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CaribbeanBound

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  1. Cartagena, Spain The port is in town, next to the marina, and doesn't require any transportation from the ship. This was a good port to sleep in since nothing opens until 10:00 am. Still, we were in the mostly vacant city by 8:30 am since it's nice to explore unimpeded by crowds. Siesta is generally from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm during the heat of the day. Shops then re-open until 10:00 or 11:00 pm. We exited the ship, walked though the port security gate and found ourselves on a wide walkway splitting a marina in two. We wondered around town, taking exterior pictures of interesting buildings, Parque Arqueológico Cerro del Molinete, and a few other parks while we waited for the Castillo de la Concepción to open at 10:00 am. From the port walkway, walk to the first street and turn right (don't go up the stairs). Turn left at the next street you come to and walk until you come across the Ascensor Panorámico (Panoramic Lift, €2 or €4,25 with admission to Castillo de la Concepción; climbing the lift is free). Walking to the narrow observation point as you exit the elevator to the right is a bit scary as the walkway moves a little with the wind. Upon exiting the walkway to the left, you'll find yourselves in Parque Torres which offers walking trails, wild peacocks, and good views of your ship in port, as well as Torres Park Auditorium, and Roman Amphitheatre beyond that; especially from the expansive Plaza Puerta del la Villa lookout. The best views of the surrounding area are reserved for visitors to the rooftop of Castillo de la Concepción, aka Castillo de los Patos. Offering 360-degree views with picture boards that pinpoint the most interesting buildings and places, the rooftop can be reached via an interior ramp or turret stairwell. The castle has some interesting displays inside as well. Exiting Plaza Puerta del la Villa via a stairway to the north, will take you to the Puerta del la Villa ("The Door of the Villa"). Walk through this short archway tunnel and down the ramp and you'll find yourself overlooking the Roman Amphitheatre, a must-see site in Cartagena, and ruins of the Old Cathedral of Cartagena "Catedral de Santa María La Mayor" beyond. You can get good pictures from several vantage points as you walk along the top of the amphitheater. If you wish to walk inside the amphitheater, tickets are available for €6 at the Museum (MVSEO) directly across the street from the distinctive Palace Hall of Cartagena on Plaza Ayuntamiento (about three blocks to your west). Since the ship was so close and easily accessible, we headed back to the ship to drop off the light jackets we didn't need, stayed for lunch, and then ventured out again. We set out to see a pair of museums, the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology and the Maritime Museum. National Museum of Underwater Archaeology (€3) is located on the marina, just 5 minutes from the ship. The Museum has a permanent exhibition in which the methodology of underwater archeology is discussed as a scientific discipline. Models, and actual recovered artifacts, help tell the story of over 2,500 years of navigational history. One highlight is a large display of coins from the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a galleon that was sunk by the British navy in 1804. 594,000 gold and silver coins were among the items salvaged. We walked along the marina to The Maritime Museum only to discover that it was closed that day. Now tired and enjoying stellar warm weather with nice cool breezes, we took a siesta under the shade of a Palm Tree in the Plaza de los Héroes park next to the Palace Hall clocktower. Rested and comfortable, we checked out the art statuary in the immediate area, then walked along the marina until we found an empty bench. We sat looking at the marina and decided to watch people go by until it was time to return to the ship. A huge futuristic silver sailing vessel caught our attention. We were looking at the world's largest sailing ship, an 8-deck superyacht, 468-feet in length with ship masts nearing 300-feet high, owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko. (Note how it dwarfs the shipping cranes). Named the "A", with a crew of 54, it was berthed in the harbor. The hull is made of steel and carbon fibre. Security is enhanced with bombproof glass and 40 CCTV cameras. In addition to the expected helipad and pool, it also features a 193-square foot glass underwater observation pod in the keel which is 1-foot thick. Complete detailed review of Celebrity Reflection and 8 Western Mediterranean Ports http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/western-mediterranean.html Secrets of the Mediterranean: details, hints, and tips for over 20 Mediterranean Cities http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/mediterranean-secrets.html
  2. Mykonos, Greece There are basically 3 things to do in Mykonos: wander the town, go to a beach, or take a ferry over to Delos (the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and a UNESCO archaeological site). Unfortunately, on May 1, the water is too cold to go to the beach and Delos is closed due to their Labor Day holiday. Delos Ferry provides half-day guided tours to Delos from April 25th through October 31st for €50 pp inclusive of the roundtrip transportation by ferry and an authorized tour guide. Mykonos is also a good beach island and Paradise Beach can easily be reached via local bus for €1.2. Since both of these options were out, we wandered the town. All of the buildings are painted white; with blue, red, or yellow trim, and the occasional blue domes. We got off the ship at 7:30 am and took the first free shuttle bus to town (about 8 minutes). Walking takes about 30 minutes, but I'd advise against it. There is no sidewalk or shade once you exit the port and the road doesn't look safe due to the turns, hills, and traffic. Another option is to take a Sea Bus Water Taxi for €2 from the port directly into the heart of town. Since we arrived early, we explored an empty town and got lots of good pictures before the rest of the 6,000 passengers from 3 cruise ships descended upon the pretty town and clogged the narrow streets. We walked beyond the windmills, coming back into town from behind them. We stopped in at Katrina's for a coffee and their homemade hibiscus lemonade. They also offered free wi-fi. We sipped our drinks on their open-air shaded balcony on the edge of the Aegean Sea with a great view of the town's iconic 16th-century windmills. We wandered through the thick crowds, past the now-open shops, to explore more of the town before returning to the ship for a late lunch. Complete, very detailed review of entire cruise and precruise preparation: http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/eastern-mediterranean.html
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