Mediterranean Vacation Day 14

Tuesday, June 19: Athens to Boston 

The road home.  We had a nice relaxing breakfast in the rooftop garden restaurant again (can you believe the view?), and then got picked up and transported to the airport.  

Oddly, on the flight from Athens to London, they didn’t even give out water without you paying for it, yet on the London-Boston leg, they gave up to 2 alcoholic drinks and 2 1/2 meals for free.  Of course, trying to eat in coach class is always a challenge.

That about wraps up our 2018 vacation.  We had a fantastic time.

After reflecting on the whole trip, here are some of our final impressions. 

Overall impressions – The Cities

  • Rome was a fascinating city that I’d be willing to visit again, though given a choice, I’d find a hotel closer to downtown, and I’d study the Metro system more.  I felt there was plenty more to see there. 
  • On the other hand,  I think I’ve seen everything I need to see in Athens. Beyond the historical sites, which you can cover in a couple of days, it’s just a big city.
  • Athens had the cleanest Metro stations of any city I’ve ever been in.
  • In both cities, in fact in every place we visited on this trip, I was delighted with the abundance of al fresco restaurants.  In the 2 cities,  they were literally stacked together to the point where sometimes it was hard to tell where one restaurant ended and another began (usually the giveaway was the tablecloths). 
  • I would like to have had a couple more days in Rome especially, so that I could have spent some more time relaxing in those restaurants. We definitely felt a bit rushed to see as much as we could. 
  • Boy, you can’t get away from the smokers over there. It seems like EVERYBODY smokes, and unlike in the U.S., they can pretty much smoke wherever they want. 

Overall impressions – The Cruise: 

  • The daily schedule of hosted events on the ship didn’t SEEM to be as dense with activities as on previous voyages. 
  • The shows in the theater were of a much lower quality than on previous cruises we’ve taken. 
  • Jeannie was a little concerned about the state of the ship; there was water leaking from the ceiling in the cafeteria, and one bank of elevator buttons wasn’t working (the elevators themselves were working, but the call buttons were not).

Lessons Learned – Cities:

  • We had great experiences in both cities with the Hop on Hop off busses.  However,  they are not the most efficient way to get around.  Use the Metro to move fast. 

Lessons Learned – Cruise :

  • Excursions
    • Avoid the “walking tour of the town” excursions.  Very often, the guide alternates between boring you silly with a long monologue about something you barely care about, and rushing from place to place to make sure that they check the box for seeing everything the tour description promised. You can really do just as well on your own with a good guidebook or audio tour. I highly recommend Rick Steves’ walking audio tours.   
    • Full day excursions are exhausting.  Avoid them if you can.  Be sure to allow time to enjoy the ship’s amenities. 
    • Don’t book an excursion on the last cruise day. Especially not a full day excursion. It makes the whole offboarding process a bit too hectic. 
  • Wardrobe
    • Take half as many pants as you think you need, but be sure to have a ‘day’ shirt and an ‘evening’ shirt for at least  2/3 of the days you’re onboard. That’s assuming that you will do laundry at least once if not twice while onboard.  The ‘evening’ shirt (for men) should have a collar  if you’re eating in the main dining rooms. Your ‘day’ shirt will be pretty stinky by the end of the day if you’ve done any excursions.  
    • Speaking of which, plan to do laundry on the ship either really early or really late, since those ship laundromats stay pretty busy.  Also, when choosing your wardrobe for the trip, try to pick colors that can all be washed together, because the laundry costs about $9 / load.
  • Don’t bother with the specialty restaurants.  The food and the service in the specialty restaurants are slightly better than in the main dining rooms, but IMHO, they’re not $30 better. 

I will point out that the little annoyances that I’ve documented here in this blog series were just that: little annoyances. They did not detract from the overall greatness of the trip.  Because this was a GREAT trip.  We had a blast.