With the Acropolis in Athens, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Pyramids of Egypt, this cruise certainly had that "wow!" factor. This was Andrew's first cruise and he would have his Birthday aboard. His friend Gerry came as well, also on his first cruise, so we were 4 guys together and when we were all dressed in our dinner suits, I'm sure some passengers thought we were the Mafia! Show Picture Full Size

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Vistafjord lays at anchor off Corfu

But they did it again! They changed the itinerary after we had booked! The cruise had always been billed as a "Gala Cruise" but originally it was to start from Athens (Piraeus), where we would have an overnight hotel and Gala Dinner. For some reason however, Cunard/NAC decided to extend what would have been a 14-day holiday into 17 days! All at no extra charge!

Instead, 3 days earlier than planned, they flew everyone out to Venice, put us up at a hotel on the Lido and had the "Gala Dinner" at another hotel nearby. The next day, they took us on a complimentary full-day tour before embarking the ship.

What a start! It's just a good job we were all able to take the extra days off work!
Itinerary Show Map
= ports at anchor
15th October
- fly to Venice, Italy
Gala Dinner
& stay overnight
Thursday-Venice, Italy
(pm) embark Vistafjord
Friday-Dubrovnik, Yogoslavia
Sunday-Piraeus, Greece for Athens
Tuesday-Alanya, Turkey
Wednesday-Limassol, Cyprus
Thursday-Haifa, Israel for Jerusalem
Friday-Haifa, Israel
Saturday-(am) at sea
(pm) Alexandria, Egypt
Sunday-for Cairo & The Pyramids
Monday-at sea & cruise the
crater at Santorini
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-Valletta, Malta
Thursday-Capri, Italy
Friday 31st October-Genoa, Italy fly to UK

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Wednesday 15th October
Flight to Venice, Italy
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Another early start and this time, the service on our Orion Airways flight from Gatwick was rather better, with a nice cooked breakfast, free drinks and complimentary wine on take-off.

Venice's Marco Polo Airport is on the mainland and it was not only a novel experience to be transferred by boat but also a tantalising sight of the city, shimmering in the summer haze, as we headed for our hotel on Venice Lido, facing the lagoon. Venice shimmers in the summer haze

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The Campanile
St Marks Square
The Bridge of Sighs The Rialto Bridge & the Grand Canal
In the distance, "Santa Maria della Salute"
Venetian Tryptic
John, Andrew & Gerry

Having checked-in and with a free afternoon, we took the local water-bus or Vaporetto into Venice to do our first bit of sightseeing in this, one the most magical and romantic of cities. See Gerry's photo of Andrew & Me in Piazza San Marco (right) Show Picture Full Size

Show Picture Full Size Moored in Venice, millionaire arms-dealer, Adnan Khashoggi's $70m, 281-ft yacht "Nabila" appeared as the "Flying Saucer" in the 1983 James Bond film "Never Say Never Again". The film was a remake of the 1965 film "Thunderball" in which the villain's yacht was called the "Disco Volante", or "Flying Saucer" in English.

That evening, we were taken by coach to the Hotel Le Boulevard nearby for drinks and Cunard's Gala Dinner, which turned out to be something of a disappointment. While we had lots to drink, the meal was unremarkable and the service was dreadfully slow; sitting down to dinner at 8pm, we didn't get up to leave until 10.30pm! Open Gala Menu >> Open Culinary Dinner Menu

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Thursday 16th October
Venice, Italy
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After a buffet breakfast, we were being collected again by Cunard when, directly outside the hotel, Vistafjord arrived and began making her stately way across the lagoon and through the centre of Venice, past Piazza San Marco to her berth at the Stazione Marittima; it was just one of those magical sights you never forget!
(left) The Hotel Villa Mabapa on Venice Lido

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Seen from our hotel facing the lagoon on Venice Lido
Vistafjord makes her stately arrival in the lagoon at Venice

We were collected by Cunard to be taken on a special all-day, 3-island Tour but there must have been too many different things to drink last night, because today John paid the price with a bit of a hangover! All he could think of all morning was desperately needing a Mars Bar!

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Burano Torcello
Santa Maria Assunta
The Grand Canal
San Simione Piccolo
& the Scalzi Bridge
Stazione Marittima, Venice

Our tour visited the lagoon islands of Murano with its glass-blowing factory, Burano, a pretty little fishing village known also for its local lace, and Torcello, with its 7th century church, Santa Maria Assunta, and where we had a much better lunch than our meal last night!

From Torcello, we then crossed the lagoon, passed along the Grand Canal and arrived at Vistafjord.

For John and me, everything was familiar and it was like coming home; but for Andrew & Gerry, it was their first cruise and everything was new. Dinner that night was of course delicious and Andrew & Gerry were suitably impressed! Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size
The Vista Dining Room The Casino

Vistafjord sailed during Dinner that evening, after which we strolled on deck, watched the traditional Introduction of the Cruise Staff in the Ballroom, then witnessed Andrew losing his money in the small but busy Casino, before turning-in for bed! Read more about Vistafjord at the Vistafjord Gallery >>

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Friday 17th October
Gruz (for Dubrovnik), Yugoslavia
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After Boat Drill in the morning, we put in at lunch-time to what at the time seemed like an old wood-yard. Leaving Andrew to sun-bathe, the rest of us decided to walk into Dubrovnik.
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With no local currency for the bus, we were unwilling to pay the taxi-fare of $10 but it didn't seem all that far on the map - and we did get a nice view of the rugged Dalmatian coast en-route - but it was a mistake, of course, because it was uphill from the ship and we became quite hot and tired. We reached the City but barely had time to walk down Praca, the main street, before we had to come back, as Vistafjord sailed at 5.30pm. See John's photo >> of Praca, the clock-tower & Church of St Blaise.

Dubrovnik - "Pearl of the Adriatic"
One of the most beautiful and intact medieval walled cities in the World, Dubrovnik was at this time in what was all called "Yugoslavia". But a long history of regional and ethnic tensions came to a head in 1991 when Croatia declared independence. Long considered part of Croatia, the city was claimed by Serbia-Montenegro and in October 1991, it came under a seige which lasted 7 months, during which the city was bombarded with artillery, causing a number of deaths and considerable damage to buildings. The seige was eventually lifted and the city returned to Croatian control. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and by 2005, most of the physical damage inflicted on the city during the war had been repaired.

Sadly, it would be 21 years before we would return to Dubrovnik (aboard Arcadia in 2007) to fully appreciate the beauty of this city and it has always seemed to me ironic that Andrew, at his first port-of-call on his first-ever cruise, never bothered to go ashore because it didn't look interesting enough! "De gustibus non est disputandem", as the saying goes!

Open Welcome Dinner Menu Our first formal evening aboard, tonight was the Captain's Cocktail Party and Welcome Dinner (<< Open the Menu on the left). I never noticed at the time but the menu was almost identical to last year's Welcome Dinner menu; however, it was just as delicious tonight as it was last year! (See last year's Menu on the right >>) Open last year's Welcome Dinner Menu

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Saturday 18th October
Corfu, Greece
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This was another short call for Vistafjord, dropping anchor for just 4 hours. It was also Andrew & Gerry's first experience of "Tendering" and their first time travelling in a ship's lifeboat!

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The New Fortress The Old Fortress
& its sea-water moat
One of the colourful
horse-drawn carriages
A nice one of John
Vistafjord at anchor

Show Picture Full Size The New Fortress was built in the 16th century by the Venetians, who were also responsible for the great bastions of the Old Fortress, parts of which date back to the 6th century. Situated on an islet created by an artificial sea-water moat, it is connected to the town by a single iron bridge.
(left) Andrew on his Birthday & (right) Vistafjord lays at anchor
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We spent the afternoon relaxing at sea - I had a go at Clay Pigeon Shooting off the stern of the ship and actualy hit my first clay! In the evening, Andrew's Birthday was celebrated at Dinner, by the customary tradition of the stewards all singing "Happy Birthday" while delivering a cake to the table!

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Sunday 19th October
Piraeus (for Athens), Greece
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Arriving early, we were greeted by the notorious "Athens smog", a haze caused by the chronic pollution of heavy industry and too much traffic.
(left) "Dressing Ship" as Vistafjord enters the port of Piraeus

Later, we learned that one of the city's drastic anti-pollution measures recently introduced, was the restriction of vehicle use on certain days of the week, according to vehicle registration number!

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

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, 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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The Parthenon (447-432 BC) The Erechtheion (421-407 BC)
& the Porch of the Caryatids (now all replicas)

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 Odeon
of Herodes Atticus
From the Acropolis, the view towards the Theseion
The Temple of Hephaestos (449-415 BC)
Palace Guard
in traditional dress

Hephaestos was the mythological blacksmith of the gods and his temple can be seen from the Acropolis. It is also known as the Theseion for the belief that it houses the remains of the Athenian hero, Thesius. Built in the Doric style, it is similar to the Parthenon but smaller and more intact.

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.

Open Gastronautical Dinner Menu It was an amazing day of new sights and sounds - not to mention heat and dust! It was sad to think that these ruins represent the very cradle of modern European culture, yet they are at risk from the dreadful city surrounding them - as well as all the tourists!

To round-off our day, this evening was the Gastronautical Dinner (open the Menu on the left).

Show Map Monday 20th October
Rhodes, Greece
Another excellent port-talk by Cruise Director, Peter Hagmann this morning; then played "Shuffleboard" before our lunchtime arrival in Rhodes.
(right) The Battlements of Rhodes, 14th century fortifications by the Kinghts of St John of Jerusalem
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This was yet another short call for Vistafjord and yet there was so much we wanted to see; the fortifications of this magnificent walled city were built by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem who occupied the island from 1097 until 1522, when they finally surrendered to the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, following a seige lasting 6 months. Rhodes then remained under the Turks until the collapse of the Ottaman Empire in 1912 but did not officially become part of Greece until after the Second World War in 1947.

The Colossus of Rhodes
When Demetrius the Beseiger was driven off in 304 BC, he left behind a massive bronze-plated seige tower, the helepolis, which was then sold to finance a statue of thanksgiving to Helios, the sun god and protector of Rhodes. The sculptor, Chares of Lindos, took 12 years to cast the Colossus in bronze, killing himself when he discovered an error in his calculations.

Show Picture Full Size Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, scholars have long disputed what the statue looked like and indeed where it stood; it probably did not stand astride the harbour entrance. However, what is known is that the Colossus stood more than 100 ft tall, overlooking Harbour, where it remained for 55 years until it crashed to the ground in an earthquake, remaining a ruin for 800 years. The Arabs who sacked Rhodes in the 7th century sold the 20 tons of bronze to a merchant from Syria and all trace of the Colossus has vanished.

Spoilt for choice however, we opted for the afternoon excursion to Lindos, 32 miles to the south.

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The Acropolis of
The Gatehouse
& Knights' Steps
On the Rocks
Temple of Lindean Athena

The Acropolis of Lindos
Described as "one of the most beautiful sites in the Aegean", Lindos used to support more than 17,000 inhabitants and today the small town is still dominated by its Acropolis, with its fortifications courtesy of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. Its a steep climb and near the foot of the Knights Steps is a 15 ft high rock-carving of a Greek warship or Trireme >>.

On a spectacular promontory atop 400 ft cliffs to the sea stands the Temple of Lindean Athena, today glowing in the late afternoon sun.

Show Picture Full Size From here you can look down to Agios Pavlos Limani (St Paul's Bay), where the Apostle is said to have landed in 51 AD, bringing Christianity to the island. A small white church marks where he came ashore.
(left) Conversation with a bush & (right) St Paul's Bay
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Tuesday 21st October
Alanya, Turkey
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Next morning, we rounded a 750 ft high rocky headland topped by impressive medieval walls that seemed to run for miles. We had breakfast as the ship dropped anchor in the bay of Alanya, which has been a resort popular with the local Seljuk Turks for over 800 years.

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750 ft cliffs
The Citadel
The Seljuk Turkish Fortress
The "Red Tower" & medieval shipyard
A Mosque Vistafjord at anchor

In fact, those walls run for 4 miles, with no fewer than 140 towers and a Citadel at the top dating from 1226, built by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I who was largely responsible for this area's development and influence. The city is famous for its Kizi Kule, an octagonal 108 ft high tower, the "Red Tower", watching over the equally impressive 5-arched medieval shipyard.

Roman Side
Some 40 miles west along the coast, this city was once an important trading port occupied by Alexander The Great in 333 BC but it was under the Romans from 67 BC that it flourished to become a major slave-trading centre. Today, its pride is its enormous Theatre, seating 15-20,000 spectators. Still in use today, its near-perfect acoustics were demonstrated by our tour-guide.

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Roman Side
The Theatre
Roman Side
The Baths
Statue of Hermes Mediterranean Sunset

However, to fully appreciate the nature of such places, you really need to spend more time and we were finding that the relentless pace of organised tours barely seem to "scratch the surface".

Show Picture Full Size That evening, Vistafjord raised the boats and made a rather beautiful sunset departure; then, after another feast at Dinner, we enjoyed a performance of sea-shanties and traditional songs by our own Sailors Quoir, including Roland, one of our 2 wonderful table-stewards. See Gerry's photo >>

Show Map Wednesday 22nd October
Limassol, Cyprus
Another day and another port - and in comparison to where we had been recently, Limassol was not at all photogenic! In fact, it all seemed pretty dull!

And to cap it all, our first tour stop was for more "fortifications", this time at Kolossi Castle, just outside Limassol.
(right) More fortifications by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem! This time, Kolossi Castle, dating from 1245
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The estate in which the castle stands was given to the Friars of the Order of St John in 1210 and the ruins of the castle built by the Knights of St John surround the 15th century reconstructed Keep.

Our next stop was at Kourion (Curium), the ruins of a Greco-Roman hill-top city, abandoned in the 4th century after a series of 5 earthquakes over a period of 80 years. The partly restored theatre offers a wonderful view of the coast and there are also some quite amazing mosaics.

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The hill-top ruins of
Kourion (Curium) & its Theatre
The House of Eustolios
Atrium & remains of a
Christian Basilica

A visit to a Cypriot winery on the way back was just an excuse to get us buy the local wine - which didn't taste that good anyway!

As Limassol didn't seem that exciting, we spent the afternoon dozing on deck and watched as the old Romanza was towed into port. See close-up photo >>
(right) The lovely old Chandris Lines' Romanza (10,840 grt), originally the German Huascaran (1939).
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Show Picture Full Size This evening, John & I went to the Cunard Repeaters' Cocktail Party. Preferring not to "gate-crash" on their first cruise, Andrew & Gerry had drinks in the bar and we met later for tonight's French Dinner Menu >>
(left) Andrew, Me, John & Gerry in the Vista Dining Room aboard Vistafjord.
Open French Dinner Menu

Thursday 23rd - Friday 24th October
Haifa, Israel
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Hard to believe we were only half-way through our cruise, as we arrived amid tight security and armed guards everwhere. Israel & Egypt had been at peace since 1979 but at this time, Israel was still occupying Southern Lebanon - and that was only 40 miles away, so tensions were running high!

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Our all-day tour was at breakneck pace, punctuated by a filthy toilet-stop and a poor lunch at the Diplomat Hotel. The Old City was crowded and claustrophobic and it was unnerving to see so many young men, 18-24 years old, wearing army uniform and carrying automatic weapons! (Gerry's photo left)

The Dome of the Rock (Al-Sakhra Mosque) dates from 691 AD and is the oldest Islamic building in the World. Built originally not as a mosque but as a shrine on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, the site of Solomon's Temple, it forms part of a complex including the Al-Aqsa Mosque (see photo >>) and stands on the holiest spot in both the Jewish & Islamic faiths. The Golden Gate in the old city walls dates from around 520 AD and is on the site of an earlier gate. In Jewish tradition, it is through this gate that the Messiah will enter Jerusalem; it was bricked-up in 1541 by Sultan Suleiman I, who also put a Muslim cemetry outside!

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Al-Sakhra Mosque
"The Dome of the Rock"
The Golden Gate
The Wailing Wall
"The Basilica of the Agony"
Mount of Olives

Show Picture Full Size The Western or Wailing Wall is part of the wall of the Temple Mount, enlarged in 19 BC by Herod The Great. The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and the wall got its name from the practice of mourning its loss here. However, because it also supports the Sanctuary & Al-Aqsa Mosque (see photo left), it is a holy spot for prayer to both Muslims and Jews; some write prayers on slips of paper placed into the cracks in the wall.

The Roman Catholic Basilica of the Agony is outside the City walls on the Mount of Olives, adjacent to the Gardens of Gethsemane. Completed in 1924, it stands on the site of earlier chapels and enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed prior to his betrayal and arrest.

Show Picture Full Size The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was actually two linked churches, founded by Emperor Constantine I in 326 AD; one enshrined a small cave, believed to be Jesus' tomb, while the other marked the Hill of Calvary, where Jesus was crucified. Damaged, rebuilt, extended & renovated many times over the years, it was very crowded here and it was at this point that I began to think that our tour was taking on the atmosphere of a "Disney Attraction"!
(left) The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem - marks both Jesus' tomb and the site of his Crucifixion

Bethlehem - the Church of the Nativity
Rebuilt by Emperor Justinian I in 565 AD, the present church is non-denominational but is maintained by the Greek Orthodox Church. It stands on the site where Jesus is said to have been born and a small grotto under the floor of the church marks the precise spot. The square outside the church, called Manger Square, is where Christians traditionally gather on Christmas Eve to sing carols.

(right) Inside the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
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It was dark by the time we got back for a late Dinner that evening on board Vistafjord in Haifa and our minds were a blur of religious sights and biblical tales as we closed the day watching a local visiting Israeli Folkloric Show on board - which as I recall, was actually surprisingly good!

The following day, Andrew sunbathed while the rest of us went off to try to find "Downtown Haifa", walking all through the dusty commercial port in the hot sun, only to discover that the subway station, when we found it, was "Closed for 2 weeks"! So we returned to the ship and spent the rest of the day playing "Monopoly" and recovering from the ordeal!

Beware Mines!
Our departure from Haifa was at 6.00pm on the second day and it was already dark by then. In the confusion of security, it seems we left the Ship's Photographer behind and had to wait while he was brought out in a small boat! We were watching the proceedings and all this activity of the tugs etc, when the Captain switched-on his Bridge Searchlight and began swinging its beam across the water, searching-out the marker-buoys. The Cruise Director, Peter Hagmann, told us that it was important we keep to the marked channel, as the port was still protected by mines!

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Saturday 25th - Sunday 26th October
Alexandria, Egypt
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I did absolutely nothing all morning; it was lovely! The pilot was taken on at about 10.30am but entry into this huge and busy port was a slow process.
(left) The Ras El-Tin Palace, one of the official residences of the President of Egypt (John's photo)

Docking around midday, Egyptian security was not as severe as in Israel and after an early lunch, we were ashore and on our coach by 1.30pm. We had all made the brave decision to join 185 other passengers on the overnight excursion to Cairo and the Pyramids, so we were slightly apprehensive!

But first, we were taken to see a little of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in 331BC, home to Cleopatra and the capital of Egypt for a thousand years. Today the streets were crowded, dusty and hot and the traffic frentic but the atmosphere was wonderful and rather exciting!

The Pharos of Alexandria (One of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World)
Designed by Sostratos of Dexiphanes in the 3rd century BC, the building stood on the island of Pharos at the harbour entrance, connected to the mainland by a man-made causeway. It was between 380 & 440 ft high and was probably the tallest building in the world but some scholars believe it became used as a lighthouse only in the 1st century AD. Ultimately lost in an earthquake in 1323, Fort Qait Bey was built on the site using much of the masonry. However, fragments of the Lighthouse have recently been found by divers in the bay.
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Sadly, nothing survives of the Great Lighthouse, one of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World", but Pompey's Pillar, a column of Aswan granite 99 ft high, was thought to have been part of a temple from the same period. However, scholars now agree that it has nothing to do with Pompey and that it dates from 292 AD, having been erected in honour of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

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The chaotic streets of Alexandria
(John's photos)
Muhammad Ali
Founder of modern Egypt
"Pompey's Pillar"
(99 ft high)
(above & below)
The Montazah Palace
and Park

The city is riddled with tunnels and Catacombs and we were briefly taken down into part of them; they were amazing - spooky but amazing!

The Muntazah Palace was built in 1892 and was the summer residence of the Royal Family until Egypt became a republic in 1953. Today, it houses visiting foreign dignatories anf its beautiful park is open to the public.
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It then took us 4 and-a-half hours on the Delta Road to Cairo, with a "free drinks" stop at a rather dubious roadside cafe where I ventured the local Mint Tea, while everyone else had bottles of Coke! We eventually checked into our hotel in Cairo, an hour late and in a state of sheer physical exhaustion from the bumpy ride and the noisy traffic.

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Cairo, Egypt
Our hotel was the 5-star Hyatt El-Salam in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo. However, while our rooms seemed impressive, the plumbing was downright diabolical and Dinner at 9.30pm was rather drab and nearly cold!

Dinner may have been cold but breakfast at 7.00am was a joke - the "sausages" were actually cold frankfurters in a silver dish over a couple of night-lites! "5 Stars" in Egypt is clearly a relative term! Nevertheless, we were in remarkably good spirits and "raring to go"!

First stop was at the Mosque of Muhammad Ali in the old fortified part of the city known as The Citadel, where we donned little slippers to go inside, wondering if our shoes would still be there when we returned. They were, of course - our guide had paid the local "baksheesh" to make sure!

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Muhammad Ali Mosque
& The Citadel
The Egyptian Museum The River Nile The Great Pyramid
from the Mena House Hotel

It was bedlam at the Egyptian Museum, where it was easy to lose your own group and nearly impossible to hear what your guide was saying above the noise! One and-a-half hours simply isn't enough time to see all the treasures here but we did see the famous King Tutankhamum exhibit. However, it was such a pity to see the once-impressive grandeur of this Museum all dusty, cluttered and poorly illuminated through lack of funds, even with the income from so many visiting tourists.

There was a brief visit to the Papyrus Factory, where they demonstrated how they still make papyrus today - then gave us the opportunity to buy some!

After a decent lunch at the Mena House Hotel, a much better hotel than yesterday and within sight of the Pyramids, we headed up onto the Giza Plateau for the literal "highspot" of the day.

The Giza Plateau: The Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu), Pyramid of Chephren (Khafre) and the Menkaura (Mycerinos) Pyramid

The Pyramids at Giza
We alighted the coaches to chaotic crowds & camel-ride vendors, with locals all trying to sell post-cards & trinkets and some trying to get money for getting in the way of your photographs! I was nearly tempted to take a ride on one of the camels but they seemed a bit tatty and smelly! See photo >>
Show Picture of Andrew

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John stands below
The Pyramid
of Cheops
The Sphinx &
The Pyramid of Chephren
The smaller Menkaura Pyramid
& the Pyramids of the Queens

Show Picture Full Size The Great Pyramid of Cheops (or Khufu) is the bigger of the main pair. Built around 2560 BC, it was 481ft (146.6m) high, with a base length of 754ft (230m). Now, having lost its "topping", it's just 455ft (138.7m) high. The Pyramid of Chephren (or Khafre), which always looks the bigger, is in fact slightly smaller; even though it retains some of its original limestone covering, it stands 448ft (136.6m) high and 706ft (215m) along its base.

The smaller Pyramid of Menkaura (or Mycerinus) (above right) probably dates from around 2526 BC and is a mere 356ft (106m) along its base and 204 ft ( 61m) high, although it was originally about 218 ft (65.5m) high.
(left) A nice picture of Gerry by the Ship's Photographer. See also Map of the Giza Plateau >>

The Great Sphinx, at 241ft (73.5m) long & 65ft (20m) high, is the largest monolith statue in the World and has the body of a lion with a human head. Unlike the Pyramids, it was not built from blocks of stone but carved out of a limestone outcrop. Until 1925-36 when it was excavated from the sand, only the head was visible and no-one knew what it looked like! Early Picture >> Show Picture Full Size

The Mystery of the Sphinx
No-one quite knows when this statue was constructed but it is widely believed to be around 2500 BC and the time of Khafre, when it seems to have been part of a funerary temple complex. A shape often used to depict a guardian in association with a tomb or temple, no-one knows what the ancient Egyptians called them because there is no reference to them in any scripts so far found; the name "Sphinx" was attributed by the Greeks, who believed in a similar creature in mythology. The so called "Riddle of The Sphinx" refers to the Greek myth but perhaps all this is why The Great Sphinx of Giza continues to remain such an enigma.

Show Picture Full Size Overwhelmed and exhausted, we left for Alexandria on the Desert Road and this time the journey was much better and only about 3 hours. It was so lovely to be welcomed "home" aboard our lovely Vistafjord!
(left) The Desert Road and (right) Gerry "overwhelmed & exhausted"
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Monday 27th October
At Sea & cruising the crater at Santorini (Thera)
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Next day, we spent a lazy morning sunbathing and visiting the Ship's Bridge, which by tradition, is usually open to passengers on sea days. See photos taken on the Bridge and more at the Vistafjord Gallery >>

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Aft Lido Deck
From the Bridge Cruising inside the crater at Santorini
In the picture on the right, you can see the cable-way on the left
and in the centre, the zig-zag path the donkeys follow

Travelling north-west from Alexandria, the weather began to deteriorate during the day until it clouded-over and became much cooler by the time we arrived inside the volcanic crater of the Greek island of Santorini (or Thera), where we cruised in a wide arc for an hour while we listened to the Bridge commentary on the volcanic origins of this fascinating island.

Santorini & the Legend of Atlantis
Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island and leading to the creation of the current sunken crater, now a lagoon measuring about 7.5 miles by 4.3 miles, surrounded on three sides by cliff up to 980 ft-high. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia and the water in the centre of the lagoon is nearly 1,300 ft (400 m) deep. The present capital, Fira, clings to the top of the cliff looking down on the lagoon.

Currently quiet but technically still "Active", the island 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 indirectly 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.

Open Chef's Dinner Menu Tonight was the Formal Chef's Dinner (Open Menu left) and yet again, we were all so busy enjoying it that I never noticed it was almost identical to the Chef's Dinner last year! see last year's Menu >>
(picture right) Andrew, Me, John & Gerry in the Vista Dining Room aboard Vistafjord.
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Tonight was also "Ladies' Night" in the Ballroom, and as none of us could dance, we thought it best to avoid the possible embarrassment of being asked!

Show Picture Full Size Tuesday 28th October
Another day at sea
After such a hectic 2 weeks, we were really enjoying these 2 days at sea. Today, it was the Lunchtime Gala Buffet, which the Chefs spent the whole morning setting-up in the Ballroom. A spectacular display of dishes, it even including hot soup and a Carvery, as well as a table full of chocolate deserts! We ate far too much!
(left) A butter-ice Statue of Liberty was just one of the elaborate decorations for the Lunchtime Gala Buffet

"Singin' in the Rain" & a lightning strike!
That afternoon, the heavens opened and we passed through a heavy thunder-storm. Gerry & I sat outside under cover, looking astern over the Lido-deck as 2 deck-stewards collected and stacked the sun-loungers in the pouring rain; care-free and soaking-wet, they began dancing and singing "Singin' in the Rain"! We had to applaud after that! Later, with fork lightning crackling all around the ship, we heard a loud "crack!" as a fork of lightning actually struck one of the ship's 2 aft conductors! Simply Magic!

We ended the day watching the Passengers Fancy Dress Competition, another traditional event for which a number of passengers had clearly come well prepared! We felt a bit left out and unadventurous but it was enjoyable to watch nevertheless.

Wednesday 29th October
Valletta, Malta
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We arrived before breakfast in Malta's Grand Harbour, one of the most famous natural harbours in the World, and tied-up alongside Fort St Angelo, built by those Knights of St John of Jerusalem again! When they were driven out of Rhodes in 1523, the Knights made their home here until 1798.

Our morning tour was a bit of a disappointment, not helped by dull, grey weather, a drab guide and a dirty old bus, infested with flies! Malta had been suffering a drought and there was no water to wash the buses - so they said. In addition, our tour was supposed to go to Mosta to see the great domed church, one of the largest in the World, but apparently it was closed! So that left.....

Show Picture Full Size Mdina, the silent City
The old capital of Malta until the foundation of Valletta in the 16th century, this walled city stands at an altitude of 700 ft in the middle of the island; completely pedestrianised and with a population of less than 300, it is often referred to as "the silent city".

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St Paul's Cathedral
The streets of
A local carriage
(Moorish influence?)
St John's Co-Cathedral
in Valletta

The city of Valletta was founded in the 16th century by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem on a fortified peninsula between the two natural harbours of Marsamxett and Grand Harbour. Today, the various towns that surrounded these harbours have now become merged into one large metropolis.

After lunch, the sun came out briefly and John & I stole ashore again, this time to take one of the ship's tenders across Grand Harbour to the city of Valletta itself.

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Vistafjord alongside Fort St Angelo, Grand Harbour, Valletta
From the wharf & ship's tender
(John's photos)
From Lascaris Wharf & the Upper Barracca Gardens
(My photos)

It was a little frustrating really because there is plenty to see in Valletta, but we only had time for a brief scout around, as Vistafjord was due to leave at 4.00pm and we had to get back.

We left Grand Harbour into choppy seas and severe pitching as the ship turned towards Italy. Passing through the 2 mile wide Straits of Messina at midnight in the pouring rain, I wrote in my diary, "I hope Malta can now afford to wash their filthy buses!"
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This evening was our penultimate night aboard and another Captain's Cocktail Party followed by the Farewell Dinner. With all my favourites, such as caviar, snails, lobster, prime rib of beef & duck a l'orange, the traditional Parade of the Baked Alaska seemed a bitter-sweet conclusion at the thought of soon having to go home and back to work! Open Farewell Dinner Menu

But we had one more day and one more "port" to go.....,

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Thursday 30th October
Capri, Italy
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We had been warned that local trade protection regulations prohibited ships from using their own tenders but there was also a local ferry dispute and if the ferries were not willing to come out to us, we might not be able to land!

Show Picture Full Size Fortunately, concerns proved unfounded and we were able to go ashore after all; the ferry operators probably realised that the island would only lose all the money our passengers would spend here today!
(left) Johns photo boarding the ferry & (right) Pretty Marina Grande
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We took the tiny "finiculare" from the pretty quay-side of Marina Grande up to the Main Parade of Capri Town, to enjoy the spectacular view across the Bay of Naples, with Vesuvius in the distance.

The Bay of Naples from Anacapri
(Above) From Capri Town, the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the far distance and Vistafjord at anchor off the Isle of Capri

At 12.30pm, Vistafjord raised her anchor again for the last time and we spent the afternoon packing to go home tomorrow. The rest of the evening was a rather sombre affair.

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Friday 31st October
Genoa, Italy - and back to Gatwick, UK!
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This was the first time we had to fly home from a cruise and although we arrived in port early, we had to "kick our heels" waiting to be disembarked.
(left) Achille Lauro (23,629grt) in Genoa, a year after her terrifying hijacking by terrorists

The ill-fated Achille Lauro (photo above)
Just a year ago in October 1985, this Italian cruise ship was the subject of a highly publicised hi-jacking in Egyptian waters by armed members of the Palestine Liberation Front, in which an elderly disabled passenger, Mr Leon Klinghoffer, was shot dead and thrown overboard. The Egyptian Government provided safe passage in exchange for freeing the ship but the hi-jackers' plane was itself forced to land in Sicily by US Navy F-14 fighters and the perpetrators were captured. However, the mastermind behind the hi-jacking, one Abu Abbas, was not captured until 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Laid down in 1939 as the Willem Ruys for the Dutch "Royal Rotterdam Lloyd", she was sold to Lauro Lines in 1964 but did not enter service until 1966 following an explosion and fire during her conversion. By the late 1970s, Lauro Lines were in financial trouble and Achille Lauro was arrested in Tenerife in 1982, where she remained until brought back to Italy by the Italian Government.

After a further year's lay-up, Lauro Lines entered a joint charter arrangement with Chandris Lines but Chandris pulled out after the hijacking in October 1985 affected passenger numbers. In 1987, Lauro Lines was bought by the Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Company, who rebranded the company as StarLauro Cruises. This venerable ship served with them until November 1994, when she caught fire off the coast of Somalia while on a cruise to South Africa. The ship was abandoned and sank two days later. Show Picture Full Size

Eventually, our group departed on a short coach tour around Genoa, much like when John & I arrived here to meet Vistafjord last year. This time however, Genoa seemed quite nice and when we arrived at the airport, it was not the same "shanty-style" building but a brand new Terminal!

Unfortunately, the Terminal may have been new but the organisation was still Italian - their idea of "security" involved lots of shouting and gesticulating!

Show Picture Full Size In the event, our "Orion Airways" flight was 2 and-a-half hours late and we didn't take-off until 3.00pm. By the time we arrived in London by train from Gatwick, it was rush-hour and raining. Another cruise was over and it was all just memories!
(left) Our 2nd Rosenthal Souvenir Ashtray - obviously prepared before they decided to call at Corfu!

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 3,570 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 12,324 n miles

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