Greek Cruise – Day Seven

Day 7 – Tuesday

Started the day (as has become usual…) with a nice breakfast, and then got ready to go on the excursion of the day, to Rhodes. Which by the way is properly pronounced Rhodos, according to our guide of the day, who spent about 5 minutes explaining that once we got on the bus and on the way to Lindos, the site of the Acropolis… It was about a half hour ride or so, which wasn’t that bad, other than the fact that it got a bit tiresome listening to our guide mangle english grammar… At least he was informative and somewhat entertaining, but it’s really hard to listen to someone getting the right words in the wrong position in sentences over and over again… Anyway, we got there and when we got off the bus, bam… Much, much, much hotter than the day before or any other day before for that matter… I think that the driver at one point said 111 degrees, and it was also as humid as any of the previous days… what a wonderful way to start the day…

Then the fun really began… another climb up a large hill to the Acropolis, and apparently in Greece they say things like “it’s about 346 steps up” which have no apparent association to the reality of how many steps there actually are… I didn’t count, but I’m pretty sure that 346 went by before we were a quarter of the way there… Also, there were about two jillion people all going to the same place at the same time, up a smooth stone walkway about 5 feet wide… And going back to the note from before about the lack of concern for safety, the one side was up against the hill, and the other, with no railing, curb, or any retaining device of any kind varied from a drop of a few feet to probably a drop of 20 feet or more… straight down… So picture two jillion people going up and down a walkway, smooth stone and pretty slippery even in sneakers, bumping into each other constantly, and a 20 foot drop off the side if you slip… and nothing to stop you… I guess a lifetime of living in the states and with our rules and regulations on everything to protect you from everything and even yourself makes it hard to imagine how others live… But we made it up safely (which I wasn’t that concerned about, since the traffic up was on the inside of the walkway…) although it took forever with the crowd… wouldn’t have been that bad if you could just go straight up, but we were going about 10 feet at a time, and the stops seemed to last forever… Once at the top it was very interesting and impressive, and some of the ruins were very well preserved… I almost had a heart attack though at one point when I walked over to a side of the hill and looked over and found myself looking a few hundred feet straight down… It was just like the walkway, only a few hundred feet more of a drop… I mean nothing preventing you from walking right off of the edge into oblivion… One other sides there was at least a shin to waist high wall (which people were standing and sitting on…) to let you know, but here nothing… Needless to say I kept back from all edges of the hill from that point on…

After a bunch of pictures and when we started to feel our skin start to roast, we started the (so enjoyable) trip down the hill, making sure that you either didn’t slip and fall to your demise, or get pushed off by some jackass who didn’t care about anyone or anything on their way to the top… At the bottom we were going to get on a transport bus to where the bus was (at the top of another hill, of course…) but standing in the heat was actually less of an attractive option than just humping it up yet another hill in the heat… Got to the top, on the bus (which at least the air conditioning had been turned on an was pretty nice…) and waited for the rest to return… Then on the way back to the Old City (the part of Rhodes inside the old wall…) and then unexpectedly we stopped at a ceramic store and got a very interesting and informative tour of how hand thrown pottery was made, and also how the plates and vases were carved and painted… It was amazing to watch a 60+ year old guy carve a design into a plate totally by memory and freehand… One of the highlights of the trip for me, since I really like watching craftsman at work… and of course we left with something, a vase and a plate… I actually thought about getting a large vase and having it shipped, since they were so impressive, but everyone else was on the bus and it would have taken a while to decide which one to get…

Then back to the Old City, where I got off the bus and went to the ship, and Ann decided to go shopping (what a surprise…) I got lunch, read a bit, and the took the obligatory nap before dinner… We had dinner Mike and Robyn and Jon and Cathy… Getting to hear Mike’s donkey story once again (and once again LMAO…) and lots of other great conversation and good food… Then after dinner we went and watched a show in the theater, Le Cirque Mariner, which was quite good… We decided to turn in for the night after that, since we had another long day scheduled for tomorrow.

Greek Cruise – Day Six

Day 6 – Monday

Got up at usual time (7am) for breakfast with Ann… Went back to the cabin and relaxed a bit before a meeting with Phil C around 10:30 or so… after a good conversation and meeting with Phil, Ann and I met and she wanted to go to the beach at Crete, which was only a half mile or so from the dock… Have to mention that this was the first day that we actually docked and walked off of the ship instead of boarding a tender every time to get to shore… and apparently from now on we will be docked every day… :)

So we went to the beach a bit before noon, and Ann promptly started to get some sun, and unfortunately since I forgot my earphones, I pretty much was relegated to watching the activities at the beach… Now you would think that in Europe, from what you have heard it would be a good thing to have to sit for an hour or so on a beach in Crete… Nah, nada, not at all… First of all, there are way too many people over here that are way too comfortable with their bodies, and should be wearing nothing less than tents at the beach… Guys my size with Speedos, women my size with bikinis (or whatever you would call them…) and kids running around naked all over the place… in fact, it seems that clothing for the kids at a beach in Greece are taken off to get in the water, and only put back on to sit in the chairs, which isn’t very often… That didn’t bother me that much, but the women changing right on the beach was pretty disturbing… mostly because the average size of those changing on the beach was at least twice the acceptable size of a normal female… and watching them take off their top in full view of everyone and stretch out a bikini top to the max to get it on just ain’t cool… Fortunately, there was one normal girl that decided to tan without her top nearby that almost made up for the rest of the atrocities that the other females committed, but the bad impression was pretty much burnt into my brain forever… And it seems that the good looking females, for whatever reason, actually show modesty… which really sucked… And I won’t go into the guys… even Ann was making fun of them… It’s hard for me to imagine that their significant others don’t point out that they look like hell, but I guess love really is blind, at least in parts of Europe.

After bugging Ann after about an hour of torture on the beach, I finally convinced her to get off the beach and go for a walk… But it was pretty hot, and after another half hour or so I guess I was whining about the length of time that it takes to look at (insert any particular product here) especially when you really have no interest in buying anything… So after a bit I gave her a handful of Euros and told her to shop and I went back to the ship… Which actually made us both happier (she told me she had more fun without me and she could really shop, whatever that means…) and I got to watch the last episode of Boardwalk Empire that they had on video… And the first 15 minutes or so of a handful of other movies (all the classic guy movies that I always get picked at when I watch them at home…) I went and got another burger for lunch, and Ann got back later in the afternoon.

After a short nap (found that I needed one of these almost every day to keep going…) we got ready for dinner with Bob and Sheila and Steve and Tina at Prime 7, the restaurant that is sort of a steakhouse type… As usual, great conversation, and a great meal… I had lobster and steak and it was very, very good… Surprisingly good from what I expected for a cruise ship… One thing you don’t have to worry about on the Regent line is the food… Nothing has been short of great so far… from the breakfast in the morning to burgers to dinner at night, everything is wonderful and the selection is amazing…

We left dinner (on time this night…) to get to the Broadway show in the theater… A very nice 45 minute show with a good selection of Broadway tunes and once again better than I expected for a cruise ship… We were pretty tired this night, so we passed on the karaoke (which was good in that it apparently went until late in the morning, and bad in that we missed Mike doing My Way and Hoban doing whatever he did…) and just went back to get a good night’s sleep for the next day, which was another hike up a hill in the heat… (Note to self… next time don’t let your wife pick all of the activities, especially when she thinks that since she isn’t working out this trip and to get rid of the guilt you pick excursions that could be a good substitute…)

Greek Cruise – Day Five

Day 5 – Sunday

Got up in the morning and had a short breakfast meeting with a few of the Cooper guys… Ann had breakfast in the room… One of the great things on this ship is that not only do you never pay for anything (other than the cigar that got, although the Remy Martin cognac that I got with it was no charge…) but you can get it with room service any time during the day… And another thing that surprised me… When we stayed at the Athens Hilton, I checked the cleaning rates for shirts and slacks, and shirts were 12 euro and slacks were 15 euro (which is around $18 and $23 or so) which didn’t surprise me since most hotels jack up the profit margins on things like that… On the Regent, not only were the prices lower than in Lancaster ($3.50 for a shirt and $4.50 for slacks…) but they also have a laundry on each floor so that you can do your own… which I should have paid attention to, and then wouldn’t have packed so much crap for the trip… I won’t wear half of what I brought along… Oh well, live and learn for the next time…

Then off to Santorini… First stop was a nice ride on a large tender ship to the island that came from a volcano… Now, it was pretty hot out, and if I remember right the brochure said something like 500 steps to the top, which didn’t look that bad… After getting off of the boat, and looking up, it was easy to see that something obviously got wrong in the translation… It was a big ass hill, and took about 45 minutes to get to the top (a few stops on the way…) Ann was surprised that I didn’t have a heart attack getting to the top, but it was a workout… Windy as hell on the top, and although that kept it somewhat cooler than the temperature should have felt, it did make it interesting trying to hear things… Also, it is pretty amazing the lack of concern about safety here in Greece… In Athens, there don’t seem to be many rules (and less that are followed…) regarding traffic safety, and motorcycles in particular seem to only follow lights and signs if they feel like it… pretty much optional… And here on the volcano, there is a path that is about 10 feet wide, loose stones, sharp stones, and gravel everywhere, and on one side it just drops off into a crater… sometimes a few yards, and sometimes a few hundred feet… not straight down, but on the larger slopes you would be in a really bad way by the time you got to the bottom, if you survived… but at least they usually tell you to be careful… One of the tour guides actually fell on the way down (slipped on the loose gravel…) and broke her wrist. We made it with no injuries, so that was a plus…

After getting down from the top of the volcano, we boarded the transport boat and went to another one of the islands, the one with the hot spring… When we got there, about three quarters of the people on the boat jumped overboard, and swam to the muddy hot spring water… Not for any real practical reason from what I could see, but whatever floats your boat… Second note on Greek tour safety… when all ages of people were jumping out of the boat into the water, some of them looked like they might sink like stones, and no one (other than the tourists…) seemed to care much… no one drowned, so maybe they just know about these things… and when everyone was swimming back to the boat (against the current…) and some were having a pretty hard time with the swim, the boat guides just toss a life preserver in the general direction of the floundering swimmer… most of the time a nearby swimmer would swim over and help them out… Maybe they figure there are too many tourists and if a few disappear, what the hell…

Then off the boats and onto the main island of Santorini and a quick stop at a winery to taste a few wines… Not that great (for my taste…) but it was a nice break… Then back on a bus for a brief trip to the main part of town and then we decided to walk and find a local Gyro place to get some long overdue food. After that, Ann and I walked around looking at the shops (ok, she was looking and I was pretty much bored with the shopping…) and she found a few things for gifts… Then we decided to take the cable car down, as opposed to the donkeys (the traditional way…) which turned out to be a fantastic decision… Everyone who we talked to that either took the donkeys down, or walked down the path through the donkey doo and other liquid matter, slipping and sliding (literally) all over the place, said they would have taken the cable car if they knew then what they know now… Imagine hundreds of people and donkeys/mules, in 100 degree heat, going up and down a steep hill on a stone path… The stench alone should have made most of them turn back, but some just have to have the experience… Mike from Cooper had the best story, which I couldn’t do justice to by retelling it, but suffice it to say that I had tears in my eyes all three times I heard the story retold… Anyway we took the cable car down, and although the line was about a half hour long, it was much better than the alternative…

Back on the transport to the boat, then a short nap. Then we got ready and went to dinner with Roy and Marcia, Ken and Joanne, and Bill and Amelia at Signatures restaurant, one of the two restaurants on the ship that you have to have reservations for… Had a great time talking and a great meal, then after dinner we went to the lounge and had a few drinks with a bunch of couples, and after a bit went down to the theater to listen to the end of a big band review… Then back to the room, where I just had to try room service at least once, so I ordered some shrimp, cheeses, and ice cream for Ann and I and watched yet another episode of Boardwalk Empire before going to bed for the night.

Greek Cruise – Day Four

Day 4 – Saturday

Started off Saturday morning with a nice breakfast at the ship’s top deck restaurant, La Veranda. I had a Cooper meeting to go to, and we were going to go to Delos in the morning, but right after we got back from breakfast and as I was ready to go to the meeting, the captain came over the intercom and proceeded to tell us that the morning excursions were going to be delayed since the sea was very choppy and they had to move the boat to an area that was more suitable for the boats to take us ashore. Seeing that the meeting would probably run over the time that the tour was leaving, Ann decided to go it alone and I would meet up with her after the meeting in the afternoon and then we would go to Mykonos.

The Cooper meeting was good, an update on the business and company along with some new things coming down the road were discussed, and also the new marketing and advertising strategy that is being implemented.

I got back to the room, and spent the rest of the morning watching “Boardwalk Empire” episodes, which were on the list of videos that the ship had… I had never seen any of them since I don’t get HBO, but they were extremely good and I’m going to see if I can get the entire first season in before we leave, otherwise I’ll have to see if they have the first season on Netflix… Ann got back around lunchtime, and was soaked and cold from the trip… apparently the sea was so rough that the boat that they went from Mykonos to Delos on had the waves spraying everyone on the top deck, and she really didn’t feel like going back out that day (and wanted to go to the pool anyway…) So we went up to the pool, grabbed a nice burger and salad on the pool deck, and she went to lay out by the pool and I went back to the cabin for a nap and another episode…

We got ready and went to one of our scheduled dinners at La Veranda with Phil and Joyce, Steve and Tina, and George and Ellen… food was great, conversation better (lots of golf talk) and after a few after dinner drinks cigars were mentioned, and Phil, George and I went to the cigar lounge to indulge… Cognac and cigars after dinner… nothing better… Ann was hanging out with the wives, going shopping and looking at jewelry, and they finally drug us out of the lounge and we went down to the bar/nightclub to watch karaoke… Had an great time there, especially when Hoban got up to perform… About 1 or so in the morning we decided to call it a night, since the next day was going to be a long day… Tomorrow we climb a volcano on Santorini along with a bunch of other touring activities…

Greek Cruise – Day Three

Day Three – Friday

Decent night sleep, and then up for breakfast at the hotel… After which my lovely wife informed me that even though she took almost an hour to choose and try on sandals the day before, the pair that she bought for her daughter were:
* Too Small
* Two Different Sizes

Now I’m not really sure how either (or both) of these could be missed, but whatever… Then I was informed that we had to go back and return them, meaning another 3 mile walk on a morning that I was hoping to do nothing before going to the ship. At least we knew the way by now, and it really wasn’t that bad outside (or I’m starting to get used to it already…)

Took our time getting to the little sandal/leather/whatever shop, and unbelievably the proprietor (who the day before was about as gruff and grumpy as I have seen in Athens…) was cordial and happily made the exchange… an additional 5 euro, but whatever… (I’m finding that I am saying “whatever” quite a bit on this trip… figure that it means that I’m more relaxed than normal, which apparently is good…) Then we just walked around for a bit, had the obligatory few liters of water, and started back to the hotel. On the way back, we went past the National Garden (or something like that…) and decided to walk through… sort of like a (very) mini Central Park in the middle of Athens… Nice though, and we took a few pictures and looked around for a while… Back to the hotel, another shower and a short nap, and then time to get things together for the bus to the boat. As usual, SPI had everything taken care of, exactly on time, and made getting from the hotel to the ship painless.

Got on the Regent around 4 or so, and got unpacked in our cabin… A bit after 5 there was a mandatory make-sure-you-know-where-the-lifeboats-are drill, and right after that the Cooper cocktail hour started in one of the lounges. Very nice to get to see everyone again, and meet some others for the first time… After a few drinks, Ann and I were off to the dining area for a very nice, relaxing meal… Then a short walk around the top deck of the ship and around a few of the floors, and then back in for the evening.

I’ve never been on a cruise before, but after one day, I know that this is something that I will be doing again… First, the accommodations are beautiful… Second, the service is beyond what you get at high end hotels… Third, the fact that food, drinks, and entertainment are all there anytime and any way you want them is almost too good to be true… Room service anytime you want, an in-room movie selection that has great selections (I rented 4 movies and bought one and brought them along on my iPad for the week, and found out all but one were on the list of on-demand in cabin movies… I would have never thought they would be that up to date…) and pretty much anything else that you would want… And there almost always seems to be someone asking if you need anything… I don’t know if it is because the Regent is one of the top of the line cruise ships, or if others are just as nice, but I’m sold on this for a relaxing way of traveling… Off to Delos and Mykonos tomorrow…

Greek Cruise – Day Two

Day Two – Thursday

We had decided to meet up with Mike and Robin in the morning to get some breakfast, and then do a bus tour of Athens. The tour sounded (and turned out to be…) like a great idea, since you could get on and off as many times as you liked, and it took us to the Acropolis and also out to the Port of Piraus. The Acropolis was a long hike up to the top (where the Parthanon was…) and it was around 100 degrees, but seeing structures that are around 2500-3000 years old was worth it… Actually, the heat wasn’t that bad, since the humidity is pretty low… in the shade it is almost always tolerable even in the middle of the day… However, on the top of the Acropolis hill, there isn’t any shade, so it was just wicked hot… It was more impressive seeing the structures than I thought it would be… I’ve seen them in books, on Discovery, History Channel, etc. many times, but it’s hard to explain how much more impressive they are in person…

After seeing the Acropolis, and the hill where Paul spoke (Mars Hill maybe…???) we got back on the bus and went to the port of Piraus. Walked around a bit and had a nice lunch (on the sidewalk again…) and looked at the yachts in the harbor that some apparently go well into the millions… Took the bus back to the Acropolis museum, and Ann and I got off to go shoe hunting… Ok, she got off to go shoe hunting and I obviously went along… Apparently, Greek sandals are all the rage now, and Ann had standing orders for a whole bunch of pairs. She ended up shopping in a store, trying on pair after pair, while I was relegated to standing outside talking to a total stranger, an local Athenian, who proceeded to tell me pretty much his whole life story in about 30 minutes… I mean details far beyond what you would talk to a stranger about… It was interesting, but more than that, after Ann had picked out her shoes and I was paying for them, he actually thanked me for listening to his story… Something you just don’t see back home… (or at least I haven’t…) Drank about 3 liters of water during the day… good that it is one thing that is no more expensive than back home…

After we got the shoes, and looked around a bit more (we took a side trip back to the base of the Acropolis and took a closer look at the theater that is at the base… don’t remember the name right now… seats carved from solid marble and all kinds of other cool stuff…) we walked the long walk back to the hotel and got cleaned up and went to dinner with Mike and Robin, Clyde and Pat, and Bob and Sheila on the roof of the Athens Hilton (the Galaxy, or something like that…) Great meal, lots of great conversation, and a view that is unbelievable… Sitting 12 floors up on the roof, in the open, with a clear view of the Parthenon in the distance (lit up spectacularly as it got dark…) Made a great evening even more memorable…

Greek Cruise – Day One

Day One – Wednesday

(Ok, it really started on Tuesday, so call it Day .5 and then Day One…)

Everything started out great. Harrisburg International Airport is absolutely my favorite place to fly out of. In fact, I have (lately) and always will do everything I can to use it as a starting point for any air travel. Arrived at 10:50, and by 11:05 had our check-on bags processed, boarding passes in hand, and processed through security. Fifteen minutes… doesn’t get much better than that. US Airways flight left on time to Philadelphia (cramped puddle jumper, but I don’t complain considering it took 15 Minutes to be ready to board. Compared to a hateful hour-plus drive to Philadelphia Airport, and god knows how long in a painful security check-through line, I can take 45 minutes of a loud and cramped plane.

Got to Philadelphia on time, and had two hours until the flight to Athens. Flight was at 4:19, and we got to the terminal around 3:30, figuring that everything was well with the world… Board had our flight on time, and incoming flight had just landed. About 4, the board changed to a delay, 5:30. At 5, changed to 6:30. At 6, changed to 7:00. Apparently they had to change a tire… Whatever, as long as the wheels don’t fall off in flight, but we finally boarded around 7:15, three hours late, and that would put us in Athens around noon the next day.

Flight was bearable, but barely… 9.5 hours in coach with the seats in front all the way back is pretty much as bad as it gets… The three movies they played were horrible, food was typical airline food (i.e. terrible) but I had my iPad and some audiobooks on my phone to make it bearable to pass the time. Got a few hours sleep in there somewhere, but not much more. Note to self… next time spend whatever to upgrade to business class… Considering how much more room there is, it has to be worth it.

Landed in at the Athens airport around noon their time (which is 7 hours ahead, so around 5 in the morning EST…) and got off and amazingly went through customs in about 10 minutes. I’m not sure that they really care who comes in to Greece… Both Ann and I showed our passports, the guy looks at them, smiles, and stamps and smiles again… That’s it… Walked over to the luggage area and was greeted by a nice local guy sent by SPI (travel agent for Cooper for the trip…) to pick us up at the airport.

  • Side note: Forgot to mention that while waiting at PHL airport during all of the delays, at about 5:15 or so, after the first delay, I got a call from SPI that they were monitoring our delay, and also informed us of the taxi strike in Athens, and that they would have someone there to pick us up and take us to the hotel… That made things so much easier and painless, and made the start of the trip much, much better than it could have been.

Took about 40 minutes or so to get to the Athens Hilton, but it was a nice trip through the country to Athens. Got checked in to the hotel around 3:00 or so (very nice room, although it should be for close to $350 a night…) and pretty much crashed for a few hours, exhausted from the long day.

About 5:30 or so we went up to the complimentary suite to get a bit to eat. Met up with Mike and Robin and they told us where they went when they walked around during the day. We decided to go for a short walk (which turned out to be a long walk…) but did get to see a few things that were interesting.

Walking toward the Acropolis, we sort of went down the wrong road, which turned out to be okay since we walked by the Panathinaikon Stadium, the location of the first modern Olympics way back in 18-something… Then we walked by Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus… Then we finally found the place we were looking for, a bunch of street shops and restaurants winding around the area below the Acropolis. Shopped for a bit, and then got coerced by a waiter to sit down and get something to eat. Ann got some great bread with a spread that was delicious, and I got a tuna salad that either had tuna that I couldn’t recognize, or he got it wrong and I got something else… In any case it was good, and a glass of local wine topped off a nice meal outside in the street on a warm but pleasant night. Back to the hotel around 11 or so, and a short walk that turned out to be about 4 hours long ended the first full day…

Greek Cruise

I never get around to writing much of anything, so I decided that I might as well blog about the cruise that Ann and I will be going on to the Greek Isles, courtesy of Cooper Tire.

We will be leaving on August 2nd, and returning on the 12th (or something like that… I never seem to remember the details…) Hopefully I will be able to put down at least some of what we get to see and do over the next few days… And hopefully if you are reading this you will find it at least somewhat interesting… And if not, don’t read any more…