For the last 3 years now, I’ve flown my mom out for trips to do stuff somewhere. In past years, that somewhere was Orlando and Columbus. For this trip, we stayed closer to home in somewhere that we’re getting increasingly familiar with: Detroit. Now, I know many people will think “Why Detroit? Why not somewhere nice?” Well, the answer is this: Detroit is nice. No. Really. I like Detroit. I’ve gone from passionately hating it to loving it. Its not technically “my city” in the way East Lansing and Lansing are, but it is close by and big and has lots of great stuff. I want to share Detroit with people now, and who better than my mom for such sharing?
I’ve said a great many things over the years about Cedar Point, ranging all over the map. So I shall continue that trend this year by completely doing a 180 degree turn on our opinions from last year. Last year, we concluded that Cedar Point was improving in ways we liked and that we were enjoying each visit more and more. Opening weekend 2013 took us in the opposite direction. It has us recalling how we felt during our “dark period” for the park, AKA the long period we didn’t go.
Part of this was certainly Cedar Point’s fault. Things could have been done differently in many places and in different ways. Things should be better in many respects in arenas in which they do business. Part of this is also us as people. A little over a week before stepping foot in the Roller Coaster Capital of The World, we were in the midst of a grandiose and luxurious European vacation. These are very different things, Cedar Point and, you know, Sicily. But that doesn’t mean they can’t both be good.
This is the place holder page for links to each part of the trip report as I write it. There isn’t a hard and fast date as to when I’ll update them, just that I’m writing as fast as my fingers will let me hit the keys. I don’t even know how many parts there will be, so, uh there. Anyways:
As all trips must, this one was coming to the conclusion. Our last day on the Navigator of the Seas was uneventful, and not much can be discerned by our lack of action and activity. I took pictures, we finished using our internet time, we played Scrabble. I lost badly to my wife, something that being tipsy certainly didn’t help in my case. The most strenuous process was that of acquiring our passports, held on board during the journey and returned to us only after standing in a long line through the main dining room.
Mykonos wasn’t even in our minds until we boarded the ship as something we’d go to or see anytime soon in our lives, and yet when we rolled out of bed early on the morning of May 2nd, we were staring out across the harbor from it. It is a very well known resort island in the Greek Isles with pristine beaches and a main town that is well preserved and, you know, fulfills all the hopes and dreams people often have of what a Greek island village is supposed to look like with white walls and blue doors. But since the boat made the decision to dock there last second, there was very little discussion about what we’d be doing, where to go, and so on.
We chose to skip the bus service being offered to us to get to town in lieu of using a cab to take a tour of the island’s beaches. We bargained the driver down to 40 Euros and went around for a little over an hour visiting many of the south side’s beaches: Platys Gialos, Paradise, Elia, and others. In an ideal situation, we would have promptly stayed at the beach and taken a taxi back to the ship – the reason why tourists flock to these places is that they are completely gorgeous. I mean, really, they are amazing looking. But the weather was not terribly accommodating. Temperatures were merely in the 70s – that alone wouldn’t stop us from getting drinks and sitting in a lounger, but the serious gusts of wind would have carried just about anything away and into the water while sandblasting us. But this kind of super independent touring and going to see some really mindblowingly nice places with no wait was pretty great.
Our driver offered to take us to the north side of the island, but consulting with Meredith, she wanted to get into town and start exploring. Town itself is not that big geographically, but the layout of streets is haphazard (intentionally, to confuse pirates), tight, and meandering. That means while you’re not really going too far, you’re constantly seeing new and different things around every nook, cranny, and corner. It is continuous and almost overwhelming visual delight. Even basic things occurring – cats walking about, vehicles trying to negotiate the tight streets, birds flying overhead, waves crashing – they all add to the visual appeal of this place.
We’d need to eat at some point, picking keenly with what turned out to be a well rated on Tripadvisor gem called Fato A Mano, located in a quiet back alley. There’s some nice lunch specials that are pretty cheap for the area, but we went on our own and picked what we felt like eating. There was a fried goat cheese appetizer that was pretty outstanding which we shared. Meredith’s entree was a pesto pasta, and mine was a pasta tossed with an assortment of seafood; mussels, prawns, squid, octopus, and more. To top it off, we were given a complementary dessert of honey covered fruits with cinnamon and spices as well as a free taste of tsipouro, which is a greek liqour. Our tab was something like 50 Euros, but really, it wasn’t that bad and they kicked in a bunch of stuff. And they were really, really nice. In truth, I had wanted to try the sea urchin pasta, but that was out. He was honest; none were brought back by the fisherman, so they didn’t have any to sell.
After wandering the streets of Mykonos, we decided to skip the long line at the taxi stand to walk back to where the buses would be picking people up and take one of those back to the ship. Much to our chagrin, we were informed we couldn’t pay for the bus ride at the bus, and that if we didn’t already have a ticket, we were SOL. Well, that’s unpleasant. We probably never should have said anything about a ticket and just boarded, but that’s life. Instead, we made the wildly inappropriate decision based on perceived proximity to the ship to hoof it back. The wind blasted us plenty on the return trip, but we persevered and walked the half hour to the boat. I wish this had been better organized in the first place, but I guess we also could have just taken the stupid taxi back and been done with it. That’s life, right?
Still, that alone isn’t going to make me feel negative about Mykonos. There’s still a lot of the island to see should we return in the future, and I feel very strongly that I’d like to do just that. Sure, this is pre-peak season and the crowds are yet to come, but Mykonos is spectacular in scenery, and the beaches, when the weather is good, would undoubtedly be fantastic as well.
Back on board, this would be our first night spent at our assigned table for the night. Our fears of the tablemates being lousy quickly faded, as they were essentially in our peer group and not horrible. One couple was from San Diego where the husband works for Sony Dreamworks and the wife does something interesting justifying a business trip to Barcelona. The other couple dates and are in law school, and were on the all-you-can-drink plan. Many good times were had, even if the food was less than spectacular.
Our last port for the cruise would be Chania, Crete. Chania is a fairly recent addition to the megaliner cruises in this area, and its a good one. Once disembarking the ship, passengers not choosing to book a shore excursion walk to the buses located at the port. For 3 Euros round trip, you can then take the bus directly to the downtown of Chania, about 15 minutes drive away. After being dropped off in front of the central market, you’re on your own to find fun. Our law school table mates weren’t so successful. Us? More so.
Knowing in advance where all the good stuff was, we followed the signs to the Old Harbor, where we found the Venetian Harbor, the jewel of the city. The harbor features a number of restaurants, hotels, and small sights to see. There’s a couple museums, a couple churches to walk into, and boat tours which can be booked independently for not a lot of money. Aside from walking around and taking pictures of the town’s picturesque back streets, the first activity was not one endemic to Greece.
Fish foot baths are pretty popular out in Southeast Asia, but tourists are mesmerized by them, and so Chania has two. We chose the more expensive of the two in order to save ourselves a wait to undergo the, uhhh, therapy, but the cheaper one is located along the harborfront. The more expensive one is Chalidon just steps away from the harborfront, but costs something like 3 Euros more per person. The experience is…a thing. The small fish eat away at dead skin, and while big calluses aren’t anything they’ll tackle, they will eat just about anything else. Along with some post fish lotion, our feet felt pretty smooth and happy. How much of that was just leaving our feet in water for 15 minutes and lotioning them and how much was the fish, I can’t quite say.
Our similarly priced second option was a glass bottom boat tour with Captain Nick’s, selected based on reviews on Tripadvisor. Captain Nick runs a fun and brief one hour cruise – snorkeling is given as an option, but with me leaving my goggles at home, we skipped out on this. Really, you aren’t going to see monster fish down below in the glass bottom boat. You’ll see some schools of smaller fish, and Nick will go around to find sea urchins, octopus, and other mollusks to show you. The terrain underwater is rocky, but not really a reef, and if you come expecting the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll be disappointed. As a one hour scenic cruise with bonus time looking underwater, it isn’t a bad deal. And for 10 Euros, its a very cheap excursion-y sort of activity.
Back on land, we chose Zepos Restaurant, again largely based on Tripadvisor reviews. This was a pretty wise choice – the location was absolutely choice on the water front, and our food was pretty tasty. My swordfish was quite good, and Meredith’s pasta was pretty tasty as well. I certainly can’t say anything negative about it. Arrive early before tour groups show up; that might be a reasonable suggestion. We didn’t stay long after our lunch, choosing to walk through the Central Market before boarding to return. We were to have stayed until, say, 6 or 7, we might have done a museum or something like that, but with a 3PM sail away, that wasn’t going to happen. This would conclude our last port of the cruise, and I gotta say that there wasn’t a bum one in the group.
There’s not a lot to say about the afternoon and evening on this day – we ate in the dining room, we walked around and looked at things, we slept, we looked in the shops and admired the various watches/chains/cheap shit on sale. Most of all, we relaxed.
People love cruising for the at sea days. Let’s face it: More than the warfare involved with the buffet lines at night or the whole “your hotel moves!” thing that comes with cruising, the thing that draws people to cruise ships is the fact that you’re at sea. OK, that may be a sweeping generalization that isn’t true for huge number of Royal Caribbean customers who love the amusement park-at-sea nature of their giant boats, but its true for us, dedicated balcony passengers at heart. Without the sea air, it would just be a train on water, and who cares about trains anyhow?
OK, so a lot of people care about trains. And about river cruising. Hell, they care about cruising lakes too, where the sea air is, ahem, less salty. We nearly ended up booking a multi-night trip on a schooner in Lake Michigan for a late summer activity. I forgot what my point was here. Oh, yes. So sea days on cruise ships. The kids love ‘em. But why do they do they love them so? Because they don’t do anything!
Here, on our last day in Rome, I had planned the night before a magical walk to an area we’d yet to explore of the city. I figured we could go to a cafe, get coffee, and enjoy life. In practice, I woke up 30 minutes before my wife, hustled her out of our comfortable, lovely bed in our luxurious hotel and into the shower, and our the door and straight into perhaps the most uninteresting section of Rome: the streets immediately north of Termini. The map I had did say they were pedestrian friendly. Our coffee and pastry was had at U. Giuliani Caffe, home to a 2 circle rating on Tripadvisor that is basically deserved.