Posted on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 by Peter Knego
In this restored Sea Treks blog, originally posted in 2007, Peter Knego scours the Piraeus and Kusadasi waterfronts in search of cruise ships, old and new, then spends a day visiting Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace before dining at the Ciragon with a view of the Bosphorus. All while sailing on Princess Cruises then-new EMERALD PRINCESS.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2007 unless otherwise noted.
Sunday, May 20, 2007:
I awoke at 5:45 AM as EMERALD PRINCESS was backing into her outer Piraeus berth. The lights of Perama, Keratsini, and Drapetsona were still on as dawn broke over the mountains beyond central Piraeus. As our ship pivoted to port, the RUBY (ex CUNARD COUNTESS) gradually came into view. Her funnel had a blank white circle on it, possibly awaiting the addition of Louis Cruise Line’s logo as she fills in for the recently lost SEA DIAMOND through late July.
In the distance, a procession of brightly lit ships was following us in. The first in line gradually revealed itself as the CARNIVAL FREEDOM. EMERALD PRINCESS offered a perfect vantage at the harbor mouth to catch the arrivals, which included Mano Cruises’ IRIS and an array of ferries. Off at the main terminal, I could make out the funnel of the CRYSTAL SERENITY between a cluster of Piraeus apartment houses in the waxing backlight. Across the channel, I watched the little ANNA MARU fill with passengers embarking on a day cruise to the Saronic Gulf.
Doug took Princess’ full day tour to the Acropolis, Plaka, and Sounion, while I had my own agenda in Piraeus. After breakfast in the Horizon Court, I took the free shuttle to the central passenger terminal and walked down the main drag, Akti Miaouli, past the closed offices of Monarch Classic Cruises and the lovely St. Nicolas Church to the normally busy shopping area. My first stop was the maritime book store, Telstar, where I delivered a batch of videos. Then I headed to the ferry quay in the hopes of catching the next boat to Paloukia on Salamis Island (passing through the anchorages of Keratsini, Drapetsona, and Perama), but the return schedule had me coming back too close to our 7:00 PM sailing time. So, I walked back along the waterfront, passing the seemingly derelict HERMES (ex JUGOSLAVIA), which has been joined in layup by her one-time rival, the AEGEAN GLORY.
The internet center across from the main terminal had Ethernet access, so I worked on this blog for a couple hours before heading back to the ship, just as it began to rain. The IRIS concluded her short visit and sailed past EMERALD PRINCESS just as I grabbed a snack from the Horizon Court. CARNIVAL FREEDOM followed shortly thereafter.
From our cabin, I could see various crew members cleaning and painting the RUBY’s upper decks. I headed to the gym, hoping to squeeze in a workout before the departures began, but a small dot on the horizon soon morphed into MSC’s RHAPSODY (ex CUNARD PRINCESS). From the vantage of EMERALD PRINCESS’ aft Deck 19, there would be a chance to capture the two former Cunard twins, now the RUBY and RHAPSODY, together once more. But the outbound CRYSTAL SERENITY took priority.
The RHAPSODY finally made her way through the channel beyond us.
Shortly after the last bus returned, the EMERALD PRINCESS cast her lines and pivoted starboard into the setting sun. In the distance off her bow lay the wreck of the MELODY(ex DJEBEL DIRA), which has been sitting in purgatory for nearly twenty years. Over our stern, the Acropolis came into view, capturing the day’s last pinkish rays. EMERALD PRINCESS dropped off the pilot and gained speed as she headed for Kusadasi.
Up until this point, the schedule has been very full, so we enjoyed a rather laid-back evening, dividing our dinner between the Pizza Bar and Cafe Caribe’s buffet before retiring shortly prior to midnight.
Monday, May 21, 2007:
Another dawn awakening found EMERALD PRINCESS already berthed at Kusadasi. From our balcony, I could make out two small white specks on the horizon, so I returned to my perch on aft Deck 19 for aerial arrival views of the incoming WIND SPIRIT and Louis Cruises’ THE EMERALD (ex SANTA ROSA).
Doug took the ship’s “elite” tour (smaller groups in smaller coaches) to Ephesus and the Terrace Houses. I finished documenting the ship, capturing the gym, Heart’s and Minds wedding chapel, the Piazza and its various alcoves, the Wheelhouse Bar, and the three main dining rooms: Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli.
I had enough time to go ashore and get photos of the various ships and upload images to the site before queueing up with the passengers returning from their various excursions.
We left at 1:30, allowing a quick snack opportunity before my 2:30 appointment with indulgence at the Lotus Spa. My day’s therapy would be the “Cellutox Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap”, which found me slathered in a detoxifying seaweed solution, wrapped in foil, and eventually given an expert massage by specialist, Richard Watson. I spent a half an hour after that in the Thermal Suite, enjoying the aromatic steam areas and a tropical rainforest shower before returning to the cabin in a halcyonic state.
Tonight, we will have cocktails at the Wheelhouse Bar and dinner in Da Vinci. Tomorrow, its a full day tour of Istanbul with lunch at the posh Ciragon Palace, as our EMERALD adventures continue.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007:
The alarm was set for 7:15, but I awoke at 6:30 with the Asia Minor waterfront of Istanbul in full view. A fuzzy white form on the ship’s bow cam indicated another cruise ship in port. The Bosphorus Bridge gradually came into view as EMERALD PRINCESS berthed port side to the passenger terminal. I ran to get a cappuccino from the International Cafe, stopping on Deck 7 to see that the blur on the television screen was Iberojet’s GRAND VOYAGER (ex OLYMPIC VOYAGER). When I returned to the cabin to join Doug for breakfast on the balcony, one of the interesting little Ukrainian former research vessels in Black Sea to Istanbul coastal service sailed past us. A small cloudburst drenched the balcony for a quick moment before dissipating.
We headed to Club Fusion at 8:15 to muster for our tour of Istanbul. Within moments, we were on a bus with ten other people, heading for Topkapi Palace. The Elite tour was worth every extra cent it cost. Our bus had extra open seats, allowing us to switch sides throughout the excursion to take pictures. Our first stop was Topkapi Palace, which is closed to all but cruise ship passengers on Tuesdays. I have been to Topkapi twice but today it was devoid of the clamoring crowds and stifling heat on my prior visits. We spent ninety minutes there, allowing us ample time to see the famous Harem as well as the jewelry, tapestry, and military exhibits.
From Topkapi, we were taken to the Grand Bazaar area where we were given the usual rug factory visit and time to wander the marketplace. Finally, we were driven across town to the Ciragan Palace Hotel where we enjoyed a phenomenal lunch of mezes, various chicken and lamb courses, and delicious baklava with a view of the busy Bosphorus.
Since I have already been to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, I asked to be dropped off at the terminal when the bus head back in that direction. Once back on board the EMERALD PRINCESS, I was able to document the few remaining spaces I had not yet covered, including the Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe. From aft Deck 14, I was also able to get views over the stern of GRAND VOYAGER.
A quick workout would suit before capturing the GRAND VOYAGER sail prior to our own departure. Istanbul is one of the world’s most beautiful harbors and sailing past its monuments and picturesque cityscape is one of the great pleasures in life. Enjoying it from a private balcony with a glass of ice cold Perrier after a long day makes it all the better.
After an hour trying to get a wireless connection, I joined the media group in DaVinci for dinner: a wonderful gorgonzola/pear appetizer; Princess’ famously rich fettuccini alfredo in a baked cheese basket; and a wildly exotic glazed pineapple custard phallus capped by a spun sugar globe.
End of EMERALD PRINCESS Re-Trekked, Part Three. More to come…
Very special thanks: Julie Benson, Karen Candy, Martin Cox, Bianca Le Mouel, Doug Satterblom