Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation
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Day 25: Cruise at Sea
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Day 22: Athens, Greece
Day 23: Athens, Greece
Day 24: Cruise Begins
Day 25: Cruise at Sea
Day 26: Varna, Bulagaria
Day 27: Odessa, Ukraine
Day 28: Constanta, Romania


At Sea


MS Rotterdam


Overcast and off-and-on rain.  No temperature available

Day 25: Friday, September 29, 2006     Cruise at Sea

This is Not the Caribbean

We started the day with breakfast on the Lido deck - actually this is how we started the next 11 days as well.  We left Athens yesterday and crossed the Aegean Sea during the night.   before entering the Dardanelles, a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara.  The strait is 61 km long but only 1.2 to 6 km wide, averaging 55 m deep with a maximum depth of 82 m. Water flows in both directions along the strait, from the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean via a surface current and in the opposite direction via an undercurrent. Like the Bosporus, it separates Europe (in this case the Gallipoli peninsula) and the mainland of Asia. The strait is an International waterway, and together with the Bosporus, Dardanelles connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.  In essence, it's a vital transportation





Click on this map for a larger view

Kathryn at the back of the ship

bridge between the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea.  Over the centuries this strategic strait was blockaded, crossed by invading armies in their quest for land and riches, and the site of important naval conflicts. Many disputes have arisen over it during the centuries - perhaps most powerfully in recent memory when the WWI Battle of Gallipoli claimed thousands of young soldiers, mostly Australians and New Zealanders.  We passed by Gallipoli at about 6:00 am and some people got up to watch but we decided to sleep in.

When we cruised the Caribbean, we always loved a day at sea because it meant we could relax, lay out on the Lido deck, have a few drinks and work on our tans.  But this was not the Caribbean!  It was cloudy the whole day and it rained later in the afternoon and early evening.  By now we were in the large Sea Marmara (an area of 11,350 km²) and there wasn't much to see, so we did a closer inspection tour of the ship.

Another thing we noticed that was different on this cruise was the large rugs in the elevators.  They changed them every day so that you would know what day it was - cruising is a tough job.  Kathryn was excited about the fact that there were way more shops on this ship.  In fact she did some of her Xmas shopping on board.

Our wine steward from the previous night had recommended that we attend the wine-tasting class held in the afternoon.  There was nothing else to do so the boys - Ken, Dave and the two Al's - decided to go.  It cost $10 dollars and you got to taste 5 different wines.  We learned to inspect its colour, smell its aroma, taste its texture and much more.  We also learned which kind of food went with each type of wine as a small snack (cheese, strawberries, etc) was served with each brand.  I personally learned a lot - mainly because I knew next to nothing at the start - and this was good because the other three made their own wine.

At about 6:00 pm we reached the end of the Sea of Marmara and, heading north, entered the Bosporus (or Bosphorus), a strait that forms the boundary between the European part of Turkey and its Asian part. The world's narrowest strait used for international navigation, it is approximately 30 km long, with a maximum width of 3,700 m at the northern entrance, and a minimum width of 700 m at its narrowest point. The depth varies from 36 to 124 m in midstream.  The shores of the strait are heavily populated as the city of Istanbul (with a metropolitan area in excess of 11 million inhabitants) straddles it. Two bridges cross the Bosporus. The first, the Bosphorus Bridge, is 1074 m long and was completed in 1973. The second, Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Bosphorus II) bridge, is 1090 metres long, and was completed in 1988 about five km north of the first bridge.

We arrived at the entrance to the Bosporus and had to wait.  There is an incredible amount of sea traffic and south-bound large ships have the right-of-way.  Once a large tanker passed through the opening, we were allowed to enter.  We passed by the Sultanahmet Mosque (popularly known as the Blue Mosque), Hagia Sophia, the Topkapı Palace and the Golden Horn.  It was heavily overcast but I went up to the top deck of the ship to take photos (see Slide show below).  It was crowded with other people who had the same idea.  I finally saw a 5-foot wobbly stack of deck chairs that I climbed on so that I could shoot over the bulkhead.  It was a good thing Kathryn didn't see me.  By the

Looking back in the Bosporus Strait.  The first Bosphorus Bridge is in the background

time we entered the narrow part of the Strait, it started to rain hard.  I will have more information and better photos on Istanbul when we stop here on our way back from the Black Sea.

The dress code for dinner was formal.  I have my own tux and love to wear it but we didn't have room for it on an 8-week holiday.  Tonight we were seated at a large, round table that sat 10 people.  We were joined by the Belgian Communications Officer Mark and his brand new wife Oksana, from Kazakhstan, who he had met over the Internet.  The senior staff dine with passengers on formal nights and this was a good thing because, even though we had all bought five-bottle wine packages to test our wine-tasting skills, Mark insisted on buying all the wine (red and white) for our table for the entire meal.

Kathryn, Ken, Carol, Dave, Donna, Al Russell, Arlene and Al MacDonald

Dinner this evening was jumbo shrimp appetizers, onion soup, steak and lobster and crème brule for dessert.  After dinner, we went to the Queen's Lounge to watch the Showstoppers.  Then a nightcap and off to bed.  All in all, a good day even with the poor weather.

Click here for a slide show of Day 25 photos.

Day 26

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