Posted on Saturday, October 15, 2011 by Peter Knego
From Sorrento to Agropoli, Voyages to Antiquity’s AEGEAN ODYSSEY continued her trek along the Italian coast. Although there were a number of teething issues when this blog was first posted, the cruise line has since honed the product and addressed some of the points mentioned in this report, including the elimination of lips around the outside stairtowers, the addition of new tenders, an improved enrichment program and more well-organized activities, improved catering, etc. Please read on to revisit this early Voyage to Antiquity with MaritimeMatters’ newly enlarged photo format.
Originally Posted June 9, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Jet lag almost always trumps a good night’s sleep, no matter how comfortable the surroundings. This can actually be a plus when cruising the Med, where sunrises and early morning arrivals are not to be missed. But for good measure toward getting some rest once the lag relented, I requested a regular blanket and sheet instead of the plush but (to me) incinerating duvet atop my bed in AEGEAN ODYSSEY’s cabin 741.
Shortly after dawn, the AEGEAN ODYSSEY began her approach to Sorrento. Sky and sea were silver and peach tinted as we came to rest at the southern end of the Bay of Naples, a mile or two off Italy’s rugged Campanian coast.
Please click on photo to view a larger version. All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2010 unless otherwise noted.
Most of our fellow passengers would soon be off for morning or full day tours (Voyages To Antiquity includes many but not all of its shore excursions in the cruise fare) of Pompeii and/or Herculaneum. Having been to Pompeii twice in recent years and since Herculaneum was only available as the second part of a long excursion, I chose to stay on board and finish documenting the AEGEAN ODYSSEY’s decks and public rooms.
After breakfast in the Terrace Cafe (yogurt, muesli and a freshly-cooked omelet on the outdoor terrace), I began my rounds. With nearly everyone off, I had the perfect opportunity to cover smaller spaces like the Library, Beauty Shop and Internet Center.
Once the cameras were stowed, there was time for a cappuccino ($4.00 plus a $.50 service charge) overlooking the inviting pool.
One thing that concerned me (and several others who almost tripped over them) were the metal lips protruding from the tops of the outdoor stairways. They are only marked on the ascending side but even with plenty of warning signs on the descending side, they are a potential hazard and should be cut down to deck level. Hopefully, the ship’s management will take note…
UPDATE: All stairtower lips on the outer decks have since been removed.
I also managed a quick workout (the gym has one elliptical, two treadmills and a stationary cycle but no weights). My 6 foot two frame is a bit taller than average, so I had to hunch over on the slightly elevated elliptical and treadmills to avoid contact with the fire sprinklers. One of the girls in the spa noticed and called the safety department to ask that the machines be rearranged ( this had still not been addressed prior to my disembarkation five days later). I’d like to add that the girls that run the spa and beauty salon are incredibly sweet and engaging, unlike some concessionaires that push product and treatments, even when they are not wanted or needed.
I rode the tender several times around the ship, then returned for lunch on the outdoor terrace.
The food in the Terrace Cafe was well-prepared, so I indulged in its unlimited offerings of tapas, salad and pasta throughout the short cruise. For me, it was a far better dining experience than the Marco Polo and the views were almost always sublime.
My next stop was the cabin to grab the laptop, as I had hoped to post a Sea Treks entry from an internet cafe in Sorrento as there is no wifi on the ship. Fellow bloggers, take note: there is but one such cafe hidden on a back street near the train station but it was closed, either due to a holiday, siesta, or both.
Sorrento is a typically spectacular Italian Riviera hamlet. From its seaside base, one can hire a shuttle (1 Euro) for a winding ride or walk a zig-zagging network of relatively steep stairs to reach the town at the top. Pastel-stuccoed grand hotels overlook its sheer, stony bluffs and photogenic piazzas, parks, boutiques and trattorias line its streets. On this particular day, the view stretched all the way across the Bay of Naples to the island of Ischia and the twin peaks of Vesuvius were concealed behind a veil of nimbus fluff.
I was back on board in time for tea in the Terrace Cafe at 4:00 PM, then attended a press meeting at 5:00 in the Library.
The long port visit enabled our group to return to Sorrento for an al fresco dinner, where the piazza lights flickered over fresh courses of antipasti, insalate, pasta, pizzas and perhaps a glass or two of vino.
AEGEAN ODYSSEY remained at anchor overnight (tender service ended at 11:00 PM) and would depart for nearby, even more spectacular Amalfi at 5:00 AM the following day.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Having a port side veranda while heading south along the west coast of Italy was ideal. No one would see my crumpled pajamas, bedhair and pillow-creased face as Amalfi came into view shortly before 7:00 AM. This rugged part of Italy always reminds me of California but with layers of fortresses and palazzi sprinkled amongst its cliffside villas, apartments and hotels. Unfortunately, the swells that were pitching the AEGEAN ODYSSEY con gusto spelled the end of our tendering before it even began.
Shortly after our arrival, it was finally decided that we would have to miss the call, so it was anchor’s aweigh and onward along the Campanian coast, past Atrani and Salerno to Agropoli, where we would try again.
Of course, it would have been great to visit Amalfi but when our call was aborted, a back up plan should have been in place. With precious little sea time worked into this very port-intensive itinerary, an enrichment lecture or some sort of activity should have been substituted.
Tendering at Agropoli was hampered not just by rough seas but conflicting disembarkation instructions and a lack of regular and clear announcements from an actual cruise director (there was no cruise director or hotel manager on our voyage but a Voyages to Antiquity representative has just informed me that on June 15, a social hostess and cruise director will be joining the ship).
Hats off to the nimble and spirited veteran cruisers who filled our tender as it bounced like a cork into the side of AEGEAN ODYSSEY and, after several near misses, we are hoping someone will heed the request that some padding and caution signs will be affixed to the overhead beams in the tenders. Any doubts or misgivings about not landing at Amalfi were surely deluged as we sputtered off into the Tyrrhenian Sea spray. We were lucky to have had priority disembarkation (a concierge level plus) but some of our fellow passengers had a very truncated time ashore by the time they stepped off the tender in Marina Agropoli.
Agropoli has been occupied since the Neolithic Era and was used by the Greeks as a port for Poseidonia, which was founded in 625 BC and later renamed Paestum by the Romans. Paestum was the destination of our tour and just a thirty or so minute coach ride through villages and farmland to the lush plains at the foot of the rugged Apennines.
The Romans sacked most of Poseidonia but left its sacred temples intact since both cultures worshiped the same deities. What I had not expected was the grand scale and sheer architectural splendor of the site. Two huge temples to Hera, mercurial queen of the Olympian gods (dating from 550 and 450 BC), can be seen from the entrance.
With the mountains as a backdrop (during our visit, a panorama of dramatic cumulus clouds passed overhead) and the still verdant fields abloom with pungent wildflowers, the setting could not be matched. The birds, butterflies and green lizards surely agreed!
Our excellent guide led us around the temples and into the ruins of the Roman-built city with its cemetery, shopping arcade and crumbled dwellings until we reached the third great temple, dedicated to Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. This was built atop a slight man-made mountain and, like the temples to Hera, still had much of its carved detail intact.
One of the nice pluses of a Voyages to Antiquity excursion is that headsets are provided. This enables participants a bit of a leash when wandering various sites and allowed our lovely guide to speak in a soothing, melodic tone and not shout over other guides and the general crunch of visitors.
The adjacent archaeological museum featured many items removed from the site. Amphorae, frescoes, tools, tombs and even dried bits of honey (used as alms to the Hera) were among the myriad displays.
Dinner on the terrace was enhanced by a spectacular view of Agropoli and some very dramatic clouds. I made my typically large salad and dressed it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and parmesan. Other indulgences included fresh spaghetti with pesto sauce, hummus from the tapas selection on the terrace and the nice (included in the fare) wine provided by the AEGEAN ODYSSEY’s attentive wait staff.
At 8:45, there was a presentation by Volcanologist Michael Higgins entitled “The Volcanoes of Naples: Vesuvius and the Phlygean Fields” in the Ambassador Lounge. It was followed at 9:45 by pianist Michael Munro in the Charleston Lounge. A captain’s cocktail party at 5:45 was largely missed as many passengers were still ashore. As a matter of fact, the captain was noticeably absent from any sort of social interaction during our segment of the cruise.
Special thanks: Martin Cox, Johanna Jainchill, Heather Krasnow, Christopher Kyte, Paul Motter, Mitch Schlessinger