Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
I returned to the cabin to drop off my goods and picked up my laptop to try and catch up on some of my journal entries. I went to the Stratosphere lounge and found a comfy place to sit and type. I worked for a bit then chatted briefly with Linda who will be on our Naples tour. Later, a gentleman from Fort Worth struck up a conversation with me when he found out that the passports were no longer being handed out. I chatted for a while with the inebriated gentleman who then moved on to Guest Services to get his passports. I caught up quite a bit and then at about 2:15, went back to the cabin to pick Seth up for our food/wine tasting in the restaurant.
Our sommelier last night mentioned the food/wine tasting at 2:30 in the restaurant and signed us up. It was $10 per person. We were seated at a table for 8 with 4 wine glasses set up in front of us. There was also a plate with small samples of chicken, basil pesto chicken, 2 types of chocolate, lemon, salt, parmesan cheese, olives, and sundried tomatoes.
After the food and wine tasting, we went to the Cova Café for pastries and ran into Wade who invited us to his cabin at 5 for a pre-Captain’s table party. We talked briefly and I mentioned to him that we went to see David Fisher, the violinist, last night and I thought he was extremely talented. We then went to the grill and I had a hot dog and French fries for lunch.
As we were heading upstairs to Wade and Charlie’s cabin, one of our tablemates from the food and wine tasting event mentioned that the sommelier had picked up my camera that I had left on the table. I thanked him and went downstairs to guest services but they had not received my camera yet. I went back up to deck 12 and spoke with the man from the wine/food tasting who described which sommelier had picked up my camera. I was a little worried but went on ahead to Wade and Charlie’s cabin. When I got there, Peter and Joyce were already there as well as Shiyan and Jazzlin whom we had met the other day at brunch. They all wished me a happy birthday and admitted that our pre-dinner get together was actually a birthday celebration. Wade and Charlie had gotten me a wall hanging with a caduceus on it. I was so touched that they went to such troubles for my birthday. Seth had even ordered me a peach dacquiri that I had commented earlier to him that I would be ordering for cocktails that night. I sat out on their veranda talking with Charlie and Peter when Wade came back in to tell me that a special guest had arrived. When I went back in to their suite, there stood David Fisher – the awesome violinist that we had seen performing the night before. He played happy birthday for me on his violin – twice. I was so shocked, surprised, and blown away that I immediately teared up and missed the first time that he played happy birthday. He stuck around and chatted with us for a while and even gave me his address, phone number, email address, cell number, and websites after I wondered aloud how awesome it would be if he was a guest artist with the Enid symphony. Mr Fisher was very nice and friendly and I just loved listening to his British accent. Wade said that he was in the internet center sending an email when he saw Mr Fisher sitting behind him on the computer. He invited him to drop by which is exactly what he did. I was thrilled and shocked at how special my birthday had been made.
We returned to our cabin to get ready for dinner but I did stop by the dining room and spoke with the sommelier and then the Cellar Master who had turned my camera in to guest services. I went back down to guest services one more time and this time my camera was there. I was so relieved.
We got ready for our dinner at the Captain’s table and after stopping by guest services to change our departure time (0630 instead of 0700), met everyone at Michael’s piano bar running into Steven and Elaine and we let them know that we wouldn’t be having dinner with them this evening. Soon we were joined by Joyce and Peter who said that Wade was not feeling well having probable sun exhaustion. We were so disappointed that they would missing our special dinner together. We ordered drinks – this time I ordered a glass of Asti when Daniela – the Captain’s Club coordinator invited us back to the reserved section of Michael’s.
We sipped on our drinks which were all compliments of the Captain and were offered hors d’oeuvres. We soon moved into the dining room and had an absolutely wonderful evening. I had the shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, and the lobster tail.
We packed our things to go ashore and had breakfast at the Oasis café where I avoided anything with milk or cream in it. After breakfast, we headed to the Celebrity Theater to pick up our tender tickets and, as last time, there was no wait and we immediately headed down to the deck 3 to exit the ship and board the tender. The tenders for this port were larger than the ones in Mykonos.
Once we arrived in Skala, we turned right and headed towards the donkey trail having already decided that we would climb the 600+ steps to the town of Fira. We walked by the donkeys who were all huddled together and we carefully spent the next 20 minutes or so sidestepping donkey puddles and piles as we made our way up the steps.
We headed towards Megalochori to the South of Fira stopping first at the Santos Winery along the way. The setting was breathtaking and after a few tour buses left, we approached the winery staff about sampling wine but, not being a part of a tour, we were told it would cost 1 Euro per tasting. We paid our 2 Euros and tried their table red and their Vinsanto (sweet) wines. The table red was ok – nothing to write home about but we both liked the Vinsanto and picked up a few small bottles of Vinsanto shaped like the island, a bottle of liqueur made from cinnamon and cloves, and some olive oil soap.
We got back to the ship, dumped our stuff in our cabin, and then ran down to the Tastings Café to pick up a few snacks – I especially like their little chocolate meringue cookies. The pastries disappear at 5 pm every afternoon, though, so we just slipped in under the wire and snagged a few pastries. The crew member tending the pastries asked us if we had ridden the donkeys and it dawned on us that we must still have “Eau de Donkey” despite carefully wiping our shoes on the floor mat before getting back on the ship. When we returned to the cabin, I kicked my shoes off out on the veranda to let them “air out”. We really did enjoy walking up and down the donkey path and can now add it to our list of “brags” for this cruise although most everyone that we know would not have been caught dead doing that. I had a brilliant idea later for marketing a new item at the foot of those donkey steps: rubberized, disposable, slip-on shoe covers. What a hit those would be.
The shower I took had to be one that I looked most forward to on the entire cruise. I swear I caught a whiff of “Eau de Donkey” for most of the day that we were in Santorini. We met Wade, Charlie, Peter, and Joyce again outside the Cova Café for cocktails at 6 pm and shared stories and compared notes. I had another Flirtini. Charlie had slept in today and didn’t make it out to Santorini while Wade explored it on his own taking the cable cars to the top. Peter and Joyce had taken a Celebrity tour. When they left to go to early seating dinner, Seth and I went to look at the specials in the Galaxy shops and then went to the Celebrity Theater for Peter Fisher billed as a British virtuoso violinist at 7:15. Seth was a little reluctant to go but I insisted.
At 7:10, there were still fewer than a half dozen couples in the theater but the seats filled in pretty nicely in the last 5 minutes or so. I’ve never heard of Peter Fisher before but he really was fantastic. He played Paganini, Sarasate, Meditation from Thais, and even did The Devil Goes Down to Georgia as well as some jazz. For an encore, he played Oh Danny Boy which was just wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed his music and couldn’t help but wonder why he was playing on a cruise ship which seems almost beneath any classically trained violinist but I was glad to know that Celebrity really did provide high quality entertainment and not just cheesy lounge acts.
We decided to skip bingo tonight and wandered around for a little while looking in the art gallery, considered doing some gambling in the casino but then reconsidered, and found a place in the lounge to sit and people watch. At 8:50, we headed to the Orion restaurant for dinner and were soon joined by Steven and Elaine. We hadn’t eaten dinner at our table in 3 days and our sommelier, Oana, did give us a bit of a hard time in good humor. We ordered another bottle of wine at Oana’s encouragement – she even offered to let us use our other Captain’s Club wine coupon for $5 off without ordering another bottle. I just had to promise to bring the coupon with me to dinner tomorrow.
I’d been feeling much better since swearing off milk and dairy products the night before last. I got the tuna tartar, declined the avocado soup (cream based) and opted for the beef consommé instead, had the spring leaves with fried potatoes and onion, then the veal marsala which came highly recommended by Alexander who was particularly chatty tonight. I had to skip the bananas foster and got the chocolate meringue instead which was very sweet but very good. We chatted with Steven and Elaine again resuming our comparison of US vs England and shared with them our triumphant lunch the other day in Mykonos where we ran off without leaving a tip remembering our conversation about the tipping practices (or lack thereof) in England. We all got a good chuckle out of that. At 10:45, we said good night to our table mates and called it a night. When we arrived back in our cabin, an invitation was sitting on our bed for the Captain’s table tomorrow night. Joyce had somehow arranged for the 6 of us to have dinner on our last formal night at the captain’s table.
We met Wade, Charlie, Steve, Marcy, Stan, and Claire on deck 6 and headed down to deck 3 to exit the ship (we were docked today). We made our way to the terminal and once we exited the terminal, we easily saw our Ekol tour guide, Inan, holding a sign with my name on it.
He led us to another mini-bus – this one a bit smaller than the one we had in Athens but still very comfortable.
We also had a driver for our tour so that Inan spoke to us with a microphone and also guided us through the various sites. Inan had graduated from college with a major in archaeology and art history so he really knew his stuff. Our first stop this morning, he explained, would be the House of the Virgin Mary so that we could avoid some crowds in this small site.
Inan described the history of Turkey referring to us frequently as “Dear Guests”, and pointed out various interesting sites on our way to the House of Virgin Mary. There were few buses in the parking lot when we arrived and the weather was still cool. Inan pointed out the baptism pool as we made our way to the house walking past a post office and the souvenir stands. There was a religious ceremony being conducted as we walked by. Photos were allowed outside but once within the house, guests were asked to remain silent and no photography was allowed.
There was a short line into the house and we silently filed in and out of the house then lit candles outside.
We were shown in to the showroom and were allowed to browse around a bit after a brief lesson by one of the staff who showed us the “silk leather” line which was incredibly, buttery soft and strong as well. Apparently, the leather making process has not added a new part that renders the jackets waterproof. If I hadn’t just bought a leather jacket in Toronto this past spring, I may have considered buying a new jacket.
At this point, we were driven back to the port terminal where we paid Inan and posed together for a group photo. The group split up and went our separate ways with Seth and I heading to the Grand Bazaar just down and across the street from the terminal.