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

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Hvar

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We had a late night in Hvar, not scheduled to leave until 10 PM, although we left a bit earlier because the rain brought in some very chilly weather, and the passengers were all aboard well ahead of the all aboard time!

We had dinner in Discoveries for the first and only time during our cruise. Unfortunately, this was also the only time we had a nitpick with the service. I ordered the seafood pasta. When it arrived, the waiter (whose name I didn't note, but was from India) asked if I wanted Parmesan cheese. I said yes, (becasue to my unsophisticated palate, cheese makes everything better, right?!) and as he sprinkled it, he sniffed, "I don't recommend cheese on seafood". I was taken aback, as he could have not offered the cheese (I never asked for it) if he felt it didn't go with the dish. The whole exercise seemed designed to try to test us for our lack of food knowledge and demonstrate his superior knowledge, which was never in doubt! There is no place for that in a cruise ship dining room, where you find a very diverse clientele. While his attitude didn't prevent us from dining in Discoveries later in the cruise, we didn't enjoy the experience enough to bother with the time it took on any other days, and we thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant and friendly service in Windows Cafe!

After our dinner, we bundled up in our warmest clothes and took the tender (all by oursleves!) over to Hvar City to get gelato. We dodged the rain dops, got our gelato and returned on the same tender that brought us, joining a few crew members for the all aboard for crew members! It might have been a little damp and very cool, but it was also a little romantic!

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Dubrovnik

We had an early arrival into Dubrovnik, but didn't stay nearly late enough with a 5 PM departure! The Windstar or Viking ship beat us to the Ploce Gate tender dock, where the tender drops you right in the Stari Grad (Old Town). Quest was docked on the Ploce Gate end of the Stari Grad, with the other runner up (can't recall if it was Viking or Windstar, but I think it was Viking). We were provided a shuttle bus from the pier to the Pile Gate, on the other end of the Stradun (Placa).

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View of Dubrovnik from above

 

 

We were given a free full day tour from our wonderful Travel Agent, who is a member of Signature and offered us a "signature amenity". We could have selected an on board credit or a few other options, but given the prices of private tours, the amenity with the best value for us was the private car, driver and guide at our disposal for the day. Our guide, Bozidar Jukic picked us up right on time. We met our driver Luka, and settled into our comfortable Mercedes for a ride up to view point above the old town. Incredibly, the storm that passed through had dropped tempratures to the point where we could see snow in the mountains in neighboring Bosnia.

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Snow in the mountains of Bosnia

 

Our next stop was the small resort town of Cavtat with it's pretty parks by the beaches and historic Church of St Blais.

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St Blaise

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The rocky pocket beaches of Cavtat are popular in the summer.

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There is an Old Town behind the waterfront full of little cafes and shops.

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Dubrovnik

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One of the fortifications used in the Game Of Thrones filming

Our Guide Bozidar took us to the Pile area just outside the Pile Gate of the Old Town. This is a popular area where many of the fortifications were used for filming the popular TV show Game of Thrones (GOT). Many young people visit Dubrovnik to take a GOT tour, visiting areas that were used as backgrounds. Bozidar had great photo stills from the show, showing where they had use CGI effects to build up the ruins with towers and ramparts!

We aren't big GOT fans, having never seen the show, but were interested in another group of young people in Dubrovnik. We have a relationship with Rochester Institute of Technology through our daughter who is an alum. RIT has a Dubrovnik campus in this area for both Croatians and students who want to travel abroad from their Rochester, NY campus. We were anxious to visit while we were in ton, and before we could ask our guide about it, he mentioned he had graduated from a US university located in Croatia in Travel and Tourism. Imagine how delighted we were to find that Bozidar (and his wife!) were both graduates of RIT. So of course, he had to bring us by the university for a photograph!

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Bozidar at his alma mater, also our daughters alma mater!!

 

After saying hello to the quiet (Saturday morning) campus, we moved on to the scenic Plie Gate to enter the old town.

 

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Old City walls

 

This interesting map is located at the entrance to the old city. It shows all of the hits taken by the old city during the seige of Dubrovnik in 1991-1992. Today the Old Town of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and efforts were made to repair and Imporvement.

 

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Dubrovnik

After entering the Pile Gate, we joined the throngs on the Stradun (Placa). Our guide had lots of interesting details to point out along the way, and then we made our way to the one of the entrances to the city walls for a hike all the way around the Old Town up on the walls. This involves quite a few steps up and down at different spots, but is not unmanageable to anyone who can walk a mile or so.

 

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Sponza Palace and Clock Tower

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Some of the many stairs in the Stari Gard (Old Town)

 

 

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Detail of the Rectors Palace

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Dubrovnik: Walking the Walls

There are entrances to the walls at Sv. Spas, Sv. Ivan, and Sv. Luka. You can buy a ticket at the ticket booths for 150 K ($23 at today's exchange rates) The trip completely around the city is just over a mile, and plan at least 2 hours to walk and enjoy the views. Although there are stairs in places, it's not a big climb, with only 25 m of elevation, usually there aren't more than a dozen stairs in any place once you get up onto the walls. Anyone who can walk over a mile can probably walk the walls comfortably, there are even a few spots to sit and rest along the way.

 

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View down to the Stradun

 

 

 

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Loving your travelogue. We want to do this trip in 2019.

 

Thanks Tom! I highly recommend it! Particularly because of the unique ports that don't show up on everyone's bucket list. As you'll see later in our travelouge we were a little disappointed with some of the "big" name places along the Amalfi coast. We'd prefer to explore more of the Adriatic coast!

 

And Azamara is always a perfect travel companion...I feel like the line "gets" that people want to explore and immerse themselves in the destination and they react accordingly, making choices with passengers interests in mind. One of our highlights is coming up soon, when Capt Carl stopped at Stromboli so we could enjoy the "fireworks"! You really feel like Capt and Crew are as passionate about exploring the places as you are. You never feel like the crew are thinking "If It's Tuesday this Must Be Belgium". So they are either also that enthusiastic about the destinations, or just really good actors!

 

Good luck with your planning!

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Nighttime Sail into Kotor Montenegro

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Quest docked (yes docked!!) in Kotor, after a beautiful night time sail in, we awoke to see the full beauty of Kotor!

 

We returned to the ship for dinner. Again, we'd been so busy, we preferred to clean up a bit and go to Windows Cafe where it was the British Buffet. We love the British Buffet, with specialty names like bangers and mash, and bubble and squeak, which always make potatoes sound more adventurous than the food actually is! We found the Windows Cafe buffets to be excellent every night.

There was always a theme, usually international, and a carving station, it often offered fresh fish, and next to that area was a smaller buffet offering some favorite Asian staples every night to appeal to Asian passengers. The center of the buffet is a fresh prep station where you could have noodles or past made to order to fit the theme of the night. There were 6-8 hot dishes, all carefully marked for various dietary restrictions (one fellow passenger jokingly commented that he wasn't going to know what to do when he had to go home and eat gluten again!)

One side of the buffet was devoted to a fruit and cheese board with different cheeses offered each night, a salad bar with variety of prepared and freshly tossed salads, and a dessert station featuring themed desserts, as well as favorites and a selection of gelatos. One thing I loved about the desserts is they are tiny portions, which means you can try 2-3 (0r 4!) and still not be overindulging! On either side of the buffet are a pair of soups, so be sure to check each side! Some people might have been on a cruise and half before they realized that there were TWO soups every night!:rolleyes:

 

We did not go hungry and we enjoyed the quality and variety of the food offered at Windows Cafe and the friendly service that went with it!

 

After dinner we went to the Cruise Directors show with the Azamara singers and dancers. It was a very entertaining story of CD Russ's life, taking us from his jingle singing career to his Broadway run on Mama Mia.

 

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A map of he narrow gorges heading into the port of Kotor Montenegro

 

 

After the CD's show we went to the Living Room to watch the sail in to Montenegro. It was beautiful, but as I mentioned before, the narration never made it into the Living Room and it was too cold to be out on deck. But the scenery was gorgeous, winding our way slowly through the narrow gorges to get to Kotor. We weren't able to see the muntains, but could see all the lights from the villages and ports twinkling in the dark night. As we arrived in Kotor and could see the walls of Castle San Giovanni dramatically lit on the mountain. The following day, one of the shore excursions offered is a hike up to San Giovanni and back with Capt. Carl.

 

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The San Giovanni Castle

 

 

 

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This is a fantastic cruise review and very well done. I love Croatia and intend to do more cruises there in the future. Thank you for all the great pix and idea's of what to do there.

 

Can't wait for the next installment!

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This is a fantastic cruise review and very well done. I love Croatia and intend to do more cruises there in the future. Thank you for all the great pix and idea's of what to do there.

 

Can't wait for the next installment!

 

Thank you Lottie! I’m usually more productive than this, but somehow, I’ve been stymied by quite a few technical issues, first a big wind storm that put power out all over NE for a while, then some sort of CC issue not displaying my photos, and then today, I had several unproductive hours because the external storage for my photos here in our home was being unresponsive! Somehow it’s always more complicated than it should be! :')

 

Ive got the issues fixed tonight and I’m hopeful tomorrow I can get Montenegro posted! Capt Carl expressed that is is one of his favorite ports. He leads his hike, and also there is the legend about the Lady of the Rocks church, and the Azamara rock that Capt Carl added there. We made the trip to the Lady of the Rocks to see it and have photos!

 

There are always more photos on our site http://www.goseeittravel.com than here, because I’m not limited to how many more photos I can post. There’s a link in my signature!

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A Painting, A Rock, A Weddingand A Near Carjacking...Just A Day in Montenegro

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Before you panic, and think"A CARJACKING! Well, I'm not going THERE"...Montenegro is perfectlysafe, it was actually DH who was nearly jacked a car! But more on thatlater..

 

Our adventure in Montenegrostarted with finding a good tour guide. We noodled around on Trip Advisor andCruise Critic and the name Dimitrije from Mont Travelers kept coming up. He was very responsive via email, and we chose one of his standard Best ofMontenegro tour itineraries. Via our Roll Call we invited Susan and Gregfrom our cruise to join us. This is the only tour we shared all cruise,and we enjoyed having a lot of laughs with Susan and Greg! Dmititrje met us full of enthusiasm, right on time at thepier. He drove us in a comfortable sedan, and he told us all of his otherdrivers and guides were busy for the day, and we saw them all here and therethroughout our tour.

 

A tour started in the seasidetown or Perast, where we wandered along the coast enjoying the natural beautyof the coast and the little village.

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A Painting

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Our Lady of the Rocks, by Lovro Dobričević of Kotor (circa 1452)

We started our tour in Perast. Perast is also the town where you canget a ferry to the Our Lady of the Rock Church. We wanted to go out tothis church because of a legend we heard from Capt. Carl Smith of the AzamaraQuest. Legend holds in the 15th century, that a pair of Croat brotherswere out fishing and found a painting of the Madonna and Child lying on arock. They were so overcome, that they promised to build a church inhonor of this miracle, and to make the foundation, the poor fisherman wouldplace a rock in the same place in the Bay of Kotor after every successful fishing trip. Over time so many faithful fisherman added rocks to honorOur Lady, that an islet appeared in the bay of Kotor.

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From the little village of Perast, you can take a boat for a few Euro over to the island and tour the Church and a small museum attached to it!

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A Painting, A Rock, A Weddingand A Near Carjacking...Just A Day in Montenegro

A Rock

 

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Capt Carl placed a rock at the museum at the Lady of the Rock

Captain Carl was so enamored withthis story, that he decided he also wanted to add a "rock" to theislet. After navigating a large cruise ship through the narrowfjords of the Bay of Kotor, he must have felt that it was a fittingway to give thanks! According to Captain Carl, it took a bit of doing,accessing permissions and making arrangements, but finally, in 2010, AzamaraQuest was able to "add" a special commemorative rock, participatingin a 500 year old tradition! See Azamara's blog about it here:https://www.azamaraclubcruises.com/blog/azamara-revives-500-year-old-tradition-in-kotor-montenegro

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Detail from the door at Lady of the Rocks

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A Painting, A Rock, A Wedding and A Near Carjacking...Just A Day in Montenegro

A Wedding

 

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After our journey to Our Lady of theRocks, Dimitrije drove us to the Medieval town of Budva. A beautiful Sundaymorning, we wandered inside the Venetian built walls of Budva, and happenedupon a traditional Montenegro wedding being held in a more contemporary churchwithin sight of the Historic Santa Maria in Punta. (Be sure to see our blog for video to hear the traditional music and chanting!)

After watching the wedding procession for a little while, we enjoyed the scenery of the town of Budva and took a ride along the coast, seeing the popular resort area, the Budva Riviera below.

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The Budva Stari Grad

 

 

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The Budva Riviera

 

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The island of St Stefan with a private resort

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A Painting, A Rock, A Wedding and A Near Carjacking...Just A Day in Montenegro

A Near Carjacking

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After our visit to Budva, our Guide Dimitrije drove us up the winding road high above Boka Bay. This road is not for the faint of heart, with 27 switchbacks, really only wide enough for one car. The road is not really wide enough for full sized tour buses. Now add multiple full sized tour buses to the road, and the view is not the only thing that will take your breath away!

We had an incredible and uneventful trip to the top, and enjoyed the views.

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A stall at the summit of the road above Kotor

At the top there is a small town with a few tourist stalls set up to sell local specialties. On the way back down, the traffic coming up had increased significantly and included several large buses full of cruise ship passengers. Most of the professional drivers have a good understanding of what everyone; bus drivers, mini bus drivers, tour guide cars, should do. A carefully choreographed dance of pulling forward, backing up, parking on tiny shoulders happens and everyone smiles, waves and moves on. Unfortunately, every once in a while added to this mix are tourists who have rented cars, with little experience on the twisty narrow road, and even less nerve!

On our trip down the mountain, a large bus got to a narrow corner and commandeered the entire road. In the car in front of us was a young lady in a rental car who had no where to go and no good ideas about what to do next. So she stopped, the bus stopped, we stopped, the cars behind us stopped, the cars behind the bus stopped and we all sat, no one moved up and no one moved down!

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Quest, so close and yet...

We had a little problem because we had just about an hour to get back to our ship, or it was heading out of the Bay of Kotor without us! After sitting about 10 minutes, nothing had moved, and it appeared that no one was going to take charge of the situation, and that we might just sit there until we all ran out of gas! Cars continued to back up in both directions. No one honked or gestured, this would certainly have happened in our hometown of Boston, everyone just SAT there. Suddenly the door to our car flung open and Jeff sprang out of the car. Dimitrije, looked back at me, wide eyed, and asked "What is he going to DO?!" I could not answer. My fear was that I had not brought enough Euros to bail him out of jail.

Jeff walked calmly to the rental car and asked the young tourist driving it if he could drive the car. She didn't speak much English and was panicked, like a deer in the headlights, so she wasn't listening or speaking at all, head to head with a huge tour bus with a menacing looking driver who had no intention of backing up even an inch! Her passengers exhorted to her in their native language to let the nice (crazy?) American man move the car, but she sat glued in her seat. Finally, she let Jeff reach into the car and he took the steering wheel. He told the young lady when to step on the gas and the brake and together with Jeff standing out in the road with his hands through the window on her steering wheel, they maneuvered rental car so it could be moved off the road just enough for the enormous bus to pass. After the bus passed our vehicle, Jeff cheerfully hopped back into our car and said, "Ok Dimitrije, NOW we are ready to go back to the ship!" I'm sure Dimitrije couldn't have been happier to get rid of us, but he was far too polite and professional to say so!

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Safely past the stuck tour bus, Dimitrije had plenty of time to get his guests back to the pier with time to spare!

So as long as you don't try to commit a car jacking while in Montenegro, I think you you might find, as we did, a warm welcome, beautiful scenery and plenty of interesting stories to come home with!

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Sail Away from Montenegro

We got back to the ship with plenty of time, and planned enjoy the sail away from Montenegro at 4:30 PM during the day light. We sailed out past the other cruise ships anchored in the Bay of Kotor and were able to appreciate the beautiful fjords during the day.

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After the sail away, we went to the Windows Cafe for the French Buffet, and then settled in at the lounge to enjoy a show featuring Kym Purling, an Australian piano prodigy who shares his incredible adoption story, while entertaining with virtuoso music on his piano.

For more Montenegro photos see our blog on our website here: http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2017/11/13/a-painting-a-rock-a-wedding-and-a-near-carjacking-just-a-day-in-montenegrohttp://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2017/11/13/a-painting-a-rock-a-wedding-and-a-near-carjacking-just-a-day-in-montenegro

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Corfu! Bless you!

Hey, its a bad joke, but you only had to hear it once...we heard it multiple times on board from our fellow travelers!

 

 

We had attended port lecturer Chuck Richardson's talk about Corfu, so we had a general idea of what there was to see in Corfu. Also,every day, Azamara provides a map with a few key sites noted and any of their shopping business partners. I don't usually find these maps very useful for navigating or deciding what to visit. But I always carry that map or a copy of the Pursuits with me because, it contains the name and number of the local port agent, which is handy if there was ever an emergency or we missed the ship for some reason. I noticed on this cruise that at each port, a table was provided for a local tourist representative, who usually had much better maps of the area, such as this Corfu map. The representative also would give good information about how to get around and advise guests about what to see. We decided to plot a path that hit the major sites in Corfu Town and explore them on foot by ourselves.

 

 

The cruise port (circled on the left) is quite a distance from Corfu Town. The Azamara provided a free shuttle bus which goes to the spot noted with the asterisk. From the bus stop, it's an easy walk to the major sites in Corfu town. We visited 1) Old Fort 2) Palaces of St. Michael and St. George 3) Spyridon Church 4) The shops and cafes of Corfu Town

 

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Our first stop was right outside the shuttle stop, the Old Fortress; originally a simple Byzantine defense, it's current design owes to the Venetians who took it over and held off attacks from the Ottomans in the16th century and again in the 18th century. Today it's a well preserved complex of churches, museums, cafes, municipal buildings and what sounded like a music school. It cost 6 Euro per person to enter the fortress, and includesadmission to a contemporary gallery as well as the Archaeology Museum.

 

Old Fortress

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The old fortress

 

The archaeology museum had some interesting artifacts dating to the 5thCentury BC. There was also an interesting gallery space in the chapel for temporary exhibitions. While we were there, there was an exhibitionof Domna Delliou's Faces, an interesting presentation of modern portraits interpreting characters of Greek mythology, and even some for Shakespeare.

 

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Domna Delliou's work in the chapel gallery

Walkthrough the Esplanade and Palace St Michael and St George

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colonnade of the Palace of Sts Michael and George

There is a beautiful park that stretches along the waterfront, called the Esplanade. It's a shady spot with gardens and art work, and many locals enjoying the day. At the end of the Esplanade is the Palace of St Michael and St. George, which is an art museum for Asian art today.

St. SpyridonChurch

 

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We walked by this Church which holds the remains of St Spyridon (270-348 AD) who is the Patron Saint of Corfu. We didn't visit because we were in shorts, but we did note that like many Orthodox Churches people are frequently coming and going to light a candle.

Spianada

 

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This area of interesting architecture is an interesting place to walk around. The green parks were built mostly by the British, during their occupation, but the buildings bordering the parks, have cafes and shops. A cafe under the shady colonnade looks like it be a nice place to relax for lunch!

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Corfu

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We left Corfu very early...we had a long way to go to get to Malta in the Mediterranean, so we were leaving Corfu at 2 PM, which gave us only enough time to explore Corfu Town. Excursions were offered to go to the other major sites on the island, including the Achillion, which is the villa of an Austrian Queen. A bit anachronistic, it didn't hit our list of "must see" in Corfu, but we heard it's a lovely place to visit from fellow passengers. Tours were also offered to another popular tourist area is the seaside resort town of Paleokastrista, but we didn't want to take a chance traveling 14 miles north of Corfu town independently. We also found during our research that cabs and tours are very expensive here. I had hoped a Cruise Global Bike Local tour was offered, but it wasn't for Corfu. We looked into an independent, private biking tour, and the cost was well over 300 Euro per person! (this might be why Azamara didn't offer it!) Instead we went back home and spent that same amount of money on new bicycles we now own and use every weekend! We made our way back to the ship around noontime for lunch and to enjoy the sail away from our balcony.

After we were underway, we attended another of Chuck Richardson's Port Lectures. Chuck was the lecturer on our Panama Canal Cruise, and we find him very entertaining as well as informative. He make it his mission to give the information he has in less than an hour, but he packs the highlights, with loads of photos, into that hour. I like that he also distills the essence of a place, so you can prioritize your short time in port seeing what truly makes that place unique. He will gently call out places just looking to rip off tourists and encourages guests to really look around to see the place! We've really enjoyed all of his lectures, in two very different parts of the world!

We decided that despite putting 5-8 miles per day on our feet, we should probably hit the gym to work out the rest of our body, so we went to the fitness center, and then to Windows Cafe for dinner. After dinner, the Azamara Singers and Dancers presented the multi media production show "Voices", with all the music made with the human voice.

We have more photos of Corfu on our blog- here

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Valletta Malta

Along with Montenegro, this is another sailing you want to enjoy on deck! Malta is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, so it's well fortified from the water, Sailing into the Grand Harbor is a scenic experience itself, and our ship came in around noon, which gave us plenty of daylight to enjoy the dramatic lighthouses, St Elmo Fortress and beautiful city from the deck of the ship.

 

 

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Click to see a time lapse of our sail into the Grand Harbor

Home of the Hospitaller Order of St John Knights, it's full of history and culture. After searching online for privately guided tours, we contacted Joan of Touring Malta for a half day tour, but she was already booked for a multi day trip and recommended we book through her brothers company. Chris Sheridan was responsive by email and we arranged a half day tour to start mid afternoon, when we arrived in Malta. Our guide Flora met us promptly at the pier and driver Charlie, stopped to pick us up at the entrance of the port brought us up the hill to the entrance of the Old City.

 

We began our tour in the "Old City" of Valletta on Republic Street. We were joined by throngs of tourists and sightseeing groups.

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What interested us about Malta over the other old cities we had visited as part of our 10 day cruise, was that it was not just a museum to the past, but mix of old walls, and old buildings and modern stores and buildings.

 

 

 

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A Maltese Balcony

 

 

The Knights of St John were known as Hospitallers because they ran hospitals for knights from the 14th - 18th century. The knights in Malta were organized in Langues, based on their homelands and native language. The Knights were noblemen sent from their area to defend and expand the Church. Their families had lots of wealth so each Langue had an elaborate palace, called an Auberge. Many of these still stand today, and can be seen from the street. Most are now private buildings with no public interior access. Flora took us past most of the Auberges in Valletta.

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Valletta Malta

 

Cathedral Of St John Malta

 

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The Cathedral Clock Tower was behind scaffolding when we visited...much of Valletta was under construction while we visited because Valletta has been designated as Europe's Cultural Capital for 2018. It cost 10 Euro to visit the cathedral, which includes an audio tour. You must dress modestly, with shoulders and knees covered to visit. Photography is allowed, except for in the room with the Caravaggio Beheading of St John painting, where no photography is allowed. https://www.stjohnscocathedral.com/

 

 

 

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Grand Masters of the Knights of St John commissioned funerary monuments to be placed in the church upon their deaths. Many of these were elaborate combinations of sculpture, mosaic, and frescoes made of the most expensive marbles by some of the top artists of the time. And gold, lots and lots and LOTS of gold! The nave is surrounded by chapels representing each of the Langues based on regions where the knights originated.

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One of the chapels

 

Republic Square

 

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...Queen Victoria! Well, the British did leave their mark from the time Malta was part of the British Empire, Her Majesty presides outside the building that was once the repository of records for the Order of St John, but today it's a casino.

 

 

St Georges Square in Malta

 

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The guards switch places, several times a day, but to see the real spectacle of the changing of the guard, the last Friday of the month, there is a parade and the whole guard is changed for the month. More info about that here .

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Valletta Malta

Barraka Gardens and Saluting Battery

 

 

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For the next part of our tour, we walked from the city center through the BarrakaGardens on the Grand Harbour. In early October, there was not a lot of blooming flowers to see, but we were just in time to enjoy the Saluting Battery, where the cannons were fired, we like to think, just to celebrate our anniversary at the exact time our wedding ceremony started (EST) We like to pretend the salute was for just for US, so please don't try to convince us otherwise, but if you have something special to celebrate, like a birthday, anniversary, or just being alive, you too can visit the Saluting Battery and have the cannons fire for you (twice a day at exactly 12:00 and 16:00) Some will try to tell you this happens EVERYDAY, we don't believe them!

 

 

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Cannon fire just for our anniversary (click for video)

 

From here, you can also play "spot my cruise ship"

 

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...Or take in the view of Valletta.

 

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Mdina Malta

 

The last part of our Malta tour involved going back to the car and driving with Charlie to the Old City of Mdina. While Valletta is a modern city mixed with the old, Mdina has been preserved as the original city of Malta, from ancient times to medieval times. Guests visiting are actually requested to be quiet when visiting to maintain reverence in an area still filled with monasteries and convents.

 

We hit the wall...

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The Old City Gate at Mdina

Are you sick of cannons and walls yet? Is your mind a blur of Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance architecture? Are you wondering, was it Roman, Venetian, Ottoman or Hapsburg Empire? And when? We were wondering, and we were about to visit another walled city and we hit the wall!

As we wandered around Mdina in the late afternoon, after a week of visiting walled cities, churches and fortresses, unfortunately, we just couldn't appreciate another beautiful place. With a rainy day in Hvar, we missed an opportunity to go biking or to the beach, and we hadn't been one with nature since our gorge hike in Slovenia. By the time we reached Mdina, we just needed a break from all the stone!

 

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Flora did a fine job of trying to enthuse us about Mdina, and it is a lovely place, but we were just done! Charlie and Flora delivered us back to Quest, where we had just time for a quick rest and time to get ready for the Azamazing evening.

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Malta and Our Less Than Azamazing Evening

I love the idea of the Azamazing evening, we thoroughly enjoyed our evening in Panama City, and I think that one of kind travel experiences is the way to go in high end travel these days. Our Azamazing Evening was held at the historic Sacra Infermeria where we were treated to chamber music.

The same buffet dinner at both Windows Cafe and the Discoveries Dining room from 6-7:30 PM so everyone is fed before they transfer to the venue. Then passengers were disembarked; first suite guests, then by deck from top to bottom. The buses were nice and the transfers guides were professional and efficient.

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The Sacre Infermeria building itself was very atmospheric, with knights armor on display and wide stone steps, there were drinks and refreshments offered on trays and the staff at the venue was very pleasant. But the entertainment and venue was not really conducive to a pleasant experience. The narrow hall only held 10 seats across and about 50 rows deep, so most people beyond the first 10 rows had no view of the performers. Fair enough, it's chamber music, we were there to listen. Unfortunately, the sound was awful...the piano was terribly out of tune and the amplification was uneven and loud to the point of painful in our area about 30 rows back.

After suffering through the loud piano prelude concert while we were all being seated, the chamber choir took the stage. Unfortunately, they were not properly amplified, and you could hardly hear them over the piano playing.

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Then when the concert ended, dismissal started with the front rows, to the back (Based on your sticker number) and took over 30 minutes to evacuate the hall. The set up and acoustics of the hall isn't really the "fault" of the Azamara cruise director, and possibly we were just tired and disappointed that this is how we chose to spend the evening of our anniversary. I also think Azamara does an incredible job with the logistics of the the Azamazing Evening, essentially disembarking and re-embarking the entire ship in the space of 3 hours! But on the other hand, as a guest, there has to be a pretty special experience to suffer through all those logistics! Most of us didn't complain about it, not wanting to seem ungracious, but there was not a lot positive buzz on the bus ride home. We tried to be polite and patient, but no one wants to see the staff work so hard to pull off an event that didn't live up to their efforts. Contrasted with the White Night in Sorrento, where all the hard work of the crew resulted in one of my most memorable nights on board, it just seems a shame to put that much work into an evening that just missed the mark for us.

 

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Luckily, the evening was redeemed with a fabulous chocolate buffet in the Discoveries Dining Room after the event!

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