Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012 – Venice, Italy – Cloudy, Rainy - 50sF

Distance from Koper to Venice, Italy: 88 Nautical Miles

Beat the wakeup call set for 6 AM by about an hour and cancelled it to give our neighbors a few minutes more of sleep.  We are on an 8:00 AM Airport Shuttle so we need to get ourselves ready to go.

Breakfast in the Oceanview Cafe – as was the case last time – is relatively light.  Some cold cereal – my new favorite since yesterday – a plain waffle and breakfast is done.

At 7:55 AM we went to the Opus Dining room to wait for our shuttle.  As we show up at the door, our group is already leaving –6 5 minutes before the assembly time. 

Disembark in Venice (Small)

Disembarking the Reflection

We ran down to the luggage claim area and find only one of our suitcases – the other one is in the orphan area – somehow the hard to rip off tag was gone.  The ride to Marco Polo is about 30 minutes so when we arrive we have about an hour before we can check in (three hours before departure).  All in all, about four hours of waiting in a place known for its wall to wall waiting people.

 Chaos at Marco Polo Airport (Small) 

While waiting for our departure, I noticed a sleek silver Aeroflot aircraft – the Russians have augmented their “fleet” of jets with the latest model of Airbus or Boeing (below).

Aeroflot gets modern (Small)

BA597 – an Airbus A319 painted a strange orange color and designated “Firefly” – boards on time and departs on time. 

 BA579 Firefly (Small)

The two hour flight is pretty smooth even over the Italian Alps.  The holding pattern involves only 10 minutes and three circuits in the parking lot in the sky and we are in Terminal 5.  We have to take the transit to Terminal 5 B Gates for our connecting flight but the train ride is quick and easy.

Our flight to Chicago – BA297 – is due to depart at 6:15 Local time so we are now at Gate 45 catching up on the travel blog (real time).

 BA297 Ready to Go (Small)

Our 777-200 is ready to go

Best of all, Heathrow has installed “European” plugs on its charging station, which are rare and dispersed throughout the terminals.  This is the first time I have been able to charge anything at Heathrow. 

The flights takes off on time and the best thing is there no one sitting in the middle seat in either my group or Ellen’s.  They are the only unoccupied middle seats in coach.  Amazing.  Our meals were very good - “Shepherd’s Pie (ground beef covered with mashed potatoes” for Lunch and Egg Salad sandwiches for Dinner.  BA has the best meals.  I also had some white wine (complimentary on BA – are you listening, US Carriers?). 

The flight was relatively smooth except for some serious chop over the Atlantic – the pilot actually had to climb to 38,000 feet to find some smooth air. 

When the fellow in the window seat got up, I was able to shoot some pictures out of the window.  We were flying in constant sunset with a neat blue glow on the horizon.  The first picture is midway across the Atlantic and the second is nearing the coast of North America.

Over the midAtlantic (Small) Neraring North American Coast (Small)

I watched two movies - “Total Recall” (great) and “Iron Man 2” (silly) and started to watch “American Reunion”. 

Once on this side of the pond, the flight was smooth all the way into Chicago.  We landed on time, spent a long time in Passport Control, found our luggage right away, and our cab was prompt in picking us up.

Bottom Line:  A lot of rain in the first cruise but the good weather on the second cruise and fine dinner service and entertainment made for nice cruises overall.

Saturday, November 3, 2012 – Koper, Slovenia – Mostly Cloudy - 62F

Distance from Mykonos to Koper, Slovenia: 903 Nautical Miles

20121103 ship position (Small)

Inside Information: Koper is the largest commercial port in Slovenia, which only has about 30 miles of coast line.  Surrounded by Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy, the country has adopted many of the cultural qualities of its neighbors.  Slovenian and Italian and the official languages.  Koper faces the Gulf of Trieste and the Adriatic Sea and today has a population of about 50,000 residents.

The ship is docked right in the city of Koper so getting to the city center is simple. 

Welcome to Koper (Small)

Welcome to Koper – Couldn’t Find a Bigger Sign

Reflection Docked Koper (Small)

Reflection Docked In Koper

The city is a combination of old city (medieval) and new city (malls, shops, and restaurants).  While the harbor area is less than attractive a few blocks away lies a new commercial area and a wonderful harbor side park.  There are fountains, statues, and plenty of Slovenians walking and dining.

Statue Near Pier Koper (Small)

Statue near the Pier

We started off in the old section of Koper and found Medieval Squares and a huge Bell Tower (tallest structure in the city).

Medieval Koper (Small)

Church Tower Koper (Small)


20121103 Central Square Koper (Small) 

Central Square – Old City of Koper

 20121103 Super something in Koper (Small)

Something Super in Slovenia

 20121103 statue by outdoor concert venue (Small)

Statue near Outside Concert Venue

20121103 Koper Marina (Small)

20121103 Marina Statue (Small)  20121103 E and Koper Marina (Small)

The Marina at Koper

20121103 Fountain in Marina Park (Small)   

 War Heroes maybe Koper Harbor Park (Small) 

A Neat Fountain and War Heroes at the Marina Park

We are back on the ship for lunch – the weather is mild enough to eat on the back deck.

Although it started getting a big chilly in the afternoon, we did go out on the Port Deck and were entertained by a local band  - they were pretty good. 

Koper Band greets ship (Small)

We bid adieu to our wait staff (Basilio [from India] and Elodie [from France]) at our final dinner in the Opus Dining Room – I hate to admit it but I had my Spaghetti Marinara again and it was, as usual, very good.

We stopped in to see who would be first on at the Farewell Show.  It turned out to be Fred Klett who continued his insight into marriage and cruising.

Following the show, I had a “Meet and Greet” at 8:00 PM at Cellar Masters. Three people showed up and we chatted for about 45 minutes.  It was a tough time considering everyone is packing for tomorrow’s disembarkation.

We are back in the room early and our bags are outside in the hall near our door.  We wanted to walk off but the 6:30 AM walk off time was simply too early. 

Pedometer: 9,012; 4.27 miles; 441 calories

Friday, November 2, 2012 – At Sea – Mostly Sunny – 70sF

20121102 ships position (Small)

A beautiful day at sea…

20121102 Starboard View   20121102 At Sea PM (Small) 

Breakfast on the back deck –no piped in music. The best breakfast on the cruise.

The whole morning was spent in the Solarium.  We opted out of the big brunch and instead had a wonderful breakfast on the back deck.  Warm, blue skies – this is one of the the things we like about cruising.

20121102 Lunch on the Deck

Lunch on the Back Deck

My final talk: “Identifying the Famous and Infamous” was at 3:00 PM in Celebrity Central.  The attendance was SRO – 200 plus.  I think everyone enjoyed the series.

After dinner in the Opus Dining Room (Ahi Tuna Asian Style – very good), we caught the brand new production show - “Momentum”.  It was a multi-media, techno pop heavy, dance intensive show.  The dancers on this ship are excellent – everyone of them is top notch.

20121102 Momentum (Small) 20121102 Momentum Tango (Small) 20121102 Momentum A (Small)


After the show, we stopped to get some ice water in the bar in the Casino.  They were playing my Titanic Child presentation on the TV next to CNN.  Amazing.

20121102 On TV in the Casino Titanic Child (Small)

On TV in the Casino Bar

Tomorrow, our first time in Slovenia.

Thursday, November 1, 2012 – At Sea – Partly Cloudy - 77F

A warm but breezy day at sea…

20121101 Ship Position

 20121101 At Sea 

The weather improved as the day went on – soon the skies were sunny but the decks were still breezy.

 20121101 Sea Day

My fourth talk was scheduled for 3:00 PM in Celebrity Central.  “The Search for the Unknown Titanic Child” pulled in an SRO audience of 200 plus passengers.  A number of them stayed behind to chat including a guide for the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax.  Another passenger handed me a sheet of paper – it was a portrait she had done during the talk – I have had my picture taken many times but never a drawing.  She even use special effects to make me look good.

Drawing of me during Unknown Titanic Child (Small)

The bright sun yielded a terrific sunset – almost blinding.

20121101 Sunset

I haven’t mentioned the party band on board – D’Revelation – yet.  They are very much the same as the two previous party bands we have seen.  They sounded great but the amps were set a bit to high for easy listening. 

20121101 D'Revelation Party Band

D’Revelation in the Grand Foyer

Comedian Fred Klett was the headliner tonight at Showtime.  He had an offbeat sense of humor focusing on his family, wife, and husband-wife relationships.  He was funny but seemed to have some trouble connecting with the audience. 

A nice day at sea.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 – Mykonos, Greece – Mostly Sunny - 75F

Distance from Rhodes to Mykonos, Greece: 173 Nautical Miles

 20121031 ships position (Small)

Inside Information:  Mykonos is a small (33 square miles) island belonging to the Cyclades group of Greek Islands (Tinos, Siros, Paros, and Naxos). The Cyclades (circle) get their name because they circle the Holy Island of Delos – birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis.  The island has only 5000 residents but gets nearly a million visitors per year.  The main city is Mykonos Town or Chora (“capitol”).

Reflection docked Rhodes 3 (Small)

Reflection Docked in Mykonos

We have an early tour today (“Ancient Delos”) and meet at the Reflection Theater at 7:30 AM.  The tour consists of a 30 minute boat ride to Delos and then a guided tour through the ruins of this ancient island.  The island – considered Holy because it is the birthplace of twin gods – Apollo and Artemis – is currently uninhabited except for archeologists. It is the largest archeological dig in Europe. Our guide is Yolanda.

Aerial view Delos (Small)

The Delos Archeological Site (Aerial View)

Delos – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site - is a small island (5 km long and only 1.3 Km wide) with essentially no vegetation other than scrub. Delos was a major religious center since the 7th century BC (peaking at a population of around 30,000 inhabitants).  The neighboring island of Naxos was the dominant power and built structures and monuments on Delos (to honor Apollo).  The Sacred Palm Tree near the Naxian Lions was the mythical location of the birth of both Apollo and Artemis by the Titaness Leto.

The boat ride was on a very comfortable vessel (seats inside and out including a mini coffee shop and decent washrooms).

20121031 Sailing to Delos (Small)

Reflection from the Transport Boat

On the way to Delos (Small)

The nearby Cyclades Islands

 20121031 Delos 1 (Small)

Approaching Delos

E at the Boat Dock Delos (Small)

Ellen on the Boat Dock

It had rained recently and the new pond gave the boat dock a lagoon feel (below).

Delos Boat Dock (Small)

We started our walking tour of Delos along with about three other groups.  It was a little difficult to pick up everything our guide was saying.  Some of the pictures below are unlabeled because of that.

Our boat was visible from the ruins affording a nice photo op.

Delos Boat and Ruins (Small)

Boat and Ruins Delos (Small)

Shuttle boat from the dig

Delos A (Small) 

One structure had a remarkably well preserved mosaic floor (below).

 Delos Mosaic (Small)

I was aghast to find a marble artifact inscribed with an archeologist’s name and date – doesn’t that ruin the integrity of the relic – I think so.

Ruining an ancient artifact Delos (Small)

Signed sealed destroyed

The “House of the Trident” was one structure identified via a nearby sign.  The floor of this house is also decorated with a well preserved mosaic.

 House of the Trident (Small) House of Trident 2 (Small)

House of the Trident (two above)

One house had two headless statues as part of the structure.  The statues are of Cleopatra (Queen of the Nile) and Dioscourides (a Greek Physician who lived a century after Cleopatra.  A strange duo.

Statue of Cleopatra Delos (Small)

Statues of Cleopatra and Dioscourides

Mosaic in floor Delos (Small) Anchor Symbol Delos (Small)

Mosaic Floors (two above)

What appeared to be Christian symbols were found on one stone.  The crosses almost look Maltese in configuration (below).

Early Christian Symbols (Small)

Delos had a large portico (The Portico of Philip V), which ran along a long street in the city.

The Portico Delos (Small) The Porticos of Philip V (Small)

The Portico of Philip V

20121031 We at Delos (Small)

We are near the Portico of Philip V

Water Drainage Conduits (Small)

Water conduit

Forum perhaps at Delos (Small)

Agora of the Italians

The Terrace of the Lions was constructed by the Naxians (neighboring island). The Lions were to eternally guard the sanctuary.  A few of the original lions remain.

The Lions of the Naxians (Small) Lions of the Naxians 1 (Small)

The Naxian Lions

The Minoan fountain dates to the Sixth Century BC.

Minoan Fountain sixth  BC Delos (Small) 

Minoan Fountain

Our final stop was the Delos Museum.  Many of the items on the site are copies and the originals are in the museum.

Delos Museum Lion (Small)

After the museum, we made our way to the boat dock to meet the other passengers and head back.  There was a very small gift shop near the boat dock.

Neighboring Cyclades (Small)

Neighboring Islands

In about 30 minutes, the boat was approaching Chora or Mykonos Town.

Chora Mykonos (Small) Chora Mykonos A (Small)

Chora from the Boat

Another ship was at anchor near Chora – our old friend, the NCL Spirit.  I still remember lecturing in the bar on that ship to people who were unaware I was even there.

  20121031 NCL Spirit Anchored (Small)

She may not be a Greek Goddess but she sure looks like one in the pictures below.

20121031 E and Chora Mykonos (Small)

E and Chora Town (Small)

We don’t usually eat off ship but it was late and we needed some lunch.  We ordered a Margherita Pizza, Mythos Beer, and Coke Lite.  We caught up on our emails and tried to conduct some business while eating lunch.  A good try anyhow.  The beer was good and the pizza was Greek. 

IMG_20121031 Mythos Beer on Mykonos (Small)

Mythos and Mykonos – a winning combination

 IMG_20121031 Checking E mail in Chora (Small)  

On Line in Mykonos

We took the shuttle back to the ship and spent the rest of the day taking it easy – we did have an early tour.

Tonight’s Showtime featured Mark Donoghue – Multi instrument vocalist – we only caught part of his show.

Caught up on some reading – two sea days in a row – sounds great.

Pedometer: 8,390 steps; 3.98 miles; 411 Calories