Aegean Odyssey On The ORIENT QUEEN, Part Three

Peter Knego continues his classic seven night journey from Piraeus to the Greek Islands and Turkey aboard Louis Cruises’ ORIENT QUEEN, the former NCL STARWARD, with visits to Patmos, Kusadasi and Rhodes.

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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ORIENT QUEEN alongside at Patmos.

Pretty Patmos. I thought I would have to skip going ashore a second time since were were only there for three hours and tendering ashore meant being ready at 7:00 AM. At 8:45, just as I was opening my eyes, I heard an announcement that we would be moving from the anchorage to berth directly in town. Alright then, I could head ashore for a short hour and even get a cappuccino somewhere near the ship, which is exactly what transpired.

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Patmost!

With “all aboard” at 10:00 AM, ORIENT QUEEN was soon nudging gently away and making a 360 into the Aegean. It was another sweltering day, so when the ship finally got underway, the breeze was most welcome.

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SEA CLOUD Surprise!

When we rounded the promontory at the outer anchorage, I was pleasantly shocked to see the glorious SEA CLOUD, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s illustrious diesel/sail yacht of 1931, looking splendid in the late morning light.

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SEA CLOUD Sentinel.

Behind us, the CLOUD looked so proud, stationed at the entrance to Patmos harbor like a sentinel sent by the sea gods.

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ORIENT QUEEN Captain’s Office, facing port.

When the SEA CLOUD finally shrunk away, I rounded the Deck 7 promenade and noticed two open windows on the starboard side. Curiosity got the best of me, so when I peered in, I was rewarded with a fantastic view of the palatial captain’s office, which like that of the former SKYWARD (see LEISURE WORLD Decked!), had a “galleon’s stern” dining area. Better than my trying to describe it, the above picture tells it all.

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Cris-crossing with OLYMPIA.

I ran into Captain Gritzelis, who told me at 12:30 we would be passing the narrowest point of the upcoming Samos Strait separating the Greek island of Samos from the mainland of Turkey. Shortly thereafter, we would be encountering the outbound LOUIS OLYMPIA from Kusadasi.

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Vitaly knows…

Visible from a distance at Kusadasi were the RUBY PRINCESS and SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS and the deluxe little SEA DREAM I. As ORIENT QUEEN took the last slot available, SEA DREAM I prepared to depart. I decided against my original plan of heading ashore and composing a blog in the internet center, figuring that the two mega ships would have the place overflowing. Instead, I headed to the Reflections Lounge where Ukrainian steward Vitaly saw me wave and said, “I know what you want!” and within moments, brought me a piping hot cappuccino and a bottle of cold water. For someone who had just embarked on his first sea-going job, he certainly had it down. “This job is good since all the money I make, I can save for my parents in the Ukraine. I don’t have to pay rent and the food is free. It is good for all involved.”

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ORIENT QUEEN at Kusadasi.

Article filed, internet duties done, I had some time to walk around the harbor front for some views of the ORIENT QUEEN in the late afternoon light. I had pangs to go to Aliaga (some three hours north of Kusadasi) to see her now-more-than-half-demolished, slightly newer former NCL fleetmate, the ex SOUTHWARD but there really wouldn’t have been enough time, even if I had a car waiting when we arrived.

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All Naturel Turkish Delight.

On my way back to the ship, a 20 Turkish Lira note was burning a hole in my pocket. Instead of keeping it in some drawer, I decided to splurge on some “All Naturel” Turkish Delight and a bag of roasted pistachios. With all the food on the ORIENT QUEEN already packing on the flab, these were the last things I needed…

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Soap blossoms.

The cabin was already turned down when I returned to the ship. Khaled and Katiya’s custom soap dishes were so attractive, I felt guilty laying a bar of wet soap on them.

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Cruelty free — and with a view, too!

It was such a balmy eve, I decided to eat at Horizon Court, chomp on a massive salad and watch Kusadasi transition into night mode.

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Dining on deck in Kusadasi.

Over the stern, the fortress at the harbor entrance was aglow in a dramatic golden light. Most of the returning guests had spent a hot afternoon at Ephesus and were soaking in this wondrous view for the very first time.

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Hanna the Soprana.

In the Stars Showroom, I caught the end of the first show, which featured the ship’s Bulgarian singers doing pop songs. When the lovely Hanna Kushnirenko sang “Con Te Partiro”, she transformed into a soprano diva of the first magnitude and blew the crowd away. Brava!

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Giorgos Zorbas and company.

For the Greek Night show immediately afterwards, Giorgos Zorba took the helm and led the cast through all the fab Greek numbers they did on the LOUIS OLYMPIA the week prior but with an ORIENT QUEEN twist.

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Bouzouki time!

I will never tire of these classic melodies and ORIENT QUEEN’s Bulgarian bouzouki player Plamen Ganev (they call him Pavaroti on board) was astoundingly good, as well.

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Over the head, behind the back Bouzouki!

And here he is, upping the ante even more with an “I can do this behind my back….”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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Big queen to little queen.

Back in Rhodes, new week, same ships in the same berths, with LOUIS OLYMPIA nestled between the ORIENT QUEEN and ORIENT QUEEN 2 in a sandwich that will never get stale.

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Who’s watching whom?

It was pretty hot outside, if not quite as sizzling as last week, so I spent a leisurely morning on the ship writing, doing cardio and having some lunch in the Mermaid. One lively Australian guest reversed the “Pool Window” game by peering in at us as we ate. I don’t think he heard the round of applause.

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Mermaid Michael, the James Franco of the Philippines.

Props to Philippine waiter Michael and Greek waiter Nelson, who were so friendly and tireless in taking our orders. These guys master guests’ names and dining preferences quickly, just like they do on the luxury ships, but without the fuss and heel clicking.

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Chick pea soup.

Chick pea soup is now on my list of Greek favorites.

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Lemon butter caper fish.

I was going to order the chicken but Michael persuaded me to go with the lemon, butter and caper-infused fish of the day. So fresh and tasty, thanks Michael!

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Never say no to Nabi.

Instead of “shopping around” for wifi, I went to the Mar d’Estate Cafe where persistent but funny “barker” Nabi guarantees “everything free if the wifi doesn’t work”.  It worked.  I paid.

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Ruins of the 14th Century- built Virgin of the Burgh Cathedral.

Yes, I did the same old thing but even that can be enticing when in the splendor of Rhodes town. I did take some time to wander the medieval quarter, including the 14th Century ruins of the Virgin of the Burgh.

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Rhodes town fountain with Blonde Venus.

I had a little time, so took the long way back to the ship, retracing steps taken over the past two decades through Rhodes Town, savoring old memories and hopefully creating future ones, such as the woman with a tiger’s mane of blonde hair adjusting her lengthy pose by one of the main fountains.

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Reeliing in the ships.

I continued out of the main gate and along the waterfront, with a view of three ships at the end of the port.

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Colossus was here.

Nearby, the ancient harbor is where the legendary Colossus once stood.

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ORIENT QUEEN 2 entry lobby.

“Why not?”, I asked myself, then proceeded to the gangway of ORIENT QUEEN 2. The nice security agent didn’t kick me off immediately but could not find anyone on board with the authority to let me take a tour of the Lebanese-based ship. He asked me to come back in an hour but there was no time, so I thanked him, took a photo of the lobby and continued onwards.

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Dome of the rock at Rhodes.

At least I tried. Back to the real ORIENT QUEEN…

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Captain Romeos on the wing.

I chomped on a delicious sesame cookie and took photos of LOUIS OLYMPIA from the stern of ORIENT QUEEN. I felt disembodied, watching my life from last week unfold from a different perspective. Even the good Captain Romeos seemed to be in the exact same position on the OLYMPIA’s wing…

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LOUIS OLYMPIA departs.

With a blast of her whistle, OLYMPIA led the way.

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Under the Maltese flag.

ORIENT QUEEN’s Maltese flag whipped in the gusts as we followed suit. I knew the routine — we would pass the OLYMPIA at sunset, perhaps, and beat her to a parallel berth in Heraklion.

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Seafoam from the wing of a QUEEN.

I also know how this story will end:  too soon.

End Of Aegean Odyssey Aboard The ORIENT QUEEN, Part Three.

A Little More To Come…

Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Nicholas Filippides, Captain Kostas Gritzelis, Captain George Koumpenas, Michalis Maratheftis, Nic Spanoudes

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego
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