Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 29, 2010 Post

In This Post:

What’s New With Us: Our Mediterranean Cruise

Vicki and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on May 20th of this year. We thought it would be nice to go some place special. I worked up a great itinerary for visiting a number of western National Parks in our motorhome. Vicki picked up some cruise ship brochures. The ability to compromise is a major ingredient to our lasting marriage. So we booked a 10-day Mediterranean cruise.

The flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia takes almost five hours. The flight from “Philly” to Rome is about nine hours. Based upon our experience of flying coach-class non-stop from Los Angeles to Frankfurt Germany years ago, we chose US Air’s more tolerable and considerably more expensive business-class seats. Everything about the flights went as expected.

We spent a couple of sight-seeing days in Rome before getting on the cruise ship. Vicki’s ability to walk is limited as to duration, intensity and frequency. That eliminated those bus tours of Rome that included quite a bit of walking. So we hired a guide/driver to show us Rome’s highlights in his car. He took us to all the must see tourist spots… the Coliseum, Vatican, Trevi Fountain and so on. Coincidently, our good friends, Sandy MacGregor and Marilyn Abraham also happened to be passing through Rome at the same time. They took us to a very nice Italian restaurant and treated us to a Happy Anniversary dinner. By the way, after seeing the terrible traffic congestion and suicide drivers in Rome( a red light is just a suggestion) , I will never again complain about driving in Los Angeles.

The cruise-ship Equinox, owned by Celebrity Cruise Lines, is not quite one year old. It is over 1,000 feet long, 121 feet wide and, as near as I could figure it, some 17 decks high (the top deck has a quarter acre putting green with real grass). It has accommodations for 2,850 passengers and carries a crew of 1,000. In addition to being huge it is drop-dead gorgeous. Our stateroom was located on the 9th deck and had a private outside veranda with deck chairs and a table. The weather was close to perfect during our entire cruise so Vicki and I enjoyed a number of room-service meals on our veranda. In addition to the formal dining room and casual buffet the ship had a number of specialty restaurants. The food was plentiful and delicious. The service by waiters, cabin attendants and every crew member, was outstanding.

The ship left port about 7:00 pm each evening and arrived at its next destination by 7:00 am the next day. This left the daylight hours to take tours, shop or just hang out and enjoy the ship’s amenities (Vicki treated herself to a massage and a variety of pampering services). We docked in Messina, Sicily, in Ephesus, Turkey, in Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes, Greece, and in Naples Italy. Keeping in mind Vicki’s limitations we booked overview tours of each destination. The tour buses took us as close as possible to the points of interest with a minimum of walking. So we did not wait in line to visit the coliseum, nor did we climb the hill to the acropolis or walk on the rough terrain of the ruins of Ephesus. But we did get close enough to take pictures and we did get an overview of the cities and countryside.

Celebrity Cruise Lines are masters of organization. With over 2800 people getting on and off the ship, going into dining rooms, taking tours and all the other activities.. we never saw a line form anywhere. Crew members were always present to assist and guide passengers. Here is an example of how organized they are:

Our return flight from Rome to Philadelphia was scheduled to leave at 12:00 noon. We had to arrive at the airport by 10:00 am. We dreaded the idea of 2800 people leaving the ship at the same time, the chaos of trying to locate our luggage, and then trying to find empty seats on the proper bus to the airport.

The day before leaving the ship we were given special stickers for our luggage and told to place our luggage outside our stateroom door by 11:00 pm. Our stickers had the number 24 on them. We were also given written instructions that we were in group 24 and to be in one of the ship’s theaters by 7:30 am the next morning. At 7:30 am, group 24 was told to leave the theater, disembark, and go into a warehouse next to the ship. Inside the warehouse we went to the row of luggage under the number 24 marker. Notice I said row, not pile of luggage. After identifying our luggage, a porter loaded it onto the bus with the number 24 in the windshield. Then about 20 of us loaded onto bus 24 and were taken to our airline terminal where our luggage was unloaded from the bus onto personal luggage carts. Porters were available but not necessary to take the luggage into the airline terminal. Until we arrived at the ticket counter at 9:00 am we never waited in a line that morning. Going from the ship to the airport was a care-free experience.

Going home the flights went as expected and without incident; except, of course, going through security and customs in Philadelphia. The lines to both were long and excruciatingly slow.

We had a good time and I told Vicki that I would be happy to take another cruise in another 50 years.

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