Today we arrived in Naples at 7:00am after our “sea day” and were up very early for the 10 hour onshore tour of Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii. This was really the 1st time in over 22 days that we faced a bit of rain.
Isle of Capri
Off the ship at 7:30am and onto the hydro-foil for a 1 hour trip to Capri. Then up the funicular to the main part of the island for a walking tour. At the top of the funicular was a piece of amazing street art by the artist Seo Young Deok – a woman made from bicycle chains welded together, absolutely stunning. The scenery is spectacular from the top and the stroll through the town was fantastic. Back at the marina the peculiar taxis’ caught our eye – small cars turned into min-limo’s with roller-blind type roofs.
Back onto the ferry and off to the town of Sorrento. Here we had lunch at La Lanterna restaurant for a taste of traditional Italian food. Then down the road for a demonstration of wood inlaying at A.Gargiulo & Jannuzzi, who have been in business since 1852.
One of the downsides of an organised tour you more than likely will stop-off at some commercial facility on the way. This trip took us to the Cellini Cameo Factory for a demonstration on making cameo broaches (from sea shells). You naturally have to travel through the sales area to view the demonstration.
Ruins of Pompeii
Leaving Sorrento by bus we headed for the archeological site of Pompeii. Pompeii was a pretty special place to visit. Our fantastic tour guide really spelt out what occurred when Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year 79AD. This cataclysmic event buried the entire town instantly killing all of it’s residents, basically where they sat or slept. Click here to read more.
We were presented with another fantastic sunset as we left Naples bound for our final destination of Rome.
A “sea day” is where the distance between 2 ports is too far to reach it over-night so the passengers pass the day playing cards, lazing by the pool etc or spending some time updating their travel blogs (like me) – cost is US$24.99 per day for Wi-Fi access!
The big highlight today was passing the island of Stromboli with it’s active volcano. Stromboli is a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea (maplink), off the north coast of Sicily, containing one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. The island’s population is about 500. The volcano has erupted many times and is constantly active with minor eruptions, often visible from many points on the island and from the surrounding sea, giving rise to the island’s nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”.
The last reported eruption was in August 2019 following another in the previous month. Now it’s smoking a lot with the occasional spurt of lava but upon checking my photos (below) I found the lava is still running down the side of the mountain into the water.
My brother in-law, Andrew< and I spent well over an hour waiting to capture “that shot” of the volcano spewing forth lava. Even one of the chefs was there (hope someone was cooking the food) and our drink waiter, Allen, was concerned that we were missing “happy hour”. Here are the results…
This is a ABC news video found on YouTube of the eruption in August 2019…
Arriving in Valletta (capital of Malta) is even more spectacular when you do it via the sea. The walled city was established in the 1500s on a peninsula by the Knights of St. John, a Roman Catholic order. We had no pre-booked tours so opted to the favourite option of the “hop-on hop-off” bus.
First stop was the town of Mosta where we visited the Rotunda of Mosta (church) where a WWII 200kg German bombed crashed through the massive dome landing on the floor in front 300 people, attending morning mass, who were left unharmed as the bomb didn’t detonate.
The next stop on our travels was the walled city of Mdina, which served as the island’s capital from antiquity to the medieval period. We took a stroll through the beautiful streets having lunch in the scenic Fontanella Restaurant on top of the city walls.
The old city of Valletta
We took a stroll through the streets of the old town prior to re-boarding our ship. This was a tremendous thing to do as it really showcased how old the city really is with a fair bit of decay in some of the buildings, but a lot of rejuvenation happening at the same time.
Canons go bang
At 4:00pm each day they perform a ceremonial canon blast from the fort in the harbour. Check it out…
Our ship sailed at 11:00pm which gave us a final look at this brilliant city under lights.
Arriving into the port of Catania on the island of Sicily, we had a pre-booked tour to visit the Mount Etna volcano. The tour guide we had would have to be the best so-far; he had all of us in stitches of laughter from the outset and his knowledge of Mt Etna and the history of Sicily was brilliant. The visit concluded with some locally made Canollis.
Our great guide
Our great guide
F.A.B. on Mt Etna Sicily
Yummm - Local Cannolis
Following our visit to the volcano we finished the tour with a visit to the GIVAL jewellery factory, with every man exiting the bus in fear of his wallet being emptied.
We arrived back to the ship just as it was getting dark after travelling trough a massive thunderstorm which also included hail. The lighting show continued after we got back on board and I managed to capture some shots from our balcony…
The island of Corfu was one of the bucket list items on my list. The day started out with our ship pulling into port along with 4 other large cruise liners, which would lead to approximately 16,000 cruise passengers hitting this small island along with other tourists arriving by other means. Considering the staggering numbers we faced we actually enjoyed our time here.
We jumped onto the “hop-on hop-off” bus (took 45 minutes to get on) as we had no pre-booked tours. These buses are a great way to get a quick look at a town. 1st hop-off was at the Kanoni Cafe which has stunning views over Kanoni & Mouse Island and the airport below.
Next stop-off was the Old Fortress, originally built in the 6th century AD and has had many modifications made since then. One inclusion was the the little church of St. George, built in 1840 by English (the one in the photos looking like the pantheon). The views from various points around the port are simply stunning. You can even see a “dint” in one of the walls caused by a cannon ball at some stage.
Back to the ship after a fairly exhaustive day walking around the town of Corfu on our 1 day visit.
The town of Korčula (pronounced Kor-shoo-lar) on the island of the same name (was a very short stop-over). We had pre-booked a tour of a winery in the hills with an expected time to take in the town after but due to the tight timetable all we did was bus it to the winery (a small building in a country town) have a couple of sips of wine then back on the bus and onto the ship. A very disappointing visit to what appeared to be another lovely location.
At least the sunset sail-away did not disappoint with some great photo opportunities…
We arrived into the town of Koperwith no tours booked and just decided to take in the sites of the town. A very fortunate decision as it turned out to be the annual food festival in the city called Sweet Istria (Sladka Istra) with local traders and farmers exhibiting their goods. Pre-purchased coupons allowed us to sample many of the beautiful goods available.
After a day of food sampling and checking out the town we meandered back to the ship for yet another beautiful sunset sail-away as we headed toward our next destination.
So many people have said to us “oh you’re going to Split – you will love it!” and they were absolutely correct. The day began as we docked with a breathtaking sunrise over the coastline. Split is a pretty typical ancient town with fortresses built on hilltops etc.
It was a shame that we only had one day here. We booked into a tour of Krka National Park with it’s numerous cascading water falls. Wow, what an amazing place, which was backed up by the enormous number of visitors (and this is supposed to be “shoulder season”). Totally recommend a visit as there are so many cascades, thousands of fish and very pristine. We also took a look at the watermill where they used to do their washing in the olden days.
A nice video taken by Merrisa of the waterfalls in Krka NP…
Kotor is a fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, in a bay near the limestone cliffs of Mt. Lovćen. Characterized by winding streets and squares, its medieval old town has several Romanesque churches, including Kotor Cathedral.
Arriving early into the port of Kotor we had to use tenders from the ship then board our tour coach for the trip up to the village of Kopito via the Kota Serpintine Road (maplink) which is rated as one of the most dangerous hairpin roads in the world. The most famous part of the road is a stretch of 8.3km long, pretty steep, with 25 hairpin turns. Along this section, the road starts at an elevation of 458m above the sea level, and ends at 881m. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 423 meters.
Lunch in Kopito was had at Restoran Santa Montagnawith a serving of locally produced foods along with a refreshing Nikšićko beer. As we were leaving we discovered this beautiful insect feasting on flowers – check out the photos below.
After lunch we travelled back to Kota via the tourist mecca of Budva (maplink), known for sandy beaches and nightlife. In Kota we strolled through the old walled part of the town taking in magnificent views of the forts on the mountain above as well as beautiful cathedrals.
Back to the ship via tender (check out photo of the guy driving the tender LOL) and the ship sailed away into the sunset which concluded a fantastic day in this beautiful location. On the way we passed the famous islands of Our Lady of the Rocks and Saint George.
We arrived in Dubrovnik to an overcast morning and a weather forecast of 100% possibility of rain. Thank goodness it ended up no rain but sunny.
Dubrovnik is where a lot of the Game of Thrones series was filmed and we headed out to a “game of Thrones” theme tour. Our tour guide carried a book which she used to associate locations we visited with scenes from the series.
The gardens which are contained in the Trsteno Arboretum is filming set in the Tyrell’s High Garden in Kings Landing was done (along with a lot of CGI enhancements). They are truly beautiful.
Dubrovnik Old Town
The old town section of Dubrovnik is where a lot of the Game of Thrones locations were filmed; such as the where Cersei Lannister walked naked down the street of shame, the Red Keep and the battle of Blackwater Bay etc
Cable Car of Dubrovnik
We rounded out our day with a trip on the cable car to the summit above the old town. The view is absolutely stunning and worth the 25 Euro. We then returned to the ship which finally sailed for our next port at 11:30pm that night; we were fast asleep after a very exhausting day chasing dragons.
We sailed out of Dubrovnik with yet another amazing sunset
Salerno was to be our stepping off point to the Isle of Capri and Amalfi Coast but the weather had turned bad and our tour was cancelled due to rough seas. We also heard later in the day that a landslide had closed the Amalfi Coast rode as well.
Therefore we were left to our own devices and took a stroll through the city visiting the beautiful St.Matthew Cathedral (also called Duomo) built in 1084 AD. Yet another spectacular cathedral to check out.
Then it was back to the ship via a lovely small park for drinks on the rear deck (as per normal) to prepare for the last leg of our cruise back to the port of Rome (Civitavecchia)
Today was what is known as a sea day with no port reached today between Santorini and Salerno.
Being “2 star” Holland America “mariners” we were invited to lunch with the captain. This was a lovely occasion and we got to listen to some facts about cruising with Holland America (our cruise line).
The Koningsdam dining room
The Koningsdam dining room
The Koningsdam dining room
The Koningsdam dining room
We filled in the afternoon with a game called Shuffleboard on the deck of the Koningsdam. Girls v Boys and the girls triumphed 2-0. We also had a go at the outdoor gym (think that was the only time anyone did so.
We woke just after daylight to find ourselves sitting off the coast of the island of Santorini.
Wow! This was not what we expected to see, with these massive cliff faces crowned by what we first thought was snow but on closer inspection we discovered were actually white buildings. We were sitting off the town of Thira. Santorini is actually situated on the rim of a very old volcano which is said to have erupted in 1646 BC.
This has to be one of the bucket list items that needs to be ticked off on a visit to the Mediterranean. It is a very majestic and spectacular location. We visited both the town of Thira and Oia (pronounced ee-aa).
Here is a great video of the Santorini Funicular taken by Merrisa…
The mouth of Mandraki Harbour, adorned by statues of a male and female deer (Elafos and Elafina) symbols of the island – standing on columns which were built by the Italians to symbolize the actual deer they brought to Rhodes to rid the island of snakes.
The above deer are also reported to be where the The Colossus of Rhodes statue was located (one of the ancient 7 wonders of the world)
Our ship pulled into Mykonos and anchored offshore. We then were tendered into shore. We had no organised tour here and just strolled around the town, taking in the sights.
The city is very “white” and totally packed with tourists but we managed to take most of it in. The streets are narrow and the shops are many; Merrisa loved it. It is amusing watching the motorbikes and small trucks navigate these streets winding in and out of the tourists.
We loved the windmills and even got to pay 5€ for a picture with a donkey.
We arrived in the port of Kuşadasi (only stop we had in Turkey) just as the sun was rising on what promised to be another day of adventure. First to visit the house where the Virgin Mary once lived, then to the historical site of Ephesus followed by silk rug weaving in the town.
The Port of Kuşadasi
It was a glorious entry to this port, as the sun rose over the hills behind the town. Kuşadasi is a beach resort town on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. Kusadasi has a typical Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The city is bathed in sunshine for 300 days of the year.
Sunrise arrival at Kuşadasi
Virgin Mary’s House
The belief that the Virgin Mary had spent her last days in the vicinity of Ephesus and that she had died there, focused attention on a nun named Anna Katherina Emmerich who had livid in the late 18th century (1774-1820). The efforts to find the house were greatly influenced by her detailed description of the Virgin Mary’s coming to Ephesus, her life and her last home there and the characteristics of the city although she had never been to Ephesus. (read more on Wikipedia). Outside of the house there is a wall where people ties prayer messages. It is totally full of small paper prayers.
Inside Mother Mary's House
The Ruins of Ephesus
The ancient Greek city of Ephesus was famous for its Temple of Artemis (near present-day Selçuk), which was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After a messy period of conquest and reconquest and after the population was moved from Selçuk to the the present site, Ephesus became a Roman city in 133 BC. The restoration of this historical site is expected to take at least another 50 years! It was a massive site and worth the visit.
The tour of Kuşadasi we took also took us to a shop where the owner presented us with a talk on the ancient art of silk rug making which apparently started in this area centuries ago. He told us that his business was now the only one who still produces silk woven rugs. An average size rug (1.2m x 2.4m) would take approximately 28 days to complete. We spoke to another person who attended a similar presentation in another store who heard the same tale (LOL).
Silk worm pods soaking
Silk worm pods soaking
Extracting the silk threads
Creating the silk
Looms of silk thread
Fine art of weaving
Fine art of weaving
How they weave
Silk rugs available to buy
Silk rugs available to buy
Silk rugs available to buy
Blue silk rug - Kudasi
Blue silk rug
Leaving Kuşadasi we were treated to beautiful views of the town and then a glorious sunset
Before our Acropolis tour even began we were witness to a collision between an tourist in a rental car and a massive bus in the carpark of the Acropolis site.
Our guided walking tour then began as we climbed the 80 steep steps through the Propylaea, the monumental gateway to the Acropolis, which extends 150 feet across its western side. From here, the views of the city of Athens below were incredible.
Beyond the Propylaea, on the highest point of the Acropolis stands the Parthenon, one of the greatest monuments of ancient civilization. Dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena, the white Pentelic marble temple was built 446 – 437 B.C.
The Erectheum is situated on the most sacred site of the Acropolis, where Athena and Poseidon are said to have held a contest to decide who would be Patron of the city. Here were the graceful Porch of the Caryatids, which features replica columns of marble maidens supporting the roof of the temple. The originals can be seen at the Acropolis Museum.
Part of the Acropolis tour also took in the Agora, which was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states (maplink). The literal meaning of the word is “gathering place” or “assembly”. The Agora was the centre of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life in the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens is the best-known example.
The central building we visited at the Agora was a museum containing multiple artifacts from ages ago.
We finished off the tour at a lovely restaurant by the name of Chocolat where they served up a small feast of many Greek dishes. It was yum.
Our ship docked at 8:00am and there was a mad rush for everyone to get off to begin their shore excursions. The ship’s crew handled this with ease. Very soon we were all on our respective buses and into the mayhem of the Athens traffic.
That evening we were treated to a display of traditional Greek dancing on the Koningsdam’s main stage. Fantastic energy and colour displayed by the troupe was incredible and the audience totally loved it.
Our 1st port of call was the Greek town of Katakolo; is a seaside town in the municipality of Pyrgos in western Elis, Greece. It is situated on a headland overlooking the Ionian Sea and separating the Gulf of Kyparissia from the rest of the Ionian.
Our 1st “shore excursion” for the cruise saw us visiting the ancient Olympia Archaeological Site. Although just a chaotic heap of ruins today, the site is truly impressive.
Olympia was the place where the first ancient Olympic Games took place. These games were held to honor god Zeus and included a series of athletic competitions with representatives of all the Greek city-states. In fact, it was a great honor for a city-state to give birth to Olympic winners, whose only prize was a olive branch.
Merrisa checks out the Ouzo in Olympia
Following our tiring and hot tour around the ancient site of Olympia we were spirited away to a lovely beach on the Mediterranean coastline called Kourouta beach.
It was lovely and the sandy beach was a surprise as we were expecting to be walking on rocks. Lunch and a couple of swims and then we headed back to our ship.
Katakolon Harbour & Dinner
Took a lovely stroll around the Katakolon Harbour to check out the little fishing boats, very cute. Would hate to be out on rough seas in these boats.
Also managed to get some awesome photos of our ship as well.
That evening was the Koningsdam Gala Dinner so we all got dressed up and headed out for a wonderful evening with a six course meal – a belly full for sure.
The Koningsdam has several celebrity chefs who come aboard and today they had Rudi Sodamin demonstrating how to prepare and cook his fruit meringue pie. What a hoot this guy is. He took 2 people out of the audience to help prepare the dish. Great entertainment. Rudi is famous for his book Food Faces.