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16th April, 2015

Piraeus, Greece

We started with two relaxing days at sea during which the seas were again very kind to us. After breakfast the Guest Speakers, Instructors, our Cruise Staff, and Beauty Staff were busy presenting, organising, hosting and giving beauty treatments. On the first day at sea passengers also had the chance to have a look behind the scenes at where all that delicious food is prepared with an afternoon tour of the galley. This first evening began with The Early Show in the Drawing Room where The Hot Rhythm Friends, Colin Bryant and Dave Peterson, presented a Sing-Along-Swing-Along Happy Jazz session while our passengers enjoyed their pre-dinner cocktails. After Dinner the Britannia Lounge hosted a performance by Master Magician Brett Sherwood. This was followed in the Drawing Room by Easy Listening with The Perfect Mood Duo and in Cooper’s Bar by The Late Show with Dave Peterson at the piano.

The second day again offered a swinging noon performance of the Hot Rhythm Friends in the Drawing Room. Pre-dinner cocktail time saw Dave Peterson at the piano in Cooper’s Bar or there was close-up table top magic with Master Magician Brett Sherwood in the Drawing Room. This evening’s Show Time in the Britannia Lounge was a performance by “Dynamic West End Star” Philippa Healey. Our guests could then head up to the Drawing Room for Dance Party with fabulous floor-filling favourites performed by Joel, Aaron and Michelle, followed by easy listening with The Perfect Mood Duo or in Cooper’s Bar the Late Show with Dave Peterson.

This morning we arrived at the very early hour of 6 am at the Piraeus pilot station. The reason for this early hour was that we have to wait for a slot between the many ferries that service this port and the many islands, as due to their tight schedules they have always priority. After a bit of a wait we managed to slip in and were berthed ahead of schedule at 7.30am. Shortly after the officials boarded the ship was cleared, and the passengers could proceed ashore.

Today’s tours were:

Athens on Your Own: This tour offered dependable transport, with a guide, to and from Athens for the independent spirit. Our passengers had a beautiful day to see this historical city on their own.

Acropolis and Archaeological Museum: On the way to the centre of Athens passengers saw some of the city’s most important sites, such as Constitution Square, the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, the Temple of Zeus and the Olympic Stadium. The city is dominated, of course, by the Acropolis. Occupied since prehistoric times, its principal monuments date from the fifth century BC when Athens was at the height of its power. The tour followed the footpath leading to the summit, where our guests saw the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the world-famous Parthenon. This was followed by a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, a treasure-house of Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean and Classical Greek art. The museum’s best-known exhibits include a bronze statue of Poseidon, the Golden Mask of Agamemnon, a carved head of Hygeia, the Goddess of Health, and beautiful Minoan-style frescoes from Santorini.

Panoramic Athens and its Suburbs offered views of a mixture of the ancient, old and modern Athens. There were the marinas of Zea and Microlimano, two of the most attractive spots in the vicinity of Piraeus, the Olympic Stadium, built in the 19th century on Roman foundations, where the first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896, Constitution Square, the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, the Acropolis and the city’s attractive coastal suburbs of Glyfada, Voula, Varkiza and Vouligameni.

Cape Sounion & the Temple of Poseidon took guests along a scenic coastal road, which offered splendid views of the Saronic Gulf, passing through some of Athens’ most attractive suburbs. When the tour arrived at Cape Sounion the first site visited was the Temple of Poseidon, which dates from the fifth century BC and stands on the edge of a cliff about 200 feet above the sea. This Temple, where the Ancient Greeks worshipped Poseidon their mighty god of the seas, is one of the most breath-taking and deeply moving sights in Greece. Our passengers enjoyed the magnificent sight of the sun setting at the Temple before it was time to return to the ship.

The evening was a total Greek experience. It started in the Britannia Lounge with Cocktails and Cooking presented by the vivacious Celebrity Chef Tonia Buxton, followed by a Greek themed menu in the Pole To Pole and the Verandah restaurant. After dinner the Britannia Lounge offered a performance by West End Star Philippa Healy with her brand new show. This was followed by a Greek themed surprise party on the Verandah deck till late.

Our second day in Piraeus started with a beautiful sunrise and blue skies. It was yet another pleasant day to appreciate being a cruise ship passenger in port. Today’s tours were:

Ancient Corinth. This tour visited the ancient town of Corinth, where St Paul lived and preached for two years. In Classical times Corinth was a very rich city, and this is evident in the surviving ruins from this period which include the huge Agora or market place and the Temple of Apollo. Excavations have brought to light temples, fountains, shops, porticoes, baths and other monuments. Outside the main site are the Fortress of Acrocorinthos, the Theatre, Odeon, Potters’ Quarter, cemeteries and other remains. After a guided tour of the highlights of the vast site, including a visit to the Archaeological Museum, the coach drove back to Piraeus, making a short stop along the way at the Corinth Canal. The Canal is four miles long, 26 feet deep and 70 feet wide and was constructed between 1881 and 1893.

The Oracle of Delphi. The grandeur of Delphi, where natural beauty and ancient ruins blend in an extraordinary way, has to be seen to be believed. Set on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, 2,300 feet above sea level, it was once considered to be the centre of the Earth. The visit started at Delphi’s Sanctuary of Apollo, where one joined the paved Sacred Way to reach the Doric Temple of Apollo, where the High Priestess Pythia sat on a tripod and delivered the Oracles. On terraces above the temple are the well-preserved remains of the Theatre and Stadium, used for main events during the Pythian Festival. By the entrance to the sanctuary is the Kastalian Fountain where Pythia washed before speaking her prophecies. At a lower level, across the road, is the Sanctuary of Athena with its prominent circular building known as the Tholos. After touring the site there was the opportunity to visit the Archaeological Museum, with its extensive collection of sculpture that includes the world-famous Charioteer. Our guests then enjoyed a delightful lunch before returning to the ship.

Byzantine Hiking took passengers into the forest, where they enjoyed the fresh mountain air and beautiful views from Mount Hymettus. The trails offered Mediterranean flora such as pine trees, sage, thyme and dozens of other plant species and a wonderful panorama of Athens from high above. Visited was one of the city’s most important Byzantine monuments, the Monastery of Kaisariani. On a hillside at the foot of Mount Hymettus the monastery, surrounded by a high wall with gates on the east and west sides, was founded in the late 11th century, and is dedicated to the Presentation of Christ at the Temple. The main church is cruciform in plan, with four columns supporting the dome: the Chapel of Aghios Antonios to the north was added in the 16th century and the domed porch a century later. The prominent bell-tower was not added until the 19th century. Inside the monastery are some notable 17th-century wall paintings. The walk concluded with a welcome refreshment stop in a peaceful local café before the drive back to Piraeus.

All on board was at 5.30 pm, and soon after the pilot boarded we left the berth. After turning the ship towards the exit channel the pilot guided us to the pilot station, where he disembarked and we set course for our next port of call, Syros.

This evening the Britannia Lounge featured music “From the Tower Ballroom” performed by former Blackpool Tower organist, Dave Peterson. This was followed by our Explosive Productions singers and dancers presenting the music of the Beatles in “Twist and Shout” - a tribute to the music of the “Fab Four”.

Captain Kees Spekman

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