It has been said that all good things must end. Sadly our cruise came to an end. Early in the morning on the last day of our cruise we returned to Venice. The night before we needed to have our bags packed and ready to be picked up. They were taken to the lower deck to be unloaded at the dock in the morning. This helps get everyone get off of the ship more efficiently. It’s sort of a strange feeling. It’s a big sign that the cruise is coming to an end. Also there is a bit of anxiety, wondering if you packed something you need until you get the bag back again, or if you didn’t pack enough and have too much stuff in your carry-on the next morning. I woke up early the next morning. I wanted to see Venice as we sailed past. I went to the upper deck to get a good view. Venice is an island that’s sort of shaped like a fish. Ships enter the curvy narrow waterway around Venice at the bottom of the tail of the fish. They continue winding their way along the belly of the fish between Venice and some smaller islands. The cruise port is at the mouth of the fish. This path takes the ship right past St. Mark’s Square. I wanted to see St. Mark’s as we passed. From the upper deck I could see a lot of Venice as we sailed by. It was a beautiful clear morning. The fog that delayed our cruise on the first day did not appear. Cruise ships for their size are very maneuverable. Typically they can get into any port on their own without any help. I have seen them do some amazing things. Sailing into Venice, our ship was tethered to several powerful tugboats. Several months prior to our trip, a cruise ship sailing into Venice lost power and collided with a docked river cruise ship. This elevated the existing campaign to have the cruise port moved away from Venice. Also, this is why we needed the tug boats.
The weather for our trip was amazing! We sailed in the fall. The cruise started at the end of October and ended the second week of November 2019. We had summer-like weather for the entire cruise. It only rained a small amount the morning we were in Dubrovnik. The northern Adriatic sea was not so lucky. We were sailing in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. I heard there were some nasty storms that caused other cruise ships to miss some ports. That happened to us on our first cruise, it was not good, but that’s another story. On the upper deck there was a definite chill in the air. Fall temperatures had returned. I was taking in the beautiful city as we sailed by. As we approached St. Marks, I noticed the square was flooded. They were experiencing an acqua alta. This is when Venice is flooded by an exceptionally high tide. The water retreats at low tide but tends to return again with the next high tide. A few days after we left at the beginning of the cruise, there was a record breaking acqua alta. The highest in over 50 years!
After watching the beautiful city of Venice glide by, I met up with Robbie. We went to the dinning room for our final cruise breakfast. One thing about cruising, there is no shortage of good food. I gain 5-10 pounds on every cruise. After breakfast, we went back to our cabin for the last time to collect our things. They wanted us out so they could start getting the cabin ready for the next passengers – in just a few hours. We were assigned a group number and time for disembarking the ship. We made our way to one of the nice lounges to wait for our time. They called our number and we exited the ship for the last time. We met up with Sandy, Jerry, Marcia and Jack on the dock. The rest of the group had made other arrangements to get back home. We shared a cab to our hotel in Mestre. Venice, as I said, is an island. Mestre is a small town just on the other side of the causeway that connects Venice to the mainland.
We had a flight the next morning to Lisbon Portugal, so we had the evening to spend in Mestre. We had not planned on going back to Venice due to the limited time. After we all got settled into our hotel rooms, the group wanted to go to lunch. Robbie and I were a bit tired so we decided to rest for a while and go out later. Also there is that Italian thing I mentioned before, where some restaurants are closed for what we call “lunch time.” After we rested and relaxed for a while, Robbie and I ventured out. The woman at the desk told us where we could get a good pizza, so we set out to find the restaurant. After one or two wrong turns, we found it. You can’t really say that you’ve properly seen a new place unless you make a few wrong turns. We ordered a pizza, beer and wine, it was amazing! No worries, we did eat the whole pie. We need to remember to get a photo before we dig in. There was an awesome dessert as well. We stopped at a grocery store for some supplies on the way back to the hotel. It was nice getting to see a little of Mestre before moving on.
Authors note: We took this trip in Oct./Nov. of 2019. I took a gazillion photos. It takes me a long time to sort and edit my photos. My plan was to write most of the posts about this trip before I started to post them. I am not the fastest writer by any means. It’s surprising how long it takes to write 500 or so words when you choose your words carefully. So I knew from the beginning that it was going to take me a while to start posting about this trip. Anyway, I’m ready to start posting and BAMM!! We find our self in the middle of a global pandemic! Cruise ships are stranded at sea and people are dying onboard! That sort of took the wind out of my sails. I didn’t think this was an appropriate time to start posting about a wonderful cruise. So I shelved my cruise posts. Time flies when you’re not having fun. It’s now been a year since we departed on our trip. What a year it’s been! I’m not sure what the future holds for the travel industry. I was hoping to be traveling again in the spring of 2021. Now it may be longer and even longer yet for the cruise industry. For now I hope that you will enjoy reading about our Italian, Aegean Sea cruise.
Continuing to work our way through the Dubrovnik, we ended up in the old east port. The old east port was a waterfront area that had restaurants with a beautiful view. If you wanted to, you could catch a ferry to the island of Lokrum. Here, you could see the actual iron throne. We didn’t make that trip.
After a great morning exploring Dubrovnik, it was time to take a refreshment break. We picked one of the many nice sidewalk cafes along the Stradun. Ordering some cold beverages and relaxing for a while. It was also time to take advantage of the cafes WiFi. Robbie and I were using Google fi, so we always had good service. Everyone else depended on WiFi where ever it could be found. It was nice to see that the Zvonik clock tower was still standing. It was seen dramatically crumbling to the ground in the GOT finally, as was most of the city.
Feeling all relaxed and refreshed we continued on with our tour of Dubrovnik. I wanted to see the Minceta Tower. I really like the scene in GOT where Daenarys is looking for her dragons in the tower. She is walking around the base of the tower looking for a way in. She is followed by Jorah, as they circle the tower, Daenarys vanishes into the tower. Jorah is unable to get into the tower to help her. Anyway the visual is pretty cool looking. The reality is that you cant actually walk all the way around the tower, more Hollywood magic. The tower is at the highest point in the old town. I totally chose the wrong way to get there. We had to climb a very steep and long stone stairway to get to the tower. We kept going up and up and up. It was quite the climb. We should have gone the way Jerry wanted to go, it was a longer but more gradual climb. The view at the top was amazing! Unfortunately we couldn’t see as much of the tower as I had hoped. You need to do the city walls tour to see it better.
Taking the longer more gradual decent on the return trip, we past a very interesting restaurant called, Lady PiPi. It gets it’s name from a statue/water fountain of a lady going PiPi in front of the restaurant. You wont find a more interesting fountain anywhere. I was looking at their website, it looks like a really nice restaurant. They were closed for the season when we were there.
It was time to do some shopping, so we all split up to find something amazing. After dong some shopping some people went back to the ship. Robbie and I did a little more exploring before returning to the ship. We had a great day in Dubrovnik. It was really nice seeing all of the GOT filming locations. It’s no wonder that they chose Dubrovnik as a filming location. It really is a beautiful medieval city. When you are cruising sometimes you really only get a small taste of a place. This is when you need to plan another trip to see more. I think Croatia would be a great place to plan another trip.
When sailing in or out of a port, a fun thing to do, is to go to the upper deck, to watch the sail away. It’s a great way to say hello or goodbye to a port. We went up on deck to say goodbye to Dubrovnik and take one last look.
Our next port of call was Dubrovnik, Croatia. A port that I was looking forward to for several reasons. Foremost, it is a beautifully preserved medieval city. I really like exploring old places like this. Secondly, Robbie and I had become Game of Thrones fans. This beautiful medieval city was a prominent Game of Thrones filming location. Also Croatia is one of those Slavic countries that you hear of but really don’t know too much about. I was curious to see what it was like.
Dubrovnik is a great city to explore on your own, so there was no need to pay extra for a cruise line shore excursion. The cruise port is however about two miles from the old walled city. Not super far, it would be an easy cab ride. The cruise line did hire a bus to take passengers to and from the city. There were several people in our group that wanted to see the city together, so we opted to pay the small fee and take the bus. We woke up to some light rain showers. This was the first and only rain of the trip. The weather for this trip was amazing! It was unseasonably warm and sunny for pretty much the whole trip. It wasn’t until we returned to Venice that it cooled down to normal fall temps. It was lightly raining when we boarded the bus. The bus dropped us off just outside of the old walled city. Before entering the city we visited the old West Harbor. The weather was starting to clear. What a beautiful little harbor. There is a stone pier jutting out through the rocky cove. To the left there is a great view of the stonewalls of the city that was built on the rocky cliffs. On the cliffs to the right is Fort Lovrijenac. The harbor was a beautiful place to visit, which is probably why it was used several times as a filming location for the Game of Thrones. Almost all of this little harbor was used in GOT at some point. It’s not hard to imagine the Red Keep CGI-ed on the old city walls or Cersei standing on the stone pier as Jamie’s boat returns with the body of their daughter.
We entered the old walled city through the Pile gate, another GOT filming location. The old stone walls and cobble stone streets are truly like strolling through a medieval city.
Exiting the Pile Gate puts you on the Stradun, the wide main boulevard through the city. We strolled down the Stradun taking in the beauty.
At the end of the Stradun, we made a right turn that took us to the famous Jesuit staircase. The staircase was used several times in GOT. Notably, Cersei’s walk of shame. Looking up the staircase you need to imagine the huge Great Sept, CGI-ed at the top of the stairway. We walked up the staircase to Saint Ignatius Church. The actual real Catholic church at the top of the staircase. Once at the top of the stairway, turning to look down, you see all of
Kings Landing Dubrovnik in front of you.
Winding our way through the cobbled streets, Robbie spotted a sign that read “Cold drinks with the most beautiful view.” This we needed to investigate further. The arrow on the sign pointed to literally, a small hole in the wall. We went through the hole in the wall and were treated to the most beautiful view! The bar was not open, it’s called the Buza Bar. Standing on the rocky outcrop, we had a nice view of the city’s stone wall. Below the beautiful Adriatic Sea was lapping at the rocks.
After visiting the amazing view of the Buza Bar, we made our way through the winding streets of Dubrovnik. We passed by many medieval stone buildings through narrow cobblestone streets. There were several churches, the Church of Saint Stephen and the Cathedral of the Assumption. The Rector’s Palace is the home of the Rector who was the head authority of the town. The palace has been beautifully restored and is now a museum. It was also a GOT filming location.
One of the things I like about cruising is that your floating hotel takes you from place to place. After an awesome day in Rhodes, we arrived back on our ship, the Lirica. As we were freshening up and getting ready for dinner, the Lirica’s crew prepared to head out to sea. It’s fun to go on the upper deck and watch the sail away from port. We usually ate dinner as a group in the main dining room. After dinner, we would watch a great show in the main auditorium. As we were sleeping, the Lirica would take us to a new and exciting port.
Today we woke up on the Greek Island of Mykonos. If you like, the cruise line will plan your whole day for you. This does come at a cost though. Wherever possible we liked to do some exploring on our own. Mykonos is a great port to explore on your own. It does, however, require a small ferry ride to get from the cruise port to the town. The cruise line hired a ferry to transport passengers to town. They made it very convenient and quite easy to charge for this ferry. It pays to do a little research about each port. I found out that you could buy a ticket directly from the same ferry company for considerably less. Not only was it less expensive, they used a different ferry. The ferry was not as jam packed full as the cruise line ferry. A side trip we could have taken while visiting Mykonos, is a trip to the ancient ruins on the nearby island of Delos. The cruise line has a shore excursion to Delos. This same ferry company also goes to Delos for less. We decided not to go to Delos. Robbie and I and a few of the others spent the day in Mykonos. There were a couple of people in our group that did do one of the Mykonos shore excursions. Disembarking the ship was quick and easy. We found the ticket booth for the ferry and purchased our tickets. On the way to the ferry, there were several brightly colored, old wooden fishing boats. I really liked these old wooden boats.
Getting off of the ferry in the old port of Mykonos, we were greeted by a reminder of our old friend again, Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicolas). St. Nicolas is the patron saint of sailors and fisherman. Agios Nikolaos, the small whitewashed church with its bright blue dome has a prominent place in the old port. Locals would enter the church to light a candle and say a prayer for their sea going friends and family. Mykonos is dotted with dozens of small whitewashed churches with brightly colored domes. Each ancient local family was required to build a small church to worship and celebrate religious holidays. The small churches also housed the bones of family members. There must have been lots of families on Mykonos back then.
Strolling through the giraffe patterned stone streets of Mykonos is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. The narrow streets are lined by whitewashed buildings, with blue or red trim, laced with colorful bougainvillea. There are lots of shops selling everything from souvenirs to high end clothing, jewelry and art.
Having just been in Venice, we needed to check out a small section of Mykonos called Little Venice. It’s basically a row of buildings that were built right on the edge of the sea. Most of them are restaurants or bars with an awesome view of the Aegean Sea.
From Little Venice we got a great view of the windmills of Mykonos. The windmills are the most well known landmarks on the island. Six of the windmills are on a hillside overlooking the Aegean Sea. This is a beautiful location with an awesome view of the sea. This was also the best location to harness the winds of the Aegean. The wind power was used for grinding grain. Today some of them have been converted into homes. One of them is listed on Airbnb. That would be a great place to stay.
As we were making our way through the town, Sandy kept an eye out for a nice restaurant to have lunch. She thought Katerina’s looked nice. Katerina’s was one of the restaurants in Little Venice. So we made our way back to Little Venice. Sandy made a great choice, Katerina’s was awesome! We had a nice view of the Aegean and our waiter was great! I had the linguini and shrimp, it was very good! Everyone else enjoyed their meals as well. The waiter brought us some baklava to share; it was amazing! As we were finishing our lunch two weary travelers came in. It was Sherry and her husband Jeff, from our group. They had taken one of the shore excursions. It was interesting that they chose the same restaurant. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” (Casablanca)
Feeling rejuvenated from our refreshing lunch, we made some plans for the rest of our afternoon. While doing my pre-trip planning I was reading about Boni’s windmill. Boni’s has been totally restored and is now a museum. Unfortunately the museum was closed for the season. The best thing about Boni’s is the location. It’s perched high above Mykonos and has the best view in town. So I wanted to go to there. Barb wanted to do some shopping, so we split up. Robbie went with Barb, Sandy and Jerry. Marcia and her husband Jack came along with me to Boni’s. The thing about the best view in town is that it involves a fairly steep climb. We huffed and puffed and the view kept getting better and better, driving us to the top. The climb was totally worth it. The view from Boni’s was amazing! Marcia and Jack saw another place they wanted to explore. I wanted some more photos of Mykonos, so we split off exploring in different directions. I made my way back down the hill through a maze of narrow walkways with whitewashed buildings and churches. Back at sea level there was a nice beach. A dip in the Aegean would have been nice. I didn’t bring my swim suit though. Walking along the waterfront, I found Robbie and Jerry having drinks at a cafe. I ordered a nice cold Greek beer as we waited for Sandy and Barb. On the way to the ferry I had to get a gelato. They wouldn’t let me on the ferry with it, but we still had some time before it departed. Still no sign of Marcia and Jack. We hoped they would catch the next ferry, and they did. Mykonos was a great town! It had a very relaxing vibe to it. Just lazily wondering this beautiful town was an enjoyable way to spend the day.
After touring the Palace of the Grand Master, we wanted to check out one of the elaborate gates through the city walls. The Gate d’ Amboise, one of the nicer ones, is very near the Palace of the Grand Master. Walking through the gate you cross a bridge overlooking a grassy area. It’s dry now, but this was the moat. It added another layer of protection to the city.
All of this sightseeing made us hungry. We made our way to Hippocrates Square. The square is surrounded by shops and restaurants. The centerpiece of the square is a large fountain. We picked Archipelagos restaurant for lunch. We had a table on the balcony with a great view overlooking the square. The food was great and the drinks were refreshing!
After a rejuvenating lunch, Barb and some of the others wanted to do some shopping. Barb loves to shop, she got in as much shopping at each port as she could. I wanted to walk around and take some photos. Robbie and Jerry kept on relaxing downstairs in the sidewalk cafe. I find some of my best photos by just following my nose. I started following the shoppers down the main shopping street. This was not the type of area I was looking for. I found a narrow cobblestone street and followed its winding path. I found myself in a residential area. This was what I was looking for! I loved the colorful stone walls and the narrow streets. The creepy puppet hanging on the wall was awesome! When I came across the door with the tattered and torn picture of Venice, I knew I was in the right place! There was a Cuban restaurant that reminded me of our cruise to Havana. I saw an African Grey parrot on a perch outside of a home. It reminded me of Bogie, our African Grey at home, Sandy, Spencer and Loki too! I really enjoy getting off the beaten path. Amazingly, I found my way back to Archipelagos to meetup with everyone.
We made our way through the city walls to the waterfront area. The old wooden fishing boats in the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea were amazing! Walking along the old port we saw the old stone windmills of Rhodes. Along with shopping, Barb likes cats. I have several photos of Barb with cats. Continuing along the port brings us to our old friend Saint Nicholas. The fort of Saint Nicholas anyway. It was built to protect the harbor from enemies. A lighthouse was built in the fort that now protects ships in the area. The deer statues on pedestals on either side of the port could be one of the places where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. There are several places it could have stood, nobody knows for sure. It was a huge statue of Helios, the sun god. Built in 280 BC, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It only stood for 54 years when it was toppled by an earthquake. It laid on the ground for 800 years! At that time the bronze was melted down and sold. It was so impressive even laying on the ground that it became an ancient tourist attraction. Because Colossus was the sun god, I think it would have been in a high place, closer to the sun. A more likely place for it to have stood would have been the Acropolis of Rhodes. Also it had been laying on the ground for a long time. If it had been in the harbor, it would have fallen in the water. After a wonderful day of exploring the beautiful medieval city of Rhodes, we made our way back to the ship.
Our next port was the old city of Rhodes on the Island of Rhodes. I enjoyed all of the ports on this cruise. Rhodes was one of the ports I was looking forward to. Rhodes is a well preserved Medieval city. The whole city is protected by a huge Medieval style stone wall. There are several gates that have castle style facades. The cobblestone streets are filled with Medieval stone buildings. Just the type of place that I like to explore.
The cruise terminal of Rhodes is just outside of the old town city walls. There are lots of sights to see within walking distance of the ship. So a few of the others in our group plus Robbie and I, opted to save some money and see old town on our own. Disembarking the ship become much better. After a very short walk, we found ourselves at the Gate of the Virgin. I think this gate has been added in recent years to provide access to the city closer to the port. Just inside of the gate were the ruins of the Church of the Virgin of the Burgh. It was a large Catholic cathedral that was bombed during WWII, most of it was destroyed. The three apses at the end of the church and they are all that remain. A few blocks down the street we came across a restaurant that had several parrots on perches. Robbie and I are parrot owners, so we were very interested in seeing the parrots. This is also why we could not be away from home for too long. Our dear friend Cassy was watching over our flock while we were away, thank you Cassy! The guy at the restaurant let us hold one of the macaws! That was nice, we were missing our birds! It was too early for lunch or we probably would have eaten there. We continued our stroll through the city. The beautiful cobblestone streets were lined with restaurants and shops. It was like strolling through a Medieval bazaar. The shops were selling all sorts of wares, they had art, clothing, gifts and some very interesting bottle openers.
One of the most significant buildings in Rhodes is the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. The island of Rhodes was an important stopping off point between Europe and the Holy Land during the Byzantine era. We visited a lot of Byzantine era sights on this trip. In a nut shell, the Byzantine era began when the Roman Emperor Constantine came into power. The Roman Empire became fragmented, Constantine ruled the eastern portion. He moved his capital from Rome to Byzantium, modern day Istanbul Turkey. He renamed it Constantinople. He also converted the empire to Christianity. Rhodes was sort of a base camp for the Knights Hospitaller or the Knights of Rhodes. The Knights Hospitaller were protectors of the Holy Land. The palace was the headquarters for the knights and the home/office for the Grand Master. The palace is a large Medieval castle Today it is a museum. We paid a small entrance fee and took the self guided tour. I wasn’t sure how interesting the castle was going to be. It turned out to be a very nice tour. This was a beautifully restored Medieval, stone, fairy tale style castle. The halls would have been echoing with the sound of knights in shining armor moving from place to place. When you think of a Medieval castle, you think dark, dingy, and cold. This actually would have been a very nice place to live. It was far from dark, dingy, and cold. It was fit for a king! The Palace was heavily damaged in an accidental explosion in 1856. It was restored to its original splendor by the Italians when they had control of Rhodes. During the restoration, the beautiful Hellenistic mosaic floors were brought in from the island of Kos. It was used for a summer home for the Italian king and later Mussolini.