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Ciao! Photo Review Italy and Adriatic on Quest Oct 3 2017

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Getting Lost (Again) in Venice

 

Doge's Palace/Palazzo Ducale

 

After a nice lunch on board, we took the Vaporetto from the San Basilio to San Marco to meet our guide, Andrea, for a tour of the Doge's Palace. This is the big pink marble building in Saint Mark's Square. Our guide had a "skip the line" access for us, but there really wasn't much of line during the time we were there. I found one of the most interesting things about the palace, was the interior courtyard. You can turn around 360 degrees and see architecture from Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, in one spin!

 

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The Doge's Palace in St Mark's Square from the water

 

 

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The dramatic Sala del Maggior- Hall of the Great Council

To see more photos from our tours in St Mark's Square, see our post here:

http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2017/10/26/st-marks-square-venice

 

 

After bidding Andrea goodbye, we made our way back to the vaporetto. St Mark's square was jammed with people waiting for the sunset views. We wanted to board with plenty of time to unpack before participating in the late comers muster drill at 8:15. It shouldnt have been hard, we knew where the station was where we were dropped off, we knew the number of the vaporetto we took to get there. But after making 4 trips back and forth between San Marco Giardinetti and San Marco Vallaresso docks, up and over the insanely crowded Ponte della Paglia bridge each time, we learned that the vaporeto only went as far as the car park, and not all the way to San Basilio at that time of day. Finally, we decided we would take a vaporetto anywhere to avoid crossing in front of St Mark's Square and having to cross that dang bridge again!! I will make the argument that we werent really lost at all, but were suffering from a problem my relatives in Maine call " you can't get theah from heah". This is a common problem in Venice. It looks like you SHOULD be able to get there, but you can't without some combination of walking, bridges, ferries and plain old good luck!

SO we quit walking across the sqaure and simply got on board a vaporetto headed towards Academia and walked from there to San Basilio.

 

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The insanely crowded Ponte della Paglia Bridge from the bridge of sighs)

When we returned to the ship, we had time to work out in the gym, get cleaned up, and have some dinner at Windows Cafe before we had to attend the make up Muster Drill. Unfortunately, we missed the 6 PM Cruise Critic meet up. The evening enterainment was Amanda Poulson, singing "Epics". Another option was a "destination" movie offered under the stars on deck. Unfrotunately, the weather in Venice at night was pretty chilly while we were there. There were some regular entertainers on board; a pianist, Maz Difaz; a guitarist,Teodor; and DJ Eddie for late night dancing. In addition to guest artisits, the Azamara singers and dancers and CD entertained, usually with one or two shows a night. We caught a few of these shows, and they were well attended, even though we didn't make too many of them, being the least compliant passnegers ever!

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Day Two, Still in Venice

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The colorful houses on the island of Burano

 

 

I love the overnights and late stays in port! It's great to be able to start your day as soon as you are ready and not need to wait to dock or anchor and to clear customs. It's great to have more than one day in a big city or location with lots to do in port. I like being off for a day without worrying about the clock!

We were up and out expecting to take a tour to explore Murano/Burano/Torcello.

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On the island of Burano, there is a nice little village full of lace stores and places to get a snack or stop for a drink.

 

Review of GoBe Tour

On this cruise we booked a combination of private, independent excursions, ships excursions, and we wanted to try and review GoBe, new independent shore excursion booking product launched by Royal Caribbean International. I booked a GoBe tour for group boat tour to Murano, Burano and Torcello. Like many shore excursions companies, they matched us with a tour operator, billed our credit card and emailed us a voucher with instructions. I had to make some cancellations, and had some questions and I found the GoBe staff to be very responsive to any of my emails. The user interface on their site was a little clunky when I tried to make a cancellation, giving me an error message. An email to GoBe customer service was quickly answered and they confirmed my transaction, even though the message on the site was ambigiuos. The instructions for this tour gave a very detailed description of where to meet "a representative". We were there 10 minutes beofre and after the appointed time, and no representative was there. Luckily, I had the phone from our Travel Agent and the Go Be paperwork had a local contact number to call. When I called I was told, there would be no representative, that I should turn my voucher in at the ticket booth for Alilaguna, a privately run ferry and tour service that runs from the Giardinetti Pontoon in San Marco. This was just steps away from the listed "meeting place" so we handed our vouchers to the ticket agent, who seemed completely baffled. Finally, he found the name of the "tour operator" we had called and quickly provided us with two tickets for a regularly scheduled tour, We paid $23 US per person, and the current price for the tour in Euro, is listed here as 18 euro in advance and 20 euro at the pier:

Alilaguna Tours:

http://www.alilaguna.it/en/panoramic-city-tour-murano-burano-torcello

The GoBe Tour is listed here:

https://www.gobe.com/destinations/europe/italy/venice-tours/murano-burano-tour-from-venice/p/TR-EUR-ITA-VENI-EN-1005

Take a look at the included video on GoBe, it shows 4 people enjoying a private boat ride to the islands. In reality, it is a large ferry boat of 50 people. The tour itself was fine except that again our paperwork said the tour would be in English, and in fact it was given in 4 languages. The guide sat in the front of the boat filled with about 50 people and gave the same spiel about what were passing in French, Italian, Spanish and English (God love her...knowing all those languages) But it was very tiring and distracting to listen to, and was not an "English tour" as advertised by GoBe, I would describe it as a multi lingual tour. And of course the advertised "representative" never appeared and we only found out how to exchange our vouchers by calling (we were lucky to have a local cell phone)

In the end, we enjoyed our tour, but GoBe advertised one thing and delivered another. We paid more than we would have to just book this on our own, so you would expect to get something for that extra cost. I booked this tour as a way to "test" this new service, becasue this wasn't a high stakes situation. If we had wanted to, we could have used our ACTV ferry pass to travel to the islands on the public taxi, but we wanted to see if this independent shore excursion service was worth using. In our one expereince, in this place, we would not use this service again, becasue despite good customer service online, the descriptions of the tour cannot be trusted, and we felt we did not recieve any benefit by paying more ahead of time for a tour we could easily book on our own.

 

 

 

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A glass blower in Murano

 

 

I do recommend this Alilaguna tour if you have a short time to see these islands, you'll have about 45-60 minutes per site and the ride out to the other islands provided beautiful views of Venice! There is a glass blowing demo, but it is short, you can skip it if you prefer and you don't need to go to the shop unless you wish too. The guide will tell you when you leave the boat what time to be back (in four languages!) and so long as you meet the tour at that time, you can wander around on each island on your own.

 

 

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The Island of Torcello is known as the "green island", tthere are farms and green gardens there, as well two of the oldest churches in all of Venice.

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Sail Away from Venice

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Saint Mark's Square

 

We returned from the tour back to San Marco...during our early walks around the area, we had found a square in Castello where we found some early Christmas presents for our girls, mostly leather goods, or a better price and better quality than the things we saw around San Marco. We returned to San Basilio by public ferry and foot to the ship and had a late snack on board, and got ready for dinner.

The big excitement for us was the sail away at 9:00 PM. The crew circulated passing out warm blankets and spiked hot chocolate. As we left the port, port lecturer Chuck Richardson, gave us some details about what we would see, and as we approached San Marco and the Basilica all lit up, the guest singer Amanda Poulson came out on deck and sang some beautiful Italian aria to set the scene. It was one of those goose bump moments, as she had a lovely voice, and the site of Venice slipping away as sailed out was lovely.

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Gesuati, along the Zattere, in Dorsoduro

 

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Santa Maria della Salute church and the old customs house in the foreround

 

We say "Ciao" to Italy and head to Kopor Slovenia on Day 3

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She sang - Time to Say Goodbye that Andrea Bocelli made famous.

 

Yes, that was it! I’m not a follower of “popera” so I wasn’t sure! I just know she did a very nice job with it, and everyone enjoyed the evening!

 

For folks who didn’t want to brave the cold, I heard it was all broadcast into the Living Room also. However, one time later in the cruise when we were told there would be commentary in the Living Room (sailing into the gorges of Montenegro) and we sat there for hours, and there wasn’t any commentary, so I can’t be sure if it was working properly or if the captain just changed his mind about allowing commentary? Maybe one of you who sailed with us was in the LR for the Venice Sailaway?

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Slovenia

I say Kopor, you say Kotor -but everyone has trouble saying Ljubljana!

 

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Lake Bled and the Lake Bled Castle

 

This cruise visited BOTH Kopor, Slovenia and Kotor, Montenegro. This caused a bit of confusion when planning excursions, but luckily the captain and crew knew just where to go...so we arrived in Kopor, Slovenia bright and early Thursday morning. We had cooler than usual fall weather in early October, so most days we were prepared with warm boots or shoes, windbreakers, and sweaters. We found Slovenia reminded us quite a bit of our home in New England. There is a small coastal area with vegetation that reminded us Cape Cod, although the rocky beaches looked more like Maine or Rhode island beaches. Further north, the deciduous trees, just starting to turn colors, the alpine lakes and mountains to the north reminded us of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

Kopor is a walled coastal port city dating to Roman times, interesting on it's own, but we wanted to see more of Slovenia, so we booked a tour with Roundabout, after doing research here on Cruise Critic for Slovenia. Because Slovenia is a small country, we really had the chance to see quite a bit of the country during our tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Sites to see in Slovenia

(These are east of Ljubljana, and more accessible from port)

Port city of Kopor

Capital city ofLjubljana

Caves created from the unique "karst" geology in Slovenia (Postojna and Skocjan)

Lipinazzer Horses

Vintgar natural gorge

The Predjama Castle built into a natural cave

The Alpine town of Bled with it's lake and castle

With all these options it's tough deciding what to see! We worked with Roundabout via email to discuss what interested us and the amount of time we had, and despite a long day, choices had to be made! Our guide, Sanjin, met us in Kopor and we drove approximately an hour to start our tour in the north of Slovenia.

Keeping with our desire to stay outside and active, we chose a tour that included a visit to the alpine playground of Bled, and stop at the Bled Castle high above the lake. We found the visit to the castle to be very interesting. In addition to excellent views of Lake Bled and the little church on the island in the middle of Lake Bled, we also enjoyed the exhibits. There was a demonstration of an old printing press, and a small archeology museum and cafe.

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Lake Bled Castle

We hiked a couple of miles in the Vintgar Gorge, our guide meeting us with the car on the far end to save us having to retrace our steps.

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Vintgar Gorge

Then we spent the afternoon andlunch in Ljubljana (don't avoid visiting this wonderful little European capital just because you can't pronounceit!

 

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Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana, the dragon is the symbol of Slovenia

 

We enjoyed a walking tour of the city. We walked along the river, seeing the Dragon Bridge and the baroque Triple Bridge, as well as the well perserved architecture in the city center.

City Hall in Ljubljana- our guide pointed out the mayor heading back from lunch in his blue jeans!

This gave us an opportunity to see local people and try some local specialties for lunch. One thing we tried was the famous Bled Cream Cake, which we bought at Lake Bled Castle and enjoyed after eating our local soups and sausages in Ljubljana.

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We might have left Ljubljanaa little earlier and driven by the Prejama Castle, but we had pretty much hit the wall at that point and decided to head back to the port of Kopor with a whole hour to spare before our 7 PM sailaway!

(If the pictures aren't showing, its a problem I only have with CC ...I can't spend any more time on a sinlge post than I already am, so this "is what it is" to quote a famous coach! If you want more pictures of Slovenia, find them on our website, follow for when new posts go up there!)

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Your pictures are great, reminds me of our 25th wedding anniversary at Lake Bled.

 

 

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Your pictures are great, reminds me of our 25th wedding anniversary at Lake Bled.

Sent from my iPad using Forums

 

What a beautiful place to spend an anniversary. Did you hike Driglav? Our guide told us evey Slovenian tried to hike it at least once in their lives! We simply loved Slovenia, and hope to spend more time there when we retire!

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We visited Koper last year. Visited beautiful Lake Bled and Ljubljana.

Loo-be-are-ner.

 

 

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We visited Koper last year. Visited beautiful Lake Bled and Ljubljana.

Loo-be-are-ner.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

 

:'):') Some of the languages on this trip were a challenge! I was not aware there was a language in Malta! It was enough of a mix of English and Italian that I could understand most of what was said as long as I understood the context! Reading Greek signs was a challenge!

 

I made it my mission to ask each guide ( or the representative sitting in the guest services area with maps giving advice about where to go) how to say please, thank you, and hello! I wrote it down and practiced! Really, I found even just saying thank you and hello will get you far in the world. Most folks in ports on this cruise also spoke English, especially anyone in the tourism industry. Getting folks to do it with a big smile was easier when it started with them laughing out loud at my mangling of their native language! :')

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Similar Itinerary?: Here's what to expect! (your mileage may vary, always check your own itinerary!)

 

Every day, we noticed that there was a local representative from the port sitting in the Guest Services area with maps and they were happy to help people plan their day or navigate into town or a preferred attraction. I find this info helpful when planning excursions! Just to make it easy to find, I'm going to post where we docked/anchored for each port.

 

Venice: San Basilio, docked accessible on foot or water taxi...there was a car park and roads near the ship which makes me think if you were coming from the airport or bus and train stations, you could possibly take a car taxi, but I'm not sure. For sure you can get from all those places to San Basilio by Vaporetto. What we don't know is if there will be much room for your luggage on the ferry!

 

Slovenia, Kopor: docked, easy walk into town

 

Croatia, Hvar: anchored, short tender into the main commercial area of Hvar

 

Croatia, Dubrovnik: anchored, a short tender to the pier which is well outside the Pile Gate and a free shuttle to the Pile Gate (entrance to the old town) and back was provided.

 

Montenegro, Kotor: Anchored, anywhere from quite a distance to just outside the town, I guess it depends who booked the port first, but we were a 5-10 minute tender ride away, while the Viking Cruise ship was at least 10 minutes further out on the harbor. Most of the sites within Kotor were accessible by foot, although the are is quite hilly! Be sure to look for Capt Carl's excursion hiking in Kotor...it looked like a vigorous hike and would have been fun, had we not scheduled a tour with fellow passengers already.

 

Greece, Corfu: Docked, There was a free shuttle from the ship to the port terminal, then another free bus from the port terminal building to the town of Corfu (right in front of the old fort).

 

Malta, Valta: Docked,The city is within walking distance, but up a very high hill with lots of traffic. Due to the Taxi Union, the ship cannot provide a free shuttle for passengers.

 

Italy, Giardini Naxos: (Taromini) Anchored, the tender goes to Giardini Naxos, you'd need to find transportation to Taormini or onward to MT Etna from there.

 

Italy, Sorrento: Anchored, The tender docks at the shore, and a trip up, up, up the hill on foot, or by funicular or taxi to the town of Sorrento

 

Italy, Amalfi: Anchored, short tender to the dock right in the town of Amalfi. Visiting the town requires a walk up the hill, but there are sights and a beach right at the shore too.

 

Italy, Civitavecchia: (Rome) Docked, about an hour + from Rome. From this busy port, you can transfer to Rome by train, bus, private taxi, or prearranged car. If embarking/disembarking, best to arrange this ahead of time. There are private transfers as well as group transfers by car that can be arranged.

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Enjoying your review Familygoboston. Just a few points of input:

 

 

"For folks who didn’t want to brave the cold, I heard it was all broadcast into the Living Room also. However, one time later in the cruise when we were told there would be commentary in the Living Room (sailing into the gorges of Montenegro) and we sat there for hours, and there wasn’t any commentary, so I can’t be sure if it was working properly or if the captain just changed his mind about allowing commentary? Maybe one of you who sailed with us was in the LR for the Venice Sailaway?"

 

 

Azamara prides itself on keeping general broadcasts to a minimum. We were seated at the Sunset Bar for the Venice sail away and there was intermittent commentary. Same when we sailed away from Kotor.

 

 

"Venice: San Basilio, docked accessible on foot or water taxi...there was a car park and roads near the ship which makes me think if you were coming from the airport or bus and train stations, you could possibly take a car taxi, but I'm not sure. For sure you can get from all those places to San Basilio by Vaporetto. What we don't know is if there will be much room for your luggage on the ferry!"

 

 

We easily took the vaporetto from our apartment in Venice, even changing at Ferrovia. We each had a rolling suitcase and a larger bag. And yes, you can take a land taxi to San Basilio terminal.

 

 

"Montenegro, Kotor: Anchored, anywhere from quite a distance to just outside the town, I guess it depends who booked the port first, but we were a 5-10 minute tender ride away, while the Viking Cruise ship was at least 10 minutes further out on the harbor. Most of the sites within Kotor were accessible by foot, although the are is quite hilly! Be sure to look for Capt Carl's excursion hiking in Kotor...it looked like a vigorous hike and would have been fun, had we not scheduled a tour with fellow passengers already."

 

 

Azamara Quest was docked at Kotor. Very easy, short walk to Old Town.

 

 

"Malta, Valta: Docked,The city is within walking distance, but up a very high hill with lots of traffic. Due to the Taxi Union, the ship cannot provide a free shuttle for passengers."

 

 

A short walk from where the cruise ships dock is an elevator up to Valetta at a cost of 1 euro (free ride down). It takes you up to the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

 

 

"Italy, Giardini Naxos: (Taromini) Anchored, the tender goes to Giardini Naxos, you'd need to find transportation to Taormini or onward to MT Etna from there."

 

 

We took the local bus - 2.20 euro return - which you can catch just to the right of where the tender boat docks. The ride up to and back from Taoromina is as good as riding the local bus on the Amalfi Coast!. The bus terminal is just outside of Taoromina - 10 minute walk.

 

 

"Italy, Sorrento: Anchored, The tender docks at the shore, and a trip up, up, up the hill on foot, or by funicular or taxi to the town of Sorrento"

 

 

There is a lift (elevator) - 1 euro or 1.80 euro return.

Edited by TravelBugM

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Thanks for posting the prices of those funiculars and local buses! Since we were taking tours, we didn’t know the prices!

I was disappointed because the announcements before sailing into Montenegro said that you would be able to hear the narration sailing into the gorge in the living room and on the decks. The captain made an announcement, said he’d be back in 1/2 hour and then we sat for another hour and never heard another word in the Living Room. Not sure if the crew at the bar turned it off or if the Captain decided not to turn it on in the LR? Did you see him out the spotlight on the submarine cave in Montenegro? He said he would do that but no announcement in the LR and we never saw the light, and we were on that side of the ship looking.

 

In general though, I prefer not hearing the constant announcements and tinny music playing everywhere! It’s one of the things we enjoy about Azamara!

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We did the climb to the castle in Kotor with Captain Carl, along with about 60 other passengers. It was a workout, especially because I just hate stairs. HD Philip played Border Collie and brought up the rear to make sure nobody was left behind. It was worth it for the view!

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Jean, I was sorry we missed that! We had a tour with Mont travelers, and some fellow passengers, which was very good! We actually got out to the Lady of the Rock church and saw the rock Capt Carl put there! We love to hike and ran into Captain Carl and the crew on the Path of the Gods above Amalfi.

More on all of that later, still working on photos, and have Croatia to post tomorrow.

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Montenegro, Kotor: Anchored, anywhere from quite a distance to just outside the town, I guess it depends who booked the port first, but we were a 5-10 minute tender ride away, while the Viking Cruise ship was at least 10 minutes further out on the harbor. Most of the sites within Kotor were accessible by foot, although the are is quite hilly! Be sure to look for Capt Carl's excursion hiking in Kotor...it looked like a vigorous hike and would have been fun, had we not scheduled a tour with fellow passengers already.

 

 

 

Great review so far but an “alternative fact” has crept in here. We were actually docked in Kotor. In fact Capt. Carl was quite proud of the fact that we were the only ship to be docked.

 

 

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I think you can only hear the captain on the open decks, in the corridors and on his TV channel. He told us this at the muster drill...I am sure.... when he told the funny story about putting a towel around you? The submarine caves were very easily spotted - much bigger than we expected... and very easily seen.

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Montenegro, Kotor: Anchored, anywhere from quite a distance to just outside the town, I guess it depends who booked the port first, but we were a 5-10 minute tender ride away, while the Viking Cruise ship was at least 10 minutes further out on the harbor. Most of the sites within Kotor were accessible by foot, although the are is quite hilly! Be sure to look for Capt Carl's excursion hiking in Kotor...it looked like a vigorous hike and would have been fun, had we not scheduled a tour with fellow passengers already.

 

 

 

Great review so far but an “alternative fact” has crept in here. We were actually docked in Kotor. In fact Capt. Carl was quite proud of the fact that we were the only ship to be docked.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

 

Our 2016 arrival into Kotor brought us to anchor, and we tendered in. However, sufficient ships departed during our long, Azamara stay and the captain was able to weigh anchor, dock, and we walked back aboard.

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Yes, we were scheduled to tender, but we must have been the first ship in and got to dock in Kotor! During this cruise we were often in port with either a Windstar ship,or a Viking ship and occasionally both! Thanks for clarifying that!

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166533182Hvar Croatia

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We left Slovenia, and headed to the buffet at Windows Cafe again for dinner. Everyone was dressed up a bit because it was the Captain's night. We went to the lounge to see him introduce his officers and crew. In addition to Capt Carl Smith, and Staff Captain Dario Guerrieri, we had Philip Herbert as the hotel director and rotating cast of cruise directors starting with Russ Grieve, who left us after performing his one man show later in the cruise, the Activities Director pinched hit for a half a day and then we were joined by another cruise director. This was all pre planned and announced ahead of time, so I didn't get attached to anyone! Our chef Fabio D'Agosta and food was excellent all week!

After meeting the officers, we enjoyed a unique entertainer, Beverley Davison, the so called "Diva" of music and laughter. She had a lot of liners between her violin playing and we laughed a lot!

 

The next day we sailed into Hvar later in the morning, which allowed for a leisurely morning. Unfortunately, the weather was not terrific. The water was a bit rough and squall was headed into port just about the same time as the start of our bike tour. As guests stood huddled under the umbrella at the tender dock, and under the awnings of the local shops and restaurants, we heard that our tour would not run due to the danger of biking on the wet cobblestone roads.

Its too bad really becasue we were anxious to try out one of Azamara's newest products...the Cruise Global Bike Local program.

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This itinerary had about 3 or 4 of these offered. There are strict instructions that guests must be under a certain weight and height. We signed up even though my husband exceeds the height limits, but not the weight limits. Likely, they cannot make the bike tall enough for him, but he was prepared to work harder to pedal. We cycle for exercise frequently and have bicycle toured all over the world, so we are very comfortable on bikes. I'm not sure if they would have rejected him in person. We like the idea of the bike tours, but if the height restriction is strict, it won't do us much good. Im sorry we didn't get to try the Bike Local program, because othe guests we talked to who tried them really enjoyed them!

A tender arrived to the dock full of passengers in the pouring rain, and most passengers went back to the ship with us without getting off. Several of the walking tours did do, and the guides were careful to warn the guests about the slippery cobblestones. We returned to the ship for lunch and a nap and then went back out to Hvar once the weather cleared. We hiked up to the Hvar Fortress to get an overview of Hvar and see our ship in the harbor.

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To get to the fortress, head up any of the stairs that lead tup the hill, and eventually you get to the walkway up to the fort.

 

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Views from the fort are pretty incredible,a nd well worth the walk!

 

 

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Hvar

After the hike up to the fort, we poked around Hvar Town, taking in the shops and cafes, Franciscan Monastery, bell tower and Cathedral of St Stephen.

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Ordinarily, you could take one of the many private taxi boats out to the islands to get to the beaches. There aren't any beaches in Hvar City, but these private taxi boats will run you over to the islands.. Unfortunately, with the rain, the taxis weren't running. There are also dozens of travel agencies located within walking dsitance of the dock where you can sign up for a tour of the island or arrange a private boat trip. There is also a bank at the dock where you can use the ATM to get Kuna, which you will need in Croatia, because they don't use Euros, although many street vendors were willing to take Euros, and some had things priced in both Euro and Kuna. It's especially important to have a few Kuna to get into the fort, which doesn't take Euro or credit cards. There is an ATM there too, but I'm sure the fees are higher than the at the bank. We bailed out a few fellow passengers by selling them Kuna at the entrance to the fort!

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