christians). Imad handed us off to Nadil for a brief tour of the church. There was a 3 hour wait to enter but Nadil took us in the exit and we visited 2 chambers, one with a star and the other with a replica manger scene. Both were in small spaces and it was difficult to get a look at them as there were many pilgrims gathered around to kiss these artifacts. Our group was a bit puzzled by this behavior as the manger is only a replica and a stone star set in the floor is clearly not what the early sheperds would have seen.

 

After Bethlehem Chanda took us to a site overlooking Temple Hill for an overview and then to a local spot for lunch. We spent the afternoon in the Ancient city, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the stations of the cross, the 4 quarters of ancient Jerusalem, and the Western (Wailing) Wall, quite a moving experience. We encountered heavy afternoon traffic and took almost 2 hours to return to the ship, arriving about 7. Due to the late return of the tours the ship’s activities were on a reduced schedule with no headline show. I had a light dinner in the Lido Café.

 

Tonight’s parting shot: It was an interesting experience to be in Israel and see the difficulties of things as simple as moving from one place to another. It is really going to take the wisdom of Soloman to find a practical Solution.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rafin,

I see from your signature that you are a fan of both Crystal and Blount. We, too, have been "Crystalized". I have done some research on Blount and am very interested in their mid-America river cruises. We did Chattanooga to Nashville many years ago on Mississipi Queen and loved it. When you have some time, I would truly like your input on Blount. At one point, I understood the RCCL ships were not well sound-proofed. Have you had problems with that or anything else? Should you prefer to contact me via email, my address is bcarpenter15@triad.rr.com.

Thank you and happy travels,

Betty

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

chezcarp, I'll send you an email, but while I'm on ships internet the exchanges will be slow.

 

Chanda picked us up again at 8. Our time had not permitted us yesterday to visit the Garden and Church at Gethsemane so we went there first. The garden is small and has a feel of being well suited to prayer. The church is a fairly typical looking Roman Catholic structure from the early 20th century and seemed special only for the location. We continued East across the West Bank, passing just South of Jerico, and headed south when we reached the Dead Sea to Masada. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth with an elevation of about 1250 feet below sea level. Masada is a clifflike plateau rising about 1400 feet above the Dead Sea at an elevation of 105 feet. It was originally fortified about 100BC and was intensely developed as a winter Palace by King Herod. A group of Zealots took up refuge at Masada and it was the site of the last Jewish resistance to the Romans in 70AD. It was last used as a Byzantine monastery in the 5th century. It was rediscovered in the mid-19th century, became a National Park in 1966, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

Modern access to Masada is via a cable car built in 1971. We toured the site for about an hour viewing the Snake Path, the system used to bring water from the valley below, the sites of the Palace, Roman baths, Synagogue, and other places. At the conclusion of our Masada tour, we drove another 8 miles south along the Dead Sea shore to a hotel where we had lunch and went for a swim.

 

The Dead Sea is extremely salty, much more so than the ocean or Great Salt Lake. The water was quite warm, but had an oily feel. Chanda had warned us not to put our faces in the water as it would burn our eyes. The best way to swim is on the back, and floating is quiet high on the water. I’m not sure how deep the water was but soon found I could not touch bottom. When I put my legs down and stood erect the water only came up a few inches above my waist. I could not hold that position as my feet immediately tended to come up and it was hard to control the direction they came up. We cleaned up after the swim and drove just over 2 hours back to the ship. Dinner was again open seating in both the Crystal Dining Room and the Lido Café, with the Astoria String Quartet performing in the Starlite Club at 9:30 and a 10PM sailaway. The performance was mostly Baroque with the addition of pieces by John Williams and Scott Joplin, both of which I missed as I went to listen to a little Louis Armstrong (the traditional Crystal sailaway song).

 

As today’s parting shot, I normally carry a GPS with me and like to take note of where I am in relation to other places I’ve visited. I noted that we are just over 100 miles from the wonderful site of Petra, but it seemed it might as well have been a world away. Jordan is Israel’s friendliest neighbor, but crossing over to it seems to be very difficult. What a shame.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I slept late this morning, arising about 6, and only doing about half my usual walk due to a blister on my foot. We are moving quite slowly today, as the distance from Ashdod to Alexandria is rather short and we really need our sea day between these 2 intense ports. We picked up Egyptian Immigration officials outside Port Said about 11AM. There were 2 morning Crystal Visions Enrichment lectures. Dr. Jay Wolff spoke on “The Curse of the Mummy” as we approached Egypt, and Forensic Anthropologist/Author Kathy Reichs spoke on the relationship between her practice and her writing career. I skipped the afternoon lecture by Opera Impresario Thomson Smillie “Send in the Elephants” on Aida.

 

It was a festive culinary day with the Asian Buffet at lunch, the elegant Mozart Tea Time in the afternoon (an opportunity to chat with stitcher6), and a festive Mediterranean dinner capped with a succulent cherries jubilee prepared tableside by our headwaiter, Giuseppe.

 

The evening show featured vocalist Michael Bell performing music of Broadway.

 

Today’s parting shot looks back to another, much different, summer trip I made in 2009. I spent a week at the BSA’s Philmont Training Center in Cimarron, NM. I traveled to New Mexico with a contingent of my Troop’s scouts headed out on a trek, camping with them one night, taking day hikes, and sharing some pre-trek events with them at the Philmont base camp. I explored Santa Fe with 6 of these scouts and 2 of their parents. On Sunday evening (1am Monday my time) one of those six will be recognized as an Eagle Scout. While I look forward eagerly to Alexandria, a part of my heart will be back in Maryland. I will miss the ceremony but was fortunate to be part of this outstanding young man's review panel that confirmed his worthiness for the award. Best wishes, Michael. Congratulations, and well done!

 

Mr. Ferguson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Roy...I have been enjoying your posts, and if I ever get to go to Israel I will be asking you for more info on how to get in touch with the guides you used.

I have heard wonderful things about Crystal Cruises, but I am afraid that cruiseline is a bit out of range for my budget:(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Roy...I have been enjoying your posts, and if I ever get to go to Israel I will be asking you for more info on how to get in touch with the guides you used.

 

I have heard wonderful things about Crystal Cruises, but I am afraid that cruiseline is a bit out of range for my budget

 

Carol, one thing that’s a bit different about a line like Crystal is there is a large variation in the cost from one cruise to the next. They do run from the very expensive to the fairly moderate in price. As one example, this spring I combined a 17-day Pacific Crossing on the Symphony with a 15-day World Cruise Segment on the Cunard Queen Victoria and paid more to Cunard than to Crystal. On the other hand, Crystal is doing a 12-day World Cruise next year covering most of my Queen Victoria itinerary, and that will cost almost as much as last spring’s 32-day total, so you can only decide if an itinerary is a budget buster by looking at that specific voyage. Crystal also tends to work well for me since their usual single supplement is 25%. Some of their more affordable cruises are December cruises on the Mexican Riveria and their late fall crossings from Lisbon to Miami.

 

I would also mention that even if a cruise turns out to be affordable, not every cruise line is right for every person. Some people are likely to be turned off by the formality (the Lido is not typically open for dinner so there’s really no option to the formal nights) or by the emphasis on fixed dinner seatings (that’s changing some, but “anytime dining” will require reservations; there is no general option to show up for dinner whenever you feel like it). If these parameters fit one’s lifestyle Crystal is wonderful; if not it can be a real waste. I experienced that disappointment first hand with another line that promised “dine when you like” and I found out once on board that that only applied if you “liked” 7:30 or later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I slept a bit late again and walked about 2 miles. By the conclusion of the walk, we were approaching the dock. Alexandria is about 3 hours by bus from Cairo, and most of the people on board are doing tours there. I have been to Cairo twice before, once on Silversea from Port Said, and once with Uniworld on a Nile cruise. The Nile cruise had an option for a day trip to Alexandria, but information on it was in the packet we received on arrival and I was so exhausted I missed the option until it was too late to go. Alexandria has been on my bucket list since then.

 

I did two tours today. The morning tour centered on Roman Alexandria. The city was named for Alexander the Great, and sits on an island in the Nile delta. We saw traces of Roman settlements starting with a single column (Pompey’s Pillar) which was part of a Roman temple rivaling the Parthenon. The site also had extensive remains of a Roman bath. Just a few blocks away we toured Alexandria’s catacombs. The extensive network of crypts was dug but never used for the intended purpose. Our guide Nancy told us that a few bones were found there but they were the result of a trick. A group of people were lured to the site with promises of a horse race, and then locked in the chamber to die. A number of bones were in a display case but were a mixture of human and horse bones. The catacombs were very extensive and sometimes ornate, but were also quite hot and humid. Our final major stop was a Roman theater. This theater had been lost and rediscovered by accident in 1964 when a foundation was being dug. There is a large complex that is poorly preserved and a small amphitheater (seating 800) that is now used in the summer for open air concerts and has excellent acoustics. The morning tour was concluded with a visit to the site of the Alexandria lighthouse. This massive tower was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century and a fort, recently restored, now sits on the site.

 

Nancy was back as our guide for the afternoon “Treasures of Alexandria” tour. Both the sites visited were opened fairly recently. The Alexandria museum just celebrated it’s 7th anniversary but is in an older building which once served as the American Consulate. The 3 floors of exhibits cover three periods of Egyptian history, the ancient period of the pharos, the Roman period, and the modern period. Our other stop was the Alexandria Library. I believe this is on the site of the original, long destroyed, library but the building was just opened in 2002. There are 3 parts, the library itself, a conference center, and a planetarium. The lowest floor has a number of displays of Egyptian antiquities but the majority of the building is the library itself. It is strictly a research library and not a lending library. The reading room is quite massive, with I would guess about 1 to 2 thousand reading stations. Our guide pointed out 2 special features. One is not quite operational yet but there is a machine capable of printing a book on demand and binding it within about 5 minutes. People will be able to request a book from several thousand titles and have it printed and bound while they wait. This is actually operational for library personnel and will be available to the public when copyright arrangements are finalized. Agreements are in place for about half the titles and negotiations are in progress for the remainder. The other feature the guide explained was an “internet archive”. Internet pages back to about 1996 are cataloged and there is an interface to specify a web address and then “tack me back to 19xx”. I haven’t seen it in use but it sounds fantactic.

 

We returned to the ship about 5 and it feels like a ghost ship with so many people in Cairo. Rather than dinner, I chose a “second lunch” just before the Trident grill closed, and will get a bedtime snack once the Lido Café opens for dinner. It was also a good time to drop down to the Avenue Saloon for a while; usually it is a bit too smoky to be pleasant. It was great to have Larry Dunsmore on Serenity after listening to him play on Symphony.

 

Today’s parting shot is kind of a tale of two cities. Cairo is clearly the main draw for this port. I think there were a total of 4 busses leaving for tours of Alexandria and I was on two of them with one more (El Alamein) to come tomorrow. I feel like I am stepping right in the middle of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Less Traveled”

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My tour today was El Alamein, a museum and cemeteries from World War II. These were colonial times in Africa. Egypt was a colony of England, Libya was a colony of Italy and aligned with the Axis, Tunisia and Morocco were French colonies, under Axis control after France fell. The battles spread the entire width of Africa, with one of the battles at El Alamein. It is about 100 km west of Alexandria. The highway follows the Mediterranean coast, but it is mostly obscured from view by a steady string of resorts. The main stop was the battle museum. Our tour started with an overview of the progress of the war on a large interactive map, and then we proceeded through a series of rooms displaying uniforms, weaponry, and other artifacts from several of the participating countries. We next stopped at the Allied Cemetery, a very impressive layout. A book at the entrance had the name and location of each soldier buried. I looked for Ferguson and found 2 graves, both soldiers from New Zealand. There did not seem to be any Americans buried there; from the displays in the museum the US was certainly involved with Gen. Eisenhower one of the commanders, but perhaps not in the El Alamein area.

 

We went further west for lunch at one of the resorts, and stopped at the Italian and German cemeteries on the way back to the ship. At both of these sites the remains were in crypts rather than standard graves.

 

We returned to the ship just in time for afternoon tea. Sailaway was at 6PM. I think most people were still tired from Cairo and the evening activities were quite low key with a flute performance by Clare Langan in the Stardust club.

 

During the day today I visited the site of a battle fought under very difficult conditions. It was quite warm even in late October and would have been terrible, especially with the dust, in the summer. We are now headed to an eventual conclusion of the voyage in Rome. We have a wonderful relationship today with Italy largely because of the dedication of many thousands of men, a number of whom gave what Lincoln called “The last full measure of devotion”. We share a great gratitude to these brave people. Let us never forget.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We had a beautiful day at sea. There was a bit of haze this morning making the sunrise look more like the moon but the day turned out wonderful. My blister is healing slowly. It is still there but did not bother me walking and I did a total of about 3 miles, including one with the treking poles. There were 2 morning lectures–-Jay Wolff spoke on the Crusades, and Marlin Fitzwater on “Backstairs in the White House. I skipped the afternoon Opera lecture. We also had the open house with a chance to tour the penthouse cabins and a late afternoon galley tour.

 

I dealt with a bit of a dilemma today. Crystal has a program called “Share the experience” where a newcomer and Crystal Veteran are paired and each gets an extra onboard credit. I was counting on this credit to balance my budget. I had missed some of the fine print and had not understood that this credit was on a per person basis. Having found myself sitting on a few hundred extra dollars, I did some afternoon shopping and will go home with an unexpected camera and watch.

 

Before dinner we had the Crystal Society party. One of my dinner tablemates was recognized for completion of 56 cruises. She sold her house and now calls the ship her permanent address, saying she is homeless but has a really nice yacht.

 

The evening entertainment is “Across the Pond”. The Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers has a repertoire of about 5 shows with a new show unveiled about once a year. This show, featuring primarily music of the Beatles and Elton John, is brand new and is only about the 4th time it has been performed.

 

My parting shot is an impression from “Across the Pond”. It may be just a first impression but it seemed that the cast was very integrated. In a couple of weeks I’ll be on QM2 and Cunard’s philosophy is you get the best singers and the best dancers and their roles do not mix. Crystal has lead vocalists, dancers, and singer-dancers. These roles are pretty well differentiated, but the dancers do backup singing and the singer-dancers will take on significant singing roles, primarily while the lead vocalists are changing costumes. It may have just my first impression, but tonight the lead vocalists seemed to particularly well choreographed and the singer-dancers took on major songs as solos while the lead vocalists were working in the background. As entertainment, either philosophy can produce a fine show, but I think the Crystal philosophy where everyone’s talents are used to the fullest creates a richer result. As much as I like the philosophy for it’s entertainment value, where it really stands out is as a model for life.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My final day at sea on Serenity was marked by mixed weather. It was a warm morning, a bit cloudy, for my early walk, but turned cooler as the day progressed. I attended all 3 of the Crystal Visions Enrichment programs today. In the morning Dr. Jay Wolff spoke on “Rome–Corruption and Grandeur”, followed by Marlin Fitzwater on “Reagan Remembered”. The beautiful Mediterranean buffet was held at lunch time, although I enjoyed my final lunch of the cruise at my favorite Trident Grill (I have all-day tours at each of the remaining ports).

 

Kathy Reichs spoke on “Forensic Anthropology: From Crime Lab to Crime Fiction” telling how she converts her real world experiences to books and Bones episodes. There was a great moment preceding the lecture. Ms. Reichs is currently fighting laryngitis. Cruise Director Gary Hunter is a performing ventriloquist and in his introduction explained he had Ms. Riechs notes telling her “just keep your lips moving; I’ll be here”. My final afternoon on the ship was rounded out with another splendid tea on Palm Court.

 

This evening Jon Courtenay performed his piano comedy act in the Stardust club. It is the first time I have heard Mr. Courtenay perform and I certainly hope not the last.

 

As today’s parting shot, there are frequent discussions among cruisers between those who cruise for the ports and those who see the ship as the destination. I identify myself solidly with those who cruise for the ports, but there are times when we will be at sea and the Serenity has been a great substitute for a destination.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While our schedule called for us to tender to Valletta, we actually docked about 7AM. Unfortunately, we missed some of the best photo opportunities for our scenic entry into this majestic walled city as it was dark until we were very close to port, and we left looking directly into the sunset. The views were still majestic. This was the only Crystal port where I had not made advance plans. My final choice was the new tour “Going Green in Malta”, although I had also considered a bicycle tour and a walking tour.

 

As things turned out, there were only 3 of us on the tour, along with a driver, guide, and Crystal escort, making us 3 very well cared for people. The 6 of us boarded a small van and started the day off with a view of the harbor from the top of the hill. The natural harbor is small and very well protected, and there are ancient walls rising abruptly from the dock. Our viewpoint was from the heart of Valletta, looking down on the harbor and surrounding cities from probably 100 meters above the water. After our overview of the city we drove about 15 minutes to Ta’ Qali National Park. This park is on the site of a former military air base, and many of the hangers have been converted to craft shops where we browsed very briefly. We then drove a very short distance to an area of the park with some fields and a childrens’ play area. Our tree was about 3 feet tall, with about a gallon size pot of roots and soil. A representative of the park dug a hole, and we placed the tree in the hole and each of us replaced some of the dirt around the base of the tree. We were later emailed a picture

of us around the tree and an appropriate certificate. We made a stop at the ancient walled city of Mdina and explored that village with it’s moat and very narrow streets for about 30 minutes.

 

We paid a visit to the Ta’ Zeppi organic farm. This large (2 sq mi) farm sits on the southwest side of the island. There are several crops grown there, but the primary one seems to be olives which are processed into olive oil. The olives must be processed within hours of picking. The machines cut the olives into small pieces and they are processed in a centrifuge to extract the oil. It is then “filtered” not by straining, but by being allowed to sit for 24 hours to let the sediment settle to the bottom and the pure oil poured out from a couple inches above the bottom of the vat. One of the fascinating aspects of the organic operation is that every 3rd tree in the olive groves is a different species of tree which is attractive to the bugs and keeps them away from the olives.

 

After a wonderful organic lunch prepared at the farm, we made our final stop at a Valletta orphanage where we dropped some food off for the children. We learned that this orphanage had no open space and the children made frequent visits to the park and playground where we had just planted our tree.

 

With our small group, things went very quickly and we returned to the ship around 3, leaving time for what I expect will be my final tea in Palm Court, and a backstage tour of the Galaxy Lounge. We had drinks out on deck for our 5PM sailaway.

 

Tonight’s evening entertainment was a variety show in the Stardust Club featuring Ventriloquist Gary Hunter, Singer Michel Bell and the dance team, Natalie and Christopher.

 

As todays parting shot, today was a bit of an experiment for me, for Crystal, and for the people of Malta. A “Going Green” tour is certainly a good idea in principle, but it seems to have stopped short of a commercial success and I’m not sure much was accomplished for the planet. Still, I have to applaud Crystal for putting forth the idea and giving it a try. I hope this was the start of a great program, and with a little more experience and refinement it can be a step forward. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Q&A with the Coral Expeditions Team
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...