Mediterranean Cruise Trip

The Trip

In the summer of 2013, we went on a cruise for the first time. We flew to Rome and then went on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise.

Photos

Komei was very happy with the Nikon D600 that he had bought just before the trip and took more than 4,000 pictures with it. Furthermore, Risa took charge of his 5-year old (but still working great) Nikon D80 and took 800 pictures.

The photos are organized into 5 galleries: Trip Highlights, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Celebrity Cruises - Reflection. Please click on the globe-shaped icon under each photo to see the location. Komei carried his GPS logger Canmore GP-101 as always. It is a small device that records your location throughout the day. The software on the PC can cross-reference it with the GPS log from the device and figure out where it was taken, so it works with any digital camera. It was extremely helpful this time because, when you go on a tour, you usually have no idea which route the driver is taking.

Trip Highlights

Gallery
25 best pictures for the busy people :) Click here to open the Smugmug gallery.

Italy

Mt. Etna
Active volcano that threatens the east coast of Sicily. The excursion provided by the cruise took us to the Silvestri craters (not active) on the side of the mountain but the supposedly-spectacular view was obscured by the fog.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Scenic coast line near Naples listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. It includes the beautiful town of Positano that is built on the side of a cliff.

Pompeii, Italy
The ancient Roman city that was annihilated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on the 24th of August, 79 AD and was preserved beneath the accumulated ash until it was discovered in 1748.

Gallery
Click on the thumbnails to open the Smugmug gallery.

Greece

Rhodes, Greece
If you don't take the excursion to the nearby Delos island, the centre of the Cyclades archipelago and Greek myths (we didn't), you have plenty of time to take a walk and relax in the medieval Old Town of the Rhodes City.

Santorini, Greece
You must have seen the pictures of the town of Oia even if you didn't know the name "Santorini" (also known as "Thera" or "Thira"). The island is ring-shaped because the volcano collapsed the middle part. There is a cable car that takes you from the shore to the main town above the cliff.

Mykonos, Greece
A small, idyllic Greek island. The windmills and the waterfront houses in Little Venice are the famous landmarks.

Gallery
Click on the thumbnails to open the Smugmug gallery.

Turkey

Ephesus, Turkey
Well-preserved ruins from the 2nd century with beautiful marble structures. It is famous for the Library of Celsus and the huge theater that can host 25,000 spectators.

Gallery
Click on the thumbnails to open the Smugmug gallery.

Reflection

Gallery
Since we took so many pictures onboard the cruise ship, there is a separate gallery. Click on the thumbnails to open the Smugmug gallery.

Tours and Hotels

Tips: Study your ports of call beforehand.
If you don't know anything about the area, it is very hard to resist the temptation to sign up for the cruise company's excursion at every upcoming port. (The prices start to look inexpensive compared to the whole cruise price.) Here are the tours we attended (with the reason we decided to take each one):

  • Celebrity Cruises excursions
    • Sicily: Mt. Etna & Taormina excursion
      Port of Messina itself doesn't have too many things to see.
    • Santorini: Island of Santorini & Village of Oia excursion
      The picturesque village of is Oia is a must-see.
  • Viator.com tours
    • Vatican: Skip the Line Vatican Walking Tour
      We signed up for this tour because we were too late in booking for the official tour offered by Vatican. But, in the end, the Viator tour was more personal and the guide was very kind and knowledge and we were glad we decided to do it.
    • Athens: Hop-on-hop-off bus tour
      Includes the transporation between Athens and the port (Piraeus). Very convenient.
  • Private tours
    • Ephesus: Lirita Tours Tourism & Travel Agency (Zafer YAZICI m:+90 532 284 5259 t:+90 384 341 7077 zafer@lirita.com Skype:liritatours)
      The guide taught us so much about the Ephesus ruins. Highly recommended.
    • Naples: See Amalfi Coast (www.seeamalficoast.com Carmine (011393389966342) and Vito (01139330876799) info@seeamalficoast.com)
      The big tour buses can't go fast in the narrow Amalfi Coast road (it's one way for bus also), so we took a personal tour. The driver/guide tooks us to many places in his nice sedan, still leaving enough time for Pompeii and Naples.

In Rome, we stayed at these hotels:

  • Rome: Hotel iQ ‐ New building, clean room, friendly staff, highly recommended
  • Rome: Hotel Barocco ‐ traditional and nice, but a little too expensive

Celebrity Cruises

We took the cruise by Celebrity Cruises onboard the Reflection.

  • The ship was brand-new, clean, and enormous (see below for details). The food was delicious overall ‐ equal to or better experience than nice restaurants in SF. The staff was more friendly and efficient than probably any hotel we ever stayed.
  • We took a room in the back (aft) and that was one of the best decisions we made. We wouldn't miss the view of the land no matter which side it passes. The forward view from the bridge can always be viewed on the TV anyway.
  • We didn't expect this on such a huge ship, but our cabin sometimes did rock as much as a normal air flight. It was probably because we were on a high floor (Deck 12). I heard that the ship's center of gravity is in Deck 3. If you easily get seasick, they recommend the middle of the lowest passenger deck (Deck 6).
  • The website looks pretty but we were not satisfied with their system. For instance, you can reserve excursions only up to 4 days before the departure date but it doesn't say that anywhere. You cannot look up the invoice details of the cruise &dash after the trip; in fact you cannot even find the cruise or look up your cruise history on the site.
  • Don't expect to use the Internet unless you plan to use $50 to $100 during your trip. I knew about the bandwidth limitation and I was very careful tring not to go beond the $25/38-min plan. But the interface was very confusing and I ended up getting overcharged. We spent >$60, that is the cost after I complained about double charge and got a partial refund. By the way, I got ping 597 ms, download 1.77 Mbps and upload 2.33 Mbps at one point.
  • If you have the two-factor authentication for Gmail, etc. (as you should), even if you can get to the site through onboard wi-fi, you cannot receive the sign-in token text message when there is no cell reception and you cannot log in anyway. I'm not suggesting to disable the two-factor authentication. Rather, this would be another reason you should stay away from the Internet and just relax while you are at sea.
  • Free wi-fi was available at many restaurants and coffee shops in Italy, Greek Islands and Turkey. Just check the signal strength before actually sitting down and ordering food and drink.
  • Ask us in person if you are interested in the cost of the cruise.

Celebrity Reflection

Reflection (Wikipedia) is Celebrity Cruises' newest and largest cruise ship. Komei attended "Oceans Ahead Presentation: How Our Ships Move - Engineering" (photos) and learned a lot about modern cruise ships. Read along if you are interested.

  • Celebrity Reflection - Occupancy: 3046; Tonnage: 126000; Length: 1047 ft (320 meters; sci-fi fans, compare this with this "1x"); Beam: 123 ft; Draught: 27 ft; Cruise Speed: 24 knots (27 mph); Built by Meyer Werft, Papenburg, Germany; Inaugural Date: Oct 12, 2012
  • The ship cost $750 million and takes 10 years to break even.
  • Guest-to-staff ratio is nearly 2:1. (That means about 4500 people onboard!)
  • Propellers are purely electric and driven by the power generated by diesel engines. Engines are separated into two independent systems (hence two chimneys) and the hull is divided into 25 water-tight compartments. A total loss of power (like what happened to Carnival Triumph) is less likely.
  • Propeller units ("Azipod") can rotate 360 degrees freely (photo). There is no rudder. There are also lateral thrusters (sideway propellers) near the bow (photo). The ship can move any direction on its own without the help of a tug boat. They use a tug boat only because of the port/union regulations.
  • The ship has two anchors but doesn't use them often. GPS-based automated system can drive the propellers to keep the ship at a fixed location.
  • Stabilizers (wings) stretch out from the sides automatically when the speed exceeds 0.2 knots.
  • Center of gravity is in Deck 3. Middle of the lowest passenger deck (Deck 6) rocks least.
  • From full speed to complete stop takes 20 minutes and the ship still goes 2 nautical miles during stopping.
  • Desalination systems can change 1400 cubic-meters of sea water into fresh water a day (750 c-m by vapor compression; 650 by reverse osmosis). The cost (2.50 euro per c-m) is cheaper than loading fresh water at port (5 euro).
See also How Stuff Works.