While most of our time on this cruise has been spent exploring the islands, the ship does offer all the amenities.  Last night we had a brandy and listened to some classical music to end the evening.



Day 5 Crete (Heraklion)

Crete is the largest island that we will be visiting, and is the largest of the Greek islands. The ship was able to be dock side with the assistance of a pilot boat and a tug boat.



A model of the Knossos palace 

We were up and onto a tour first thing in the morning.  Our tour was of Knossos Palace and the Archaeological Museum.  The Knossos Palace has mostly been reconstructed based on what archaeologists in the 1930’s thought the buildings would look like.  Our guide said that there was much discussion about whether to leave what was intact or to add the reconstruction.  It is an enormous palace and to have guessed what went where seems a bit presumptuous.  Wouldn’t it be interesting for someone to come back through time and say that it is all wrong!  I’ll guess we will never know.


The museum holds many of the actual artifacts.  With being on a tour it was a bit of a whirl wind and really deserved a much longer look.  It was interesting that the Minoan peoples art was very fine and detailed.  When the Mycenaean’s conquered them the art work went backwards, much more primitive.  The first set of photos are Minoan, the next are from the later Mycenaean period.



We found another beautiful church in the public square.

Again on this island I was a mark for street hustlers. I’ve gotten good at using my elbows and saying NO. But this time was harder. As we left the church shown above, a little boy of about 5 years walked beside me “hungry, money please mama”. It broke my heart not to acknowledge him but I knew that if I had stopped the adults would swarm. It was a Saturday and this child should have been playing T-Ball not begging. I blew up the photo of the church and found his family looking for marks. The little boy is the one in the red striped shirt.

We did some walking along the harbour before going back on board. The fishing boats are very colourful, a few we wondered about their sea worthiness

Day 6 Kusadasi, Turkey

Our last place to visit was not an island. Turkey is 95% in Asia and 5% in Europe. Of all our stops this one had me a little worried as Turkey is bordered by Syria, Iran and Iraq. When we came through the port authority building there were guards with machine guns. Boarded on our tour bus were two armed guards, in 2016 there was a coup attempt in Turkey and the cruise ships are only now returning. I took a deep breath and away we went to the city ruins of famous Ephesus. Our tour guide was Turkish and spent time talking about the politics between Greece and Turkey. I have found Greek and Turkish men to have a powerful presence and sense a potential for violence simmering just under the surface. This sense was particularly strong in Turkey.

Seeing Ephesus was worth my nervousness. The history is the oldest here, it is named the birth place of civilization.

The symbol of medicine originated here, this the oldest one we will ever see.

The game backgammon was invented during this time, here is a backgammon a game board on stone. Turks and Greeks say they are the best players.

The city library behind us. Only 8% of the people would have been able to read, so this huge building for a privileged few.

Toilets were a public activity. The water from the baths ran under the seats. The privileged got the seats at the top and the poor got the last of seats at the bottom as the water would be very stinky by the time it reached the bottom. The seats are made of marble, the most important people had slaves that would sit on the seat first to warm the marble for them.

This is where the term “bench warmers” came from 🙂

More of Ephesus

Peter and I walked on the same path as Cleopatra and Marc Antony are know to have strolled.


Our tour ended with a Turkish carpet making demonstration.  The demonstration was fascinating, it was on how the silk is spun from the cocoons and then woven for a carpet on looms.  This was a cooperative where people apprentice and then get their own loom which they will have at their home and do the work there.

After the demonstration, the real show began, we were all served wine or raki (Turkish equivalent of Ouzo).  Carpet after carpet were rolled out by the sales men, it was hard sell time then.  The smallest of the carpets that you would hang on a wall were $4,000 euro.  The most expensive large floor carpet was $30,000 euro.  I could not imagine a carpet like that on the floor with our dogs!  There were some  purchases made by our fellow travelers.

This being our last day on the ship it was time to repack our bags, regroup and be ready for the next adventure.  On to Italy.

Greece Aegean Sea Cruise

Our cruise ship, the Celestyal Crystal

The Crystal is small as cruise ships go. I think we have about 600 passengers and 400 crew.  We have a suite and we both are enjoying the smaller size of this ship.  There is lots to offer, restaurants, theater, casino, spa, pool. The welcome fruit tray and champagne on ice was a nice touch!


I was quite surprised by how serious the safety drill was taken, this was not just a wander down to your muster station but a full drill, with sirens, everyone in their life jackets with the Captain and first mate coming to all the muster stations to inspect.



Day 1  Mykonos Island

img_2689We booked a tour of Mykonos Island.  This is the first Cruise and tours of the season so there were a few logistics to sort out but we just went with the flow.  I was glad for a hoodie and wind breaker as it was bloody cold with a strong wind.  The tour was a great way to see a lot of the Island.  It is small, taking the bus only 20 minutes to  cross from one side to the other.

Most of the Mykonos people have given up their traditional lively hoods such as farming and have turned to tourism.  But we did get to see a cheese making operation that has been making cheese for generations.  No chemicals or preservative here, we were able to try the 100% pure yogurt and one of the soft cheeses.  Their milk comes from cows, goats and sheep depending on the type of cheese they are making.  The yellow roadside flowers you see here grow like our daisy’s and dandelions all over Mykonos.

Here are a few shots of the countryside as we drove across the Island. There are no fences, the fields are divided by low rock walls.

We visited the Monastary of  Panagia Tourliani  established in 1542,(originally know as the presentation of the Virgin Mary).  This is a Greek Orthodox Church attached to the monastary.

You know where the people spent their money just look inside this church.  The back iconostasis (alter screen) is made of wood, covered in gold leaf built in Florence in 1775 and moved to Mykonos.

I especially was drawn to the simpler lower wall panels that are very old wood painted with designs.



Our next stop was to see the famous windmills of Mykonos, they were used to grind flour for bread.  Today they are not used but maintained as monuments.  It was very windy, they definitely chose thier location well for windmills!

Mykonos is most know for it’s beaches and night life, we stopped at one of the beaches and while it was beautiful, we have our Vancouver Island beaches like Long Beach so weren’t as wowed as many of our tour group. The kids had a great time with the waves.  As far as night life goes, that’s way past my bedtime.

A treat for west coast gardener’s eyes was the bougainvillea blooming on many entrance ways.  Average winter temperatures for these islands is between 8 and 12 degrees so they get an early start.

The streets are winding and very narrow, this we learned was for protection. Invaders and pirates would get lost in the maze of streets allowing the people to escape.  The buildings are rounded because of the high winds that blow through, rounding the corners stops the whistling of the wind.

Day 2 Milos

The cruise ship does not dock in Milos, rather it anchors off shore and people are ferried to the dock by “tender” which is the name for the ships life boats.  I always wondered what it would be like to be in a life boat and this was a much safer way to try it out than in a real emergency.

Peter and I loved Milos, it has only recently started to become a tourist island and is far more natural and culturally intact.  Our tour was focused on how the geology of the island has impacted it’s history.  Our guide was a young man of Milos who clearly loved his island and was passionate about the tour’s topic.  He really was excellent. One of the hi lights of this tour was a walk to an inlet of pure white stone sculpted by volcanic eruptions called Sarakinio.  It looks like a moonscape against the turquoise Aegean Sea.


One of the sea caves that pirates would use to hide in.

Another place that we went was the ancient ruins of Melos and its Roman amphitheater with seats cut into the rock slope. At one time it could accommodate 10,000 people.  This location is also the place that the Venus de Milo (now residing in the Louvre in Paris) was discovered in 1820.  The country side was stunning, we have been told that we are very fortunate to see so many flowers as this is most unusual and is due to the record rainfall they have had this spring.

The village of Plaka is 250 meters above the sea with original architecture and incredible views of the sea.

Milos is a place that I could see us coming back to for a longer holiday.  Hopefully it can maintain its essence despite the approach of heavy tourism, time will tell.  Our guide told us that while the children of Milos must leave  the island for high school and higher education, they always return.  There is work and they love their island and way of life.  There are no movie theaters, or shopping malls.  In the winter the people enjoy live plays, concerts and community time in the squares.  There is some hunting and sport fishing.  If they want a change they have a weekend in Athens or do some travelling.  Such a different life from ours. The olive trees on the islands always stay within the family. When a son is born his father plants a small grove of olive trees and they remain his for life.  So a family plot of land will have olive trees that belong to the son, the father, the grandfather and on and on.

A small grove of olive trees
I came across these stone fresco’s in the courtyards. They are so pretty that I didn’t want to walk on them but I suppose millions of people have. Some are very old and some newer.Some final shots of charming Milos.
Days 3 & 4 Santorini

Getting off the ship to go to Santorini is again with a small boat.  In Santorini the boat union has the job so no life boats this time.  Santorini is of course very beautiful and iconic.  It is also very commercialized for tourism.  Prices are hugely inflated and there are lots of “rubber tomahawk” shops as Peter calls them.  We did find some interesting little local shops and enjoyed seeing where the rich and famous stay on holidays.

The island gets no rain from June to September in yet. the island produces large amounts of grapes for their wine production.  We saw plots of grapes everywhere.  The secret we discovered is how they grow the grapes.  In the fall at pruning time the vines are woven into what looks like a basket low to the ground.  In the spring/summer the leaves grow up and over the woven basket forming an umbrella for the grapes.  This protects them from the sun, heat and dust.  They are totally dependent on humidity and dew for water and this system gives the plants the most use of the moisture available.

Our second day at Santorini was very windy, crew that had been working here for over ten years had not seen it like this.  Our trip to the island on the small boat was an adventure on it’s own!  The boat rocked a rolled all the way to dock side, crew were very careful to help everyone on and off as you had to time it just right – boat to ramp mid wave.

Yesterday we had begun the day delivered to the new harbor that has a road wide enough for the tour buses, then took the tram down to the old harbor to go back to the ship.

Today we would start at the old harbor and could take the tram up, ride a donkey up the steps or walk.  We had decided to walk the 587 steps up to the village.  My family that like to do the stairs at home for exercise you will be impressed with us!  We took the stairs down at the end of the day too.

Santorini was fun and interesting and a Check off on the old bucket list but we are finding some of the other islands more to our liking.  So glad to have been here.)


osprey bag

Exploring Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Milos and Kadasis (Turkey)

We are heading out in the morning for the first leg of our journey.  Going to Greece has been a dream for more years than I care to admit.  I have no connection to this country but it has drawn me to it for some reason.  Perhaps that reason will become clear in the coming days.

We will fly out of our home town Airport of Comox at 6 am,  Vancouver to Toronto to Athens.  When we arrive in Athens it will be the middle of the night for us and 9 in the morning Athen’s time.  Our plan is to get checked into our hotel, settle and freshen up.  Then head out for as much of the day as we can manage before sleeping, with the hope of resetting our internal clock.  I am one who can’t sleep on a plane but needs sleep, so will be a challenging day.

After a very long travel day we did finally arrive in Athens and we were grateful for have arranging ahead to have a taxi pick up at the airport.  I have a lot to say about flying and how the airlines squash as many humans as possible into a plane, but that will wait.  I’ll focus on the trip..

Day 1 in Athens.

Our driver was the epitome of what people coming off a long travel would appreciate.  He had bottles of cold water waiting for us, chatted in clear english about the area as we passed through.  The drive was about 40 minutes to our hotel. The streets of downtown Athens are a site to behold, so narrow and crammed with cars, buses, motorcycles, and scooters.  They all manage to drive together.  The cars are allowed in the faster outside lane on alternating days dependent on if their licence plate ends in a odd or even number, and only full licenced vehicles are even allowed to drive on these streets.  There was alot of honking but no crashes and I realized that the honking was not in anger like at home but is a form of communication.  I have no desire to drive on these streets myself, we’ll leave the driving to the professionals.  Fortunately we can walk to anywhere we want to go.

Our hotel is part of the original central core of Athens, the buildings are from the 1800’s. We have yet to try this elevator but will do it before we leave.


From our balcony from any direction we have very old buildings, some are under renovation and some look to be left to crumble.

We got out and explored in the afternoon, I expected the greek ruins to be a destination to get to but as we walked to an area of restaurants they are just there.  They are a part of the city which makes sense but surprized me just the same.

This was our view sitting at the outside restaurant that we chose in the afternoon.  Tzatziki with bread drizzeled with olive oil, yum.


In the evening we headed out to find some dinner and got drenched in a heavy down pour accompanied by a lightening storm.  This is uncommon for April in Greece, they have had alot of rain and blame it on global warming.  We ducked into a greek traverna and enjoyed a shared platter of kebobs and house red wine, I am in love with greek wine!  Under $5 for a 1/2 litre of wine and so delicious. My mother would approve of the little glasses that don’t tip over.

My first impression of the greek way of life is the different pace.


The restaurants do nothing in a hurry and you are made welcome to stay as long as you like.  In the afternoon at the first restaurant, we indicated that we were ready for our bill, we waited, and waited. The owner who finally came to take our money arrived with a drink of Krasomelo (wine with honey and amerreto) and a dessert square for us “on the house”. My first lesson in just slowing  down and enjoy. The greek men appear to be the face of the restaurants but I expect there is a greek woman in the kitchen making the magic happen.


Day 2 in Athens

This morning we went to the National Archaeological Museum, a 20 minute walk from our hotel.  We spent 5 hours here.  The displays are so well done, many rooms that move you through the ages, all the displays have write ups in greek and english.  I was drawn to the sculptures, reliefs and pottery.  Peter loved it all especially the artifacts of tools and weapons.


The court yard of the museum has this beautiful garden with very old olive tree, it was a pleasant spot for a cappuccino break midway through our tour

There is a dark under current of unrest in Athens, when we arrived at the museum in the morning we saw a bus load of riot police setting up on the street in front of the museum.  The police were in full riot gear including those riot shields you see on TV.  We carried on into the museum. When we came out in the afternoon they were there still. As we passed by on the side walk we saw police setting up to block the side street by the museum, there was a group coming towards them.  I don’t know what the outcome was as Peter hustled us out of there, no photo’s to share as I didn’t want to lose my phone to the police.

The other thing that shows the unrest of the people is the unfortunate graffiti and tagging that is on almost every building in the Athens city centre. I read that this has been going on since the eighties, much of the graffiti is political some not. The only buildings that appear to escape the spray can are the churches.

There is a visible homeless population which I did not photograph out of respect for human dignity. I also experienced the street hustlers which there are a lot of. My first experience went like this. I had been warned before we came here that if someone in the street gives you an item – if you take it, it is yours and you must pay. As we walked in a busy restaurant area a woman came towards me and wanted to hand me a rose, Peter saying quietly to me, don’t take it. I said no but she pressed it into my hand, if I hadn’t held it, it would have fallen to the ground and being a good Canadian I didn’t want her rose to be ruined so grabbed it to hand back to her, she wouldn’t take it and shoved a rose behind my ear as well. By this time there was a swarm of people moving in on me, Peter gave the woman a handful of change and got me the heck out of there. I was totally out of my element but learned a streetwise lesson, and two lovely roses!


Day 3 in Athens

We had saved our tour of the Acropolis till today in hopes of better weather. We were not disappointed as we had a warm, sunny day. The walk up to the ruins took us through beautiful ancient streets. The orange trees give off a heavenly scent in the morning.

The Acropolis, it was a hike up the hill but so worth it!

The Roman amphitheater, music concerts are still held here.
The Dionysus amphitheater
  1. The Acropolis was awe inspiring, photos only give you so much. The immense size and artistry will not be forgotten.

The Acropolis is being restored piece by piece. Each piece of marble is identified with coded number. They use computer hologram programs to find out what pieces go together, a giant LEGO puzzle.

As we made our way back down the hill there were vendors and music starting up in the wide marble walkways, we enjoyed as  we made our way to the brand new Acropolis Museum.  The new buildings in this area of Athens including the Museum built right over the village ruins.  The museum is in the process of restoring part of these ruins and have put in glass sidewalks that go right over the restoration areas so that you can see the work being done, very cool.

On the way home the pretty narrow streets had filled with tourists and vendors and yes.. more street hustlers.  We had learned that most of them are Romanian and Sumalian refugees, desperate to get money.  I must have “Mark” written all over me as this time I have at least 5 different people coming at me at different points in our walk.  But, I was ready this time, no eye contact and walked right through them, which goes against my nature but in Athens you have to be tough!

I have to share photos of one of the many bakery’s that we came across.  With Easter coming up, they had the most amazing chocolate Easter eggs for sale. We rewarded ourselves for our walking day with a treat.

This is our last day in Athens, tomorrow we embark on our cruise of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.