Saturday, January 29, 2011


We just left Naples and have no sea day to get over it before we get to our next port, and it seeing it was Katie's birthday last night I may have to keep nudging her awake and give her lots of water today in .......
I have arranged a private tour here ( and Naples)  for Katie and I with RomeCabs and Stefano who was highly recommended on TripAdvisor. I have no doubt from the prompt emails we have already sent back and forth that the praise was and will be warranted . He has provided us with links to purchase tickets for some of the attractions to avoid queues, which this being the height of summer I'm sure they will be long, which is why I felt it would be too rushed with a bus load or ten of fellow cruisers. Here is a part of what we get. I have also booked the private guide for The Vatican. The standard tour we provide in Rome is designed to cover the city major sites in one day. Pick up at the pier at 08:00 AM to finish  at 05:30 PM. The driver will meet you right on the pier holding a sign with your last name.  We'll drive in a smooth motorway through the country and see the Etruscan Landscapes. It will take approx. one hour and ten minutes to get to Rome.The drive will continue along Ostiense Road and arrive at the Pyramid built for Caius Cestio .At this stage of the tour we will be inside the ancient Roman Wall built by Emperor Aureliano. We will then arrive at the Circus Maximus, the large ancient stadium for chariot races. Behind the stadium you will see the Palatine Hill where the villas and the domus of the emperors were built. At this point you will be able to see the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum. We will stop here, and you will be able to visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum on  your own if you wish. Following the Colosseum, we will stop at the Piazza Venezia where you will see the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, dedicated to the first king of Italy. Now will be the time to visit the Vatican Museum where you will be able to admire the vast collection of

masterpieces, including the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. If you want VIP admission(no line if any) please book admission tickets only at the 01:00PM or 02:00PM timeslot If you wish to have a tour guide in the Vatican Museum I can book one.... It will take two hours to visit the Museum,The Sistine Chapel and The Basilica. I strongly suggest you book a guide as the Vatican can be confusing. Our next destination will be the Pantheon, once the temple of all Roman gods, then a church and burial place for kings and artists (Raphael). Trevi fountain will follow. Here you can toss a coin in the fountain to ensure a return visit to Italy. Finally, you can rest and have a seat on the Spanish Steps. Please note that the order in which we will visit the sites may vary pending traffic conditions or other third party act. The tour can be altered to personalize your desires.

No rest as it's on the the next port in Italy Livorno :- Here you can visit Florence or Pisa or both or the Chianti wine regions or whatever you like. Problem is Florence is over 90 mins away and it would be a very quick whirlwind tour, and from what I've been told its best to spend days here (much like most of Italy) . So after much thought I have decided we will do the short trip to Pisa and get the requisite Leaning Tower photo, browse around and after the previous packed 2 days this will be a pleasant change.

No sea days again and straight off to Monte Carlo :- Here we will just do our own thing. Probably download a walking tour to our iPhones and check out how the other half live.

Again no rest between ports and we get to Barcelona :- It is here that we encounter 2 other cruise ships. There is a internet site, which shows which cruise ships are at what ports throughout the year. Our ship has 1950 passengers who could disembark for a visit, the other 2 ships Carnival Magic has 3652 and Norwegian Epic 4200! This could be a rather crowded town.....but I'm sure they are used to it. Actually looking at the site those 2 ships cross paths at quite a few ports, bad luck for them!. So here for the moment I have decided on a Princess Tour

Rarely is an architect so closely identified with his city as Antoní Gaudí is with Barcelona. On this stunning four-hour tour you will view Gaudí's masterpieces, from the soaring spires of La Sagrada Familia, to the quirky charm of Parc Guell and finally the undulating curves of Casa Batllo.

La Sagrada Familia - Designed in 1883 and unfinished after more than a century, this awe-inspiring building boasts three massive spires yet lacks complete walls and a roof. Your guide describes the church's features including the massive nativity façade, the flamboyant spires and the modern stained glass windows. The Gaudí Museum on the lower level traces the architect's life and achievements.

Parc Guell - Gaudí's signature touches are to be found everywhere in the park, from the whimsical shape of the cast-iron benches and porticoes to the stunning mosaic work. Enjoy free time to stroll about the park.

Board your motorcoach and drive down Passeig de Gracia, a wide boulevard lined with superb Art Nouveau buildings, passing Casa Batllo en route to La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell.

Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing suited to the day's conditions. Bring a hat and adequate sun protection.

Hurray we get a day at sea before we sadly have only 3 more ports to see before we arrive in Dover for our week in London. Those ports being Casablanca, Lisbon and then Le Harve (Paris).

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Having now left behind many ancient wonders of the Middle East we spend a day at sea before arriving at the beautiful..................

 Mykonos :- We will walk around by ourselves as we are only here for a short time. Take some photos, have a coffee or wine and dream of returning. Pretty much like every other place we visit on this trip..........

No sea day straight on to.......

 Istanbul :- Here we have already joined a private tour with others we  "met" on our roll call on cruise critic. Here is a excerpt from the email about the tour.
Starting from the port at 9am, finishing at 6pm,
you will have good enough time to see:
- Blue Mosque (Ottoman, 400 years old),
- Hippodrome (Roman-Byzantine, 1700 years old / s short stop since not much is left to this day),
- Topkapi Palace & Harem Sections (Ottoman, 500 years old),
- St. Sophia (Byzantine, 1500 years old)
- Basilica Cistern (Byzantine, 1500 years old) and
- Grand Bazaar (Ottoman, 500 years old).

After Istanbul we spend the next morning cruising in Anzac Cove from 6am to 11am, a service will be held on board and as the cruise will be a majority of Aussie's and Kiwi's I'm sure it will be a touching time for many. The bugle usually causes a tear or two to roll down my cheeks at the best of times! We then head on to....

Athens :-  Have decided to do the Princess tour here, as we would love to be able to see everything there is in Athens and to spend time appreciating it , it's just not possible, so this is our compromise.
Acropolis, National Museum & Plaka

Experience the best of Athens on a guided driving and walking tour highlighting its major sights. Explore the ruins of the Acropolis and see the Parthenon. Visit the National Archeological Museum and its trove of Greek antiquities, and enjoy free time to stroll the colorful shops and cafes of the Plaka.
Acropolis - The Acropolis dominates the Athenian landscape. Your guided walking tour begins with a walk up steep steps through the Propylea, which extends 150 feet across the western face of the Acropolis. Beyond the Propylea, on the highest point of the Acropolis, stands the Parthenon, which was dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena.National Archaeological Museum - This treasure trove of Greece, is filled with important archaeological finds from all over Greece. You will have the opportunity to marvel at the perfection, presence and power of the bronze statue of Poseidon along with a plethora of gold items such as the Mask of Agamemnon, the Greek Commander-in-Chief during the Trojan War.

There will be approximately an hour of free time to browse through Athens' famous shopping district. The cobbled pedestrian lanes are lined with shops, boutiques, souvenir stands, jewelry stores and flea market stalls offering a wide variety of items.


A delicious buffet lunch with wine will be served during your excursion.

Board your motorcoach for the approximately 30- to 40-minute drive to the heart of Athens. Your narrated drive passes a host of major sites, including Hadrian's Arch, the statue of Lord Byron, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Constitution Square, the former Royal Palace, the National Gardens, the Academy and the University Library.SPECIAL NOTES
The tour involves climbing approximately 80 steps at the Acropolis, as well as walking over some uneven and slippery paths. There will be a 10 minute walk from the motorcoach drop-off point to the Plaka area. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Passengers with limited mobility should take this into consideration before taking this tour.This tour uses headsets.

We now have a day at sea before we do 5 ports in a row without a sea day to recover, first stop and last for this entry is....

Naples :- Here is where we are having a private tour using Stefano from RomeCabs (also using his company in Rome) and will be visiting Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano and where-ever else our driver suggests. Pompeii has always been one of those places that is a must see for me, not every port has one, so am looking forward to this stop. We should also be able to sample some lovely fresh cheese, olives and a nice wine or two. Throw in some shopping, breath taking views and this will be a wonderful day! It is also Katie's 22nd birthday :)

Next stops are  Rome, Florence, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Its a hard life but some-one has to do it.

Friday, January 21, 2011


While 4 months sounds a long way away, I am beginning to think I'll blink and it will be here. Not sure if Meg and Grant are thinking the same thing about having their first child but we did find out the other day that they are having a baby girl, so I got to buy some pink clothes, which was a bit of a thrill. Its going to be so much fun spoiling my first grandchild ( and any others too!)

But back to the next 4 ports of call. All very exciting, but then they all are.

Muscat, Oman :- Originally thought we would do a dolphin cruise and snorkel but after reading about it and taking into account Katie's propensity to sea/travel sickness (hopefully not on big boats though), I have decided on this tour through Princess

Oman's capital is a fascinating mix of the traditional and the modern. Visit the Grand Mosque, a superb example of modern Islamic architecture. Wander the alleys of Muttrah Souk and tour the Bait al Zubair Museum for a look at traditional Omani life. After lunch, view the Sultan's Palace, a blend of modern and traditional architecture. 
Grand Mosque - Commissioned by the Sultan and completed in 1992, Muscat's elegant Grand Mosque is built of Indian sandstone. The mosque features an intriguing fusion of modern and traditional architectural elements.
Muttrah Souk - At this classic souk the wares range from spices to elegant silver jewelry, traditional Omani clothing including daggers, and handicrafts made of copper and camel bone.
Bait al Zubair - This private museum chronicles Oman's history, culture and folkways. The exhibits include displays of weaponry, art and artifacts. 
Al Alam Palace - The official residence of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said is a blend of modern and classic Islamic architecture. The palace is flanked by two 16th century Portuguese forts. 
Barter for Omani handicrafts during your visit to the Muttrah Souk. 
A buffet lunch is served at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel in Muscat. 
Board your air-conditioned motorcoach for the drive to Muscat. Pass the city's elegant Shati al Qurum district en route to the Grand Mosque. Continue to Muttrah in the heart of the old city.

We then have  5 days at sea before the next port, didn't mention sea days in the previous posts only because I just thought to now. I am actually looking forward to each sea day as a chance to relax and try all the different things on board or to just sleep in, have a swim and read a book. 

On to Aqaba, Jordan :- And here is the lost city of Petra, which is going to be very hot but very very exciting. Have decided to do the Princess Tour and luckily we are the only cruise ship due in that day. In fact we only share one port all the way to Dover (I didn't look past there), which from memory was Barcelona. 

Featured in the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," the lost city of Petra can only be entered through the Siq - a narrow canyon barely wide enough to admit a horse and rider. Explore Jordan's finest national monument on a walking tour that explores such fabulous ruins as the Royal Tomb and the Treasury, carved out of walls of solid rock. 
Siq - The tour of Petra begins with a stunning entry into the city: your guide leads you through a natural canyon, often no more than 16-feet wide, that winds through towering rock walls over 650 feet tall.
Khazneh - The "Treasury" is actually an ancient tomb carved from solid sandstone. Legend has it that pirates left treasure in the urn that sits on its upper level. The bullet marks on the urn were made by treasure seekers trying to shoot the urn open.
Roman Amphitheater - Today, archaeologists believe the stunning 8,000 seat amphitheater was carved out of the rock not by Romans but by the Nabatean people in the 2nd century BC.
Royal Tombs - Three royal tombs are carved into the face of Jebel Khubtha: the vaulted Urn Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb, and the three-storied Palace Tomb. 
Enjoy a buffet-style lunch at a nearby restaurant in the upper area of Petra. 
From the ship board air-conditioned motorcoaches for the 2 hour ride through Aqaba and out into the desert to Petra. Your guided walking tour covers approximately three to five miles over uneven gravel and packed sandy stretches. A long, gradual slope leads from the Siq to the Treasury and Royal Tombs. Take in the many tombs, water channels, carved temples, gates and arches along the way.

We then have another day at sea luckily to have a chance recover for we then traverse the Suez Canal before we dock at Port Said, Egypt  and get to visit the pyramids!! Another Princess tour, but its a 3 hour drive each way and I would hate to break down or get lost privately and miss the boat. The final choices aren't on the Princess site yet, but as well as the pyramids and Sphinx you have other choices of what else to see on this 11 hour tour. Some of which show as, lunch on a Nile cruise, visit to Cairo museum or Step Pyramid of Sakkara.  Pretty sure we all know what they look like but here is a picture anyway......picked one with crowds of people, need to be realistic.

Next stop is the port of Ashdod, Israel (with no sea day after the Pyramids) . So I have decided on a private tour with Avitours in Israel. The price is the same for up to 4 people so we may find 2 like minded people once we get on board who would like to join us for some pampering after the big day at the Pyramids with a swim in the Dead Sea and a massage to rejuvinate our selves and make us beautiful, ha ha. This tour has exactly what we wanted as opposed to the Princess one and I have already been emailing the company who reply to my questions promptly and seem lovely.

(tour #8) Luxury desert tour 

After meeting your guide at the port, you will drive to Masada to take the cable car to the summit and there you’ll tour the ruins left behind by the early Jewish rebels, when, 2,000 years ago, they lived atop the mountain, hoping to evade capture and enslavement by the Roman army. After your tour of the ruins you will proceed to one of the best spa hotels on the Dead Sea where you will swim, make use of the spa facilities, enjoy lunch and relax until it is time to return to the ship at Ashdod.


This price includes your port to port guiding and transportation. Entrance fees are $69 per person and can be paid as you go OR you can pay this fee to Avitours and we will prepay the sites for you, with your guide paying when you enter each site. Lunch, personal expenses, travel insurance and a tip to your guide are not included in this fee.

 Those are 4 very much anticipated places to visit and the next 4 are.......  Mykonos, Istanbul,Athens, Capri/Naples (Pompeii) ,plus a cruise of Anzac Cove after Mykonos. I know some of these aren't the ports they are the more renowned cities that you can visit, but this is my blog not an essay, so don't take marks off for my inconsistencies :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011


The cruise is now happening this year! When I originally decided to go on the cruise I thought all I had to do was book it, pay for it and then sit back and enjoy it, which I suppose pre-internet that may have been the case. But now with so much info available, so many links, so many choices and so much to do before , during and after the cruise that I feel like I'm running out of time and I still have 137 days to go. Think I may have mentioned that I am the worst procrastinator (actually I'm the best)  but hopefully all this planning will help me get better at doing things sooner rather than later.

Xmas and New Year are over and its back to work, so its about time I added another 4 ports to the list, or else we'll be sailing and I won't have done it!

Cochin :- First port of call in India. (need to get to travel agent soon so she can arrange visas required for here). After lots and lots of mind changing and still not sure at this stage I'll put in that we'll do the Princess Tour to Kerala. 
Vaikom - Visit the local villages and see potters creating their wares, coir weavers making colorful carpets, and weavers producing the beautiful, local khadis cloth. Watch copra, dried coconut, being crushed to extract coconut oil, and pay a visit to a traditional Kerala church.

Coir Carpet Weaving Center - Coir is a natural fiber extracted from the husk of coconut fruit. Observe the process of turning these fibers into colorful carpets without the help of any modern machinery.

Khadi Weaving Center - Khadi is a handspun and handwoven cloth made from any two of the following types of yarn, cotton, silk or wool. The material is very comfortable to wear since air can pass through easily.

Board a small country canal boat for a 30-45 minute journey through the tree-lined and deeply shaded canals and byways that crisscross the countryside.

Enjoy regional cuisine eaten in the traditional South Indian style, served on a leaf and eaten with your hands.

Still not sure...........

Mumbai :- Here I have arranged a private tour with a female tour guide from the company Mumbai Magic. She will chauffeur Katie and I around to the major places of interest in an air conditioned luxury car and provide expert local knowledge. We are in port from 7am to 11pm and will have the service for about 8 hours, so will have plenty of time to enjoy and soak up the frantic and exciting and wonderful city that Mumbai is. 

Here is an extract from emails received so far from the company :-
We get all sorts of requests - people want to try fast food or other cuisines, culture and religion tours, bazaar walks, visits to people's homes, train rides, flea markets, Jewish heritage tours, shopping for specific things, tailoring, art galleries and museums...I run a personalised tour service that accommodates all these things. In fact, you'll probably end up doing and seeing more than what you thought you could accomplish. The tours last 6-8 hours per day depending on your interest and level of tiredness.
Pickup from: Mumbai docks, inside, where the ship berths
Pickup time: 9:00 a.m. The guide and driver will wait with placard at the area where you exit immigration/customs.
Vehicle: Airconditioned Toyota Innova
Duration: Full day. The car will drop you to the ship at the end of the tour
Coverage: Mumbai city must-see's and other sights based on your interests
Guide: Perin
Inclusions: AC transport, driver with cell phone, fuel, parking charges, tolls, knowledgeable lady guide, personalized tour, lunch, any entrances/tickets, illustrated handouts, takeaway gift, bottled water and Coke, all taxes

Abu Dhabi :- Actually not sure here. As with quite a few places they haven't supplied exactly which tours are available for this year's cruise  and while writing this I am looking at the tours that are available at each port on the Princess site and after looking here for nearly a year now I know some I looked at earlier won't appear on the final itinerary. So at the moment it will either be on our own, or a high speed speed boat tour or a visit to the Falconry Hospital (leaning towards one of the last 2 at the moment). We are here from 1pm to 11pm, so that may limit what is available in the heat of the afternoon, which is actually on Grant's 25th birthday. My baby boy will be a first time dad by then and he is also getting old or is that me! ( 2 important milestones I am missing on this trip of a life-time..........)

Dubai :- We are actually here from 7am to 1pm the next day, so have plenty of options. There is the newly opened Ferrari World, which although neither Katie or I care for cars it has the worlds fastest roller coaster and other equally stomach churning rides. So am thinking if possible we will venture there and I will go on the roller coaster, not so sure about anything else, am a bit of a chicken on other tall rides. There is also a tour to a desert camp with belly dancing and camel rides by 4 wheel drive across the desert. I would like to do this or just a tour of the city by boat to see the amazing man made islands and perhaps a visit to the Burj.

Have actually now realised why I kept putting this blog entry off, it was because apart from Mumbai I didn't really have anything concrete for any of the other 3 places. Unlike the next 4 which I have locked in what we really want to see and do!
Merry Xmas 2010