Archive for August, 2012

Day eight: Wednesday, August 29: Istanbul, Turkey

August 30, 2012

Today we took a self-guided tour of Istanbul with our friends Bill and Kevin.  We walked from the port over the Galata Bridge, along the banks of the Golden Horn, which is what separates Europe from Asia.  I noticed that women were more traditionally dressed and some wore burkahs.  We made our way to the Blue Mosque, which was built in 1609 and is still used as a mosque today.  The Blue Mosque is beautiful with high ceilings and stained glass windows.  We then took the short walk to the Hagia Sophia, which was built as a mosque in the sixth century.  The Hagia Sophia features well preserved mosaics and impressive marble decorations.  We stopped for lunch at a traditional Turkish restaurant that featured excellent Wi-Fi.  The first question I asked as we approached was ‘do you have Wi-Fi?’  After Wi-Fi was confirmed we then looked at the menu:)

After a nice lunch and the ability to re-connect and share with the outside world, we headed to the Grand Bazaar.  This incidentally is the real Grand Bazaar; the one I mentioned in my Kusadasi post is certainly a nice shopping area, but does not compare to the actual Grand Bazaar here in Istanbul.  The bazaar consists of over 4,000 shops selling everything from food to clothing, shoes, jewelry to toys and textiles.

We enjoyed a relaxing dinner in the Tuscan Grille, one of the ships specialty restaurants with Warren and Ed, who recently relocated to San Diego from the WashingtonD.C. area.  The view from the restaurant included the Galata Bridge which featured animated lights that changed colors.

Blue Mosque 1

Blue Mosque ceiling

Blue Mosque ceiling close up

Blue Mosque exterior 1

Blue Mosque stained glass close up

Blue Mosque stained glass windows

Istanbul Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia altar 2

Hagia Sophia angel

Hagia Sophia ceiling 1

Hagia Sophia dome from second floor

Hagia Sophia entrance

Hagia Sophia exterior

Hagia Sophia fresco 1

Hagia Sophia fresco 1 close up

Hagia Sophia looking toward altar from second floor

Hagia Sophia spires

Hagia Sophia waiting to pray area

Matt, Jared Hagia Sophia second floor

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar, interior

Grand Bazaar, interior 2

Istanbul 1

Istanbul 2

Istanbul 3



























Day seven: Tuesday, August 28: Kusadasi, Turkey

August 29, 2012

Bill, Kevin, Matt and I met our tour guide at the port at 7:30 a.m. and easily identified her as she had a sign with Kevin’s name on it.  She was young and very friendly.  We boarded our well air conditioned Mercedes Sprinter van and took the 30-minute scenic drive to Ephesus.  Our guide mentioned that while 97% of Turkey’s population is Muslim, the country is very modern and most are not deeply religious.  Women don’t typically wear long dresses and burkahs.  Our Muslim tour guide had dyed blond hair and wore short shorts and a tank top and looked every bit American or Western European.

The weather was very pleasant for most of our morning tour; it only began to get warm toward the end which made for a pleasant experience.  The ancient city of Ephesus had a population of about 250,000 and was an influential port.  We were impressed with the condition of the ruins, better than Pompeii.  The city featured a public bath house which visitors used before entering the city to prevent the spread of illnesses.  Slaves warmed the toilets by sitting on them before wealthy people used them.  Ephesus featured an indoor heating system that included heating water from a wood-burning fire boiler and moving the hot water through a series of pipes with holes in them for the steam to escape into the rooms.  The three-story library was the third largest of the ancient world with over 12,000 scrolls.  The large amphitheatre stadium seated 25,000 and was used for entertainment as well as religious speeches.  The city was destroyed by a combination of earth quakes, a change in the river that fed the port and wars.  It is only about 25% excavated.

We then went to Artemis which features a Mosque, Temple and Church representing the three major religions.

Our last tour stop was at a rug-making educational center.  The center is dedicated to educating people on how to hand-make rugs.  After a brief demonstration we enjoyed a delicious traditional Turkish lunch on a shaded patio.

We were dropped off at the Grand Bazaar where I found some really nice clothes and shoes for very good prices.

Ephesus Bath House

Ephesus Backgammon game

Ephesus Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns

Ephesus facade full view

Ephesus Hercules gate

Ephesus hot water pipe used to heat homes

Ephesus library 1

Kevin, Bill, Jared, Matt, Ephesus library

Ephesus library gates

Ephesus library statue

Ephesus main road

Ephesus medical center sign

Ephesus religious symbol 1

Ephesus ruins 1

Ephesus toilets

Ephesus winged goddess, Nike swoosh inspiration

Matt and Jared, small Ephesus theatre

Artemis Church, Mosque and Temple

Artemis Mosque

Artemis Temple

Artemis Temple column

Kusadasi rug making

Kusadasi hand made rug

Kusadasi hand made rug 1

Kusadasi hand made rug 2

























Day six: Monday, August 27: Santorini, Greece

August 29, 2012

Today we slept in and I went to the gym.  We met up with Ross and Josh (Boston) and Jeff and Victor (Toronto, Canada) and took the short cable car to the top of the caldera.  Santorini was formed from a volcano.  The quaint town of Santorini is filled with low-rise white stucco buildings built right into the cliffs.  We viewed people getting their feet exfoliated via live fish who eat off the dead skin.  After some souvenir shipping we were ready to go back to the ship as it was fairly warm.  The line for the cable car was very long so we decided to hike the ‘donkey poop trail’ down.  After the 20-minute smelly hike was over we took the tender back to the ship.  We cooled off in the pool and had martinis and dinner with Arlon and Drew and others from San Diego.  We went to bed early as the next morning we had a 7:30 a.m. tour.

Santorini, example of fish exfoliation

Jared, Santorini with cruise ship in background

Santorini 2

Santorini building built into the cliff

Santorini church clock tower up close

Santorini homes

Santorini pool

Jared, Santorini donkey poo trail

Santorini donkeys on trail








Day Five: Sunday, August 26: Mykonos, Greece

August 26, 2012

I got up around 8:30 a.m. and went to the gym.  We met Bill and Kevin for breakfast and then met for our tour of Ancient Delos.  The tour of ancient Delos was interesting.  Delos was a center of commerce and the island of the Gods, therefore people were taken to a neighboring island to be born or die.  The community began using money and written language around 150 BC.  Delos also became a wealthy trading center and even had a stock exchange where futures were traded.  Since the average life expectancy was 45 and many babies died at birth, celebrations were held where people were encouraged to meet and ultimately populate the small island.  The large penis statues signified fertility and were used as part of the celebrations.  Ultimately, outsiders became jealous of the wealthy parting island of Delos and burned down the village.  The island has been uninhabited for about 2,000 years and is now a museum and active archeological site.

In the evening we went into the town of Mykonos, did a little shopping in the charming stores and dined al fresco at Familia.

Matt and Jared, Family restaurant, Mykonos

Mykonos Square

Mykonos street

Matt and Jared, Mykonos Sunset

Delos columns 1

Delos community bath 1

Delos community road

Delos large containers

Delos lions

Delos main street

Delos mosaic close-up

Delos olive oil press

Delos penis ‘cock’ statue

Delos ruins 2

Delos table

Delos water container

Delos, wealthy wine trader central atrium

Mykonos Harbor 1

Jared and Matt, Mykonos boat to Delos

Kevin and Bill, Mykonos boat to Delos

Day Four: Saturday, August 25: At sea

August 26, 2012

We slept in since we danced until about 3:00 a.m. the night before with a one-hour time change.  After breakfast we enjoyed the indoor pool with Ralph and Ethan who we met on last year’s cruise.  I saw a glass blowing demonstration which was interesting.  The afternoon dog tag tea dance was fun.  We then met Bill and Kevin in the martini bar for pre-dinner drinks.  Matt and I went to the comedy show and then to bed as we were tired.

Day Three: Friday, August 24: Civitavecchia

August 26, 2012

We enjoyed our last iQ Roma breakfast buffet and boarded the chartered bus to take us from the hotel to the Romeport of Civitavecchia.  A fellow Atlantis cruiser organized four buses to take us to the port, which was very nice; they even passed around champagne on the bus.  We arrived at the port a little over an hour later and were dropped off right in front of the ship.  Last year we took the train and waited in the hot sun for an hour while waiting for a shuttle bus to take us from the port entry to the ship.  We quickly boarded the ship and had lunch at the expansive buffet.

We attended the sail away party where we visited with friends.  That evening we had dinner at Blu, one of the specialty restaurants with Simon and Torsten from London and Bill and Kevin (friends from San Diego).

First night dinner at Blu


Bill, Kevin, Jared, Matt sail away from Rome

Drew, Arlon, Jared, Matt sail away from Rome

Day Two: Thursday, August 23: Rome

August 24, 2012

The iQ Roma is a very nice, smaller hotel in the heart of Rome.  The rooms are modern, include a friendly staff, nice breakfast buffet and an inviting rooftop deck.  We were especially impressed that prior to our arrival the hotel had turned on the air conditioning for us.  The iQ Roma even offers expanded vending machines including one that dispenses wine and beer.  I woke up at 6:30 a.m., showered and enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet on the rooftop as Matt was still sleeping.  I got Matt a cappuccino and as I was coming back to the room, he was coming up.

We met our friends Bill and Kevin in the lobby and went for a walk to see a few places we hadn’t seen before.  The Basilica di San Giovanni is the church where the altar is only used by the Pope or a priest that has been given permission by the Pope.  It is beautiful.  Since it was 95 degrees Fahrenheit we enjoyed lunch at a well air conditioned restaurant.  We then went on to see the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin where we placed our hands in the “Mouth of Truth”.  Legend has it that if you tell a lie while placing your hands in the mouth it will bite you.

Basillica di San Giovanni

Jared and Matt in Basillica di San Giovanni


Hotel iQ Roma Breakfast Buffet

Hotel iQ Roma wine and beer dispenser

Hotel iQ Roma rooftop patio

Hotel iQ Roma rooftop patio 2

Hotel iQ Roma room

Day One: Travel to Rome: August 21/22, 2012

August 23, 2012

Despite several British Airways emails and even an online ‘count down to check-in’ clock we were unable to check-in online so we got to the airport early.  Shockingly even just three hours before the flight they weren’t assigning seats.  We had an early dinner in the airport and were given our seat assignments a few minutes before we boarded the flight.  Everything was fine and the Premium Economy section in the Boeing 777 was nice.  We slept about seven hours.  We had a short layover in London’s Heathrow and had a good short two-hour flight to Rome.  We took the train from the airport to our hotel and found the hotel easily.

Upon arrival we were greeted by our friends Jay and Dan who were just about to go to dinner and invited us to join.  We had a delicious dinner and I even got to choose the exact fish I was to eat for dinner.  The chef came out and presented me with a plate of fish to choose from.