Celebrity Equinox 2011b
Itinerary Show Voyage Map = ports at anchor
20th October
- Fly to Rome, Italy
& transfer to Civitavecchia
Friday-at sea
Saturday-Mykonos, Greece
Sunday-Kusadasi, Turkey for Ephesus
Monday-at sea
Tuesday-Istanbul, Turkey
Wednesday-Istanbul, Turkey
Thursday-Piraeus, Greece for Athens
Friday-Santorini, Greece
Saturday-at sea
Sunday-Naples, Italy
31st October
-Civitavecchia, Italy
disembark and fly to UK
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Celebrity Equinox lies at anchor, tendering in Santorini.

See the full Ship Report at Celebrity Eclipse Gallery >>

See the Original Itinerary >>

Having had our initial booking cancelled by Celebrity through changes in the ship's deployment plans, we decided to stick with the ship but move our attention to the Mediterranean again. For me, the highlight was going to be returning to glorious Istanbul for the first time in 23 years!

And on this cruise, our Group of 6 would be joined by Maureen, the mother of my ex-work colleague and friend Karen. Maureen would be making only her second cruise but her first holiday abroad on her own, so while she would be very much her own boss, I would be keeping an eye on her!

The photos of Celebrity Equinox & all the ports visited on this cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

Click the link to follow our adventures as posted on-line, or read on....

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Thursday 20th October 2011
Heathrow to Civitavecchia, Italy
With a departure from home at 4.15am, a civilised breakfast in the BA Club Lounge was our reward, followed by an unstressful two-and-a-half hour flight to Rome's Fiumicino Airport.
(left & right) Views from the plane while crossing the Alps
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The transfer to Civitavecchia went smoothly, although access to the port is via a rather long-winded route avoiding the old town itself. But with priority boarding being one of our "perks", we were still aboard in time for a spot of lunch while we waited for the Italians to deliver the luggage - eventually!
(right) Our last cruise ship, Grandeur of the Seas in Civitavecchia with Fred Olsen's Bramaer
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Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Accommodation on board Celebrity Equinox
Previously on Eclipse, we had enjoyed a suite but this time, Andrew, Stella, Gerry & I opted for two C3-grade Concierge-class balcony cabins.

As with most modern cabins, it was comfortably appointed, although drawer-space for two people is not generous and wardrobe access is a problem when the bed is set as 2 singles.
( Above: C3-grade Balcony Cabin no.1299 )
The bathroom and shower are reasonably spacious however, with adequate storage for 2; and at least we had our complimentary bottle of bubbly!

Lesley & Peter did have a suite again; this time an S1-grade Sky Suite on the portside corner aft, with a wonderfully nautical window on one side!
(right) S1-grade Sky Suite no.1403 - complete with nautical touches!
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The late delivery of luggage made the first afternoon a bit frantic, with the obligatory Boat Drill in the middle of everything, quickly followed by departure. Thankfully though, late sitting for Dinner at least meant that some sanity had been restored by the time we all assembled for drinks and dinner!

Show Picture Full Size Silhouette Dining Room
Identical to the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room aboard Celebrity Eclipse, we were able to get the same excellent table position, although this time, overcrowding at the next table caused the odd upset. Our stewards however, Cesar Romero Jnr (!) & the stoical Oleksi, were excellent throughout.
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It was so nice to have such an extensive menu to choose from again; and if it was the same as last year's first night menu, it was too extensive for anyone to notice! Classics Menu >>, First Night Menu >>

Not only was there a nightly changing menu with a substantial selection on it, but there was also the "Menu Classics" to choose from every night, giving us an outstanding choice. Tonight I had the Crab & Avocado appetizer, followed by Mushroom Cappuccino, Lamb Shank and ice-cream - fabulous!

Friday 21st October
A Day at Sea - and passing through the Straits of Messina
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There was no rush to get up today, so it was 8.00am before I was joined by Lesley for a swim in the lovely Spa Pool before a leisurely breakfast with Gerry in the cabin. By 9.30-10.00am, the weather was warm and promising as we passed through the Straits of Messina between Italy and Sicily.

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The Neighbours! The Straits of Messina
looking aft, with Sicily on the left and mainland Italy on the right
The local Pilot
boat departs

Colonel Gaddafi shot in Libya
It was on the News today that Colonel Gaddafi was discovered yesterday by Libyan rebels and shot during his capture. The uprising and war in Libya has been raging since February this year and while this is not quite the outcome desired by the many countries supporting the uprising, it is to be hoped that it will nonetheless bring an end to the bloodshed.

Later, while Lesley & Stella went shopping (!), "us boys" (Andrew, Gerry, Peter and me) took up the Captain's Club exclusive invitation to a Wine-tasting seminar; 4 white wines presented in an educative but lighthearted manner, and with a finesse that Celebrity have perfected well.

Another bonus of the Captain's Club was the "Exclusive Nightly Hosted Event", held in Michael's Club, at which Celebrity's generosity extends to complimentary drinks and canapes from 5pm, so for this cruise it naturally became the new meeting-place for the 5 o'clock Martini Committee!

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Michael's Club
The new venue for the
5 o'clock Martini Club
Pre-Dinner drinks and what's this - Karaoke Night?
Maureen & I gaze on as Lesley & Stella consider the song-list & Andrew cries into his drink!

Newcomer Maureen joined us for our pre-dinner get-together in the Sky Observation Lounge but we should have checked the Programme because it turned out to be hosting Karaoke Night, which proved an excruciatingly funny experience. At one point, Stella & Lesley were seen checking the song-list and it looked like they might actually be considering taking part! Thankfully, they didn't!

After a Formal Dinner, which for me comprised: Frogs Legs, Fish Bisque, Rack of Lamb and Cherries Jubilee, we went to the first of 2 spectacular production shows in the Celebrity Theater. Simply entitled "The Show", this Cirque du Soleil-style audio-visual extravaganza was the most extraordinary stage show I have ever seen, on land or at sea, and I loved it! Show Picture Full Size

Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Next morning, I took the Backstage Guided Tour, led by cast members from last night's show. Sadly, Health & Safety Rules meant we couldn't see any of the machinery, unlike on Constellation in 2008, when we rode one of the stage lifts, but it was still interesting and another of the perks of Captain's Club membership.

Saturday 22nd October
Mykonos, Greece
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Show Picture Full Size By the time we arrived at anchor around 1.00pm, Celebrity's other ship Constellation was already at the pier at Agios Stefanos, where we had docked in 2005, when Gerry & I were last here aboard Galaxy.
(left) Celebrity Constellation and (right) Nieuw Amsterdam tendering
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Tendering Ashore Stairways & Alleyways
(Gerry's photo above left)
Nieuw Amsterdam lies at anchor off
Picturesque "Little Venice"

Together with Maureen, we took the local tender shore and strolled through the town before having a drink at a cafe and then splitting-up. Unlike my last visit here with Gerry in 2005, the main town and cafes were busy with tourists from all the ships in today and this made it less appealing but the quieter backstreets & alleys still have their charm. (right) Group photo by Gerry >> Show Picture Full Size

Show Picture Full Size Petros the Pelican - mascot of Mykonos
Blown ashore in a storm in 1954, a lone pelican made his home in the town, growing fat from all the fishermen feeding him. Named "Petros" by the locals, he soon became the island's mascot. After more than 30 years however, he was hit by a car and killed in 1985. Today, a number of pelicans are maintained as pets - one is believed to be called "Petros".

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The Windmills of Mykonos A Blustery Day! Nieuw Amsterdam
in the early evening

What made matters worse was the blustery wind, which made taking photographs quite difficult; hardly surprising though, given the range of windmills lined-up on the ridge overlooking the town!

After a well-deserved ice-cream, Gerry, Lesley & I made the rather bumpy ride back to the ship to meet up with the others. Equinox remained at anchor until 10.00pm, so that passengers could have dinner ashore but there was no doubt where the best restaurant in town was; we were already on it!

Sunday 23rd October
Kusadasi, Turkey - for Ephesus
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Every ship has its weakness - ours was Room Service Breakfast!
Ordered for 8.00am on the complicated on-line system, ours arrived 20 minutes late and there was no bagel with the smoked salmon, so I telephoned. They sent a toasted muffin and a croissant! Only then did we realise there were no cups but after Hector our cabin steward had fetched those, we finally realised there was no grapefruit juice either but by this time we had given up!

The mess-up by Room Service today was probably due to this being the first day with an early start and many passengers opting for cabin breakfast!

And with 3 other ships in port, we were not going to be short of company ashore either, with 5,000 passengers on tour to this resort's major attraction, Ephesus!
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(above) Discovery (ex-Island Princess 1972 21,186grt 700 passengers), Nieuw Amsterdam (2010 86,700grt 2,100 passengers) & Celebrity Equinox (2009 122,000grt 2,850 passengers), with Noble Caledonia's tiny Island Sky (ex-R8 1991 4,280grt 116 passengers) (Together with sister-ship Pacific Princess, the old Island Princess was once the setting for the 1970's TV Series "The Love Boat")

Located near the town of Selcuk, today 8km from the sea, this ancient Greek city was a thriving port and one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean at its peak during the Roman Period in the 1st Century AD. It was famed for the great Temple of Artemis, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but the Apostle Paul also brought Christianity here and it is believed to be the final home of Jesus' Mother, The Virgin Mary as well as where John's Gospel was probably written.

Show Picture Full Size Mark has trouble with an i-pod! (Gerry's photo)
Rather than taking a guided tour, we chose (on my suggestion) a self-guided tour with the aid of a mini "i-pod" but the map they gave us was of little value and the instructions were poor. It was ok if you had the time to leave it running but trying to avoid the crowds resulted in considerable confusion and moments of technological frustration on my part! On reflection, a good map and an old-fashioned guide-book would have been better - and cheaper!

Show Full Picture Show Plan Full Size Ephesus Plan >> Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture
The Odeion
Council Chamber
The Odeion
One of 3 Entrances
The Celsus Library
from Curetes Street
the congested main street
The Fountain
of Trajan

Only one column remains from the famed Temple of Artemis, destroyed by the Goths in 268AD, but excavations in the 19th Century revealed other treasures, even if some of them had to be reconstructed from fallen stones! The Celsus Library dates from 117AD and housed 24,000 scrolls, while the Theatre could accommodate 25,000 spectators and was the largest in the Mediterranean.

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Believed to be the largest in the World
The Great Theatre
from the Old Harbour Road
The Theatre
seating 25,000 spectators
The Celsus Library
from Marble Street
Augustus Gate
The Agora beyond

We finished our tour at Harbour Road; hard to believe that there was once a thriving port here but silting-up of the river and its estuary over nearly 2,000 years have today left the city 8km inland.

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The Goddess Nike
(Gerry's photo)
The Fanfare
The "Roman" Tableau Glad Rags!
(Gerry's photo)

More difficult to believe, was the musical "Roman" Tableau (see above) put on by local performers, in which Julius Caesar entertains Queen Cleopatra with some rather feeble gladiatorial combat!

More photos of Ephesus & all the ports visited on this cruise can be found here on my account at Captain Martini >>

Returning to Kusadasi via the compulsory tour-stop at a Turkish Rug Factory, where everyone sat and listened politely while they gave us Turkish Apple Tea, cheese rolls and impressed us with the quality of their carpets (no, really!), it was then back to the ship for lunch.

Kusadasi is today a popular resort, with a pleasant promenade and plenty of cafes and restaurants but Gerry & I took a stroll the other way around the harbour and across the causeway to investigate the pretty Pigeon Island and its Byzantine Fortress dating from the 14th/15th Century, sometimes referred to as "Pirate Island" because of the town's history of being a haven for pirates.

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(Above) Pigeon Island & its Byzantine Fortress, sometimes referred to as "Pirate Island", while across the harbour are the cruise ships: Discovery (ex-Island Princess 1972 21,186grt 700 passengers), Nieuw Amsterdam (2010 86,700grt 2,100 passengers) & Celebrity Equinox (2009 122,000grt 2,850 passengers), with Noble Caledonia's tiny Island Sky (ex-R8 1991 4,280grt 116 passengers)

Show Picture Full Size Michael's Club was full this evening and our "complimentary drinks" were threatened but for Ti-Ann, the ship's Captain's Club Hostess, who told us to sit outside and then ensured we were plied with plenty of drinks & canapes! This was our introduction to Ti-Ann and she was very good at her job!
(left) Ensemble, the plush cocktail lounge/bar outside Michael's Club

Dinner was excellent, although the onset of a cold was threatening to spoil it. I had Oysters Rockefeller, Baked Potato Soup and New York Sirloin Steak; and as I wasn't able to get any crepes on Mykonos, I rounded things off with Crepes Suzette! Tonight's Dinner Menu >>

While I retired to bed with a "Lem-sip" thanks Lesley, Andrew won his first $150 in the Casino!

Monday 24th October
A Day at Sea & passing through the Dardanelles
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Show Picture Full Size Not feeling brilliant but still managed my swim, then enjoyed a relaxing morning and the lunchtime Captain's Club Party in the Sky Observation Lounge, hosted by the lovely Ti-Ann. They certainly know how to throw a party; food, entertainment, speeches and plenty to drink, their hospitality was exemplary! Show Picture Full Size
(above left) Passing the expedition ship Clipper Odyssey (ex-Oceanic Grace of 1989 - 5,218grt 120 passengers) and
(above far right) Puzzleman by Matt Johnson (2008), eye-catching sculpture at the entrance to the Sky Observation Lounge

In the afternoon, as the weather got chillier and very windy, we began our progress through the Dardanelles Strait, with the Gallipoli Peninsular and Europe to port and Asia on the starboard side.

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The entrance to the Dardanelles
Cape Helles & the Allied War Memorial
The Turkish War Memorial Sheltering from the wind as we appraoch
Canakkale, the narrowest point

The Dardanelles (or Gallipoli) Campaign of 1915-16
The brainchild of First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, this was a joint British/French campaign to open-up a supply route to Russia during the First World War. Many ships were lost in the initial naval campaign due to mines in the Dardanelles and the subsequent landings on the peninsula were the first to involve ANZAC troops from Australia and New Zealand. Fought at a time when the Turkish Ottaman Empire was crumbling, the campaign was a costly failure to the Allies and while the Turks sustained even heavier casualties, it is seen as a defining moment in the history of modern Turkey, laying the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the Turkish Republic 8 years later under Atatürk, himself a commander at Gallipoli.

At less than 1500 yds wide, the narrowest point is at Canakkale, where Andrew & I stopped last aboard Vistafjord in 1988 with John and my Mum & Dad, on that occasion visiting the site of Ancient Troy, situated 15miles (25km) south-west of here on the Asian side. Read about our 1988 visit to Troy >>
(right) The Fortress of Kilitbahir at Canakkale, the narrowest point in the Dardanelles Strait
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On this occasion though, there was no stopping, as we pressed onwards into a chilly and blustery wind towards the Sea of Marmara and Istanbul. But first, we had booked a special evening dinner.

Tuscan Grille
This is just one of 4 speciality restaurants aboard, for which there is usually an extra cover charge of $30 per person, unless you are in a Suite, in which case, you get two complimentary bookings.

Show Picture Full Size Here the wonderful aft sea view is matched by an Italian-style menu, served with exceptional flair. It was here I discovered Casserola e Granchio, a lump crab casserole starter that was just divine!
Tuscan Grille Menu >> and (right) Casserola e Granchio >>
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Having enjoyed so much the identical restaurant aboard sister-ship Celebrity Eclipse last year, we all had high expectations but were not disappointed and had a great time. Still keeping my cold at bay, I also had Rustic Seafood Stew and Sea-Bass with Garlic Mash, so it was no surprise I didn't really want a dessert! So I chose the Toffee Panna Cotta, which proved to be the most elaborate of all, arriving with a caramelised strawberry and vanilla ice-cream in a tuile basket! I was stuffed!

We had earlier asked Maureen to join us for Tuscan Grille, especially as we hadn't seen her for dinner since Friday evening but I learned today that she had suffered a minor stumble while on her tour in Kusadasi yesterday, as a result of which, she now had a badly swollen ankle needing rest. At this point, she was still hopeful of enjoying her tours in Istanbul but things would not go too well.

Tuesday 25th - Wednesday 26th October
Istanbul, Turkey
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There's nothing quite wakes you up like a spectacular view from your cabin balcony at 6 o'clock!

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(Above) The Suleymaniye Mosque, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower and Phoenix Reisen's "Amadea" (ex-Asuka of 1991 - 28,856grt)

Maureen having booked a seperate tour, the rest of us were all ashore by 8.15am for our full-day tour and were fortunate to be among the first visitors to arrive at our first sightseeing destination.

Show Picture Full Size The Sultan Ahmet (or "Blue") Mosque
Built by Sultan Ahmet I in 1616, it is noted for the blue colour of the tiles decorating its interior, as well as for its 6 minarets. This was unusual at the time and seen as presumptuous, as no mosque outside Mecca had more than 4. It is said that the Sultan paid for a 7th minaret to be built at the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to quel his critics but this is doubtful however, although 3 new minarets were added to the Sacred Mosque when it was extended in the 1620's.

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The Sultan Ahmet or "Blue" Mosque
You can just see the top of the 5th & 6th minarets in this photo
Interior of the "Blue" Mosque
The central dome rises 141ft (43m) above the ground
and is 77ft (23.5m) in diameter

We left by way of the Hippodrome, the city's equivalent to Rome's Circus Maximus, laid out by Emperor Constantine in the 3rd century and accommodating 100,000 spectators. It holds a number of monuments, including the Egyptian Obelisk, which once stood outside the Temple of Karnak, and the German Fountain, donated after a visit in 1898 by the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The Hippodrome of Constantinople - Trivia
The Egyptian Obelisk dates from the reign of Tutmose III around 1490BC when it once stood at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor. Emperor Constantine had it cut into 3 pieces for transport but only the top section survives and is mounted on a marble pedestal.
On the north side of the arena, the official boxes were once adorned by 4 great bronze horses but these were looted in 1204 during the 4th Crusade, later to appear above the facade of St Mark's Basilica in Venice - see photo right >> They also stripped the gilded plaques covering another obelisk in the square, built by Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century; all that remains of this "Walled Obelisk", is its stone core (see the background of the photo below). Show Picture Full Size

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The German Fountain (1901) The Hippodrome
& "Blue" Mosque

Clearly showing all 6 minarets
The Egyptian Obelisk
& "Walled Obelisk"
The Basilica Cistern
& one of the Medusa's head columns

The Basilica Cistern was an underground water-storage system, built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Its capacity was 80 million litres (18 million gallons), although thankfully, the water level these days is only a few inches! The roof is supported by 336 columns, re-using materials from demolished buildings; two of these columns feature Medusa-heads at their base, deliberately laid upside-down or sideways, so as to signify that Medusa was no longer worshipped or venerated.

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The Spice Market Colourful lamps & incense-burners Aromatic spices! The cavernous
Grand Bazaar

The atmosphere in the Spice Market was colourful and fascinating, with a heady aroma from all the spices on sale. Although it was crowded, unlike our experience in Egypt, at no time did I feel intimidated. And you can't leave here without buying some real Turkish Delight!

After a pleasant lunch of traditional Turkish fare at a restaurant nearby, we were then left at the Grand Bazaar, a cavernous labyrinth of passages and alleys, where Stella paid far too much for a pair of lamps and was then convinced she was given too much change! We all followed weerily, apart from Andrew, who retreated to the coach for a nap!

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A (cold!) Afternoon Cruise on the Bosporus Show Map
This was all included in our organised tour and it would have been more successful had the weather been better. As it was, there was a biting wind and it was grey and overcast but the cruise went some 6 miles (9.6km) down the Strait toward the Black Sea, beyond the 2nd Bosporus Bridge.

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One of the many ferries criss-crossing the Bosporus The First Bosporus Bridge(1974)
Main Span 3,523ft (1,074m) Clearance 210ft (64m)
Ex-Turkish State Yacht

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Passing under the 1st
Bosporus Bridge
The restored 19th century
Hidiva Palace
(now the Egyptian Embassy)
The 2nd Bosporus Bridge
Opened in 1988
The Castle of Rumelihisari
Built 1452 in just 4 months & 16 days!

By the time the boat turned-around at the Second Bosporus Bridge, the others had long since sought the comfort of the enclosed lower deck but a few like me, remained huddled on deck, sheltering from the biting wind. Shrewdly, stewards came around the deck selling hot Apple Tea for 1 Euro!
(right) Lesley & Andrew (before retreating indoors), "Who's crazy idea was this?" (Photo by Gerry)
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Sultan's Hunting Lodge
on the Asian Side (1857)
Celebrity Equinox &
Celebrity Constellation
(ex-Asuka 1991 - 28,856grt)
The Suleymaniye Mosque (1550-57)

Show Picture Full Size As the ship had an overnight in port, we were optimistic for the evening Folkloric Show but alas, it proved disappointing, relying for the most part on audience participation for its applause. Even the Belly-dancer lacked the necessary voluptuous skills! Show Picture Full Size

The best recipe for a bad cold - French Onion Soup!
Tonight's dinner consisted of Snails in garlic butter and Baked French Onion Soup from the Classics Menu >> followed by Sauteed Muscovy Duck Breast from Tonight's Dinner Menu >>. The Banana Sourbet that followed wasn't up to much but after the "Great Onion Soup Incident" on board Queen Mary 2 last January, I must say that Equinox's French Onion Soup was 10 times better! Just as well really, because I now had a sore throat and a bad cold, so it was off to bed with the last of Lesley's stock of "Lem-Sip"!

Wednesday 26th October
Day 2 in Istanbul, Turkey
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Show Picture Full Size It was still dark when we were awoken at 6.20am by the haunting sound of the Call to Prayer, as it spread across the city.

Dutifully, following the clear instructions of our Guide yesterday, we were all ashore and on the bus by 8.00am, ready for the rest of our tour.
(left) The Suleymaniye Mosque

Our Guide's instructions had not been given lightly; with the foreknowledge that comes from experience, she had us at the front of the queue for the Topkapi Palace and anyone who tried to sneak past us met with a dictatorial dressing-down from her diminutive but formidable presence!

The weather was cold and grey but a decent day for looking around what is today a museum; and this was something we missed 23 years ago, when Andrew & I were here with my parents in 1988.

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The queue
(behind us!)
The Topkapi Palace
& Inscriptionsa at the Salutation Gate (c1460)
The Imperial Council Building
& The Imperial Divan (Council Chamber)

While perhaps not as architecturally imposing as you might expect, it is a fascinating labyrinth of buildings and chambers, the interiors of which are often quite stunning. However, given the limited time available, our excellent Guide advised us which were the best things to see and how to avoid the queues, then allowed us time to make our choices and take things at our own pace. Even so, the queue for the Sultan's Audience Chamber (photos not permitted!) was unavoidable - but worth it!

The Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)
Begun in 1459 by Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople, the Palace sits on the highest point of The Golden Horn, overlooking the Bosporus and Sea of Marmara. From here the Ottoman Sultans ruled their Empire and at its height, the Palace was home to 4,000 people but its importance dwindled after the Imperial Court was moved to a new palace built in the 19th century. It opened as a museum in 1924 and in 1985, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today the museum houses the Imperial Treasury and a collection of religious relics known as the Treasury of the Sacred Trusts, including the Blessed Mantle of Muhammad, the Holy Banner, Moses' Staff and even a Letter from the Prophet Muhammad.

Show Picture Full Size The Third Courtyard contains the Palace's most important features: the Imperial Treasury and the Treasury of the Sacred Trusts, a collection of religious relics, including such amazing things as a cast of the footprint of the Prophet Muhammad. There's even a letter signed by Him.
(left) Pavilion of the Sacred Trusts & (right) Library of Ahmed III
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The few photos above cannot do justice to this place because photography is necessarily prohibited in so many areas but even for someone who is easily bored in musuems, this one is well worth the visit and I would happily have spent longer here exploring.

We lose Gerry - or did he lose us?
Left free to wander, it was no surprise that we lost someone. Gerry inadvertantly went through what turned out to be an "Exit" and they wouldn't let him back in! Fortunately, we each had mobile phones with us and he had paid attention to where we were going next; so he was able to tell us where he was and wait for us, thus sparing us the wrath of our formidable Guide!

Show Picture Full Size Hagia Sophia
The Church of The Holy Wisdom was built by Emperor Justinian in 537 AD, and as the cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople, it was the largest in the world until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when it became a mosque until 1934. Today it is a museum containing both Muslim and Christian elements.

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Haghia Sophia
from the north-west gallery
toward the Apse & Mihrab
The north-east gallery & the enclosure for the Royal Family The Dome
102ft dia & 183ft high
Christian Angels & Muslim inscriptions
Mosaic above the Imperial Gate, depicting Jesus Christ and Emperor Leo VI

Again the skills and knowledge of our formidable Guide proved invaluable because it was she who advised us how to get up to the Gallery for the best views of the interior.

Haghia Sophia is today not only an engineering marvel and a magnificent piece of architecture but also a modern-day testament to shared beliefs and the aspirations of both Christian and Muslim, living side-by-side. When we were here 23 years ago, the building was dark and stained and in need of restoration but today it seemed to be in better shape and we enjoyed it so much more.

After the usual "refreshment stop" at a retail outlet where the Turkish Apple Tea was free but the carpets and art available, though exquisite in quality, were frighteningly priced, our tour returned to the ship in time for lunch and our departure at 2.00pm, with one last view of the Golden Horn.

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The Golden Horn, Istanbul: The Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the six minarets of The Blue Mosque, from the ship

More photos of Istanbul & all the ports visited on this cruise can be found here on my account at Captain Martini >>

The Modern-day perils of a Swiss Army Knife
The whole point of a Swiss Army Knife is that you never know when it might come in useful but in these days of heightened security, they can prove problematic. Today, I had a slight "contra-temps" with a very surly female Security Officer on returning to the ship with mine in my camera bag. She looked just like an ex-New York Cop, the way she confronted me, hands on hips, as if ready to draw her gun (she didn't have one, by the way!) and I was forced to suffer the humiliation of her confiscating it for the remainder of this voyage; although she said I could have it back when I leave. Gun or no gun, I decided it was best not to argue!

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Thursday 27th October
Piraeus, Greece - for Athens
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Room Service were still getting our cabin breakfast wrong, today forgetting the fruit. We joked that if we ordered a muffin, we'd get a bagel; we did!
(left) Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas (90,090grt) arriving in Piraeus ahead of us

Show Picture Full Size We docked around 10am at one of the newer berths towards the outside of this huge port, which in fact claims to be the largest passenger port in Europe and 3rd largest in the World. From the top deck, we could see the Acropolis in the distance.
(left) Docking in Piraeus Harbour with (right) The Acropolis in the distance
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Still nursing a cold, I wasn't going to miss returning to the Acropolis after an absence of 25 years and while by contrast to the smog that threatened the city back then, the air was beautifully clear, it was so windy up there that at times it was hard not to get blown over!

The Acropolis of Athens
Rising 490ft above the modern city, this flat-topped rock has revealed evidence of civilization going back 7000 years. Its "Cyclopean Walls" date from the Bronze Age and are referred to in Homer's Odyssey but most of the buildings visible today were constructed in the 5th century BC.

The small Temple of Athena Nike stands on a high bastion close to the main entrance. Nike was the winged Goddess of Victory but unusually, the statue that once stood inside the temple had no wings and it is said that this was to ensure that she did not desert the City!

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Temple of
Athena Nike
The Odeon
of Herodes Atticus
The Erechtheion (421-407BC)
and the Porch of the Caryatids (all replicas)

In contrast, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus was a theatre built in Roman times around 161 AD. Restored in the 1950's, it is used as a concert venue today, seating over 5,000.

The Erechthieon was a temple complex accommodating the holiest religious shrines and artifacts of the Athenians. In its foundations was believed to reside the Sacred Snake, the spirit of the mythical Kings. Fed honey-cakes by the temple priestesses, its survival was considered essential for the safety of Athens. The Porch of the Caryatids incorporates 6 female figures, each one different from the rest, acting as columns holding up the roof. One of these figures was "removed" by Lord Elgin in 1803 and is now in the British Museum; the remaining 5 figures were removed in 1979 to the Acropolis Museum and replaced by replicas.

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The Parthenon(447-432BC)
The West Pediment
The Parthenon
from the north-east
A Windswept Acropolis!
Stella Me Lesley & Peter by Gerry

The Parthenon
A Temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, the earlier Parthenon was under construction when it was looted and burned during the sacking of Athens by the Persians in 480 BC. Later however, a new "Golden Age" began under the leadership of Pericles and the current "Classical" Parthenon was built from 447-432 BC.

Measuring 228 ft long and 101 ft wide, the Parthenon has 46 outer pillars 34 ft high and 6.2 ft in diameter at the base; impressive today in both the artistry employed as well as the beauty of its proportions, it must have been magnificent in its day. However, it was not only a temple but was also used as a Treasury and, during the Ottoman occupation, as an ammunition magazine - and it was during an attack by the Venetians in 1687 that the building suffered catastrophic damage.

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New Athens Museum
& Theatre of Dionysus
(which once seated 15,000)
Temple of Olympian Zeus
in the centre of Athens
Temple of Hephaestus
in the Ancient Agora
The Acropolis
from the Areopagus Rock

Hephaestus was the mythological blacksmith of the gods and his temple, in what used to be the Agora of Athens can be seen from the Acropolis. It is also known as the Theseion for the belief that it housed the remains of the hero Thesius, the founder-king of Athens and slayer of the legendary Minotaur. Built in the Doric style, it is similar to the Parthenon but smaller and more intact.

More photos of the Athens Acropolis & all the ports visited on this cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

Show Picture Full Size Sadly, there was only a brief pause at the Presidential Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard over the top of the crowd but our final stop was at the Panathenaiko, the athletic stadium that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Built using remains of the ancient Greek stadium, it is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble.
(left) Changing the Guard at the Presidential Palace (Gerry's photo) & (below) The Panathenaiko

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The Panathenaic or Kallimarmaro ("beautifully marbled") Stadium - built for the first Modern Olympic Games of 1896

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The Martini Bar
(looks harmless enough but....)
Stella's Martini Flight of 6 "samplers"!
(Gerry's photos above and right)
All Gone
(or Lesley soon will be!)

Never have a bath after a Martini - definitely not after two Celebrity Martinis!
Back at the ship, it was soon 5 o'clock but instead of heading for Michael's Club, we decided on the Martini Bar, where Stella ordered a "Flight", a selection of six "samplers" - smaller than normal but just as lethal. She hadn't a hope of drinking them all herself, so we had to help her out! But after two rounds of drinks for the rest of us, Lesley then made the mistake of taking a bath before dinner and it was reported that she was discovered by the Butler, laying on the bed in her suite, groaning and in a state unbecoming of a married lady!
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Friday 28th October
Santorini, Greek Islands
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We arrived inside the crater of Santorini at 7am, dropping anchor some distance from the smaller Azamara Quest, which was also anchoring. By 8am, the local tenders were operating but as we were under no pressure for time, we waited until the "rush" died down around 11am before going ashore.

After the bumpy tender rides we experienced in Mykonos, Stella was reluctant and decided not to go ashore, which was a shame because the weather was much calmer today and the local launches being used were far more comfortable than the ship's tenders and were actually rather smart.

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Anchoring at Santorini
& Azamara Quest (2007 30,277grt)
The Capital Fira
atop 980ft cliffs
Tendering Ashore Captain Martini
on a donkey!

Once ashore, Gerry took the cable-car to the top while the rest of us chose the donkeys; although Andrew's animal was more like a horse than a donkey! Mine was rather cute but he had the habit of veering to the left, which proved precarious at times, going up the steep, cobbled, zig-zag path!

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Donkey Parking! Fira & the cable-car
with the tiny port below
A Scene of Tranquility
Celebrity Equinox lies at anchor in the lagoon below

But the donkey-ride was great fun and once near the top, each seemed to know its allotted place in the donkey "parking area", although we got no help dismounting and Peter got kicked by another donkey amidst all the jostling. Meanwhile, Gerry was already there, having taken the "easy" route!

Aerial shot of Santorini Santorini & the Legend of Atlantis
Santorini is what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was once a single island and leading to the creation of the current sunken crater, now a lagoon measuring 7.5 miles by 4.3 miles, surrounded on three sides by cliffs up to 980ft high. The water in the centre of the lagoon is nearly 1,300ft (400 m) deep. The present capital, Fira, clings to the top of the cliff looking down on the lagoon.

On the fourth side of the lagoon, the smaller island of Therasia is a fragment of the original island, while in the centre of the lagoon is the new cone of the volcano. Currently quiet but technically still "Active" (the last eruption was in 1950), Santorini is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan (or Thera) Eruption, which occurred some 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of feet deep and may have led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, just 68 miles to the south, through the creation of a gigantic tsunami. Another popular theory holds that the Thera eruption is the source of the Legend of Atlantis.

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Lesley & Gerry The town of Fira
The main Terrace
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral
rebuilt after the earthquake in 1956
Andrew, Peter, Gerry & Lesley

It was such a glorious day and we first explored the town together before splitting-up, Gerry & I heading off with our cameras, making the inevitable refreshment stop at one of the many attractive bars overlooking the lagoon. In a moment of weakness, Gerry & I were persuaded to try the local "cactus juice" (foolish I know!); it was very refreshing - but at 10 euros each, it should be!

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View from the Cafe Terrace
Celebrity Equinox & "Nea Kameni",
the current volcanic cone of the island
A welcome drink
Cactus Juice!
Back down the zig-zag path to the port &
The tender back to the ship

We walked back down to the tiny dock, down the steep zig-zag path, trying to enjoy the view while taking extra care on the shiny cobbles and avoiding all the presents left by the donkeys! It was so hot in the full sun by this time and I was really glad we hadn't tried to walk up! Spent the rest of the afternoon "recovering" on the balcony, trying to get the smell of "donkey-poo" out of my nose!
More photos of Santorini & all the other ports visited on this cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

That evening, we all met for the Senior Officers' Cocktail Party, another "perk" of Celebrity's loyalty club; more free drinks and a convivial atmosphere, hosted again by Captain's Club Hostess "Ti-Ann".

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The venue for dinner tonight for Peter, Lesley, Gerry & I and the more formal of the ship's alternative venues, here the service was impeccable and my Lobster Thermidor was divine. But was it really worth the $40 per person extra cover charge?
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(above) Murano - the Murano Dinner Menu >> & (above right) Lesley's favourite starter, Tian of Gravlax Salmon & Peekytoe Crab

Andrew's Epic Win(s)
While we were still enjoying the 6-dessert sampler and liquer coffees in Murano, Andrew & Stella had been in the casino (again), where Andrew first won $175 at roulette and then went on to win $96 & $40 on the slot-machines! "How does he do it?" you might ask but two nights later, they both did it again, coming away with another $350 between them!

Saturday 29th October
A Day at Sea - and back through the Straits of Messina
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A nice lazy day doing very little, apart from eating, drinking and dozing. In the evening, pre-dinner drinks were in Peter & Lesley's suite and Maureen was back with us, though still suffering a poorly foot after her stumble some days ago. Peter & Stella won my "Captain's Quiz" with 14.5 out of 20!

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The Silhouette Restaurant
in festive mood lighting!
Executive Chef
Ueli Bachofner
Whipping-up a frenzy!
Cesar Romero Jnr far right
Lesley in tears
after Andrew is "napkin-ed"

Then it was Formal Dinner, at the end of which was the usual "last night" Parade and hoop-la, a well-rehearsed but rather overplayed round of self-congratulation for the Galley & Restaurant staff. But it was well-deserved, so we just enjoyed the high spirits, including Andrew getting "napkin-ed" about the head by the lady at the next table, an overcrowded table of 8-10 set for 12 very large and rather boisterous passengers we had (until tonight) tried our dignified best to ignore!

Sunday 30th October
Naples, Italy
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& the Bay of Naples at dawn
Bay of Sorrento From Sorrento - Vesuvius & the Bay of Naples
& bitter-sweet memories for Andrew

Arriving at dawn, there was an impressive view of Vesuvius from the cabin balcony before an early start on our all-day scenic coach tour to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.

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Intriguing Alleys Cafe Fresco Cafe Courtyard Sorrento Cathedral
The Bell Tower & Interior

In Sorrento, we had a pleasant hour and-a-half exploring on our own the picturesque streets and there were bitter-sweet memories for Andrew, who was last here on holiday with Anny in 2004.

Here we had an early lunch (11.15 - with wine!) in a very nice courtyard restaurant before setting-off on the rest of our drive to the Amalfi Coast.

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Coastal Drive
The Sorrento Peninsular
The Amalfi Coast
Conca dei Marini
Peter & Lesley
(Andrew's Photo)
View from Agerola

Gerry & I did a similar tour to this in 2005 when we were here aboard Galaxy and while the weather on that occasion had been excellent, today the visibility was a bit hazy. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful coast and we made a number of photo-stops before eventually arriving in Amalfi.

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Amalfi Cathedral
Piazza del Duomo
Bell Tower
(12th century) from the Cloister
Bronze Doors
cast in 1060
The Cathedral of St Andrew, Amalfi
The Nave & St Andrew's Crypt Chapel

The Cathedral of St Andrew in Amalfi
The principal tourist attraction in the town is well worth climbing the 62 steps leading from the main square. The elaborate main front is from the 19th century but the great bronze doors were cast in Constantinople in 1060 and you can still see the surviving 9th century Basilica church and cloister which adjoin. The Bell Tower is 12th century, while in the crypt is the Chapel to St Andrew, containing the relics of St Andrew brought here from Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1208.

Show Picture Full Size Our tour gave us an hour here, just enough to enjoy the Cathedral and some refreshments! At anchor was Nautica, another of the ex-"R" ships of 2000 and sister of Azamara Quest seen the other day in Santorini. She carries around 680 passengers. Show Picture Full Size
(above) Amalfi Beach & (far right) Oceania Cruises' Nautica (30,277grt, ex-R5 & sister to Azamara Quest seen in Santorini)

The coach returned to the ship in Naples by the less scenic motorway route and after quite a full day, it really was the last night aboard - and we still had the packing to do! Nevertheless, Andrew & Stella still found time to make one last visit to the Casino; with his last chip, Andrew won $210 and Stella also came away with $140. Jammy pair!

Monday 31st October
Civitavecchia, Italy to London Heathrow
Show Picture Full Size Up at 5am, we congregated in Tuscan Grille and left promptly at 7.15. We were at the airport by 8.30 and while the BA Club Lounge was not up to the standard of Heathrow, it was better than the alternative! Show Picture Full Size
(above) Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam & (far right) From the plane, a view of Celebrity Equinox and the port below

Another lesson in keeping your wits (and your valuables) about you!
On disembarkation, I remembered to recover my Swiss-Army Knife, confiscated by the ship's heavy-handed Security Officer but at the airport, in the melee, I forgot to remove my computer from my suitcase before checking-in. Upon walking away from the check-in desk, I realised that I had left it in the unsecure outer pocket of my luggage! Resigned to the likelihood that I would never see it again (!) it was a great relief to discover it still there when I retrieved my suitcase at Heathrow Airport 5 hours later!

More photos of Celebrity Equinox & all the ports visited on this cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 2,590 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 163,204 n miles

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