Cruising To Istanbul

5th June – A Day At Sea Cruising To Istanbul

Got up early to go to the safety demo in the Marquee. We had to bring our lifejackets with us and try to put them on etc. (I had brought a dress with me – the same colour as these lifejackets (orange/grey – from Primark), that won’t be getting worn now!) Then we went to look at perfumes for sale and had breakfast at waterfront. All very nice except for the scrambled egg which was nasty – I wouldn’t mind but that was the one thing I was looking forward to. It looked like wallpaper paste……. We took Laura up to the Kids club “The Attic” so she could enrol. They are playing “Italian diner” today so we are to go back at 3.30pm for our pizza. Me and Paul watched a Bike Balancing show on the deck. I had my first cocktail (a pina colada) and I was congratulated by the entertainments team for being the only cocktail drinker!

We later went to Connexions and I had a salsa dance lesson. Good fun, I had to dance with a stranger though because obviously Paul wasn’t having any of it! No worries, I enjoyed it anyway.

Then back to room for a cuppa on the balcony.

Went to The Attic at 3.30 for our pizza. They did a really good job. Cakes, chips and allsorts. Laura was a drinks waitress.

Me and Paul had a look at the gym and decided to go up later but then we changed our minds because we were too lazy so we sat on the balcony and watched the ship going through the skinny narrow slipway to Istanbul. Laura called up with her new friend and announced that she had already taken tea, so me and Paul went to Plantation on our own. Had some lovely chowder followed by salad ham and veg. Back to room.

Then we went to the Marquee and watched a fella singing. He was called “Amazing Rae”, and was like every other lounge singer you have ever seen. . I had a banana type rum cocktail, ACE! Next up, there was a magician who was very good. A Cuban guy, cant remember his name. He got people up on stage and done some pretty cool tricks involving a woman’s diamond ring getting ground to powder! Laura came back to her room, joined us on the balcony and showed us her magic trick with her glowing fingers. Unfortunately, she nearly dropped them over the side of the boat and followed that performance by going back in the room where she managed to knock a pint of coke all over the table. Magical, I don’t think!!! I went to plantations for a coffee to escape the drama……. Run mum, run!

Came back and we had an early night. Went to sleep watching a film. I found my earplugs so I got a good nights sleep. Still heard Laura coughing through them, but they cut out the A/C noise thankfully.

6th June – Istanbul

Woke up bright and early to be down in line for “Discover Istanbul” meeting. Got issued with stickers that said C17. We had to wear these on our trip, just in case anyone did not know we were tourists! Later we would realise these stickers are actually “markers” to identify us as suckers, ready to be fleeced………………………

We all piled on the coach. Lovely and cool. Istanbul is such an exciting place. We drove over a big bridge which had literally hundreds of people fishing off it.

We all got off the bus and waddled along like a line of ducks behind our tour guide. She had a great big orange umbrella which came in handy because she was a very fast walker and quite difficult for some of us to keep up with! As soon as we got off the bus we had people trying to sell us pashminas and tour books for 5E, which was a bit rubbish because we did not have Euros with us, we had Turkish money! Damn. But luckily everywhere else took it.

First stop was a place called Sofia Palace, which I think was the 4th biggest cathedral in the world, but it was the first ever cathedral, that’s for sure. There was scaffolding through the inside but when you consider this building is 1500 years old it was in pretty good nick. Thee was a pigeon flying around inside it and everyone was watching it whilst getting ready to move in case it looked like it was going to poo (well, I was looking out for poo) The rep got tormented by a cat. I thought she was going to have freak out she obviously did not like cats, mind you these stray ones you would not know when they are going to attack. This was a weird church, it had Christian stuff and muslim things too. It also had public toilets that were 1500 years old as well I think. Haven’t smelled toilets like that since I was at Junior High School. Some of us girls were getting ready to faint. YUK

Over the road to the Blue Mosque. We were taken through the entrance and then made to turn back on ourselves so we could take a nice photo of where we had just been. You have to take off your shoes before you go in these places, and I was given a shawl to cover my shoulders. Blue mosque was gorgeous. It had lovely thick carpet, loads of low lights what in the past would have been candles but are now electric. This was a massive place, space for a few thousand people to pray, at the back there was a small room about the same size as my kitchen where women were allowed to pray………

The carpet in here was lovely and thick and springy – but someone on our trip had the smelliest feet! I had to keep moving away from it.. Another small drama was one of my ear-rings must have fallen out in here and it was quite a big crystal one. I hope some poor soul has not stood on it in his bare feet, it would really hurt. Imagine the headlines “bloodshed in mosque, catholic suspected”

Then we were taken en masse to the Hippodrome. I was unsure what this was meant to be. It looked just like a bit of grass in the middle of the street. There was a big metal snake statue without a head and a big Cleopatra’s needle type thing. We were allowed to go off for a walk. Found a little shop and got some Turkish sweets and biscuits and I got a lovely can of cherry pop. Lots more pashmina sales people here, but they were not in the slightest pushy which made a real change.

Bus then took us to the Grand Bazaar. This is the largest market in the world yet every store seemed to sell the same things, ie Aladdin lamps, rugs, bowls. There seemed to be a real push on the sale of leather jackets (apparently leather is considerably cheaper here). I could not walk past any of the shops without “Lady, you want to look at nice leather jackets!” Laura bought a sweet little bowl for her pot noodle. We got “lost” but I knew if we got out and kept turning left we would get back to where we were to begin with. Luckily, we soon came across the very first shop we seen so we knew we were okay! I went into this shop and bought 10L worth of stuff. Gave 20L, got 10 change. Then a few minutes later the lady gave me another 10L as change. I did not notice until I was half way down the road, but I was honest and went back to give her the 10L. Don’t want them thinking I have ripped them off – they might get me with one of those big swords. Laura managed to buy a bagel that was as big as her head – the guy did not speak English and she kept saying “is that a bagel” – whatever it was she got one anyway! Then we went and got beer, where I was encouraged to down mine in one. Did some haggling with a street dealer, got him down to half price! All great fun.

Back on the bus and back to the boat.

Ocean Village Cruise – Getting There

3rd June

Had to get up at 7am to make sure we were in a taxi to get us to the airport for a check in. I thought this plane was leaving in the afternoon. Had coffee at the airport, got beeped and fully searched – happens every time!

Uneventful flight. Sat by Laura. I had a window seat. Usual chaos at Gatwick. Went to Burger King and had a kids meal. Lots of news about labour Govt in trouble with expenses claims etc. Probably come home to a new government.

Got checked in at Sofitel really early. Bliss. Sofitel have got the best beds in the world! They use a system called SoBed and it is absolutely heavenly! I have never ever slept in such comfort. (You can buy the mattresses, pillows etc online I believe) Laura loved her comfy bed. Of course we have stayed there before so we knew the level of loveliness to expect, and we were not disappointed. We had lots of fun watching all the rabbits running around from our window. It is only fair to say however, room service in Sofitel is somewhat expensive!!, so as usual at Gatwick we went to the Globe pub for tea. I had Caesar salad, Paul had fish and chips, Laura had a chicken Panini. Played in the amusement arcade (air hockey – how predictable are we) then we went back to our room to watch tv and have an early night. Watched Springwatch and Dragons Den, early baths and were all fast asleep by 11pm. Up again at 7am. Too early for me!!!

4th June

Typically we all stood in the wrong queue for check in. Luckily Laura heard we were being moved to a different one so we got in quickly without having to wait in the wrong one too long. Got rid of our bags and went into departures. Laura got herself some ”signature” scent for the holiday. She got a perfume lesson too – spray at a bit of a distance and don’t rub your wrists together – it crushes the perfume apparently?!

Got on the plane easily and all got to sit together. We were flying with Thomas Cook.

Film on the plane was Marley and Me. The book is a lot better than the film! Had a nice meal. Unfortunately the toilet at the front of the plane was out of service, so everyone was coming up the back, causing great big queues and really annoying the cabin crew. You would think that they thought people were wanting the toilet purely to get in their way by the way they were talking to the passengers. My thoughts were if they were not so busy trying to sell duty free people would not be “in the way” Luckily I did not need the toilet for once!

All off the plane and onto a coach. Sat next to a lady called Iris who told me the toilet was locked because of a suspicious package (scary stuff) – but that was what she “heard”, it might not have been the truth! I later found out it was because someone had vomited and no-one wanted to clean it. Wonderful cabin crew again!

Get to the port. Through security, had our photos took etc. Then onto the boat. Excellent! Much bigger and nicer than I expected. First thing we saw was Village Square and we were given brochures about Bistro and La Luna (the pay restaurants!)

Spent some time in room and sorting out paperwork. Then went down to the “Plantation” for dinner. YUM YUM I had side salad, soup, Asian calamari in ginger sauce and a pudding.

That evening in the Village Square there was an acrobat show. One guy was dressed as a bird with loads of wings, there was a juggler and acrobat girls etc. Very busy place. We had to sit on chairs that were meant for people using the computers, but we had a good view of the show. Went back to our room to sit on the balcony and watch the boat leave. Bye Crete, see ya next week.

Had a crap night’s sleep, thanks to an incredibly loud A/C system, and the fact that poor Laura was coughing her guts up all night despite having medicine. Went out on the balcony at 4am expecting to be out on the middle of the sea but we were only about 20 miles from port. Could still see all the lights of Crete!