Thursday, July 12, 2018

20 Cephalonia, to Dock or not to Dock, that is the question...

"I have good news and I have bad news" that is what the Commodore implied
when he came over the sound system just hours before were to dock at
Argostoli, on the Ionian island of Cephalonia.
We had heard a few days ago that we had been thrown out of our berth and
relegated to anchoring for one of the Oceania Ships, the Riviera. Obviously,
he with the most money wins!!
This particular morning it was pretty windy, the seas were a little rough at
the time that the Riviera was to dock, their captain made the decision that
it was too risky a manoeuvre for him to carry out.
The good news was that we now have our berth back, so we didn't have to
tender. the bad news, if the wind and choppy seas continued we would not be
able to dock either.
But that is why we have the Commodore and they JUST had a captain. Well, it
was windy and that sea was churning, but with the thrusters going hell for
leather Commodore Romano brought the Sea Princess in with precision.
At one stage we were concerned as there didn't seem to be anyone on the pier
to secure our ropes. Well, except for the three men and two women on the
dock. There they were, dressed in shorts and t shirts happily taking photos
as we pulled in. In true Greek casual style, they were our lines men, and
we assume they came to tie us up before heading out to lunch with family.
Our driver/guide Markis was waiting for us outside the port gates just as
Katerina from Kokolis travel said he would. Very knowledgeable and
passionate about his island and we covered the highlights of the island in
the short time we were there.
Markis' mission was to get us to Melissani Lake before the tourists arrived
so we hot footed it heading to the north of the island, following the coast
line. Before heading inland, we stopped for a lovely view of Myrtos bay. A
long stretch of white pebbly sand, with clear blue waters that look very
inviting.

20 Cephalonia - Melissani Lake

We changed directions, and it was not long until we were now on the coast of
the opposite side of the island. Markis' plan worked out and although there
was a queue to visit the underground Melissani lake, the wait was not as bad
as it could have been. The Cost is 7 Euro's per person and once paid you
followed the concrete ramp underground. The anticipation rose as the blue
water started to appear as we edged towards the end of the tunnel.
Natural light poured in from above and the crystal blue lake seemed to glow
as the little boats circled the small lake and entered the adjoining cavern.
Stalactites and stalagmites seemed to change colour as the boat glided
through. Making the most of the acoustics our Greek "Gondolier" serenaded
us, possibly in hope for a greater tip.

20 Cephalonia - Lunch in the Sun at Karavomilos

Still in the village of Karavomilos we stopped for another photo opportunity
but ended up staying for lunch. Down by the water's edge we feasted on
Greek Salad, calamari, grilled octopus and a Cephalonian specialty
Creatopita (or a meat pie). The pie was delicious filled with slow cooked
pork, tomato, rice and herbs that gave it a heavenly taste. Wash that down
with Mythos Beer or a jug of Grecian white wine and life couldn't get any
better.

20 Cephalonia - Caves and Wine

After that we visited the Drogarati Caves 37m below ground and large enough
to hold operatic and classical musical events. a bit like Melissani but
without the water.
What is a visit to a Greek island without a visit to a Greek winery. Just
behind the monastery of Agios Gerasimous a small winery sits. Collecting
grapes from the surrounding vineyards a nice selection of wines were
presented. Maybe not Hunter Valley standard but still not too bad on the
palate.

20 Cephalonia - arriving back to Argostoli

There is a reason why you leave the wine tasting to the end of the tour, and
most enjoyed a small cat nap on the way back to the Argostoli. There was
time enough for a short stroll down the shopping mall and quick bite to eat
before we had to be back on the vessel.
Our friends from this morning arrived back this evening, they let our lines
go and it was off to Corfu for our next port of call.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

19 Garry's Big Fat Greek Birthday Party

Because of the same time of year we travel, Garry is always fortunate enough
to celebrate a birthday on board. It goes without saying that we picked a
Greek theme for his party. Being a formal night we decided that wearing our
Greek dress ups might be a bit out of place, so we celebrated in the Café
Cornish. Trying to get as close to a Greek theme dinner, we ordered the
antipasta platters and the lamb skewers that were on the menu. Then with
special arrangement we had Greek salads all around and a surprise whole
cheesecake for his birthday cake. It was a great night and the birthday boy
was very happy even if he was fighting a horrendous cough.

18a Transiting the Suez Canal.. again

18b Transiting the Suez Canal.. again

Facing transit number five of the Suez Canal didn't quite have the same
thrill as it did previously. This pesky haze was still plaguing us and now
that they have opened the second transiting lane, your view of the African
side of Egypt is obscured. As this is the most interesting part side, kind
of made going out on deck a bit ho hum. In fairness there is a lot of
construction going on. Tunnels are being built and pipes are being laid, for
cars and water to be easily transferred over the Sinai side. There are many
small towns being built with lots of apartment blocks etc. Maybe in a few
years' time the Sinai will be just as green as the Nile side. So apart
from that it was pretty uneventful for us.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

17 Aqaba - Visiting the Dead Sea Via Jordan, not Israel.

"What lesson did you learn today?" was what Ashraf our guide asked a very
tired and very content group of passengers on the way back to the ship. He
was referring to the demise of Lot's Wife..
When you think of the Holy Land you automatically think of areas of Israel,
but it wasn't till today that you realised a good part of Jordan also
features in the stories from the Bible.
We were visiting the Dead Sea, using our tour company of choice, Via Jordan.
This is the third time we have used them and manager Hakam, has been
wonderful every time. Even with all the relentless dumb questions I kept
asking.
There was some confusion on the ship as other groups also visiting the Dead
Sea were instructed by their company that Passports were required. We could
only imagine that they were passing the border into Israel. I knew our trip
was wholly within Jordan, but as more and more people kept questioning me, I
started to doubt myself. The other groups were having meetings with ship
about passport collection, $15 fees involved with processing and having to
return before 6pm, in order for immigration to clear them back on to the
ship.. Eek.. Hakam reassured me that we were ok, so I trusted him.
We missed the stunning sail up the Gulf of Aqaba due to our early arrival.
Dawn broke just as the Commodore started his graceful glide alongside the
pier. The trade-off being that we had more time in port. It is always a
relief to see a bus with your name on it, waiting dockside to whisk us off
on our adventure. Hakam was there to welcome us, and we were most excited
to find Ashraf was our guide today. It was Ashraf that introduced us to the
flavours of Aqaba two cruises ago. He is a very knowledgeable Bedouin who
was born in Petra. Now you can't anymore authentic than that.
The drive to the Dead Sea was between 3 - 4 hours. Boring you say . no not
at all. The continual changing landscape was mesmerizing and at every turn,
there was always something new that Ashraf would tell us of the countryside
passing us by. Also it was great to see how the non-city dwellers really
live.
The highway ran along what is known as "no mans land", the stretch of land
that runs between Israel and Jordan. Like a recap of our previous visits to
Aqaba, the mountains of Petra, the rock formations and sand dunes of the
Wadi Rum, appeared as we travelled along the highway.