My travels start with a flight to Los Angeles where I spend the day with my family visiting the Science Centre and the shuttle Endeavour exhibit. Then I join up with my fellow-voyager at LAX to board a flight to Athens. After a brief two day visit to Athens we cruise from the Port of Piraeus through the Aegean, Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean seas, visiting ports in the Greek Islands, Turkey and Croatia before returning to Athens and flying back to Vancouver.
The Verandah Restaurant on deck 2 at the Grand Lobby of the Queen Elizabeth features French cuisine from Cunard's Culinary Ambassador, Jean-Marie Zimmerman. Dining is a la carte but the prices are reasonable for the quality of food and service provided. The ambience is sophisticated and elegant with quietly efficient service.
Once seated and your meal order taken, you are presented with an amuse bouche. When two people are dining, each receives a different amuse bouche.
On cruise day 3 we arrived in Istanbul where the ship was docked overnight. Istanbul, which also has a fascinating history, is a divided city in that part of it lies in Europe, while part is in Asia Minor, separated by the Bosphorus. Istanbul is the largest city in Europe, and as our guide told us, among the world’s most populated city within city limits with an estimated 11 million people. Moreover the actual population is probably even larger than that recorded by census, as many residents return to their home towns for census day and are not counted as residents in Istanbul.
Istanbul was founded by a Greek colonist, Byzas, around 660 BC, and known as Byzantium for nine centuries. Later in 330 AD the Roman Emperor Constantine renamed the city Constantinople. Over the next 16 centuries till modern times it was the capital of four major Empires. These were the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261) and the Ottoman Empire (1453 to 1922). Today though, Ankara and not Istanbul, is the capital of The Republic of Turkey.
On this cruise, I chose to book several excursions as there is so much to see and I was hoping for excellent and knowledgeable guides. However in Lesbos I planned to simply walk around the harbour area of Mytilene and find a taverna to have a lunch of calamari and Greek salad.
Amazingly for this time of year, the weather was again very good- sunny and quite warm. For this dance-camp on board we decided to schedule dance lessons for mid-morning. I was craving the authentic Greek style calamari that I remembered from years past so the plan was to go ashore and find a seafood tavern in the harbor area.
The Queen Elizabeth docked in Mykonos in the new port area, a short drive round the bay from the old port and harbor front area. Shuttle buses were running back and forth between the two areas for most of the day. I signed up for a morning excursion to Delos, a short boat ride from Mykonos.
October 21st Sat: Embark New York on the QM2.
Meet the staff and guests at the 5: 30 PM cocktail party. This group was one of the largest I have encountered on Dancers at Sea – 47 in total with 9 male pros and hosts and two female dance hosts. The male instructors were Robert Cooper, Andre Gosselin and Matthew Gann, and hosts Chris Bookwalter, Jorge Doctolero, Dale Moreth, Richard Conti and two new hosts (new to DAS), Peter and Lior. Amber was the female pro and Carrie the other female host. I knew a few of the guests from previous cruises but not too many.
October 22nd Sunday Newport, Rhode Island (Formal Black and White Ball)
October 23rd Monday, Boston, Massachusetts. In the afternoon I went to see Salmon Fishing in Yemen in the Illuminations Planetarium theatre behind the Royal Court Theatre on deck 2. It's movie that I had wanted to see for ages, and I enjoyed it a lot. I had actually not previously found time to go movie watching on board the QM2. Better than some of the cinemas back home.
Although I have cruised several times on the Queen Mary 2 (and love cruising on this ocean liner) and once on the Queen Victoria, this was my first time on board Cunard's Queen Elizabeth. Once I had checked out my cabin and seen that my luggage was not yet there for me to unpack, I took my camera and went exploring. Very quickly I realized that I liked the smaller, more intimate feel of this ship which has the capacity for 2,092 passengers compared to the maximum passenger capacity of 3090 of her larger sister ship.
The ship is 964 ft long and is the second-biggest Cunard ship, with the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) being the largest at 1132 ft long. Whereas it often takes me till the end of the cruise to figure out where I am on the QM2 (I am a bit directionally and spatially challenged) I felt I could quite quickly figure out my space and directions on the Queen Elizabeth.
On my second day in Athens I woke to another warm and sunny day. Highs were predicted to be around 24ºC. The first task on my mind was to find the local Post Office and buy stamps for the postcards that I planned to mail to my grand-children. I gave them a map of the places that the cruise will take us to and hopefully getting the picture postcards will mean something to my grand-daughter, who has studied the continents and the various countries and their capitals.Today is the day of the big transit strike so I was curious to see what difference this made in the traffic through these narrow streets.
As I exited the hotel ready to walk in the direction of the square where the Post Office was located, the first thing i noticed was about thirty policemen on the opposite side of the road. They were just milling around and it did not look as if anything serious was happening but I wondered.
We finished our Hop On Hop Off Red bus tour of Athens around 5:30 and although it was really early, we were both famished and ready for some good Greek food. The restaurant Kuzina had been recommended to us, and although we passed restaurant after restaurant as we walked along Adrianou Street, we persisted until we found it.
It was still quite warm although late in the afternoon so we chose to sit outside and enjoy watching the passing throngs. Being Friday and the end of the week, people were out in droves, walking and shopping and people watching was fun.
The service was prompt. We decided to start with the obligatory Greek salad. Interestingly this version had arugula and caper leaves with luscious red tomatoes, capers, cucumber, olives and feta cheese. The croutons were of crispy Greek bagel. And the dressing was olive oil.
Following advice on an excellent website for travel in Greece, namely "Matt Barrett's Geek Travel Guide", I made a hotel booking at the Hotel Attalos on Athina Street, about 5 minutes walk from The Plaka area.
The weather in Athens has been unseasonably warm and dry so when I woke with the sun streaming through the hotel window I anticipated a very pleasant day exploring the city. After walking through some of the the narrow streets in the Plaka, and picking up almonds and walnuts from one of the stores, we decided to take a Hop-On Hop-Off Red Bus and tour the city.
The Acropolis was on winter hours and closed at 3, so at the Acropolis stop we got off the bus. For reasons that were unclear, admission was free today. Lucky us!