Three years in the planning, our long awaited cruise with friends Jan and David Bryson finally happened May 3-16. Two previous trips were canceled because of COVID. Even this trip carried some anxiety-worrying we might test positive before leaving, testing positive while there, and especially testing positive at the end which would result in an extended quarantined hotel stay. We made it there and back COVID negative! This was our first ocean cruise with Viking, but after a wonderful river cruise in Russia, we were sure it would be great. As usual Viking does not disappoint. We planned this cruise with a very patient and top notch travel advisor, Virginia Pfrommer with BelleVie Travel. She kept us up to date with every cancellation, helping us rebook along with more flight changes than I can count.
We flew out of Tri-Cities, Tennessee at 12:10 AM on Monday, May 3 routing through Atlanta to Amsterdam with arriving in Athens, Greece on Tuesday, May 4 at 1 PM. Viking met us at the airport, took our luggage and transported us by small bus to the port of Piraeus where our ship the Viking Sea was docked. We went straight to our cabins, took our spit COVID tests and were free to explore ship the rest of the day masked until we got our negative results. We were required to test each morning in our rooms. The vials were collected and unless you tested negative, you didn’t hear anything. Here’s the link to the ship. https://www.vikingcruises.com/oceans/ships/viking-sea.html
DAY 1 ON THE SHIP
DAY 2 ACROPOLIS AND PLAKA DISTRICT BY FOOT
Today we toured the Acropolis and the Plaka District for over 4 hours. It was a hot sunny day with little shade. The tour is described as demanding because of the 80 steps to the top but there are not actually steps. It’s more like hiking a mountainous rock of uneven steps, cobbled stone and gravel path switchbacks with few railings. I really did not have a good idea of the scale or the Acropolis until I searched for photo on the internet. None of our photos gave a good overview. Below is a royalty free photo I found.
The following photographs are ones I took with my Nikon camera along with a sprinkling of iphone photos from James, Jan and Dave.
Today we also visited the Panathenaic Stadium where the first modern day Olympics in 1896 was held. Its roots go back to the 5th century B.C. for sporting events is and is the only stadium constructed completely out of marble.
The tour ended in the Platka District known for shopping and restaurants. Since we were hot and thirsty, drinks overruled shopping. Dave was intent on tasting ouzo, a dry anise-flavored aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece. We had a delightful time with the shop owner as he made us a specialty drink with ouzo and Coke.
DAY 3 SUMMITS AND COUNTRYSIDE-SANTORINI
Loved that I got to spend my birthday in Santorini, the quintessential spot in Greece! When you see the travel photos of Greece, this is it.
Returning to the ship from Santorini, Viking surprised me a cake and bubbly for my birthday. The cake was so good that Jan and I couldn’t stop eating…we felt quite nauseous afterwards. 🙂
DAY 4 ANCIENT OLYMPIA-KATAKOLON, GREECE
Shopped in town after touring the Olympic site. I bought a bracelet in Apollo Jewelers from George Galanis, the owner. George is the man on the right in the postcard and was part of the team that carried the torch for the 1996 games.
DAY 5 PANORAMIC CORFU AND OLD TOWN WALKING TOUR
DAY 6 BAROQUE PALACES AND SCENIC LANDSCAPES/KOTOR, MONTENEGRO
Kotor, Montenegro is known for its fjord like entrance to the port and reminded me of the Yangtze River in China. Beautiful! I got up at 6:30 AM to listen to the ship’s historian talk and watch from the Explorer’s Lounge. as we navigated the waters. Kotor is also know for its cats! They were everywhere and many were happy to pose. After the city tour and bus took us to Perast where we caught a boat to the Our Lady of the Rocks which is on a small island. Afterwards the boat returned us to Kotor and the ship.
DAY 7 DUBROVNIK WALKING TOUR
Dubrovnik, Croatia is where many scenes in Game of Thrones was filmed. It’s a beautiful old city with lots of steps and stone walls.
DAY 8 WAKING TOUR OF ZADAR, CROATIA
The Monument to the sun consists of 300 multi-layered glass solar cell plates placed on the same level with the stone-paved waterfront in the shape of a 22-meter diameter circle. Beside the main (Sun) installation, looking from the west side are similar smaller installations representing other planets of the Solar System. At night there is apparently a spectacular light display but we were gone by nightfall.
At the waterfront is the renowned sea organ an architectural musical instrument, which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps.
DAY 9 OLD KOPER WALKING TOUR/SLOVENIA
DAY 10 VENISE (FUSINA)/POST EXTENSION-ULTIMATE ITALY: TUSCANY
Unfortunately we did not get to see Venice. The tour ended at the port of Fusina because cruise ships are no longer allowed to move through the Venetian lagoon. We knew before we went but still had hopes of the bus maybe going through the city. We picked our luggage up at the terminal and could see the top of St. Mark’s Cathedral.
We traveled by small motor coach to Tuscany stopping at Acetaia Villa San Donnimo, a balsamic vinegar farm in Moderna, Italy. Here we had a tour and sampling of their balsamic vinegar along with food and wine.
FLORENCE AMERICAN CEMETARY
LA VERONICA RESORT-Greve in Chianti, Florence Italy
DAY 11 FLORENCE
Florence, capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto.
Dinner was at Machiavelli Vineyard al fresco. Exactly as I had imagined dinner in Tuscany should be!!!!
DAY 12 SIENA/SAN GIMIGNANO
Siena, a city in central Italy’s Tuscany region, is distinguished by its medieval brick buildings.
San Gimignano is an Italian hill town in Tuscany, southwest of Florence, encircled by 13th-century walls.
I enjoy taking photos of nature: flowers, animals, and plants.
Here’s a smorgasbord of Viking and Italian food, we ate for two weeks. It was a gluttony feast 🙂
Seeing mask signs on every store window in five countries cemented the term global pandemic into my mindset. Masks were still required in Greece indoors but had just been lifted by the time we reached Italy. Masks were required on our buses and airports.
Besides the scenery, food, and other great aspects of travel, meeting people is my favorite. On this trip we got to know the brother and wife of a good friend of ours. On one of those strange coincidences, we just happened to be on the same cruise and the same post extension tour! Thank you Anne Mitchell for instigating us meeting Buddy and Linda.