We had to abstain from cruising in 1987, as all our money was being spent on the house in Southgate. But in September 1987, while showing-off my new company car, we took Mum & Dad out for the day up to Anglesey in North Wales to see Vistafjord at anchor off Holyhead. She was on a "Round Britain Cruise" and the ship's tenders were bringing people ashore when I went down to the

Show Picture Full Size jetty wearing my "Vistafjord" cap and spoke nicely to the Security Officer; the outcome was that he gave us all passes to go aboard on the next tender!
We had tea in the Lido Cafe, Mum & Dad were introduced to the ship and as a result, were persuaded to make their first cruise!
(left) The tender out to Vistafjord at anchor and (right) The famous Transit Pass!
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ItineraryShow Map
= ports at anchor
17th September
- fly to Venice &
embark Vistafjord
Sunday-Split, Yugoslavia
Monday-at sea
Wednesday-Canakkale, Turkey
Thursday-Varna, Bulgaria
Friday-Yalta, USSR
Saturday-Odessa, USSR
Sunday-at sea
Monday-Istanbul, Turkey
Wednesday-Piraeus, Greece for Athens
Thursday-at sea
Friday-Valletta, Malta
1st October
-Naples, Italy & fly to UK

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John's photo of Me at Troy, looking suitably intrepid!

This was the time of President Michail Gorbachov and "Perestroika" in the USSR; the country was just opening-up to tourists in a slightly less paranoid way, although we were still to be kept under strict control while we were there; no wandering-off taking photos! Show Picture

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Saturday 17th September
Flight to Venice, Italy
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So a year later and nearly 2 years after our last cruise, we were on the way from Gatwick to Venice again, but this time by Britannia Airways, and at Marco Polo Airport we transferred direct to the Stazione Marittima by boat.

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Piazza San Marco, the Campanile & Doges' Palace
Opposite is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Santa Maria della Salute Gesuati
(Santa Maria del Rosario)

Crossing the lagoon towards the centre of Venice, our route to Vistaford was a mini-sightseeing trip, taking us past Piazza San Marco and then along the Canale della Guidecca before arriving at the Stazione Marittima, where Vistafjord was berthed.

But that was all we saw of Venice this time, as Vistafjord sailed while we were all still unpacking and getting ready for Dinner!

Sunday 18th September
Split, Yugoslavia
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Emperor Diocletian was one of the few Roman Emperors to survive long enough in office to retire and it was here on the Dalmatian coast that he chose to build his retirement Palace. Completed in 305 AD, it became the nucleus of what is now one of the largest towns in the country, at this time of course, still called Yugoslavia.
(left) Vistafjord berths within walking distance of the town at Split, Yogoslavia
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The harbour of Split
The palm-lined southern Palace front
& the Cathedral Bell Tower
Bell Tower

(Built in 1100 AD)
Emperor Diocletian's Palace
(left) The Peristyle Court & (right) As built in 305 AD

Strange as it may seem, one of my souvenirs from Split was a copy of Diocletian's Column a 99 ft high classical column. It was 1/92 scale of course, not full size! However, the real column isn't actually in Split at all but in Alexandria, Egypt (often wrongly referred to as "Pompey's Pillar") and we had seen it when we were there on our last cruise in 1986. Show Picture

Split & Dubrovnik - The break-up of Yugoslavia
Little did we know at this time that within 3 years, this area would erupt into war. The long history of regional and ethnic tensions came to a head in 1991 when Croatia declared independence. Fortunately, Split suffered only very minor damage during the conflict, unlike Dubrovnik, just 100 miles down the coast (see Map >>) but it would still be many years before we would return to this picturesque and rather beautiful area.

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The Ivan Mestrovic Palace
Built 1931-1939
Some of the works of Ivan Mestrovic

Ivan Mestrovic was a prolific Croatian sculptor (1883-1962) who bequeathed his fortune to create the Mestrovic Foundation. His house in Split (built 1931-39), is referred to as his "Palace" and it now houses an extensive gallery of just some of his works.

Open Welcome Dinner Menu While Dad had travelled on the RMS Mauretania to Canada in 1943, for him and Mum, this was their first cruise and tonight was their first Captain's Cocktail Party & Welcome Dinner.
(picture right) Our Group Formal Photo - Andrew, Dad, Me, Mum & John.
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Show Picture Full Size Monday 19th September
A Day at Sea
Today there were more cruising traditions; in the morning, compulsory Lifeboat Drill and then in the afternoon, a visit to the ship's Bridge.
(left) Mum & Dad on the starboard Bridge Wing during their first day at sea on their first cruise

Tuesday 20th September
The Island of Santorini (Thera)
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The following day saw us inside the crater of this volcanic island. The limited number of anchorages are "first come, first served", so today Vistafjord was obliged to drift, occasionally correcting its position while passengers went ashore in the ship's tenders - yet another first for Mum & Dad!

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Arriving at Santorini Vistafjord
from one of the tenders
The Cable-Car
and the harbour of Gialos, 722 ft (220m) below

The zig-zagging ascent from the tiny harbour to the main town of Fira is still traditionally made by donkey but since 1979, a 3 minute scenic ride on the cable-car has been the easier option!

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The town of Fira
perched above the crater
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral & the Catholic Tower of St John the Baptist were both rebuilt following the 1956 earthquake Fira & the crater of Santorini
Vistafjord drifting below

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 cliffs 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.

Santorini again suffered extensive damage most recently in 1956, when a devastating earthquake destroyed many buildings. While a number of churches have subsequently been rebuilt, the limited funds have meant that it has been a long processs and some of them are still not complete.

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In the crater, the lovely Vistafjord (24,492grt) lies in company with
Epirotiki Lines' Pegasus (13,275grt) & Oceanos (14,000grt)
(Ironically, both ships would be lost within 2 weeks of each other in 1991)
Returning to Vistafjord
Fira perches 750 ft above the tiny harbour

Wednesday 21st September
Canakkale, Turkey
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Show Picture Full Size We expected to be calling at Gallipoli on the European side of The Dardanelles but the ship anchored in the narrow strait and we went ashore by various local tenders to Canakkale on the Asian side.
(left & right) Disembarking onto the Turkish tenders
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The Dardanelles (or Gallipoli) Campaign of 1915
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.

The Ruins of Ancient Troy were discovered at Hisarlik in 1865 and were the subject of controversial excavation by the self-taught archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870's. Subsequent excavations up to 1938 revealed a number of layers of ruins dating from the Bronze Age up to Roman times (from 3000 BC up to 1st Century BC) , now referred to as Troy I-IX See Plan >> & See Section >>

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The Walls of Troy VI The hut on top is a bit of a give-away! The Odeon
(The Roman Theatre)
Trojan Me!

The Trojan Wars of Greek Legend are now thought to be associated with Troy VI (about 1500 BC). When Paris, the son of the King of Troy, fell in love with the beautiful Helen, wife of the Greek King Menelaus, the Greeks laid seige to the city of Troy (then known as Ilios) for 10 years. After the deaths of many heroes, including the Greeks Achilles and Ajax, and the Trojans Hector and Paris, the city only fell to the now notorious ruse of the Trojan Horse. Once inside the city, the Greeks slaughtered the Trojans (except for some of the women and children who they kept or sold as slaves) and desecrated the temples, thus earning the wrath of the Gods. Few of the Greeks ever returned safely to their homes and many founded colonies in distant lands.

Show Picture Full Size Once again, Vistafjord spent just a few hours at anchor and by afternoon, we were sailing through the Sea of Marmara. That evening, we crept past the city of Istanbul & through the Bosporus to the Black Sea.
(left) Vistafjord off Canakkale (by John) & (right) The Promenade
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Thursday 22nd September
Varna, Bulgaria
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Next day and we were in Communist Bulgaria, at this time still one of the "satellite states" of the Soviet Union.
(left) Liberation Monument - built by the Soviets to commemorate the Russio-Turkish War of 1877-78

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The Orthodox Cathedral (1886) The Aladja Monastery Local Folkloric Dancing

Today our tour took us all first to the Bulgarian Orthodox Cathedral in the city of Varna and then to the Aladja Rock Monastery, dating from the 12th Century AD and where cells and a small chapel are carved into the cliff face. Our lunch at a nearby resort was accompanied by a colourful presentation of local folk dancing and a taste of the local wine - both of which were "a bit rough"!

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Friday 23rd September
Yalta, USSR
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Even with the recent thawing of the "Cold War", security was still very tight as the Authorities came aboard looking very inhospitable! We were all obliged to surrender our passports before being allowed to go ashore on the only tour available, organised by the State-sponsored tourist board Intourist.
(Left) The romantic "Swallows Nest", a neo-Gothic chateau built in 1912 on top of the 130 ft (40m) Aurora Cliff

That said, our tour was really very good - and impeccably efficient! Visiting first the famous Swallows Nest, the most photographed site in the Crimea, we then visited the Alupka Palace, a neo-Moorish/Scottish baronial style house designed by British architect Edward Blore and built for Count Vorontsov from 1828 to 1846. Winston Churchill was here in 1945 for the Yalta Conference.

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Onion-domed Churches
of the Crimea
Count Vorontsov's Palace at Alupka
Winston Churchill stayed here in 1945 for the Yalta Conference

The Yalta Conference 1945
Held during the closing stages of World War II, this was a conference between Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin to agree on how to govern Germany after the War but it is today widely believed (in the West) to have been a "sell out" in order to obtain the co-operation of Russia, since it paved the way for the creation of the European "Eastern Bloc" and the Cold War that followed.
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Show Picture Full Size The Yalta Conference was held at the Livadia Palace, where Roosevelt's US delegation also stayed. On our tour, we saw the conference room (see right) and were shown various exhibits relating to the signing of documents between the parties in 1945. Show Picture Full Size

This was an all-day tour and lunch was served at the Yalta Hotel, an enormous modern concrete building where we were ushered into huge dining hall and served a meal made up of a number of courses (most of which seemed to have lamb in some form or other!) - somewhat austere but tasty. Lunch was then followed by an impressive stage performance by folk dancers and singers during which we had Cossak dancing, balalaika music and a full Russian Choir. It was really very good!

Show Odessa Map Saturday 24th September
Odessa, USSR

Completed in 1841, the Boulevard Steps were a grand entrance into the city from the sea, made famous in 1925 by Eisenstein's silent film "Battleship Potemkin", a fictional account of the 1905 Uprising in which soldiers are seen to open fire on the people, causing a bloody massacre.

Fictional or not, 50 years later the steps were renamed the Potemkin Stairs.
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The stairs rise 88 ft from the harbour and are 70 ft wide at the bottom and 40 ft wide at the top. However, the design is also a clever optical illusion; made up of 10 flights each of 20 steps, from the top you see only the landings, while from the bottom, you see just the steps! View from the top >>

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Cruise ships in port
CTC Lines "Gruziya" (1975 13,251grt) "Armenia" (1963 5,169grt) & Rivership "Nikolai Dubrolyubov"
Young Pioneers Palace
Another of Count Vorontsov's Palaces from 1830

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Odessa Opera Theatre
The address is 1 Tchaikovsky Street!
In Schevchenko Park at the
Monument to the Unknown Sailor (1960)
School children mount a daily honour-guard

Our tour of Odessa seemed to lack the enthusiasm and focus of yesterday's tour in Yalta. There was hardly anyone about and the city looked rather sad & drab to our eyes.

However, Vistafjord remained in port until quite late today and my regret was that I did not take the organised visit to the Russian Ballet that evening; it was so expensive and neither Mum, Dad, John or Andrew seemed interested anyway. It would be 20 years before Dad & I would correct that mistake in June 2008 with a spectacular visit to the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg!

Monday 26th September
Istanbul, Turkey
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After a relaxing day at sea, at dawn today we re-entered the narrow strait between Europe and Asia-Minor known as The Bosporus and soon made our approach to pass beneath the brand new Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, officially opened just 3 months ago in July 1988.

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The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge (1988)
Main span 3,576 ft (1,090m) Length overall 4,954 ft (1,810m)
Clearance 210 ft (64m) - more than enough!
Castle of Rumelihisari(built in 1452) First Bosporus Bridge
Completed in 1973
Main span 3,524 ft (1,074m)

The Castle of Rumelihisari was built in 1452 by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, before he conquered Constantinople and it was completed in a record time of 4 months and 16 days. We then passed beneath the First Bosporus Bridge before entering the city of Istanbul. Linking Europe to Asia in 1973, it was the 4th longest suspension bridge in the World at the time.

We then spent the morning on a tour, at breakneck pace, of the three main mosques in the city.

Show Picture Full Size Haghia Sophia was the Cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople and the present Basilica dates from 537 AD. It was the largest cathedral in the world until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when it became a mosque until 1934. It is now a museum.

The dome is 182ft high & 102ft wide.
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The Suleymaniye Mosque (see below) was completed in 1558 by Sultan Suleiman The Magnificent as a counterpoint to Haghia Sophia. Over a similarly vaste space, the dome is 174ft high and 87ft wide.

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The Suleymaniye
The Sultan Ahmed
or "Blue" Mosque
(Johns photo)

The dome of the Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed or "Blue" Mosque (above right) was built by Sultan Ahmed I in 1616 and 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 minarets. It is said that the Sultan paid for a 7th minaret to be built at the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to quel his critics; this is doubtful however, although the Sacred Mosque was extended in the 1620's with 3 new minarets.

In the afternoon, we took the local ferry across the Bosporus to Asia, just to say we had done it!

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At the Galata Bridge
The Fish Market
The Golden Horn & the crossing to Asia
(left) Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque
(right) the Bosporus Bridge and Maiden's Tower
Asian Istanbul
Haydarpasa Station

The legend of the Maiden's Tower
According to popular Turkish legend, an oracle prophesied that the beloved daughter of the Sultan would be killed by a venomous snake on her 18th birthday. In an effort to thwart his daughter's early demise, and to keep her away from any snakes, the Sultan had the tower built in the middle of the Bosporus and the Princess was locked in the tower, where she was visited only by her father. On her 18th birthday, the Sultan brought her a basket of exotic fruits to celebrate and upon reaching into the basket, she was bitten by an asp that had been hiding there. She died in her father's arms, just as the oracle had predicted.

The older name of Leander's Tower comes from the ancient Greek myth of Hero and Leander. Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite who lived in a tower at Sestos, at the edge of the Hellespont (Dardanelles). Leander, a young man from Abydos on the other side of the strait, fell in love with her and would swim every night across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp every night to guide his way. However, one stormy night, the wind blew out Hero's light and Leander lost his way, tossed onto the rocks and drowned. Hero threw herself from the tower in grief. The name Maiden's Tower might actually have its origins in this tale, due to the vicinity and similarity between the Dardanelles and the Bosporus.

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Tuesday 27th September
Mykonos, Greece
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It was windy and choppy when we rounded the tip of Mykonos at mid-day and dropped anchor. Everyone was anxious that the crew would be able to lower the boats for us all to go ashore at this beautiful and photogenic island.

In Greek legend, Mykonos was the scene of one of the battles in the 10 year "War of the Titans", in which the new Olympian Gods, led by Zeus, overthrew the Elder Gods, the Titans. The island is named after Mykons, grandson of Apollo. Situated in the centre of the Aegean Sea, it was always an important trading hub but today, Mykonos is a highly popular holiday destination.

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The beautiful "Sea Cloud" seeks an anchorage
Built as a private yacht for
the heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1931
Colourful bars and restaurants
directly fronting the sea

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Quiet Picturesque Streets
plus beautiful beaches and restaurants with a view
The windmills of Mykonos

As Vistafjord wasn't due to sail until 11pm this evening, there was plenty of time to wander and explore the quaint streets of the town and then to relax and enjoy a beautiful Aegean sunset.

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Wednesday 28th September
Piraeus, Greece (for Athens)
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Show Picture In the harbour of Piraeus: Alexander (left) 5,933 grt, began life as Regina Maris in 1966 but was bought by Greek magnate John Latsis in 1983. Converted for private use, she's also hosted British and Saudi royals. Stella Maris II (right) 4000 grt, was built as a German ferry in 1960 but converted to luxury cruising in 1966 for the Greek Sun Line. Show Picture

Although Piraeus is the port of Athens, we visited the city, its Acropolis and the Parthenon when we were here on our last cruise in 1986, so this time we opted for a tour that went in the other direction, towards Corinth. But to get there, we first had to cross the Corinth Canal See Map >>

The Corinth Canal
A narrow isthmus less than 4 miles wide seperates mainland Greece from the Peloponnese Peninsula and various unsuccessful attempts have been throughout history to cut a canal from the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf, potentially reducing the distance from the Adriatic to Athens by 250 miles. Following the success of the Suez Canal in the 1870's, a French company was hired but it had barely started work when it ran out of money and a Greek company eventually completed the work in 1893.

Built from 1881 to 1893, the canal is 6.3 km long (3.9 miles) and its precipitous walls are 63 m high (207 ft) in places. However, as it is only 21m wide (69 ft), the canal is too narrow for modern freighters and it is today used mostly by small cruise ships.

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Crossing the
Corinth Canal
Ancient Corinth
Temple of Apollo
Ancient Corinth
& Acropolis of Acrocorinth
The mountaintop fortress of

The excavations of Ancient Corinth lie just outside the modern city and evidence of settlement has been found to date back many thousands of years; the city-state of Corinth appears in Greek myths surrounding Jason & the Argonauts and the Trojan Wars. However, most of what is visible is from Roman times but 7 Doric columns remain of the Temple of Apollo, built in the 6th century BC.

Above the city stands Acrocorinth the Acropolis, which was heavily fortified during the Byzantine Empire, and later by the Venetians, the Crusaders and the Ottoman Turks.

Greek mythology maintains that when Perseus slew the Medusa and freed Andromeda, he founded the city of Mycenae at the head of the valley of Argos. Much later, it would be King Agamemnon of Mycenae who would lead the Trojan Wars when Paris of Troy eloped with Helen, his brother's wife.

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The Cyclopean Walls of
Ancient Mycenae
Ancient Mycenae
The Lion Gate (c1250 BC)
Royal Grave Circle The Gorge from the Royal Palace

Show Picture Full Size The walls of the surviving Bronze Age city were called "Cyclopean Walls" because they were thought to be the work of the Cyclops, the fabled one-eyed giants, because of the size of the stones. Outside the Acropolis, the Treasury of Atreus was once the tomb of Agamemnon's father, King Atreus.
(left) The entrance to the Treasury of Atreus nr Mycenae also dates from 1250 BC See Inside >>

Show Picture Full Size Travelling back across the Corinth Canal, I managed to snatch another photo, this time with some ships passing below.

In Piraeus, Vistafjord remained in port till late, giving us the opportunity of an evening stroll ashore after dinner.
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Thursday 29th September
A Day at Sea
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Leaving the mythology of ancient Greece behind us, Vistafjord headed south out of the Aegean and then due west across the Mediterranean towards Malta, giving us another glorious day at sea.

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Open Menu >
Vistafjord's spacious
Lido Deck
Open Menu >
Mum & Me
On the Bridge
Towards the sunset Dinner
Open Menu >

Much of any sea day aboard Vistafjord was taken up with eating and Vistafjord's outstanding Breakfast Menu was always so tempting - my favourite weakness was the Lyonnaise Potatoes!

To round-off the day, it was the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party & Formal Dinner. With caviar, lobster and the "Parade of the Baked Alaska", this may have been Mum & Dad's first cruise and all new to them but John, Andrew & I were now beginning to feel like "old hands" at this!

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Friday 30th September
Valletta, Malta
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The last day of the cruise saw us in Grand Harbour, Valletta, one of the most famous harbours in the World, for one of Vistafjord's characterically short visits. But unlike last time we were here in 1986, today we docked on the "right" side of the harbour and there was no need to use the ship's tenders to go into town.
(Left) The Malta Law Courts, Great Siege Square

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St Johns Cathedral
A staggering array of
Baroque Art
Views of Grand Harbour from
Upper Barracca Gardens
The return to

St John's Co-Cathedral was built for the Knights of St John of Jerusalem in 1577 and it houses a staggering array of Baroque art. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit the nearby Grand Master's Palace but we did enjoy the spectacular view of the harbour from the Upper Barracca Gardens before returning to the ship in time for our noon departure. Show Picture Full Size

Show Picture Full Size After lunch, it was packing and relaxing on our last afternoon at sea before our disembarkation the following day.
(left) Our 3rd Rosenthal Souvenir Ashtray! The call at Gelibolu (Gallipoli) was subsequently changed to Canakkale

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Naples, Italy - and back to Gatwick - again!
Disembarking Vistafjord, there was no time for sightseeing before our Britannia Airways flight back to Gatwick - and home!
(far right) Crossing the South Coast of the UK around Dungeness & Hastings
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This had been Mum & Dad's first cruise and while it had taken them a bit of getting used to, what with the movement of the ship and all the dressing-up for dinner, as well as the sometimes overwhelming quantities of food, by the end of it they both had their "sea legs" and had decided they enjoyed the "Cruising Experience". The great shame is that the next cruise they would join us on two years later would turn out to be such a disaster - and my Mum's last.

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 3,553 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 15,877 n miles

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