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Posts Tagged ‘cruise’

Day 8: The highlight of this stop was the Game of Thrones tour. We’re big fans of the books and the show and to see some of the locations where some scenes were filmed was pretty awesome. 🙂 For those of you who don’t know, the old town of Dubrovnik was the setting for King’s Landing as well as Qarth. Scenes filmed there include the scenes in Blackwater Bay, Cersei’s Walk of Shame and the steps of the Sept of Baelor, the House of the Undying, many market scenes in Kings’s Landing as well as various other scenes (Myrcella departing for Dorne, Cersei and the return of her daughter (who she doesn’t know was dead at the time).

But before we got off the cruise ship, the fun started in the theater on-board where the passengers gathered to be called for the tours. As the Game of Thrones folks exited the theater, we were greeted by cruise ship staff ringing a bell over our heads as we headed to Deck 4 crying out “Shame!” Super fun. 🙂

We met our guide and she led us to what is known as the “Red Keep”. The fortress itself is a nice building, but seeing the spots where King Joffrey spoke and the views familiar from the show made it even more memorable.

After exploring the Keep, we headed into the Old Town which turned out to be a very cool walled medieval town. We made several stops in the town, our guide showing photos of the scenes in the show so we can see what was original and what was CGI. It was really interesting. She added in some history of the town including the recent war they endured and that the town still shows marks of. We got to see the staircase where Cersei did her walk of shame – which, it turns out, was filmed in 3 separate areas of the town!

When we climbed the city walls, we saw amazing views of the town plus the House of the Undying where Daenerys was looking for her dragons. Super cool.

We climbed the city walls (a lot of stairs both up and down) and got to see amazing views of the town. It’s very beautiful.

We swung by the GOT store and picked up a couple of t-shirts (I’m not a Princess, I’m a Khaleesi :)) and had a photo op on the Iron Throne. (See below). We strolled around the town a bit more, then returned to our meeting point.

I would return to see some more of the town. Lots to see here.

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The Red Keep

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Sansa and Little Finger spoke here

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Cersei waited for the return of her daughter here

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Joffrey spoke from up there

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Entering the old town

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Passing through Pile Gate

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Walk of Shame staircase – part 1

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Chris, not looking the least bit ashamed

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Inside here is the staircase where Daenerys meets the Spice King

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Walk of shame – Part 2

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Walk of shame – Part 3

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Protest speech filmed here

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Walking along the city walls

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Red Keep from afar

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Where Daenerys looked for her dragons in the House of the Undying

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My rightful place 🙂 Inform the Realm.

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Day 7: We had booked a tour that took us to the neighboring island of Delos, the birthplace of of Apollo and Artemis, where many ruins have been excavated (and many still to be discovered). But first, the wind. The WIND!! Crazy windy.

We took a boat to the island of Delos (THEE-los) and our amazing guide brought us through the ruins, bringing history to life and letting us come along for the ride. It was amazing to see the ruins that had been excavated, right next to the unexcavated area which was much higher (level of the earth/ground). Everything was left where it was discovered.

Our guide explained how Delos came to be, how trade flourished and how the people lived.

Such was the importance of the island that In the 5th century, during the 6th year of the Peloponnesian war and under instruction from the Delphic Oracle, the entire island was purged of all dead bodies and it was decreed that no one should be allowed to either die or give birth on the island due to its sacred importance and to preserve its neutrality in commerce, since no one could then claim ownership through inheritance. Immediately after this purification, the first festival of the Delian games were celebrated there. (Ref: Thucydides, III,104.)

The ruins themselves were wonderful to see, from the trade section, to the theater section, to the houses, the temples, the terrace of the lions (from the people of Naxos). There is also a small museum where the original lions are kept, as well as the original mosaic from the largest/richest house.

After our tour, we took the boat back to Mykonos town and had some lunch, then wandered the streets and did some shopping then headed back to our shuttle to the ship.  I don’t know if I’d return here – perhaps once they’ve excavated more of the Delos ruins as there are still a ton buried there.

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Cistern

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Theater

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Theater groupie 🙂

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Cats on the island keep the mice/rats in check. 

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The original mosaic is in the museum on the island (tiger)

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Staircase – very cool to see one of those

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Terrace of the lions

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Original lions in the museum

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Original floor mosaic

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Mykonos town

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Day 6: Holy Moly. What a beautiful island. This was my favourite port. We had booked a tour that included visits in Oia, Pyrgos and Fira as well as a Greek celebration for dinner, with Greek music and dancing.

Our guide Lena was phenomenal – engaging, funny, interactive, she brought us to less-crowded spots and lesser-known gems. She shared lots of great information about the island. Fantastic. I took lots of pics here because everything looked like a postcard.

Our first stop was in Oia, the picturesque blue and white town where we snaked through passageways and stairs to make our way through. Just beautiful. There were a few busy spots but only here and there and nothing unmanageable. We simply enjoyed walking through the town, gaping at the beauty of the views and enjoying window shopping. Truly a marvel to see.

The next stop was in Pyrgos, a smaller village where we visited a church, even got to stand on the church roof for some great pics of the island, walked through “the labyrinth” of small streets and learned about the local life. More amazing pics here. We headed to a nearby restaurant (more like a hall) where we were treated to a Greek buffet style dinner with all the trimmings, were entertained by Greek music and dancers, then many people joined in the fun to learn how to dance and the evening ended with the breaking of plates and a whole lot of Opas! Good fun!

We ended in Fira, where we browsed the town and shops on our way to the cable car to get down to the tender boats. I can see myself spending more time here; I felt like we only discovered the tip of the iceberg – or the caldera in this case. 🙂

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Approaching Santorini

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Beautiful

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Kitty sleeping next to his breadstick 🙂

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Wow.

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Donkeys!

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There’s a lounge chair with my name on it in there…

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Holy moly

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Simple yet beautiful

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Dinner – was delicious

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Opa! What a mess LOL

 

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Day 5: We arrived in Corfu and had booked a tour of the “Best of Corfu”. We met our guide and headed to the Acchilleion Palace where Empress Elizabeth of Austria stayed. The building was nice and we got to learn about the history and her tragic murder. There were some nice elements in the decor and the building. I particularly enjoyed the garden / grounds, the 9 statues of the muses surrounding the terrace and a great painting of Achilles.

Our next stop was lunch at a Greek taverna with Greek food served family style, accompanied by traditional Greek music and dancing. It was actually quite fun, even if it was a bit steamy where we were located. It reminded us of the multitude of family dinners we’ve had over the years. 🙂 Felt right at home!

Our last stop was in the town where we wandered the shops and had a frappe, then back to the bus and the ship!

I enjoyed what we did here and would be open to returning to experience other areas and things Corfu has to offer.

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This desk was Elizabeth’s husband’s desk, who rode a saddle all day and felt most comfortable sitting saddle-style so had a desk and chair made special. 🙂

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Achilles

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Terrace surrounded by 9 muses

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Day 4: We arrived in Montenegro and had a tour that would take us to Budva, then a stop at a place where they made rugs to learn how they were made then some time in Kotor to roam the town.

Our guide provided some history about the town of Budva and allowed us to roam freely – it’s a small town so no risk of getting lost. We checked out the views, one of the churches, then browsed the streets of the town before making it back to our meeting point.

The next stop was a shop where they made and sold Turkish style rugs. They explained the process and displayed several samples. It was really quite interesting. Several people were interested in purchasing a rug. We probably would have as well except our cat has claws and would love to get his paws on it…literally! lol 🙂 The gentleman leading the presentation was courteous and engaging – this might have been my favorite stop on the tour!

We spent a bit more time than expected at the shop and left little time to explore Kotor so we headed back to the ship to relax and have dinner. Not many photos here I’m afraid.

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Day 3: We boarded the Norwegian Star and the embarkation process went super smoothly. The four of us had lunch at the Irish pub on board (O’Sheeghan’s) while we waited for our rooms to be ready. We explored the boat to get our bearings and quickly ended up at the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar – a la Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville style. This bar became a favorite spot for drinks (before dinner, after dinner, and a lot of just because drinks). 🙂

As part of the cruise booking, we got to choose free “perks” and selected the Ultimate Beverage Package which meant most drinks were free including most alcohol but excluding fancy coffee and bottled water. I think we made up for the package on the first day. 🙂 We also got the Ultimate Dining Package which included 3 dinners at the specialty restaurants. The food in the dining room is good, but the specialty dining is totally worth it.

We opted for a balcony room to enjoy watching sailing to/from the various ports on our itinerary: Venice, Kotor (Montenegro), Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos and Dubrovnik (Croatia). We often relaxed on the balcony watching the sea / view in the mornings or before dinner. The room size was adequate; the bathroom was sufficient for our needs and the shower was actually larger than we’ve seen on other ships. The cruise line left us a bottle of bubbly in our room since we were repeat cruisers.

After our day in port, we would have drinks before diner, eat, then catch the show – we had a really good time! The shows were all entertaining. The food was excellent, particularly in the specialty dining restos. Our faves were La Cucina (Italian), Le Bistro (french) and Cagneys (steakhouse). We were treated to an Anniversary cake the night of our anniversary dinner. 🙂 All the bars had their own theme and drinks were good. The couple we were with were taking a back to back cruise on the same ship and same room and the process was super easy. Debarkation was smooth as well; since our flight was at 5pm we stored our luggage at the pier and took the People Mover to Piazzale Roma to spend one last day in Venice doing some shopping. Another successful cruise – more on the ports in my next posts!

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Some of the food on the ship:

 

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We had 5 days of amazing sunny weather, calm waters, blue skies – perfect vacation weather. And then Sandy decided to crash the party. The storm was north of us and headed towards the Bahamas. The captain announced that he was keeping a safe distance and was watching it closely. We followed it north and as day 6 came around, the clouds rolled in and we had some drizzles. The waves were minimal at this point. People were keeping an eye on the news – it was now a category 1 storm moving north and would pass Florida the day before we were supposed to dock in Port Canaveral.

Sure enough, on Friday afternoon, the captain announces that we won’t be docking Saturday morning as planned due to the rough waters. We would have another day at sea and hope to dock Sunday morning at 8am instead. Now, this announcement caused everyone on the ship that had flights Saturday to scramble to change their flights. We tried the phone in our room but all the lines were busy. We went for dinner, then went to Guest Services, stood in line for an hour and finally got to a working phone to change our flight.

While in line, we were hearing stories from various people and their airlines – Southwest had no flights leaving Orlando on Sunday, Delta was full…there was talk that flights to the eastern seaboard would be risky since that’s where Hurricane Sandy was headed. We kept our fingers crossed, finally spoke to an agent who got us on a flight with Air Canada on Sunday, the only space left was in Executive class, but we took it anyway – if we didn’t get home Sunday, who knows when flights would be landing in Toronto with the winds and weather coming their way…

Anyhow, $900 later, we had a new flight and all was well. We went to see the show and the boat was pretty rocky.

The next day, our extra day at sea, turned out to be sunny, a bit rocky, but WINDY! Before breakfast the wind was so strong we couldn’t even open our balcony door. At about 10am, the wind quieted down and we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the balcony enjoying the sun. It was still windy and the sea got progressively rougher as we sailed north towards Florida. I took a few pics of where things stood Saturday afternoon:

Circling off the coast of Miami

This was when the winds were still pretty tame – that’s about 54 miles per hour

Around and around and around….

We saw another ship (maybe circling like us) and noticed how it was rocking and dipping – our ship must have looked the same to them… There’s a video of it at the bottom of the post.

The Norwegian Sky passing us – she was rocking pretty bad

We laid down waiting for the motion sickness to pass, while listening to the wind and things sliding and clanging in the room and the hallway. Glasses slid back and forth on our shelf, hangers were banging in the closet, our shower door kept rattling, you heard the stewards out in the hallway with glasses and other things making a racket and falling over… It would have been funny if we didn’t feel so crappy. And to top it off, we still had to finish packing and put our luggage out for the porters…. Anyway. We didn’t sleep much that night and we finally docked the next morning, got off the ship, and I’ve never been so happy to be on land before.

Funny – even now, I still feel the sway of the ship and my motion sickness headache comes and goes. It was a good cruise, just bad timing with Sandy making her appearance.  If we were a day later, we probably would have been ok. We’re seriously considering avoiding that part of the world during hurricane season going forward though…

Here are some videos on YouTube of what it was like being on a cruise ship in the wake of a hurricane:

Watching the Norwegian Sky from the Carnival Dream:

We got to the airport, boarded our flight, there was a bit more turbulence than usual but we enjoyed our first class amenities and landed, glad to be home even though it was rainy and cold. The effects of the rough seas still lingered but it was nice to be home. 🙂

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During our cruise I vowed to never drink the same cocktail twice. Good plan eh? Ya, I thought so too. 🙂 Here’s some evidence of my quest:

Frozen Margarita

 

Frozen mango dacquiri

 

Cosmo!

 

A very minty Mojito

Frozen strawberry dacquiri

 

For dinner, we chose one of the wine packages (5 bottles for the week for $114) and we enjoyed wine every night. We chose a pinot noir, a shiraz, a pinot grigio, a merlot and a cab sauv. All very good.

As usual, there were several ships in the same ports as our ship. Now…with 4,000 passengers aboard., I thought our ship was pretty big. Then we saw this thing docked next to us in Nasssu that literally dwarfed all other ships:

Our ship is the one with the red funnel on top. Check out the beast which is the Oasis of the Seas – crazy!

When we docked in St. Thomas, I thought it was cloudy before I opened the curtains and realized it was just the Oasis next to us blocking the sun. Ha!

We’re very intrigued by that ship – it’s enormous!

And it wouldn’t be the same without a pic of the company logo of the firm I work at – we have offices all over the world and it’s always fun to see it:

I wanted a picture of the sign in the background…

 

BDO! Woohoo! 🙂

 

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Our first stop was in Nassau in the Bahamas. The weather was beautiful and we were looking forward to a relaxing beach day. We spent the day at the Blue Lagoon, relaxing, reading, drinking margaritas. We also had lunch there – very good start to our vacation. 🙂

Here we are on the ferry on the way to the Blue Lagoon:

Paradise 🙂

Love the colors…and the sun…

Our second stop was in St. Thomas where we did the Helmet Dive at Coral World which was AWESOME!!! I didn’t have an underwater camera but did buy the pic they took of us underwater. They basically put this helmet on you, it just sits on your shoulders and creates that negative air pressure (kind of like when you put a cup upside down in water – it creates an air pocket) and they pump air into each helmet so you can breathe normally – no scuba gear, no mask, nothing. Your hair doesn’t even get wet, you can wear your glasses, you can reach inside your helmet to move your hair out of the way or pinch your nose to unblock your ears – it was totally cool. So you go down this ladder then follow a handrail along the bottom of the ocean floor, about 15-20 feet down. The guides are there as well and led us around, picking up some of the sea life to show us. We got to hold some as well – it was a very cool experience. Walking down there with all the fish and then looking up to see the sun shining through the water – spectacular. Highly recommended.

Arriving in St. Thomas

That’s the Marriott resort (above).

After our dive, we were relaxing on the patio when Chris’ animal magnetism struck again. He can now add Iguana-Whisperer to his repertoire.

Chris the Iguana Whisperer…

Our third stop was St. Maarten. Since we did the yacht race the last tie we were here, we wanted to do some sightseeing this time. We boarded a semi-submarine and got to see lots of fish, sea turtles, sea ucrhins and coral. A diver actually swam beside the boat and fed the fish so we could get a close-up look. 🙂

I absolutely LOVE the water in St. Maarten

Pics of sea life:

We then headed over to the french side of the island and spent some tie in Marigot. We stopped at a cafe and had a croque monsieur, a chocolatine (chocolate croissant) and chocolate mousse with a tasty icy mojito smoothie. Yum!!

Our excursions were more tame than our usual adventures but we enjoyed all stops. The helmet dive was definitely our favourite.

More posts coming!

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I’ll start from the beginning., when all was calm, skies were sunny, everyone was having a good time visiting ports, enjoying the sun and cocktails…what a vacation should be. I’ll get to the craziness a little later.

We flew into Port Canaveral with little fanfare – smooth flight, smooth airport transfer, empty embarkation lounge (we walked right onto the ship – no lines woohoo!). Actually a small group of us boarded right in the middle of the security briefing so we were quarantined in one of the bars and watched it on video. 🙂 We then went to our cabin and our bags arrived shortly thereafter. I took some pics of our Ocean Suite while we waited.

The Ocean Suite comes with a separate seating area/pull out couch in front of the bed, next to a desk and bar area:

There’s lots of storage next to the bed (this was Chris’ area with drawers and a closet to the right):

There was a walk-in closet area (that was mine :)) with a vanity and drawers on one side and a closet on the other.

There was a full bathroom with double sinks and whirlpool bath with shower.

It was the first time we got a suite and we definitely enjoyed the extra space and storage.

For dinner, we had the early seating and shared a table with 4 other couples, one of which we only saw one night. We were lucky to have an awesome table and we all clicked from the get go. Great table, lots of fun and laughs throughout the cruise. Great wait staff as well.

More posts to come!

 

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