Age: Baby Boomer
Number of Cruises: lots
Cruise Line: Regent Seven Seas
Ship: Seven Seas Voyager
Itinerary: Eastern Mediterranean
Age: Baby Boomer
Occupation: Self Employed
Number of Cruises: lots
Cruise Line: Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
Ship: Seven Seas Voyager
Itinerary: Eastern Mediterranean
Summary in Advance
This cruise is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. The ship, the dining, the service, and the itinerary are simply, the best. Radisson has it right!
Joanie and I were the seminar leaders and group escorts for two small groups of 22 travel professionals aboard the Radisson Seven Seas Voyager for two seven day itineraries, back-to-back in the eastern Mediterranean.Getting to the Ship
This was a continuation of a month long trip that had already taken me to China, Korea, Japan, Jamaica, Haiti and Mexico. I left Joanie in Hong Kong and was finally meeting up with her in New York's JFK airport. I debarked the Navigator of the Seas in Miami and made my way to MIA for a flight on American Airlines non-stop to JFK. Upon arrival I transferred to Swiss Air international terminal and met Joanie who had just flown in from SAN. It was great to see her and after a while we boarded Swiss Air for the flight to Geneva. I must say that I would not choose Swiss Air again, as the pitch in coach was barely tolerable, which is quite unusual for an international flight. We connected in Geneva and flew non-stop to Athens, Greece. We flew into Athens a day before the cruise, but if you have not visited Athens, I would suggest at least a couple of days to explore its treasures.
We stayed at the Royal Olympic Hotel in Athens and I would highly recommend it. The hotel is well located, just a 5-minute walk to the Plaka and its wonderful restaurants, shopping and sights. One can also walk to the Acropolis and many other famous Athens sights. The hotel commands a formidable view of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the surrounding area. One can see the acropolis on the top of the hill from your lanai. The rooms are quite generous in size for European hotels and the service is excellent. After enjoying dinner in the Plaka, we settled in for the evening. We were up early and again ventured into the Plaka for breakfast and some serious exploration of every nook and cranny the Plaka offers. This was really the first time that I had ample time to really penetrate the Plaka and I would rate it quite high on Athens’s “must see” list. Around noon, we checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to meet the ship in Piraeus, the adjoining port city to Athens.
The Seven Seas Voyager Docked in Kusadasi
Having sailed the Seven Seas Navigator recently, I was surprised by the size of the Seven Seas Voyager. She looks much larger than the Navigator and carries 700 lucky passengers. She is considered a 6-star ship and she lives up to her reputation very nicely. As the world's second all-suite, all balcony ship, The Seven Seas Voyager is a true luxury experience
Joanie and I treated ourselves to a Penthouse Suite (includes butler service) and we were glad we did, as things turned out.
The Penthouse Suite Floor Plan The Penthouse Suite is 370 square feet (including the balcony) is quite large enough for two people on a longer cruise.
Penthouse Suite Bedroom (Cabin 1042) The bedroom partitions off from the living area by the use of a full length drapery. When this privacy drapery fully encloses the bedroom area, the black out shade over the window in the bedroom allows for maximum darkness making sleeping during the day very easy. Joanie actually slept almost 24 hours straight in this environment when she was recovering from her illness. The bedding is of the highest of quality. There is a master lighting control on the headboard for the entire cabin, and there are two reading lights with separate controls that allow one to read without bothering the other person. two-drawer nightstands reside on either side of the bed. Next to the bed is a complete women’s cosmetic mirror, lights and counter. An excellent hair dryer is also located there. With enough drawer space for everything women bring with them. Along the wall facing the ocean is a huge desktop and chest of drawers, desk drawer and storage area. There are two 110v electrical outlets and a telephone, however, currently there is not Internet access available from the cabin for a notebook computer in the Penthouse Suites. HINT: Bring a extra 10 foot extension cord with at least 3 outlets for the use of various electrical appliances.
The Living Area
The living area is of substantial size. The balcony (50 square feet) does not have lounge chairs, but rather plastic chairs and a small table. It is perfect for coffee in the morning, but not large enough to lounge in the sun. The privacy on the balcony is excellent, however. The sofa is at least 6’ 6” and is large enough for a tall person to comfortably sleep on (I know, I slept on it one evening when Joanie was really ill). For in cabin dining, there are two comfortable chairs and a table that converts into a dining table, rather than go out to one of the restaurants and there are two comfortable chairs. A full bar, with an entertainment center below, take up most of the cabinetry. Radisson includes 2 bottles of your favorite booze per cruise and you can order whatever you want for mixers and such. The entertainment center houses a television offering multiple channels and first run movies with no extra charge. There is also a DVD player and a substantial DVD lending library is located in the Internet café. Below the entertainment center is a concealed refrigerator stocked with bottled water, beer, soft drinks and juices. All of these beverages are also included in the cruise fare and are replaced as you use them. If you would like bloody Mary mix, as an example, it will be provided for you on a daily basis.
The Walk-In Closet
The walk-in closet is large enough for an extended cruise and easily accommodates everyone’s wardrobe with room to spare. There is a separate tie rack and also a belt rack for men and a full chest of drawers (with a hidden safe) there, as well.
The Penthouse Bathroom
The bathroom is simply elegant. First, there is a full sized bathtub with excellent water controls, next is a fully enclosed glass shower with excellent water controls and a toilet. The mirrored sink area offers plenty of space for storing toiletries and there is both a men’s and a women’s side. It comes stocked with Aveda cosmetic products that include shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body lotion. There is also Aveda bar soap. Next to the doorway is a floor to ceiling mirror for that last second check before heading out for the evening. I might mention that the door also has a doorbell for folks to announce their arrival at your suite.
Joanie and Sagit, Our Butler
Sagit, our butler also came with the suite. Sagit was a lifesaver for Joanie. Without Sagit, it would have been very difficult to make sure that Joanie had everything she needed to recover from her bout. One quick request of Sagit and he would magically appear with whatever we needed. Once Joanie was healthy again, we laughed about simply booking ourselves into a suite with a butler the next time we get ill, rather than staying home and being miserable.
All in all, I would highly recommend this category on this ship. The cabins are well located, the extra touch of having your own butler and the extra room in the cabin makes a longer period on a ship much more enjoyable. I did get a chance to see the other cabin categories on the Voyager and also liked the Grand Suite, as it had a Jacuzzi tub next to the bedroom looking out its own floor to ceiling window at the ocean. I thought it would be fun to cruise in it sometime in the future.
Also, I took some pictures of the Deluxe Suite, Voyager Suite, Grand Suite and Master Suite and published them here. I also included a floor plan for each suite so that you can see the differences. If it were me, I would take the Grand Suite on my next Seven Seas Voyager cruise.
The Dining Venues
One of the great things about luxury cruising is the dining and the Seven Seas Voyager is no exception. She offers four exceptional restaurants and a poolside lunch venue. The dining is gourmet and the experience delightful. Here are the restaurants in the order that I enjoyed them.
This was by far my favorite restaurant on the Seven Seas Voyager. Here is how the ship describes the restaurant; “Signatures is operated exclusively under the auspices of chefs of the famed Le Cordon Bleu of Paris. The menu is presented in the classic A La Carte tradition. This elegant venue is only open for dinner, the Dress Code requires jackets for Gentleman and Informal for Ladies, and reservations are required.” The menu is excellent, the service impeccable, the presentation engaging and the entire dining experience is simply six-star. We dined here twice and would have every night if we could have pulled it off.
Compass Rose Restaurant
This is the ship’s main restaurant and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. While it is the main dinning venue, it by no means pales in comparison to the other dining venues. We had several meals in the Compass Rose Restaurant that rivaled the other dining venues in all aspects. The Compass Rose is open for breakfast and lunch for those that want a more formal dining experience. No reservations are required for dinner.
La Veranda Buffet
Dining on the Fantail at La Veranda
La Veranda is also the ship’s buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast finds many different fresh fruits, juices, nuts, breads, meats, eggs and other treats. There is a gourmet omelet station that also offers specialty egg dishes like Eggs Benedict and such. One can choose to dine in the restaurant itself or on the fantail out in the open. We found that breakfast on the fantail was something we looked forward to. Lunch also brings an excellent array of dishes to please your palette. Every day there are salads, soups, meats, seafood (including shellfish of some sort) freshly made pasta to your taste, an Asian station with various Asian dishes, rice and other treats, and a full dessert offering. The table service is excellent and we found no need to go any further for breakfast, and sometimes lunch when our appetite suggested we could consume such treats.
We only dined in Latitudes once and our meal was not all that great, particularly when compared to the other restaurants. I am not sure if Joanie and I are Asian fusion snobs, or if the restaurant actually fell short of everyone’s expectations. Being from San Diego where there is a wealth of Asian fusion restaurants and having a rich Asian dining background, we found the menu to be uninteresting and the service only very good. Unless you are an Asian dining aficionado, I suspect you will find the restaurant much to your liking. Joanie and I had experienced some 6-star Asian fusion meals in Hong Kong only a few days before this cruise and I suspect that experience made us impossible to please. But, I have to call it as I see it.
Pool Grill, deck 11, mid ship
The Pool Grill
Joanie and I took a good number of lunches at the Pool Grill and they were excellent when compared to other cruise lines and ships. On several occasions the bar-b-ques were fired up and wonderful lunches were prepared poolside. This usually happened on days at sea. The normal daily menu included a small salad bar, mixed salads, numerous condiments, grilled to order selections such as hamburgers, hot dogs, steak sandwiches, fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, fries, chips and such. There were also fruits, desserts, cookies and other treats. One could choose to dine at one of the poolside tables or have their lunch served at their poolside lounge chair. The food was consistently good and the service excellent. My only observation was that the menu didn’t vary from day to day. I would have liked to have seen the mixed salads from La Veranda Restaurant extended to the Pool Grill on a daily basis to offer new and exciting choices for those that chose the Pool Grill on a consistent basis.
Morning also saw a selection of early morning treats at the Pool Grill. A fresh cup of coffee or tea, fresh fruit, various breads, dried fruit selections and yogurt were available for those up early, or wanting a modest (and healthy) breakfast.
The Coffee Corner
I couldn’t write this review without mentioning this little jewel. The Coffee Corner is open 24-hours every day and offers both regular and a decaffeinated coffee machines that dispense cappuccino, latte and regular coffee on demand. There are also pastries and/or cookies offered all day. Several types of tea are also available for those wanting it. A visit to the Coffee Corner is a great way to take a break and enjoy a fresh coffee drink at your leisure. Other Public Rooms
The best way to explore the Seven Seas Voyager beyond the restaurants is to start at the top deck and work our way down the ship. If you will join me, we will head all the way aft and take the elevator to deck 12.
The Paddle Tennis Court All the way aft is where the paddle tennis court is located. While we didn’t use it, those that did had a ball.
Part of the Jogging Track The jogging Track runs the length from aft of the paddle tennis court to the forward portion of deck 12 around the pool. Both walkers and joggers heavily used the jogging track every day of the cruise.
The Seven Seas Voyager Pool Area
Walking forward on the jogging deck, one captures their first glimpse of the Seven Seas Voyager's pool area. This is constructed perfectly for this ship and it is never crowded.
All the way forward on deck 12 is where the shuffleboard court and additional
lounge chairs are located. Deck 12 was an excellent place to be when entering
and departing ports, as it offered excellent views and visibility.
The Shuffleboard Court
The Observation Lounge
By going down the forward stairwell to deck 11 and then going all the way forward, we enter the beautiful Observation Lounge.
The Observation Lounge Bar
This offers a great bar and nightly entertainment, but is also a great place to hang out during the day time and when entering or departing ports. Moving aft past some of the suites on board and past the top level of the atrium, you enter the pool area.
The Pool Bar
The Pool Bar is on the port side; and a small stage, where groups play during sail-a-way parties and at-sea days, is located adjacent to the pool bar on the starboard side. A ping pong table is located there when there is no entertainment.
The Pool Area Lounges
The pool offers excellent lounges that recline and feature thick mattresses. The lounge chairs purposely have an abundant amount of space around them making it quite easy for everyone to get into and out of them. The pool is salt water while the 2 Jacuzzis are fresh water and are always kept at a perfect temperature without being too hot.
Just aft of the pool, several dining tables are part of the Pool Grill. The Pool Grill serves those using the pool for breakfast and lunch and offers extended hours for those returning too late for the other restaurants. Going inside leads to the aft stairwell. Walking through the doors leads you to the La Veranda Restaurant with its aft fantail for dining outdoors.
Decks 7, 8, 9 and 10
These are all passenger cabin decks. However, note that each deck has its own self-service laundry with free usage. This was a life saver for Joanie and I.
Moving all the way forward on deck 6 from the aft elevator, we pass several passenger staterooms until we arrive at the atrium.
The Photo Shop
On our right is the photo shop. The Seven Seas Voyager has two photographers that are completely non-invasive. They shot pictures only when requested and make themselves available for portraits on several evenings.
Just One Section of the Library
Across from the Photo Shop is the ship's library. This is an excellent library with all of the books color coded by type and then alphabetized with the beginning letter designated on the color tag. This makes it very easy to replace the book once you have read it.
The Seven Seas Voyager Library
There is a substantial travel section featuring books on many of the destinations that may be featured on the itinerary. Unfortunately, many folks took the books to their cabins and never returned them until the last day of the cruise.
The Entrance to the Judith Jackson Sea Spa and Salon
Forward of the forward elevator bank the Judith Jackson Sea Spa and Salon is found. The entrance is great and is always manned by the wonderful and happy young ladies that staff the spa. Click here to see a sample Judith Jackson Spa Menu
The Workout Area
There is a minimal workout area, but just enough equipment and free weights to accomplish a maintenance workout. There are several treadmills, a step machine and bikes for cardio workouts. as well. I especially enjoyed the steam room and shower in the work out area. The steam room was small, never busy and HOT! The showers were private, large and very enjoyable.
The Aerobics Room
While I didn't take any classes, Joanie took some almost every day in the aerobics room. They offered several classes and there was never a charge. Joanie loved the instructor and looked forward to every class.
The Beauty Salon
The beauty salon was always busy with ladies primping for the formal and informal nights and the massage and treatments offered in the spa were very popular.
Leaving the salon area and making our way down the stairway to deck five and then moving forward we find the entrance to the upper level of the Constellation Theater.
The Constellation Theater
This is the main showroom on the ship and the place where most special events take place. It offers comfortable seating, great sightlines and wonderful acoustics.
The Registration Desk
Looking aft, one sees the registration desk (on the starboard side) and the tour desk (on the port side). The registration desk is manned 24 hours per day and is quite helpful with every request or question.
The Tour Desk
The tour desk personnel are also quite helpful and there was an excellent assortment of tours offered at each port. Shore excursion talks were given prior to arrival in each port and were subsequently televised for those that missed the talk. One of the services that the Voyager provides that I would give high ratings for is the thorough disclosure of every port for those wanting to "do it on their own". They provide maps and detailed information on how to enjoy the port without buying a tour. I don't think this cost them a single tour booking, but it really pleased those that wanted the information that had already decided to not take a tour.
Aft of the main lobby lies the Hotel Manager's and the future cruise consultant's offices followed by the Internet Cafe on the port side.
The Internet Cafe
The Internet Cafe offers a reasonably fast connection depending on the location of the ship. It was down while in some ports (presumably because of port interference) but was generally very functional. The Voyager has also created a wi-fi "hot spot" in the Internet Cafe so that you can get your laptop online should you want to use your own computer. We didn't take that option simply because we didn't feel right SKYPING in an environment where other people were trying to concentrate. The rate to access the Internet is charged by the prepaid hour, rather than a per-minute rate. An hour is $6.00 ($.10 per minute), 5 hours is $25 ($.083 per minute), 10 hours is $40 ($.066 per minute), and 20 hours is $75 ($.0625 per minute). These are excellent access rates for a ship. Joanie and I purchased 2 10-hour packages, but would have purchased one 20-hour if we had known that you can have more than one computer accessing a code at one time.
Club.com Computer Center
Next to the Internet Cafe is Club.com, more computers that are used for computer classes, but that are also connected to the Internet for access. There was never a problem getting a terminal to log in on, even at the Internet cafe's busiest times.
Window Shopping at the General Store
Across from Club.com are the Voyager's boutiques. There is a rather large jewelry store and then the ship's logo and general store.
General Store Interior
There is everything that one would imagine you would find with the exception that there didn't seem to be an abundance of logo items for the ship. Many in our group wanted to purchase logo items and just could not find what they were looking for. I suspect that this is a lost revenue opportunity for Radisson. On the port side opposite the boutiques lies Latitudes Restaurant.
The Horizon Lounge Bar
Moving aft from the aft stairwell, we enter the Horizon Lounge.
The Horizon Lounge Stage
This excellent bar and smaller showroom is quite intimate and comfortable. The showroom is used for smaller entertainment venues such as comedians, and the bar also serves the Signatures Restaurant.
Moving forward from the Horizon Lounge and down the aft stairwell, we are delivered to the back entrance to the Compass Rose Restaurant. Walking through the restaurant and out the main entrance we see the entrance to the Night Club on the port side.
The Night Club Bartenders, the Best on the Seven Seas
I loved the Night Club (also known as the Voyager Lounge) and we made it our choice of meeting places. First, the bartenders were awesome. Once Joanie was feeling better, I stopped by the Night Club while I was waiting for Joanie to finish dressing for dinner. She was to meet me there for a glass of wine before we went to Signature's Restaurant. When I sat down the bar tender asked if I had just joined the ship. I explained that my wife had been ill and I had stayed close to the cabin to make sure she was OK. I didn't think anything of it, ordered a glass of wine and when Joanie arrived we had another. When it came time to pay, the bartender refused to charge us. From that point on, every time we entered the bar, they had our wine of choice ready for us. They were the best bartenders I have ever experienced on any ship.
The Night Club (Voyager Lounge) Dance Floor
The Night Club also offers pre and post dinner entertainment and dancing. There are always hot and cold appetizers available for those that want them prior to dinner and the entertainment is perfect for the venue, not to loud or invasive, but the right mix of sang and music. I wish The Night Club was somewhere near my house
The Casino Gaming Tables
Across from the Night Club is the Seven Seas Voyager's casino. While I am not a gambler, the casino was a very popular spot for many of the passengers.
The Casino Slot Machines
The slot machines seemed to be the most popular, as there were always folks playing them whenever the casino was open.
The Conference Room
Across from the casino on the port side is the Voyager's conference center. The Conference Center can accommodate substantial number of people. The adjoining card room may also be included in the square footage. The Voyager would make an excellent meeting venue for smaller groups.
The Connoisseur Club
On the starboard side of the Voyager moving forward is the ship's cigar club, the Connoisseur Club. While I didn't visit this club while the smoking lamp was on, Joanie and I used it to wait for the ship to clear in one of the ports. It is quite comfortable and I suspect, a great place to enjoy that stogie.
The Constellation Theater From the Stage
Finally, all the way forward on deck 4 is the main entrance to the Constellation Theater. You can see the sightlines are excellent from every seat in the house and the seats are easily accessed without crowding.
Every evening on the Voyager there are several choices for entertainment. There is always a main show in the Constellation Lounge and music in some of the other lounges. Joanie and I didn't go to any of the shows, as we were having to good a time just relaxing. The day's entertainment and other events are featured in "Passages", the Voyager's daily schedule of events. I have included a sample copy of "Passages" here.
The Group on the Seven Seas Voyager for the First Week
October 11th, 2004; Piraeus, Greece
We arrived at the cruise terminal and were immediately escorted to the ship after checking some of our luggage with the porter. In less than 5 minutes, we were on the ship and in the main showroom registering for the cruise. Before we knew it, we were enjoying champagne talking with some of the members in our group. The entire process was completely painless and should be the kind of embarkation every cruise line should strive for. Since our cabins were not to be ready for a couple of hours, we made our way up to the pool area to enjoy the first of many wonderful poolside bar-b-que lunches. Joanie and I snuck down to our cabin and discovered that it was ready for us, so we got our carry-on luggage and made our way to settle in. Our checked luggage awaited us, so we started unpacking. Since I had already been on the road for over two weeks, I especially appreciated the self-serve laundry on our deck and wasted no time filling the washers and dryers laundering my clothes. Our butler introduced himself and I was able to give him the balance of my clothes that required dry cleaning and pressing. I was ready for the cruise.
We attended the mandatory lifeboat drill shortly before departure from Piraeus and then returned our life vests to our cabin on the way to the pool deck for the sail away party. In addition to free cocktails, fresh shrimp cocktail, bar-b-qued shrimp, chicken, pork and steak skewers were offered along with several other delights. It was wonderful. We met some more folks with our group and had tons of fun catching up on past cruise experiences and renewing old friendships.
Joanie mentioned that she was not feeling that well, so we passed on joining some of the members for dinner and made our way to our cabin for a small rest. That is when it hit Joanie. I don’t know if it was Norwalk Virus or a bug she may have picked up in Hong Kong (or on an airplane) but she became quite ill. We skipped dinner and simply stayed in our cabin for the evening.
Tuesday, October 12th, 2004;
We slept late and Joanie awoke feeling somewhat better and made the decision to visit the day’s port. Nafplion is a quaint Greek village capped by a very impressive rock structure known as the Palamidhi Fort. It is perched 700 ft. above the city on an enormous rock that has sheer cliffs on all sides and can be seen from all points below. While Joanie and I would have wasted no time in climbing up the fort’s 682 stairs to the entrance, because of Joanie's weakened condition, we simply enjoyed Nafplion’s quaint pedestrian shopping streets and residential areas. Nafplion is typically Greek with whitewashed building exteriors and colorful doors and shutters adorning the simple architecture. Dogs and cats lounged everywhere, while the local population rode their motorbikes and bicycles here and there. Nafplion is truly a quaint port to visit and well worth a long and leisurely exploration. Those that did climb their way to the fortress said it was worth the climb, however be aware that they will collect money from you once at the top before entering the fort.
Joanie was bushed, so we made our way back to the ship in time to enjoy the poolside bar-b-que that was taking place. Now I must tell you. I love fish. When I saw that the lunch bar-b-que consisted of swordfish, yellow fin tuna, rock cod, salmon, grouper and other treats, I almost fainted. I loaded up on the swordfish, tuna and rock cod and enjoyed every last morsel. Joanie tried to eat something, but just didn’t feel like it. We spent the afternoon lying in the sun around the pool before Joanie decided to go to our cabin to take a nap. I was really starting to get worried about her at this point. It just wasn’t like Joanie to willingly leave the sun to take a nap. She slept for the entire afternoon.
Evening brought the first (and only) formal night during the first 7 day segment of the cruise. As Joanie was feeling somewhat ill, I decided to dine with members of the group in hopes of adding some normalcy to the cruise so far. We met for the Captain’s cocktail party and then headed to the Compass Rose Restaurant for a wonderful lobster dinner. I must say that the lobster that was presented this evening was probably the best I can remember having on any ship. After a wonderful dinner, I returned to our cabin to find Joanie sound asleep.
Wednesday, October 13th, 2004;
Up again quite early from a long night’s sleep, Joanie was feeling well enough to give a visit to Santorini a try. We waited for a couple of hours and then tendered into the port of Santorini and made our way to the gondola to ride up the steep cliff to the town of Fira. Fira is a very unique village and its beauty is captivating. We strolled its streets and enjoyed a stop for a coffee drink and to take in the beauty of the caldera below. Joanie was running out of energy, so we made our way back to the ship where Joanie took a long nap. I was continuing to get more deeply concerned about her health. Joanie made the attempt to dine with the group, but I could tell that she was not doing well. We called it an early evening and decided to turn in right after desert was served. Joanie spent the entire night quite ill.
Thursday, October 14th, 2004;
The doctor’s office opened at 8:00 am, so I demanded Joanie get some medical attention. This turned out to be a right decision, as she had picked up a particularly nasty bug. The doctor wanted to put her on an I.V. drip to try to rid her of it, but she refused electing to take an antibiotic and some other medicine. I spent the morning with her as her system calmed down and she was finally able to go to sleep. After a couple of hours, I realized she was going to sleep for some time so I decided to go ashore and spend some time wandering around Kusadasi’s huge shopping area. Kusadasi always amazes me with the variety and density of its shops. I suspect that it is one of the world’s most diverse shopping environments (sort of like an Istanbul Grand Bazaar Light). While Ephesus is the main attraction of Kusadasi, no one should discount the wonderful shopping opportunities offered there, as well.
After several hours exploring Kusadasi, I returned to the Seven Seas Voyager to find Joanie fast asleep recovering from her illness. I ordered her some broth and crackers (both items on her doctor’s recommended diet) and then went to the La Veranda Restaurant and simply ordered a bowl of pasta for dinner for myself.
Friday, October 15th, 2004; Rhodes, Greece
We arrived in Rhodes right on schedule. Rhodes is a great port and is interesting to explore. Joanie was already feeling much better, so after a good amount of time getting ready, we debarked the ship and entered Rhodes’ fabulous labyrinth of alleys, pedestrian streets and squares. While many of the stores were not yet open, we had a great time getting lost in the maze. We had planned on hitting a pharmacy in Rhodes to pick up some items that we might need, so left the walled city in favor of visiting “New Town’s” more modern shopping streets and “New Town Flea Market”. After locating an excellent pharmacy, we explored the entire New Town area before reentering the Rhodes walled city. We stopped for a hot tea and some more shopping before making our way back to the ship. Joanie slept most of the afternoon,
We had arranged to meet our group in the Nightclub for cocktails before taking a group photograph. It was fun to finally meet everyone and the group photo came off quite well. We joined three other couples from our group for dinner in the La Veranda Restaurant and had a wonderful time. While Joanie was feeling better, we still went to bed right after dinner.
Saturday, October 16th, 2004;
Ahhhh, Mykonos. Mykonos is one of my favorite ports. It has everything going for it. Great shopping, excellent restaurants, wonderful beaches, Mykonos is a unique maze of whitewashed stucco buildings with strikingly colored doors and window shutters. The buildings are stacked one upon the other up the hillsides and the streets are nothing more than cobbled pathways that turn and twist their way in every direction. It is truly beautiful. One could easily spend the entire day walking about in Mykonos and never see the same street twice. In fact, Joanie liked it so much that we intend to return to spend a week in one of the boutique hotels in the center of Mykonos.
Joanie was feeling much better this morning so we decided to shuttle into Mykonos and spend the day simply shopping and enjoying the people of Mykonos. After what seemed hours of walking about the village, checking out the windmills and otherwise enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Mykonos, we made our way to the central restaurant area by the small harbor. We settled in for a latte and a cappuccino, and thoroughly enjoyed people watching. We saw this one old guy that looked like the perfect model for a poor Greek fisherman, He had a blue denim shirt, a rough sea worn face, fisherman’s blue jeans and a look that shouted a life of hard labor at sea. Everyone seemed to know the old guy, but it wasn’t until Joanie noticed the gold Rolex on the guy’s wrist that we started laughing. I guess that about sums up Mykonos in a nutshell.
Back on board, we spent the afternoon enjoying the warm sunshine by the pool before getting ready for dinner. We decided to just take a quiet dinner for two: and after a quick cocktail in the Night Club, we were treated to a wonderful and intimate dining experience at the Compass Rose Restaurant. Not wanting to break our record of going to bed early, we turned in right after dinner.
Sunday, October 17th, 2004;
Thessaloniki is an odd port of call, but I suspect about the only one that fits into the itinerary between Mykonos and Istanbul. We arrived in port on time, but immigration took forever. When we finally disembarked, we were required to claim our passport and physically present it to the immigration officials in Thessalonki. Right after having it returned, we turned them back over to the staff of Radisson. The whole process was kind of weird. The day was overcast and kind of cool, but Joanie was feeling much better and we wanted to take advantage of her new health and do some exploring. Thessaloniki offers many shopping opportunities in its metropolis, but since it was Sunday, most of the stores were closed. We walked along the waterfront enjoying the fisherman, joggers and general population out for the morning and soaked in the general ambiance of Thessaloniki itself. The main attraction of Thessaloniki is its archeological museum and it is well promoted everywhere you look. We visited the museum and found it underwhelming. I would say that the main feature of Thessaloniki is its people and wonderful bakeries, shops and cafes. It is a city, different from other Greek islands, but worth exploring to find your own reason to like it.
We were back on board the ship in time for lunch in the La Veranda Buffet and then spent the afternoon catching up on some work in the Internet Café and on my own computer. We had arranged to meet three other couples for dinner in Signature’s Restaurant, so we attended the Captain’s farewell party and then made our way to the restaurant. Signature’s is a wonderful French specialty restaurant with a menu that is to die for. I enjoyed a lobster appetizer, escargot and a fabulous sea bass entrée. Of course, all the wine you care to drink is included with the dinner and we did consume our fair share on this evening.
Monday, October 18th, 2004;
I love Istanbul! I think it is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. It has absolutely everything going for it and it is a shame more Americans don’t visit its wealth of historic treasures, fantastic shopping, excellent restaurants, fabulous sightseeing and truly hospitable residents. We arrived in Istanbul, cleared customs and then Joanie and I grabbed a taxi to the Blue Mosque to start our adventure. Joanie and I are completely compatible travelers, as our aptitude for sightseeing has about the same time lines. I admire people who can treasure sights for hours and immerse themselves in every little detail of history the sight offers. For Joanie and me, the response is more likely to be: “OK, we have seen it. Let’s move on”. Such was the case for the Blue Mosque. Because it was Monday, the Haghia Sophia was closed, but we visited the structure from the outside anyway. I think the Sophia is the most amazing structure on Earth and wanted Joanie to experience what she could of it. We passed the Baths of Roxclana, the Tomb of Sultan Ahmet I and the various columns still standing in the Hippodrome. We both felt we had done enough sightseeing and started our trek to the Grand Bazaar.
If you are a shopper (and Joanie is) you have no idea what a shopping bonanza can be until you have visited the 4,600 shops that make up Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. That doesn’t include the thousands of shops, boutiques, markets and kiosks that surround the Grand Bazaar itself. The Grand Bazaar started somewhere in the early 15th century and is the largest marketplace in the world. Imagine several hundred jewelry stores, one right after another, for blocks and blocks. That is what the gold market is in the Grand Bazaar. Bargaining is the normal way that goods are purchased and sold, and if you are a good bargainer, you will enjoy the shopping trip of a lifetime.
Joanie went nuts. We bought leather coats, gold and fire opal jewelry, scarves, Pashmina and lots more. I was so loaded down with bags that we had to call a halt to our shopping. Sine it was still going to be daylight for a couple more hours, I took Joanie on a walk through the backstreets of the Bazaar Quarter. We were deep into the unusual when afternoon prayer started and it made the experience magical. We somehow missed the spice market and ended up deep into a local market with tons of color. After eventually finding the Bosphorus and locating our bridge, we decided to simply walk back to the ship to take in the fading daylight and beginning of night. We stopped on the bridge for coffee and watched the nightfall as the mosques and various buildings lit the sky for the evening. Istanbul is magical.
After a brisk 25-minute walk from the bridge, we arrived back to the Seven Seas Voyager. We unloaded the packages and decided to simply dine in the La Veranda and were treated to another excellent dining experience. Joanie was already making plans for Tuesday’s shopping venture into the Grand Bazaar, as she wanted to go back to some stores and consummate purchases she had not made and do a little Christmas shopping to boot. I was having a ball just watching her enjoy the experience.
The Group on the Seven Seas Voyager for the Second Week
Tuesday, October 19th, 2004;
We were up before dawn and Joanie was eager to get going. We took breakfast on the fantail of deck 11 at La Veranda Restaurant and then decided to walk back into the Grand Bazaar and experience Istanbul in the early morning. Hordes of fisherman were in their small boats on the Bosphorus and many more were fishing along the edge of the water and from the bridge leading to the Bazaar district itself. We crossed the bridge, went through the underpass and entered the Spice Market and were immediately caught up in the frenzy that makes the Bazaar District so amazing. Joanie thought about buying some saffron, because it is so expensive in San Diego, some Turkish candy, maybe some caviar. There were just too many decisions. We took another route up into the Grand Bazaar itself, this time passing stores that specialized in children’s wear of all types. The various markets are focused on a single product type so in order to buy a certain product that you might be looking for, you must first find the area that the market resides in. Once found, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of stores offering everything imaginable in the product category.
We arrived in the Grand Bazaar and wanted to find a store where Joanie had purchased two leather coats the day before. She wanted to exchange one because it was stained. I was suspect that the merchant would do this. After finding the store (not an easy task) the merchant went out of his way to make sure that Joanie was satisfied. He gave her an upgraded coat and apologized profusely for the problem. Joanie was so taken; she purchased another leather coat and some infant booties and mittens from the guy. We finally completed the shopping tasks with time to burn. We decided to take a completely different route back to the Spice Market and ended up on a street that the only products sold were fine pashmlna (women’s Turkish evening shawls made of silk, lace and other feminine adornments). Joanie entered one store and was able to purchase 2 of the most beautiful pashmina I have ever seen for 20-million Turkish lira