Oceania Cruise, On-board Sirena
We arrived at the port to check in for our cruise only to be handed a memo that said, “Egypt stops canceled.” We were taking the cruise to see both Egypt and Israel; the rest was of little interest. Our disappointment was extremely high!
We decided to let everyone else attack the staff, and we headed out to grab some lunch at the Terrace Restaurant. We saw a table with a couple and asked if we could join them. Little did we know this would turn out to be a friendship that we think will last for many years. Their names were Gordon Barnard and Karen Perry from outside Phoenix. More about them later.
After lunch, we went to our room to unpack. The room was a bit smaller than we expected for a Concierge Veranda, but we were happy to have a chance to rest and relax and have the staff take care of us, YEA!
We discovered there were many changes to the itinerary, counting the original change of not ending in Istanbul. There were five new ports and a 1-day extension in Israel. We had booked many of our own excursions outside of the ship, so we needed to notify those companies and see if we could get refunds. We will say very little about Oceania in this post except that their customer service is horrendous in every way, and we will never book another cruise with Oceana. OK, now back to the adventure.
Santorini is the first of the Greek Islands we visited on this cruise. Santorini is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island and created the current geological caldera. A giant central, rectangular lagoon, which measures about 7.5 by 4.3 miles and is surrounded by 980-foot high, steep cliffs on three sides. The main island slopes downward to the Aegean Sea. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia. The lagoon is connected to the sea in two places on the northwest and southwest sides. The depth of the caldera, at 400meters, makes it impossible for any but the largest ships to anchor anywhere in the protected bay. We met Gorden and Karen while waiting to get into one of the boats to take us to shore, and they decided to join our adventure.
There are three ways to get up to the top of the island, walk, ride a donkey or take a cable car. We had decided we would take the cable car to the top and not ride the donkeys or walk up the path covered with the donkey’s poop! Lots of stories online about the donkeys and dangers, but it has been going on for a long time; you can see old black and white pictures on the walls of the cable car building.
We got to the top and walked through the stores past an interesting place to get a pedicure, you put your feet in a tank and let the fish eat off the dead skin. While it was tempting, it was also a little creepy, so we decided to bypass and keep heading toward the bus stop for our ride to Oia at the end of the Island. The bus was interesting on the narrow roads along the cliff, with the locals getting on and off. It only cost 5 Euros each way, way better than the cruise excursion option of $149 each for a similar tour.
We got to our destination and began walking along the cliff by the shops and we found a restaurant up in the top of a building. We picked the right place, the views were fabulous, and the beer was excellent. We sat for quite a while, just taking in the views and a few beers. We finished our beers and did a little shopping along the way back to the bus. Janice had been looking for a scarf everywhere, and there it was at one of the tiny shops. We took the bus back to the cable car and stopped at an earlier stop so we could walk down the cliffs towards the cable car, with great views of the town. We took the cable car down and stopped at a local wine store, and purchased some local wine to bring with us on the ship. Great day in Santorini.
The next morning John was not feeling that great, a cold and sore throat so he decided to stay on board and rest, Janice decided to walk into town. Janice walked by the stores looking for a pitcher for John. After being served wine in a pitcher in Italy, John was determined to find one to serve wine back home. Janice walked by the stores but they were all not “local”, but rather cheap “trinkets and trash”. Janice walked further to The Lions, in the square of Fontana Morosini. The ornate Venetian fountain with four lions with water gushing from their mouths. The fountain with the lions is one of the most important monuments the Venetians bestowed on Heraklion. When it was built, it offered a solution to the problem of supplying Heraklion with water, providing 1,000 barrels of water a day. Lions square Historical sources tell us that during the period of Arab rule (9th-10th century AD), the square was the largest slave market in the Eastern Mediterranean. After looking at the Lion fountain Janice headed back to the ship. On the way back Janice was trying to decide if she should walk over to the Koules Fortress. she decided to take a picture instead. Not much else to see in town she decided to head back to the ship for a restful afternoon by the pool. We both wanted to rest up for the next 3 days of visiting Israel.
We arrived in Limassol the next day and Gordon, Karen, John, and Janice decided to head off together. We learned earlier that it was a holiday, so not sure what we would do. One option was to catch the local bus out to the end of the beach. After walking in “old town”, most stores were closed and the castle was even closed; we headed to catch the bus. We stayed on the bus to the end to see the big new resort, only to find out that it was closed until 2017. The driver said we should have gone to the ruins. Frankly, we all thought we were “ruined out.” We went back to the old town to a restaurant we saw with “beers for 3 Euro” and had beer and lunch. Again the lunch there was much better than on the ship; we enjoyed ourselves till we had to get the shuttle back to the ship.
As we approached the dock in Rhodes, we caught a picture from the sea, a beautiful site. They docked the ship in, and we noticed a US Navy ship docked on the other side. We were curious, so we looked up the ships numbers online and discovered it was the USS Anzio (CG-68), a Ticonderoga-class cruiser guided missile cruiser of the United States Navy. On 13 January 2016, 10 U.S. Navy sailors were picked up by the USS Anzio for transport and medical evaluations after being held in Iranian custody. The sailors were captured by Iran on 12 January 2016 after their two naval boats entered Iranian waters.
After breakfast, we headed out to check out Rhodes. It is the largest of Greece’s Dodecanese islands and is known for its beach resorts, ancient ruins, and structural remnants of its crusades-era occupation by the Knights of St. John. Rhodes City features the medieval Street of the Knights and the castle-like Palace of the Grand Masters, once a Turkish prison and now a museum. The shops in Rhodes were lovely with many beautiful things, but, at our point in life, we do not need to collect more things. We walked up the Palace and down the Street of Knights. It was a wonderful day and a beautiful city. The city is said to be the most complete medieval ruins in the world.
Day at Sea on our way to Israel
Usually, there is nothing to say about a day at sea, but this day was different. We were sitting by the pool bar enjoying a few cocktails talking about where we were in the Mediterranean. Gordon was telling us that he looked on the map, and we were passing Syria. All of a sudden we hear a emergency code on the ship and knew something was wrong. A few minutes later, a huge generator started pumping smoke out of the ship. Turned out there was a fire on deck 3 in the kitchen. Wooo, we would not have wanted to jump into the lifeboats to head to Syria. Ha!.
A few hours later, still sitting at the bar, we saw a jet pretty low pass over the ship; Gordon said it was an F18 (he is a pilot). Not long after, holy daylights, there was a loud sonic boom as the jet buzzed us very close; we never saw it. Only a few hours later, when Janice was taking a shower, the ship shook, another buzz by another fighter jet…Yikes. Since it was an F18 not many choices. Since only a few countries have them, it seems likely it was a US fighter. We will never know who’s jet it was