Day Six of Greek Islands Cruise – Dubrovnik, Croatia

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Oct 09 ~ Day #152
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$15200
$184.84
$13416.32
$88.27
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
15097
5786.2+244=6030.2
5966
119
27212.2

Current Location: On board the MSC Musica visiting Dubrovnik, Croatia

Today’s Total Expenses: $184.84

Cruise: 178.51 (cruise cost includes transportation, accommodation and food)

Transportation: $6.33 (€4.80 – bus into town and back)

Miles Traveled Today:
Sea Miles: 244 (212 Nautical Miles – Corfu to Dubrovnik)

Hot Coffee!

For the first time on this cruise we actually got hot coffee with our breakfast. Fresh – piping hot – coffee!

Breakfast was the only time on this cruise that they would actually serve coffee in the dining room. However, it would invariably arrive at our table lukewarm, at best.

Geoff tried several times to get hot coffee but they just didn’t seem to get it.

One exchange seems rather humorous now. Geoff tried very hard to get them to understand that we wanted HOT coffee.

On this particular occasion he pointed to his cup and said, “not hot.” When he got a quizzical look, he pointed to his cup again and said, “cold!”

The light bulb seemed to go on but the response was, “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t serve chilled coffee at breakfast.”

Geoff’s response was, “Well, apparently you do!” but the sarcasm was obviously “lost in translation”.

After that we simply gave up. That made today’s surprise that much more enjoyable. I think we let them keep refilling our cups as long as the hot coffee held out.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

One of the highlights of this cruise, for us, was the chance to visit Croatia. We’d heard it was kind of “up and coming”.

Even though they are not yet a member of the European Union, their application is in and their acceptance seems assured within the next year or so.

The cruise line had, of course, arranged for a shuttle to take passengers to the old, walled city at the cost of €10.00 each.

As is our way, we opted to look for local transportation.

Money, Money, Money

As Croatia has not yet converted to the Euro, we needed to exchange some of our Euros for the local currency – the kuna.

A ticket on the local bus would cost us about 10.00 kunas which translated to about €1.20. So, we purchased 50.00 kunas, enough for the bus for both of us with a little extra.

Their bus tickets work a little different than we’re used to. The price of 10.00 kunas buys you a ticket that is good for an hour, anywhere on the bus system.

Now that we had Croatian currency as well, we had with us FIVE different kinds of currency:

  • U.S. dollars
  • Canadian dollars
  • British pounds
  • Euros
  • Croatian kunas

Once we get back home we’ll have seven different kinds of currencies. To the above list we’ll add:

  • Bahamian dollars
  • Moroccan dirhams (we still have some left from a trip we took in 1990!)

Dubrovnik – The Old City

We located the local bus that was headed towards the old, walled city, bought our tickets and got on board.

It was about a 20-minute ride from the cruise port to the old city with lots of stops along the way.

The newer parts of Dubrovnik that we saw along the way seemed very modern and well cared for.

We got off the bus just outside the old city and stopped into the tourist info center.

The old city has a commanding view of the ocean and is protected by narrow gates set in very thick stone walls.

Inside the walls are cobbled streets lined with very old, very sturdy-looking stone buildings.

Apparently some of these buildings sustained significant damage during the war between Croatia and Bosnia. These countries, of course, used to be Yugoslavia before they separated.

However, any evidence of the war seems to have been repaired both in the old city and in the newer sections as well.

Tourist Shops

As is inevitable in any touristy locations, there were lots of tourist shops selling all manner of souvenirs.

Normally we are not tempted by such offerings but we were drawn to a display of local, hand painted glassware. Mostly wine glasses and decanters hand painted with colorful and intricate geometric designs. If our future plans weren’t so up-in-the-air, we would most likely have bought some. But, for now, we simply don’t want to add any new possessions.

After spending time exploring the old city we decided to explore the new sections by walking, so we thought, in the general direction of the cruise port.

Which Way Do We Go Now?

It was a beautiful day for a walk – bright and sunny. We stopped into a little roadside convenience store and purchased a large bottle of local beer, already chilled, for about 7.00 kunas. So, it was a good thing that we got a little more money than we needed for the bus.

We stopped at a little park and enjoyed the beer before continuing on.

Checking the time, we determined that we would have to get back to the ship soon.

We thought we were heading in the general direction of the ship and as we crested a hill we had a great view of it – WAY across the bay and much too far to walk in the time we had left. Not to mentioned that we were pretty much knackered anyway.

On top of that, my walking shoes had decided that they had outlived their allotted lifespan and were giving up their soles (pun intended!).

We found a bus stop enclosure that listed all of the routes, the times and the bus numbers. We just couldn’t make heads or tails of it at all!

We decided to get on the next bus and, hopefully, convey where we needed to go by pointing to the cruise ship that was easily visible in the distance from the bus stop.

After waiting for about 10 minutes a bus stopped and Geoff began to explain our dilemma by talking slowly and pointing to the ship.

To our amazement, and delight, the bus drive spoke perfect English. He told us the bus number we needed, said it would be along in about 10 minutes and that it would take us directly to the cruise port.

And, just as he had said, the specified bus arrived at the designated time and did, indeed, take us directly to the cruise port. We got back to the ship with plenty of time to spare before the “all aboard”.

Is This Standard European Entertainment?

From what we could tell from the announcer’s excitement – in all six languages – we were in for a special treat with tonight’s entertainment.

A somewhat portly and old gentleman took the stage and we waited with quite anticipation.

The, this entertainer produced two sets of bolo balls. You know, each set has two balls attached to long strings.

The music came up and he proceeded to bounce these bolo balls off the floor. Rat-A-Tat-Tat. While also swinging them around and increasing the speed.

He stopped to a crowed clapping wildly.

He then started again. And the speed and precision were impressive but it was still just bouncing tethered balls off the floor. We waited for something more.

After this set of Rat-A-Tat-Tat reached it’s crescendo the audience leapt to their feet, clapping, hooting and hollering and remained on their feet while the entertainer took several bows.

We sat there shaking our heads in confusion. A standing ovation for this? Really?

But it appeared that we were in the minority. Did we miss something?

Is this really what passes for entertainment in Europe?

Day Five of Greek Islands Cruise

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Oct 08 ~ Day #151
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$15100
$187.61
$13231.48
$87.63
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
15097
5350.1+436.1=5786.2
5966
119
26968.2

Current Location: On Board the MSC Musica visiting the island of Corfu, Greece

Today’s Total Expenses: $187.61

Cruise: $178.51 (cruise cost includes transportation, accommodation and food)
Food: $9.10 (€6.00 for baklava, €1.00 for milk)

Miles Traveled Today:
Sea Miles: 436.1 (379 Nautical Miles, Piraeus to Corfu)

Overall Shipboard Service

Yesterday we mentioned about the service in the dining room being rushed and poorly handled.

Today we’re going to talk about the service to our stateroom.

You Shouldn’t Have To Ask For Toilet Paper!

On more than one occasion, we had to track down the room stewards after they’d already cleaned or room, to remind them that we needed toilet paper. Wouldn’t you think that would be something they’d check?

At other times we also had to ask from fresh towels and soap.

Exploring Corfu

MSC had again arranged for a shuttle bus at the cost of €7.00 per person. We just walked into town. It wasn’t that far.

Greek Real Estate

As one of our many retirement ideas has included the possibility of moving to Europe, we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit some real estate offices while we were in Corfu. That was, of course, if we could actually FIND any real estate offices.

After wandering around the town, we finally came across one real estate office down a narrow side street (actually, there were lots of narrow side streets). We popped in and inquired about properties, in Corfu, in the €100,000 to €150,000 range and were pretty much laughed out of the office! We really didn’t appreciate their attitude, told them so and left.

Just a few street down we stumbled across another real estate office. It was up three flights of stairs and you had to be buzzed in through a locked door. While this didn’t seem very customer-friendly we decided to give our inquiry another try.

Although the real estate agent wasn’t in the office, the receptionist was very friendly and very helpful. She was perfectly aghast at the reception we had received at the other real estate office. She was certain that the agent would be able to find several properties in the price range specified.

We left the office with brochures, the agent’s business card and a much better feeling about Corfu real estate agents.

Greek Baklava

As the island of Corfu was going to be our last stop in Greece, we decided that we simply must treat ourselves to some genuine Greek Baklava.

We happened upon a tiny bakery down yet another narrow side street, that specialized in all different kinds of baklava. We were like kids in a candy store, or rather, a pastry shop.

It was difficult trying to decide what to have. Everything – absolutely everything – was tempting.

We each picked a good-sized, gooey pastry and our selections were gently placed in a crisp, white paper bag.

We had not asked about the prices before making our selections and there wren’t any price signs displayed anywhere. So, when the total for the two pastries was €6.00 we were a little taken aback but paid the amount requested and left with our treasures.

We couldn’t wait to taste the baklava and each took a single bite. They were wonderful! The phyllo pastry was crisp and the honey was sweet and sticky – just as it should be. However, we realized very quickly that we were going to need either some coffee or some milk to wash down these gooey delights.

We stopped into a small grocery store and purchased a liter of cold milk.

We then found and iron bench in a park setting and leisurely enjoyed the baklava between big gulps of cold, fresh milk.

Heaven!

Who needs fancy restaurants when such simple pleasures lead to such lasting memories?

Back to the Ship

After enjoying an unhurried stroll to try to wear off some of the baklava, we headed back to the ship.

Along the way we stopped to admire an ocean view and met a lovely British lady who was staying at a villa in the countryside.

We meet the nicest people while traveling.

Back on the ship we settled back into the shipboard routine of the early show and then dinner.

Day Four of Greek Islands Cruise

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Oct 07 ~ Day #150
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$15000
$178.51
$13043.87
$86.96
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
15097
5240.8+109.3=5350.1
5966
119
26532.1

Current Location: Piraeus (Athens), Greece

Today’s Total Expenses: $178.51 (cruise cost includes transportation, accommodation and food)

Miles Traveled Today:
Sea Miles: 109.3 (95 Nautical Miles, Mykonos to Piraeus)

Piraeus/Athens, Greece

The ship was offering several excursions into Athens from Piraeus but all were just too expensive for our budget.

Much as we would have like to visit Athens, it will have to wait for our next trip.

We did check the prices of local tours into Athens which were, of course, much more affordable. But, there were labor demonstrations against the government going on all over the city. That meant some of the tours were foreshortened and it also meant lots of traffic jams that might hamper us getting back to the ship on time.

We had to resign ourselves to exploring the port town of Piraeus.

It’s dead, Jim!

Today we finally had to admit that our Flip camera was dead. Yes, it’s still under warranty but we’re a long way away from being able to return it for warranty service.

So, here we are in Greece without a camera!

International Banking

We decided that we needed to find an ATM and get a few more Euros.

We easily found one that was displaying the same symbols that were on our debit card, so we were reasonably sure it would work.

Well, it not only wouldn’t give us any money, it told us to contact our card issuer. Yikes! We’re still going to be in Europe for quite a while and we don’t need our card getting canceled.

At first we thought we’d go inside the bank we were at to see if there was anything they could do. In Greece, anyway, that’s not as easy as it sounds. You can’t just open the door and walk in.

There are two doors with a rotating tube in between. Think Get Smart’s cone of silence. From outside you push a lit up green button. Then the tube rotates and you step in. The tube rotates again and you are now trapped between the two doors. Apparently you then have to push another green button within a certain time frame for the door to open into the bank.

Well, I guess we screwed things up and the green button was now red. People inside the bank were trying to give us instructions as to what to do using broken English and sign language.

Eventually we pushed the right button at the right time and steeped into the interior of the bank. All this just to be told there was nothing they could do to help and we would have to call our bank.

But, our bank adventure wasn’t over yet. We still had to get OUT of the bank.

We were given more instructions before we attempted to exit and this time is was less traumatic. We were able to push the right buttons, in the right sequence, in the right time frame. Whew!

Back outside we still had not been able to get any more Euros and we now needed to call our bank.

In Search of an Internet Café

We decided that the least expensive way to contact our bank, particularly because we didn’t know how long we’d be on the call – You know how much banks love to put you on hold – was to find an Internet café and use our Skype-Out account, which gave us free calls anywhere in North America.

Finding an Internet café seemed as difficult as getting into a Greek bank! A computer store employee gave us what seemed like pretty clear instructions but we couldn’t find the place. So, we stopped into a coffee shop and they, too, gave us what seemed like simple instructions but still no Internet café!

As we stood there looking lost and confused a good Samaritan asked if he could help. We explained what we were looking for and he gave us very simple instructions – go to that corner, turn right, it’s on your right.

Well, the third time was the charm and we were looking at a little, hole-in-the-wall Internet café. I sure hope the speak English!

I needn’t have worried. Their English was excellent and their rates seemed reasonable.

We were directed us to a computer which they had activated for us. It was, of course, a PC (we’re Mac people), but any port in a storm – right? It had everything we needed – headphones, the FireFox browser and Skype.

First we logged into our bank account and all seemed well. We then got the customer service number for the bank, signed into our Skype account and called them.

First, naturally, we got the auto-attendant. You know the drill – press 1 for this, press 2 for that, and so on. Just getting to a real, live person took quite a bit of time so I was really glad we were using Skype.

Next came all of the security questions so they could be sure we really were who we claimed to be.

With that hurdle over we were able to get down to the nitty gritty of the call – the message we got when we tried to use the ATM.

Apparently they had no record of an ATM attempt even being made and could not tell us why we got that message. We were assured we could still use our card. It had not been canceled and there was no hold on it. Good news, indeed, but ti still made us nervous to try it again.

So, after all that, we opted not to get any money in Piraeus.

One of the main reasons to get some money was to, possibly, buy another camera. But, we decided to wait. After all, the budget was still pretty tight.

Our memories would have to do us for now.

Shipboard Entertainment and Meals

You may have been wondering why we haven’t said a lot about the shipboard entertainment and meals.

Well, I guess it must be difficult to find entertainers that appeal to a wide range of languages and cultures.

On this ship, all announcements are made in six different languages – English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. And, believe it or not, that didn’t cover all the nationalities on board.

Having said that, we felt the entertainment was pretty lame and pretty short. Most shows only lasted 30-45 minutes.

As far as food goes, it was fantastic with lots of choices. However, the service was not very good. It seemed to us that each waiter simply had too many tables to look after so there were no niceties or chit-chat.

It often felt like the food was quickly dropped on the table and the, empty or not, plates were snatched away without even asking if you were actually finished.

Baked Alaska

Tonight was the traditional Baked Alaska dessert and parade. It seems that most cruises do this.

It was a lovely presentation and we sure would have like a nice hot cup of coffee with our Baked Alaska!

Day Three of Greek Islands Cruise

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Oct 06 ~ Day #149
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$14900
$188.26
$12865.36
$86.34
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
15097
4876+364.8=5240.8
5966
119
26422.8

Current Location: On board the MSC Muscia visiting Santorini and Mykonos, Greece

Today’s Total Expenses: $188.26

Cruise: $178.51 (cruise cost includes transportation, accommodation and food)

Transportation: $7.28 (€5.60 bus into Mykonos)

Food: $2.47 (€0.60 water + €1.30 beer)

Miles Traveled Today:
Sea Miles: 364.8 (317 Nautical Miles – 249 Katakolon to Santorini, 68 Santorini to Mykonos)

A Full Day

Today promised to be a very full day as we were visiting two islands on the same day – Santorini and Mykonos.

Santorini

At Santorini the ship anchored out and we were ferried to the dock by tender. Anyone that had book an excursion was ferried to the island first. As we didn’t, we had to wait until it was our turn to go.

There were only three ways to get up to the town of Thera sitting high atop a cliff overlooking the ocean.

You could take a cable car up and down at a cost of €6.00 per person, each way. You could rid a donkey up and down at a cost of €5.00 per person, each way. Or, you could walk.

However, the only way to walk up and down was to use the same steep, cobbled pathway that the donkeys used.

The line up for the donkeys was pretty bad, but the one for the cable cars was much, much worse.

The line up for the cable cars seemed so bad that it looked like once you got to the top the only thing you’d have time to do, and get back to the ship on time, would be to get in the line up for the cable cars coming back down! We immediately discarded this as a possible option.

The donkeys didn’t seem like a much better idea either, although the locals promoting that option made it sound like walking up would not only be slow but potentially dangerous.

Not to be dissuaded, we chose to walk. We weren’t the only ones, either, so we didn’t have to walk the path alone.

Dodging Donkey Do-Do

We started up the steep path – a series of switchbacks up the face of the cliff. The path was cobbled, but it did have, in a few places, especially at the tight 180° turns, some makeshift railings. At other places there were platforms off to the side where you could rest and get out of the way of the donkeys who didn’t appear to stop for anyone.

As we had been told, we were not only dodging donkeys but also trying to avoid very slippery donkey do-do. In places it was nearly impossible to avoid.

The climb took us the better part of an hour and we were certainly grateful to reach the top. It certainly gave us an amazing sense of accomplishment.

A Nice Cold Drink

After such a climb the first order of business was to find some water.

We found a small grocery store not far from the top of the path and wend inside to look around.

We found a very, very cold 1.5 liter bottle of water for the amazing price of only €0.60. The cost of a 1 liter bottle of water on the ship was €1.80!

Exploring Santorini

We explored the town while enjoying our cold ice-cold bottle of water.

We stopped at a scooter rental place that was displaying a sign saying €10.00. We assumed it meant €10.00/hour and asked, but it was €10.00 for 24 hours. What a deal!

We wished we had more time on the island. We would definitely have rented a scooter to be able to do more exploring.

Santorini is not all cliffs. As we stood at the scooter rental place we noticed that the other side of Santorini sloped gently to the ocean and there were even some beaches.

So, why, then do people always seem to come in from the cliff side? We didn’t get an answer to that question. At least not on this trip. But Santorini is another place we’d like to visit again.

Flip Camera Needs Charging

We have been using, and loving, our Flip camera for this whole trip so far.

It appeared it needed to be charged which was no surprise as we had been using it for almost a week since the last time it was charged.

The only problem was that we would normally charge it through our laptop computer using the USB port.

However, due to the severe luggage restrictions imposed by our RyanAir tickets, we weren’t able to bring the laptop with us.

So while we were in Santorini, we went in search of a computer store to find a USB charger that could be plugged into European current.

As luck would have it, we found an electronics store. A rather gruff but knowledgeable gentleman immediately understood what GEoff was looking for, picked a sealed package off a peg board behind him, slapped it on the counter and said, “Buy this!”

It was, indeed, Geoff determined, exactly what we needed.

I’m not sure if we told him we were on the cruise ship or he just surmised it, but, after Geoff paid for the adapter, the gentleman grabbed it back, took out an exacto knife and extricated the adapter from the plastic packaging. You know the type of packaging. That horrible stuff that, if you don’t have that kind of knife handy, or at least a good pair of scissors, you’re just not getting into it.

It was a very thoughtful thing to do. We thanked him and left with our purchase.

Now To Get Back Down

We toyed with the idea of taking the cable car back down to the dock but gave up that ideas as soon as we saw the line of sweaty tourists snaking through the streets without an end in sight.

While walking back down would undoubtedly be faster than the climb up, it would also be a little scarier.

A slippery downward slope is much harder to negotiate than a slippery upward slope. On top of that, you needed to be looking over your shoulder for hordes of donkeys on their way back down both with and without riders.

There was some pushing and shoving going on – mostly us pushing donkeys out of the way. But, I’m glad to report that we survived relatively unscathed. I say “relatively” because I did slip on the way down and landed, quite unceremoniously, on my backside. But Geoff helped me back up, I dusted myself off and we continued on.

On to Mykonos

We got back on the ship well before “All Aboard” and went to the Lido deck for some lunch.

Before long we were on our way to the island of Mykonos. We would be there for the evening so there would only one dinner sitting and no entertainment as they expected most passengers to be ashore.

Bus Into Mykonos

The actual town was a fair distance from where the ship docked. Too far to walk, we though, particularly at night.

MSC had, of course, arranged for a shuttle bus at the cost of €9.00 per person.

As you know, we rarely, if ever, pay for such things when we know we can get local transit for a much lower price. And Mykonos was not different.

Just a few steps from the ship was a stop for the local bus. The cost was €1.40 per person, each way for a total of €5.60 for the both of us as opposed to the €18.00 it would have cost if we had booked the shuttle through MSC. A savings of €12.40.

Timid Travelers

We continue to be amazed at the number of timid travelers that book excursions and shuttles through the cruise ships simply because they’re afraid not to. It seems like such a waste of money to us.

The Cats of Mykonos

As we wandered through the narrow streets of Mykonos we were not only struck by the number of cats we saw but by how beautiful they were.

I wish we had pictures of them to share but our Flip camera seems to be having difficulty charging and we had no way of knowing if it was the camera or the USB charged we had just bought. But it appeared that it wasn’t charging properly and now it was refusing to even turn on.

Mythos in Mykonos

As we tend to do, rather than have a dink in a bar, we’ll pop into a local grocery store to see what’s available.

In most of Europe you can find beer, wine and often liquor in the grocery stores. How civilized! I know this is often the case in several U.S. states as well, but it’s not like that at all in Canada. Nope. In Canada you need to go to the beer store and the liquor store, separately – in Ontario, anyway.

However, here in a grocery store in Mykonos we were casually browsing their selection of cold beers. And, you could buy just a single can if that’s what you wanted.

And that’s exactly what we decided to do. Our attention settled on a rather large can of Mythos, a Greek beer.

Not being big drinkers, we decided that a single can would and and we’d just share. Total cost – €1.30.

We strolled along the harbor enjoying our beer, the night air and the sparkling lights from the open-air restaurants before catching the local bus back to the ship.

Day Two of the Greek Islands Cruise

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Oct 05 ~ Day #148
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$14800
$178.51
$12677.10
$85.66
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
15097
4515.8+360.2=4876
5966
119
26058

Current Location: Onboard the MSC Musica at Katakolon, Greece

Today’s Total Expenses: $178.51 (cruise cost includes transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment)

Miles Traveled Today:
Sea Miles: 360.2 (313 Nautical Miles – Bari to Katakolon)

Katakolon (Olympia), Greece

We arrived in Katakolon at 12:15pm and disembarked to explore the island.

We certainly enjoyed walking around the small town and looking in all the touristy shops.

The ship offered excursions to Olympia but, of course, they were very expensive.

There were local tour companies offering excursions to Olympia at much lower rates. We were tempted but it just wasn’t in the budget.

Maybe Some Beach Time?

As we have dubbed ourselves “beachologists”, having written a book about the beaches of Eleuthera, in the Bahamas – The Elusive Beaches of Eleuthera – we simply had to check out the local beach. (Interesting fact: Eleuthera is the Greek word for freedom.)

Well, calling this a beach was being kind, a little too kind. It was postage stamp size and it was pebbly rather than sandy, so we didn’t linger. There was, however a little beach bar there that seemed quite popular.

Instead, we choose to walk up a hill and get a great view of the ocean and of our ship.

Afterwards we headed back to the ship to relax before dinner.