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2009 Mediterranean & Aegean Sea Cruise
The Grand Princess
Twelve Days Round Trip from Rome, Italy
November 15, 2009 to December 1, 2009
Now go get your favorite hot or cold beverage of your choice and come sit with me for a spell. I'll wait... Warning: you may want a glass of wine or an ice cold beer before this is over. Save yourself a second or third trip to the kitchen and bring the entire bottle or coffee pot, which ever you prefer. If you are reading this in the evening, go ahead a put your pajamas on. If it is in the morning, cancel any morning plans you may have. Let's share a visit together. IT'S LONG! Here comes "War and Peace"...
In The Beginning of Time
Keith and Suzanne enjoyed a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to visit with friends, with an additional 7-day visit to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming in late October, 2008. But that's another story... As they were returning back to Atlanta, they had a flight over-lay in Chicago. As they were waiting for their connecting flight, Suzanne commented to Keith that their trip was almost over. Suzanne asked Keith, "Where would would you like to travel to next year in 2009?". Keith's response was exactly what Suzanne expected... "Gee, I don't know! Where would you like to go?" Suzanne was ready... "Why don't we travel outside of our USA comfort box and visit southern Europe with a Mediterranean Cruise?". Keith said, "That sounds good, why don't you look into it!". Suzanne sweetly replied, "Don't worry your handsome head about it, I'll take care of it!". A so a Mediterranean cruise was conceived. And now you know the rest of the story...
Marci Zied, Travel Agent
Marci Zied is a member of the FAN Club, (Friends and Neighbors). It is a women's social club with the majority of its members residing in West Cobb County however, membership is open to all of metro Atlanta. Suzanne is a member of three social clubs, but that's another story too...
Suzanne has known Marci Zied for the past three years since joining the FAN Club in September, 2006. Along the social road, Suzanne learned that Marci was a travel agent of "The Love of Travel". Marci also gave a travel program on Alaska and Suzanne enjoyed it. Suzanne called Marci for her help.
Taking a trip together can be compromising between a husband and wife. It's like building a house together or a marriage. Each spouse allows the other spouse what they want if they get their wishes too; it's compromising, but both spouses are ultimately pleased with the end result! Keith was interested in visiting the Great Pyramids of Egypt and Suzanne was interested in Italy and Greece with a peaked interest in Istanbul. It became a quest for the perfect cruise itinerary.
After working with Marci Zied, Keith and Suzanne secured a deposit for an ocean view stateroom with balcony, starboard side, aboard the Grand Princess on a 12-day round trip cruise from Rome, Italy with the following ports-of-call: Rome, Italy; Naples, Italy; Athens, (Piraeus), Greece; Kusadasi, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; Mykonos Island, Greece; and Port Said and Alexandria, Egypt. A deposit was made.
Onshore excursions were then secured both with Princess Cruise Line, as well as, a private company called "Port Promotions" at half the price of Princess. We saved a lot of $$$$ with this helpful tip provided by our wise and experienced travel agent, Marci Zied. Next came our flight tickets to Rome, where our patience paid off, and hotel room reservations with two days in Rome before our cruise and one day after our cruise.
Mediterranean Cruise Introduction
A Mediterranean cruise is very demanding, if you've never taken one. It requires a lot of sight seeing and a lot of walking. It is educational and covers a lot of European, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Venetian, Turkish, and Muslim and Hebrew religious history with a lot of historical architecture and ruins. It's enough to make your head spin. Really! Suzanne wished she had remembered her high school European History, but now she is getting old and can't remember shit! Ha ha! Oh well! Each day was demanding whether we had a half day or a full day on-shore excursion. Keith and Suzanne welcomed cruising days between ports to relax and refresh around the swimming pool. Sleeping-in was a luxury.
If you want a relaxing cruise, I would suggest you take a Caribbean cruise. I can honestly say that a Mediterranean cruise is well worth the investment. It will open your eyes to the many different countries and their evolution of ancient history, religion, and cultures to present day. It is absolutely amazing. We experienced so many wonderful things that we could never experience in a high school textbook. You've got to try it. Be sure to put a Mediterranean cruise on your "Must to do List". It will be very rewarding. I promise. There are no other comparative cruises like it...
The Grand Princess
The Grand Princess was built in Italy in 1998 at a cost of US $450 million dollars. It is one of the largest cruise ships in the Princess Cruise Line, next to the Diamond and Sapphire Princess. It's sister ship is the Golden Princess. The Grand Princess operates in Europe during the summer and Autumn months and then in the Caribbean in winter and late spring. Our cruise was the last Mediterranean cruise scheduled in Autumn. Almost 900 passengers stayed on for their Trans-Atlantic cruise to Ft. Lauderdale, FL; others got off at Rome.
The Grand Princess has a capacity of 3,100 passengers and a crew of 1,100 staff. It's length is 951 feet long with a beam of 118 feet wide. It has 6 tenders. What are tenders? They are small motorized boats that transport approximately 150 passengers at a time from the cruise ship to shore. Tenders are used for shallow harbors that cannot be anchored by the larger cruise ships. The Grand Princess used its tenders in Mykonos. More statistics about the Grand Princess, but I'll do you a favor and won't bore you with them.
The Grand Princess has many bells and whistles; it is Grand in everyway, but Keith and Suzanne did not use many of them. The casino, special independent restaurants at extra cost, night clubs, exercise rooms, running track, virtual golf, Lotus spa, Serenity Court, and teen game room activities never saw Keith and Suzanne.
Our cruise ship presence was simple: stateroom, breakfast buffet or seated breakfast dinning, on-shore excursions, seated dinner dinning, and an evening entertainment show.... then off to bed until the next day; only to repeat again. On our cruising days, we enjoyed watching the large screen "Movies Under the Stars" around the swimming pool. The Grand Princess has four swimming pools; one with a retractable roof and another with a wave pool. In the afternoons we enjoyed sun bathing under the warm sun. Suzanne even got sunburned.
There were many activities available on the Grand Princess: Bingo, Yes!... Suzanne won $38.00 dollars!; ice carving, cooking classes, a tour of the galley, lectures of each port, and meet the ship Captain.
Cruise Ship Junkies
After checking into our cozy stateroom #327 on Baja Deck 11, Keith and Suzanne quickly made themselves familiar with the Grand Princess checking all facilities on every deck. Passengers were happy and excited sharing common questions with other passengers. The atmosphere was exuberant!
Where are you from? Is this your first cruise? How many cruises have you been on? What destinations have you been too? What other cruise ships have you been on? Blah, blah, blah... What ever!
One thing that quickly became evident was that there were many cruise ship junkies aboard. One woman proudly stated that this was her 60th cruise. Another stated that she was running out of countries to visit; poor thing! And another woman boosted of her 30 cruises in detail to anyone who would listen and stating that she was changing cruise ships in Rome on the Celebrity Soltice of the Seas to return to Ft. Lauderdale. She would not shut up while we were going thru our emergency drill rehearsal wearing life jackets. Good grief! The cruise ship junkies were trying to out do themselves. Suzanne wished for some "Shut-Up Pills".
Ok... I know you are asking me how many cruises Keith and I have been on... 2! So there!
The Mediterranean Gods were shining brightly upon us as the weather was absolutely perfect in every way. Temperatures averaged from the high 60's to the low 70's each and every day with clear skies and warm sunshine. We could not have asked for more perfect weather. No rain and not even a cloud anywhere in sight. With good weather, we had smooth sailing. The sea was like a velvet mirror.
Many stories were circulating about the weather. The previous cruise before us reported 11 out of 12 days of cold rain. Passengers never left the cruise ship. Winds did not allow umbrellas and on-shore tours were rain slicked and dangerous. How disappointing for so many passengers. Other stories indicated bad weather from previous cruises this same time of year. This is one trip we got perfect weather!
Ok... are you ready? Go ahead and refill your coffee or glass of wine. I'll wait. I told you it would be long...
Up up and Away
November 15, 2009
Our youngest daughter, Christine Priest, drove us to Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport Sunday afternoon, November 15th. Our check-in, and security pass was smooth and uneventful. We had comfortable seats at the exit isle allowing plenty of leg room. Our flight was non-stop Delta Airlines directly to Rome. Our route took us north through New York, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland; then east south of Greenland and Iceland; and then turning south through Ireland, France, Corsica, Sardinia, and last down the western coast of Italy.
Since this was a night flight, we were given blankets and little pillows to sleep; lights out after dinner. Suzanne slept like a baby; she can sleep anywhere anytime. Keith did not sleep despite he took two Benadryls; he read all night.
We arrived at Rome's Leonardo Di Vinci Airport early the following Monday Morning, November 16th, at 7:30AM Rome time. We found the airport dirty with lots of trash and graffiti everywhere. Not acceptable by American standards. We were happy to receive all of our luggage.
November 16, 17, 2009
We took a shuttle bus from the airport to our Hotel "Intercontinental De La Ville Roma". The drive was eye opening... THEY DRIVE LIKE IDIOTS! The lanes serve only as a suggestion and the traffic lights serve only as a moment to consider whether you want to stop or not. NO ENFORCEMENT OF TRAFFIC LAW despite I saw lots of Polizz everywhere.
Our shuttle bus driver drove crazy allowing endangerment of passengers. He even drove in the construction zones. I was never so scared and happy to reach our hotel safely. Honest! Even Keith was upset! There seems no order of driving in Rome. I would never attempt to drive in Rome.
To add to traffic, they have more motorcycles then I can ever imagine. The drivers drive in-between the cars and the busses; weaving in and out. I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE! I was told that over 10,000 traffic deaths happen per year in Rome alone. I can understand this.
And let's not over look the pedestrians. They don't stand a chance. Traffic is fast, faster, and watch out! Pedestrians take there lives at their own risk.
Ok... now that I've gotten that off my chest... let's continue.
The Italians like to wear black, lots of it! The Italian women are tall, slender, and very beautiful. They like to wear their pants tight. If there were a thin dime somewhere on their body, you could tell if it were heads or tails... it's that tight. And they love, love, love, their fine Italian leather spiked heeled knee-high boots. Of course, in black. The men wear scarves and also Italian European shoulder bags. Males and females are both fashion conscious. NO bright colors or pastels. Only black and more black. Suzanne felt a little out of place wearing her bright fuchsia jacket.
The streets are narrow and made of black lava stones and appear like cobblestones; Uneven and dangerous. Can't understand women walking on the streets with high heels, but some how they do. Housing are generally six story apartment buildings with an interior courtyard; some have beautiful fountains. Business premises on the street level and apartment homes above. The buildings have gardens on the top roof and the buildings only allow a tiny sidewalk between the building and the street. Buildings are made of stucco and windows are generally trimmed with wooden shutters, Roman awnings, and architectural trim. Very European looking. There are no trees and no grass. Streets are winding and you could easily get lost with streets often ending in dead end. When you least expect it, you will find a beautiful fountain. Italians love to shop and store windows are beautifully displayed everywhere with sidewalk cafes.
On our first day in Rome, we took an afternoon tour of the Roman Coliseum, the Roman Forum Ruins, and the Pantheon. Next a visit to the famous Trevi Fountain and a walk up the Spanish Steps. On our second day, we took tour of the Vatican City with a visit to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, the St. Peter's Basilica, and Arch of Constantine. Visiting these are a must see! The best of Rome.
The Euro currency in Rome is very expensive. A cup of coffee costs US $9.00 and a coke costs US $7.50. We would not be able to afford to live there; and the US dollar value is less then the Euro. I think it is the same through out Europe with the Euro no matter what country it is. Too say the least, we did not spend too much money in Rome. We ate sandwiches and pizza modestly.
This is interesting... our tour guide said that Italian Mozzarella cheese is made either from cow's milk or from buffalo milk. I've got to think about that twice!!! I can not fathom buffalo in Italy??? Anyway, the pizza we enjoyed was the best pizza I've ever tasted! Honest! I can still taste it. Yummy! You've got to try it!
November 18, 2009
After visiting Rome for a 2-day pre-cruise visit, it was time to drive north to Civitavecchia to board the Grand Princess. Our drive was approximately 90 minutes and uneventful. Fellow passengers were excited to begin their cruise. It was nice to see a little country side along the way with vineyards and olive trees and a few fruit markets. More trash and graffiti.
Civitavecchia is a port city servicing Rome and is the largest port city in Italy. Suzanne counted 6 cruise ships and countless cargo freighters actively loading and unloading cargo with huge cranes. Moored beside the Grand Princess was Celebrity's Solstice of the Seas; another huge cruise ship. Passengers were waving to each other from their staterooms.
At first sight of the magnificent Grand Princess, it was gleaming in the brilliant sun waiting for us. It was white, huge and more grand then Suzanne had expected. WOW! DOUBLE WOW! Emotion flooded Suzanne and of course, tears of joy quickly followed. Suzanne just couldn't believe it... it was always a dream of hers to visit the Mediterranean and now it was about to come true! Keith asked why I was crying? Because I'm so profoundly happy!...
November 19, 2009
Keith and I decided to take a full day 9 hour on-shore excursion in Naples. We boarded a Princess tour bus early in the morning and drove past Naples, Mt. Vesuvius, new Pompeii, and then on to Salerno on the Amalfi coast. Our tour guide called Naples, "Napoli". What ever!
Naples has a 23% unemployment rate and the crime is equally great. We found the city dirty, streets covered with trash and graffiti. New Pompeii was just about the same. Poor housing and laundry hanging outside from the windows. Suzanne was not impressed.
Upon arrival in Salerno, we boarded a cruising boat and leisurely cruised along the Amalfi coast enjoying the warm sun on our faces. We saw many beautiful cliff side villages hanging on the mountains with small beaches and colorful boats. Many of the cliff sides were orchards of lemon and lime trees. The lemons are as big as a football and very fragrant. When it comes to a coastal scenic cruise, the Amalfi coast rates #1. It's like a picture post card. Suzanne was very pleased with this excursion.
Upon arrival at Amalfi, we walked a short distance to the center of Amalfi with the most beautiful romantic courtyard Piazza you could imagine. It had a large beautiful fountain surrounded with little shops and cafes. Many of the cafes had outdoor tables and chairs to eat. Colorful with flowers everywhere. There was a group of bicyclists in the courtyard dressed colorfully with helmets and wear. Suzanne didn't know which was more colorful... the flowers or the bicyclists. Ha ha! There was even a little fish market to enjoy and a bakery that smelled so wonderful! Suzanne wanted to live there.
Also at the center of the village was a beautiful old church with a magnificent cathedral and grand steps. The cobblestoned street was fragrant with brilliant bougainvillea. Small stoned walkways seemed to disappear into the blue sky; very clean. This was a magical place to always remember...
"Oops I Did It Again" by Britney Spears
Keith and Suzanne took a trip to Hong Kong 25 years ago in 1984; Hong Kong was still under British rule then. But that's another story... On their first night in Hong Kong, Suzanne tripped and fell in a restaurant and sprained her ankle. Well... guest what?... Oops she did it again!
Upon arrival at Pompeii, Suzanne stepped off the tour bus and twisted her ankle. She also over-compensated and twisted her knee. She fell stunned with pain. Oops! She did it again! Surprise!
Suzanne sat in a comfortable chair in the Pompeii gift shop while Keith continued their 3 hour tour of Pompeii with the rest of the tour bus. Someone called from the gift shop and several first aid medics appeared to help Suzanne. They sprayed her ankle and knee both with Zylo-cane and then applied ice packs on both ankle and knee to reduce the swelling. The Italian medics were absolutely gorgeous!!! Honest!
After waiting for the Pompeii tour to end, Suzanne became very intimate with the gift shop merchandise and the many stray dogs that Pompeii is famous for. She can still close her eyes and see the merchandise. The dogs too. Ha ha!
Unfortunately, Suzanne did not get to see Pompeii. Sorry! Keith said the ruins were wonderful! Keith said that the streets of Pompeii were slick and unevenly stoned. It was very dangerous to walk on. Some tourists couldn't walk only to return back to the tour bus. They all stopped to ask how Suzanne was doing.
Upon return to the Grand Princess via a wheelchair, Suzanne went to the Medical Office. The doctor said that nothing was broken, only a sprained ankle and a partially torn knee ligament. Ice packs, pain relievers, stretchy elastic wraps, and a fashionable cane followed... and Suzanne was ready to enjoy the rest of her trip. She moved a little slower and more couscous of her footing, but she kept moving. She only wished this accident could have happened at the end of her trip rather then at the beginning...
Keith was very nurturing and loving; So tender and sweet! He helped Suzanne with her ice packs and served her when ever possible. He always made an effort for Suzanne to sit down whenever available. With Keith's strong arm and a cane, Suzanne kept moving. She did not complain and the WILL WAS STRONG...
Athens (Piraeus), Greece
November 21, 2009
The Grand Princess arrived in the early hours of the morning with a full 9.5 hour day of touring ahead of us. We boarded our Princess tour bus with our first stop to see the Old marble Olympic Stadium which hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and more recently used in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Then on to the great Acropolis and the Parthenon. The walk up was over 80 steep steps; a challenge for Suzanne, but accomplished; And 80 steep steps down. Even Suzanne surprised Keith with this demanding and strenuous tour. The view of Athens from the Acropolis was breath taking!
Afterwards we enjoyed a full course luncheon at a little Greek Restaurant. We ate: Tzatziki, an appetizer with yogurt, cucumbers and garlic; Pastitsio, a baked dish of minced lamb and macaroni; Moussaka, minced meat and vegetables served with rich cheese; Gemista, cooked tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice; and everyone's favorite, Baklava. Keith took a photo of an olive... now this is a man who will take a photo of anything! Ha ha!
After lunch, we continued to the Plaka at the base of the Acropolis. It is a well known shopping district and home of one of the world's great flea markets. Suzanne was in her element! Ha ha! A few souvenirs to bring home.
Back on the tour bus again and on to Cape Sounion with it's beautiful dramatic views of the Saronic Gulf and shore line. Beautiful beaches with swimmers and wind surfing. At the tip of Cape Sounion, we disembarked from our tour bus to see the Temple of Poseidon dedicated to the sea god, in 5th century B.C.
Back to the Grand Princess thoroughly exhausted; it was a long day. After seated dinner, we skipped the evening entertainment show to plop into bed with smiles on our faces. And good day well spent...
November 22, 2009
We found the Kusadasi terminal very new and clean; a welcoming sight. Kusadasi tried to meet up to Princess cruise lines standards. This was a half day Port Promotions tour arriving early in Kusadasi at 6:00AM and deporting at 1:00PM. It was in Kusadasi, that we met Tim and Jenny Rockidge and Norm and Linda Neffield. We continued traveling with them in Istanbul and Egypt.
Kusadasi was once a tiny little fishing village on the Aegean Sea. Today it serves as a center for tourists, with access to the ruins of Ephesus and the entire Ionian coast. Our "Port Promotions" tour included Ephesus, Basilica of St. John, House of the Virgin Mary, and St. Mary's Church. Suzanne's favorite was the Library at Ephesus. Beautiful! Walking was easy to navigate with close proximity which Suzanne greatly appreciated.
Afterwards, Keith and Suzanne enjoyed a carpet weaving demonstration followed with a big sales pitch, of course. We did not buy a rug, but the interest was there. Turkey and Egypt have Carpentry Schools for children which allow them a trade upon graduation. Their small hands work very well weaving the carpet threads and they can make a much needed modest living.
November 23, 2009
We found Istanbul to be beautiful, mysterious, friendly, and welcoming. It serves as the opening to the Black Sea. It also serves as the narrowest crossing point between Europe and Asia. It is one of the few cities that is divided by two continents by the Bosporus River.
The Grand Princess arrived in Istanbul early in the morning with the waling of sirens from the mosques calling for morning prayer. This is a full day with a 9.5 hour tour with Port Promotions. Again, we traveled with our friends, The Neffields and the Rockidges.
There are three great structures that dominate the city: the Imperial Palace, the Church of St. Sophia, and the Hippodrome, representing government, religion and people. The beautiful Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace Museum, and the opulent Topkapi Palace Harem, residence of the Ottoman sultans was excellent.
We enjoyed a very elaborate luncheon at an outdoor café along the Bosporus River watching ships pass by. Bottled water and cokes were provided with no ice. We were warned not to drink the local water.
Afterwards, we visited the famous "Grand Bazaar". It is the largest covered market in the world and boasts over 4,000 shops. It has its own school, mosque, post office, banks and police station. We bought some spices at the Spice Market and yes... Keith bought Suzanne a wool and cotton handmade Turkish rug. It will be shipped and expected after the Christmas holidays. Merry Christmas from Santa!
When the Grand Princess pulled up its anchor at 6:00PM, again we listened to the mosque sirens calling for evening prayer. It was absolutely amazing listening from our stateroom balcony. This was a memorable visit and was more then any expectations Suzanne had. WOW!
November 24, 2009
We arrived in Mykonos at 12:00 noon with all tenders in use after anchoring outside the famous harbor. This is a half-day visit. Keith and Suzanne decided not to take a tour of Mykonos; rather then to enjoy a more leisurely visit and just walk around town. We stopped at a little outdoor café for a couple of cold Cokes and people watched. The harbor was crowded with both "Grand Princess" and "Solstice of the Seas" anchored. We decided not to tour the sacred island of Delos as we were over-dosed with ruins.
Mykonos is a beautiful Greek Island within the Cyclades. It is a popular tourist destination. The island was dotted with white cube-shaped houses with charm and narrow streets. Beautiful and fragrant Bougainvillea lined the many courtyards. We walked within easy distance to the beautiful windmills that command attention above the harbor with colorful boats. Just past the Windmills, we visited Little Venice where the buildings meet the sea and the Paraportiani Church. Lots of little quaint cafes dotted the shore along the harbor. We even found a couple of family chapels to peek in. Many candles were lit at the altar with Greek icons.
Mykonos is famous for their PINK Pelicans. Yes... we saw them and they did not seem nervous among the many tourists. They come to the harbor to feed upon fish parts and make a good photo opportunity. Keith took some photos. Yes... they are pink! We pulled up anchor at 6:00PM.
Port Said and Alexandria, Egypt
November 26, 27, 2009
First of all, I would like to say that we found Egypt the filthiest country we have ever seen. It was a real eye opening experience for us. Our travel agent, Marci Zied, warned us about it; she was right! Many other people commented that there are much worst countries then Egypt, but I can not judge these countries as I have not seen any others. They say the slums of Mumbai, India are worse; remember the Academy award winning movie "Slum Dog Millionaire?". I can honestly say that I have absolutely no interest in returning to Egypt ever again.
The passengers of the Grand Princess were educated and warned of the "Curse of the Mummy Tummy". It is more commonly known as Traveler's Diarrhea. It is caused primary from infection ingested of fecally contaminated food or water. We were warned not to drink the water or ice cubes; not even to brush our teeth or swallow pills. Egypt is a high-risk destination and passengers who get sick are quarantined and reported to the CDC. Honest!
Port Said was built to serve the needs of ships entering the north Mediterranean entrance to the Suez Canal; it remains so today. We arrived into Port Said early in the morning of November 26th at 6:00AM to the waling of sirens from Islamic mosque minarets calling for morning prayer. Quite a eye opening welcome.
After boarding our "Port Promotions" tour bus, we were escorted by a military caravan through the city of Port Said. We had a military truck with armed guards with drawn rifles at the head of our tour bus caravan, in the middle, and at the end. The streets of Port Said were blocked by armed guards and barbed wire and we never stopped for traffic lights. This was insurance for our protection. This continued until we arrived in Cairo.
The city of Port Said, Cairo, and Alexandria were filthy with garbage and trash everywhere in addition to graffiti. It looked like a war zone. Our English speaking tour guide said that this is their life style! That's the way they live! This was only the beginning and continued through out Cairo and on to Alexandria. Apartment buildings were never completed and laundry hanging out of windows. Desert sand everywhere. Cars are sometimes covered to protect them from the hot sun and to keep sand out. No car washes seen. Water canals were so polluted with garbage that you could walk on it.
The Nile Delta between Port Said and Alexandria is very rich and it is the only agricultural area supporting Egypt. We saw pigeon towers along the way. Pigeons are considered a tasty delicacy. The Egyptians like to eat them young as they get tuff and wild tasting when they mature. They are like squab.
We saw many banana crops, fig trees, olive trees, and papyrus and mango orchards, as well as, cotton. Many Egyptians, both adult and children, were traveling by donkey carts along the road side; even saw a few camels. Women were wearing Buras and carrying baskets on their heads. Men were wearing their traditional galabayas garments that have not changed in hundreds of years. We saw many tuk-tuks along the road. What is a tuk-tuk? It is a three-wheeler auto rickshaw with no doors.
Cairo is the capital of Egypt and also the largest city in Africa. It is a three and a half hour drive from Port Said on desert road. It is the home of Giza, where we find the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. Of all the original seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only the Sphinx and Pyramids remain. Yes, Keith and I had our photo taken on a camel. Filth everywhere, no exception!
After visiting the Saqqara Pyramid, Suzanne and her friend, Jenny had to go to the bathroom. There was no choice about heir options. This is my Egyptian experience... to start with Keith, Tim, and Norman had to help Suzanne and Jenny climb up a ladder of approximately 6-8 steps... next we found two holes in the wooden floor... filthy... no toilet paper... no sink or water to wash our hands... thank God we had some klennex and Jenny had some hand sanitizer in her purse... and three men to help us back down the ladder. Can you picture this? There are some things I would like to forget and this is one of them...
In addition to visiting the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt, we saw the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, home of the treasures of King Tut. This was an excellent museum and well worth visiting. King Tut's Death Mask was outstanding. We also visited the Citadel of Salah Al-Din where we had to remove our shoes.
We spent the night in Cairo at the rated 5 star Movenpick Resort Cairo-Pyramids. We enjoyed a bungalow suite that was spacious and very clean. It was a welcomed oasis among the surrounding Cairo filth. Later in the evening, we returned back to the pyramids to enjoy the "Sound & Light" show. Suzanne thought it was rather cheesey and Keith was color blind and had to ask what colors the pyramids were, but we enjoyed the evening visiting with many other cruise ship passengers from the Grand Princess and the Celebrity Soltice of the Sea. Where are you from? What cruise ship are you on? Is this your first cruise? How many cruises have you been on? What destinations have you been too?... blah, blah, blah!
Keith was happy to see the Great Pyramids and we had our photos taken on a camel... now we can say... "We were there!"
DO NOT CONTINUE READING THIS NEXT SECTION IF YOU ARE QUEASY ABOUT ANIMAL SACRIFICE!
PLEASE CONSIDER THIS WARNING AGAIN
While we were visiting Cairo, we witnessed an ancient 3-day Muslim holiday feast called: Eid al-Adha. It is known as the Festival of Sacrifice. It begins with prayer and the killing of goats, sheep, cows, and camels. The sacrifice serves as the giving of food to the poor. HOW LUCKY CAN WE GET?
As we traveled thru the streets of Cairo, we saw herds of animals for sacrifice. They were spray painted with different colors for marking; maybe different prices for purchase; who knows? As they were about to be sacrificed, they were stretched by their legs and shaved on their under-bellies. This was done so as the animal fur cannot touch the meat. Yes... we saw them slaughtered right before us! They were hung conveniently on meat hooks with their skins scalped with their furry tails remaining and all of their organs cleaned out. Yuck! The various organs of stomach, liver, kidney, heart, intestines, etc. were proudly displayed on the street curb in plain view as we traveled by. Flies everywhere. These parts were given to the poor people as a gift. We witnessed crowds of Egyptians fighting for these parts. I WARNED YOU!
Ok... are you still with me? I hope so! Let's continue... we're almost finished!
Keith and Suzanne were so happy to return back to the Grand Princess in Alexandria. The 3 hour drive from Cairo seemed to take for ever. More vendors selling their wares at the ships dock. We by-passed the temptation and were anxious to return back to our stateroom and take a long, long, hot shower. As we pulled up anchor at 6:00PM, again we listened to the waling of the sirens calling for evening prayer. Good bye Egypt and good reddens!
The Straits of Messina, Sicily
On our return cruise, we passed thru the Straits of Messina, Sicily; the narrow channel between the eastern tip of Sicily and southern Italy. At it's narrowest point, it is 1.9 miles wide. The former electricity pylon, "Torre Faro" dominated the landscape. The strait has a very strong current and a natural whirlpool quite visible from the cruise ship. There has been many discussions about building a bridge between the Strait of Messina, but I'll believe it when it happens!
To add a bonus to our cruise, we passed by the active volcano of Stromboli off the northern coast of of Sicily. It is inhabited by a few hundred inhabitants. The last time the volcano erupted was April 13, 2009. Suzanne couldn't imagine why people would want to live there. I would think that Italy would enforce a mandatory evacuation of all inhabitants on this active volcano island. We saw a plume of smoke and red lava flowing from a distance of half a mile.
We enjoyed our Mediterranean cruise very much. It was an eye opening experience. Excellent weather. On our return trip home, we had an over-lay at JFK airport, New York. Again, Suzanne announced that their trip was almost over. Suzanne then asked Keith, "Well, where would you like to go next year 2010 or 2011?". Keith was ready this time... "Don't worry your pretty head about it Dear, I already took care of it! I put a deposit for another cruise for you!". He's a keeper!...
Remember to love each other, celebrate life with a passion, and cherish your friends. Life is good and traveling is a beautiful thing! I'll leave the porch light on...
Profoundly Happy in Cobb County,
All My Love, Suzanne