Saturday, August 13, 2011

10 Popular Travel Scams - via FoxNews

Saw this article and thought I'd share it out here as it has some specific scan topics of interest for various cities around the world - and just as a reminder to be extra careful while traveling. We heard about the Egypt scam while there. Luckily our tour guide had some connections, and Jen and I had a great time on two camels at the pyramids! But do beware - all over Egypt. Lots of scams and people just waiting to catch you off guard.

And that's why I'm adding to the warning. You are out traveling. Be it locally, somewhere in within your country, or out on a trip to some distant land. You are there to have fun and see new things. You mind is busy and engaged. It probably isn't thinking about the many ways someone could take advantage of a certain environment to rip you off. And that's when something happens without you knowing about it.

Be careful out there. Some countries are known to be worse than others, but you can get ripped off by a pro, or by the kid on the street corner.

FoxNews article: 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Wellcome Collection London (mobile)

A few exhibits at the Wellcome Collection - Dirty & Medicine Man.

Didn't really care for Dirty at all. Wacky artists and their visions of the dirty mess us humans have & will make. Just some nutty stuff in my view.

While the Medicine Man was quite interesting & I wish we had spent more time there. Some very interesting historic medical and cultural pieces.

We cut the visit short to try to make it to the National Gallery, but by the time we had made it over there on the Underground mom & dad were pretty pooped & the museums were closing in about an hour. So we just headed back to the hotel to get some packing done & rest before our final family dinner before heading back to the states.

If you get a chance, see the Medicine Man exhibit. Quite interesting.
Tomorrow AM it is back to the states.
Been a great vacation and hate to see it draw to an end.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Room with a View - London (mobile)

Well, we survived getting off the ship & getting into London. A bit of a feat with 11 travelers and a ton of luggage.
A few mix-ups with the rooms, but we are dealing with it.

Not too exciting of a view, but better than many. Not sure yet if this is an active church or a historic place yet. If I recall correctly from our last visit it is historic.

Our hotel is right behind the one we stayed at last time, so we have a good idea where things are, including an Underground station just across the street. Very handy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

St. Coleman's Cathedral (mobile)

St. Coleman's Cathedral is a 19th century Gothic revival cathedral & home to the largest Carillon (49 bells) in the UK.

The cathedral overlooks the colorful seaport town of Cobh (pronounced Cove). Cobh is known for being the last port of call for the Titanic, and also as the home of the first immigrant to disembark at Ellis Island, Annie Moore.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Giant's Causeway Ireland (mobile)

This is one interesting place.
Ever been to Devil's Postpile in California? This is a lot bigger and right on the northern Ireland coast.

The coast is very rough - and very beautiful. Water is awfully cold, you won't catch me taking a dip.

If you visit northern Ireland I would recommend a stop here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

View of Geiranger Fjord, Norway (mobile)

Here's a view from our stateroom. Included the full size bus in the bottom corner to give you some idea of the size of the Fjord walls. Can't even see the top of most because of the clouds.

It's like an extra lush Yosemite valley - at least that's how Jen explains it.

Right now there are three cruise ships at Geiranger which is at the terminus of the Fjord.

Geiranger Norway (mobile)

Great fjords on the way into Geiranger.

Lots of waterfalls down the steep cliffs. Simply beautiful.

Nessie Found! (mobile)

Don't know why people say searching Loch Ness for Nessie is so hard. We drove right up and saw her in this pond just off the loch...

I have to say, she wasn't as impressive as I expected.

Pub Lunch - Edinbrough (mobile)

Our guide recommended this pub for lunch. I had the beef pie and a pint of Tennets lager. It was really good.

Jen's brother had haggus - we each tried a small bite... Not disgusting, but I don't see myself ordering it anytime soon.

Didn't know they can't serve drinks till 12:30 in the afternoon. Good thing we sat down at 12:25 - beat the rush too!

Craigmillar Castle, Edinbrough, Scotland (mobile)

First Day in Scotland, first castle.

Lots of rooms and interesting areas to investigate.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Yosemite - Great Place to Visit

I was doing some photo organizing the other day and ran across some shots from a business trip years ago to Yosemite. Yeah, yeah, I know - tough gig. =)

There was a conference there (actually not the best place for a conference, but that's another topic) and we had a long break one afternoon - that was when location really mattered! Off we went to explore the valley a bit.

I thought I'd share some of the photos I took because it really is a beautiful place. If you haven't been, you should go for sure. It has changed a lot of the years since my wife and her family backpacked there every year, but the views and the nature are just fantastic.

So take a peek at my photos. I hope you like them. More to come. =)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More Pyramids in Egypt? Yes - 17 More, Underground! Plus 1,000 Tombs

Ran across this news article (thanks Facebook Friend & 2nd Cousin Austen for posting the article from Yahoo! News) that caught my eye since we were visiting the Pyramids of Giza just last November.

Currently at this site there are 3 full size pyramids and 3 smaller ones. I'm sorry to say that as I sit here now I can't remember the stories behind the smaller ones. I want to say they are for the children of one of the Pharaohs, but I can't recall.

What an interesting use of remote sensing technology. Using what we know about the way the pyramids and tombs were built, they were able to classify the infrared imagery to look for density changes. These structures were built with mud bricks which are much more dense than the soil around them.

Amazing - 17 pyramids, 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements.

There will be a documentary on the BBC which follows Egyptologist Dr. Sarah Parcak as she begins to unearth this new find. Keep an eye out for "Egypt's Lost Cities" if you find this topic interesting. I love the title they give the Dr - "Satellite Archaeologist". Cool.

Weird six degrees of separation moment? Dr Parcak was born in Bangor, Maine, as was my mom.

Here's the link to the full article:

Here's a BBC article that goes into more detail about the work leading up to the find:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Baha'i Gardens Haifa (mobile)

Another cell phone pic from Nov 2010 cruise.

Wow these terraced gardens were something to see! They weren't open to walk down the day we were there, but they are still very impressive.

Worth a visit if you are in Haifa for sure.

The Wailing Wall (mobile)

Very interesting stop at the Wailing Wall. Just sitting and people watching at this location is fascinating. So many people from all over the world & from all walks of life.

Rod has been wanting to come to the Wailing Wall for many, many years. It was great to see him be able to place his prayers in the wall and say a short prayer.

Interesting to see the men's and women's sections. And the size differences.

Pyramids of Giza (mobile)

Another cell phone pic from Nov 2010 trip. The pyramids of Giza were nice to see. Wish we had more time there - but the camel ride was something we just had to do! =)

I would rather of had more time at the pyramids and less at the sphinx. Oh well. One of the downsides of being on a group excursion - have to follow their time line. But lots of benefits too!

A must see if you get to Egypt.

Temple of Luxor (mobile)

Cell phone pic at the Temple of Luxor (Nov 2010).

What a fantastic structure. Amazing to wander around marveling at the scale of the pieces. How did they build all this?

Has held up amazingly well considering the age and flooding and everything else it has been through.

Italian Pizza in Sorrento (mobile)

Another cell phone pic. From November 2010.

Pizza & beer in Sorrento with Jen & dad. This was actually the best pizza we had in Italy. A little neighborhood restaurant with all outdoor seating.

Jen loved the fresh squeezed OJ!

When in Rome... (mobile post)

Testing MMS mobile update capabilities. Getting ready for that next trip...

Took this photo from the taxi heading to our hotel the day we arrived in Rome. Fantastic to just be driving around and see sights like this. Things from your elementary school history books. Things I figured I wouldn't ever see in person.

So much history out there to see and learn about!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mexico & Europe Cruises - 2009

Back before the creation of this travel focused blog we shared a lot of photos and stories from 2009 - which was a great travel year for us. Started 2009 in Mexico on a cruise and were actually blessed with a second cruise over the summer to Europe! Both cruises with the majority of the Jones family - great to have so much family time with them.

Most of this post is focused on Europe - which tended to outshine Mexico somehow...  =)
So may need to come back with a Mexico post sometime.

Until then - enjoy...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2010 Mediterranean Trip – Greece (part 2 of 6)

After leaving Athens we were aboard our ship and heading for Mykonos (Greece) then Rhodes (Greece).

Nov 4, 2010 – Mykonos island, Greece
Tim just off the Tender

Mykonos beach
Mykonos has a total land mass of about 33 square miles. There is a population of 5,000, but they have around 900,000 visitors each year! A large portion of the islands economy is from fishing. First inhabited by the Kares in 3,000 BC, then by Egyptians, then the Cretes. Franks and Venetians ruled the island from 1207-1390. In 1537 the island was looted by the pirate Barbarossa. It was then under Turkish domain until the Greek War of Independence broke out in 1821 – the island people were not happy with the Turks, so quickly seized the chance to raise the revolutionary flag.
Homes & Shops of Mykonos
We dropped anchor about 7 AM – just when we got up (love vacations!). We had decided the night before we didn’t have to rush breakfast and run into town – and we didn’t have a planned excursion, so no worries. Scheduled to leave port at 9 PM.
So off to the dining room for breakfast. Not as good as we had hoped for. Have to order bacon well done or it comes undercooked, the french toast is soggy, skip it. Request your omelet well done and it comes cooked through. 
Port City of Mykonos
We all cleaned up and headed to the tender and into town. Nice little town with local fishermen and lots of little shops along the windy streets. We wandered in and out of shops for about an hour then headed back to the ship. Mom was running out of energy and we were getting hungry since we didn’t eat a big breakfast.
We packed up our stuff and moved to a new stateroom before heading to the buffet for lunch. The plan being to eat and then for Tim & Jen to take the shuttle boat over to Delos Island, the birth place of Apollo.
The Windmills of Mykonos
Well, we all know that plans change. Jen has been having an allergic reaction to something on ship already. We think this is a food allergy, but haven’t been able to nail it down. The pills she took hit her hard and she was out for the count. So Tim went back into town on his own to wander the streets and take photos. He found that most of the streets have little touristy shops on them, but did actually get away from those and deeper into town. Passed an elementary school where some kids were out playing a game with the teacher watching over them, local restaurant stands, etc. Overall a very clean town.

Streets of Mykonos
Turning back towards the coast Tim found himself behind the windmills on the coast. The windmills are not in use any more, but used to be used to grind flour. So swung back that way for some photos. More cats too. We have seen a lot of cats on the island.
Wandered around many streets, up and down hills. It became obvious that the streets are all angled to collect water, and all sloped towards the coast for drainage. Our info sheet on the island also told us that the streets were designed to be windy and take lots of odd turns to slow down and confuse pirate attackers and allow the locals to get the upper hand when protecting their homes.

November 5th, Rhodes, Greece (very close to Turkey, but still a Greek Island)
Better breakfast today – we now know to order everything well done.
Church of the Virgin of the Burgh
Mom wasn’t feeling great, so Dad went with us to look around the old town within the fortified wall a bit. No surprise, inside the walls were a ton of shops for the tourists to wander through and spend their money. We walked around, took photos and investigated the architectural details from this area that was built up by the Knights of Loannites back in the 1300’s. After WWII this island, along with the other Dodecanese islands were incorporated into Greece. Nothing left to see of Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the world.

Church of St. Panteleimon
Homes in the walled city
Some nice shops in the walled city. Jen found a nice table cloth that would fit our dinning room table, so we got that with plans to use it for Christmas. We walked around the inside of the wall a bit. Turns out we went the way that took us away from the touristy parts and into a local neighborhood - with I always find interesting. It also gave us a chance to pop into the Church of St. Panteleimon - such a small little church, but some very interesting and colorful paintings inside. Quite a sight.
Interior wall of Church
We headed back to the ship to check in on mom and drop off dad. We decided to grab lunch before heading back out.
After lunch we headed back into town. After changing plans a few times we decided to take a taxi over to the Palace of the Knights of St John. Interesting architecture – moat, watch towers, drawbridges & battlements. Also some really old mosques. We were bummed to see that everything (except the shopping) closed up at 3 PM. So we just missed going inside the palace.
Tim in Rhodes
All four of us crashed for naps until just before dinner. Jen had duck breast (it was OK), and the others all had “surf and turf” – although mom & dad just got the “surf” (which worked well for them – they each got a full lobster tail), versus the half that Tim got with his fillet.
Jen & Tim hit the casino for a bit. Short visit but Tim was up on the slots. Was way up, but of course sunk a bunch back in…but in the end we came out close to even. Tomorrow is a sea day – we plan on sleeping in! Even order in room breakfast…

Up next, travel day at Sea and then Jerusalem, Israel.

For more photos check out my Flickr "Travels" set.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ketchikan, Alaska - July 2008 family cruise

Ketchikan, Alaska. We had a day here, and saw a lot. I think this is a nice area that could certainly support two or three days.

I like this photo a lot. Something about it grabs me. I find it peaceful, and like that the flag is there as well. This photo "feels" a lot like Ketchikan - quiet and relaxed.

From what I have heard from other cruisers, it sounds like most trips stop here. Be sure to go onshore and enjoy your time there.

And let me know what your favorite thing to do there was!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Looking up river in Ketchikan

Ketchikan, Alaska was a fun stop on our first ever cruise. I will tell you what we tell everyone we meet that hasn't cruised before - if you only take one cruise in your life, take one to Alaska. What a fabulous place to visit - so much to see and so beautiful!

We spent a long day in Ketchikan and were able to do a lot. Could have used a second day without a problem.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2010 Mediterranean Trip – USA to Greece, Days 1-5 (part 1 of 6)

We thought we should take some notes as we traveled to help remember all the things were are going to see, and for a blog post to share some photos and information with family and friends. We were more successful with keeping up with notes at the beginning of the trip…imagine that. So we worked on back filling some of the notes. Some are by Jen, some by Tim, so a mix of both of us (can you tell who wrote what parts??).

I also decided that this was getting too long, so have broken the trip up into six different posts so that you don’t get too bored and miss a big chunk of the trip. This will also allow me to (finally) get a post out about the trip without having to have the entire thing done all at once – for example – we loved Rome, but didn’t write down any notes! So have to back fill some parts more than others.

We also suffered from digital camera disease =) – I took 3,944 photos and Jen took 1,926! I am sorry to say that I didn’t think about taking video more often during the trip. I have some from Egypt and Israel and a few other places. Will probably post most of these separate from the blog posts. We shall see…

This is an area of the world that I would suggest you travel to if you ever get a chance – so much rich history to see & feel & be a part of.

We are took the “Holy Land” cruise on the Azamara ship Journey. This is a fairly new cruise line that has a number of the small ships we feel in love with on Oceana. 700 guests and 390 staff – that’s a good ratio. The smaller ships are great for getting into smaller ports and giving you more options. We really like the more intimate feel and better service you get too.

Our itinerary for this jaunt. We were traveling with Jen’s folks – 84 & 85 years young. They get around great for their age, but they are still 84 & 85. Flying takes a toll on them both. So we broke up the flying with an overnight stay near the JFK.

New York (Queens – JFK Airport hotel…) Oct 30

Athens (Piraeus) (Greece) 11/1/10 – 11/3/10 – cruise started on 11/3
Mykonos (Greece) 11/04/10    7:00 AM - 9:00 PM 
Rhodes (Greece) 11/05/10    9:00 AM - 6:00 PM 
At Sea 11/06/10    --- 11/06/10    --- 
Haifa (Israel) 11/07/10    7:00 AM - 10:00 PM 
Ashdod (Israel) 11/08/10    7:00 AM - 10:00 PM 
Cairo (Port Said) (Egypt) 11/09/10    7:00 AM - 9:00 PM 
Cairo (Alexandria) (Egypt) 11/10/10    9:00 AM - 11:00 PM 
At Sea 11/11/10    --- 11/11/10    --- 
At Sea 11/12/10    --- 11/12/10    --- 
Sorrento (Italy) 11/13/10    11:00 AM   --- 
Sorrento (Italy) 11/14/10 --- 5:00 PM 
Rome (Civitavecchia) (Italy) 11/15/10 (last day of cruise) – 11/16/10

New York (Queens – JFK Airport hotel) 11/17/10
Back home late in San Diego – 11/18/10 (hated the drive to Valley Center – I was beat!)

Nov 1, 2010 11:00 pm, local time – New York

We are here! After an exhausting two days of travel we have arrived in Greece. But back to the trip to get to Greece… We left San Diego on October 30 and flew to New York. Once there we got a wheelchair for Mom and 3 of us followed after the guy pushing it. At the baggage carousel he dropped us off and left. Once we got our luggage the real walking begin! Good Gods, we must have traveled a mile to the airtrain (think raised rail) that took us to another area where we rushed to meet the hotel shuttle. I didn’t think Mom was going to make it and I don’t think she did either. We were all droopy, dragging our 11 pieces of luggage (5 big ones, a carry-on each, Dad’s oxygenator and the two containers of batteries)! But we made it and we had a nice stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in Jamaica….Queens, New York. We all perked up at the thought of dinner - and the free drink coupons from our friend Dean at the front desk didn’t hurt anything.

Halloween. (Sigh.) The first year I haven’t carved a pumpkin in I don’t know when. My favorite time of year… Arrived early at JFK in case the lines were long. They weren’t, but it didn’t matter. We had a pretty good lunch as far as airport food goes and then boarded our Delta flight to Athens. Let me tell you, they need to board people from the back of the plane. Once I walked through first class and saw where we were going to sit I wanted to weep. We had more room on our JetBlue flight from San Diego to New York, and this trip was going to be 6 hours longer!

Arrived safely the next morning in Athens after traveling with a plane full of Greeks headed home. A nice older woman sat across the aisle from Mom and Dad and required our assistance several times. She thought we were great and kept taking my arm and hand in her cool hands and squeezing and patting. She lost her husband after 49 years of marriage and has no family. I don’t know what she was doing in the US, as her English was very broken and my Greek non-existent, as well as the fact that she spoke rather softly in the noisy plane. Nice woman, I found her at the wrong baggage carousel after we landed and brought her over to the right one. She told Mom and Dad they have a good daughter.

Wow. Long plane ride and the food was awful. All right, I thought the food was awful, everyone else thought dinner wasn’t bad but agreed with me on breakfast. Mom thought the egg on English muffin was, I quote, “Really bad cheese.” We got our bags, asked directions and went to find our driver. I stopped him as he started to sprint past us towards the terminal. When you get in at 8:30 in the morning you hit traffic. Not bad, but they are crazy drivers. The freeways are pretty, lined with the mini forests of assorted pines with a few wild Cyprus trees and some eucalyptus. The driver said that there are 8 million people living in Athens. Interestingly enough, he asked us if we wanted to know how many Greeks were living in the city and proceed to tell us (4 million?) before relaying the actual population. [ Athens is made up of 55 municipalities – the total pop of these together in 2001 was just under 4 million, the city of Athens itself is just under 800,000 and the whole country is over 11 million ] We got the feeling from this driver and a tour guide later that they aren’t too excited about the booming mass of the illegal immigration population. They are seen as a drain on the system since they don’t pay taxes and they also sell cheap goods on the street that take away from legitimate local businesses. It sounds like it is a growing problem, especially in the larger cities.

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Athens is a huge sprawl of white colored houses, apartments and other buildings. Just beautiful.

Tim was quite intrigued by all the graffiti. It is everywhere. Roads, stores, alleys, everywhere you look. I got the feeling they have just given up trying to keep up with it. I would classify it as tagging since it was mostly words. In the US there is some graffiti that is really amazing art work. In talking with the guide about it, it sounds like it is mostly political expression – the only way a lot of the public feels they can make a statement about what they don’t like, the only way to maybe be heard.

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We decided to get something to eat and wandered around the shops a bit till we decided on something. Tim had the breakfast special (eggs, bacon, bread) and a coffee – this is the best coffee I have ever had. Even Jen liked it! Also the first time I have used a French  Press. Jen had a plate of spanakopita (and loved it).


November 2, 2010, Athens, Greece

Hotel Plaka – nice hotel if you ever visit Athens. Plaka means “city center” – this is the center of the old city. Nice location. They even let us into our room at 10:00 in the morning. Helped mom & dad into their room, opened up the blinds and there was the Acropolis!

IMG_2121 Wow! Just fantastic.

The hotel also has a roof bar – which has a fantastic view of the Acropolis! You have to go up there at night – hard to beat the view and it is just lovely at night – partially because of the dramatic lighting, and partially because the darkness hides the construction equipment around the ruins.

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Had a decent breakfast in the hotel restaurant this morning and then headed out on a half day sight seeing excursion. We had the same driver and bus as yesterday and a good older woman who was very knowledgeable on about everything. She had a great grasp of English which made things so much nicer. She told us too much history and information to fit into our heads! So much to do, see and learn – fantastic!

On our driving tour of the city, we first stopped at the Temple of Zeus. There isn’t much left standing, but it was still great. Very lovely. While there I asked her about all the dogs you so everywhere and found out that in Greece they don’t look down on dogs running loose, in fact there are groups that will take the dogs in to visit the vet to be cared for. They are fed and don’t look at all sick. They are laying around the temples and all over the city. Very mellow and friendly. Nice that they are cared for and aren’t sick and passing sickness around. We didn’t see too many cats loose – except on top of the Acropolis, there was a whole family living up there. Very friendly kittens too!

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Next we drove through town to a high point called Agios Georgios (we didn’t go all the way to the top). A great view over Athens from here, over to the Acropolis and beyond. Our guide pointed out various historical spots and told a few stories about things that happened there over the years. It was just amazing to see so many homes. They are packed together too – the density is  just crazy compared to the US.

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Coming down from the hill we were back in the traffic – driving in areas outside the US can be a very different experience. There just seem to be so many more cars, and all squeezing into every spot possible. Many times in Athens we saw motorcycles go up on the sidewalk to get past some cars backed up in traffic. Just nuts. And a lot more motorcycles than in the US. They seem to be very popular because they can bypass so much traffic. Watch traffic at a signal. Cars stop, and then the motorcycles start piling up at the front as they work their way passed all the waiting cars. Then they take off into the next block to do it again, getting a bit more ahead of the cars each time.

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Finally – to the Acropolis! I have wanted to see the Parthenon since design school all those years ago. Wow – the Acropolis – Amazing! The guide had some diagrams of what the various structures used to look like, explained some of the design features and symbolism, etc.

It was too bad there was so much construction equipment around, but they are working had to rehabilitate the ruins. It would be great to come back sometime in the future when the restoration work is done and see it all in its full glory.

Entrance stairs into the Acropolis.

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Overview on top of the Acropolis

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View of the Parthenon, over the side of the Acropolis, around town to the theater at the base of the Acropolis.

Later Jen and I decided to head out for a walk. Wanted to see more of the city, and we needed to get a replacement plug converter as one of ours had broken. Found some interesting places in the commercial part of town. And yes, we got a converter – nice guy didn’t let us by the expensive one from Germany or something like that, pointed us to the MUCH cheaper one from China. Saw a few pet shops (and the largest rabbits we have seen in our lives!), a farmers market, and the meat market. We didn’t get across the street early enough to really enjoy the meat market – it looked really interesting from what we could see.

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Went out in the evening for some late shopping and to grab dinner at a place Jen and I saw earlier in the day that looked nice, called Efxaris. We had some good food (and drink) – somehow managing to eat a bit more than any of us should have. =) 

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It is really cool that you can walk all over the place and look up at almost any time and see the Acropolis watching over you. Turn a corner and there is another temple you hadn’t seen before. Walk down a busy street and run into some really interesting little churches.

Lots of history, literally at every turn.

Nov 3, 2010, Athens, Greece

Up again at the Hotel Plaka, breakfast at the hotel.

Ran out to do some quick shopping – x-mas gifts for a few family members, and some local coins for dad to add to his collection. Just outside the flea market area (wish we had found that earlier – looks like some good shops) we found a man selling coins – 20 coins for 5 Euro – dad had a blast picking out the 22 he wanted, yes, 22, the nice man said we should take a few extra. Dad also picked out a few of the more expensive ones – totaled 10 Euro, not too much and totally worth it to see dad happy to have his Greek coins.


Back to hotel to pack and catch the shuttle to the port. Different driver this time, but a nice guy. Drive to port was about… total guess here since I didn’t watch the time… 45 minutes. Saw a lot of the outer cities of Athens and the industrial area.


Pulled up to the port. Tim commented that it is a large port, the driver said it is the third largest port in Europe. So yeah, it’s big. The port is called Pireas.

Pulled right up to the Azamara area, guys grabbed the luggage and a nice lady walked us inside to the usual “medical form” which basically let’s them know if you have been having diarrhea recently. They would probably want to keep you off the ship or quarantine you right from the get-go. They really have to watch stomach bugs on ships – they can spread like wildfire.

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No lines, and check in was pretty painless. Security check was more lax than most. Bags through x-ray, people through metal detector – the metal detector kept going off, but there was no one there, so people just filed through. At least they were watching the x-ray machine.

Went to our rooms, then up to the buffet for some lunch. This is totally the same ship that Oceana has. Exact same layout. Some minor layout differences in the staterooms, and things like carpet color are different, but same core ship.

Nice size these ships. Not too small, but certainly not as huge as most of the major lines. We like them for a few reasons – they can get into smaller ports (like docking right in town in St Petersburg Russia), and the crew to passenger ratio is much better compared to the large ships. So you get better and more personalized service. The Azamara ships allow for 694 guests.

We were surprised to find we didn’t have side-by-side cabins, so requested to switch with the people between us. No promises, but they said they would ask the other guests. After a late lunch we were in the cabin and were surprised to hear (and feel) the practice session for the evenings show. A review of the ship layout showed that our room was directly above the back of the stage. Not good. Was trying to relax and read and the floor was vibrating and I could hear most of the must being played – not very relaxing…

Dinner was good, but not very hot. Soups were warm, entrĂ©e was warm. Tim had the duck appetizer, French onion soup and beef tenderloin. Jen had an appetizer, French onion soup & the tenderloin as well. Enjoyed the free house wine. Nice to see that they aren’t crappy box wines – they rotate the house white & red each day. This evenings red was a merlot called “Goodnight” from the CA Central Coast.

After dinner we went by Guest Relations and talked with them. They asked us to stay in the room for the night since the show would be ending soon, and said that they would find us a new stateroom in the morning. We ended up on the other side of the ship, two floors up. But that was actually nice – we could always get the best view off the ship from one room or the other.

Off to Mykonos!