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Friday, October 4, 2013

Celebrity Cruise Part 1: The Excursions



The hubby and I didn't have a proper honeymoon yet. The El Nido Resorts? Nah, we have the sister-in-law and bestman with us so we really didn't got to enjoy it that much. We're not saying we didn't enjoy El Nido, per se. El Nido is a wonderful wonderful place and we somehow got a day all to ourselves doing more island hopping tours but we were still a little bit stressed out during that trip. It's hard to go on a honeymoon when you have family members and foreign guests to think about.

Anywho...




It took us a while to finally book our honeymoon cruise because I had to save. Our travel arrangement is, since we both have fairly good jobs, that we always need to split the bill and the hubby takes care of the incidentals. So I had to pay for my share of the cruise package including the excursions, my airfare and my beverage package. I got the Premium non-alcoholic beverage so I could have my soda, smoothies and cappuccino, which I regret doing. I should have just done ala carte (i'll post more about that when I wrote my Celebrity Cruise Part 2: Food and more Food blog). The hubby took care of the dinners/lunches outside the cruise ship and other tours that we didn't book from the Celebrity Cruises. He also took care of the 4 Specialty Restaurant package. 

the sticker indicates that i purchased
a non-alcoholic beverage package

So anyway, for our honeymoon cruise we chose the 12 Night Eastern Mediterranean and Greek Isles Cruise (Aqua Class) from CelebrityCruises.com.

The sail date was September 3 in Civitavecchia port in Rome but we booked a pre-cruise arrangement which is a 2 nights/3 days accommodation in the center of Rome (Empire Palace Hotel) with transportation arrangement from the airport to our hotel then from our hotel to the port where our ship would sail from.

We flew from Newark airport on August 31, and we got lucky to get upgraded from Premium Economy to Business Class (aka Club Class from British Airways), of course the hubby was very thrilled, lol.  Well, I am too, because I got to sleep on that 6-hour long flight to London. Dressing up nicely really pays off sometimes. Then we had a short layover in London then off to Rome we flew. We arrived in Rome on September 1 around noon.



British Airways' Business Class seats



The only hassle we encountered was the long line at the immigration booth, but that's a given. Then we went to the baggage area to retrieve our luggage but to our surprise someone from Celebrity Cruise had already picked up for us, cool! She said she thought we missed our flight because she was waiting for us at the luggage area and no sign of us but when she saw the Celebrity Cruise tags attached to our luggages that's when she knew we are at the airport somewhere already. Boy, was I glad we attached that tag, we were thinking of attaching that not til  the sail date. So people, when you read from your Cruise Guest booklet saying you need to put the luggage tag on your luggage even before you leave home, just do it.

We were actually surprised someone from the cruise was at the airport to greet us. We thought we're on our own since it's a pre-cruise arrangement but apprarently they were there from day 1. There's even someone from the hotel who was doing some of the hotel paperwork for us and  helping us give instructions to the bell hopper in Italian. Just awesome.


our cruise ship



If you're curious how the inside looks like below is the video. Otherwise, you can continue scrolling down to see the list of places the crusise went to and the excursions we joined.





The cities we visited for our 12 night Mediterranean Cruise are below (or you can find the complete IT here):

Day 1 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 5:00 PM
Day 2Naples, Italy Docked 7:00 AM 6:30 PM
Day 3Valletta, Malta Docked 1:00 PM 10:00 PM
Day 4 At Sea
Day 5 Athens (Piraeus), Greece Docked6:00 AM 6:00 PM
Day 6 Mykonos, Greece Tendered 7:00 AM 6:00 PM
Day 7 Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey Docked7:00 AM 6:00 PM
Day 8Rhodes, Greece Docked 9:00 AM 6:00 PM
Day 9 Santorini, Greece Tendered7:00 AM 6:00 PM
Day 10Chania (Souda),Crete, Greece Docked 7:00 AM 3:00 PM
Day 11At Sea
Day 12Venice, Italy Docked9:00 AM
Day 13 Venice, Italy



Celebrity Cruise offers a lot of choices when it comes to excursions that it was really hard to choose but we managed and below are the descriptions of the excursions we chose per port/city. We also did some on our own like while when we were in Rome (we booked the VIP tour of the Colosseum which takes you to forbidden places, we also climbed on top of the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican, more about this on a detailed per city blog)  and while in Santorini and Mykonos. I'll be writing separate posts about each of these places, because they are all amazing and unique. Also so that I could post more photos of each of them and share some trivias, but meanwhile here are the descriptions of the excursions we joined from Celebrity Cruise's or did on our own. The blue texts are from their website.



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Rome (Civitavecchia)
==========================
i've always wanted to take a night shot of the colloseo
finally, i was able to!


The port of departure was Civitavecchia in Rome so we had to fly from Philadelphia to Rome. Like I mentioned earlier, we didn't sail until September 3 but we decided to book some pre-cruise arrangement so we flew to Rome 2 days early.

We pretty much did our own thing when we were in Rome. It was our second time in Rome, the first time was Christmas of 2010 so we kinda know where we want to go and we did discover a few more places. I will elaborate more on this when I finished my Italy for the second time blog.





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Athens (Piraeus)
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The Karyatides statues of the Erechtheion on its Acropolis.

















OVERVIEW: The highlight of this tour is one of the most recognizable monuments in the world, the Acropolis. 

HIGHLIGHTS: Enjoy a panoramic tour past Hadrian's Arch,Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Parliament Building. At the Acropolis and Parthenon, enjoy a guided tour to see the architectural masterpieces of the Golden Age of Greece. NOTES: Guests must be able to walk approximately 1.5 miles over steep inclines, approximately 200 steps and uneven surfaces. At the end of the tour, there will be an optional drop-off at Melina Mercouri Statue in Athens for independent shopping and guests will make their own way back to the ship.

Overview:
Experience a guided tour of Greece's largest and most impressive site, the Acropolis, to see the architectural masterpieces of the Golden Age of Greece.


being the geek that we are, we made sure we see the
the antikythera mechanism with our own eyes, which is said to be the first computer
(2000 year old computer at that) and  that is rumored to be one of archimedes' invention



Highlights:
-Acropolis and Parthenon: Enjoy a guided tour of Greece's largest and most impressive temple
-Panoramic tour past the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian's Arch, National Gardens, National Library and Parliament Building, and Panathinion Stadium
-Optional drop-off in Constitution Square for shopping (return to ship is at your own expense)

Full Description:
Begin your half-day tour with a drive from the pier in Piraeus to Athens city center. Piraeus is the ancient name of the harbor created in the early 5th century BC.

Today it is the main port for the Greek capital city, Athens. Approximately five million cruise ship and ferry passengers pass through the busy port annually.

Driving through the suburbs along Syngrou Avenue, you will see some of the most famous sites including the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest Corinthian style templein Greece, taking over 700 years to build. Hadrian's Arch separates the old and new Roman towns. Other sites include the National Gardens, the National Library and the Parliament Building, formerly the Royal Palace. The Panathinion Stadium, built in 1895, was the site of the first modern Olympics held in 1896.

The tour highlight is a visit of the Acropolis to see the architectural masterpieces of the Golden Age of Greece, all built in the latter part of the 5th century BC.Climb the winding pathway and approximately 100 steps that lead to the top of the famous hill. See the Propylea Entrance, the Erectheum, the Temple of Wingless

Victory, and, the crowning glory of Athens, the incomparable Parthenon. Dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens, it is Greece's largest and most impressive temple. Time permitting; guests will have approximately 15 minutes for souvenir shopping in the shops below the Acropolis.

At the conclusion of the guided tour, you may remain on the coach for the return to the port or exit the tour at Melina Mercouri Statue, for shopping or independent exploration, and return to the ship independently (at your own expense).


We wander around Plaka market and went to the Archeological Museum of Athens to see the antikythera mechanism on our own








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Real Crete
Chania (Souda)
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aptera
OVERVIEW: Enjoy a cultural tour that includes the extensive ruins of the ancient city of Aptera as well as the villages of Georgioupolis and Gavalochori. 

HIGHLIGHTS:
Start your tour with a short photo stop at the ancient ruins of Aptera. Enjoy a short guided tour of Georgioupolis and some free time in the traditional Cretan village of Gavalochori. You'll have some free time to explore Chania Town before returning to the ship.NOTES: Guests must be able to walk approximately 1 mile over various surfaces and cobblestone streets with inclines a few steps. If guests should miss the return bus, transportation back to the vessel is their own responsibility & expense.


Cretan village of Gavalochori

Overview:
Enjoy a cultural tour that includes the extensive ruins of the ancient city of Aptera as well as the villages of Georgioupolis and Gavalochori.

Highlights:
-Aptera: Photo stop at the ancient ruins
-Georgioupolis: Enjoy a short guided tour and some free time
-Gavalochori: Free time in the traditional Cretan village
-Chania Town: Free time to explore before returning to the ship

Full Description:
Your tour begins with a photo stop at the extensive ruins of the ancient city of Aptera which can be found above the entrance to the great harbor of Souda, where the town of Paleokastro stands today.  According to tradition, the name Aptera is derived from the Apteron King of Crete who is said to have lived in the time of Moses, around 1800 BC.

Your tour continues to the village of Georgioupolis where you’ll enjoy a short guided tour and some free time to explore.  The village was founded in a grove of green trees at the mouth of the Almyros River. Georgioupolis has a small port which is used by the local fishermen. You will also visit Gavalochori, another very old, traditional Cretan village which has an interesting history. The population is around 350 but the number swells during the summer months.

You will have the opportunity explore in Chania Town at your own pace before you return to the port.

What to Bring:
-You should always take your SeaPass card (provided onboard ship) and photo identification when in port
-You will need Euros and/or credit cards for any purchases (foreign currencies are not accepted).
-Camera

What to Wear:
-Hats, sunscreen and other forms of sun protection are highly recommended.
-Comfortable walking shoes are also recommended.

Important Notes:
-Guests must be able to walk approximately 1 mile over various surfaces and cobblestone streets with inclines a few steps.
-If guests should miss the return bus, transportation back to the vessel is their own responsibility and at their own expense.
-The return drive from Gavalochori to Souda Port is approximately 45 minutes, dependent upon traffic conditions.
-The shopping hours and closure dates should be reviewed in the introduction section of Chania, Greece.





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Ephesian Modus Vivandi KD28 
Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
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library of celsius at ephesus, turkey
 OVERVIEW: This tour offers a complete perspective about the Ancient City of Ephesus and the Roman way of living.

HIGHLIGHTS: In Ephesus, see the Magnesia Gate, Odeon,Fountain of Trajan, Temple of Hadrian, Library of Celsius, Grand Theater, and the Arcadian Way. Explore the Terrace Houses known as "the houses of rich" and visit St.

John's Basilica. Enjoy a Roman feast for lunch as well as a carpet presentation and time to shop.NOTES: Guests must be able to walk approx. 1.5 miles and and this touris not recommended for guests with walking difficulties or using a wheelchair. Guests must walk across scaffolding with Plexiglas flooring at the Terrace Houses


Overview:
This tour offers you a complete perspective about the Ancient City of Ephesus and the Roman way of living.  You’ll also enjoy a Roman feast for lunch and a carpet demonstration on the history of Roman carpets and handicrafts.

Highlights:
-Ruins of Ephesus: See the Magnesia Gate, Odeon, the Fountain of Trajan, Temple of Hadrian, and the Library of Celsius, Grand Theater, and the Arcadian Way.
-Terrace Houses: See the houses of the rich dating back to the 1st century BC
-Ephesus Archaeological Museum: See the 9 exhibits tracing the religious and chronological history of the ancient city.
-Lunch: Enjoy a Roman feast featuring food which pertains to the golden ages of Ephesus.
-Enjoy a brief carpet presentation and time to shop.





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Ancient Delos MK01 
Mykonos, Greece
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charming little corridors of outside
OVERVIEW: The importance of Greece's once religious center of the entire Aegean Sea is sure to form a lasting impression as you experience a guided walking tour of the ancient Delos. Arrive on this uninhabited island by boat to explore the significant archeological ruins and enjoy the unforgettable views of the Cyclades archipelago.HIGHLIGHTS: Visit Delos and the scenic Cyclades archipelago by boat and on a guided walking tour. See the Temple of Apollo and the dried lake with the palm tree among its most renowned sites.NOTES: Guests must be able to walk and stand for approximately 2 hours over varying terrain. No shops or stores are available on Delos Island



Overview:
The importance of Greece's once religious center of the entire Aegean Sea is sure to form a lasting impression as you experience a guided walking tour of the ancient

Delos. Arrive on this uninhabited island by boat to explore the significant archeological ruins and enjoy the unforgettable views of the Cyclades archipelago.

Highlights:
- Delos: Visit this important archeological site and former religious center of the Aegean Sea
- Scenic boat ride: Enjoy an approximately 30 minute ride from Mykonos to Delos Island and back


the naxian lions terrace of delos


Full Description:
The small, uninhabited island of Delos was once the religious center of the Aegean Sea. According to mythology, Delos was the birthplace of Apollo, the god of sun, light, music, harmony, and beauty. According to revelations of 19th century excavations, Delos prospered for centuries due to its strategic position within the trade routes of the Aegean. Today, its archaeological ruins stand as one of the most important historical sites in Greece.

After joining the tour at your ship, depart from the pier by bus to the shuttle station where your guide will lead you on a 10 minute walk to the Mykonos port. A local boat will be waiting to take you on the 30 minute ride to the west side of Delos Island, which leads directly to the entrance of the archaeological site. Enjoy a guided walk into the heart of the sanctuary where you will see the Temple of Apollo, monuments famous for their history and architectural styles, the famous dried lake with the palm tree. After a short rest stop, continue towards the terrace of the foreign gods. Pause for a moment with your camera for an unforgettable view of the archipelago. Pass through the theater and walk into the famous Hellenistic mansions of Delos with their superb mosaics decorating the floors and walls.


windmills of mykonos

Following your tour in Delos, your boat will be waiting to return you to the harbor in Mykonos. At the conclusion of your scenic Aegean boat ride, your guide will lead you to the shuttle station where you will return by bus to the ship.

What to Bring:
-You should always take your SeaPass card (provided onboard the ship) and photo identification when in port
-Camera

What to Wear:
-Flat-soled, comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended.
-During summer, hats and other forms of sun protection are highly recommended.
-Umbrellas and jackets are recommended when visiting from the end of September.

Important Notes:
-Guests must be able to walk and stand for approximately 2 hours over varying terrain.
-Participants will be required to walk approximately 10 minutes from the town shuttle station to the pier (or vice versa) to board the ferry bound to/from Delos since the greater portion of Mykonos is in a pedestrian-only zone.
- No shops or stores are available on Delos Island; however in Mykonos town, you will find plenty of shops, stores, tavernas, restaurants, and boutiques. Kindly note after that mid-October, many shops in town are closed.
-Due to adverse weather and sea conditions during the month of November, the Delos tour may be cancelled if weather conditions are unfavorable.




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Capri, Sorrento & Pompeii NP02 
Naples, Italy
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the signature rocks of capri
OVERVIEW: See the highlights of Italy's southern gateway - from an ancient city's ruins to a breathtaking coastal town and an idyllic resort isle.

HIGHLIGHTS: Take a boat to Capri to shop and explore. Visit Sorrento for lunch at a typical restaurant and finally it's on to explore the ancient ruins of Pompeii, an archaeological wonder preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. 

NOTES: There is extensive walking involved over cobblestones and uneven ground in Pompeii (1.5 miles) and approximately 1 mile of walking over cobblestone surfaces in Capri. Guests will be on their feet up to 90 minutes at any given time. Pompeii and the funicular in Capri are not wheelchair accessible.

Activity Type: Sightseeing
Activity Level: Strenuous


Overview:
See the highlights of Italy’s southern gateway - from an ancient city’s ruins to a breathtaking coastal town and an idyllic resort isle. Departing from Naples, you’ll take a boat to Capri for shopping or a stop at the Gardens of Augustus. You’ll visit Sorrento for lunch at a typical restaurant and finally it’s on to explore the ancient ruins of Pompeii.


quaint town of sorrento

Highlights:
- Capri Town: Take a 50 minute boat trip and then the funicular ride up to town for exploration and shopping
- Sorrento: Stroll through one of the most beautiful towns in Italy
- Pompeii: Explore an archaeological wonder preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius
- Lunch with a flute of Italian champagne and house wine will be served at a typical restaurant or hotel.

Full Description:
Stroll to the jetfoil terminal and take a 50 minute ride to Capri. From the dock at Marina Grande, you will ride the funicular up the terrace to Capri Town. The view overlooks the marina and the Sorrento Peninsular. Capri has become very commercial in recent years, but you will enjoy visiting La Piazzetta, the heart of the shopping and nightclub area. You can wander through the narrow streets and explore the shops and sights. Time permitting; visit the beautiful Augustus Gardens, overlooking the famous Faraglioni of Capri and Marina Piccola. You’ll then return to the marina by funicular and travel by boat back to the mainland.


pompeii ruins and mt. vesuvius in the background


Driving south, the next stop is the fabled town of Sorrento. Legend states it was the Sirens of Sorrento who attempted to lure Ulysses onto the rocks. Lunch will be served at a typical restaurant or hotel, with a flute of Italian champagne and house wine. After lunch, board your coach for the one hour drive to Pompeii.

This ancient Roman town sits at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. The archaeological site is considered to be the world's finest example of what life was like in a Roman town. In 79 AD, the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii under 20 feet of ash and pumice stone, destroying, yet preserving the entire city. During the walking tour of the ruins, admire the mansions and art of wealthy patricians who moved to Pompeii to escape the turmoil of Rome. View countless paintings, inscriptions and streets with raised pavements on either side. At intersections, you’ll see stepping-stones which ensured pedestrians a safe crossing. This prosperous Roman city had an extensive forum, lavish baths, temples, and villas richly decorated with frescoes. Excavations have revealed details of everyday life such as wine jars, still setting on the counter of the wine shop.


its really  kinda eerie looking at these around the pompeii ruins


Time permitting; a stop will be made at a cameo factory, where you will learn about the delicate art of cameo carving and have an opportunity to purchase some of the handicrafts.




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Journey To Lindos RH05 
Rhodes, Greece
==========================

acropolis at lindos, greece
 Travel just 1 hour from Rhodes to the ruins of a once-power ancient city. Your guide will lead the climb up to the Acropolis, the temple that offers commanding views of the coastline and of the bay where the Apostle St. Paul is said to have taken shelter from a storm. Includes free time in the town.

NOTES: The village of Lindos is pedestrian-only; you will be required to walk 1 mile over even and cobblestone surfaces built on an incline.
Activity Type: Sightseeing
Activity Level: Strenuous

Overview:
This tour covers one of the highlights of this region, the Acropolis with views of the bay where the apostle Paul is said to have landed, and the once powerful ancient city of Lindos.

Highlights:
Scenic drive: Relax on a ride through picturesque Rhodes with commentary
Lindos: Enjoy panoramic views from the Acropolis and a guided walking tour of the town of Lindos

Full Description:
Your tour will begin with a scenic drive past the walls of Old Rhodes and through the modern city. Continuing your journey southward along the coast, you will observe picturesque villages, orange and lemon groves, vineyards, and gnarled old olive trees. The once powerful ancient city of Lindos is located on the island’s eastern shoreline, 47 kilometers from the city of Rhodes. The 4th century BC Doric Temple of Athena Linda, a double-winged portico, a Byzantine church and the fortifications of the Knights, including the remains of the Governor's quarters, dominate the Acropolis. Once you've climbed to the top of the Acropolis, enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding coast, including St. Paul's Bay where the apostle is said to have landed.


coast of lindos, greece
Below the Acropolis, you will see the old, whitewashed houses and the narrow streets of this most delightful town. Its beauty has inspired artists and writers for many years. Follow your guide on a walk to the town of Lindos where you will find many little shops selling the most attractive souvenirs, such as small ceramic items or beautiful crocheted linen. At the conclusion of your time in Lindos, return to the pier in Rhodes via the same picturesque route.

What to Bring:
-You should always take your SeaPass card (provided onboard the ship) and photo identification when in port
-Camera
- You will need Euros and/or credit cards for any purchases (foreign currencies are not accepted).

What to Wear:
- Comfortable walking shoes, hat and plenty of sunscreen are recommended.


acropolis
Important Notes:
- The village of Lindos is pedestrian-only; you will be required to walk 1 mile over even and cobblestone surfaces built on an incline.
-To reach the Lindos Acropolis, you must climb 292 steps.
-You may be required to wait in long lines to enter some of the popular sites. Guests with any physical restrictions are kindly requested to take this into consideration.
-Tour buses park in the upper level parking lot. Kindly note that the walk downhill and return uphill is approximately 300 yards. During high season, a small bus makes round trip transfers for guests with limited mobility.
-The drive to/from Rhodes is approximately 1 hour each way, dependent upon traffic conditions.
-Time permitting you will have a short stop at a ceramic factory on the way back from Lindos.




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Island of Santorini & Village of Oia SO01 
Santorini, Greece
==========================

oia, santorini by yours truly
Discover classic landscapes and architecture on a half-day tour to the northernmost point of the island. Clifftop Oia charms with its brilliant, white stone buildings and churches, unique shops, and dramatic vistas. On the return, stop at a winery for a tasting. You may opt to remain Fira after the tour for independent exploration.

NOTES: Guests must be able to walk approximately 1 mile over uneven surfaces, steep inclines and 20 - 30 steps.
Activity Type: Sightseeing, Culinary
Activity Level: Moderate


Overview:
Enjoy this opportunity to stroll through the beautiful village of Oia with its brilliant white stone buildings, panoramic vistas and charming stores and art galleries.

You’ll also have a chance to taste Greek mezes and locally produced wine.

Highlights:
-Oia: Stroll through this beautiful village with its white stone buildings that create a maze of ships, cafes and churches
-Winery visit: Taste locally produced wine and Greek mezes, see the bodega where wine is aged


Full Description:
Begin your half day adventure with a short tender ride from the ship to the port of Athinios, where your coach will begin its ascent 800 feet to the top of the caldera. Your guide will provide commentary on the active volcanic islet in Santorini Bay and discuss the geological upheavals which gave the island its overwhelming and unique form.  Ride past picturesque scenery and small villages from the southern to the northern ends of the island of Santorini, travelling across rich, volcanic countryside to the village of Oia.

fira, santorini - this we did on our own

The beautiful village of Oia is perched atop a craggy cliff at the northernmost point of the island offering panoramic views of steep plummeting cliffs and small islands surrounded by the deep blue sea. While walking through the village, enjoy the panoramic views, admire the Cycladic architecture for which the town is well known, and visit many of the art galleries. Experience the charm of this traditional and remote village on its narrow, twisting cobblestone alleyways and steps, along with the brilliant white stone buildings that create a maze of fine shops, cafes and domed churches.

After visiting Oia, continue to a local winery to taste Greek mezes and wine while enjoying the magnificent views. Visit the bodega where the wine is aged and purchase some of the locally produced wines if you wish.

Following your wine tasting, your tour proceeds to the hilltop village of Fira, where your escort will lead you past Mitropolis church to the pedestrian zone where you'll have the option to return directly to the ship or remain in town for shopping or independent exploration. The charm of this lovely cliff-top village lies in its narrow, twisting cobblestone paths that cater to pedestrians only. From Fira, receive a ticket and join the cable car independently for descent to the tender port below. Return by tender to the ship which will be anchored offshore.

What to Bring:
-You should always take your SeaPass card (provided onboard the ship) and photo identification when in port
-Camera
- You will need Euros and/or credit cards for purchases (foreign currencies are not accepted).

What to Wear:
-Comfortable walking shoes
-Hat and plenty of sunscreen are recommended.

Important Notes:
- Guests must be able to walk approximately 1 mile over uneven surfaces, steep inclines and 20 - 30 steps. - Guests must be able to walk 0.5 mile in Fira on their own in order to reach the cable car.
-At the end of the tour, there is a distance of uphill walking of approximately 150 yards to Mitropolis church.
- A one way cable car ticket to transfer from Fira to the tender loading station is included in the return portion of your trip. Waiting and queuing time are expected to enter the cable car station.
- Due to occasional low level fog, visibility may be impacted.
- Please note that in October and November some stores in Fira are closed.

Additional: We just did a half day tour and after which we kinda stayed around Fira for the rest of the afternoon before going back to our ship. More on this on my Santorini blog.





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Mdina & Historic Valletta VT01 
Valletta, Malta
==========================

i am so inlove with mdina, malta


Explore Malta's historic splendors of Malta in two walled cities. The former capital of Mdina, in the middle of the island, is a medieval town whose heritages dates to the ancient Phoenicians. In Valletta, see landmarks such as the Upper Barracca Gardens, St. John's Co-Cathedral and the Magisterial Palace. 

NOTES: Guests must be able to walk approx. 1 mile over even and cobblestone surfaces in each city. Guests will have to navigate approx. 40 steps at the cathedral and palace. In order to enter the cathedral, respectful attire which covers shoulders and knees.
Activity Type: Sightseeing
Activity Level: Strenuous

this narrow medieval streets of mdina, malta makes
you feel like you went back in time



Overview:
Visit the ancient walled cities of Mdina and Valletta as you step back into the time of the Knights of Malta.

Highlights:
-Enjoy a walking tour of the city of Mdina with its palazzi, bastions and churches including the Old Cathedral (exterior view)
-Tour the walled city of Valletta including the Upper Barracca Gardens, St. John's Co-Cathedral and the Magisterial Palace

Full Description:
Leave the harbor front and travel through the beautiful island on your way to the city of Mdina, one of the few remaining fortified medieval cities in the Mediterranean. You'll be escorted on foot through this former capital which has played a key role in the island's history for more than 1,500 years. You’ll see the impressive palazzi and churches. You’ll stroll to the bastions and admire the stunning view of the surrounding countryside. You’ll also have the opportunity to admire from the outside the 9th century Old Cathedral with its imposing facade. Time permitting; you will have approximately 30 minutes for shopping and browsing in Mdina.

one of the closed windows of mdina, malta


Rejoin your coach for the drive back to Valletta. You'll proceed on foot with your guide to visit the main sites of the city. You'll stop at Valletta's Upper Barracca Gardens for a panoramic view of the island's natural harbor. From this vantage point, you'll also see the fortified cities of Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa. A visit is made to St. John's Co-Cathedral. Together with its striking interior, the church also contains Malta's finest art treasures. In the oratory of the cathedral, you’ll see Caravaggio's famous 1608 painting; “The Beheading of St. John”. With their headstones lining the church floor, today the cathedral is the final resting place for many of the Knights of Malta. Your tour continues on to the Magisterial Palace, the former residence of the Grand Masters of the Order. You'll visit the Tapestry

Chamber and the State Rooms, displaying period furnishings and artwork.

What to Bring:
-You should always take your SeaPass card (provided onboard ship) and photo identification when in port

What to Wear:
-Comfortable walking shoes are strongly recommended.
-Hats and other forms of sun protection are highly recommended.
-In order to enter the cathedral, respectful attire which covers shoulders and knees should be worn.

Important Notes:
-In Valletta, guests must be able to walk approximately 1 mile over even and cobblestone surfaces. Guests will have to navigate approximately 40 steps at the Cathedral and Palace. Mdina requires approximately 1 mile of walking over cobblestone streets.
-No vehicles are allowed in Mdina; therefore, this is a guided walking tour.
-Occasionally St. John’s Co-Cathedral  may be closed due to religious functions.
-If the Magisterial Palace is closed due to official functions, the Palace Armory or National Museum of Archaeology will be substituted.
-To avoid congestion at the venues, tour order may vary.





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Murano Glass & Burano Lace VE08 

Venice, Italy
 ==========================


Burano
Get away from the crowds of the main sights in Venice and tour the lagoon by boat. Cruise north to the enchanting island of Murano, where you can watch artisans engaged in the timeless art of glass blowing. You'll also visit Burano, a series of four tiny islands connected by bridges, that are famous for its lace makers and brightly painted homes. 

NOTES: This excursion is not recommended to guests with limited mobility or wheelchairs. This excursion involves moderate walking (1 mile) over cobblestone surfaces with several steps (160) inside the glass factory on Murano Island and during the walk on Burano Island.
Activity Type: Sightseeing
Activity Level: Moderate


Overview:
Murano
Escape the frantic pace of Venice with a tour to two of the Venetian Lagoon’s most enchanting islands, Murano and Burano, and experience the timeless arts of glass blowing and lace making.

Highlights:
- Panoramic cruise: Pass the northern Venetian Lagoon via private motorboat
- Murano Island: Glassblowing demonstration and shopping at a local glass factory
- Burano Island: Stroll and shopping opportunity

Full description:
Your tour begins with a visit to a traditional Italian glass factory on the island of Murano, home to a centuries-old tradition of glass making. Once an exclusive product of Venice, glass production moved to Murano in 1291 when furnaces were banned from the city for fire prevention. The artisans have developed a unique style and world-famous reputation for producing blown glass. Your guide will lead you to one of the factories where you will have the opportunity to observe the Maestri at work during a glass blowing demonstration. At the conclusion of the demonstration, there will be an opportunity to browse the enticing display rooms where items may also be purchased.

You will then proceed by boat to Burano Island, and step ashore for a visit to this charming island, well known for lace making, fishing, and boat building. While describing the island, your guide will lead you on a stroll through the narrow streets cheerfully decorated with brightly painted houses. At the conclusion of your
tour, you will have the opportunity to purchase lace as you pass the vendors lining the path near Piazza Galuppi,

What to Bring:
-You should take your Seas Pass card (provided onboard the ship) and photo identification when in port
-Camera and local currency (Euros).
-Sun protection and sunglasses during summer season.

What to Wear:
-Flat-soled comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
-During summer, hats and other forms of sun protection are highly recommended.

Important Notes:
-This excursion is not recommended to guests with limited mobility or wheelchairs.
-Guests will be required to embark and disembark a vessel that sits low in the water.
-This excursion involves moderate walking (1 mile) over cobblestone surfaces with several steps (160) inside the glass factory on Murano Island and during the walk on

Burano Island.
-Restroom facilities are located inside the glass factory in Murano. No toilets are available inside the motorboats.
-The order of the sites visited may vary.


We also did Venice on our own. Since it was our second time in Venice we kinda know our way around and didn't have to book a tour and toured around on our own. Again, I'll elaborate more on my Italy for the Second time blog.

this is the kind of traffic jam that i would not mind

Then it was time to pack.

My verdict? As a first time cruiser I thought it was really fun but tiring as well. We were always tired when we come back to our cabin. The next time we do another cruise we'll make sure we won't overdo the excursions and just book an excursion that's just 4 hours long (maximum) and moderate not strenuous, so that we'll have enough time to rest during port days. Overall, it was still a wonderful cruise. I'll do it again in an instant.



note: all photos are by yours truly, please do not use without permission

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

on pilates





i've always been a fan of mat pilates even back home...when i moved here there were limited gyms that offers pilates and the schedule always sucks...
i've been eyeing on a handful of pilates studio in my area but they're pricey so i decided to hold that off for a bit....but then 3 months ago i bit the bullet and enrolled at im=x..... not only that, i took it a notch higher and enrolled in reformer pilates...

how was it? i like it...it's more fun than mat pilates... the thing is, i usually lose interest after a month but this one i didn't and i'm now on my 3rd month and just finished my 30th session!



this is how it looks like:



#pweraUsog