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Lost in Venice with a taste of Turkish Delight and Souvlaki

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Pushka

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The time has almost arrived for MrP and I to return to Europe. It has been 2 years since our last taste of Europe, which was centered around Paris, France, Spain and Italy.

This year we are heading to Eastern Europe - with a stopover in Dubai along the way. That's the way we much too loyal Qantas travellers have to travel to Europe these days.

We are a week out from Travel but like all good trips, it has been months in the planning. So I will start this report now as a taster of things to come. I hope to be live as much as possible, made so much easier by the AFF app for the iphone. The main disadvantage in doing this is that I now tend to take most of my photos on my phone so I can upload them quickly. But I have a wonderful point and shoot rugged camera that is waterproof so I must work out a better way to post those photos. And indeed, once I have started this thread (now) I will be posting through that app, even before I leave.

The itinerary:

3 nights in Dubai, staying at the Intercontinental Festival City. Being a gold Ambassador ($200 annual fee) means an automatic upgrade. We seem to have done well - our booking is showing Club Suite overlooking the Creek. I am pretty happy with that.

Then fly to Venice for 3 nights. Staying at a self contained, newly furnished apartment just near Bridge Rialto Mercato. It has taken me a while to get my head around getting to and from the airport in a city surrounded by water. But I think I've got that sorted.

Then for 7 nights, we are cruising the following ports:
Sail out of Venice at 5pm (this has been on my bucket list for years). This is the view:

Venice Photo Diary 19.jpg

Venice-2342.jpg

But from next year, the bigger ships will be banned from doing this and their Port will be based further to the sea. So it is this year no never.

The first port is Dubrovnik. We have heard wonderful things about Dubrovnik. As a huge Game of Thrones fan i am looking forward to climbing the wall.

The next port is Corfu. I've organised a taxi tour for the half day and then we will just walk around the main centre, eat some wonderful food, wine, - you get the drift.

Then onto Katakolon. What is Katakolon? It is the birth place of the Ancient Olympic Games, and where the Temple of Zeus existed. All in ruin now but this is where the Olympic torch is lit every four years. Mr P participated as an official in four Olympic Games and ran with the Torch in Adelaide so it's rather special.

Santorini for a day. Climbing a volcano here and swimming. But we return to Santorini later in the trip so we can chill out a bit here.

Ephesus - Turkey - to visit the terrace houses and ruins. And apparently a Turkish rug making demo then hard sell!

Finally we arrive in Istanbul. We are on the ship overnight in Istanbul then we are spending another five nights there. And another Intercontinental and hence, an upgrade to Club Bosphorous View.

From Istanbul we fly back to Santorini. last year we booked a Volcano view (Caldera) at Theoxenia resort. The price was around 200 euros a night when we booked through booking.com (my go to booking site as you can cancel up to the day before and no upfront payment). The price came to about 1000 euros when I checked a few weeks ago - hmm, that's cheaper than when I booked. I looked again - nope, the price was now 1000 euros a night! :eek:

But this is the view we will have for breakfast:

1757473.jpg


from Santorini it is over to Athens for a couple of nights. What view did we select for Athens? of course, an Acropolis view room:

plaka.jpg

Then back to Venice, overnight, at a luxury establishment (breakfast at 40 euros pp) and straight to Dubai then Adelaide, four weeks later.
 

dmitri

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Do yourself a favour and go to I Rusteghi wine bar in venice, you will have an absolute cracker of a night. I specifically went to Venice a second time just to go here. Its about a 2-5 minute walk from the rialto bridge.
 

Major

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Looking forward to your pics
 

TomVexille

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Sounds like a fantastic trip. Looking forward to following along.
 

codash1099

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Fantastic. I loved Venice despite the crowds and the flooded squares. The rest I have yet to sample, so I'll be watching your travels closely.
 

amaroo

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Happy travels - looks like a great trip!

Looking forward to Athens and Istanbul instalments.
 

Pushka

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Happy travels - looks like a great trip!

Looking forward to Athens and Istanbul instalments.
We thought about completing a day trip to Gallipoli. But by the time we worked out all our must-sees in Istanbul we ran out of days.

This is the sister ship of the one we are cruising in. It was the ship who dared to take prime position in Melbourne port, leaving the QM2 to the back blocks. ImageUploadedByAustFreqFly1403942511.543698.jpg
 

Pushka

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Might bump into you in Venice. Its not that crowded is it? ;)
It's a small world. :).

For years, and still happens even now because of his "other lives" we couldn't go anywhere much because someone would always know MrP. Used to drive sons crazy because a long conversation would ensue.
 
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amaroo

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We thought about completing a day trip to Gallipoli. But by the time we worked out all our must-sees in Istanbul we ran out of days.
Having just gone thru the PITA process of planning and booking for Gallipoli 2015 - I know what you mean.

IMO you did the right thing.....accepting you can't do and see it all - is the key for fantastic holidays!

Remember plenty of photos, please :p
 

dmitri

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Pushka, are you flying into Istanbul? if so when you get to the visa line at the airport, make sure to check the prices for different visa stays marked on the boards there. I went straight to the counter with out checking the prices and paid around 90 euro for 2 people. It should of been around 30 for our stay but the agents at at the counter just quoted the expensive one straight up with out asking how long we were there for. And also-DON'T GET A CAB BETWEEN 5PM AND 7PM. Istanbul has easily the worst peak hour traffic I have ever seen anywhere, it makes the arch de triomph round-a-bout look like a Sunday stroll to the shop.
 

Pushka

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Hi Dmitri. We are cruising into Istanbul around lunchtime so really looking forward to that. Plus we are moored there overnight so we spend the night on the Bosphorous. Stunning.

We had to pre purchase a visa for Turkey online for $60 each. Easy to do. I understand visas are no longer available at airports - they must be done pre travel and online. That was introduced in mid April 2014. Even the cruise line sent us an email about it although I already had it by then. If you don't have the evisa then they won't let you board in Venice. We disembark in Istanbul but those people staying on the ship for a longer cruise don't have to get one.

Amaroo I remembered you were travelling to Gallipoli. I'm really looking forward to Istanbul.

Lotsa photos coming over the next few weeks. :p
 

Pushka

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I usually book accommodation as soon as the idea of a trip takes seed. I use booking.com to locate possible places then search for reviews using trip advisor. I've found some fantastic places this way - perhaps the place we loved the most was Casa Camper in Barcelona. It was a funky little place, in a lane just off Las Ramblas. It was no 1 on TA for a very long time.

My usual process is to book a place that sounds good and is in the price line. I always book cancellable accommodation in the early stages of planning so I know we at least have somewhere to stay. I usually book unusual places - something a little different. I also check pricing on the hotels website but I've found booking.com is usually competitive.

Booking.com is excellent as it doesn't charge any deposits up front unless you book a non cancellable room. And because I've used it so much I'm apparently now a genius (their term not mine) and so I get an additional 10% reduction).

Depending on the itinerary I try booking places with a gym and pool.

Closer to the date of travel, say six weeks out I review all my bookings and will modify or even cancel if the price has changed. This time round I found that prices had soared since I made the original booking, so I'm pretty pleased with the bargains I've now booked.

Booking.com also has an excellent app. (doesn't everything). Allows you to see all your bookings, directions etc.

This is our apartment in Venice. It's right near the Rialto Bridge. In an ancient building but newly refurbed. Just a few apartments but now booked out.

At less than 200 euros a night it's rather pleasant.

ImageUploadedByAustFreqFly1404007338.836433.jpg

ImageUploadedByAustFreqFly1404007366.916199.jpg
 

Magpie10

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Thanks Puska really looking forward to your TR. The apartment in Venice looks great. I see you will be on a Celebrity ship, which one? Can't wait to see your review and compare with the QM2? Safe travels.
 

Pushka

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Hey Magpie. We are on Celebrity Equinox. We've travelled on RCL brand ships before (RCL is the parent of Celebrity) - the Liberty of the Seas pictured here:

ImageUploadedByAustFreqFly1404013026.002097.jpg

This was taken in the French port of Toulon when her lifeboats were taken out for a swim.

RCL is the parent company of both RCL brand ships plus the Celebrity brand ships. RCL ships are the fun loving family oriented ships and Celebrity is supposed to be the sophisticated older sister.

RCL brands their fun ships using " of the Seas. "Ours was Liberty of the Seas. RCL also boasts the two largest cruise ships in the world. Oasis and Allure and will soon launch Quantum. They carry over 5000 passengers. Mostly American. Nuff said.

QM2 brags the "largest" title by saying it's the largest "liner" in the world. Crikeys - I'm a cruise ship nerd!

The QM2 I'd describe then as being "a grand old dame" in that sense. Hmmm. Sounds familiar. :D

MrP enjoyed the Liberty Med Cruise and will enjoy this cruise. But the old dame really isn't his style. I'm planning on completing a transatlantic on her whereas MrP thinks why take a boat that takes 6 days when you can fly there in a few hours.

Loves_the_life has completed a Galapagos cruise on a Celebrity ship as well as the QM2 and she may be along shortly.
 
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love_the_life

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The Old Dame has popped in to say hello….The Eastern Med is on the bucket list so I am looking forward to reading all the Younger Dame's posts and drooling over the photos. I've been on the Solstice (sister to Equinox) a couple of times and thought it was a great cruise ship.
 

Pushka

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Goodness those photos are large!

I've made a number of prebookings rather than rely on processing when we arrive. Last trip to Europe, we had credit card "issues". I use a 28 degree mastercard due to excellent exchange rates, no fees on International transactions, and at that time, no service fees to use an ATM.

Well, the rot started as we were sipping sparkling wine (well, I was, anyway!) in the QP in Adelaide. I received a security phone from fraud at 28 degrees. They had detected a fraudulent transaction on my card the night before. I have no idea how they knew it was a fraudulent transaction (and it was - but just for around $900 purchases from a linen store in Victoria!) but the upshot was they were cancelling my card! WHAT! I had preloaded it with some cash in advance and had used it to pre-authorise my hotel bookings.

28 degrees promised to get a new card to me asap - but we were moving around a lot so I had no thoughts I would ever receive it. So, on arrival in Melbourne we had to withdraw old fashioned cash.

About four days later we arrived into Paris and lo and behold, there was a DHL package waiting for me with my new credit card and all cash intact.

So all good. We thought. We eventually started our cruise and within a night we were asked to go to Guest Services, as our credit card had been refused (they do auto debits once a day as you start spending. well, that was what they told us). I handed over my card and they did a transaction using the physical card, and it worked. Phew. Next night at dinner - sorry Madam you will need to go to Guest services. Yep, same issue. But manually it processed ok. Then the front desk wanted me to call the Bank. It was 3am in Australia and they were closed. This routine happened every time we tried to do a purchase. Given it worked manually we knew it wasn't the card but their computer. It was stressful and a real pain to go through every night. Even Guest services were becoming embarassed. To the extent we ended up with champagne, strawberries, cocktails, specialty dinners - because every night the same thing would happen. One time we were reassured it would not happen again, they had fixed it. So we tested it immediately by purchasing at the tat sale - just a $10 something. Yep. Card refused. They saw us coming back and straight away took us behind the guest services counter and into their admin area.

When we returned home I contacted the card supplier - there was no record of any refused transaction as they had recorded my pre-travel conversation that we were going to be in Europe.

So, this time I have bought in advance everything I could possibly do.

Dubai - pre purchased tickets to the viewing platform at Burj Khalifa
Venice - transport to and from airport and to the cruise port
Venice - 3 day vaporetto pass
Istanbul - Museums pass (that will be delivered to the hotel so will see how that works out :(
Private taxi Tour in Corfu
Small bus tour in Ephesus
Transport at Olympia
Volcano Tour at Santorini.

Consequently my travel folder is the size of a small brick.
 

LadyC

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What a great holiday you have planned. Hopefully you don't have any more credit card woes - it can definitely put a dampener on the trip when you are worried about how to pay for everything.
 

Pushka

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Last night, having finished off some of the "end of financial year" things for our business I thought I would lodge our details into the Smart Traveller website. While not exactly travelling into risk areas, anything can happen so thought that might be a good plan. Being on a cruise in the mix is a layer of complexity. I thought I could just insert the ship details with a listing of Ports. Nope. Each country needed to be identified as well as dates, and supposedly the Port. Except, there is no space to list the Port details. Makes the whole thing rather moot. I think it took around 30 minutes as the dates had to match up with reality. Oh well, it's done now.

One thing I enjoy about cruises, is arriving at an "unknown" location, setting out for a sightseeing day, then arriving back at the ship, hearing the ping as you board again, being welcomed with a cool (or hot, as in Shanghai!) towel, and a drink, and look forward to the evenings events. Which might be a trip to the gym, swim, dress for dinner, a nice glass of wine, dinner, then a show or movie then a relaxing sleep before arriving the next day at a new port.

On a cruise, the only extras you have to pay for are the nicer coffees, all alcohol, and any gifts you might want.

Celebrity cruises have a promo called 123Go. This came out a few days after I booked and theoretically I was too late. But I had booked with a US Travel Agent who not only got me the 123Go promo plus he gave us $200 onboard credit.

So what is the big deal? It means that all soft drinks, coffees and teas, most beers (eg Corona, Heineken etc); wines by the glass (and there is a nice selection available - sadly no Grange); spirits including reasonable gins like Bombay and vodkas like Absolut; Baileys irish creme etc etc. Just one glass at a time, but as many times as you want - are all free! With the OBC we can upgrade if we want to include speciality cocktails, and have vodkas like Grey Goose included. Its going to be a great party!

On every cruise I've been on, Australian wines, and in particular, Barossa Valley and Vales Wines, feature prominently.

Non- Alcoholic
Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte, NA Specialty Coffees etc., Additional Coffee Syrup, Extra Shot Espresso, Tea Forte, Can Soda, Soda by the Glass, Assorted Juices and Fresh Squeezed, Spring Bottled water, Arizona Iced Teas, NA cocktails and Smoothies
Beers
Bud Light, Budweiser, Coors Lite, Miller Lite, Franziskaner, Strongbow, San Miguel, Tiger, Estrella Damm Lager, Heineken Light, Heineken, Leffe
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UK - John Smith's Extra Smooth, Marston's Pedigree Ale
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Vodka/Gin
House Vodka, House Gin, Smirnoff, Absolut, Absolut Flavors, Stolichnaya, Stoli Flavors, Ketel One, Effen, 42 Below, Three Olives, Beefeater, Gordon's, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Plymouth English Gin
Rum
Rum White House Pour, House Rum, Bacardi, Bacardi Flavors, Capt. Morgan, Matusalem Reserva, Myer's, Malibu, Gosling's Black Seal – Bermuda, Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum, Bacardi 8
Brugal Anejo, English Harbour, Leblon Cachaca
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Jim Beam, Bour Deluxe, Napoleon, Cles Des Ducs VSOP, Martell VS, Blanton's, Makers Mark, Barsol Pisco, Carlos 1, Metaxa 5 Star Classic
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Canadian Club, Seagram 7, Seagram VO, Crown Royal
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Cutty Sark, Old Black Bush, Chivas, Glenfiddich, Old Bushmills, Famous Grouse, Bell's, Johnny Walker Red, Dewars White Label, J&B
Tequila
House Tequila, Jose Cuervo Blanco, Milagro Silver, Cazadores Blanco, Cuervo Gold
Cazadores Resposado, Patron XO Café
Cordials
Campari, Dubonnet, Pernod, Punt e Mes, Vermouth Dry, Vermouth Sweet, Amaretto, Anisette, Frangelico, Kahlua, Liquor43, Ouzo, Peppermint Schnapps, Peach Schnapps, Pama Pomegranate Liqueur, Southern Comfort, Sloe Gin, Tia Maria, Frenet Branca, Pimms 1, Limoncello, Aperol, Lillet Blanc, Lillet Rouge, Aquavit, Alize Gold Passion, B&B, Benedictine, Cointreau, Chambord, Galliano, Goldschlager, Godiva, Hpnotiq, Bailey's Irish Cream, Drambuie, Sambuca, Disaronno Amaretto
Wines
We will continue to offer a large global assortment of red, white and sparkling wines by the glass.
 
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