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Old May 14th, 2007, 05:01 PM
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Default May 14 Crete

NCL Jewel Virtual Cruise Report
May 14- Iraklion, Greece (Crete)

It goes to show you how little I researched some of the Greek Islands on this itinerary in advance, as it wasn’t until last night I found out Iraklion is a city on the Island of Crete. This is not a tiny, quaint Greek Island. Rather it is 400 kilometers wide, and 80 Kilometers long.

Once I found out we would be visiting Crete, I joked with Mrs. Kuki; wondering if they had a place we could go see the cretans. OK, it was a bad joke, but Mrs. Kuki still laughs at my lousy jokes, and it’s probably why we’re still married. That and the fact she is such an excellent packer.

Without the advance research, from the port area the place didn’t look all that impressive, but at least from our prospective taken from the parts of the island we visited today, it’s quite beautiful, very clean, and seemingly the locals have quite a reasonable standard of living. Our guide told us there are 45 million olive trees on Crete, and exporting of olive products is quite a significant industry. There are also numerous vineyards around the island, and tourism rounds out the basics of the island economy.

NCL offers a free shuttle to the port building, which is a fair distance from where the ship is docked. There you’ll find set taxi rates posted, and we had no difficulty finding an English speaking taxi driver, and had him suggest a nice tour that would combine visits to some more typical Greek villages, outside of the urban area, as well as must see sites. The car was a modern air conditioned Mercedes Benz (which seemed the vehicle of choice for all the taxis), and the rate was $80 Euro for 4 of us for a 3 hr tour. With our stops we spent over 4 ½ hrs. together, and the driver asked for $100 Euro. At $25 Euro per person we felt it was a bargain.

All the villages we went to were clean, and very well kept. We stopped to stroll through several towns, checked out some of the local stores, including the local grocery store, and had an all together very enjoyable day, and felt perfectly safe the entire time.

Our driver George explained that Crete is a wonderful place to live, with a superb climate, good education and health care, and virtually no crime… and no problems for tourists, like pick pockets etc.

As we strolled in one town, I took a picture of an older local woman walking on a side street near her home.
She was so sweet; she walked up to a fruit tree in front of her home, picked some fruit off the tree, and handed it to the friend I was walking with.

It reminded me of a story from the last time I visited Greece in 1972. I was young and backpacking, with very little money. We were near the Port of Pireus, awaiting a ferry, and we stopped in at a café for a drink. The owners asked us if we wanted food, but we thanked them and said no (mainly because we couldn’t really afford restaurant food at that time. We were mostly living off fresh bread and cheese bought in marketplaces). We obviously must have looked hungry, because the owners brought out several platters packed with food, and assured us there would be NO charge! Ever since that day I’ve had a warm spot in my heart for the Greek people. And today’s simple incident with this little old lady clearly demonstrated that nothing had changed; the Greeks are a warm, friendly and hospitable people!!

Aside from our stops in towns, we stopped several times for photo ops at a few locations with panoramic views. And of course, you can’t visit this area without the obligatory visit to the ruins of the Knossos Palace. At one time this was a 22,000 square meter (you’ll have to do the match conversion to square feet, as I don‘t have a calculator handy, but it‘s BIG) Palace that sat about 3 ½ miles from the ocean. With changes due to nearby volcanic activity, over time, the palace location is now closer to 10 miles from the sea.

The cost to get into the Palace grounds is $6 Euro per person. Once inside the gates there are well trained guides available at $10 Euro per person. They accumulate groups from those entering to make 15 or 16 person groups for each guide. There were guides available for tours in several languages; we saw English, French, and German groups touring the site.

Much of the Palace grounds and ruins are a recreation, done in the 1930’s, with many of the original artifacts now in the museums, but some portions remain as they were originally. The ruins of the Palace were discovered through archeological digs under a regular looking hillside using old tales and stories about the place, and it’s inhabitants as a guide.

From the Palace grounds we were taken for some time in the town market in Old Town. And it was a fun market to stroll in, and dicker with shop keepers.

We found everything there from fresh fish and meat stands to the Cretan equivalent of the “Dollar Stores?. We bought souvenirs for gifts, and I got a huge bag of great tasting pistachios, so there’s going to be little shells left all over the ship for the next several days.

More pictures of our day on Crete can be found here:

There most certainly seems to be a minor outbreak of some sort of little virus on the ship. It’s NOT Norwalk Virus, but it does seem to be some mild form of gastrointestinal disease. I had it the other night, when I had to stay in and miss the Chinese dinner at Chin Chin, and I’ve heard of several cases of it since then. And since the very diligent sanitizing of passengers at all food service stations continues, I’m assuming it’s likely still around. My own case lasted only a few hours, and I’m hoping it was the same for anyone else who happened to come down with it as well. I wasn’t vomiting at all, but I did feel a bit uncomfortable for a few hours.

I did hear some passengers complaining at having to have their hands sprayed with the sanitizer at every turn, which I thought was plain silly. It only took an extra second or two, and yes the staff handling all food and service items at the buffet did slow down the process a bit, but that’s so much better than being sick, you’d think they would appreciate the preventative treatment path chosen. As a wise friend once told me “ some folks just want to show they have dumb they haven’t used yet?.

After returning to the ship from our tour I went up on deck to the Sky High Bar, on Deck 13, overlooking the pool, and just sat and enjoyed a drink. The sun was shining brightly, the pool deck below was bustling, the band was playing, and everyone I looked at had broad smiles on their faces. I thought to myself just what a wonderful day we had, what an unbelievable cruise it’s been, and how blessed I am to be sitting where I was enjoying it.

For dinner this evening we had reservations for 6 of us at Teppanyaki, the Japanese-style restaurant, where the chefs are part of the entertainment while they cook your meals at the table.

I’m personally not a big fan of this type cuisine, but the others in the group are, and I went for the fun more than the food. The restaurant has 4 cooking grills and seating for 8 at each. They squeezed in 10 at our table, but basically the room is set for a total of 32 guests at each seating. As the space is so limited, if you want reservations here, make them early. There are 4 chefs. The chef for our table arrived about 10 minutes after the others. We joked that he was delayed getting appendages reattached after the earlier seating.

The meal preparation is fun, and if you’re a seafood fan, no doubt you’ll enjoy the food as well. I did find the space to be quite noisy, so the crowd needs to be a bit boisterous to be heard, but that’s probably also part of the fun of it.

With an early morning arrival in Santorini on tap for tomorrow we didn’t attend the song stylist’s performance in the showroom. Mrs. Kuki and I both played in the casino for about an hour, and called it a night
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