Just the Facts
Ship: MSC Splendida, Fantasia class ship launched in 2009 @ 138,000 tons.
Ports: Trieste, Italy - Katakolon Greece - Pireus Greece - Kusadasi, Turkey, Istanbul, Turkey
An immediate follow-up (B2B) of our long adventure cruise with five more days on the MSC Splendida. Other than Trieste, all familiar ports for us. I am sailing with the Dear Wife (DW). This is my 3rd cruise on the Splendida, and I have now sailed all four ships in the MSC Fantasia class. This is my 18th cruise on MSC, and my 200th total cruise overall.
Day One -- Sunday, April 30. — Trieste, Italy. We were up early to finish packing as we change cabins today for our new cruise. We went to Guest Services to get our new Cabin key cards before our excursion. It took a while but we finally received them and tried to exit as soon as possible for our early excursion meet time. We took a shortcut to get off and went through Italian customs and were out at our meet point at about 8:00 am, we were late but the second ones there. Our excursion was Day Trip to Ljubljana. We finally got our 14 guests together, boarded our roomy bus, and were off at about 8:20. As we drove away from the harbor we passed the ruins of the ancient Roman Theater a reminder of who founded the city of Trieste. We passed the most beautiful green hills and mountains as we drove to Serbia, a new country for me. Ljubljana is the capital and was built at the confluence of three rivers. A medieval castle dominates above the town. We were allowed a full four hours to explore on our own…perfect. We began at the main square and the architecture of the old buildings is amazing as are the triple bridges over the river. Dragons are the theme of the city as two statues guard the oldest bridge in town. There are many restaurants along the river walkways and although the Market is closed on Sundays there was a Sunday ‘Flea Market’. The town was so clean, they have a modern underground trash collection system, and they are proud of being very green. The city center is very walkable…and there were many walkers with many taking their dogs. We had a nice hearty lunch and drinks at Restavracija Paninoteka. It was a bit cool so we sat inside in a nice window seat and view. I ordered the Slovenian Plate and two local beers. The DW had a Hugo Spritz and ordered Potato Fries with fresh thyme seasoning. It was very good. We continued our walk and then met our bus at 14:30 for the return to the port. We were back at about 16:00 so we walked over to Piazza Unità d'Italia, the main square in Trieste, one of the largest and unique in Italy. It had amazing administrative buildings and others including a Harrys, of the famous Harry’s Bar franchise. Lots of people out on a Sunday afternoon, we walked a bit on the pedestrian walkways but soon reversed course for the return to the ship. We did the 2nd highest number of steps today (after Petra). Having our new card made returning to the ship very easy. We were anxious to get to the new cabin and when opened the door and saw all of our bags we were relieved. Love the new cabin with a bathtub and a much better balcony view. We relaxed and then went for a slice of pizza as we knew we would not be going anywhere on the ship nor dinner in the MDR. I then had a nice hot bath and retired early. It was a great excursion day in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Day Two -- Monday, May 1st — at Sea
Day Three -- Tuesday, May 2nd -- Katakolon, Greece Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well and late. We had been docked a while when I woke at about 8:45. It is overcast with a poor weather forecast (the same as the last cruise here) so we took our time getting around this morning. We went up to the buffet for a light breakfast, they served real bacon but it was undercooked. We went ashore at about 11:00 and walked to the seaside shops and cafes. We stopped at Cafe Del Mar sitting inside by the door with a view and breeze. I brought my laptop as I suspected I’d have an online workday, and the WiFi was very good. During the course of the day, we had Coca-cola, Mythos beer, Pita Bread, Tzatziki, and Water at €14.5 ... a deal. The DW did some great shopping too…rainy day deals. We began back at about 13:30 quickly walking in a light mist. We were back in the cabin by 14:00 and sat on the balcony enjoying the Macaroons and Prosecco that were delivered while watching the high winds pound the port. We were two hours past departure when they made an announcement that we might be stuck there for a while. They have had a tug on the aft holding us in place all day. At 18:30 we went to dinner in the La Reggia Dining Room, a new table for us this cruise. I ordered: Williams Salad, Casarecce (pasta) with Seafood Ragout, Oven-roasted Veal Leg Goccia d’Oro, and Arroz con Leche for dessert. DW had the same Salad and Risotto Primavera the best vegetarian dish so far. Very pleased with the dinner and service. We were still docked when we retired at 21:00, but soon got away ten minutes later with tug boats in reserve. It was rough sailing for a bit. I worked on my Blog and looked at the map of Athen for tomorrow. It was a fair windy day in Katakolon today.
Day Four -- Wednesday, May 3rd -- Piraeus, Greece
Day Five -- Thursday, May 4th - Kusidasi TurkeySmooth seas overnight as we sailed east to Turkey. I slept well but woke early, we had some FaceTime on the computer with DD and Grandaughter. We arrived in port just after the 7:00 am scheduled arrival, but being so far behind due to the weather very pleased. We picked up some breakfast snacks to eat in the cabin as we prepared for our excursion. We were off before the 8:00 am meet time and as we left the terminal our private guide Kerem was holding a sign with my name…good to see. We had a nice Limo-Van with a driver and the guide sat with us in our compartment. Nice. We had booked a private tour of Ephesus, Ephesus Terrace houses, Basilica of St. John, & Artemis Temple. Following a short drive, we arrive in Efe and the first stop was at the ruins of the Basilica of St. John. Very historic in Christianity as the Apostle Timothy was a Church elder here and the remains of the Apostle John are buried here. Located just below was the site of the Artemis Temple…nothing remaining other than the outline of the site and one large column. We later did see the famous Statue that stood in the Temple. The major stop was next at the restored Ephesus site. We began at Ephesus Archaeological Museum we paid our admission as it wasn’t on the tour, and very glad we did. It contained much of the statuary and items from the various Temples and sites around Ephesus. The major is the Statue of The Artemis of Ephesus (photo right). There are approximately 64 thousand pieces exhibited in the Ephesus Museum. We spent most of our allotted 45 minutes there. Amazing. This was a fantastic tour that covered everything we wished to see (we had already been to the Virgin Mary House) in a concise amount of time. Being just the two of us with a good guide we wasted no time as large tours tend to do. We have an early sail away time from the port but we had time to visit our favorite merchant, drink two Efes beers, and eat a Turkish Wrap. Once back on board, I had a hot bath (yes we have a tub) then go to our third Diamond Party in the La Prua Lounge. We again had our favorite Hugo Specials and spoke with the Captain and Hotel Manager. Nice event. We were a little late for dinner due to the party, but had a nice meal and visit with our table mates. I ordered the Greek Salad, Andalusian Gazpacho Soup, Lasagna Bolognese entree, and Turkish Baklava for dessert. Good food and good service. After dinner we retired to pack our bags, we have to have them outside our cabin by midnight. It was an amazing day in Ephesus/Efe and the final full day on the MSC Splendida.
Day Six -- Friday, May 4th - Istanbul, Turkey — Debarkation / Post CruiseSmooth seas overnight and I slept well. We received permission to stay in our cabin until our designated departure time for Diamond Guests @ 11:00 am so we had a smooth morning. I went up to the buffet for a light breakfast then began packing our final items for our carry-on (off) bag. We enjoyed two Coca-colas as we docked in Istanbul. Interesting being docked in the Dardanelles between Asia and Europe. So busy with activity…boats and ferries of all sizes as well as sea-faring ships of all types passing in a small area. At our assigned time of 11:00, we proceeded down to deck 4 and debarked the ship. There was a long line for passport control, but we endured only to discover that we needed a Visa to enter Turkey. We made our way to the Visa office and paid $30 each for a Visa, we were told we could bypass the long line upon return and we did so it wasn’t too bad. We collected our bags from the baggage area and proceeded to a scan of bags then out into a taxi area. We shared a nice VIP taxi/van to the Old Town with another couple from Ljubljana by coincidence @ €25 per couple. Fair. We are staying at the (Deluxe) Golden Horn Hotel… an excellent location and a nice room with a balcony. We only had a very short wait and our room on the top floor (6) was available. So from ship cabin to hotel room in just over an hour and a half. Excellent. We unpacked and did the 10+ minute walk to the Grand Bazaar. We enter from gate one, built in 1481 (photo), into the largest under one roof Bazaar in the world. Believe me, it’s huge, and be prepared to be lost, but that’s half the fun. We shopped and saw one possible purchase item and went on to look for food. We ate at Havuzlu Restoran, perhaps the most famous of restaurants inside the Bazaar. I
Day Seven -- Saturday, May 5th - Istanbul, Turkey — Post Cruise
Day Eight or Day 27 overall -- Sunday, May 6th - Istanbul, Turkey — Travel Day
We woke by 3:00 am to finish packing and await our 3:30 shuttle (€49). It’s about an hour to the airport, but that early we beat that time. The Airport is huge and busy even at 5:00 am. We checked three bags to Tampa and had two carry-ons and + a large purse. The first Lufthansa flight was to Frankfort Germany. The German airport security was the most detailed we have experienced in many years (Belgium after the bombing was worse). The three-hour flight to Frankfort was fine, then the same security before boarding our 10-hour flight home. We were in the air at about noon local time. We had bulkhead seats and lots of children nearby but it went fairly well…I watched four movies. We landed in Tampa just after 4:00 pm, we went through Customs and retrieved our bags, and were on the curb only a few minutes before the DD picked us up. Home to the Florida Villa by 5:30 local time.
Personal HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruise and Istanbul
Our day in Efe and Ephesus with a private guide and driver
Our day in Ljubljana
Our impromptu Istanbul street parties on Friday & Saturday nights
The old Roman Basilica Cistern
Our final Diamond Party on the ship
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