Greek Isles & Adriatic Voyage
Wednesday June 22 to Thursday June 23, 2016

The City of the Violet Crown

We flew to Athens on the only available direct flight option we could find - which was Air Canada Rouge - the budget version subsidiary of Air Canada. We weren't too kicked on the idea, but on balance the direct flight won over the longer trip connecting through one of any number of European cities with the other flight options we had to get to Athens.

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    We opted to book Premium Rouge to get at least the best possible service on our chosen flight. The seats were comfortable but they didn't recline too far even though they did look quite a bit better than the seats in the economy section. The service was good and what really paid off was that we arrived in Athens at 9:40am on Wednesday June 22 and it was amazingly quick for us to get through the customs formalities and collect our luggage. With in no time at all we were in a taxi on our way to our hotel - the Intercontinental Athenauem Athens. With the early arrival at the hotel we were expecting to leave our luggage and then head out for some sight seeing before we'd be able to actually check in later in the afternoon but we were pleasantly surprised that our room was ready.

    We had reserved a room with a view of the Acropolis of Athens, and we weren't disappointed - it was a nice room with a great view. We didn't linger too long - enough time to freshen up and unpack what we'd need for the short stay in Athens ahead of our cruise. With that done we set off to enjoy some of Greece's capital city - known as 'The City of the Violet Crown'.

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  • Wednesday June 22, 2016

    The Acropolis Museum, Acropolis & dinner in the Plaka

    Our last trip to Athens was in June of 2009, just a couple of days after the Acropolis Museum was opened to the public. On that trip we decided against giving the newly opened museum a visit, but with our 2016 cruise leaving from Piraeus it gave us the opportunity to take in the museum dedicate to the archaeological findings in and around the Acropolis of Athens.

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      The hotel was located close enough to the Acropolis that we decided to walk to the museum. The route seemed simple enough, but there were a couple of spots that were difficult to figure out how to actually get where we needed to go with how the roads and sidewalks were configured. Once we got close to the museum we could see signs directing the way to the main entrance which directed us past a shorter route, but it did give us the more impressive approach to the museum on a walkway elevated over Roman and Byzantine ruins. Pretty cool.

      To make the most of a visit to the museum they have set up a suggested route inside the museum that at first we missed and then back-tracked to view the artifacts in the intended order. It did make sense to do it that way. The size of the top floor of the museum was set to represent the Parthenon itself and was set askew to the rest of the building to match the orientation of the Parthenon as well as having the same column spacing as the ancient temple. It displays many of the available Parthenon marbles & frieze. Nicely done, indeed. Our entire time at the Acropolis Museum was truly enjoyable and well worth the visit. We were very glad we included a visit here on this trip. As we left the museum we debated whether we'd stop for lunch or make our way up to the Acropolis and the latter won out. With hindsight we wondered about the wisdom of that decision!

      The day was shaping up to be quite hot under a beautiful blue sky and there wasn't many opportunities to find shade on the walk up to the elevated Acropolis. It would have been wise had we taken some water with us, but that only dawned in us once we were up at the top of the Acropolis. Not the smartest thing we've ever done. There was a wind for the time we were there, but no relief came with the wind - it was an oppressive and hot wind. It was worth enduring the heat to see the Acropolis. There is still a lot of construction equipment around the Parthenon - so not too much different than the last time we had been up here - which was in 2006. The restoration is clearly a very slow process.

      Having finished up at the Acropolis of Athens we made our way back down to normal street level in search for something cold to drink. There was a place extremely well located at the base of the Acropolis to catch the flow of people doing exactly the same as us - and they pretty much knew they could charge whatever they wanted. With that said, two frozen lemonade drinks were perfect to quench our thirst. It was time to head back to the hotel to freshen up, and even though it wasn't far we decided on grabbing an air conditioned taxi over walking. The proximity made it a bit difficult to get a taxi driver to take us, but a negotiated flat fee did get us the short ride back.

      For dinner we had decided on heading to the Plaka in search of restaurant. The hotel provided a bus shuttle service into a central location of Athens, so we timed our departure from the hotel to suit a scheduled bus time. Fairly early along the route to the city centre the driver announced that he was heading back to the hotel because the roads heading to the drop off spot were now blocked by police in preparation for a rally that would be taking place. A few people including us asked to be let out wherever possible and from there we walked the rest of the way. We wandered around a bit of the Plaka to take a look in some of the shops and to also search for a suitable place to have dinner. We did find a shop where Gary could buy a couple of small bronze helmets to add to his collection. After we were done perusing the shops we settled on a restaurant and had a relaxing time sitting outside to enjoy the Athenian evening as we had dinner. We strolled back to the hotel after dinner and were feeling quite tired by the time we made it back. It had been a hot sunny day and jet lag was kicking in somewhat. It had been, though, an enjoyable day in Athens and a good start to our vacation.

  • Thursday June 23, 2016

    Final stroll around Athens & heading to Azamara Journey

    We started our final morning in Athens with an early breakfast at our hotel - which turned out to be very nice indeed. We had arranged a late check out to make the most of the day before heading to Azamara Journey docked in Piraeus for the start of our Mediterranean cruise, so after breakfast we gave the hotel shuttle one more try to get us to the city centre.

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      This time the shuttle made it to its intended destination near the Old Royal Palace - home to Hellenic Parliament (the parliament of Greece). At the front of the Old Royal Palace is a tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by two Evzones (the Presidential Guard) in their summer ceremonial uniform. We watched an inspection of the guards on duty before moving on to Syntagma Square located across from the Old Royal Palace. From this centrally located square we wandered back through a different part of the Plaka than the area we had seen in the previous evening. We did find a nice shop selling all manner of things made of olive wood and purchased a few things to bring back to Canada. Something to note was the overwhelming amount of graffiti we saw in Athens - pretty much everywhere. Many shops were closed and had the appearance of being abandoned and quite a few public areas looked unkept. It was clearly a reflection of the difficult economic times for Greece.

      We hopped back on the shuttle to get back to the hotel, and decided to have a drink in one of the hotel bars before heading back to our room for the last minute packing prior to checking out. The check out was delayed slightly because of a power failure, but once that was done everything seemed to be smooth and quick - a short taxi ride to the pier and we were checked in at the cruise terminal in just over 30 minutes of leaving the hotel. It was a very short walk from the terminal building to Azamara Journey and once onboard we were each handed a glass of sparkling wine on our home on the seas. As we enjoyed the wine we met "Mo & Jo" - a young couple involved in the hospitality business who had been on the previous cruise and had stayed onboard as "visitors" to great guests. The fellow, Mo, helped us arrange a tour of the engine control room at some point in the cruise and Jo chatted about her impressions of their cruise. She had clearly enjoyed a fair bit of the sparkling wine while greeting guests. Was humorous.

      Azamara Journey had been "reimagined" late in 2015, so this was our first opportunity to see the ship after the changes/upgrades. From first sight of the common areas where we had entered the ship on Deck 3 the changes looked quite nice indeed, but that was surpassed in our opinion by the changes that were made in the staterooms. Our stateroom was on Deck 7 and we were very pleased by the new look of the room and veranda. Without having seen much of the ship by this point we were already impressed by the alterations made to Azamara Journey. Soon after arriving to our room we met our room attendant Alfie and by this point one of our two bags had arrived so we started to process to unpack. Once that was done we went up to grab a late light lunch at Windows Café on Deck 9 followed by an espresso at Mosaic Café on Deck 5. We also took the time to explore the ship to see the full extent of the changes - all was looking very nice. Our second bag had arrived by the time we were done exploring and returned to our stateroom. We finished our unpacking before we were required to attend the mandatory muster drill at 5:00pm. Following that we went out to the pool deck for a glass of wine before the sail away from Piraeus. The sail away was delayed about 30 minutes and we stayed on the open Deck 10 to watch our departure from the busy port.

      For dinner we went to the ship's main dining room, Discoveries Restaurant, at 7:45pm. For the first time ever in this restaurant on any of our cruises there was a bit of a disappointment with the food. In this case it was Linda's dinner that was not up to the standard we had come to expect on Azamara Journey. We were certainly hoping that this was an anomaly rather than a drop in quality (it being an anomaly was proven to be true through the rest of the cruise - with subsequent meals being up to the standard we expected). For after dinner we went to the Cabaret Lounge for the Captain's Welcome followed by a show form the Azamara singers & dancers. We did find it a bit perplexing that the show was exactly the same as it had been on the previous cruises we had taken on this ship. They should have "reimagined" the entertainment too. For us, the entertainment had never been a big draw so with the material being repeated it was an easy decision to plan to skip the subsequent shows onboard unless there was something new that appealed to us. Something that always appealed to us was Mosaic Café - so after the show we made our way there for espresso to close out the first evening of this Mediterranean cruise.

Athens Image Gallery

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About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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