This is our first cruise with MSC cruise line. Our ship, the Splendida, was built in 2007 and is definitely looking old and worn. It doesn’t have activities like the newer ships such as a rock climbing wall, water park, ice skating rink, putt putt golf, etc. The food is mediocre. There is one area in which it excels and that is the nightly entertainment. It is great. In the past we have looked at price and itinerary when choosing a cruise. We will add the age of the ship to the criteria. Not that we need all the sports activities, but newer ships have cleaner, fresher carpets, furnishings, etc.
We were automatically placed at a table for six at dinner for the duration of the cruise. We would be eating with the same people every night for nine nights. There is always a little trepidation that first night when you meet the new people you will be spending two hours with each evening. We really hit the jackpot with our table companions. Two really nice couples, one from Panama City, Florida and the other couple split their time between New Hampshire and Tucson, Arizona. One was a retired school principal and the other a retired school librarian. How perfect is that! The other, retired military. We had the best time each night with these two couples. We often laughed and talked so long our waiter had to come over and gently remind us we had to leave so they could set up for the second dinner seating. We often all attended the evening show together, had a couple excursions together, and they taught us how to play Yahtzee! What a blessing they were and we looked forward to seeing them each day. Hopefully our paths will cross again someday.
After our disappointment at missing our first stop.at Olympia, Greece, due to weather, our next port was Piraeus, Greece, the port for Athens. We had booked an excursion here into Athens.
Our first stop was the Acropolis and Parthenon. The Acropolis, the sacred focal point of ancient Athens, is a rocky hill containing the remains of several ancient buildings, most importantly the Parthenon.
The climb up the Acropolis was somewhat steep with deep steps, often without hand railings. Fortunately it was paved. What made the climb the most difficult was the huge crowds of people, everywhere, all clogging the pathway to the top. We were told there were five cruise ships in port, making the crowds worse. Coming down was even worse as the crowds grew. At one point we came to a complete stop as there was a bottleneck of people navigating down the steep steps.
The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, who was protector of the city-state and whom Athens was named for. The original statue of Athena has been lost.
It was constructed beginning in the fifth century B.C. Its decorative sculptures are a classic example of Greek Art, as well as a symbol of Ancient Greece democracy and Western civilization. Since 1975 numerous large scale restoration projects have been undertaken and are still going on today.
Nearby is the Erechtheion shrine to Athena and Poseidon, and is said to be the place where the goddess created the first olive tree.
Looking Back As We Walk Down
Next up was the Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. We missed the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, but got to see the site of the first modern games. It is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. It last hosted the Olympics in 2004. It is used today as a multipurpose stadium. We liked how from this viewpoint we could see the Acropolis and Parthenon.
We rode around different sites in Athens but it is hard taking pictures from a bus window. Athens is certainly high density (pop 3,154,000) with lots of traffic, pollution and the city looks rather run down and tired.
We saw the Monument to the Unknown Soldier with guards, just like ours back home.
Behind that is the Greek Parliament, built in 1842. It was formerly the residence of the Greek royal family. In 1929 it was converted into the Greek Parliament. Our tour guide told us that the May election for prime minister did not produce a majority vote, so another election will have to be held in June.
Bronze Statue of Alexander the Great
Alexander died in 323 B.C. after carving out an empire stretching from Greece to India.
Hadrian’s Gate, was erected For Emperor Hadrian 132 A.D.
This is the Hadrian Library.
As usual there was time left for shopping. While everyone else headed off to the tourist area, we found a Hard Rock Cafe within walking distance and set off there. We were given an hour and made it back in plenty of time.
An enjoyable day in Athens!
Too Many Bags!
Next up: Ancient City of Ephesus, Turkey