Greek Islands Cruise
Author: Moses Thrasher
Date of Trip: September 2012
Tuesday/Wednesday Sept. 4 & 5 – It was the trip of a lifetime; my first journey to Europe! And we were spending an entire month! My sweetheart and I planned for months. Finally the big day arrived. We live on the Big Island of Hawaii and flew United Airlines out of Kona. After a brief lay-over in San Francisco we landed in Philadelphia at 7:00am. Having eleven hours to kill, we took the train to midtown and had a wonderful time in a beautiful and friendly city. The highlights were Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and a wonderful market place near the train station.(Reading Terminal Market)
Thursday Sept. 6 – Then it was on to Venice. The first thing we noticed is how few Italians speak English. We were staying at a small hotel on the nearby island of Sant’ Erasmo and decided to take a boat from the airport to Venice. We changed some dollars into Euros, purchased our ticket, stumbled through the directions we were given, and after a very long walk carrying all of our luggage, we found our boat. The thirty minute trip brought us to a dock in Venice where we found that we had to walk again, lugging our bags over a bridge with steps, to another landing to catch the local boat to our destination. This was not easy, as everything was confusing and all information was written in Italian. Again, no one seemed to speak English.
Hotel Il Lato Azzurro is a three story “Villa” with small rooms and shared bathroom. There is nothing else on the island, so we spent the next two days in Venice. To someone who has never been, the city is beautiful and romantic with its rich architecture and canals with arched bridges. There are no motor vehicles, so boating and walking are the only ways to get around. However, again I must stress how annoying it was to have the people, especially those in the tourist service industry, be so unhelpful, rude, and unfriendly. The first time someone told us, “Just go over the bridge and turn right” in response to us asking directions, we believed him. After about ten such responses, it became apparent that they were purposefully deceptive with directions and assistance of any kind. It cost 1.5 Euro ($2.20 US) to use the public restrooms. We quickly found that if you stopped in for a coffee or a gelato you could use their facilities.
Friday Sept. 7 – Borrowing a bicycle from the hotel, we rode to the dock and caught a boat to Murano. The island houses some of the oldest and renowned glass blowing foundries in the world. It was fascinating to see hundreds of shops offering thousands of hand-blown works for sale. Unfortunately, we never were given the correct directions to actually visit a foundry. Then it was back on the boat to Venice. We had planned a side trip to the Greek islands. The ship was the Norwegian Jade. Getting to it however, was such a challenge. Again, local directions were confusing. I am so happy that we decided to go on a trial run today.
Saturday Sept. 8 – Even after our “trial run”, getting to the ship was still challenging; taking the right boat, to the right landing, walking to the right terminal, lugging our baggage up flights of stairs to catch the “People Mover” tram, getting off at the right stop. From there we were still a mile from the gang plank. There were no shuttles, buses, or taxis. It was somewhat surreal, walking in the hot sun with hundreds of passengers all wheeling our luggage to the ship.
The Cruise! Once on the ship, and after a long hot shower, we started exploring our new surroundings. I had never been on a cruise before, but it did not take long to realize that the focus of the cruise line was at odds with mine. I was there to experience the Greek Islands; they were there to keep me on board as long as possible spending money. And this floating hotel had endless ways to accomplish this. The food and room were included in the price of the cruise. Everything in a bottle, including water, was an extra charge. So was money exchange, internet, several specialty restaurants, the spa and its facilities, photos taken of you, and of course the stores and the bars. The shore excursions were a big expense if you chose to take them. We opted out on these and most of the extras.
There were 2400 passengers from all around the globe, speaking numerous languages. We met several people on board that we became friendly with. There were at least six no-charge restaurants available, two swimming pools, a large water slide, four hot tubs, shuffle board, tennis and basketball courts, a library, an art gallery, a ship’s helm viewing room, and even a golf driving cage.
We splurged and bought the cruise-long spa package that allowed us to use the lavish hot tubes, steam room, sauna, exotic showers, and the relaxation room. I won a free body treatment. And we both took advantage of the manager’s discount for a massage. Of course, the 24 hour buffet dining room was a constant temptation, which we took way too much advantage of. Oh, and chocoholic night, Yikes!
There was wonderful entertainment on board at no extra charge. We went to the theater almost every night to very professional live performances. I heard a ship musician at the pool playing many of the oldies that I do. Later I met him and found that he was from the Philippines but had always wanted to visit Hawaii. When he found that I was a musician, he invited me to play one evening. That was a highlight for me; playing the Aloha Bar on the Norwegian Jade/Spirit of Hawaii. I guess I did OK. He invited me back the next night as well.