Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 10--Venice and then Home

We traveled all the night before from Dubrovnik back to Venice.  We were scheduled to be picked up from the boat that morning and then headed to the Venice airport.  Once we arrived at the airport, we still had several hours before our plane even boarded and so we had to just wait at the ticket gates and wait for them to open so we could get through security and to a comfortable place to sit!  The luggage regulations were different for some people going back home and so several of the people that were in our group were stuffing their things from one suitcase to another to try and get them all to comply with the weight limit.  Several people had to pay an absorbent amount of money to either check their bags on or to pay the overweight fees.  I was really stressed because I knew Caleb would refuse to pay any fees and I thought for sure our luggage was going to be overweight.  Luckily, we were just under and were able to make it through with no problems.

From Venice we had a few stops and a few layovers.  We had a stop in Chicago which is where we went through customs.  Lets just say, the people of Chicago were rude, unhelpful (if that is a word), and had no sense of customer service.  We herded around like a bunch of cattle and they were not understanding at all of the fact that some of us had flights to catch and other security we were going to have to go through.  In the end, we made all of our flights and were relieved when we finally made home!

It was a wonderful trip and it was so neat to see so many places in one trip.  Below are just some pictures of and from the ship.

The upper deck of the ship.  The pools were salt water and were really cold.

The water in the pools was ocean water and they would drain it every night at 7 pm.

This was our first night on the ship.  Venice is in the background and we were at a cocktail party on the upper deck with the other Auto Owner guests.

This was a picture from our first gala night.  We took turns taking pictures with another couple and they thought this was the perfect background.

This looks like our prom picture all over again!

This was taken from the deck of our room.

This was from another gala night.  Again, taken from the deck of our room.

What a stud!  He is going to hate me for posting this. 

This was taken at one of the shows that they had done on the ship.

This was in one of the many lounges that they had on the ship.  We were waiting to watch one of the lounge shows they had put on.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 9--Dubrovnik

This was our last port before heading back to Venice.  The day was open to do whatever you wanted and we were given quite a bit of time.  Dubrovnik is also known for their beaches and so we were hoping to go to some, but knew we may not have the time.  All of the places that were known for their beaches, we were never ported on the right side of the island. 

Dubrovnik is a fortress.  The city was built within the walls and the walls protected the city from any enemies that might come from the water.  You had to hike up these stairs to get to the top of the wall and then you were able to walk clear around the wall and tour the entire city from the view of the wall.  We rented a self-guided tour phone that gave you information as you walked along the wall.  Someone had told us it was the best thing to do.  It wasn’t really!  We received a lot of information, but it wasn’t all that interesting after a while.  It was a really long walk and we made it even longer by stopping and taking all the pictures along the way. 

Again, the beaches weren’t very close and we didn’t really have time to walk the wall and go to the beaches.  We decided to just do the wall and ended up having quite a bit of time when we were done.  We walked around Dubrovnik and fed ourselves and looked at shops.  We had some pizza and fries that looked delicious.  The pizza was actually really good, but the fries weren’t as good as they had looked.  We also had some Gelato and fresh squeezed lemon juice that was really good.  Dubrovnik is not part of Greece, it is actually in Croatia.  They used Kunas instead of Euros.  It was like 75 Kunas to 1Euro.  Try figuring that out every time you wanted to buy something and then try to convert it to our dollar! 

After  Dubrovnik we spent the afternoon sunbathing and visiting with several of the couples we had met on the trip.  That night we had a cocktail hour with the Auto Owners group and then had dinner following that.  It was nice to visit everyone and to have some more time with all the people we had met.  We ended the night with going to their final show on the ship and then headed back to our rooms to get everything packed and ready to go for the next morning.

This was a hole that Caleb found.  It started at the top of the wall and just went straight down.  We sat there for a while trying to decide what it was for!

This food was delicous!

If you look in the background you'll see these lights and the glass around them was different for every shop.  Each light and the businesses name and an image of some sort to represent that business.  We had stopped here and had icecream and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 8--Korfu

When we ported at Korfu it was kind of a race again.  We had limited time and we knew we wanted to go to the beaches which were clear on the other side of the island.  When we first got off the ship there was a line of taxis that would take you to the beaches, but for a cost J  Because there was no taxi service near the beaches, the taxi drivers would take you to the beach and then wait around for you for a couple of hours and then take you back to the ship.  We started off being adamant that we didn’t want to pay for a taxi, but still ended up in a bartering match with one of the drivers.  For 80 euro he would take us to the beaches and then wait around for us.  Not a bad deal, but we were hoping to rent a scooter for about 30 euro and so we kindly turned him down.  Prior to getting off the ship we had been told where the best place was to rent a scooter and exactly where to go to get it.  Once again, we were lead astray and were wandering around aimlessly trying to ask people who didn’t know English where we could rent a scooter from.  The whole time we are arguing and blaming the other person for telling the taxi driver no.  After a very stressful amount of time, we stumbled upon a rental place.  We were short on time so we immediately paid and took off.   The scooter we received was definitely not high-class, but it did get us to our destination!

The guy from the rental shop gave us some directions on how to get to the beaches.  He told us that the good beaches were clear on the other side of the island and that we wouldn’t have enough time to make it to those, but there were some other beaches close by.  Well, we decided we wanted to make our trip worth it and so we set off on an adventure to the other side of the island to find the good beaches.  The drive was beautiful and it took us only about 20 min. to get to a beach. 

When we reached the beach, it was amazing.  The water was this turquoise color and the beaches were just a great accent to it.  Due to the time restraints we were only able to layout and get in the water for a little while.  When we were swimming we noticed how boyant we were.  I guess because of the density of the salt it caused you to float more. 

On our trek back to the city we pulled over a couple of times and took pictures of other beaches and sites on the way.  There was also an olive wood shop on the way that we stopped at and purchased a cutting board and ring from.

As we were getting back into Korfu I was commenting to Caleb about how much better he had done driving the scooter and how impressed with him I was.  We were sitting at a light and were noticing how many scooters were driving around and how unsafe they were with the way people drove.  We had pulled up next to another couple that was on a scooter while we were waiting for the light.  All of a sudden we heard a crashing sound and looked next to us.  The scooter beside us had just been hit by the car behind them.  It knocked the scooter over and a lot of their luggage had fallen off.  The car behind must have thought the light was still green or something and had just pulled forward too far.  Everyone appeared to be o.k., but we definitely realized how lucky we were that the 2 times we had driven our scooters nothing major had happened.

When we got back to Korfu we had some time to look through their shops and tour the city.  The city was really pretty and everyone was just so laid back.  We bought a few more souvenirs and actually found some jerseys for the boys that we had been looking for at every stop.   The hard thing with the cruise was that you stopped at a different place each day and you weren’t ever able to go back to a specific place to pick up souvenirs.  We were always questioning whether we would find a better deal on one of the other islands, but knew we wouldn’t ever be back to that spot again.

Once back on the ship we, again, got dressed up and went for dinner and the show.

This was the view just off of the ship at the center of Korfu

This was a view from along our scooter ride the the beach.

Another view from our drive.

This was the beach we stopped at and swam in the water.

Buildings in Korfu

The building behind us was a castle.  We didn't go in this one.

This was a different beach that we had just stopped at on our way back to the city.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 7--Athens

We ported at Athens mid-morning.  From the port we were able to take a bus that took us through downtown and on a tour.  The tour started through the city and we were given a lot of information about the conflict that was currently going on among the people of Athens.  There was graffiti on every building and everything just seemed dirty.  It was sad to see a place like this, with all its monuments, just surrounded by filth.

Our first stop was at the stadium.  They were doing repairs and things so all you could see were parts of the bleachers.  They were holding the Special Olympics there and some of the people on our tour were able to see them running by with the torch.  I am not sure if I am remembering this correctly, but I believe they said that the torch for the Olympics always begins in Athens and it is at the stadium where it starts.

After touring the stadium we were taken to the Parthenon.  We started at the base with our tour guide.  It took us forever just to get through the gates because there were so many people visiting and they only had 2 people taking tickets.  Once we finally made it through the gates our tour guide gave us some history as we walked up to the Parthenon.  The Parthenon was up on top of the hill and you could overlook the city.  It was amazing how many buildings they could pile on top of each other.  Every inch of land was covered with housing, businesses, and etc.  Again, they were doing some reconstructing of the Parthenon so they had a lot of equipment in front of the Parthenon.  We couldn’t ever really get a clear picture of it.  Once we reached the Parthenon, our tour guide told us we needed to be at the bottom of the hill in 15 min. and if we weren’t there, they would assume that we wanted to find our own way back to the ship and they wouldn’t be waiting for us.  Well, that stressed us out a bit and so we rushed around and just tried to get as many pictures as we could.  After about 5 min. of pictures we decided we would start down the hill.  Little did we know that everyone in the entire area would be trying to get down at the same time.  We were like a big herd of cattle that just kept getting pushed closer and closer together and never moved.  Not only that, but it was 100 degrees plus humidity.  I was dripping sweat everywhere and I don’t normally sweat!  We didn’t move an inch for about 5 minutes and we were starting to get concerned that we may not make it back to catch up with our tour bus.  It took us about 15 minutes to get through and down the hill.  Come to find out, they were only allowing us to go down in a single file line and there were just so many people going down at once.  When the area opened up we made it down the hill and our tour guide was still waiting for us.

After the Parthenon we had some time to tour the area and do some shopping.  We looked at some sculptures they had around the area and then walked around looking for souvenirs.  We also got ourselves some Gelato that was probably the best we had had thus far.  There wasn’t much else to see so we boarded our bus around 2 and it took us back to the ship.

We ended our day sunbathing and then got ready for the usual 5-course dinner and the show afterwards.

This is where the Olympic torch begins

This was an ampitheater just below the Parthenon.  You can see the city of Athens in the background.  It just goes on forever and every square inch is covered.

The entrance upto the Parthenon.  Imagine all of these people plus more trying to head down a one-way walkway.