Celebrity Cruise Lines - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
Celebrity Cruises

by Kellie Kroplinski
May 31, 2001

Prior to Cruise-
I always read the cruise newsgroups. Guess you could say I'm addicted to cruising. My daily routine was to check several cruise newsgroups and one day I found someone else who was also sailing on the same trip. Robert had posted on the Cruisemates site. I emailed him and found out he and Debbie had booked the same trip as us, and that was the beginning of the MONTI Group. Soon after that we found Margot and Larry. This was the start of the website and forum. We were exchanging emails with tips, websites and tons of other information. Robert created the website to post all the info that had collected. In the meantime we had lots of other Millie cruisers who we found or found us. As the website grew Robert was updating it almost daily. We then started the forum. It was fun for all of us who were going to be sailing together to exchange tips, or information. This was a nice way to get to know each other. By the time the trip began we had over 40 people going on this group. Once onboard we did meet most of them and had lots of fun exchanging tour stories on the sea days.

This review is a journal of what we did and saw. There have been countless reviews of the ship and all I need to say is it as wonderful as posted previously. I may talk about a few of our favorite places onboard. However, we had such a port intensive trip, that I'm sad to say we didn't have time to totally explore the entire ship. We also only saw a few of the shows as well. The entertainment we did see we totally enjoyed however.

First Day
-Arrived in Istanbul Turkey on May 29th, checked into the hotel. Renaissance Polat. We stayed two nights here before the cruise. We met fellow cruisers Debbie and Robert soon after we checked in and had a great dinner with them at that hotel. It was like seeing old friends, even though we just met that day. As mentioned above, we had found them on the net and started emails back and forth about 8 months before this trip. We got back to our hotel room after our dinner and made a call to Margot and Larry who were staying in town as well. We finally talked to Margot the next day to arrange for all of us to get together to do some exploring of Istanbul together. We met Margot and Larry at their hotel in town. It was a great hotel with an incredible view of the town. We then started our day and did some exploring of the city. What a great place this was! We found the people of Istanbul to be very charming.

We tried some local food in a small cafe, a simple dish of a beef meatballs and potatoes served with some rice. They also had some of the best fresh bread as well. We ended the meal with some "apple tea" which is what most of the local people drink. It was very good, kind of like a hot apple cider. Be sure to at least try it! While we roamed the city Tom also sampled some kind of local pretzel, covered in sesame seeds. It was quite good.

The Blue Mosque was one of the first sites we visited. All visitors needed to have shoulders and knees covered. While in the Mosque you are not to wear your shoes. Shoes were also placed in a bag for you to carry in with you. Tom had shorts on that day so he had the privileged to wear a nice blue wrap around skirt into the Mosque (he looked quite stylish). In case you're wondering, the Mosque was named the Blue Mosque because of all the beautiful blue tiles used to decorate the building.

We also visited the St. Sophia. This was once a Church then converted to a Mosque. It is now a museum so there were no clothing restrictions. As we visited the St. Sophia we were overwhelmed with its size and beauty. I can only imagine how this place once looked. I believe that before St Peters was built this was the largest church. It is amazing how small you feel as you roam around this incredible place. It is now undergoing restoration.

Topeka Palace was a beautiful place as well. This place felt like fort. We had only a short time here. But from what we had time to see, it was incredibly opulent

We had decided to take a boat ride on the Bosporus and before we purchased our tickets Margot had found a man who was renting a boat for private tours. She negotiated a price of 10.00 per person. We did not know that this would be just one many adventures we would all have together. As we passed all the commercial boats that would take people out on tours and headed toward our "private boat". We negotiated through alleys and finally stepped through a hole in a chained link fence, then across a plank to the dock and then got on board our private boat. Well it was a great boat! It had a top deck for anyone who wanted to sit topside as we cruised the river. The weather was great!

Soon after this trip began we did pass the Millennium. What a treat to see her! Then the tour part started in earnest. As we would approach a site or official monument the boat driver would stop the boat and bring back a well worn tour book and hand it to Debbie who would then read about the site we had just sailed by. Some of the text was missing (due no doubt to the age of the book) but she improvised and filled in the blanks as best she could.

On the ship May 31st.
First day on the ship. We woke up and packed up our bags. Today we would board the Millennium!! We met Debbie and Robert downstairs at the hotel. We then ordered a couple of taxis. The taxis in Istanbul are VERY small. Bungee cords are standard issue to hold luggage in the trunk. One of our bags did get damaged in route to the ship. We finally arrived after a 20 min ride through the town. Check in was a breeze. We are Captain Club members and that did make check in a bit faster. We soon found our rooms and were very pleased! After that we did a bit of exploring. Debbie and I checked to see if the 6 of us had the same dining table, which we did. And then we made our arrangements for the Olympic Dining Room. That went very easy. Actually the wait to check on your dining room table was longer than the Olympic reservations.

Those details being taken care of, Tom and I decided to head back to town to do a bit of shopping in the Grand Bazaar. We purchased a few trinkets and caught a cab back to the boat. A word about this, I had a map and also printouts of hotels with the addresses. This is good to have if you have a taxi driver who speaks no English it helps to point to a place on your map or have the written address's to make sure you get where you want to go.

Anyway, we headed back to the ship with no problems, paid the driver and I was about to walk over to the ship when I fell. I had been looking ahead instead of what was ahead of me and didn't notice that there were some one-way spikes on the driveway in front of the dock. The next thing I knew I was air born flying through the air, face first on to the pavement. I lay there dazed for a few minutes then reached up to see if I had any teeth left. Thankfully all my dental work was intact. I did feel a bit dazed at that point and just wanted to go back to our cabin. About this time I noticed there were about 10 dockworkers all around me. One man was offering to help me up, another was trying to help me wash off the dirt on my skinned up hand. And one man bent down and offered pain medication. I had to giggle to myself at that time. I was thinking how incredible it was all these strangers were so concerned about me. In the states most of them would walk by and not even stop to help. A few of these guys went into the port and brought out a row of the chairs so that I could sit.

I told Tom I just wanted to go back to my room. I didn't know that I looked worse than I felt. Apparently my face broke my fall and my lip split open very wide.

Soon after I had sat down on the benches the ships doctor arrived with his nurse with a wheelchair. They took me immediately to the ship's medical center. This is not a place many get to visit (hopefilly you never will). I certainly had not expected to see that place. I had packed nearly an entire pharmacy so I didn't think I'd need to visit the ships hospital. You'll be comforted to know it is very well equipped with all the latest technology.

I received first-rate care on the ship; they quickly cleaned all the wounds and began to stitch me up. About an hour after the whole incident began I was in our room, sore and feeling kind of bummed. My whole trip was ruined (or so it seemed at the time). Tom called the desk and they sent a Menu down and we ordered dinner in our room. I certainly didn't want to be looking like a mummy at the first dinner on the ship. Tom called our dinner mates and let them know we would miss dinner but we'd see them the next day. We called the desk and our room steward brought us the dinner menu. And we were able to order some food in our room. I managed to get some soup down and a wonderful crème Brule'. That made me fell much better. How can Crème Brule not cure the blues!

June 1, Istanbul.
I woke up and felt much better. Tomorrow was the first tour so I decided that I would take it easy and rest up for the tour in Kusadasi. I still looked a mess but decided to brave it and leave the cabin. I was determined to have a great time. I am glad I already had some good friends on the ship. I did venture out with Tom' we grabbed some breakfast and strolled around the ship. I must say that this ship is a piece of art. Everywhere you go you find gorgeous lounges, artwork, and wonderful places to spend time in. This day was a good day to explore the ship. We did a bit of exploring and relaxed. The ship was about to leave port so we did the lifeboat drill. Now I wonder if a more fashionable life jacket would be a hot seller. I'll have to play with that idea.

As we made our way to the Michael's Club where our lifeboat drill meeting place (a muster station to you newbies) was, we found Robert and Debbie there. Sitting with them was Bridget, Steve and Georgia (more net friends). They found out that Bridget, Steve and Georgia were in the cabin next door. We finally had dinner in the dining room with Robert, Debbie, Larry and Margot. It was a nice evening. We met our waiter and his assistant that evening. The only problem that evening was this crazy group of people at my table made me laugh so much I thought that I was going to split my lip open again! Off to bed we went feeling too full and tired to see any shows. This seemed to be a trend for us. Eat till we could eat no more then off to sleep. You'd think we would be big as a house after this, but with all the walking we did, I gained about 2 pounds total for the trip. Tom and I made a deal to try and use the stairs on the ship most of the time. Let me tell you, after a 9 or 10 hour tour it was murder to climb 7 flights of stairs to our cabin.

June 2, Ephesus.
Today we had our first tour to Kusadasi. Robert and Debbie were with us on this tour. We boarded the buses and were a bit nervous. The bus was hot and air conditioning was hardly noticeable. This was a bit of a concern for us because in a few days we'd be boarding a bus for a 14-hour tour in Egypt. The air worked a bit better as we started the trip however.

This was to be the first visit to see ancient ruins. We visited the Library of Ephesus. The theatre is one of the largest in antiquity with a capacity of 25,000 seats and boasts exceptional acoustics. It was so surreal to see such pieces of architecture so well preserved for so many years. We found out that a large portion of the ruins is still buried underground. It seems the earth is the best way to keep these antiquities preserved. After we completed our tour we did a bit of shopping in the bazaar. Some of the shops had some quite nice jewelry. We really didn't purchase much but enjoyed looking around. Back to the ship we went where we cleaned up and had another great dinner. As always the food was wonderful as was the conversation. We again finished dinner and found our way back to the cabin. There is nothing like sleeping on a ship! The one thing I've noticed about the Millennium is that it is much more stable than any other ship I've been on. This was my 8th cruise so I've have sampled a few different ships.

June 3, Sea Day
Well our first sea day. Before my mishap I had planned on taking advantage of the aqua spa. But it just didn't seem like soaking in a bubbly salt water Jacuzzi would be as enjoyable with my oozing cuts and scrapes. For those who would like this, you're in for a treat. The aqua spa on board is very large. And also a feast for the eyes. There is a health food buffet there. Serving salads and all the normal lo cal dishes. I did see some sushi. I believe it was California rolls type sushi. We did do a tour when we went onboard and they have some very expensive treatments as well as a few affordable ones. We had wanted to try the aroma therapy steam treatment that was about 17.00 per person. But due to time constraints we just didn't get to do that. Since this was a sea day we tried to contact as many of the Monti group as we could for an informal get together. We did have about 10 of us get together in the Rendez- Vous Lounge. This meeting included, Robert & Debbie, Larry & Margot, Georgia and I think Steve also stopped by for a bit, Pat, Mike, Mark, Jeff and Kelly. We had a great time chit chatting together and swapping our tour stories. This was our first formal night so pictures were being taken all over the ship. They served cocktails in the Atrium. Free! We did partake of the free cocktails that night.

The attire for the formal night was very diverse. For the ones who do not care to get too dressed up, I've seen lot of dark suits and dressy outfits without the glitter and sequins. So don't worry if you don't have a fancy designer outfit. Since we were so zapped after our dinners, we barely had time for many shows. But Tom and I did make a point of trying to go to the Cova Cafe area before dinner for a drink and to listen to whatever entertainment was offered there. Usually they have a string quartet playing or a wonderful woman who played the harp. In the Cova Cafe pastries were available free of charge but specialties coffees were at a extra charge. The prices were very reasonable (about what you'd find at Starbucks). This is one of the places that Tom and I really loved to sneak away to. Nice music and a wonderful atmosphere.

After that we'd head over to the dining room. As always the dinners were wonderful! Every night a different menu was offered. We sometimes saw a repeated item such as Filet Migon or Shrimp Scampi. As for food, the nightly menu starts off with 4 or 5 appetizers. Then following that is a choice of 3 soups. One will be a cold soup. Then you will have a choice of 2 salads. Most every evening you will have a choice of 3 salad dressings. I would suggest you try the Celebrity Salad Dressing at least once. It was one of my favorites. Most nights the Entree selections will include a Fish Selection, a Foul Selection. (duck, chicken, quail ect which was my preferred choice). Also available are a beef selection, a veal choice, pasta or a lamb selection. Desserts were often a choice of 4 or 5. Often you'd find puff pastries, flans or custard dishes. Always some kind of chocolate type dish. Sometimes a fruit type dessert. And let's not forget the ice cream!! It is great, homemade and you often had a choice of 3 kinds. Larry was a big fan of the ice cream! I loved all the custard or cream filled type desserts!

June 4, LIMASSOL, Cyprus.
We took a tour this day and found the bus had wonderful air conditioning! Maybe there is hope for our trip to Egypt! We were very nervous about being on a bus so long with crappy ac! The tour in Cyprus was ok. I think if I were to do that over I would just stroll around on my own and skip the ship tour. Not that it was bad (OK it sucked), but by the end of this cruise I was definitely toured out. We had nice time but were glad to get back to the ship that day. Maybe part of it was that I was so anxious to see Egypt, our next port stop!! We returned to the ship that day and had a nice dinner. Then we turned in early and scanned the TV in our room for news. The ship has several channels available. We had a movie channel that carried fairly new movies, 2 a day in English. They also had movies in Spanish, German and perhaps some other languages as well. There also was Discovery Channel and BBC for news. Later in the trip we had CNN as well.

June 5, Alexandria Egypt
The day I had been anticipating forever! We had booked a ship tour for Egypt. We would be visiting the pyramids, sphinx and the Great Museum of Cairo. Our tour also included lunch. Now Tom and I had been expecting a grueling bus ride in the hot sun for 3+ hours. As we went to the Celebrity Theater to find Debbie and Robert who also had booked this trip we were surprised to see 1400 other ships passengers waiting their turn to board busses to go to Egypt. We looked for our friends in the sea of faces but to no avail. We couldn't find them so Tom and I would be on our own this tour. I figured we'd bump into them at the pyramids or museum. We had a number for the bus. So we sat and waited, somehow hoping that we'd see Debbie or Robert before our number was called. Finally our number was called and we got on our bus. We went to board the bus and before I got on board I was handed a rose from the driver. "How nice" I thought to myself. The bus looked nice too. We got on board and found ourselves a nice seat near the back. Soon our tour operator boarded and began her speech. She informed us that all the busses would have to travel together to Cairo. She also gave us a bit of info on what we had in store for us that day. She was a very well spoken woman who had a BA in Egyptology. And her last announcement was that we were very lucky. We were on the newest bus!! This was a great bus. It even had a bathroom, which I made use of several times. Our journey to Cairo began and she told us lots of info on Pyramids as well as the Egyptian culture. We were on our way! As we drove across the desert, I had imagined a sand dune look but was surprised to see that it was not that way at all (just flat and dusty). We noticed small farms along the way and they had very few roads between Alexandria and Cairo. Our tour guide was very good. She talked nearly the entire way without a break.

She was very interesting and we enjoyed her presentation. After about a 2.5-hour trek across the desert we arrived at Cairo. This city is very large our guide had told us that it is very populated and apartments are hard to come by. As you drive along you'll see apartments in an unfinished state. People would be living in a building that may only be half completed. She said that Egyptians are not concerned with the outside appearance of their homes but insides are very beautiful. Apparently the Egyptians are not concerned with the outside appearance of anything. I was very disappointed to see that the entire city was covered with trash. Garbage flowed through the city like a river. The waterways were heavily polluted as well. Since they are trying to develop the tourism; I would think that they would somehow try to clean up the city to make it more attractive to visitors. As we passed through town all of a sudden we could see the pyramids just smack in the middle of town! It was a very odd site to see modern structures mixed with the last remaining wonders of the world! Our first stop was the pyramids. The bus pulled up and parked. From one view you can see all of Cairo next to the pyramids, from the opposing angle you can only see the desert. Very odd to see all these new buildings right next to the pyramids. We got off our bus and were able to walk around for a couple of hours at this site. Men on camels were all around hoping to get tourist to sit on them for picture. We were told that was not advisable because once on them they would ask for more money and it was a hassle to deal with them.

The venders are VERY aggressive at the site. Anyway back to the pyramids. It was incredible to see these ancient structures. They are much bigger than you can imagine. We didn't go in but Margot and Larry who did a private tour did. And they said it was very hot and you had to walk crouched over a good portion of the way. Just seeing them was enough for me. The weather was hot. Temps were around 95 with a slight breeze. I would bet that by mid summer it would be unbearable! The tour guide does supply water so you need not bring it from the ship.

We went to see the sphinx next. Now this is not as close to the pyramids as you may think. And it is smaller than you might think as well. We had about 40 minutes there for picture taking and warding off venders (again, very aggressive venders here too). We did run into Robert and Debbie here and exchanged thoughts of the tour so far. We also did the picture thing.

Later, we headed to the hotel that was to supply our lunch. Now Tom and I had thought that this tour, which had a lunch included, would be a box type lunch. But not so, we arrived at the hotel, which is located right behind the pyramids. We got off the bus to a musical greeting at the hotel. Several gentlemen playing very long trumpets and some playing bagpipes greeted us as we walked up a red carpet. As we entered for our meal you see a very gorgeous hotel all covered in beautiful paintings and gold detail everywhere.

The banquet room was very large and a buffet fit for a king awaited us. The only complaint is I could have spent more time there. We only had about 40 minutes for this lunch. After the meal we traveled to the Museum. We had around 2 hours to spend here and again I wished we had more. It was filled with so many wonderful Egyptian artifacts, sarcophagus with hieroglyphics on the side many of which you can actually touch. We viewed many of the things from King Tuts Tomb. The highlight of this trip was the mask of Tut and the Sarcophagus of Tut. As we left saw is a very impressive statue of Ramsey ll (hedidn't look at all like Uhl Brenner). After this we were headed back to the bus another long journey back to the ship but we had all these wonderful memories to bring back with us.

We arrived at the port around 10 pm and were hot, sticky, and tired but not to tired to roam the booths of the local venders located just outside the ship. Only picked up a few trinkets and headed onboard the ship to grab a bite at the buffet located on Deck 10. They kept this open late for all the tour people who would arrive late that day. We collapsed in bed and were happy that the next day was a sea day. IMPORTANT!!! Don't buy the shipboard offered cartouches! They are more than twice the price of ones offered by the tour bus. The ones offered by the tour were delivered on our way back from Cairo. We were surprised how much better quality they were!!! We bought several for the cost of one shipboard one.

June 6 Sea Day,
Thank god it was a sea day today. Tom and I were completely exhausted from the tour to Egypt. Today we had our breakfast at the ocean cafe on the 10th deck. We ate in the very back of the ship outside. We ran into Robert and Debbie there and enjoyed sharing stories of our adventures in Egypt. We had a very leisurely breakfast and enjoyed the morning breeze on the deck. Tonight we were having dinner with Robert and Debbie in the Olympic Dining Room. I was looking forward to that evening.

Tom and I relaxed and pretty much roamed around the ship and did some exploring. We did a bit of shopping at the Emporium Gift shops. We really didn't get a chance to do any souvenir shopping in Egypt so we purchased a few items that the ship had (but not cartouches!). It was like a flea market that day in the shop area. They had tons of stuff and people were grabbing and shopping like mad. I guess a lot of people don't want to deal with the local venders and bargain. Although it did get old after you've haggled with venders in 3 or 4 ports. After the browsing in the shop area we headed back to our cabin to nap and relax. We had decided to skip lunch and order a pizza in the room. The ships pizza was very good, Tom enjoyed it several times on board. After our pizza and a wonderful nap in the cabin we went to the Cosmos for a drink and to enjoy the view. This was one of our favorite places to hang out. Ok time to get ready for dinner. We arrived at the Olympic Dining room with Robert and Debbie. We had checked it out the first day we arrived and I must say it was very impressive. After we checked in we were escorted to our table and were seated. We had a table for 4 located right next to the wine cellar. What a great spot I thought to myself. The wine cellar is located in the front part of the dining room. As I recall there were only about 4 other tables occupied while we were in there.

The front dining area has the original paneling from the Olympic ship. For those of you who many not know the Olympic ship was the sister ship to the Titanic. The paneling was completely restored to its original beauty. The room had a very rich feel. The back part of the dining room was done in more bright colors with a completely different look. Quite gorgeous in its own right. A grand piano was located in the back area. During dinner music was played on the piano as well as a violin. The menu only has 4 courses, appetizer, entree, cheese course and dessert. Now After all the courses in the Metropolitan dining room you almost get the feeling your getting short changed. After al, you have a surcharge for this dining room of 25.00. But let me tell you, it was hard to finish my dessert and it was my all time favorite dessert to boot! The portions are generous and oh so good! The service was incredible, and no detail was left out. The menu offered something for everyone. There were too many choices for me to recall them so I'll just tell you a few of the dishes we sampled. To begin with you have a choice of appetizer. This may be a salad, appetizer or soup. You only had one choice. I had a quail dish. Tom had lobster bisque. Both were very rich dishes. For the entree dish I had the Steak Diane, which was cooked tableside. Debbie and Tom had a rack of lamb in a puff pastry, Robert had shrimp scampi also cooked tableside.

The tableside cooking was a show in itself. Now I must say this the gentlemen who did the cooking tableside were artists! After our entree they brought around a cheese cart. We sampled some cheeses and prepared ourselves for the dessert. Tom and I had chocolate souffle, which was incredible! After dinner we enjoyed some coffee and started to contemplate how we would move ourselves out of these chairs. We had eaten so much and been so well taken care of I hated the thought of leaving. We did manage to leave and made it to our room. I kept thinking to myself "one night we really have to try and see a show!" Tomorrow is Athens! Can't wait… Must get some sleep so we can be fresh for Greece. (Forgot to mention we did a tour of the galley it was interesting to see how they can serve over 2000 passengers a day, not to mention over 1000 staff. If you would like to do this check in at the front desk and ask, it was not published.)

June 7th, Athens Greece.
Tour today with Robert and Debbie. We are to meet them at the Celebrity Theater. We arrive and they have bus passes already. I'm looking forward to this tour. I keep thinking after the pyramids will everything else pale in comparison? I am hoping that this will be as exciting as the pyramids. We board the bus and find them clean comfy and air-conditioned! Yea!

Although the heat is not too bad, sitting in a bus with poor air would be miserable. We drive along the coast for about 45 mins the guide tells us about historical information and some sites along the way. Our first stop was at the temple of posiden. The temple is up very high on a hill with a good view of the entire area. What is left of the temple is around 20 pillars. In the surrounding area we found many broken columns and remands of the temple. We had around an hour to visit and roam around. Then we were bussed down the hill to a nearby hotel for lunch.

We had a very nice lunch that included a very large fish that had a head and tail (think Billy Bass). Now Tom did have a bit of an issue with eating something that was staring back at him. That made this a great opportunity for me to harass Tom with the fish. After our lunch we had a nice bowl of ice cream and headed to Athens to see the acropolis.

The climb up is a bit strenuous. So take it slow and be sure to practice using the ships stairs. Our only shipboard fatality was a 50 year old passenger climbing the Acropolis. As you near the top you see the columns of the Parthenon. Along side this is the Temple of Athena Nike. This was an incredible place. The view from here was spectacular! It was easy to imagine how beautiful this place must have been when it was first created. We roamed around took pictures and then went to the museum to see the statues which are there. After that it was time to head back to the bus to return to the ship. It was another wonderful day! We had just enough time to rest a bit and clean up for our dinner. We met our friends at dinner tonight and had fun exchanging stories and enjoyed another great meal.

June 8th At Sea. Today I went to the ships doctor to get the stitches out. So happy to almost be back to normal. After this had a late breakfast on the 10th deck. Tom and enjoyed sea days, it really gave us a chance to recharge. The tours can be very exhausting. A perfect trip would be for every two days at port a sea day. So anyway today we relaxed and explored the ship. We meet our dinner gang for trivial pursuit around 2:45 in the Platinum Club. This is right near the Metropolitan dining room. Larry, Margot, Robert, Debbie, Tom and I gather together.

The questions are a lot tougher than I thought. Jeff (another net friend) joins us later in the game. I'm thinking good thing I'm with the "smart" group! Well after the game is over we tally up scores and amazingly we win! Everyone wins a nice Celebrity Key Chain! After the game we go to the Celebrity Theater to see the passenger talent show. We are there to cheer on Kelly, she and her family are from Texas. (another family from our monti group). She is one of the first to perform. She's very good and gets a very nice reception from the crowd. Several other acts follow, most are good but a few are extremely funny although I believe they we not meant to be! They don't award prizes but it is nice to see all the talent that is aboard the ship! More relaxing and a great dinner with our friends. We turn in for some much needed rest and are looking forward to the next day in Naples

June 9th Naples.
No ships tours for us today we are tagging along with Larry and Margot to Capri to see the Blue Grotto. Now when we decided to go to the Blue Grotto I had no idea what that was. But we decided to go for it. First of all we had to exchange money in Naples, so the 4 of us walked over to do that before we took the boat to Capri, on the way we immediately encountered a man on the street offering to sell Larry a very nice digital camcorder at a very good price. Naturally he declined.

We were warned that there are people selling stolen goods on the street and also to be careful of purses and wallets in Naples. We only brought a limited amount of money with us and carried it in a passport carrier worn under our clothing. After we did the money exchange we headed over to catch on of the Jet Boats to Capri. The jet boat is very comfortable; the ride was very smooth and quick.

In Capri we visited an Internet cafe and sent out emails. The cost at the cafe was around 1.00 per hour vs. 9.00 per hour on the ship. We bought tickets for the boat to the blue grotto and boarded. The boat holds around 25 people the ride to the grotto is only about 15 minutes from the dock. Once you arrive you exit the motorboat and 3-4 of you get in a rowboat. Then you wait your turn to enter the grotto. Now the grotto is a cave in the side of the an island. If the waves are high it is difficult to get inside. We wait till it is time to go in as we wait I see the boats ahead of us taking their turn to go inside. The opening is not very high so as you enter you must all lay down, so as not to hit your head.

Once inside you see why it is called the blue grotto. The walls are limestone, and the light from the outside causes the water in the cave to bounce off the walls and the water below you looks like it is glowing. A very cool effect. Now once inside your there around 10 minutes about 8-10 boats will be inside at a time. And naturally everyone is singing some kind of Italian songs inside to hear the echo effects. Now getting in wasn't so bad. But as we tried to get out the waves were quite a bit higher and it was a challenge to get out. After several attempts to get out of the cave we did make it. Although we didn't make it out dry. Totally soaked, but did we have a blast.

We headed back to the Island of Capri and found a nice local cafe to have some authentic Italian pizza! And after that we couldn't leave without a little bit of Italian ice cream. It was getting late so we headed back to the ship. Another adventure, thanks to Margot and Larry. It was nice to be on our own schedule. I do enjoy the ships tours but it was fun to do this day on our own. Whenever we do return to Europe I think Tom and I will defiantly do more on our own type day trips. As we head back to the ship we decide to try out our phone card we had brought along. So we made calls home, first I call my daughter Amanda to check on her, it is nearly 4 pm in Naples but very early at home I wake her up. She is sleepy but somewhat coherent. It is so good to hear her voice. All is well at home.

Next a call to Tom's Mom, she is very happy to hear from us, Tom tells her about our trip so far. Two more calls to make one to my mom and another to my daughter Ashley. We really missed our family it was great to hear from home! We boarded the ship and went to the room to clean up for dinner. We had a wonderful dinner and hear all about Robert and Debbie's day, Debbie and Robert look very tired. They regret having booked ships tours for every port.

Tonight is the grand buffet, but as usual all we can do after dinner is head to bed. Now if you hear that the shows are poorly attended you know why! With so much to see and do how can anyone have the energy to see them? We head of to bed, tomorrow is Rome!

June 10th Rome.
We join Margot and Larry in the Buffet Breakfast on deck 10. No need to rush we are on our own again today. Have a nice leisurely breakfast and prepare for our day. We get ready to leave and walk to town from the dock. Now the dock area was windy as heck and I had a wrap around skirt on and had a heck of a time walking in it. It tended to want to fly open!

At the train station we waited for our train and a nice lady from our ship had a safety pin I could use to secure the skirt. The train ride was about a hour to Rome. We had fun looking at the countryside and listening to a few young men singing in Italian some songs. It was a soccer game that day and they sang and waved a very large flag out the window of the train all the way to Rome.

As we were near Rome we could see the Vatican. We had originally thought we'd start at the Coliseum and go to the Vatican later but at the last minute decided to get off early and do the Vatican early. As we entered the Vatican we seen a very large crowd inside and we knew that something was going on that day. As it turned out it was the Pope! Lucky for us we stopped early.

We had a chance to see him, take photos and listen to the service. We left the Vatican and grabbed a cab to the Coliseum; it was getting close to lunchtime so we had lunch after that. Had a nice lunch and took a bus back to the Vatican to go inside. Unfortunately for us the Sistine Chapel was not open that day but we were able to go into Saint Peters to see all the wonderful statues and paintings inside.

As we entered I noticed they check you for proper attire, so make sure you wear sleeves on your shirt and knees are covered. The chapel was the most incredible collection of art I had ever seen. It was time to head back to the ship we took another bus back to the Train station and was soon on our way back. What a day! I was tired but at the same time exhilarated! We got off the train and had a ice-cream before our walk back to the ship.

We got cleaned up and headed over to dinner. We can't wait to tell Robert and Debbie about all we've seen that day. Dinner is a wonderful end to the day a great time to share our tales and relax. When Debbie and Robert arrive we find out that they didn't take the tour that they had booked but just stayed on the ship and rested. I knew the night before they had looked very tired. I wondered how they were going to make another ship tour. We told them all about our day. After dinner off to bed we go. Most of the nights we'd not finish dinner till 10:30 or so. It was very hard to stay up for shows and such. Tomorrow was our last port day Nice.

June 11th Villefranche.
We arrived at 8:00am, this was a gorgeous port. All the houses are lining the coastline. You can see the houses and shops scattered against the hillside. The ship does not dock at the port, it is anchored a mile or so from shore and we take one of the lifeboats (tenders) to shore the process is pretty quick. Today we leave early so we have be back on board early the last tender is at 4:45. Tom and I decided to spend our last port day alone. I'm glad we did this it was fun to see how well we could manage on our own. As we arrived the first order of business is to exchange our currency. I do hope that when we return to Europe the Euro dollar is the only currency. My brain did get tired of trying to convert how much was a German Mark or Turkish Lira or French Franc. I'm sure somewhere along the way we either tipped too little or tipped too much. It didn't matter we had fun and really didn't spend as much as we had planned.

With all the tours we took there really hadn't been much time to shop. Ok back to the story. Sorry I do get sidetracked! We decided to take the bus which was not scheduled to arrive for an hour. So we walked across the street for a croissant and coffee in a charming outdoor cafe. Ok, I think to myself lets hope the menu is easy to understand and the waiter can speak some English. Lucky for us the waiter did speak English. We ordered our coffee and a croissant. It soon arrived and it was great! Best coffee I ever had. I had asked for coffee with cream and sugar and he brings me a lovely cafe latte. The prices in France are not cheep but not too outrageous either. Our little light breakfast was around 8-9 dollars plus tip.

The bus soon arrives and we board the bus and head for Nice. We planned on just wandering around today do a bit of shopping, then head back. As we head up the windy hillside. We can see why everyone visits the south of France, it was so pretty there. We are just getting into the town of Nice and we see that everyone in Nice has a dog. Well not everyone but a huge portion of the people bring their dogs with them. We pass a cafe and a lady is having coffee and her very large sheep dog has joined her at the table. It looked like the dog had a dish with his breakfast too.

The bus is very crowded and finally stops. The people near us get off, so we do too. As the bus pulls away we notice we got off too early and are not in the "shopping area" we had planned on going to. We do have our ships map and start to walk. Eventually we do arrive in the main shopping area and pickup some tee shirts for our girls at home. We wander around and enjoy the great day. Weather had been perfect the whole trip! It is nearly lunchtime so we find a great little outdoor cafe to have our lunch. We sit near a elderly lady who is finishing her lunch.

Now one thing I noticed in Europe is that they take their time to really enjoy their food. Not like in the States where you grab a fast food lunch and gobble it down and are on your way to wherever you have to be. We are lucky again the waiter speaks perfect English, so we order a couple of sandwiches and sodas. The tables are all connected in this restaurant and the lady who was next to me was so very sweet. She spoke maybe 5 words of English, which is about how many French words I know. Anyway, she was so very kind, we had a wonderful conversation together even though neither of us knew what the other was saying!

We finished our lunch and walked a bit and realized we had no idea where the bus stop was. I spotted a money exchange place and thought that there must be someone who can speak enough English to help guide us to the bus stop or train station. Lucky us again, the gentleman working there did speak English and even drew a map to the train station. We were only about 4 blocks away. We caught the train back and boarded the ship. We had a great time and were a bit sad that this trip was nearly over, but looking forward to getting home at the same time. We headed back to clean up and start the dreaded job of packing up. We joined our friends at dinner tonight to hear of what they had all done and enjoy our last night together. After dinner we headed back to the room to finish packing and get some much needed sleep. Tomorrow we would be meeting our friends for our last meal together in the dining room.

June 12, Barcelona. The last day, sad to say the goodbyes. We meet everyone for breakfast. We talk together of all the wonders we all saw together and make promises to keep in touch. Margot and Larry and Robert and Debbie are all staying in Barcelona for a day or so. Tom and I heading to the airport to fly to Frankfurt. We finish our breakfast and wait for our turn to disembark from the ship. Our turn soon arrives and now we have the lovely task of finding our luggage in the waiting area. Well our luck had ran out, we went to find our luggage in the area it was suppose to be in and it was not there. After looking around and deciding it was no where to be found Tom whet on a search and rescue mission.

After a half hour or so he returned with most of our luggage! One of the bags was on some woman's cart. Apparently she thought it was hers. We finally get our bags all gathered and head out to the LONG line waiting for cabs. After what seemed like forever we finally had inched up to the front of the line and had our turn at a cab. Actually Tom had waited near the front of the line off to the side, with all our bags and I waited in the line.

Anyway, we were heading to the airport to catch our 12:30 flight to Frankfurt. We arrived in Germany around 3:00pm and grabbed a Mercedes Cab to the hotel. This hotel was near the middle of town within walking distance to shops and restaurants. The hotel elevator is about the size of a phone booth, so Tom took half our luggage up to the room and I followed up right after him. The hotel also included nice breakfast. The room was clean and the bathroom large!

We cleaned up and walked to the square to grab dinner and see a bit of Frankfurt. On our way back we passed a shop that sold Henkels knives, I decided that tomorrow before we left I wanted to go over to the shop and purchase some knives to bring home. The next morning we packed up and grabbed a cab (Mercedes of course!) and headed to the airport for our long flight home. We boarded the airplane and had great seats near the bathroom. In the front of us there was no other seats so we thought we would be able to rest up a bit. Well this open area turned out to be the play area for all the kids. As we landed in San Francisco the stewardess said it was a long flight I mentioned to her must have been all the babies on board! She smiled slightly.

We get off the airplane and go through all the customs lines. As we headed through the last of the customs checkpoints a woman behind us is getting a bit pushy. She's trying to get though quicker. Well we get passed the customs without an incident and look back and they had grabbed her bag and started manually picking through everything. We grinned as we left the customs area.

Almost home, just a quick flight to Modesto now. Only problem is it is 3 hours till our flight to Modesto leaves. We wait again, Tom finally is so exhausted he naps on the floor in the airport. At last it is time to board our little prop plane for Modesto. We get on board and head home. We land in Modesto and finally get home to find our cats are fine, Amanda had left the house very tidy and also she had left her pet snake too. We are home, tired but very happy. We had the trip of a lifetime and enjoyed every single minute of it.